Tag Archives: 12steps

Tired of being a slave to porn? Take your first step towards freedom

Being enslaved to pornography is hell on earth. I know because I’ve been there. If you are there now, or don’t wish to go back to that life, I would love to talk with you.

I will be forming a support group for men who want to be free from the hell that is sex addiction. God created us for so much more than that. If you are interested, please send me a private message by email me at recoveringchad@yahoo.com. Your anonymity and confidentiality are important to me.

I will be beginning a local group for those who can meet weekly and if the interest is there, an online group for those who are far from me.  I’ll have more to say about the format soon.  Please share this with anyone you think might need some hope.

Grace and peace.

Just Do It!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything here so I thought I’d share an update and hopefully some inspiration.

Today marks my 30th day doing Whole30.   I made it!   I can’t believe it, to be honest.   For those of you who don’t know what Whole30 is, it’s a diet where you eliminate all sugar, dairy, grains and processed foods for 30 days.   That means no ice cream, no Oreos (my favorite), no cheesecake (my other favorite), no rice, noodles, bread, butter…you get the idea.

In order to convey the enormity of my finishing 30 days on this diet without a single cheat I need to tell you that I’m that guy that up until 30 days ago NEVER said no to a snack.   I’m that guy who stopped a couple times a week at Dollar General for a box of Milk Duds, or who routinely sat down at night to watch TV with a big glass of milk and 5 or 10 Oreo Double Stuffed cookies.   All day at work I snacked on anything from fudge to brownies to candy my co-workers brought in.

All that to say this:  It seemed like an impossibility to give all that up cold turkey for THIRTY DAYS.

But I did it!   And I feel better than I’ve felt in YEARS!   Let me share with you some of the benefits I’ve discovered…

  • I lost 18 lbs!   My clothes fit better and I’m no longer huffing after tying my shoes 🙂
  • I have more energy.  In addition to eating better, I also started training to run a half marathon in July.   I’ve been following an 8 week training plan and over the past four weeks I’ve gone from running 2 miles after my first full week to running 6.5 miles just this past Sunday!
  • I discovered a new hobby – cooking!  Having to prepare fresh food every day meant I had to organize my time in such a way that I had time to cook and prepare meals.  I found that I really enjoy trying new recipes and preparing food not only for myself but for those I love.   It’s a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to have others eat what I’ve prepared and see they enjoy it (check out some pics below!)

Those are some of the more obvious benefits – things others can see (or taste).   One of the less obvious benefits but no less important was how I discovered this really bolstered my recovery health.    There really is no secret to fighting addiction.  At some point when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired (hit bottom) you have to just do something else.   Replacing old, bad, destructive habits with something new, good, and life-giving is one of the best things you can do for yourself for long term recovery.    It gives your mind, body and spirit something new to pursue, creating joy that you didn’t know you were missing and giving you even more reasons to pursue sobriety.    You really are worth it!

The other advantage this brings to recovery that I have found, and I talk about this on other posts here related to fasting, is how being disciplined in this area flows out and over into other areas.   Discovering that I am able to say no to the urge to have an Oreo (and not die because I’ve deprived my body of something it wants) helps strengthen my spirit to respond positively when tempted with other ungodly desires.    If you can discipline your body to say no to food it wants, you can do the same when lust comes knocking at your door, or any other drug of choice to which you’ve been enslaved.

I think Jesus knew what he was doing when he fasted himself and taught his disciples to do the same.    He knew the spiritual secret behind saying no to the desires of the flesh, (even to something neutral, even good, like food)  – that such a practice can prepare one’s body and soul to say no to Satan’s other means of temptation and attack.

I want to encourage you if you are struggling today (or this month or for the past years).   If you have never considered how food or other areas you keep saying “yes” might be contributing to your unwanted compulsive behaviors elsewhere, maybe do so now.   Consider putting yourself to a 30 day challenge and say no to something other than (in addition to) your drug of choice.   If it’s porn, but you also love donuts, give up donuts for 30 days and just see if that doesn’t make you stronger in your fight against porn.   In my experience, it will.

What are you waiting for? Today is as good a day as any to start.  Just do it!

