The Key to Solid Recovery

Don’t think I come up with everything I write about regarding recovery from drinking and drug use  Much of what I post comes from what I hear from successful people in recovery meetings. I also ask God’s help to express thoughts to the reader. The purpose of this post is the latter statement, God’s help.. Time after time I have heard the recovering admit that praying to God was key to their recovery. I totally agree.

The issues of addiction to drug and alcohol are regarded as a spiritual malady. Don’t doubt that for a second. even if you do not believe in God, or agnostic. I have witnessed several who had no spiritual belief remain clean and sober as they followed THE program. Yet those who rely on God through prayer have much stronger recovery, my personal observation. If our addictions are indeed a spiritual malady, the remedy must come from the spiritual plane. We could not use physical to fix the spiritual no more than putting a set of wings on one’s back would cause one to soar among the clouds, defying the physical law of gravity.

Simply put, physical laws cannot alter the dimension of the spirit. However, spiritual law can, and has, altered the physical and mental realms. This isn’t arguable in this reality we dwell in, and only realized by having faith in such. With that in mind, the practice of daily prayer to God for help to remain clean and sober is the key to solid recovery, and much more. As individuals follow what has worked for millions in AA, praying for God’s intervention to help just today a clean and sober day, their faith in His reality grows. They find God loving and ready to help them though at first, praying seems foolish, a waste of time. With days passing, their faith grows to ask for His help for other issues, until prayer develops into dialog, a relationship.

I have been asked about what God’s will is by several over the years. Why I was asked in most cases was I had been the individuals sponsor, not from having been in seminary.  Sometimes I answer that with a question….”do you know what God’s will isn’t?”

The answer to that is that they do not use drugs or alcohol. That’s a given. Also, I believe God’s will is obvious to the one asking…He wants you free of addiction, He wants you changed entirely, body, soul, and spirit.  That normally means, everything about the individual needs to change. Recovery from addiction programs are programs of “self reduction to others minded.” You may enter a rock star, but aspire to be a servant. (God’s will leads to real life in spite of how that may sound to your ears).

In truth, most that want to know God’s will having underlying reasons. In most cases, the hope of side-stepping consequences, or wanting to have someone agree with what they think. Others really want to know what I feel God wants them to do. That may cover many things, relationships, how to work their recovery out when opposed by family or friends, or for a desire to know God. For me, I find answers in scripture first of all. One particular place I look is in the “poetry sections,” Psalms, Ecclesiastes, mainly the book of Proverbs. These books are crammed with workable, godly advice like an atlas insert for my personal locality.

To be honest, I still hit walls often. though I look for spiritual answers through prayer and Bible readings, that doesn’t make me a spiritual know-it-all. Example being that I was absolutely sure a my last relationship was God’s will. For me, God had to be my priority in life in. Second, I knew whatever I wanted must come second to my mate’s needs and desires. Right priorities make perfect relationships…right? Not even close. The other individual has a say too. They may agree verbally, but hold to different priorities. If so, that does not mean the relationship is wrong or doomed to fail. But it may require more effort by both.

Though we agreed at the onset, and marital bliss seemed unending, vigilance was required daily. Even though I prayed before, even had solid counsel throughout, it ended badly. God, how did I miss Your will? That way of thinking can devastate one’s recovery if help is not immediately sought. My expectations, God’s will, her will, and enemy attacks, etc., all converged to where I could not see God’s will at all.

In retrospect, I remembered I had a check inwardly, but disregarded it thinking, “get behind me devil!” (Only comical now). God wanted to keep me from trouble, but my desire for a relationship held sway over waiting for His perfection. Ouch! I don’t know what hurt worse, the broken relationship, or being wrong at this stage of spiritual recovery, or…at my age.

In conclusion, pray for God’s help as a daily priority. This is the priority for solid recovery. Do meetings, get a sponsor that isn’t so cool but has a real spiritual side, do what you hear the successful in recovery have done. If you miss God’s will for whatever reason, He isn’t mad, ask Him again and talk to your sponsor about it.

