Archive for category: Recovery Room

Recovery Room: A Trippy Experience (an Interview with Steve Wiens)

On Thursdays, I welcome all comers into the Recovery Room, a place where we unpack issues of dependency, pain, and addiction. Today, I’m in the hot seat, and I hope you’ll join in listening to this candid interview with Steve Wiens. It’s just one little click. Go. Really. Go. (And while you’re there, consider subscribing to Steve’s podcast.)

Before you go, though, please know how grateful I am that you keep reading along (or listening along, as the case may be). I cannot say how much I appreciate you.

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Recovery Room: The Bible as an Instrument of Self-Harm

In Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, I explore how theology or Scripture can serve as its own sort of addiction, how we might use either to numb or soothe pain without communing with God. Even good things can play tricks on us; yes? 

Today, Heather Caliri explores the flip side of that coin. What happens when we use Scripture as a weapon against ourselves, when we use it as a torture tool that causes pain? Do you know this bag of tricks, this way of using Scripture for shame instead of freedom?

This is, perhaps, one of the most honest pieces that’s been submitted to the Recovery Room. Please take the time to read it, and then visit Heather’s website at heathercaliri.com.

***

The stack of books glared at me from my nightstand. Nearly 2 p.m., time to go to class, and yet I hadn’t picked up my Bible that day.

Lazy, I said to myself. When will you start making God’s Word a priority?

I sighed. If I hurried, I could get in fifteen minutes.

Cross-legged on my single bed, I set my notebook in my lap, and my Bible and quiet time idea book by my knees on the mattress.

Hosea again. I glanced at the Bible study prompts. Another two days, and I’d be done, finally.

I read: Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; you love the wages of a prostitute.

Oh, God.

I was so tired of verses about unfaithful prostitutes. Sure, I knew I was unfaithful to God—just look at my laziness this morning. I was sure the verses were talking about me. I was the unfaithful prostitute. I was the ugly sinner.

But I was desperate to read something else.

I sighed. Surely even this wish showed my unfaithfulness.

I forced myself to keep reading. I forced myself to see myself in the Bible’s harshest words that day, just like I’d done the day before, and the day before that.

I thought this was what God expected of me.

***

Twenty years later, I came across that notebook in a box in my garage. I’d saved it through a dozen moves, but had never looked inside. I’d never been brave enough.

It didn’t look very scary: an unlined drawing notebook, a magazine photo of a sunset taped to the front, with a verse from the Psalms layered over it: Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desire of your heart.

I wondered, with a quickened heartbeat, if I was ready to read it.

No time like the present, I thought, and opened the cover, bracing myself as if it concealed shards of glass.

I squinted at pages crowded with the tiniest cursive. The tiny, smashed-together words shouted out the desire of my heart back then: a desire to do more, be more.

I had longed for God’s word to set me free. I had hoped it would fix me, scrub my insides, and cleanse me.

And don’t get me wrong—I believe God’s Word can do those things. It is a transformative book; reading its words can bring life.

But it’s also described as a double-edged sword, isn’t it?

What I realized, re-reading that notebook, is that I had used God’s powerful Word to cut myself.

I sat down on the floor of my garage, reading entries filled with shame instead of God’s grace. I was astonished at how my self-loathing shone through each page.

I’d always identified with the worst character in each prophecy, always assuming I was the evildoer, the harlot, the beast. In my naiveté about the Bible, I’d missed that the prophets were almost always speaking to communities, not individuals, the powerful, not the broken-hearted.

I missed that things others had done to me—abuse, trauma, loss—were crying out for justice. I missed that God preached freedom for me, not condemnation.

In page after page, laser-focused on my own shortcomings, I had missed God’s relentless, overwhelming grace. Instead, I had taken His powerful Word and used it as a weapon to punish myself. I am still recovering from reading the Bible that way.

After college, long after I finished reading the book of Hosea, I stopped reading the Bible altogether, my heart a despairing, cooling cinder. I loved God, but I couldn’t keep going.

Ever since then, I’ve struggled to pick it up the Bible at all. Every time I did, I’d be met by waves of anxiety.

This baffled me. Why couldn’t I read it like everyone else could?

Now, on the floor of my garage, I realized why. My heart was crying out: No more.

For me, recovery from self-harm means affirming that though God’s Word is good, it is also powerful. It means letting go of the idea that I have to read it every day to be a “good Christian.” It means changing how I read it, and finding other ways to connect to God. It means putting my soul’s safety over any to-do list.

But most of all, it means paying attention to how my time with God feels—whether I anticipate Him, or dread Him. It means listening to what my heart has to say about my faith.

