Identifying Values

Like many of us on the path to recovery I was the ultimate party girl as a teenager. When I reached my late teens-early twenties friends started saying things like, “you’re fun when you’ve had a few but not when you’ve had a few too many.” Eventually, my friends stopped asking me out to the bars with them. Once in while a brave heart would invite me along and then proceed to “keep an eye on me” throughout the night. They feared I would do something atrocious to embarrass them or I would do something incredibly stupid to hurt myself. These people really loved me and genuinely wanted to enjoy my company. They were ever so hopeful this time would be different. It rarely, if ever, was. At the age of 21 I was introduced to crack cocaine and I incorporated that into my partying as well. My intuition told me the first time I smoked it that I better be careful; so I just played with it for the next five years. At first I smoked only a few times a year, then every couple of months, once a month, and so on. I would catch myself slipping out of control and back off for a while. Satan is patient though, he knew someday I would go further than I wanted to and he would have me in his tight-fisted grip. He was right.

Eventually a family tragedy engulfed me and I turned to crack to numb out the pain. In a very short time I was in deeper than I ever imagined. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t stop using. The internal battle for my soul was on in full force. I would be telling myself no while driving to get it. The push and pull inside of me was unbearable and smoking crack was the only way to make it stop (so I thought). I was no longer in control, the drug was. I even remember asking a doctor at one point if there was a surgical procedure to remove the part of my brain that wanted it so badly. Sadly the answer was no. I was totally hopeless to find an easy fix to the predicament I was in. Bad got worse and I ended up in trouble with the law. Throughout the next four years I would string together some days-even months-and then start smoking crack again. Toward the end I was arrested again and sent to a local substance abuse counseling center.

I began attending an Intensive Outpatient class once a week and submitting to random drug screens a couple of times a week. Even with all of this accountability I couldn’t completely put it down and was still struggling to pass my drug tests and appear normal. By this time I knew things were very serious. I knew if I didn’t make that 18 inch journey from my head to my heart I wouldn’t truly change. But, despite all of my desperate pleas with God and my extensive head knowledge about addiction; I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. Through some acts of divine providence I began to see day light and knew there was a way out but still the questions burned inside of me. Why did I keep doing this regardless of the consequences? Why did I do it when I really didn’t want to? Why, why, Why?

Finally I received an answer that spoke to both my head and my heart. The counselor teaching the recovery class was speaking one day about what drives alcoholics and addicts to keep using despite dire consequences. I expected to hear the same cookie cutter stuff I had heard before about coping skills and chemical dependency. Instead he said the core reason why people abuse alcohol and drugs boils down to one simple thing….our behaviors don’t match up with our values. Think about that for a minute and really let it sink in before continuing to read.

When he uttered these words I snapped to attention. Something inside me woke up. I had never heard anyone put it so simply. WOW, at last a glimmer of hope! Here was a real solution to my problem. I thought, “Okay, all I have to do is match my behaviors to my values. Then I won’t NEED to use anymore.” I didn’t realize at the time it was only the beginning but it didn’t matter. It was something to hold on to while the rest came more clearly into focus. That’s why I am writing this, to give you hope. There is a place inside of you to begin the journey from your head to your heart. It starts with getting back in touch with who you really are…before disappearing into drugs and/or alcohol.

I began to really look at myself. What are my values? By this time most of my moral standards were out the window. Again, I started to lose hope. What if I didn’t have any? But I knew that couldn’t be true. A couple months prior to this class I had been given a book and a pamphlet by two different people who didn’t know each other. Both the book and the pamphlets centered on who God says I am in Christ. The seeds had already started to sprout. I knew I was not yet living it; but I was at least starting to see I am someone that God still wants and still wants to use. I was beginning to believe, however, I just couldn’t figure out how to apply it. This was it. God had spoken through this counselor thus giving me a way to start applying it. There was only one problem…I still had no clue what I valued. After a few more acts of divine providence the following exercise was placed in my path. It is reproduced with permission from Christian Coaching: Helping Others Turn Potential into Reality by Gary R. Collins.

Before you go on I need to say this is not THE answer, it is only a beginning. This exercise is not intended in any way whatsoever to take the place of any other recovery program. I am merely passing along my experience, strength, and hope. I needed to implement many resources while also working through a 12 step program to get a solid footing. For me, it was instrumental in helping me find myself again. That being said it was not the only thing. There are many exercises, tools, resources, and most importantly people I have learned from and continue to learn from. I pray for God to open the eyes of your heart as you work through this exercise.


    Values are foundational beliefs that anchor our lives, the things that matter to us the most, and the nonnegotiable characteristics that best describe who we are. Look over the following list and circle the words or phrases that best illustrate your values. If you have values not on the list, add your values in the spaces provided. Try to circle no more than twelve to fifteen words. The words in the resulting list are the values that best describe you, even though there may be others that apply as well. (The words and phrases below are not listed in any special order of importance.)

Side note: A couple of days after completing this I went through the values I circled and ranked them in order of importance from 1 (most important to me) to 5(less important). This really made a huge difference in helping set priorities later.

    Accomplishment | Affirmation | Ambition | Beauty | Being in control | Caution | Career | Collaboration | Community Compassion | Competence | Competition | Consistency with biblical teaching | Creativity | Determination | Diligence Efficiency | Elegance | Encouragement | Enlightenment | Excellence | Faithfulness | Family | Forgiveness | Forward-looking Freedom | Frugality | Fulfillment | Fun | Gentleness | Genuineness | Good taste | Growth | Hard work | Honesty | Humility | Humor | Impacting people | Independence | Influence | Integrity | Joy | Lack of pretense | Love | Marriage | Making money | Mentoring | Obedience | Orderliness | Patience | Peace | Perfection | Performance | Persistence | Personal power | Physical vitality | Productivity | Purity | Quality | Recognition | Relaxation | Respect for people | Respect for life | Respect for the environment | Risk taking | Security | Self-esteem | Self-expression | Sensitivity | Servant hood | Service .Sexual fulfillment | Silence. .Sincerity | Solitude | Spiritual growth | Stability | Success | Temperance | Tolerance | Tongue control | Tranquility | Trust | Truth | Winning .Worship