How to Have Faith…(when you feel faithless)

Something I hear often in recovery meetings or in conversation with others is, “I don’t have faith.” I can respond from my personal experiences and understanding gathered from study, but seldom do. The reason is that people have their mind made up regarding how they view self, religion, life, etc., and mostly unwilling to listen to any answer until their pain is great enough to want change in life.

The truth is, we all have faith. We are born with a bit of it. But faith has to develop, grow from a seed into a thriving tree…even an entire forest. How that occurs is through the ears, hearing…to understand. An example seen in recovery meetings is the newcomer.

Newbies come to AA or NA, unsure if they will be helped at all. They hear how others with similar issues or problems, kept coming back until they found hope, got clean and sober, and their life improved beyond their dreams. The newbie finds that hope and returns again and again until their faith grows a belief worthy of total trust.

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Rom. 10:17 ESV
(To amplify this passage, I like to say, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing, and hearing…)
Jesus said: Have faith in God…”I say to you, whatever thing you ask when you pray, believe you receive them, and you will have them.” Mark 11:22, 24 NKJV

Faith goes in through the ears, into the heart and mind, then out of the mouth. This is a fact for belief systems, no matter what the belief system is. Even the atheist has faith in no God by the same method; they hear atheist teaching, their mind accepts those teachings as truth, and their mouth speaks their faith in there being no cause for life, it just happened.

What if I am not in Recovery? How can I get faith?
Here are a few suggestions to grow your faith.

1. Pray, whether you believe in God or not. A simple, “God, are you for real? If you are, will you please help me believe? I really want to know.” (You will be contacted…I have faith in that fact.)

2. What are you listening to right now? Turn it off. TV, music, negative thoughts bouncing around in your head, or a negative friend or relative-do-nothing griping there is nothing to do. Sit down and read this post aloud to yourself. Or, read Mark 11, Romans 10 aloud to yourself. Read a devotional or the Big Book of AA. Allow something positive to enter the ear and lodge in your heart.

3. Affirm aloud to yourself, “I belong to God”…or, ” I’m getting better every day, my life is improving as I hear truth, I believe.

This is just a start to cultivating the greatest resource, or spiritual tool we all have. Faith is essential for recovery, for learning, for every endeavor attempted by mankind. Invention, exploration, and discovery are all born of faith. Be savvy to this as well, doubt and fear are the arch-enemies of faith. These little imps produce questions in spite of proofs, tear down the most powerful of dreams and hopes.

Choose faith over fears. Take this final passage with you into next week and personalize it saying it aloud to yourself:
…Be strong and courageous, don’t be frightened, don’t be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!”

How to be Grateful…(when you don’t want to)

The question I had to ask myself was, “what in the world has happened to you?” The past two years has been nothing short of a real smack-down of sobrietal reality. Depression? Frustration? What is going on, and furthermore, what did I do to deserve this garbage? All I wanted to do was help others get, and stay clean and sober. Yet, here I am struggling to do the simplest tasks in every area of life.

We alcoholics and addicts tend to look at everything external to find who, or what to blame. Eventually with God’s help, the message is clear…look in the mirror and you’ll see the problem.
It is me. I look at the inward self and see how I am seldom prepared for battles life delivers. The core of this onslaught is ingratitude. If I see gratitude as an action word, then ingratitude is a lack of action, not giving back what I’ve been given.

How can I stay grateful when I don’t feel it? 
It’s words. Not a fake-it-till-u-make-it way. I have to look beyond the veil of deceit that this existence offers through mankind’s fall from grace. That is, count blessings, say words of thanksgiving to God, and DO little actions to cause zeal for service to others to return.

I was so grateful to God early in my recovery that I wanted to give back any way I could. I was willing to clean the men’s room, empty trash, both at church and at AA. When I felt down, or felt old behaviors trying to rule me, I went to the AA meeting place, having a key, and cleaned. I cleaned and prayed. God heard and answered, not because I cleaned, but because I put faith and gratitude into action. Things changed, I was restored and refreshed with those little actions, giving back without anyone knowing but God.