It means trusting the verse I ignored so many years before: that while delighting in God, my heart will find its deepest desires.

***

Heather Caliri is writes at HeatherCaliri.com. You can find her on Twitter @HeatherCaliri. Follow along with her work. You won’t regret it.

 

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Recovery Room: The Fast

It’s Thursday, which means we’re walking into the Recovery Room. It’s also Lent, which means many of us are walking into an intentional penitential season, a season to turn back into a fresh work of recovery. Some are fasting. (If you’d like to join our community fast, follow this link.)

Have you considered your Lenten fast this year? Have you considered the reasons behind it? I’ve posted this here before, but it’ll be new for some. Give a listen, get alone, and consider how you’ll fast this Lent. Come along?

***TINY LETTER***

CC Austin OuttakesThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my latest release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

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Recovery Room: From Gumption to Inner-Sobriety

Over the last year, I’ve received my fair share of me-too emails, emails in which the writer has reached out to say, “you’ve wrestled with addiction? Me too.” These emails take various shapes and forms–advice from someone ten years ahead of me on this recovery journey, confessions from other addicts on the other side of the screen.  This is the beauty of confession–it both invites the wisdom and grace of age, and encourages the lame to take their own first step.

Yesterday, I received an email from a reader who shared his pain. He’d come to the conclusion of Coming Clean and decided to stretch back into the possibility of God. He wrote, “my life hasn’t changed at all yet… I still ache all the time… I am still trying to take it in, trying to really believe it all… trying to get up the gumption to believe in Jesus again, maybe just a little….”

Trying to get the gumption–what a line.

These are the confessions that are difficult to field, especially in a relational vacuum, but I did my best. As I closed my response, I typed,

“‘trying to get up the gumption to believe in Jesus again…’ Maybe this is the trick. Maybe it’s intestinal fortitude, and intuition, and a bit of wonder that keeps us holding on, or reaching out (depending on our posture). I think God sees that. I think God is okay with that. In fact, I think God smiles on it.”

I clicked send, sat in the silence, and considered my bald assertion.

***

You may not be a twelve-step disciple, may not attend Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or a Sex Addicts Anonymous. (To put all cards on the table, you should know I’m not a regular attender.) But even if you’ve never stepped into a meeting, if you have no disordered attachments or disruptive addictions, even if you’ve only had passing conversations with true addicts (whatever that might mean to you), don’t you have some familiarity with the twelve steps of the Anonymous programs? Don’t you at least know the first two?

Step 1: admit you are powerless over your addiction, and that life has become unmanageable in that addition.

Step 2: admit that only a Power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity.

These are the foundational principals of the twelve-step programs designed to beat addiction. And herein lies the problem: even if one believes his life unmanageable, even if addiction, or pain, or our spiritual condition has rendered him powerless, what if he can’t quite admit that there is a Power greater than himself? What if belief in God is a struggle at best, and impossible at worst? Is recovery possible?

I’m not here to give you the twelve-step answer to the struggle, or to chide your disbelief. I’m also not here to provide resources for atheist and agnostic twelve-steppers (though they exist). Today I’m writing for a far different purpose; I’m writing to inspire your imagination.

Ask yourself this question: What if I don’t believe in a Power great enough to save me from addiction? Consider yesterday’s emailer; he was onto something.

There’s no such thing as perfect belief this side of the veil. So what if we admitted our doubts, the weakness of our faith, and responded, I’m trying to get up the gumption to believe in Jesus again…? What if that response–imperfect as it might seem–was good enough for our communities of recovery? What if our communities (both twelve-step communities and church communities) made space for doubt, faith, and the gumption in the liminal space between? Wouldn’t that be a community of honesty and authenticity? Are there any better weapons against addiction and disordered attachments than honesty and authenticity?

***

In these recovery conversations, let’s make space for the doubt and disbelief. Let’s make space for unresolved pain and questions. And instead of giving all the right answers, let’s inspire those around us to gumption. Perhaps their gumption is God’s gift for the recovery of their faith, for the recovery of their inner-sobriety.

Can you imagine it?

***TINY LETTER***

CC Austin OuttakesThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my latest release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

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Recovery Room: My Favorite Fantasy (a Guest Post by Rebecca Reynolds)

I met a few good people in 2015, but among my favorites is Rebecca Reynolds. With a sharp wit, an uncanny knack for logic, and a voice as unique as any fingerprint, Rebecca is one of the writers I follow with regularity. You can (and should) follow her work at www.thistleandtoad.com

Rebecca has agreed to step into the Recovery Room today to share a bit of her story her. Let’s welcome her.

