Sunday, May 4, 2014

Reflecting on 18 months of Recovery by the Grace of Jesus

As many of you know I do some work in the recovery community, and I am a recovering alcoholic addict.  I host an AODA group at my job at the Salvation Army homeless shelter of Wausau Wi.  I recently celebrated 18 months of recovery thanks to Jesus Christ.  I was asked by a friend of mine to write a short piece on my recovery story thus far, for inclusion on her website.  This is what I wrote, enjoy:

A new life began 18 months and two days ago, and it began on November 1st of 2012.  Do you know, I was hoping for the world to end, December 2012, you know that whole business with the Mayan calendar and so on.  But it didn't of course.  Though maybe the tribulation began.  But that's just speculation.

Let me tell you about 18 months and two days ago.  This journey through recovery, and reassembling the shattered pieces of a broken person began with three simple words that changed everything: "Jesus help me!"

I tried recovery with a vague spirituality, it fell apart after 7 months.  I couldn't want it.  I hadn't surrendered.  I wasn't willing to change.  But with Jesus Christ, my motives are changed.  I balked at the idea of Jesus Christ so many times over the years.  But I was finally fresh out of balks.  I was sick and tired, of being sick and tired.  That's a fact.

I came into the rooms a broken and shattered shadow of my former shadow. I kind of sputtered about, with tattered shoes and smelly clothes.  Meetings and more meetings, and step one was a serious utter fact.  I had become hopeless and helpless and really what was left was a cruddy kind of half wet bon fire left over night.  A few embers burning, and meetings tossed some sticks on the pit and smoke started pouring out, and eventually hope was kindled.  Really what happened in those first 3 months was learning what powerlessness was (step 1) and without even realizing it, starting to work step two, and what that meant was, I was starting to have hope.  These people around here day in and day out are staying clean and sober, so that means.. I can stay clean and sober, and I am too, so how did they do that?

They kept saying get a sponsor, work the steps.  And I was at that point where I was desperate, tell me what to do, now I'm serious about this, I want to be ok.  I'll do anything, anything.  So there was this raspy, big, mean, old, old timer who always sat in the corner of the room and barked truth.  I recall thinking that he reminded me of some sort of grizzly bear, or polar bear.  He was big and wide and tall and hairy and grayish and had big arms.  And I recall one of the first things he said to me was, he raised his big bear claw arm and pointed to the door and growled, "The first step is done out there!"

We met everyday at 8 am at his apartment and listened to Joe and Charlie tapes, pausing intermittently to discuss and read chapters of the book.  He scared the crap out of me.  I was so tired everyday, because I never got up that early in the morning.  But God must've been with me, because I kept waking up and getting over there.  The inventory was super important, and telling it to my sponsor took a grand total of 12 hours over two days.  I saw my character defects, asked for their removal, and worked at my amends, and also looked at ways to grow daily in the program, which was practical to me, 10, 11 and 12 were practical growth steps.

I pray to God the Father through his son Jesus Christ every morning humbly requesting another day of recovery from drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes.  At the end of the day I thank God from the bottom of my heart for another day of the new life.  And I did that today too.  Everyday.  And God forbid the day that prayer falls out of my recovery process.

Within those first few months of recovery, it was also completely natural to walk into a church.  I don't know how exactly that happened.  It just became clear that I was not just being sent back to recovery groups, but I was also being sent to regular church attendance.  Church and Recovery have really paralleled each other powerfully in my recovery program, and I grew in both areas simultaneously.  Many cautioned me against a dual approach such as that, but I was careful to make sure I never abandoned one for the other, but kept myself firmly planted in both.  It was a stern conclusion of my mind to never let myself drift too far in either direction; at least to the cost of losing the other.  

Remaining alive and well in recovery, on the new path was and is about a total lifestyle change.  Together recovery groups and the Bible provided to me a complete design for living.  Every area of my life has been affected and altered.  That was extremely difficult and very uncomfortable at first.  But I just allowed myself to step way, way outside my comfort zone.  Way, way, way outside it.  Those first few months of action, the first 6 months of action, growth, step work, inventory, and a beginning in amends were absolutely crucial.  I'm so glad I had a sponsor who sat me down five days a week, for at least 3 hours a day to pound the program into my head.

After the initial first six months of strain, fear, anger, depression and death grip on the program I started to relax a bit.  I found myself loving meetings.  I loved talking at meetings about spirituality and reflecting on the past.  And I brought my questions and pains to meetings, requiring myself to be desperately honest about them.  I went to tons and tons of meetings.  I would go to two on Tuesday and Friday, and hit one a day the rest of the week.  At the same time I was spending more and more time reading the Bible.  I made sure to pray everyday.  I started to love the Bible, and love Jesus more and more, and realize that Jesus was a real person, alive and well with Father God.  I started to understand that Jesus Christ made recovery possible all together, by changing my internal motivations and desires.

I went to meetings during the week, church on Sunday and I attended several Bible studies at churches around the area to get varying perspectives.  I was falling in love with meetings, with recovery truth, with Biblical truth, and with the person and work of Jesus Christ.  I was still in shock for the first year, amazed and just completely blown away at what was happening in my life.  It seemed far too good to be true.

It was in that time that I began writing my blog, A Lifestyle Change for Peace blog ( to journal and reflect on the things I was learning and the thoughts I was having.

After the first year many things changed in my life; I won't go into too much detail.  But I started at Liberty University majoring in religion.  I was hired as a caseworker and AODA group facilitator at the Salvation Army homeless shelter in my town.  And I became highly involved at my local church serving in several ministries there.

It's been an incredible journey, by the grace of God.  If I could give any advice to someone just starting: follow the advice given closely.  But more so, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  He's the secret to a lifetime of recovery from drugs and alcohol.  Get on a mission to have recovery.  And work hard, while remaining humble and remember, your only chance relies on a power greater than yourself.  Your higher power can be anything that you want, this was my starting point, but I'm telling you the truth, there is only one God, and his name is Jesus.  Good luck and God bless.

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