Abandonment Recovery

Abandonment Recovery

“…[A father] walks [his daughter] across a log in the water and puts her high upon a rock jutting out in the stream.
‘You stay here while I go pick us some huckleberries for lunch,’ he says.
‘Don’t go far, Daddy,’ begs the little girl.
‘I won’t,’ he promises. He makes his way back across the log and into the forest as the little girl studies the back of his red shirt to keep track of him. He is momentarily hidden, first behind this tree and then behind that one. Suddently there is no sight of red at all. Perched atop the giant rock, the little girl begins calling to her daddy, hoping he is right nearby only teasing her.
‘Daddy, I’m here,’ she calls. ‘Daddy, where are you?’ But after a while she can’t hold back her terror. She screams into the forest with all her might. The forest remains silent.
As night falls, the little girl is frozen with fright on the cold, hard rock…
She has been abandoned.”

-The Abandonment Recovery Workbook by Susan Anderson, pg. 3

A topic I have not discussed in great detail is abandonment. The reason for that is simple: I didn’t think to write about it. At the beginning of recovery, my counselor was very subtle with me when it came to my issues. As topics arose, we would address them together and move on to the next. I eventually learned of the vicious cycle of love addiction and love avoidance. The knowledge that I had been living my life in such a pattern made me sick to my stomach. It was the motivation I needed to tackle my codependency and work hard at all costs to recover.

I went through the 12 steps of CoDa (Co-Dependents Anonymous), which took me about 8 months and then processed as much as I could of my love addiction. This past year has received the honor of becoming “The Year of Love Avoidance Recovery”. I was discussing some life ponderings with my counselor and she made the statement that if I didn’t work on my abandonment issues, I would not be able to let down the walls of my love avoidance.

That’s when some neurons started lighting up in my brain. I was like, wow. Why didn’t it occur to me sooner that if I wanted to work through my love avoidance that I should start with the root fear?

The excerpt at the beginning of this post is by Susan Anderson from her book called, The Abandonment Recovery Workbook. I heard about her on this podcast she came on as a guest. The way she described relationship withdrawal was so relatable that I was like, she gets it. I trust this woman. She experienced extreme betrayal through the ending of a long term relationship. It was through her own recovery that she formed positive exercises to heal from the wounds of abandonment.

What I really like about this workbook is that each chapter covers a problem and a positive solution. Many self help books give all the problems at the beginning and I never end up making it to the light at the end of the tunnel. The Abandonment Recovery Workbook has a good balance.

One issue with the workbook is that the questions, so far, have mainly focused on a recently ended relationship. So, if you’re working on parental abandonment or a form of abandonment outside of a romantic relationship, you may have to alter some of the questions a bit. Even though that’s the case, this workbook has brought some things to light that I don’t think I would have discovered without it. I am very grateful to Susan Anderson and the work she has done on this issue.

After the illustration of the little girl being abandoned by her father, Susan Anderson provides an exercise: Take a little break from reading this book and think about an experience in life that left you feeling as if you had been put on the rock. Describe. (Anderson, Pg. 7)

I challenge you to take her up on that exercise! The symptoms of abandonment play out in the mundane areas of our lives. You may be responding to life through your childhood experience of abandonment. It’s worth looking into.

Thanks for reading! Check out Susan Anderson’s book, The Abandonment Recovery Workbook on Amazon!

School Update

School Update

Well friends,

The summer semester ain’t over yet, but here we are approaching the fall. The past month and a half, I have gone through a class on addictions and compulsive behavior, I’ve visited AA, NA, and Al-Anon meetings, and learned about stages of addiction and recovery, along with the damaging affects substance abuse has on the brain.

It’s been an inspiring summer for me, in which, there are changes about myself that I am looking forward to making. It has been a sad summer, as well. I’ve seen how addicts have been ostracized and neglected due to the stigma of addiction. There are great opportunities for the church to take in this area. It’s also been an enlightening semester as I’ve seen recovering addicts come together to support one another and experience life transformation together.

My experiences this summer have fueled my passion for counseling and recovery. I am pretty much immersed in it due to being in recovery, studying about addiction and recovery, and being around others who are recovering. There’s just a lot of recovery going on and I want to see so much more! God has used counseling to transform my life and show me the great joy that comes from surrendering everything to Him. I want to be a part of others’ journeys as they begin to learn what I am consistently learning through recovery.

I’ve had many thoughts over the past month and a half that I would like to eventually share with you, but for the moment, I don’t have the courage. We’ll see how I feel next week… or the week after next… 😛

As the fall encroaches so quickly on us, my tuition does, as well. I would not have been able to grow and learn as I have this past summer without you all. It was from your generosity that I was able to attend class at Dallas Theological Seminary. I want you to know that your contributions towards my education have been so appreciated. This class has been a confirmation to me that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be and that is such a valuable feeling to possess!