Grace and peace,
Chad

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Blackened Salmon with Sweet Potato and Green beans..YUM
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Chicken on cauliflower rice topped with dairy free mushroom cream sauce
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Finished up a 6.5 mile run!

God *likes* you

In my movie review of The Shack I share how it spoke to me as a recovering addict, particularly how it addressed two things I have trouble believing about God, one of which is accepting that God loves me, just as I am, not some future, “better” version of myself.

Most of the feedback I got was positive.   A few wanted to argue the theology of the book or movie.  And one comment broke my heart and revealed what I really mean to say when I say I struggle with accepting God’s love.   He wrote,

“God loves me completely just as I am” does not mean that God likes you.

I responded by thanking him for his encouraging words and added, “God loves you, but doesn’t like you” would make a great bumper sticker.

My sarcasm was meant to shield me from being vulnerable.  It was meant to protect me from saying the truth which would sound like this:

You know, much of my life I have believed that God doesn’t like me.  It’s hard to imagine why He would.

See, it’s easier for me to accept that God loves me because it has been ingrained in me that this is God’s job.  It’s what God does.   I often imagine God loving me with the same enthusiasm with which I wake up on Mondays.   God can be expected to show up on time and put in a good day’s work because, well, He’s God.   God is supposed to love everyone.

But no one ever told me that God likes me.

Think about it with me.  How many times have you heard it said, either directly or implied, that as Christians we are called to love everyone but it doesn’t mean we have to like them?  I have heard countless messages about how I’m called to love my neighbor but it doesn’t mean I have to have them over for dinner, or go to a movie with them, or for that matter even acknowledge their existence.   Just love them in my heart (what does that even mean?).

So should it come as any surprise that I assume this is how God views me?   God loves me, but that doesn’t mean he wants to have dinner with me.  God loves me, but that doesn’t mean he wants to hang out at Starbucks and listen to my fears about the day.  God loves me, but he never laughs at my jokes.

The stranger who told me that God doesn’t like me in response to my movie review unwittingly revealed to me what is at the root of my biggest hangup.   In my heart of hearts I don’t believe that God likes me.

Why do I have a hard time accepting that God likes me?  My addiction makes it hard to believe anyone could like me.   Especially after a relapse or a slip.  In those dark moments I don’t even like myself.  In fact, I hate myself.   It’s hard to imagine that when I am at my lowest that God would want to laugh at my jokes or share a coffee with me.

But God not liking me is a lie, straight from the mouth of the enemy who loves to accuse me and keep me entombed in shame.  

When I read the gospels I am met by a God who seemed to not only love sinners but actually liked being with them!  Jesus appears to prefer hanging out with messes like me, those of us who are poor in spirit, more so than those who have no trouble believing – whether it be because of their good fortune, their perfect church attendance, their superior morality – that God likes them.   Jesus actively sought out those who believed they had good reasons to doubt God loved them, let alone liked them, and befriended them.

Matthew’s gospel tells us the Son of Man came eating and drinking and those who prided themselves as God’s favorite teammates derided him, saying “He’s a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19).   Apparently Jesus liked hanging out with sinners so much that it offended the church folk of his day who, like us today,  loved the sinners but hated the sin.

Perhaps it was in the actual liking of sinners that set Jesus apart from all the others who merely “loved them in their hearts.”   And even knowing it would get him killed, he kept liking them anyways, to the very end.

I think Jesus would pick the addicts first- sober or not – to be on his dodge ball team. I think Jesus would choose to have coffee with a codependent and hang on his or her every word.  I think Jesus would give a prostitute a rose and tell her how beautiful she is before embracing her in a hug.   I think Jesus would love taking a walk with anyone depressed and start skipping rocks over the pond.   I think Jesus would have us all over for dinner and laugh at our jokes and tell some of his own.  I bet he’d be the last to fall asleep.

It’s important for me to get to a place where I can believe that God doesn’t just love me, but likes me.  God is, has always been, and will always be, my closest, truest friend.  It’s important because when I stumble and fall, I won’t run to the person who I believe loves me because it’s their job to do so.  I’ll run to the one I believe likes me and whom I believe missed me while I was absent.

