Posts Tagged ‘meeting’


Ps 103:11-12 – For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;  as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. ESV

Today. That’s my timeline. It used to be much more long term. How do I plan for and control what happens tomorrow or a week from now or next year. How do I make sure what I want to happen happens in the future. I don’t. Not really anymore. The realization for me is to focus on today. And follow the serenity prayer. To accept the things I can’t change. The courage to act and to change the things I can. Hopefully, also the wisdom to know the difference. So that’s how I focus on each day. God, let me accept that you are in control of today, tomorrow, next week and next year. Allow me to focus on what I can change. That is my actions today.

This led me to something else. Something that I recently wrote about. I wrote that I was wrong. Also that I am wrong. I am realizing and understanding that isn’t exactly true. I wasn’t wrong. I did wrong. I am not wrong. I do wrong. Sounds like a technicality but hear me out.

This goes back to a previous discussion about shame. In my life before recovery, I had incorporated into my life that I was wrong. That I was bad. That I was sin. Through reading, through counseling, through groups I have come to understand the difference. I am not wrong or bad or sin. I did wrong, I did bad, I acted in sin. Incorporating that I am bad or wrong into my identity is against what God intends and is what kept me in that cycle of sin. You know it as shame. And its so pervasive that I have slipped back into that way of thinking subtly.

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see that I had shifted in my thinking in how I was thinking about and classifying my past. Understandably, my wife struggles seeing the good in our marriage before I entered this time I call recovery. Without recognizing it, I started doing the same. Not seeing that it wasn’t black and white: before and after recovery. I had started thinking of my life as what came before recovery and where I am now. I realize now the danger in that.

The time before I entered recovery was just that; it was the time before I entered recovery. It wasn’t that I all of a sudden transformed from “bad” to “good.” Without realizing it, that is how I started classifying my life. Only…that isn’t right. I wasn’t “bad” and I am not all of a sudden “good.” I am broken. Then and now. Only, now I fully realize that I am broken.

I was talking with a friend recently who is also in recovery. I guess the better way to say it is my friend also realizes his own brokenness. I like the way he put it. He said that he used to be able to compartmentalize his life. He would put away the parts he didn’t want to think about or deal with in their separate boxes and he would just not think about them or address them. But they were still there. Now, all those compartments are broken. All the parts of his life are there. That resonates with me. The awareness. I am aware of my flaws, my faults, the damage I have caused. I no longer hide that away in boxes. All my boxes are open.

Am I bad? Am I good? I am broken. Do I do bad things? Do I do good things? I do. Thankfully I am aware of all of them. They are part of in my brokenness who I am. So I address them. I don’t compartmentalize them or box them up. I deal with them…a day at a time.


Mark 7:14–23 – “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’ After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’”

Jesus’ explanation reveals how boundaries help us define who we are and are not. Through them we can take ownership of all of who we are, both good and bad. It is only by taking full ownership of what is on our property and within our own boundaries that we can grow.

Mark¬ 7:14-¬23 is a great description of some of the “not so good” stuff that hangs out in our hearts. All property needs to be cleaned up every once in a while, and our hearts are no different. Jesus tells us that our hearts are in need of this kind of responsible “cleaning up.”

Every kind of growth system that works, from counseling to spiritual direction to recovery, involves looking past our outer behavior to the root causes that lie within our hearts. Sometimes, pain and hurt are to blame and sometimes, as this passage indicates, sinful attitudes and desires are the root causes. Whatever the case, God has forgiven us and that forgiveness gives us the freedom to take a real, hard look at what lies within our hearts. The reward for doing this is that we get healthy and life gets better.

That’s why we like to say that boundaries make life better!

This devotional is drawn from Boundaries, by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.


I am struggling with a particular feeling. Wrongness. Not just when I am to blame. Just that I am ALWAYS the one to blame. That because of who I am and what I have done that I don’t have the right to be…well…right. Ever. Even when I am. That I am supposed to always carry my guilt and even my shame. I have written on this before. I know that shame is selfish and deflects. See, I am falling back into before. Before recovery. Was I always wrong then? When it comes down to it, did I ever do any good?

This generalization is easy to make. That because of my deception, my lies, the continual violations of my wedding vows that I couldn’t have done any good during that time. That’s what I am talking about. In a round-about way, because of what I did, did I ever08 do any good before recovery? Are the positive parts of my life limited to the time after I hit bottom? Or did I have any positive influence in my marriage, on my kids, in my job, in my church. In the difficult times, the answer is always no. No I didn’t have any positive impact anywhere. I am defined throughout most of my life by what I was doing and who I was. The only problem with that belief is…it isn’t true.

I have started making a list. I like lists. They help me put things in perspective and see reality. I have been an expert at avoiding reality and truth for so long. So I figured I would face the truth. This is kind of new for me, actually searching for and facing reality. So that is what I have done. I have made a list. A list of the things I did right. Surprisingly enough, the list has items on it. Believe me, I was more surprised than anyone. This isn’t a list I have shown anyone or made for anyone. It is for me. As a reminder.

