For all my Christian brothers and sisters in recovery…and, all those who might need to be!
First, an apology, I have not been posting much for the last couple months nor writing much, for those who are following God’s Word Is Life, I’m sorry. Just really busy with work and family.
Second, I promise to get back on the ball sharing encouragement, perspective, and biblical truth regarding life and recovery.
Third, a request. Please like, share, follow, and recommend both the Facebook page and the website godswordislife.com
Let’s get the message of renewal, hope, joy, and contentment to the world through the mercy and grace offered to us ALL through a relationship with our Creator Father through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus the Christ, and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Thank you all for your support!
During Thanksgiving, it always seems odd to me that we have a specific holiday to remind us to be grateful for our lives, our freedoms, and our blessings.
Thanksgiving is not a worldwide holiday. Canada has their own version of it, but I am not so sure about other countries.
In the US, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 as a religious and public time of prayer, worship, feasting and fellowship dictated by the Calvinist pilgrim magistrate, William Bradford, and joined by the native tribe in the area, lead by Chief Massasoit. It was a three day festival to celebrate the peace, provision, harvest, and grace given to the settlers during the previous year.
George Washington is the one who issued the first ‘national’ Thanksgiving proclamation. However, it wasn’t until 1941 that it was adopted as a national holiday.
However, shouldn’t we be grateful everyday?
Philippians 4:4-7 says,
Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
These are commands, not a suggestions, rejoice and don’t be anxious. They come with simple instructions on prayer, with the result of living serene and anxiety-free.
In AA, we are taught grateful alcoholics don’t get drunk and told, “if you’re not praying, you’re not staying (sober)”. I was taught to make a gratitude list and meditate on it, especially when feeling discouraged, down, or depressed. To remember what I am grateful for and what I stand to lose if I drink or use again. I had my top ten list. But, it was always the same ten. I didn’t really go beyond that for a long time.
Later, as a Christian, I started learning more about true thankfulness and praising God for his goodness and walking with me through my struggles.
A professor of mine really blew this door wide open for me with an assignment. Write down five things per day I am thankful for everyday for the 8 week term. The provisos, no repeats…! My top ten list lasted 2 days… In less than a week, I started to have trouble because all the big stuff and important people in my life were already on the list. I also found out quickly, I had to look back frequently to make sure I hadn’t already written something or someone down. I started to list some things that I had considered pretty mundane, but realized I was still thankful for them…things like pork egg rolls. The ability to occasionally purchase, eat, and enjoy pork egg rolls is something I appreciate…!
The more I wrote, the more I had to review what I wrote, the more grateful I became for each thing on my list, the more I praised God for all the blessings in my life!!!
It was powerful!
To be thankful every day for all the blessings and mercies in my life, from the most profound to the most overlooked and mundane, is how I need to live. Then, I am able to follow Paul’s command to rejoice always. Then, I am able to be content in any circumstance and not be anxious, because as Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
It all begins with THANKSGIVING every day!
I have said for many years, if someone, anyone, truly works the 12 steps they will come into a right understanding of a relationship with God and come to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. It doesn’t matter if they be atheist (as I once w claimed to be), agnostic, disillusioned, unchurched, oppressed, even other faiths, or worldviews. If we are totally honest, open-minded, and willing, to look at all the facts regarding creation, life, death, separation from God and its causes, our shortcomings, our relationships with others, and the claims that the Bible makes; we will become disciples of Jesus.
The keys to recovery, whether it be alcoholism, addiction of some sort, or anything the Scriptures frankly call sin, are Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness. The three points of the AA triangle within the circle represent these three ideals.
If we seek recovery and a relationship with God living out these three principles to their fullest, we will invariably come to the same conclusions. If we short ourselves on any one of them, we will end up hitting a wall. This wall may not cause us to relapse in recovery, but it will stunt our growth spiritually regardless. Let’s take a closer look at these three principles and see how they affect our lives and how they can guide us into all truth objectively.
First, honesty. Looking at ourselves, no matter how well put together an individual seems to be, if we are honest, we are all muffed up in many ways. We all have our shortcomings, our defects of character, the places we injure ourselves or others, the things we cover up, justify, or outright lie about, the places we miss the mark of whatever objective or subjective mark of perfection set for us by ourselves, our society, or our belief system. For some, these may be extreme and outwardly obvious. For others, they may be more subtle. If we look at our various cultures, communities, countries, and our world; we can really see just how muffed up we can get.
If we honestly take stock, the Bible has one word that describes all of this, sin. There are many lists throughout Scripture, but there are two that really sum up all the rest… whether you agree with specific items or not, I ask you to simply consider them.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NET https://bible.com/bible/107/1co.6.9-10.NET
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery (getting high on drugs), hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!