Those early experiences catapulted me to spiritual fitness, hungry to serve, thirsty for knowing more because….this really works! Expressions of gratitude filled my conversations and prayers. I understood what people had said in meetings, how the grateful souls are those who DO gratitude, not merely say it. Those who express gratitude, live with purpose and experience joy, peace, and confidence in God’s ways, that are far beyond human comprehension…I mean, how can being thankful change my situation from distress to feeling fulfilled with purpose? It is a God thing altogether.

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s decree. “For as the skies soar high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, the way I think is beyond the way you think….the words I come out of My mouth will not come back empty handed. They will do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.” Is.55:8-9,11. (The Message)

God Does Nothing like humans. Our gratitude is nutty to people’s way of thinking. People think being grateful for anything they cannot eat, spend, possess, etc., is foolish entirely.

Gratitude may be hard when I don’t feel grateful. But if I say what I hear others say; “well, that’s just how I feel, I’m just being honest,” I will not come out of this funk until I stop saying junked-up words from that trashy attitude. To know “this too shall pass,” is a nice saying, and true. When I stand up and thank God when I do not want to, and every thing is going wrong, He is pleased, making changes in me. Those changes lead me from that funk, to a clear and meaningful peace, a joyous way of living.

Think today of what you are not grateful for, write them down. Think today of what you are grateful for, write them down too. Then thank God for both for one week. See how the things you were not grateful for change,or ratherhow you view them. Will you be grateful for bad things? Will you see them as lessons in life? Maybe, maybe not. You will feel differently, I’m sure. For me, I know gratitude changes me from the inside out. I am grateful. Time to express it with action, and be healed.

Family and Fellowship

This past weekend I had the privilege of being involved in my church’s 100 yr celebration. I also had the pleasure of the weekend off from work.  My parents, now 85, flew up from Florida for the event and I was blessed to have them stay with me, along with my sister Karen, whom they live with. I had a great time seeing, and of fellowship with people I never thought I would see again. The music was awesome, the praise and thanksgiving was moving, to say the least. Many members and staff deserve honor for the hard work. What a family! What a fellowship!

This weekend had a message for the recovering alcoholic and addict, that reflects the statement heard often in meetings; Meeting Makers Make It. My take is this; fellowship with like-minded people, with life-like problems, and realize recovery taught in the “Big Books” and the Bigger Book, the B-I-B-L-E. (Yes, that’s the book for me)

Our recovery hinges on truths we know works for everyone mentally able to understand. Those who think they are unique, able to willpower sober living, (the insane), or one of these days they will suddenly sober up and start attending, miss the greatest blessings ever by misunderstanding the importance of fellowship and family. I laughed more, loved more, and renewed my desire to DO more this weekend than a year of partying at the local bar.

I made it to one NA meeting, and two AA meetings as well as Sat and Sun meetings at church, to see both side of the family! I am grateful for the riches of God’s mercy and kindness, allowing me to be among His family again….what I thought would never happen and certainly do not deserve.

The weekend consummated with a gathering of my parents, sister, children and grandchildren gathering at my home to say farewell to mom and pop. Grateful even more, this would have never happened had I remained entangled in addiction to self-serving. The message to you feeling hopeless is don’t quit! Keep working the steps to recovery, get the sponsor, pray, and by all means….get to meetings and fellowship. This is key in your spiritual fitness and restoring relationships with your birth-family.

Think about who you hang with, your friendships or fellowships and family. Do these build you to live without use?, do they nag you to stop using?, do they enable your using?, do they even care? Come and join the family! Hope is found in meetings of AA, NA, CR….Eternal life with God’s family. If you are a user of dope or alcohol, of porn, gambling, etc., don’t kid yourself, you need both desperately. You come looking to receive, you will in ways you cannot imagine.

Knowing What I Want

Living with one foot in God’s service, the other in mine, doesn’t make life very good. It is easy to live for me in theory. The reality is, living to please myself is pure misery and impossible to overcome by myself, willpower-ing my way to freedom that never will be. My will says “I can fix it,” as though I were a jack-of-all abilities. Being full of self brings out an ego-maniac trying to control outcomes and giving un-asked for advice.

