Let’s Get Serious, Sober, and Significant

person-reading-mapAddictions were a bad response to my feelings of emotional pain and insignificance. I needed to learn how to get over these feelings – by being seriously sober, and by believing that someone cared about me. And not just anyone, but God, The Creator of Everything. He knows me – all about me. He loves me – deeply and unconditionally. He provides for me here on earth and promises to keep me with Him for all eternity. And, most importantly, He desperately yearns for me to notice Him. I want to share with you how He convinced me to live believing this wholeheartedly.

Believing is simple, but it’s not easy. However, there are small steps which can be taken and checked off like items on a to do list.

Plan, now do [check]
Commit, then complete [check]
Faith, with action [check]

The trick is, faith works like magic, just not by magic. Faith takes effort. God does His part – always. That’s just who He is. But I have a role to play, too, and this is what recovery from addictions- from any kind of obsessive, procrastinating, isolating, or avoiding behavior – is all about.

img_0855A journey of 1000 miles begins with 12 steps.

April 20, 2009
Salt Lake City, Utah
One Year, Six days into Recovery
Gas for rental truck: $140
Burger and St Pauli N/A, plus tip: $23
Hotel Room: $53
The trip of a lifetime: priceless

I once owned a business, a video studio, transferring home movies from film and VHS to DVD, and doing some video production. But it was home-based, and being my own boss was not a perfect thing for me – I found it far too easy to surf the internet and knock off early to start drinking instead of working. I entered entrepreneurship with these bad habits, and they didn’t help me succeed. In turn, the stress of failing at my ‘calling’ led to more indulgence. This catch-22 was definitely a major factor in my hitting rock-bottom.

By the end of the first year of my recovery journey, I sold all my equipment and shut the studio down. (I would also move with my family 2000 miles on faith alone – but that’s another part of the story.) The deal included my transporting the equipment from Colorado Springs to Reno, and my doing my part to make this happen is a great example of how God has changed me.

img_1047I’ve said before that my motto used to be “waiting for something to happen.” But what is true is that I have to make something happen, and let God handle the results. I had to decide to get out of the business. God guided me to the next steps. I had to let it be known that I wanted to sell. God found a buyer. I offered, God certainly influenced the counter offer. I had to rent the U-Haul, pack it up, and drive it. God made sure I arrived safely.

Plan, now do. Commit, then complete. Faith, with action. All of this done with great seriousness. This is not a part time gig. It’s not a hobby. It’s not something to pursue only when I feel like it. Recovery, like mapping out a trip and then traveling the road, doesn’t just happen. It must be fought for with firm determination, sticking to a process over long days of combatting urges – one day, one moment at at time – to take time off for more pleasureable activities.

“Combat” is a good way to describe it. Recovery is a war, a conflict with myself. I must have a plan of battle and follow it, fully understanding that losing has serious costs. Recovery is serious, and I have to seriously want it.

Let’s look at some definitions:

Serious:
– thoughtful or subdued in appearance or manner, SOBER
– requiring much thought or WORK
– of or relating to a matter of importance
– having important or dangerous possible consequences

IMG_3340A matter of importance?? Dangerous possible consequences?? This is life or death! My life! My being alive! My living (including what I do to earn my way). In truth, every addiction is ultimately an Addiction to Death. This is deadly serious, and I must appreciate it at that level. These bad habits are self-destructive and self-defeating. I was still alive, but only because I was not brave enough to literally pull the trigger. I wished I were dead – or non-existent, because that is how life made me feel. Insignificant. Unloved. How desperate I was for the message that someone did care about me, despite how low I could fall. Things could not get more serious.

Intention:
– a determination to act in a certain way, resolve

Resolve:
– fixity of purpose, resoluteness, marked by firm determination

Determination:
– the controlling or deciding of something’s nature or outcome
– the act of establishing something exactly

Determined:
– having made a firm decision and being resolved NOT to change it
– firmly decide

Recovery / Recovering:
– the act, process, or instance of recovering
– being in the ongoing process of recovery

– the process of combatting a disorder, or a real or perceived problem

There is great news! It is possible to recover, to get back to where we were when everything was right.

Recover:
– to get back – regain
– to bring back to normal position or condition; RESCUE
– to make up for (usually costs)
– to find or identify again

img_0931My Maker made me to be this way. His way. Not my way of destroying my health and my family. I was created to be something better.

Recovery is taking steps to replace how I get my good feelings and ‘highs’. Instead of addictive, destructive, dangerous, or harmful activities, I spend my time journaling, worshipping, reading the Bible, praying, singing, supporting and serving others. These are all things I do, and can even put on a checklist. The more I do them, the more ingrained they become until I am doing them without thinking about it. And that, my friends, is how a life is changed.