I’ll close with a question from Brennan Manning, from his wonderful book Abba’s Child, which is teaching me a lot about how much my Daddy in heaven likes me.  He writes,

How would you respond if I asked you this question: “Do you really believe God likes you, not just loves you because theologically God has to love you?” If you could answer with gut-level honesty, “Oh, yes, my Abba is very fond of me,” you would experience a serene compassion for yourself that approximates the meaning of tenderness.

I want to get to a place where I can answer that way.   By God’s grace, I believe I’m on the right path.  What about you?

(This post is adapted from an older post here at Desire Mercy)

Maybe Jesus wants us to take the wheel

The other day my 13-year-old son, Maddox, did something miraculous.  Without being told, without any promise of reward or punishment, without this being on his chore list, he lifted a bag full of garbage out of the can and carried it outside.   I’m not exaggerating when I say this simple act brought tears to my eyes.

If you are a parent you get why this made such an impact on me.   But even if you are not a parent, you get how much sweeter it is to see a good deed done from the heart rather than because they’ve been told to do so.    Like when an apology is offered freely it is far more meaningful than one offered from cajoling, isn’t it?

I am moved far more deeply by an expression of love, a kind gesture, a wise choice when I know it springs forth freely from the heart as an act of will rather than when I know it is done due to adherence to my instruction, my principle, my law.

I think this is what Paul meant when he wrote about the difference between a life lived by faith versus one under the law in Galatians 3:

The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

The law makes for a good nest as you grow your feathers and get your wings, but what is true of my children it is also true of God’s children:  one day, you gotta jump out of the nest and, hopefully, fly.

Ryan May, pastor of The Net Church, shared a message yesterday that was secondarily about how the Bible is not black and white on many matters, which means we need wisdom to determine which course to take depending on our circumstances and context.   But this message was primarily about how important this understanding of the Bible is to having a healthy, vibrant, functioning relationship with Jesus!    He shared a wonderful analogy that drives this home:   When his 10-year-old son asked him if he could drive, Ryan decided to let him sit in his lap within the neighborhood and steer.    He realized, however, that  a day will come when he, the dad, is going to have to switch seats and entrust his son with the wheel.    If in 6 years his son is still needing to sit in dad’s lap to drive we would think something was wrong, wouldn’t we?

In a similar fashion, God is happy to let us sit in his lap when we need the help but like any good father, his desire is to teach his children how to drive.

When we treat the Bible like a law-book of do’s and dont’s, depending upon it to answer all of life’s questions, we are in essence choosing to live by the law rather than by faith.  We are choosing to stay in God’s lap and play it safe rather than jump out of the nest and fly.

This applies to recovery in many ways, least of which being that we often begin our journey in recovery due to external forces (law) impinging on us.  We do it to save a relationship or a job or to appease a judge.   Law drives us to meetings and sometimes that is enough – and thank God for them! – to get us through some grueling stretches of the road.    But eventually living by the law will burn us out and not be a big enough reason to carry on.    In my experience, deep, lasting recovery will not materialize until we accept and believe that we are worth recovery.   Until we accept that we are children of God and worth redeeming – that we want serenity and joy and peace and love in our lives – not to save our marriage but simply because we believe we are worth it – than real recovery will always elude us.

I love that the 12 Steps do not contain a single negative.   There is not a single “Thou Shall Not” or “Stop doing this” in the entire list.   Rather, it is a program of action.  It’s an invitation to jump out of the nest and start living life the way God intended.   The steps  don’t tell me exactly how to respond in every situation but rather they give me tools to enable me to respond to life on life’s terms with wisdom and love.     And ironically, with seven years of higher education in Bible and Theology under my belt, it’s the Steps that are most helping me read the Scriptures in ways that inspire me to trust that my Father delights in watching me, and you, drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Boy

I’m really looking forward to this movie coming in October (see trailer below).    It’s based on a true story about a father trying to help his son overcome addiction.