The only thing worse is me with the one-foot in, one foot out of service to God in any capacity, recovery included.That is a lukewarm nonsensical life that leaves me totally wondering if I am on the right path. In this sorry existence, I question God’s will, procrastinate important decisions, fly off the handle at the slightest infraction from another. Half-spiritual, half carnal, fully idiotic, and yes, I have lived there.

“I know all of the things you do, that you are neither hot or cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot or cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! ”     Rev 3:16 (NLT)

I know what I want today. Yet like every one that has decided to follow Jesus since the Church began, I struggle to do that “thing.” That thing is dying to self once and for all, no more struggling with recovering from additions, no thoughts of drinking, no more sneaking to smoke a cigarette, eating poorly, crushing my pride to powder, until all people see is Christ, not me. But I know that no good dwells in me, a slave to sin, controlled by….wait, hold it, just stop the rambling here.

What I want I have. Yes, I am learning that just as I am sober today, and having to die daily to drinking alcohol, I have to die to the desires of the flesh daily too. Honestly, I struggle in many areas, sin came embedded in my DNA, when I arrived here. As a child, sin was dead to me, not knowing right from wrong as an innocent youth.

Then, someone preached the Word to me. I was nine years old when sin came alive to me that night, and I died. That is, I died to God, separated by my sin from the Holy. The man said, come home to God, accept Christ tonight. I felt dirty inside and began to cry like an infant, spiritually I was. The little nine-year old, tears streaming, prayed that sinner’s prayer, and immediately felt clean, forgiven, unsure why. Discovery came with understanding later on.

I know I lived a foot in, a foot out until grace led me to recovery. God’s goodness brought me home. I discovered having what I really want. It was Jesus all along. The dying to sin is a process we always battle as believers. It is the fighting that counts, not laying down or yielding  ourselves to the ways of this world, that is hurling toward destruction. We need test ourselves whether we are in the faith or not…regularly. We have to know without question. The perks are wonderful, and like dying to self, it happens often along the journey. Each time we die to self, we go deeper in Him, from the “wow, thanks God,” to the “You are beyond AWESOME God!” I want that too.

You may be doing the foot-thing in and out. You won’t suddenly get the danger of your way. If you think everything is okay living full-blown for self, ignoring what pleases God, you become open prey for evil’s grip to tighten. You may not care about that until you want to break free. Today, right now, ask God for help, you will be contacted, and find what you really want.

Help From Here and There

One of the hardest things I ever did was walked into an AA meeting for the first time. I actually put it off for months, making excuses namely, I don’t need anyone’s help. Yet, everyday I asked God for help to get sober. But that is talking to God, it is okay to ask Him, He’s God and our conversations are private, no one will know.
When I finally arrived in AA, I was shocked to hear people saying what I was going through at that moment. They had the same fear and lived with the same denials I had. I heard someone say, “God led me to AA, AA led me to God.” That was interesting to me. “So,” I thought, “God uses people to help people get sober.” How novel. I thought I knew God better than that.
Certainly He could simply decree I was fixed and free of alcoholism and, ouila! I’m as good as new! Pour me a double! I can start over…and that is what would happen. All of the good things I have learned in AA, NA, and CR, are all exactly what I needed to heal, and to find life without self-serving, and I still am in that classroom.
Help From There
I had many ignorant thoughts about God. After all, I had more than the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in religious and Biblical studies before my two-decade drunk. I knew the scripture well enough to interpret how God worked throughout the Bible and apply it to you…but not me.
There and here are the same for God. He doesn’t dwell in time or space, both created for people. Jehovah-Shammah, one of God’s power names means “He is There.” Literally, He is here and there, constantly, ever-present. But, even my knowing that truth, what was He doing at AA, talking through these recovering drunks and addicts? “God, You are messing with my religion!” That was His intent, to my benefit, and His glory.
Help From Here
I am grateful and curious simultaneously. Grateful He looked beyond my faults and had pity, leading me to discover how wonderful people in recovery can be, most of them ready to help anyone get free. Curious though, why me? I’ll leave that alone. God will see to our getting help we need for whatever the problem(s) we face throughout life. When the help comes, however, don’t have expectations of who, what, when, where, and how, the help got there.
 Just accept it, with a laugh, with joy, that this Amazing God sheds His amazing grace in stunning, even unbelievable ways. You and I are never out of His reach.
Take it to the bank.