Along the way, the hard evidence of the success of this outlook and activity – that I was being provided for, sometimes miraculously; that I was, in fact, still alive and breathing; that I woke up each day and could sometimes get out of bed – these are the facts that proved to me God exists and is who He says He is.

A pastor once said that faith is the result of education and personal, spiritual experience. God provided the experience for me, many times over. I had to take the initiative to get educated about Him and His plan for me. This process is History (His Story) in my life.

In closing, here’s a poem I wrote during that first year of my journey:

image
Everyday
Not temptation
But evaluation
Confirming
That past behaviors
Do not lead
To hope
Come true
So, on to something new:
Today!

What’s so unbelievable?

This is for you – my friend who doesn’t believe. And you, the one who doubts. You know who you are. I have to ask you, “What’s so unbelievable about this story of God?”

img_1406My purpose is not to convert you or to make you believe. I have no power to do that. I don’t really have any expectations, either. My mission is simply to Share God’s Story in my life – in this one life – that you might think upon your suppositions and assumptions, and seek – full time, from here on out – to know and understand and become aware of more and more and more and more. I have no doubt of what you will find, though I may never see you conclude. He, not I, will convince and convict you by your own life and circumstances.

img_1140Who is this God? To start, look around you. It is He who made everything – with intent, not randomness. Consider the complexity of this creation, these laws of Nature. How perfectly it all comes together! This is no design of lottery!
(That’s a mushroom from my lawn – golden-domed. Awesome!)

And you, yourself. I know you’ve heard Shakespeare:

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What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals!
Hamlet

Why does your feeling change when you hear it in the Word of the Maker?

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;…”
Jeremiah 1:4-5

Who is this God? Yes, He brought everything together. Then He became a part of it. He was born into this world as His Son – mortal; one of us. He needed to understand existence from our point of view, from our perspective, to hold a common frame of reference with us. His mortal life is a message to us, an example for us. Proof that a human being can live a pure life. The Standard of the living. A body can live with great, Godly patience, and can teach, show, help, and tell others this same message with thankfulness, gratefulness, loving all others, no matter what!

img_1356Who is this God? He, who gave us free choice, because He knows “if you love something let it go, if it returns, it is yours.” He, who saw that we would want to try going it on our own, alone, listening to whispers of doubt about Him. But, so that His absolute justice and love for us would be reconciled, He sent Himself to trial and a sentence of death for our crimes, in our place. He experienced the cruelest, most painful process of execution for all our sins.

What’s so unbelievable? Every tale in our every history has that whisperer; Good vs evil, right vs wrong, light vs dark, pure vs polluted. This world – this life – is a war – not of this world – but very much for this world.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, … the authorities, …the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12 NIV

Sharing God's StoryFor though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we use are not the weapons of this world. One the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Indeed, there is a real enemy, and his very first strategy is to hide and disguise himself. He’s quite happy to have you disbelieve. It’s his idea that you “Question everything,” rather than “Testing everything against what you know to be true.

But test everything; hold fast what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21

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My  name is Marshall

Indeed, the primary battleground in this war of the spirit is within the individual human heart and flesh. It is not me against you, us against them. It is a fight within you, and an ongoing struggle within me. Have you surrendered? From birth, we have the will to do what is good, but we fall so easily to the distraction of our senses, the hoarding of our physical pleasures, the dream that all is well and we can stay at ease in our comfort.

What’s so unbelievable? We must fight! We must fight ourselves, for our very souls!

Be self-controlled and alert! Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.
1 Peter 5:8-9

Put on the full armor of God:
– the Belt of Truth
– the Breastplate of Righteousness
– feet fitted with the Readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace
– the Shield of Faith
– the Helmet of Salvation
– the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God
Ephesians 6:13-17

img_0886Do you know the deadly sins? Lust, gluttony, avarice/greed, sloth, anger/wrath, envy, pride/vanity. They are countered by the Fruit of the Spirit, grown in a daily relationship with the Creator and Savior: Peace, Joy, Love, Patience, Kindness, Goodness/Humility, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control, along with the Holy Virtues of Chastity, Abstinence, Temperance, and Diligence. It is only in ourselves that we can develop these solemn and guiding principles. I cannot force you to have them. There can be no law that requires them. I can only demonstrate them in my own life. I can only Share God’s Story in my life:

Journal Entry, upon the Milestone of One Year in Recovery

“Tuesday, April 14, 2009
It’s amazing to me how much has changed in my life in one year – all because I realized I was helpless and hopeless while spiritually alone.

“Oh! How many times before this past year did I wish, plan, dream, hope, try to change, to be different, to make myself something else, someone else.