***

When Seth asked me to write something about addiction recovery I laughed, because I don’t have a lot of experience in this area. Don’t get me wrong. I understand addiction, it’s just that the word “recovery” makes it sound like all the trouble has passed, and I still mess up quite a bit.

My problem is wanting stuff I don’t have. I want impossible opportunities, second chances at old choices, leisure, margin, travel, and youth. I want room to stretch out and play. I want good stuff from other people’s lives.

I don’t generally sit around wringing my hands and seething about not having these things. I do tend to daydream though, whipping up imaginary realities that give me a quick adrenaline rush but leave me grumpy and critical about the life I have actually been given. Just like anything we try to use to replace God, this tendency to escape only carves my insecurity and fear out deeper. A false world turns the real world into a vacuum.

My story is that I’m firstborn and determined to be “good,” determined to be responsible and to make upright choices, determined to “save the world.” Technically I believe in the idea of grace, but I hate myself–really hate myself–when I see how much I need it. I tend to expect better of myself than to run on God’s forgiveness.

On top of this, the past ten years have been very hard for our family, and some deep bruises have been left on my heart. I’m afraid sometimes, lonely sometimes, and often hesitant to trust other people. So, it’s the perfect storm, really. I’m a combo of self-reliance, pride, perfectionism, messiah complex, fear, pain, and isolation.

Instead of letting this tension drive me to Jesus, I tend to grit my teeth together and focus on being good for as long as I can. And that seems to work sometimes.

But underneath the surface, the trouble builds. Finally a hard day hits, and I don’t have enough sleep, or I’m stressed out, or something painful happens and I just give up. I let my mind wander wherever it wants. I stare straight into what God hasn’t given me. I take emotional risks in the privacy of my heart, imagining how my life could be different. I reject the life God has given me and escape into another one.

It hurts too much to see the ugly truth sometimes, so there are days when I scramble around for a pretty lie to replace it.

Now here’s where this gets tricky. Some people wouldn’t even call what I do a sin, because it’s not the traditional extramarital affair or substance binge. But Jesus was right about the dangers of mental wrongs. This is where it all starts, in the secret places of a person’s thought life. Whatever happens on the outside first happens here.

So it doesn’t matter if my body is “obedient” if my mind is doing the work of discontentment: wanting, stealing, escaping, locking God out so that I can rule my own life for a while. And as I continue to wrestle with this weakness, I’m starting to think that coveting is so dangerous because it keeps us focused on impossibilities instead of focused on what we can learn from the hurt, failure, and weakness, and even the monotony we already have.

Do you remember that scene in The Lord of The Rings where Bilbo reaches for Frodo’s ring and morphs into a greedy monster in a flash of desire? It’s one of the most painful things I’ve ever watched. Probably because it’s too familiar.

Moderns challenge the justice of any sort of hell, but when I get a good look at my worst tendencies, it makes so much sense to me that a soul that refuses to submit to growth, a soul that is adamant about twisting joy into something distorted, would finally be released into what she has already chosen over the call of love a hundred million times.

The trajectory of autonomy is so ugly it makes my throat hurt to see where my escapism leads. I don’t want to be a consumer, a runaway, a liar. And it’s not just that I want to avoid an eternal hell; I also want to avoid the present hell of, “Leave me alone for a while, God, because I’m hurting, and I want to make some of my own answers until the pain stops.”

When I make the choice to trust myself instead of the God who loves me, it makes loneliness lonelier. It makes fear more fearful. It makes shame more shameful. It never fixes what’s broken and it makes what is broken worse.

Sure, grace is waiting for me when I fail, because God’s love is relentless. He doesn’t need my firstborn determination to win His love, and when my pride cranks out another failure, He’s waiting to pick me up. But I’ll be honest, I’m tired of this struggle. I wish I could slam a big red button and make it go away forever.

How I yearn for that time in the future when I see God so clearly that the struggle of wanting anything else will be gone forever. Until then, I am asking God to use this mess somehow despite me. Maybe it is just going to take this sort of battle for me to finally realize that I really am weak, and that He really is strong, and that yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

***

Rebecca Reynolds teaches rhetoric, literature, and philosophy at a classical school in eastern Tennessee. She also writes for Rabbit Room, Story Warren, and is the lyricist for Ron Block of Alison Krauss and Union Station. You can read her blog at www.thistleandtoad.com

***TINY LETTER***

CC Austin OuttakesThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my latest release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

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