I’ll be interested to see how it plays out.   We know that when it comes to dealing with loved ones suffering with addiction that we cannot make them do anything.  In my experience, no one was ever able to “fix me.”    They wanted it, prayed for it, at times tried to manage it, but in the end the only thing that will heal the addict is the addict deciding they have had enough pain and become willing to admit their powerlessness and need for a power greater than ourselves to save us.

I know this frustrates the daylights out of our family and friends (but there is help for them too!   Look into Al-Anon, CoDa and other support groups for family members of addicts!)

What experience, strength and hope do you have to offer family members going through the pain of watching their loved one suffer?

 

Proverbs and Programs are not Promises (and that’s good news)

I heard an important message Sunday at church.   It was part of a series on the book of Proverbs and the pastor began with this warning:

Sometimes it doesn’t work.

Sometimes we do all the right things, make all the right plans, follow all the right advice, cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s and still things go sideways.   To quote one prophet, Forrest Gump, life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get.

The sayings in Proverbs, the pastor went on to say, are not so much promises but probabilities.   Following the wisdom found in Proverbs will better situate a person for a fulfilling, rewarding life than not following its advice.    But nothing in life is a guarantee and sometimes you’ll bite into a coconut cluster when you were totally expecting caramel.

In the same way that Proverbs cannot promise a smooth-sailing life, working the steps of recovery will not guarantee rainbows and unicorns.   I can be working the perfect program but still get laid off tomorrow.  I can recite the most beautiful amends to someone I’ve hurt and still be kicked to the curb.   I can rise each morning and seek to connect with my Higher Power and hear nothing back in return.    I can strive to give back to the world what I’ve learned and be rejected or ignored.

Neither Proverbs nor the Steps are a talisman promising good luck if rubbed just the right way.    And thank God for that.

Thank God because who wants a Proverb or a Program that works like a vending machine?  Actually, as I type that question I realize that at times many of us want exactly that.   We want to be able to recite a verse or work a step and because we have done X we can be certain that Y and Z are sure to follow.   Deep down we want to feel we have earned our reward.   Yes, we may want that at times, even most of the time, but thank God that is not what we get.

Because here’s the deal.   Not one of us ever has nor ever will work a perfect proverb or program.   Not one of us ever has nor ever will get it right enough

Moms and dads, on a scale of 1 to 10, just how often are you operating at a consistent 10 when it comes to training up your child in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6)?   I often strive for a 10 but there are days when I know I just phoned it in.

Fellow addicts, on a scale of 1 to 10, just how fully are you turning your life and your will over to the care of God as you understand God?   I often strive for a 10 but there are days when I realize I’ve been running on my own steam and stubbornly clinging to my own will.

I am so thankful that both Proverbs and my Program are probabilities for a better life rather than promises because if they were promises than that would mean I would be accountable for perfectly performing those promises in order to get the promised prize.  My relationship with God would be based solely on how well I performed each transaction, how perfectly I lived out each proverb, how precisely I worked each step.

Probabilities, on the other hand, create room for grace.

Grace, God’s unmerited favor and goodness towards we who strive and stumble through life, makes up for the days I’m operating at a 5 at best.   Grace enables me to be gentle with myself and let go of worry about the future because while I know I may never be a consistent 10 when it comes to parenting, God our Father, is.

Grace is those moments you see your child respond to someone with compassion and you can’t remember having done it quite so beautifully as they or had no idea they were watching if you did.

Grace is what makes up the difference on those days when I know I haven’t had time to work a great program but I’m sober today and a text from a group member reminds me that I am not alone.

Understanding that my program, like proverbs, is made up of a list of probabilities releases me from the bondage of performance anxiety.   So long as I am setting my sail in the direction these steps suggest I can be hopeful that I’m going to make progress even if – no, when! – I don’t do it perfectly.    The Big Book, in the chapter titled How It Works, after listing each of the 12 Steps has this to say:

Many of us exclaimed, “What an order!  I can’t go through with it.”  Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles.  We are not saints.  The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress.  We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.

So, if you are struggling today with keeping a bunch of promises and worried that your sub-par performance is going to sink you or those you love, know this:   Because of Grace, if you continue taking it one day at a time, moving one step at a time in the right direction, the probabilities that you’ll make positive progress are really, really high.   Don’t give up.