I will be taking two classes in the fall semester: “Counseling Theory” and “Social and Cultural Foundations”. The tuition for the fall (plus cost of books) will be a *Hallelujah Chorus* of $4,000! I have applied for some scholarships, so if I receive any financial aid, I will give you all an update. In the meantime, I will be working to pay the bills, but I need your help on my counseling journey!

So, without further ado, if you would like to either continue to contribute or participate in my counseling journey for the first time, here is how you can do it:

My Etsy Shop: As an extension of my website, I have created an Etsy shop called, WriteMegButlerStudio. In this shop, you can purchase prints of my original artwork. All purchases made in the shop will be direct contributions to my tuition. For this coming semester, I have posted greeting cards for purchase. 😄 New sets will be posted throughout this month. ✨

Seasonal Set

Support a Seminary Student: Dallas Theological Seminary has made it possible to support a seminary student by contributing financially through their site! You can give online, by mail, or set up recurring monthly gifts. Click here to be redirected to DTS’ giving page.

If you give through the DTS website, the gift can be anonymous or you can put in your information. I would love to know you have contributed because I have a gift for you! When you contribute financially through DTS’ site, I will put you on a distribution list for an end-of-the-semester gift. Included in the gift will be a an original piece of art inspired by something I’ve learned in that particular semester. There will also be a letter to update you on how my semester went, PLUS, a report card!! You can post it on your fridge, share it with your coworkers, and hold me accountable to my studies!

Once again, thank you for your encouragement and support!

“My Worst Day in Sobriety Is Better Than My Best Day Drunk.”

I’m a little over midway through my first semester at Dallas Theological Seminary right now and thought it was about time I gave an update. I’m a little worried that I’ve taken my favorite class first! I don’t know what I’ll do with myself for the next three to four years!

The class I’m currently taking is “Addictive and Compulsive Behaviors”. Since I’ve been in codependency recovery for the past three and a half years, this class has really struck home for me. I am a byproduct of a family with a history of addiction and dysfunction. I didn’t grow up in a home with an active alcoholic or drug addict, thankfully, but many of the struggles I hear from recovering addicts are relatable to me. They grew up in dysfunction and developed poor coping mechanisms to protect themselves… and so did I. Mine formed into love addiction, love avoidance, and an overall codependency… theirs took the form of alcoholism and drug addiction.

I’ve learned so much about addiction and how it affects a person’s whole being, but I’ll save that for another time. My main focus for this post is a confession: I believe the church, as I know it, is sick.

When you go to church, do you attend knowing that if you don’t, you might not make it through the rest of your day a sane person? Do you go to church like you need it… or does it need you? When you attend church, do you engage joyfully in the worship like you’ve been saved from death? Do you listen to the sermon and understand that the truths being spoken are needed like water in a desert? When you leave church, do you feel encouraged, supported, and motivated to tackle life? Do you serve others throughout the week? Do you feel so excited about the gospel that you can’t help but talk about God with the next person you see?

I don’t.

But I’m starting to get it. I’m beginning to understand that I must have that attitude, because if I don’t… how great is my God? How impactful is the gospel? Just how close to condemnation was I before Jesus saved me?

Do you know when I can answer “yes” to all those questions about church? After an AA meeting.

As I’ve been visiting AA, NA, and Al-Anon meetings for class assignments, I have left inspired, full of joy, and wishing… YES, WISHING, that I could be a part of their group! But I can’t because, hey, I’m not an alcoholic or a drug addict. I know if any of the people in those groups heard me ever say that I wished I was an addict, they would say I’m absolutely crazy. I don’t want to downplay the hardship that comes with walking the path of a destructive addiction and starting the long road of recovery. I really don’t. I’m just being honest about the thoughts and feelings that popped in my head as I observed a world so different than mine.

But my question amidst all the reflection is this: Why on earth am I jealous of groups that support each other for a specific addiction when my group should be supporting each other because we were all once dead! And now we’re ALIVE. What is worse than being an addict? Being dead. If you’re dead, you’re not alive. It’s that simple. I was dead before Jesus came into my life. Now I have life.

So why on a Sunday (at any given church) do I look around and see routine? That neutral face of just being present because that’s what we do. As Christians, we attend church because it’s a good thing to do. Well how lovely is that?

I don’t want this post to turn into a session where I just vent, whine, and complain about “the church today”. I think what I want out of all this is… change. And I’m going to start with myself.

When I began codependency recovery three and a half years ago, I had no idea what kind of freedom, clarity, and joy awaited me. I believe that many recovering addicts can say the same thing. There’s a saying in the 12 step program that, “My worst day in sobriety is better than my best day drunk.” How true that should be for any of us who have come to believe in Jesus Christ! Even on our worst day… it’s still our best because we are saved from eternal separation from God. Wow! It’s just unbelievably awesome.