Galatians 5:19-21 NET https://bible.com/bible/107/gal.5.19-21.NET
These two lists sum up very well everything that causes any and every kind of harm we can cause to ourselves and others. The Scriptures are clear in both respects, these things separate us from God both now and have eternal consequences.
You may ask, why should I believe anything the Bible has to say? Other than looking at the truth of just these previous couple paragraphs, if you are willing and open-minded enough to give the Bible a fair shake, See also the attached article by Charlie Campbell, 10 Evidences for the Bible.
There is a Creator. Sin has separated us from him. The Scriptures say this,
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.
Romans 1:18-20 NET https://bible.com/bible/107/rom.1.18-20.NET
If we can honestly accept there is really a problem here. Guess what… God has also provided a solution to the problem. Jesus.
Are you open-minded enough to hear about him? Are you open-minded enough to hear about a loving Creator Father that wants a relationship with us? Are you open-minded enough to read a book that through the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit was given to us to explain how glorious he really is and what he has done to have a relationship with us? Open-minded enough to hear how he has been working since creation to bring us, sinful, rebellious, imperfect human beings into a relationship with a perfect and holy God?
The Bible tells us…
For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.
John 3:16-19 NET https://bible.com/bible/107/jhn.3.16-19.NET
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11 NET https://bible.com/bible/107/php.2.5-11.NET
because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.
Romans 10:9-10 NET https://bible.com/bible/107/rom.10.9-10.NET
If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9 NET https://bible.com/bible/107/1jn.1.8-9.NET
If we are willing enough, we can break down all the barriers between us and God. If we are willing enough, we can bridge the gap. If we are willing enough, we can help others to do the same. We need to be willing to be open-minded. We need to be willing to honestly evaluate the facts and face the truth. We need to be willing to let go of ourselves and accept God on his terms, rather than making up our own.
Because of our sin, God sent his Son, Jesus, to live a perfect human life as God in the flesh. He died on the cross, convicted of crimes he did not commit as a holy sacrifice to make us right with God the Father, bridging the separation sin has caused. He rose from the dead, as both a symbol of his divinity and to raise all those who are willing to follow him into an eternal relationship with the Father and give us his Holy Spirit to live in and with us, so we can live in his image and show his sacrificial love to all the world.
Can you be honest enough to accept this truth about yourself and God? Are you open-minded enough to give all this information consideration or further your own search for the truth? Are you willing enough to do the hard work and soul searching to restore your relationship with God and follow Jesus?
Have faith, do good, show love, and do the next right thing!
May God bless you!
I am sorry Craig, but on this issue, you are flat biblically wrong.
I had great respect for the ministry this man has, and he continues to do good work in the name of the Lord, but he is way off base here.
Throughout the Old Testament and the Book of Acts, you will read where, in the KJV, witchcraft or sorcery is condemned. For New Testament study it is found listed in Galatians 5:20 as the works of the flesh, but here both our modern and archaic English translations fall short.
In Greek, the word is φαρμακεία, it is where we get our English word pharmacy and the word pharmaceuticals. In ancient times, it was drug use to induce higher realms of thought and induce a spiritual trance to commune with the gods. Basically, getting high! But, not just getting high, getting high to talk to god better.
Sorry Craig, you can put whatever “Christian” spiritual spin on it that you want, but you are still endorsing exactly what our both our Old Testament and first Christian leaders called SIN; no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
There is no spiritual benefit to any Christian in getting high, and God will never require us to sin in order to get into closer contact with him.
When we love God, we should want to do things to glorify him.
Not to earn his love, but out of gratitude for his love for us. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he loved us first.” So, our motive in all we do should be to glorify God.
When we turn to live in God’s will, both as individuals and congregations, there is no amount of hurt that God will not heal, there is no transgression that God will not forgive. There is always hope when we rest on God and live according to his will.
More than 20 years ago, a dear friend and mentor to many in AA, gave me three short phrases that when put together remind me how to glorify God and how to have a vibrant, living, and growing faith, to them, I added the first one…
Your first phrase is “HAVE FAITH”.
Why have faith? Because withoutfaith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” We cannot glorify God unless first we have faith. But, have faith in what?
The Bible makes this very simple for us. Have faith in Jesus, who he is and what he did. Jesus, the Son of the Living God, himself God, lived, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day to make us right with God by taking the punishment for our sin, making it possible for us to have a relationship with God as our Father.
Why Jesus? Who is this Jesus guy anyway? The historical accounts written in the Gospels, which are confirmed by the letters of the New Testament, and outside historical sources confirm that Jesus really did exist. Jesus is the Son of God.
