Stumbling Blocks

Criticisms of Recovery - Part 1Premium Content

See: Part 2 | See: Part 3

Let's begin with the obvious. The most argumentative, tenacious, illogical and misguided criticism of recovery comes not from other people but from me. When it comes to my own recovery journey, I am the person who resists the most. Like many of us, I have always been my own worst critic. I can think of 50 reasons, easily, why my recovery is just a pop-psychology, navel-gazing, trusting-the-wisdom-of-men-instead-of-God, self-pity-party.

I do not need any external hostility to recovery in order to remind me of how I should be better by now, of how I should be able to just pray about it and trust God, or of how I should spend more time helping others rather than selfishly focused on my own needs. I have yet to find a criticism of recovery that I haven't already internalized in some way. I have recently finished reading a series of books highly critical of the recovery movement and there were few surprises for my personal Inner Board of Critics. This distinguished panel of Judges has left few stones unturned in criticizing my own recovery. I suppose there are some obvious reasons why we resist our own recovery so tenaciously. Let me mention just three.

Resistance to the Truth
First, of course, we experience denial as having such tangible benefits. Denial has a lot of appeal - it always seems like it's going to be less painful than facing the truth. I've gotten along so far without having to face this, why should I have to deal with it now? The truth, by contrast, always seems like the worst possible thing. So, we resist recovery because it is less appealing than denial. This is, of course, why few of us choose recovery just as a kind of personal enrichment activity - most of us don't begin the recovery journey until our pain becomes so intense that we are forced to take measures that in ordinary circumstances we would resist if at all possible.

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It's My Life, Right?Premium Content

It's My Life, Right?

No, it's not.

I love great preaching that spurs me to think differently and dig a little deeper. This weekend Pastor Jeff Lucas offered a new (to me) perspective on idolatry and the 2nd commandment.

You shall have no other gods before me.

"You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." Exodus 20:3-6

I knew this was about more than golden calves. I knew idols might disguise themselves as jobs or money or power or anything that becomes first priority.

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I trust in Jesus for my salvation, but why do I still struggle with sin?

I trust in Jesus for my salvation, but why do I still struggle with sin?

After receiving e-mails from thousands of people over the years, we've concluded that all believers have to struggle to maintain their faith. Some folks have to struggle more than others, but generally everyone has some level of difficulty.

It's the people who have no guilt or realization of their eternal state who make the Christian walk seem all the more difficult. Show me a believer who says, "I never have to worry about backsliding," and I will show you someone who is already deep into apostasy. We're all running in a race, and God doesn't care how many times we stumble. The only thing He cares about is who makes it to the finish line.

What Keeps People in Recovery?Premium Content

As I have mentioned in an earlier article, I am firmly convinced that we must help people in residential programs to be come integrated into two vital communities -- the Church and the recovery community. There is life after the residential recovery pro­gram and if we don't spend enough time and energy preparing our clients for it, we have done them a great injustice.

If we are truly successful, the program graduate leaves the mission as a newly so­ber, struggling baby Christian. We must be sure that this new be­liever knows where to find help when he/she experiences struggles, even 2, 5, 10 years and more in the future, no matter where they live.

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Casting off the Burden of Self-Indulgence

Proverbs 18:1 NRSV
The one who lives alone is self-indulgent,
showing contempt for all who have sound judgment.

"Prayer opens a whole planet to a man's activities. I can as really be touching hearts for God in far away India or China through prayer, as though I were there. Prayer puts us into direct dynamic touch with a world. A man may go aside today, and shut his door, and as really spend a half-hour in India -- I am thinking of my words as I say them, it seems so much to say, and yet it is true -- as really spend a half hour of his life in India for God as though he were there in person. Is that true ? If it be true, surely you and I must get more half-hours for this secret service. No matter where you are you do more through your praying than through your personality." ~ S. D. Gordon

There is living and then there is living. In other words, there is existing, having our physical bodies be in a certain space and time, and then there is the purpose and focus for our living where our thoughts and priorities dwell. One can live alone physically and be in touch with the world at large through prayer and focus and concern. And one can live in the midst of the largest metropolis and be solely centered on her own agenda and concerns.