In Romans 8:28, Paul states that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. Yeah, I know that part. I haven’t always loved God but maybe He has used me. See, I passed over verse 26 in the past, but I see it now. Even before letting us know that God works in all things, Paul also reminds me that the Spirit helps me in my weakness. Even when I don’t know what to pray for or what to say, the Spirit is helping me in my weakness. Paul doesn’t say the Spirit only helps me in my strength. Or in my recovery or when I know I need help. He says that the Spirit helps me in my weakness.

I have a lot of weakness. A lot. And the Spirit helps me in that. He knows what I need even though I don’t. So, no. I wasn’t always wrong or bad. I didn’t spend most of my life without any good. Not because of me. But because the Spirit helped me in my weakness and still does. Then and now.

 


We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. – Step 10

 I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being wrong. I don’t like admitting I am wrong. I don’t even like recognizing I am wrong. That is one of the sucky parts of recovery. I am much more aware of my wrongness. It’s painful. And humbling. Which plays right into my major character flaw of pride. In recovery, through my wrongness, my pride takes a beating. Which leads me to…Step 10.

My sponsor thinks this is a great opportunity for me to explore the depths of my wrongness. To really get in touch with it. I truly do think he is enjoying his job a little too much. Every time I come up with something to whine about, he says something like “Isn’t recovery awesome?’ or “Yeah, baby!” I worry about him. So back to my wrongness. I am to journal on how I am wrong each day and what I do about it. Basically, do I promptly admit it or not. Fun stuff.

So today I got the mail when I got home. My wife had just gotten home before me. I like walking out to the mail box because I take my dog with me. She likes walking out without a leash so she can go in the field across from our house and hunt for rabbits and deer and elk and other wild animals that she imagines are running free in that field. So she runs free and I get to add to my collection of junk mail, coupons for terrible restaurants that won’t last more than a few weeks, and bills. Yeah, me. Oh, and catalogs. Lots and lots of catalogs.

Today was no different. Flyers, coupons, bills, and a catalog. Only this was a dangerous catalog. A James Avery Jewelers catalog. How is that dangerous? Well, when I disclosed my history of infidelity to my wife, part of the requirement was to admit to any gifts I had given to affair partner. Yep, I gave someone earrings from James Avery. Classy, huh? So that store is ruined for my wife. James Avery didn’t do anything wrong. I did.

I took the mail inside. It seemed like there was a giant spotlight on that catalog as I walked into the house. I was trying to hide it under all the other mail. I gathered up the flyers and junkmail and tried to keep that catalog out of sight as I started pushing it towards the garbage can. I would like to take this moment and say I stopped, promptly showed her the catalog, and admitted to my wish to try and hide it but that my new self wouldn’t allow me to deceive her. Only I would be lying. Again.

So the next morning, as I journaled, I had to write down that I hid it. I threw it in the garbage can. And I had to do Step 10. I took personal inventory, I realized how wrong I truly was, and I promptly admitted it to my wife. Which sucked. She got mad, she was hurt, and I caused even more damage. Only this was a little different. I realized I was wrong. That’s new. I even did something about it. Which is definitely not normal for me. Yep, Step 10. More wrongness to come.


http://purposefullyscarred.com/2015/10/15/trauma-and-the-brain-understanding-why-a-victims-story-might-change/

by Purposefully Scarred

At a recent conference about trauma and the brain’s response to it, Bonnie Martin – a licensed professional counselor who specializes in brain-based therapy, based in the Washington, D.C. area – made this statement regarding survivors of trauma, specifically survivors of abuse who suffer from mental illnesses:

There is nothing wrong with this person. There is something wrong with what happened to this person.

A large percentage of children and adults who have been victims of abuse and/or assault develop a mental illness [or more than one, e.g. depression, anxiety, personality disorders, paranoia, eating disorders, PTSD, etc.] Everyone copes with trauma differently and no one should be shamed for how they have chosen to cope and survive. However, one common theme in victims’ behavior is confusion or an inability to properly remember the events surrounding their assault(s). During the trauma, a victim will enter either “fight, flight, or freeze”. The brain’s activity changes as a way to protect itself. Later, remembering specific details or following a linear chronology as they tell their story can be very hard for many victims.

Because complex trauma and the brain is a fairly new study, the majority of people a victim will come into contact with do not have a proper education on how the brain is affected – in the moment and in the aftermath – by trauma.

A relatively new area of the literature on human response to trauma, particularly the trauma experienced during sexual violence, is that of “tonic immobility.” Defined as self-paralysis, or as the inability to move even when not forcibly restrained, tonic immobility has long been studied in non-human animals as the “freeze” response to extreme stress. Recently, it has been observed in the laboratory as a stress response in humans, as well. This finding explains the reaction of many victims of sexual violence, who report that they felt like they could not escape, even when no weapon was present.