John 3:16 says, “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
God himself confirms that Jesus is his Son at Jesus’s baptism. We read in Matthew 3:17, “And, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my one dear Son; in him I take great delight.’” If Jesus really is the Son of God as the Scriptures state, then he is the only one that has any authority and he says so, in Matthew 28:18. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” And, he says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point… Jesus is the only way to the Father, and it is through belief and faith in him, his saving work on the cross, and his resurrection that we are saved from an eternity without God.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.” Remember, grace is the unearned, unmerited, gift of God, it is free and available to everyone. Romans 10:9-10 puts it in simple terms, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.” Salvation is available to each of us. It is available to you. You can take this vital step, right now, where you sit. In your heart, have faith in Jesus, who he is and what he did. Agree with God that you’re not perfect and he is, and accept his love and forgiveness. Ask him to live in you and guide you from here on out. If you have done so, congratulations! You are on a new path to a vibrant and growing faith.
Once we “have faith” and have started our journey toward a vibrant, living, and growing relationship with our creator; we now have some work to do.
Your second phrase is “DO GOOD”.
Whoa, wait…, you just told me that I have to do something?! YES! In James 2:26, in a section on living a godly lifestyle, it says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” We work, not to earn God’s love. Not to earn salvation, because that is a gift of grace… Remember, we just looked at Ephesians 2:8-9, yet Paul tells us in the very next verse, verse 10 “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” This word, workmanship, in Greek means, handiwork or masterpiece. It is also where we get our English word, poem. We are built to be his poem, his masterpiece, and do his work. We also have a purpose, a purpose that he planned out for us. When we love God, our response to his love and grace should be that we want to glorify him. We glorify him through good works. We glorify God by showing others the same kind of grace that God has shown us. By being his Body at work here on Earth. The writer of Hebrews tells us “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:24) Here it is again, work. One more time, Paul told Titus, “showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way.”(Titus 2:7), as we boil this down, we are to “have faith”, we are also to “do good”.
There are many, many practical ways we can “do good” congregationally, individually, both for the Church and in outreach to the rest of the world. Brainstorm, you’ll easily come up with something…Make a habit of trying to do something good for someone else without being caught in the act and don’t tell anyone about it, pay it forward at every opportunity…
Our next phrase is, “SHOW LOVE”.
When the religious people of Jesus’s day tried to trap him with a question, Matthew 22:36-40, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” They asked this because in the law of Moses, all 613 commandments were to have equal weight, not just the big 10 at the beginning… Jesus instead answered in a way they could not dispute. He said, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Have faith, do good, show love.
Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Here, Jesus is speaking specifically to his disciples, speaking directly to the Church. Telling them the first place that they should show love is between one another. So, for those of us who are disciples of Christ, where is the first place that we should show love? The first place that we show love is right here. Right here, in our local church, then to other believers outside of this local church in the global Church, then to the world at large. The command to love is repeated throughout the New Testament. John tells us that we love because God loved us first. This is agape love, unconditional love, love that surpasses understanding, Fruit of the Spirit love. If a member of our congregation is starving, but we take meals to the poor, what kind of people are we? It is very true; the millennials and Gen Z are very socially conscious generations and want to know what the church is doing for the oppressed and the heavy laden. They are also very conscious of when we don’t walk the talk coming out of our mouths. We need to work on building unity and promoting healing, inside our families, our congregations, our denominations, and the global Church.
Make no mistake though, love does NOT mean approval! Our culture has this point very confused… I can love you, I can show you the same love that Jesus has for you, I can show you mercy, forgiveness, love, and grace; but I do NOT have to approve of your behavior in order to do so. After all, God doesn’t approve of our behavior at times, but he offers us forgiveness and restoration because of his loving kindness.
So far, we’ve got “have faith, do good, show love”, now we add “DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING”.
But how do we know what the next right thing is???
In Scripture. Paul tells Timothy “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Here it is again, equipped for every good work. We have work to do. It is through knowledge of God’s word that we can discern what the next right thing is. We don’t all need to be Greek and Hebrew scholars of the original biblical text because God has used those people to give his Word to us in our own language, in many different translations, so that we can understand it. However, we do need to know the Word, if we are going to live according to God’s will for our lives.
Many people say, “I don’t need all that religious stuff, I don’t need to attend a worship service, I just need to follow the Ten Commandments.” Okay, can you name all ten? Do you realize those ten are the tip of the ice burg and that there are 613 commands in Exodus and Deuteronomy? Others may say, “Okay then, I try to live by the Golden Rule, treat others the way I want to be treated…” That’s a good start.
However, doing what is right in our own eyes, is not the same as living according to God’s will. As humans, we always miss the mark.
The point is we learn to live a life of obedience. Oops, I lost half of you right there with the word obedience. Well, even Jesus was obedient to the will of his Father, why should we be an exception?
There are a few places in Scripture where it comes right out and says, “This is the will of God.” For instance, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and 5:17-18; other times it comes as a simple imperative command: Philippians 4:3, Ephesians 4:2, or Romans 12:16; other times it gives us a list of guidelines, what is beneficial and what isn’t: Galatians 5:19-26, 1 Corinthians 6. Sometimes, doing the next right thing is to do nothing at all, sometimes, it is to pray over a situation, but it is always a step of obedience to God’s will over our own will, especially when the Scriptures are clear on an issue.