I want to see that awesomeness in the faces of my fellow church attendees… and I want it to just radiate off of me. I want us to be so thankful for our freedom in Christ that we go out looking for hurting people that need to hear the truth of the gospel. They’re out there and we need to go get them!… but we have to believe what we’re preaching. If we don’t, why should they?

I have so many fun ideas that I’d like to implement in the way church works… but I don’t know what role I have in all this stuff I’m learning. So, I’m being patient and waiting on God to show me what’s next. I’m an impulsive person and have to remind myself to slow down and pray. Let me tell you though, the wheels are turning and I am completely inspired.

To everyone that has supported me and made it possible for me to take this class: thank you! You are an answer to prayer and I pray that God uses me however He wills with the training I am receiving.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic of the church. I’m not sure if other people feel the same way I do and would be interested in your opinions.

Thanks for reading!

 

Struggling with Addiction?

Struggling with Addiction?

My first class at Dallas Theological Seminary is on addictions and compulsive behavior. How interesting, right? Going to grad school is so much fun because you get to jump right in to the juicy stuff. No English 101 and 102 before you can get to the real literature classes. Nope. I get to start school off with the fun stuff.

But addiction isn’t fun, is it? Why does it feel like such an enthralling subject? Is it the intrigue of how a substance can grab hold of a person and steal their life? The tragic stories of how someone is willing to lose everything for a lifestyle of substance abuse? Is it the challenge of a journey to recovery?

It’s no secret on my blog that I’m a recovering love addict. I believe my interest in this topic comes from a strong desire to learn how to reach those who are suffering from addictions. My substance abuse of choice was relationships. I was in love addiction for at least 15 years before God brought me into a state of contemplation and real change. As I have been in recovery, I have experienced more freedom, joy, and clarity in my everyday life than I ever thought possible. In my misery, I didn’t even know what I was missing!

I think that’s how many addictions get started. It’s someone in misery looking for a spark in life. They’re looking for relief, escape, pleasure, purpose, etc. It’s a search for a fix or fulfillment of a need. In our misery, we don’t see that there is a God who is available to provide for every need and bring adventure and joy into our seemingly bleak lives. As we sink further into addiction and begin to experience consequences due to substance abuse, it can also begin to feel impossible that God would give grace to someone so lost. The downward spiral of addiction can be the very thing that holds us in the addiction. We can believe we’re too far gone to experience transformation.

The great thing about all this is that addiction is not too great for God. No matter where we are in our addiction, God can do something miraculous to change us. When I say miraculous, I don’t necessarily mean instant healing. I’m sure that happens sometimes… but for the majority of us, miraculous could mean the mere realization that something needs to change. It can be the enlightening knowledge that we have placed ourselves in a prison with no lock. We can step out at any time. It can be that first feeling of joy or engagement in the present that we thought we’d never have. That feeling of coming alive.

Recovery takes a lot of patience, compassion, and grace. There is no perfect route to breaking free from an addiction. It’s a messy road, but one worth taking. I have learned so many wonderful things about God, myself, and life through recovery. I wouldn’t change anything that has happened to me so far because it is what God has used to form me into who I am. My prayer is that as I learn to counsel others through their misery, that they will be able to experience the wonder of God and the beauty of recovery.

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to my summer tuition. Classes begin next week, but I am already learning so much as I prepare for class. If anyone is struggling with addiction, be encouraged. There is nothing wrong with small steps towards recovery. Start where you are and see where God leads!

It’s May! Glory!

It’s May! Glory!

Today is the first day of May and the first month I am taking part in the monthly worship event I’ve created. I was looking for creative ways to be reminded of the awesomeness of God and thought the book of Numbers would be a fun place to start.

I went to Numbers 28 and looked at how often God called the Israelites to either have an assembly, sacrifice, feast, party; what have you… and found that within the Israelite worship calendar it was near impossible to forget God. There are things to do every day week, month, season, and year.

Since we’re not in the Old Covenant of sacrificing animals and bringing the grains and the fruits to the Lord (thank God), I thought about how I could incorporate the routine of worship into a New Covenant calendar. I set up a list of events to give me opportunities to connect with God and thank Him.

Every month, the Israelites would give a burnt offering to the Lord. It was a big event with lots of animals sacrificed (🙁), fine flour, oil, and drink offerings galore! I took this practice and thought of what I could do as a monthly offering to the Lord. Paul said to the Roman church in the first century that they were to present themselves as a living sacrifice to God. They were to devote themselves to Him and seek His good. That was their spiritual worship.

In Jesus’ prayer for His disciples, and those who would come to believe in Him due to their testimony, Jesus said that eternal life for believers was to know God. Jesus’ death and resurrection now allows us to do just that. We can connect with God every day at any time!