“And what happened, every time, to every one of my figurative and literal ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ can be summed up very neatly by a cliche: “Stick a fork in him/it (me)” (Except, of course in my case, it was a knife.)

“It’s almost as if – instead of working on whatever change I really wanted to make, my full time occupation was blame. Blaming myself, blaming physical parts of me, blaming others. My ‘job’ was diverting myself away; distracting myself; defeating myself.

“Did I accomplish anything all those years? (Anything good, that is – cause I was really successful at purposely wasting time being frivolous and getting my jollies: playing games, drinking to excess, etc.) Did I accomplish anything good on purpose? By my own efforts? ([By] waiting for something to happen?) …

“Perhaps all that really happened one year ago was that I figuratively gave a mortal wounding to the old me – the lone ranger, the solo single. And that person has been bleeding out over the past 365 days – those fluids being replaced by a new spiritual fuel.

“April 14 was the day I looked at myself in the mirror and – for the first time – really saw ME: naked and bleeding and alone and shocked! Shocked! And I really asked myself, ‘Is this who I really want to be?’

“The Bible tells us that we must die to ourselves before we can give ourselves over to Christ. Yes, I think that’s what happened one year ago today. A wounding, beginning a slow death, and a coup de grace on July 25 [when I attempted suicide] – a spear in the side, perhaps.

“Up to that point, I had been trying to make me different. But what had to happen was that the ME who believed he was alone had to go, had to be replaced, had to die; and WE: myself and God and Jesus are who I see now in the mirror.

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“I am changed. You change me.
God, my Father, is with me, and is helping me make things happen.

“Thank You, Father, for doing more in one year with me than I – in more than [four] decades – could do without You.”

With What GOD Gave

… The man who never enjoyed what God gave him… might live 2000 years. But if he does not enjoy life, then [a] baby who was born dead has found the easiest way to the same end.
Ecclesiastes 6:5-6 ERV

What do we do – what have we done – with what God gave us, individually and collectively? Has my life been lived? Do I enthusiastically pursue God and what He has planned for me, or do I mope and cry, regretting what might have been, wishing for what could have been? Do I lose myself in dreams of what I petulantly demand should be, completely ignoring what is and the incredible potential therein? I know those are things I used to do – Until I found Him; until He reached me where I was.

Ecclesiastes repeats over and over how pointless life is. It can seem a depressing book at first glance, for sure. After reading it for myself and from study guides, however, I understand it to be written with a kind of ‘reverse psychology’. It makes perfect sense only when it is read from a thoughtful foundation of belief. (Believing is knowing what I can not prove.) It backs up my faith. Living in this world is not all there is to life. And ‘existing’ is not the same as ‘living’.

My feelings confirm this – and override what logic can only suggest. For example, the thought that struck me, and stuck with me as I studied chapter six, was the question, “what have medical science and technological advances meant for us- in our earthly existence AND in our relationship with God?”

I speak as one who, a few generations ago, would not have reached age 54 due to failed health. I would have died from kidney failure and its complications. Medical science has certainly made longer life possible for me. Of course, this pleases me BUT, in the process, I have learned a bigger lesson: to be content and to accept whatever “really” happens. And to reconsider what to do with all the free time that technology has created.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

This has brought me to the place where I can fervently claim and lean into:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Phil. 1:21 NIV

I believe this is very different than trying to change reality or filling my “spare” time with entertainment. I hear all about what else surgeons can do these days, but it seems to me that these are nothing more than bizarre attempts to find happiness in and from this world, as if there were no other. This is a completely different focus than undergoing life-saving procedures or undertaking new, life-changing behaviors and mindsets. Will I accept the world as it is, or will I demand that it change to suit me?

You are only what you were created to be – a human, and it is useless to argue about it. People can not argue with God about this because He is more powerful than they are and a long argument will not change that fact.
Ecc 6:10-11 ERV

 

There are two types of people: those who think that happiness can be found in and through the things of this world, and those who believe (believing is knowing what can not be proved) there is something more. Something greater. Something very meaningful, over and above this place.

I submit: countless stories of serenity, joy, and purpose found in lives miraculously changed and saved by faith, by something that is not found in any doctor’s office or the latest gadget. All because a point of ‘last resort’ had been reached.

I submit: countless stories I have heard and read of continued misery despite trans-whatever, despite hoarding (both literal and figurative), despite the fulfillment of every consumer want, every move to greener grass, every gain of fame and fortune, and every building of bigger barns. All because satisfaction with what God gave is still not … seized, like the day.

My motto? Start with – if not contentment – then acceptance, at the least, and live from there. It’s really just an attitude adjustment. I used to think, “If or when I get x, y, or z, then I’ll be happy.” But now I know to

“Start now, from where you are, with what you have.”
T. Roosevelt