JW von Goethe once said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” What in our lives have we known without applying and what have we said we have been willing to do without acting?
If someone came undercover… into our house, into our work place, followed us at the store, or in our car; if they were to ask those we run into or associate with on a regular basis, is there something different about us or are we just like everyone else? If they ask, could we be identified as a Christian by the way we act toward others and the things we do? What would the answers be?
I pray in each of our lives, we are able to have faith, do good, show love, and do the next right thing on a daily basis. If we are able to do so, we will be glorifying God in all we do and we will also stay on good terms with our fellows here on Earth.
Have a blessed day!
Recovery: The Journey
This paper is to relate my experience in working with alcoholics and addicts in recovery. In order to do so, I will first relate some of the research into alcoholism I have done. After relating my own experience and how I worked the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I will then relate my experience helping others through the steps of AA and the principles of Celebrate Recovery. I will include my experience working others and counseling individuals that have been a part of the ministry at The Upper Room Recovery Community. Recovery is a lifelong process, but with proper guidance and a whole lot of work, it is possible to recover from alcoholism and addiction and have a happy, joyous, and free life apart from drugs and alcohol and with a strong and growing relationship with Christ our Lord.
Alcoholism, as described in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, is a disease of the mind as well as a disease of the body. It is essentially described as “a physical allergy to alcohol coupled with a mental obsession to continue to drink”. Of course, not every heavy drinker is an alcoholic, and the book describes, in their own words, the stories of many drinkers who are not the “skid row drunk” either. Alcoholism, as well as drug addiction, has varying degrees of severity and many facets. These differences between individuals with these problems make treatment even harder because there is no one size fits all approach. To add to the confusion, there is the misinterpretation of alcoholism and addiction as being a purely moral issue. Michael Egerer, in his article on alcoholism, quotes Levine as saying, ”alcoholism is a moral issue that has turned into a disease of the will”. This is definitely not true. Alcoholism, as well as drug addiction, though spoken of in the Scriptures as sin, definitely have physical and mental qualities to them, although the solution is a spiritual one. Mark Keller, in his article on the nature and extent of alcoholism says that “the definers had used a variety of terms, including inebriety, abnormal drinking, problem drinking, alcoholism, pathologic alcoholism, and chronic alcoholism.
Whatever definition you would want to use, whether you believe it to be a moral problem or a chronic disease the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction are pervasive and destructive, to not only the individual, but also the family and society at large. Joan Jackson says in the abstract of her article Alcoholism and the Family:
The relationship between as alcoholic and his family is a two-way one. The alcoholic affects the personalities of family members and the functioning of the family as a unit. The family in turn contributes to the alleviation or persistence of the alcoholism. A description of the family crisis precipitated by alcoholism is given. Treatment of alcoholism should include help, not only for the alcoholic but also for the family.
The book Alcoholics Anonymous also has a lot to say on the impact of the alcoholic as his family. The book relates the alcoholic to a “tornado“ ripping through the lives of his family. Having seen the damage an alcoholic first hand, not only through my own experience but also that of family members that struggle with the disease, I can tell you that the fact is that alcoholism and addiction destroy relationships and families.
The great news is that recovery from alcoholism and addiction is possible. The books Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery Inside lay out a ”simple kit of spiritual tools”, as the AA Big Book calls it. Jones relates the experience of one man in recovery as saying,
Recovery is, for me, something that is ongoing […] it’s not something that is cured for me it’s something that is in remission […] treatment sort of stopped me but AA keeps me sober if you like and I need to do that probably for the rest of my life.
This man has it right… Alcoholism and addiction can never be fully healed in the sense that an alcoholic or addict can use “socially” as some call it. It can though be permanently arrested through abstinence and that is possible through the use of the “spiritual tools” we find in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery.
In Narcotics Anonymous, promises are made throughout the text to demonstrate how life can change for those in recovery. Some of these promises are:
As we recover, we gain a new outlook on being clean. We enjoy a feeling of release and
freedom from the desire to use. We find that everyone we meet eventually has something to offer. We become able to receive as well as to give. Life can become a new adventure for us. We come to know happiness, joy, and freedom.
Many other promises are made both in the NA “Basic Text” as well as in the “Big Book” of AA. These promises give those who are in recovery hope that recovery is not only possible but that the way of recovery can be an enjoyable way of life.
This is the story of my redemption by the grace of Christ Jesus through the power of His love and mercy.
When I was born, I was born without a father. My biological father had left my mother six months before I was born. My mother, a strong and independent woman, took on the challenge to raise me herself.