So, for every first day of the month, this is what I’m going to do: have a fantastic dinner to honor God and enjoy the gift of a good meal, reflect on how God has provided the past month, anticipate obstacles that could arise this present month, think about who needs prayer, and make note of what I’m excited about that is coming up!

My goal in all of this is to connect with God on a deeper level, grow in gratitude and joy for who He is and what He has done, and share His goodness and truth with others. God is so worthy of praise and I am absolutely excited to get started on this. If you would like to join in on my worship calendar, click on this link and it will subscribe you to a read-only version of it. If you decide to participate, please let me know how it goes! I would love to be inspired by how you worship God on these days.

Before I sign out, I’m going to share one thing I’m grateful for this past month: God’s joy.

I’m at a stage in codependency recovery where I am having more joyful days and fewer days of anxiety and misery. God has increasingly been showing me why I can live a life of freedom and joy. I love Him and feel so blessed to live every day with Him. Today, my expression of happiness in Christ is through thankfulness and unashamedly terrible dancing to this fantastic song. Watch the video and try to stay seated. 😜

God loves you! Celebrate that!

 

A Tree Planted Next to a Stream

A Tree Planted Next to a Stream

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

A series on being deeply rooted must start with a scripture about plants. How could it not? These verses in Jeremiah are pretty well known and I can see why. It’s a beautiful illustration of a life fueled by God. Who doesn’t love trees, water, and fruitful prosperity?

In Jeremiah 17, God was calling the people of Judah out for their sin. They had an idol problem. This problem was so great that parents were sacrificing their children on altars like the pagan nations who worshiped false gods.

God said to them in verses 5 and 6, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”

God was warning them that idol worship is not where security and prosperity originate. Good things come from God the Creator. When man turns from God, he turns from his light source. It’s just how it goes. Man on his own in the dark is a bad thing. Has anyone seen Law and Order? People living outside of God just get progressively chaotic and dark. It happens today and it happened back then. Every person needs God so that they can step into the light. We won’t do it naturally.

After God’s reminder to Judah about the emptiness of a man that worships himself, He gives the picture of a man that trusts God:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

It is through trust in God that man receives security and prosperity. In the Old Testament, it looked like this:

Obedience = land, large families, food in abundance, lots of oxen, sheep, goats (wealth)
Disobedience = war, pestilence (more than just bug problems), and famine (poverty)

The Israelites were under a conditional agreement with God. If they obeyed Him, they would receive blessings and if they disobeyed Him, they would receive curses. This was not because God was some kind of egotistical deity on a power trip. God truly knew what was best for Israel.

The conditional agreement is not how it goes anymore. We are under a new deal because of Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of that covenant. Our agreement with God is unconditional love and guaranteed salvation because of Jesus’ obedience. It has nothing to do with our works. In this new deal, we have been given the Holy Spirit as our downpayment of the life in God’s presence that is to come.

I think that the words spoken to Jeremiah back then are still true today but through the lens of our New Covenant with God. A difference between the shrub and the tree in the Jeremiah 17 illustration is placement. The shrub is in the desert and the tree is by a stream. They both experience harsh weather conditions, but the tree continues to be fruitful because of where it is planted.

In codependency terms, I’d like to call this a perspective change. Where is your mind planted? Feelings and actions begin with the intellect. Placing trust in God dissolves fear and anxiety because your thoughts are positively set on the provision and care of God. The tree was planted next to a stream and received all it needed for the heat and drought. Placing your trust in God doesn’t mean your life circumstances necessarily change, it just means you possess what many search for outside of God but can’t find: Peace. Prosperity. Security.

If you are a Christian, you have everything you need through God’s provision. He knows what you need and He will take care of you. It may not be in the way you think, but personally, I find that it’s always better and much more fascinating than what I would have done.

It’s easy to say “trust in the Lord” and much harder to do when you’re not so sure if He is who He claims to be. My suggestion is if you feel you don’t know God or don’t trust what you do know… seek Him further. Ask questions. Figure out what your perception of God is and ask why. Is it true? How do you know? Ask God to show you He is trustworthy. You’ll see it more and more as you’re looking for it.

God has given us creation, His word, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. He wants to be known by you. Plant yourself in Him and enjoy the adventure! A life with God brings joy and peace. It’s so much fun and there’s nothing I would recommend more highly.

 

Summer 2018 Tuition Goal Reached!!

Summer 2018 Tuition Goal Reached!!

I just wanted to give you all a quick update on my tuition fundraising. The Summer 2018 Tuition Goal has been reached!! Today I had the privilege of paying for my summer semester and getting excited all over again for the counseling program.

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a painting or donated through the Dallas Theological Seminary website! It has been really meaningful to receive support from so many people I care about. I can’t wait to keep you updated on the lessons God teaches me and the progress I make through the program.

I hope you all have a wonderful day and thank you again for your support. ❤️