Additionally, due to an entire cascade of hormonal changes, which includes oxytocin and opiates, associated with pain management, adrenaline, commonly associated with “fight or flight,” and cortisol, functional connectivity between different areas of the brain is affected. In particular, this situation affects pathways important for memory formation, which means that an individual can fail to correctly encode and store memories experienced during trauma. While an individual generally will remember the traumatic event itself (unless alcohol or drugs are present in the system), these memories will feel fragmented, and may take time to piece together in a way that makes narrative sense (Kathryn Gigler, source linked above).

It is not uncommon for family, friends, law enforcement, etc. to disbelieve a victim because their story has discrepancies or changes over time. It may appear to them that the victim is lying or merely seeking attention and cannot keep their story straight. In reality, to be simplistic, the brain is working to retrieve data that was potentially temporarily “lost” or suppressed during the trauma and, in the process of remembering and healing, that information will not be clear or linear. Inconsistencies are not lies but evidence that a traumatic experience has occurred.

Behavioral patterns in individuals who have experienced sexual violence mirror those seen in other traumatized populations, like combat veterans. This pattern of symptoms, known as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can include emotional numbness, intrusive memories of the traumatic event, and hyperarousal (increased awareness of one’s surroundings, or constantly being “on guard”).

Research shows that the majority of individuals who experience sexual assault demonstrate at least some of these symptoms of PTSD immediately after the assault and through the two weeks following the assault. Nine months after the assault, 30 percent of individuals still reported this pattern of symptoms. Overall, it is estimated show that nearly one-third of all victims of sexual assault will develop PTSD at some point in their lives (Kathryn Gigler, source linked above).

There is nothing wrong with a victim of sexual or domestic abuse, of rape or sexual exploitation. What was done to them is what is truly wrong. Their reactions and behaviors – however confused or disjointed they may seem – are the body’s natural response to trauma.

For information related to trauma and children’s brain development, read The Amazing Brain.

For more information on PTSD and victimized behaviors:

Why Victims Don’t Report and Why Shaming Them is Detrimental

The Role of Environment and Response in PTSD Recovery

Understanding the Behavior Common to Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Understanding and Identifying Dissociation in Children and Adults

Understanding Post-Trauma Guilty and Shame

Effects of Abuse, various


The empty chair in the middle of our circle awaits the return of those members who are currently suffering the consequences of their addiction

Part of the script the facilitator reads for each of our 12 step meetings discusses the empty chair in the center of the circle we set up in the middle of the room.  I am sure many of us have been in groups, Bible studies, discussions and meetings that are in a circle. Our circle in our groups is different. We put a chair in the middle. As a reminder.

Its a reminder to me. To where I was just a few months ago. Or more accurately where I wasn’t. I wasn’t in recovery. I wasn’t in a place where I gave God my life and my will. I wasn’t rigorously honest. I wasn’t in community or anywhere else but deep in shame. I was seeking to fill my abandonment and need for fulfillment in any way I could find. Just not in the one way that could stand a chance of meeting my needs.

The empty chair awaits the return of those in prison. I could have been that person. I don’t know how I wasn’t. The times I lied, stole, sought out fulfillment illegally. The near misses. The multiple times I could have been that member.

The empty chair awaits the return of those who are still in search of their rock bottom. I came to these meetings after thinking I was at my rock bottom. Only I wasn’t willing to be completely honest. I hadn’t gotten to that place of desperation where I was willing to turn all of my life and will over to God. Where I knew that death was the only other option. So I was the one. I was still searching for my bottom.

I didn’t know that there were people (specifically my brother and his wife) who were praying for me to be exposed. They knew I wasn’t being honest. They knew I hadn’t bottomed out. My brother is in recovery. He knows what bottom is. He knew I hadn’t gotten there yet. So he continued to do what he knew would work. He prayed for God to expose my lies and my secrets. And that is what happened.

The empty chair is there to remind all present the loss of those whose disease drove them to take their own lives. I could have been that person. And honestly I know that is what awaits me outside of recovery. Whether it is through the overt act of taking my own life or that I separate myself from God, my wife, my kids, and community. Separation and isolation for me leads to death.

Being on the other side of the circle, not being the empty chair, is much different than I thought. I don’t think I know more than people outside of recovery. I don’t think I am a Pharisee and they are a tax collector or thief or adulterer. I just know they are still seeking their bottom. I have found mine. I pray for the people I know that aren’t in recovery that are struggling with all forms of addiction and brokenness and compulsions. I pray they find their bottom. And that when they do, they find what I found. Grace and mercy.


Enough with Intimacy Already! I am really getting weary of practicing intimacy. I suck at it. However, I keep getting more opportunities to practice.