When I was two or so, she married a prominent business man here in the South Bend area. I was brought up in the Catholic Church and attended Catholic schools until I was nine.
My adopted father was a mean, violent, and abusive man. He had two sons, eight and nine years older than I was; they certainly took advantage of the fact that they were bigger and stronger than I was, cruel and abusive at every turn.
Drinking and smoking were a normal part of life in my family. I had my first drunk at the age of 5 at a family function. On the fourth of July, instead of punks or lighters to set off our fireworks, we were given lit cigarettes, which we would smoke as we set off our fireworks.
My mother divorced my abusive adopted father when I was eight, and even though she and I were the ones being abused, she was cast out of the parish church for not seeking an annulment prior to getting her divorce.
She remarried a couple years later, reuniting with her high school sweetheart, the man I call Dad to this day. Though I had a good life and a good father at this point, along with two step sisters, I was an angry and frustrated boy.
Much too smart for my own good, I did well in school, but according to all my teachers’ opinions, never worked at my full potential.
When I was a sophomore in high school something in me broke. In spite of promising futures in both football and baseball, I quit both. I lost several friends that year, dead before the prime of their lives. I had some severe rage issues. At one point, I was suspended from school for almost killing another student with my bare hands. If a school counselor hadn’t gotten through to me in my rage, that boy would have been dead. Soon after, I ran away from home, and moved from Colorado back here to South Bend to live with my grandparents.
A few months later, my grandfather died, and I moved back home with my parents.
I graduated from high school six months early. Had I not transferred schools my sophomore year, I would have graduated a full year early. This was just one more thing to fuel my rage and frustration, not to mention my problems with authority. Just after my seventeenth birthday, I enlisted in the Army. Why? I wanted to be allowed to kill legally. Talk about sick in the head!
During the months after my graduation and before I shipped out to Ft. Benning, GA I got heavily involved in drugs and alcohol. In less than a year, I was a full blown alcoholic and addict. After arriving in GA, I went through detox and within a month injured my hip and because of my disciplinary problems I was given three choices: 5 years in Leavenworth Federal Prison, 2 weeks in the brig and restart basic training, or go home. It was really a no brainer, I chose to go home. The only problem is: I didn’t have a home to go home to. My parents had moved to Tunis, Tunisia, in North Africa for my dad’s career in the Air Force. So, I came back here to South Bend to live with my grandmother and enrolled in college.
However, coming back from the Army, I also resumed my drinking and drugging. Within weeks I was back where I had left off before leaving for the Army. I was like a vampire sucking the life out of everyone around me.
On New Year’s Eve 1996/1997 I had a massive overdose. I spent 3 days under suicide watch at the old St. Mary’s Hospital on Jefferson. They believed that no one would have drunk and drugged as much as I had that night if they weren’t trying to kill themselves. I told them, “No, I was just out having a good time.”
Yet, the good time stopped. I was miserable all the time. I hated life, myself, the people around me, everything. I especially hated God, while at the same time, I claimed to be an atheist. I was living in a self-constructed hell. I was lost in my depravity. I had no respect for life of any kind. Judges 21:25 Says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” That was my life and I couldn’t stop drinking and drugging.
Finally, on March 27th, around 8am, I was on my way home from a friend’s house in Mishawaka. I was already drunk and high, and I was passing out behind the wheel. In desperation I said very simply, “God help me, this has got to stop.” Instantly, I was sober, clear minded, and knew where I was going and why. I knew, though I had no way of knowing, that my uncle, who was sober in AA at the time was going to be at my house. When I got home, he was. He waited for me to get out of the shower, and when I opened the door he asked me, “Hey, kid, how are you doing?” For the first time, I was honest with another human being, I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” He said “okay, pack a bag.” He and his girlfriend took me into their home and detoxed me for 3 ½ days. On March 31st, 1997, he took me to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have been continuously clean and sober ever since.
My road to redemption had begun. And I would agree with Paul’s statement in 1Timothy 1:15 “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” Why else would God choose to do anything for me?
I began a search for the God that had worked so powerful a miracle in my life. I read every religious and philosophical book I could get my hands on: The Bible, the Koran, the Tao De Ching, Plato, Aristotle, Voltaire. I was searching.
In the meantime, God continued to work in my life. Through the 12 steps my life began to change.
In 1998, I met the love of my life, my wife Sierra. However, we did everything wrong in our relationship. We made our relationship physical from the start; we lived together and had a child together before we were married. And let me tell you, there is a reason why God teaches us a proper order to building a right relationship. We certainly made life a lot harder on ourselves than we had to if we had followed God’s design for marriage. Yet, against all odds, we are still together and still growing in our marriage together.