How to Get Faith to Recover

I have total faith in what is written in the “Bigger Book,” having confidence that it is inspired, showing the generations to God, and to living purposefully. I also have faith in AA’s, NA’s Big Books, and CR’s four lesson books, all teaching the addicted proven methods on how to recover. The programs associated to these writings have proven methods, directing people how to recover, discovering life’s wonders with each addiction conquered. The Bigger Book, or better, the Bible is the reason for the others existence, believe it or not. This is not the topic, however.

There are three things very important about having faith to recover. One, everyone has faith. Two, faith comes through hearing. Three, without faith, you cannot recover…or achieve anything in life. Think about it. Faith is required for any achievement and action forward in life whether secular or religious.

A farmer plants seeds with faith crops will grow. A manager has faith workers are doing their jobs. The worker has faith he will be paid for his labor, etc., etc. Everyone has faith.

Faith comes through hearing, or for someone deaf, hearing by teaching methods. We hear instructions and the proof the instructions are tried and tested to be correct. Our minds believe because of the proof, and presto!, we have faith. When we put the faith into action, finding the instructions we heard were correct, our faith grows.

People coming into recovery must develop faith in what they hear at meetings, or see results in others. Some see it right off, some struggle to “get it.” Sadly, a good majority, whether they believe it works or not, go back to their “thang” without a second thought. From experience, I have witnessed that those who get it quick, are in daily attendance. They hear it and believe it, expecting the program will work for them too.

“True faith is never found alone; it is accompanied by expectation.” C. S. Lewis

I hear people say too often…”I don’t have faith.” They are mistaken. Everyone is born with faith. Faith grows. Whether you agree or not, if you want to grow faith to recover and achieve, then listen, see the proof, take time daily to read up on the great military leaders, business tycoons, or world leaders. These all had faith in what they believed because they believed what they heard from teachers or family.

How you begin comes from hearing how from the experienced. Get to meetings and listen with everything in you. Your faith will grow. If you still doubt, ask why. Just as you hear of growing faith to recover, achieve, and attain, not believing what you hear destroys any hope of growing into faith. It is your choice.
Do you believe it?

24 Hours

Change is good. Everyone has something about themselves that they dislike. I for one, have at least two…or more things I would like to alter or completely eliminate from my life. Change is painful. The problem of making those changes we think are necessary, is that it takes effort, perserverance, and some dedication. Nothing in life that has value will come easily. The truth is, we make even the smallest of things difficult. Giving ourselves to 24 hours toward making the changes we want can actually be the step needed to remove the impossibilities that hamper our metamorphosis. Change is good, change is painful, change is possible.
Always remember that the future comes one day at a time. Dean Acheson                              Change brings opportunity. Nido Qubein
What do you want to change? If you want to change anything about you, you must remember that it takes time. A person wanting to lose weight knows they will not lose the weight they desire to lose overnite. It took time to put weight on, it takes time to remove it. So how does 24 hrs sound. You can lose the weight you want, no matter how much, in 24 hrs…really, you can. Not through surgery, nothing like that. Maybe you want to change being a procrastinator, or be a better person, or help others more often, or spend more quality time with the kids…all you need is 24 hrs! Christians often say, I want to pray and read the Bible more, homeowners want to get household projects done, others desire to make calls and write letters to dear friends they haven’t seen in years…in 24 hrs you can do it all!
Change before you have to. Jack Welch                                                                                        
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves. Leo Tolstoy
In recovery meetings, the hardest thing for an alcoholic or drug addict to grasp is the 24 hr, or “one day at a time” concept. The thing is, it isn’t white-knuckling, trying to make it by willpower. Every individual has the same story, their life is unmanagable. Alcohol and drug addiction has complete control, not the person. People say to the addicted, Why don’t you just quit? They cannot, they are under the influence. The person asking the question is also under the influence of ignorance, but don’t know that. Here you have two people needing the same process to change. Both of these are in need of surrender. The addicted person must surrender their unmanagability, the question asker must surrender attempting to control with words…it does not work. By asking God’s help, accepting your addictions, and making the decision that you want to change more than anything, 24 hrs is all you need.
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Frederick Douglass                                 
 ..Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Jesus, Matt.6:34 (NIV)
I’m sure you get what I’m getting at. No matter what your addiction is, by focusing on the 24 hrs ahead, you can make the changes you need to make in your life. As I said above, if you procrastinate, make a list of what you have been putting off, then go for it. Like the alcoholic/addict, the first thing in the morning before your transformation, ask God to help you, and turn your will and life over to Him…today. Don’t look at the mountain, look to the One who formed mountain ranges with a word from His mouth. You have surrendered the fact that you cannot do this without Him, you accept that you’re life is unmanagable, and with list in hand, you will string together enough 24 hr periods to change. When you look back, you will wonder why you waited, and you can then move on to the next issue, one day at a time.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all. Keith