Preventing RelapsePremium Content

Addicts relapse when it is more painful to stay sober than it is to get "high". The immediate benefits of ceasing drug and alcohol use include:
improved health, better sleep , return of appetite, and clearer thinking. However, all addicts eventually face a challenge even more difficult than stopping drinking or using drugs -- coping with life without them! Doing so involves a whole lot more than just "putting the cork in the bottle". They must they learn a completely new way of life. We often refer to this process as "recovery" -- the Bible calls it "sanctification" -- a definite ongoing program of personal growth

Major Causes of Relapse

  • Denial
    inability to accept that one is indeed addicted to alcohol and/or drugs and that it is a primary cause of life problems.
  • Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
    inability to cope with a set of very stressful, physiologically-based symptoms that occur only after use of alcohol and drugs has stopped
  • Emotional Dysfunction
    inability to cope with feelings such as grief, depression, stress, fear, etc., without mind altering substances.
  • Relational Dysfunction
    inability to develop and maintain healthy relationships with others.

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Carrying the Burdens of Your Past?Premium Content

We're commanded in Hebrews 12:1 to "lay aside every weight" so we can "run with patience the race that is set before us." Consider that first command: lay aside every weight, every burden that slows us down in our race forward. If we're dwelling on the past, that means we've stopped running, picked up some weights we were commanded to drop, and are giving them (not God or His commandments and His service) all our attention. No wonder we stop running and even start walking backward. For good reason do race horses wear blinders that force them to look forward, blocking out distractions so they can focus on the race.

Even worse, Hebrews 12:1 continues on into the second verse, explaining what we should be looking at when we run the race "set before us" (set in front of us): "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher ofour faith." If we're looking at the past, we're violating this second command of God's: we're not only picking up weights and burdens we were told to lay aside, to drop to the ground and regard as worthless impediments, but we're not looking at Jesus but rather at those forbidden weights instead. We should be rejoicing that Christ tells us to drop all these weights. Satan's worst enemy is a Christian focused on the future and running his race well.

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The Hamster Wheel: Are You Doing the Same Thing Over and Over?Premium Content

The famous phrase, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result" can probably best be depicted by the hamster on the hamster wheel.

Ever had a hamster as a pet? When I was eleven, I had one by the name of Mitsy. The concept of having a hamster didn't quite measure up to the actual reality. For one, I could never pick her up and cuddle her. One attempt at doing so, Mitsy whipped her head around and sunk those two long front teeth into my finger. Here's a helpful factoid: hamster bites HUR-R-R-R-T!!!

And then there was that hamster smell, emanating from her cage. I don't think I need to elaborate.

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Checklist of Symptoms Leading to RelapsePremium Content

While each individual must maintain the disciplines that insure sobriety, there are ways in which others can help. Nearly every person close to the addicted person is able to recognize behavior changes that indicate a return to the old ways of thinking. Often these individuals and fellow Christians in Recovery® members have tried to warn the subject, who by now may not be willing to be told. He may consider it nagging or a violation of his privacy. There are many danger signs.

Most addicted people, if approached properly, would be willing to go over an inventory of symptoms with a spouse or other confidante. If the symptoms are caught early enough and recognized, the addicted person will usually try to change the way they think, to get "back on the beam" again.

A weekly inventory of symptoms might prevent some relapses. This added discipline is one that many addicted people seem willing to try. The following list can be used by spouses, close friends, or the addicted person.

1. Exhaustion: Allowing yourself to become too tired or in poor health.

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Who Are You Serving?

Then Samuel told the whole house of Israel, "If you're returning to the Lord with all your heart, then remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you, direct your hearts back to the Lord, and serve him only. Then he will deliver you from the control of the Philistines." 1 Samuel 7:3, NET Bible

I have to look seriously at who – or what – I am serving. For I can be easily deceived if I am not regularly submitting myself to the Lord my God.

There are many things I can serve in this world, none of which honour Jesus: I can serve money, other people, addictions to various substances or activities – I can even serve an addiction to people if what they think of me, or if their opinion, is more important to me than His opinion or what the Lord thinks of me.

Something else that I can become a servant to is my emotions. It is so easy for me to become overwhelmed by my feelings, and when I do, I can begin to quickly bow down to them. When anger rears its ugly head in me, it is all too natural for me to lash out at my husband or the nearest loved one to me. However, the Lord says in His Word:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1, NIV84

When I feel discouraged and overwhelmed by a task that is before me, it is simple for me to say, "I just can't do this!" But the Word of the Lord speaks differently:

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