In 1999, after a long and difficult pregnancy, and a traumatic labor, Alex, my oldest son was born. Although he is totally blind, and has severe infantile autism, he has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. Through him I have learned the value of life. Through him I have also learned what true joy is. I have seen the biggest, burliest, toughest men I know melt when he hugs them. I understand now Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” And what is God’s purpose, I have learned it is always for his glory and our growth. And growing I was. My wife and I have been blessed with three other children, Robbie, Serenity, and Abby, each a precious gift from God.
Also in 1999, I became an over the road truck driver. I continued to drive for many years thereafter. On May 2, 2001, while driving up US 30 toward Valpo I struck up a conversation over the CB with a Christian. He explained the gospel to me in a way that I could finally understand. Christ had died for me, as Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He had begun working in my life though I did not yet know him. Now I finally understood. Grace is what had gotten me sober, grace is why I was still alive, and grace is what I had to live for. We pulled over at a truck stop, and while leaning back against my truck talking with him, I prayed. I don’t remember the exact words but I admitted my sin, agreeing with God about my depravity. I asked him to forgive me and accept me into his family through the blood of his son, Jesus Christ.
He had saved me; he had redeemed my life, and gave me a new one. I was reborn. However, like a new born baby, I had and still have a lot of growing up to do.
I began listening to all the authentic Bible teaching I could on the radio. I began reading everything I could get my hands on. I will tell you this, there is a big difference between religion and spirituality; religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell and spirituality is for people who have been there.
God has been sanctifying my life, growing in the knowledge and fullness of my faith in him. Today, I have a true heart for God. I have a true heart for people.
For a long time, my wife and I searched for a church home. Then, I met Daniel Goepfrich, teaching pastor at Oak Tree Community Church, at the Y and he invited me there. Oak Tree is a family of families. It has been and continues to be the instrument that God is using to grow my family spiritually. I have found a home. The more involved I get, the more I love the people there. I have developed true friendships unlike any I have had at any other time in my life.
I have gone from being lost in the depths of my depravity, to teaching our children about God in the youth program. I have undergone 3 months of basic training in Biblical Counseling in Lafayette and I have studied with the Tyndale Learning Center at Oak Tree Community Church to better know God and God’s Word and to someday become a pastor in God’s Church. I am involved in the Men’s Fraternity and other men’s groups as another way to grow in my relationship with God and to be a better man, husband, father, all that God has called me to be. I continue to work the steps of AA and the principles of Celebrate Recovery and attend meetings on a regular basis. Although I have a lot of work to do, especially at home, life has gotten better and better.
God has promised, in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” I have seen this promise come true as it continues to play out in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect, and make mistakes on sometimes a minute by minute basis but I look forward to the future, and to all God will do in my life and my family, yet I know should I die tomorrow or the Lord return, I will get to spend eternity with him.
Working the Steps
In the Alcoholics Anonymous program, the AA Big Book lays out twelve steps as a suggested program of action. They are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to give up these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all the persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people where ever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
While the AA program is “a wrench to fit any nut”, they say, the program is the same for everyone while the way each step is worked is a very personal thing. I began working the steps with two sponsors (mentors in the program that helped me along the road to recovery) the day I went to my first meeting.
There is a step before the first step most AA members will tell you. That step is being done and becoming willing to go to any length to get sober. The day I went to my first meeting, I was there. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually; I was utterly defeated and willing to do anything to stay sober.
At my first meeting, I admitted that I was an alcoholic, powerless over alcohol, and that my life was unmanageable. But, the first step in practicality has three parts to it. One, admitting we are alcoholic, I did that day one. Two, accepting that we are alcoholic and cannot drink successfully ever again, that it took me some time to come to accept. Third, we have to surrender to the fact that we are alcoholic and give up on the notion that we can “fix” ourselves.
My working of the second step, I described briefly in my testimony. After God worked such a powerful miracle in my life getting me sober, I knew there was a God, but I had no idea who God was, and had a burning desire to know Him. So, as I said before, I read everything I could, asked all the people I could. I searched for God, as if He were missing or lost, like I had never done before in my life. Finally, I came to believe in a God, a God that could restore my life, and I believed that God to be perfect, personal, and loving. It was still some time before I came to know Christ as Savior as I described in my testimony.
The third step for me wasn’t really complete until I accepted Christ as Savior. However, I did, to the best of my ability, turn my life over to God, as I understood Him. I continue to do so on a day to day basis, now with Christ at the center of my life.
The fourth step and fifth step are two of the hardest to do. To take a fearless and thorough moral inventory and to share that information with another person is scary at best and terrifying at worst. That information needed to be written down and unpacked, but early in recovery we tend to be extremely self-deprecating, which can destroy self-esteem and cause relapse. So, my sponsors told me to keep it balanced. For every bad thing about myself, I was to write down something good about myself. That helped me immensely. I then shared that information with both of my sponsors individually. The acceptance and love they showed me, in the light of what I had done, was a relief beyond measure. I had figured to be judged and condemned for my faults, and I wasn’t.
