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!

Day “Four”: Helplessness

Day “Four”: Helplessness

As my “ten day” challenge to myself progresses, it’s apparent that my definition of a day is not the 24-hour term, but more like a day in regards to a long period of time… which is great. So, here we go:

Helplessness! Here’s a great one: “Overwhelming others with your needs and wants.”

This one is for all the love addicts out there. Helplessness is not as obvious as it sounds (to the helpless one). If someone had told me I was acting out of helplessness, I would have denied it. Consciously, I’ve always defined myself as independent. I believed that if I had a need, I would take it straight to God and trust that He would take care of it.

Subconsciously, I was a big, melting blob of helplessness. When no one was looking and I could shed all the walls and defenses of the day, I would collapse into woe-is-me mode. I would beg God to fix my life, fix me, get me out of situations; help me. When I felt that He wasn’t doing a good or fast enough job,  I would dump all of that on the guy I was dating. Not upfront, but in nonverbal, in between the lines expectations.

Any time life got uncomfortable, I would expect my boyfriend to set things right. I needed his calm assurance, advise, prayer; time. If he didn’t text me properly, give me the right affection, or read my mind and show up at my house when needed, I took that as him not caring about me. If he did, somehow, come through for me, I was on top of the world. Life was perfect and hope-filled.

I know this sounds dramatic, and it was, but not outright. I could hold my crazy in pretty well. However, the roller coaster of the dating game was miserable. The continuous expectation that some guy could read my mind and fix all my problems was absurd… yet plausible at the time.

Pia Mellody writes that helplessness sabotages your life because others, “…may experience inadequacy and guilt at not being able to meet your needs,” “…may need to back off and escape such a huge responsibility,” and “…may experience pain when you react with resentment because they are not meeting all your needs.” What a heavy burden to carry for your significant other, friend, or family member! How can someone experience intimacy with a person that is always in heavy dependency?

The answer is: they can’t.

If people can’t help you in your helplessness, who can? What if I told you that there is someone who not only knows your dependent, but unconditionally loves you for it?

Dr. Glenn Kreider wrote in his book, God With Us, that God knew you would always be dependent on Him from the beginning, but He created you anyway. God is the only one you can be completely dependent on and also intimate with. He can handle your resentments, calm your crazy, and fill you with a companionship unlike any other. When you are filled with love and intimacy with God, you can have healthy relationships where you pour into instead of constantly drain.

I’ve been working through this character defect for a while and it has cleared away the miserable chaos from my life. Take your needs to God, ask Him to remove the gross feelings and replace them with His good character traits, and ask Him for forgiveness for not trusting Him. God is good and He wants you to be dependent on Him. So do it. 🙂

“Tomorrow”: Financial Problems… Ew.

 

Day Three: Your Reality

Day Three: Your Reality

So, I thought I struggled with “Striving for Power” as a character defect, but after studying it more… I don’t think I do. Striving for Power is a different kind of control than people-pleasing or perfection. It’s more combative. My personality is more chill and passive.

The next defect I can relate to is “Blaming Others for Your Reality and Taking Responsibility for the Reality of Others.” The problem with this is that in your reality, you’re either blaming people for your pain or believing that you caused their behavior or feelings. This defect also distorts truth because a person struggling with this has a hard time believing people.

This is a problem that I have, thankfully, largely been freed from. Praise. The. Lord. Last year, I was plagued by this issue of reality. Without any hard evidence, I assumed I knew what people were thinking about me. I also would not take responsibility for my own misery. It was always someone else’s fault. I lived in a fantasy world of misinformation.

My counselor gave me a powerful statement that I now refer to when I catch myself going into fantasy: You don’t know that. I’ll explain to my counselor why someone doesn’t like me. She’ll ask, How do you know that. When I give her some reasons, she gives it to me straight: You don’t know that. When I assume a guy likes or doesn’t like me because his text sounded like this or that, she’ll say, You don’t know that.

Bottom line: Unless a person tells you how they feel, it’s impossible for you to truly know. Assumptions can only go so far.

In my life, I have allowed my reality to be distorted by skewed ideas of what guys were thinking or feeling about me. It was torturous and I liked guys for waaayyyyy longer than they deserved. I also blew instances at work out of proportion and got sick over what new situations would get me fired. I would blame the illness on my poor work environment (and not own up to the fact that I was living in an alternate, painful universe created by wonderful imagination).

Exiting my fantasy life was liberating. It was my red pill to get out of the miserable fiction world I was living in. Surrendering my made up world to God was awesome and ’bout time. I’m not completely cured of this character defect, but I testify to a new life of freedom and excitement. Clear joy!

Remember all:

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” -Morpheus 
(Take the red pill.)
Next time: Helplessness (Overwhelming others with your needs and wants)

Day Two: Perfectionism

Day Two: Perfectionism

“Perfectionism is that compulsive drive to do things perfectly, leaving no detail imperfect.” – Pia Mellody, Breaking Free

If I were in a meeting where we were ‘fessing up to being perfectionists, I’m not sure I could 100% raise my hand. I can see my parents throwing their heads back in laughter at the idea of me being a perfectionist… my roommates in college would probably have a good laugh, as well.

I believe my tendency towards perfectionism came when I got into a demanding job and felt out of control. In the chaos, it became crucial that my bed was made, room clean, and living areas neat. After working at that job, I developed a sensitivity to making mistakes. If I mess up, I try and fix it on my own before anyone finds out. If someone confronts me on a mistake, I have extreme emotions to their discovery.

This is harmful because it keeps me from allowing myself to be truly known by others. I have found that with my people-pleasing and perfectionism combined, I feel the need to hide certain parts of myself from people. This affects others because they cannot fully connect with me.

I would really love to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and allow God to show me what a freer life looks like.

Up next: Striving for Power. Man, am I a control freak or what?

What is Codependency?

 

What is codependency?

If I’m going to be writing a blog on codependency, it’s probably a good idea to define it for you. This is actually a difficult concept to define because it is so broad. Codependency, in one sense, is old school idolatry. It’s looking to anything or anyone besides God to provide you with everything you need to feel valued and safe.

The other side of codependency, is since other people and things cannot provide 100% of our needs, in fact, people often damage us rather than protect, we develop coping mechanisms to get us through our fears, insecurities, and life difficulties. This can play out through how we do relationships, how we eat/take care of ourselves, and how we view reality.

In Pia Mellody’s book, Facing Codependency, signs of a codependent are having difficulty in:

  1. Experiencing appropriate levels of self-esteem
  2. Setting functional boundaries
  3. Owning and expressing their own reality
  4. Taking care of their adult needs and wants
  5. Experiencing and expressing their reality moderately (Mellody, pg. 4)

I have personally experienced each of these symptoms and began the process last year of overcoming these life obstacles. It’s been one of the best ventures I’ve taken in life. It’s hard to face the unpleasant (and sometimes tragic) parts of our life, but I guarantee you it’s worth it. Face your fears and your pain. Be honest with yourself and grow because of it. You’ll begin to see the broken ways you are handling life.

It can be painful, but! It is not until we discover these coping mechanisms and surrender our damaged selves to the Lord, that we can truly experience freedom from the pain of our past and how that translates into our present situations.

So, welcome to my blog. Where I will share with you my own journey to functioning healthily and in full surrender to God. Happy processing!

1. Mellody, Pia, Andrea Wells. Miller, and Keith Miller. Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes From, How It Sabotages Our Lives. San Francisco: Perennial Library, 1989. Print.