CELEBRATE RECOVERY’S EIGHT RECOVERY PRINCIPLES
The Road to Recovery Based on the Beatitudes
Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1)
”Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor.” Matthew 5:3
In August, I will have completed my 4th year in CR. This Thursday, I will celebrate 2 years continuing in my recovery for my eating disorder. My natural inclination is to hesitate before using the word ”Victory” in this area, because I have not and cannot do this perfectly. I see upward progression with longer periods of self-surrender to the Holy Spirit (instead of calling it self-control), and the creation of healthier habits and coping mechanisms, but at any moment, I can still so easily lie to myself and say, ”it doesn’t really matter if I do that, eat that”, and give in.
I have finally admitted to myself that the coping mechanisms of eating for self-comfort and pleasure that I have used for over 4 decades will not just go away in 4 years. I acknowledge that I am still spiritually poor in this area – I give in to the flesh too often instead of giving in to the Holy Spirit. It will take a long time of habitual obedience, surrendering to the Spirit’s control over me, and literally NOT feeding my flesh every time I feel like it before this will become more consistent behavior. I have therefore made it a point to do certain things that cause me to feel physical discomfort.
I practice intermittent fasting for 16 hours a day on most days, and exercise 4 to 5 hours a week, 5 – 7 days a week. The most important aspect of this is to learn to override my flesh’s laziness, and build healthier habits over the long run. Because I don’t WANT to exercise is NOT a good enough reason for me NOT to do it. And just because I WANT to eat a tub of chocolate fudge frosting doesn’t mean I should.
The scripture God has given me for this is 1 Cor 9:24-27
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
So run with purpose in every step. You are not just shadowboxing. Discipline your body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, it is possible that after preaching to others you yourself might be disqualified.
I have to train my body, and my mind as it burns new pathways, to do what it should. It will NEVER want to do these things naturally – I have to teach it to obey my will so I will achieve my purpose in God.
So my victories are that I haven’t given up, and I am still striving to surrender my will to the Spirit’s, and gain mastery over my flesh and mind. I have created good, relatively consistent (although not perfect) eating and exercise habits, but I have also acknowledged that I will NEVER be able to get it all right all the time, and will ALWAYS have the tendency to do the wrong, selfish, flesh-feeding thing.
Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2)
”Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
Too often I forget that God is right there with me, offering power and guidance. But when I have tapped into His power, He has given me the ability to overcome my flesh, be patient and wait out cravings, and respond to Him in obedience by holding my tongue (or my fingers, if I am typing). Conversely, when I forget His presence, I instinctively fall back on my own coping mechanisms to either manipulate my circumstances, myself or those around me to help me obtain what I think I need at that moment.
I also forget about His love for me. I still yearn for love and acceptance from other people, and there is always the temptation for me to grade myself according to how other people see (or do not see) me. I forget that it is only His opinion that matters, and that He does not judge me on my outward appearance, and loves me unconditionally.
One of the great scriptures He has shown me for this issue is Song of Solomon 4:7. ”You are all beautiful, my love. There is no spot in you.” Isn’t that what we all want to hear? That we are acceptable and loved just like we are? Of course, we expect it from others, and are disappointed when they don’t give it to us – but we forget that we are basically incapable of giving unconditional acceptance to others as well.
Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3)
”Happy are the meek.”Matthew 5:5
I have a bad habit of wanting God to move according to my schedule. So one of the victories I have had this past year is the ability to wait, to be more patient, and not to run ahead of God. If He is holding something back, I now realize that it is for an important reason. Something else is not ready yet for His entire plan to be put into action. So I have committed my timeline to God, as well as my hopes and dreams for relationships and projects.
I have also had to remind myself that, at 52, the majority of my life has passed, and that there’s a good chance that I and my life will not necessarily turn out like I had originally hoped. I have to accept God’s plan for my life, and stop fighting for it to be something other than it is. He knows what is best, He has a plan for me, and He created me specifically to accomplish that plan.
And although that sounds kind of down, I have found a sublime, surreal peace in my life by accepting what is not and will not be. There’s a 99% chance I will never lose all of my weight and I will never be what others call ”beautiful”. I will probably never have some big women’s ministry, or sing my songs before thousands of people, or even get to teach Bible at a high school. I will probably never have enough money to just relax and travel around.
But instead of wasting time and energy thinking about what I do not have, I spend a lot of time in gratitude for how great the life I have really is. All members of my family are alive and relatively healthy, they all love me, and our relationships are now peaceful. Our house and vehicles are basically paid for, we have less debt than most people, our house is situated in the most beautiful place, and I have my own indoor swim spa. I have a circle of friends who actually adore me and include me in their life and recreation. I get to pastor, teach and preach, lead worship and recovery. I get to create with programming, I have a job with a great Christian company and everyone gets along with and likes each other. I have much more to be thankful for than I have to be down about.
But the one thing that has brought me more peace and freedom than anything is the feeling that I am right in the center of God’s will for me at this time. When I stopped fighting and accepted that everything I need He will provide if I just stay where He wants me, that’s when the peace descended, and has remained. He has given me the joy and peace I have always wanted, even though very little about my circumstances has changed. He can BYPASS all of those things you THINK you need to be happy, and just infuse you directly with happiness.
Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5)
”Happy are the pure in heart.”Matthew 5:8
Having share group, and more importantly, a step study group, has been invaluable in my self-evaluation. Speaking things out loud, having people hear and accept things that cause me shame, regret or pain, has brought so much healing into my life. But having to ask myself questions and answer them keeps me looking at my life and asking questions on a regular basis that I never would ask. I don’t think there will be a time in my life when I am not doing step study, and I’m looking forward to doing books 5 – 8.
Another benefit of step study is that, for the first time in probably 15 years, I feel like I can have friendships – like I WANT to have friendships, and would be willing to make the time and reserve the energy for relationships. I have avoided them for a long time for fear of being rejected and hurt again. But experiencing acceptance and love week after week, day after day, from women who even look forward to spending time with me brings me a joy I didn’t realize I could ever feel again.
I think I love most the ready availability of the friends I have made – they are always a phone call or text away. And they don’t hesitate to call or text me either. We have each others’ backs, and that is something that I haven’t felt from anyone else other than my KK and another person with whom I was close, but ended up completely rejected by. The love from my girls has been healing up the hurt caused by that one person’s rejection.
Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7)
”Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires” Matthew 5:6
This is the hardest part. Voluntarily surrendering all my protective coping mechanisms, and having to trust that God will be my protector and my comfort, is a real challenge. These character defects are partially my sinful, fleshy bent to just do whatever I want. But some of them are results of my trying to deal with my past hurts and protect myself from future hurts. However, the more I become healed of my past hurts and unafraid of future hurts, the less need I have for my coping mechanisms. So the more healed I get, the more willing I am to let Him change me.
My selfishness never ceases to amaze me. Granted, with those that express love and kindness to me, I want to express it back. But loving those that do not express love and kindness to me still eludes me. It is a struggle, because I still fall back into trying to force myself to feel good things toward them and be nice instead of praying in the Spirit and letting the Holy Spirit flood me with His selfless, giving love for those people. But I believe that He is not done with me yet in that area, and I am hoping that this next year in Him will show improvement in that area.
I have really gotten to know PAMI this year – PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT. He has been gently reminding me that people are more important than my tasks, my projects, my Netflix shows, my food, my hurts, my fears, and my desires. Because of PAMI, I have been able to enter into more intimate and trusting relationships with other people in my life.
Also, I have discovered all of the rules I have for myself, rules that allow me to feel ”good enough” in comparison with everyone else. I have had a list of things I had to do and be which would make up for all of the things I couldn’t do and be. I would list them over and over to myself when I felt insecure, or felt other people were rejecting me. But God doesn’t want me to make up and live by these rules. He just wants me to listen to, love and obey Him – nothing more, nothing less. He wants me to accept that He made me exactly as I am, with specific flaws and gifts, in order to accomplish my purpose in this life – so there is no comparison between me and others, because they don’t have my call on their life.
Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9)
”Happy are the merciful.” ”Happy are the peacemakers” Matthew 5:7,9
I keep thinking I’m good with this, and then something happens and I realize that maybe, just maybe, I have not really forgiven someone. Instead, I’ve just pushed them to the back of my mind, trying to forget them. But then you see them, like at a restaurant, and you feel pain you thought you were over. You have to dive back into the reason you hurt. But the good thing is that, this time, I am not alone or isolated when I do it. I actually have other people that are angry about the fact that this person hurt me, which brings about a type of healing in itself.
Forgiveness is a continual thing. You can’t stop the pain that you feel at the betrayal or rejection, but you can make a decision to not make them pay for the pain they have caused you, and in my case, also just finally stop running after them in hopes they may actually want to be my friend again. Their rejection of me, in this case, is their loss, as well as mine. I have friends that are better and more true than she ever was, and I need to accept the fact that we were just meant to cross paths for a season and let it go at that.
Reserve a time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11)
So I realize that I need to continually be reminded of His presence, His power and His love for me. I know I talk about it all the time, but that’s why I created the Jesus Text Me program – because I need to be reminded about Him all throughout the day. Otherwise, He fades into the busy background of my life, and I try to go through the day in my own limited strength, with my own limited wisdom and understanding. I need Him continually tapping me on the shoulder to remind me He is there with me, and all I have to do is ask Him to provide me with the resources I need to get through that moment.
And as I said before, there’s nothing like Step Study to keep you honest with yourself (if you do your homework), and it re-centers and re-focuses you back to God.
But I have found a surprising result of my disciplining my body this year – I finally have a steady prayer time during my morning exercise. I haven’t had one for probably 20 years. But it is a habit I cherish, not just as having created a healthy habit of things to check off of my list, but it is the time I spend going through my gratitude list. That alone recalibrates my life and turns me back toward Him.
Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12)
”Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.” Matthew 5:10
I’ve always been a leader, someone who teaches, preaches, leads worship. But this time, I’m also bringing this good news by my example and my word. The healing I’ve received, I have found, is an inspiration to others who struggle. They see what God can do in a life that started out in a coma-like depression, and has resulted up to this day in a joyous, peaceful daily experience.
I’ve been told that my stark honesty about my flaws and failures has made others feel better about being a ”broken” leader. They realize they don’t have to be perfect to serve. They just have to be real, and try to live as obediently as they can.