The sixth step is harder than it looks at first glance. To be entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character requires willingness. I was ready and willing for my drinking and drugging problems to be gone, but… The other stuff? The friends I had to give up, the places I could no longer go, the things that reminded me of drinking, the lies, the girls, the sins, if you will, that I enjoyed so much. It was much harder to be willing to be rid of those things than just the alcohol and drugs. But, I did become willing and was then ready for God to really start working in the rest of my life.
The seventh step is much easier for me. Humbly asking Him to remove those shortcomings takes a bending of the pride and ego, but that comes with lasting sobriety. So, the asking was pretty easy. It is the taking back of self-will and doing those things that he takes away over again that is really difficult. But, just as we are sanctified by the renewing of our minds, so too are we able to give up some of those defects that we hold on to so dearly. The idea that makes this step really successful is that of replacement. Replace the bad behavior with something good. Instead of bar hopping, go to a meeting, instead of destructive friends, make some new friends at meetings or church, instead of complaining, pray, and so on.
Making a list of people that we harmed and then making amends for that behavior are the eighth and ninth steps. Making the list is pretty easy, the second part of step 8 is hard, the being willing to make amends to them all. I had to make four lists at my sponsor’s suggestion. One list of people I was ready to make amends to; one list of people I wasn’t ready to make amends to; one list of those I wouldn’t make amends to; and one list of those I couldn’t make amends to because of the harm it would cause them or others. I started the amends process of those I was ready to first. If it was a financial amends, I went with money in hand, at least to start making payments. Other amends were more difficult. It required a swallowing of pride, a letting go of blame, and a sincere desire to make things right. By the time I was done with the first list of people, I was ready to make amends to the next list…and so on. Finally, all that was left was the ones that I really couldn’t make an amends to either because they were dead, or because of the harm it would cause. For those who passed away, like my grandfather, I wrote a letter. I took the letter to the grave site, read it, and burned it. The relief I felt was impossible to describe.
The tenth step through the twelfth step are all about maintenance. Continue to keep an eye on the things that I am doing wrong and try to correct them as soon as possible, including making necessary amends. Maintaining conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation to know His will for my life and he gives me the strength to act out his will. And finally caring the message to those who are still suffering the disease and living out the principles in our daily lives.
Celebrate Recovery is the twelve steps of AA taking back to the Bible from whence they came originally. The Eight Principles developed by Rick Warren and John Baker mirror the twelve steps but with the focus on Christ as Savior and Lord. The Eight Principles and the twelve step equivalents are:
Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1)
Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2)
Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3)
Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 & 5)
Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 & 7)
Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 & 9)
Reserve a time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 & 11)
Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12)
The differences between the two are really apparent from the start. However, these steps and principles really have two different purposes if closely analyzed. The twelve steps are designed for the agnostic or atheist to come to some kind of belief in a Higher Power and though that Higher Power achieve sobriety. The eight principles are designed to bring people, regardless of the problems they face, to knowledge of Christ as Savior and Lord.
The Celebrate Recovery curriculum is broken down into 25 lessons which encompass the eight principles. The lessons are designed, with the help of the leader’s guide and participant’s guide, to lead an individual through all eight principles in about a year.
The “Celebrate Recovery DNA” as they call it, is to have a time of gathering and fellowship with a meal, a time of worship, a time of small group discussion, and then time for coffee afterward. A full CR meeting can last 4 hours. Most small churches and groups throughout the country don’t have a full CR meeting but the essential time of worship and small groups are present. At the Upper Room, we use the CR materials to do what we call a “step study”. The group is lead through each lesson on a weekly basis and we can get through the entire curriculum in about 6 months.
Working with others
During my time in recovery I have had the pleasure of sponsoring many individuals and over the last two years that I have worked at the Upper Room, I have had the opportunity to engage in the lives of hundreds more. One of the great pleasures of my life is the chance to help another person to get sober and to come to Christ. Working with others is extremely difficult sometimes. People get under your skin and into your life and when they fail, it is really easy to blame yourself, to take credit for their failure, to get discouraged, and to get angry them and yourself for not succeeding. But the fact of recovery is that only about 5% of people who get sober will stay sober for a lifetime without relapsing. Thus far I have been one of what I call “the chosen few” that hasn’t relapsed. I have some theories as to why.
First, I was completely defeated from the start. Second, I was willing to do anything and everything I was asked to in order to stay sober. And third, thus far, to the best of my ability, I have done exactly that. Most people never get there. They play around with their lives and their recovery and never get entirely honest with themselves or others about the exact nature of their problems. Like so many people on the planet, they don’t believe that God can and will do for them what they can’t or won’t do for themselves. They also don’t have any desire to accept God on God’s terms through Christ as Savior. While many, many people have gotten and stayed sober without Christ in their lives, they still face the eternal results of that decision.