Changing the Baby

Whoever is holding the baby is the first to know when the diaper needs changed. Shortly thereafter, everyone in the room knows about the needed change. If I need to change or alter a character defect, I know I need the change. When I neglect the problem, soon, everyone else knows I need to make a change. Some needed changes are beyond my abilities to alter, I am in need for God to step in, and He does if I ask. Sometimes I am directed to others who have had the same issue, and they help me fix what was unfixable for me alone.
Everyone needs fixing..that’s right everyone, no one is exempt. Change for remaining clean and sober is extremely vital for the addict. We have to redefine our lives completely and without exception. Old friends we drank with can remain old friends, but until we can maintain a long period of sobriety, we have to stay clear of them…completely. Places that serve alcohol must be avoided for a time. Areas where we went to cop dope cannot be areas we even drive past, alluding those “triggers” and a desire to return to the old life.
Embrace change. Realize the importance of improvement in every area of life, body, soul, and spirit. We should see, or smell, that this baby, myself or yourself, needs to improve every area. Thinking you are unique can really make change even more necessary. “I’m not like that, I am different,” can be a recovery killer. AA and NA, as well as certain Christ-centered rehabs, and Celebrate Recovery start their meetings with the Serenity Prayer:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the difference to know the difference”…
This is a portion of the prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, that is used for the meeting, but is used by the recovering addict and alcoholic throughout the day, knowing it will take the help of the Lord God, to remain clean and sober. The agnostic, or atheist even use that prayer, but direct it to some power greater than themselves, the universe, or their particular recovery group. If they do not believe in God, and they continue in recovery, they will be contacted.
In time, when we make these important changes throughout life, we can even be grateful for bad things that happened and brought about change. We can be unaware of areas we need to change. You may have no problem with drugs or alcohol. Do you look at the addict, and think, why don’t they just quit? There is a problem area YOU need to change. Do you ever get in a conversation like, did you hear about the Smiths? They are split up. That is a issue change must address. We may not see it as a problem, it is. You are looking down at others, not across where your vision is clear, and reality exists. Change your diaper.
Trying to control others, worrying about everything, blaming everyone and everything for your problems, constant complaining, always upset about the messy house, etc, these are all hangups and addictions. Followers of Christ that see sinners without offering prayer to God for them, but condemning them, needs change in the worst way. There is good news.
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Phil.2:13 NKJV
God wants you complete in Him. God wants you well to be a help to others, and that itself, is where true life is found. There are perks to serving, joy, peace, courage, confidence…and everything that is good, though intangible, manifests it many tangible ways. Change your diaper. It is full of self, waste, and really stinks. When you’re finished there will be more.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all! Keith