Working with others takes enormous patience, love, compassion, mercy, grace, and humility. One has to meet an individual exactly where they are at in life and recovery and be willing to come alongside that person in sympathy and call them up to something better. Some people are not willing to accept even the idea of God to begin with. They are to be met with temperance and compassion. Others have a concept of God from childhood or wherever, but have never considered a personal relationship with their creator as being possible. They are all about trying to follow an impossible set of rules to earn their way into God’s good graces. But rules without relationships equals rebellion in most cases. They begin to figure, as I once did, that if they are going to hell because they don’t measure up, they might as well have a good time getting there. Then, there are the individuals that know all about God in their heads, are extremely knowledgeable of the Bible, may even go to church and participate in service work, but they lack the heart change. The longest 10 inches is from the head to the heart as they say.
Working the steps with others takes a good working knowledge of the steps themselves. It is very important that the counselor or sponsor has worked the steps in their own life to be able to relate to an individual trying to work the steps for the first time. This is where many students fall short in trying to counsel others coming out of school. Even “professionals” that have book learning and even practical experience in counseling that have not worked through the process themselves have a difficult time helping others, in my opinion. The problem is not with the counselor’s “knowledge”, the problem is with the counselor’s heart. The counselor that is right with God and his fellows that has worked through that relationship himself, is far more effective than one who has not. The adage that you have to have it to give it away applies in the counselor/counselee relationship as well as in the sponsor/sponsee relationship.
In my experience working with others I have found that individuals get “stuck” in some of the same places. Some get stuck on the second step, coming to believe that there is a personal God that will help them on the road to recovery. Once they get over that hurdle, they usually have a pretty easy time working their way through the third step. Another place people tend to get stuck is the fourth and fifth steps, one of the best ways to get an individual through these steps is to lay them out as clearly and simply as possible. I have some worksheets that I use to walk people through this part of the process. Also, helping the person to keep their inventory balanced, weighing the good with the bad, goes a long way toward making the inventory easier to do and share with someone else.
Another area that people have a hard time with is being willing to let go of their defects of character… This is the sixth step. I think more people in recovery get stuck with this step than any other. Letting go and letting God deal with our “sins” is the most difficult part of recovery. We need to let that stuff go, and the best way to do that is through replacement, taking something bad, like going to bars and replacing it with going to meetings. Replacing friends who use drugs and alcohol with friends in recovery, and so on…
Once people get through these steps and over these sticking spots working the rest of the steps is far easier. The steps are in order for a reason. When they are worked thoroughly and in order the steps become a path to lasting sobriety and true peace and serenity. The reason being, I believe, that anyone who truly works the steps to the best of their ability, God will reveal Himself and a person will come to saving faith in Christ.
Let me tell you the stories of three individuals that I have worked with.
Number One, we’ll call Tom. Tom is in prison. Tom was brought up to know about God through church, but has never had a relationship with his creator. When we started working together, he was married, had two children at home and several more that had already been taken by Child Services years before hand. He got sober in desperation to save his marriage. For a time, he did well. He was going to meetings, working the steps, his marriage was mending slowly. One day, he was during the summer, he was working outside and started to dwell on the children that had been taken years before. Instead of calling me, he called the dope man. Immediately, his marriage fell apart and he was on the rocks again. When he finally got a hold of me, his wife had left him and he was trying to sober up. One day, he was getting ready to leave his house and the idea came into his head to hide some stuff under the bed in his daughters’ room, paranoid that someone might steal it. He was smoking and dropped his cigarette. He thought he put it out and picked it up, but some of the ash caught the house on fire after he left. He was tried and convicted of arson, 14 years in prison. Now, he is working the program again and on the road to recovery. But, he has lost his house, his marriage, his freedom… All because of alcohol and drugs. While Tom’s story is heart breaking, it is true and happens all too often in recovery.
Now, let me tell you about Charlie. Charlie is in recovery, an active and believing Christian, and doing extremely well to outside appearances, but is struggling with depression inside. He went to the hospital and was inpatient for several days. Upon getting out, he was severely over medicated. Getting even more depressed, he sought drugs to try to make things better. Charlie died of an overdose the next day. Again, heart breaking but true.
Finally, I leave you with the story of Fred. Fred came to the program completely broken. His marriage was on the rocks, his health was failing, and he was spiritually lost. Fred now has over a year of recovery. He is succeeding in every respect. Though he never had an education, he now has his GED and is getting ready to start college in the summer. Fred has a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ as his Savior and is active in his church. Fred is one of the success stories. He is humble, honest, loving, and compassionate in his recovery and in his relationship with God and others. Fred is one of the reasons I love ministry and helping people in recovery. To find a genuine individual that is working the steps and winning in recovery and getting to be a part of that is extremely rewarding.
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