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!

The Beauty of God’s Patience

The Beauty of God’s Patience

You see this adorable baby? Her name is Tucker.

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She’s the love of my life and one of my greatest teachers.

I’m not the wealthiest person ever, but have very expensive hobbies. One of them being gardening. Flowers ain’t cheap! We have a section of yard I like to call, “The Hill.” It’s not beautiful, but for the past couple of years, I’ve dreamt of it being just overflowing with colorful flowers. I imagine it being a place of prayer or long conversations with friends. A place that just smells and feels good to be in. However, that takes some moneys. So, usually it looks halfway hideous and halfway kinda cute. You do what you can.

One of my strategies is repurposing flowers from one area to another to boost the color factor. This is something I did this weekend. I moved four plants to the Hill and mixed in some plant food and fresh soil for good measure. Boy, am I sorry I did that.

Plant food has delicious things like: fish remains, blood (how?), meat leftovers… things that dogs find irresistible. How do I know?

The morning after I planted them, I stepped outside to observe their progress. They were gone! In their place were big holes with plant food up for the taking.

Tuckerrrrr. Annoyed, I replanted them and prayed that the trauma of two replantings wouldn’t be the end of these repurposed flowers.

I leave for a bit, come back, and they’ve been dug up again! The annoyance was growing, but how can you be annoyed at this face?

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Well, the day after I re-re-re-plant them, I come home from church to find that they had all been uprooted AGAIN from their new homes. And Tucker had some fiendish fish breath.

A surge came over me. I looked into Tucker’s eyes and she knew she had done wrong. She ran into the house and plopped down on her bed as I RE-planted my now half eaten, traumatized, repurposed plants. My thoughts were everywhere, That stupid, idiotic dog. These are all going to die and I’ll be back at square one. I should’ve never planted these back here. Why did I use that plant food? What was I thinking??

I walked into the house and looked at my guilty dog laying on her bed. Gah. I was so angry, but realized being mad at her wouldn’t help the situation. She wouldn’t comprehend the connection so long after her sinful (in my opinion) act. All that’s left to do is love.

Well, guess what. I went to work on Monday, came back, and were the plants in their homes? NO.

Oh, let me tell you, the defeat that washed over me as I looked at the holes in the ground, the practically dead plants kicked to the side; the smell of fish coming off the breath of my excited dog. It was all just a little too much.

However, the Lord did a miraculous thing. He popped the question in my head, Lord, what are you teaching me through this?

I know that couldn’t have come naturally from me. Yet, there it was. I pet my dog and spoke kindly to her. I took the hose, walked over to my flowers, and slowly began re-planting each one. And look at my beautiful garden!!

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Is that beautiful or what?

Let me tell you the lesson God imprinted on me as I was packing dirt around each one of these destroyed plants: God never tires or grows angry as He replants.

Every day, we wake up a mess and He speaks kindly to us. We find ourselves drawn to harmful patterns that stunt the growth of what God is doing in us. He plants; we dig up. He packs in dirt; we paw it away. He waters; we take the whole plant out of the hole and toss it into the blazing sun. Anyone other than God would have scrapped the garden and pummeled us.

Praise God for His patience! He has always, always been faithful. First to Israel, and now to the world. As we live, God gently brings us under Him and we grow in wisdom. We look more like Him. We grow in beauty. God understands our weakness and He loves us anyways. He’s able to because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  I’m astounded and grateful for the steadfast patience of God.

Fool Proof Marriage

Fool Proof Marriage

Writing this post could potentially seem odd because I am not married, so some may think it obvious that an ignorant single in her twenties could write something titled, “Fool Proof Marriage”. Stay with me though. This is coming from Ephesians, and, well, Paul wasn’t married either.

Ephesians 5 and 6 have traditionally been loved and hated by many. We all love the concept of “walking in love” and “taking up the armor of God.” What fantastic imagery and an ideal reality! Then comes, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ew. Don’t like that. “Children obey your parents”? No. “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters”?!?!?! Not okay. Even though pastors smoothly cover it as employees honoring their bosses and working for the Lord.

But it was Ephesians 5 I found myself reading the other day and I came across some amazing ties between codependency and Christianity.

The part that drew my attention was the section on husbands. Check this out:
“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'”

We see that God placed some fool proof backups into the institution of marriage. In Genesis, God designed man and woman to become one. In so doing, a marriage could never be torn apart. And why would it? Our ego has wired us to survive. No matter how hungry you are, you won’t eat yourself. We are not prone to self-cannibalization. Ideally, you can’t do something to destroy you spouse because that, in turn, would be self-destruction.

However, the problem comes from behind the ego. The part of your subconscious you live with daily but don’t allow yourself to acknowledge. Why did Jesus say divorce had been placed into the Law? It was because of man’s hardness of heart.

How can someone love another as they love themselves if they don’t know what it means to love themselves? That was trippy. In other words, how can you love someone else if you inwardly dislike yourself?

Many of us have been shown from a very young age a distorted version of love. It may look like abandonment, physical abuse, sexual abuse, enmeshment, or an expectation for you to behave beyond your capabilities. We take this on as normal and “love” our spouse in the same way. We shame them. We hit them. We drain them emotionally or we deprive them of emotional intimacy. We keep score of all their mistakes and hold them to a standard we could never meet ourselves. This is how we were treated and it’s what we believe we deserve.

Codependency recovery largely involves working through past shame and fear that keep you from liking yourself as a person. Knowing and believing that God loves and likes you for who you are. When we choose to step up to our past pain and unravel the shame that holds our identity in its grasp, we can begin to love God and love ourselves. It’s only then, that we can love our spouse as we love ourselves.

God created a fool proof institution that reflects the love He has for us. Living in a world that is broken emotionally and mentally, we miss the beauty of the ideal. However, it’s not impossible to gain. Change does not begin with your spouse (or for single people, your roommates), it begins with you. It begins with your relationship with God and your recovery. When two people come together and each live under the sovereign love of God, the love they can then give to each other is miraculous. It’s a mind blowing picture of the love God has for His Son and the love His Son has for us.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Stop Being an Avoidant

Happy New Year! It’s crazy that I’ve had this blog for a year – that I’ve been in recovery for another year. When I met my counselor at our first session two years ago, I wasn’t sure what she would tell me. I knew that family members had been seeing her and were transforming in ways I never thought possible. I thought I was a pretty balanced person and just needed a little fine tuning. After all, they were insane and I was merely a minor case.

Was I ever wrong! I learned I was a miserable, love addict searching for what I already had.

After the first two sessions with my counselor, I left with a light of renewed hope and a joy I never thought possible. This led me to realize I’d been miserable.

Next, I was also working towards a relationship that I had been putting all my hope in for the past year and a half. Over the next five or six crucial months, I would discover I was a love addict pursuing a love avoidant. I was stuck in an endless fearful cycle of intimacy and abandonment. I’d been on an emotional roller coaster for most of my dating life.

Through all of this, I discovered that my walk with God could be opened up into an unending supply of everything I could need. His attributes are lovely, divine, and freeing. His thoughts and feelings about me are overflowing with love, acceptance, affirmation, beauty… you name your need, He has already been providing since you were born. I was finally free.

Do you know the joy of being free? I needed to be free mainly of myself. My obsessive thinking and negative beliefs about myself and how God viewed me. Being healed of that, alone, has catapulted me into a new life that I never want to be free from. I know it’s only going to get better.

I am so grateful.

A lot of ground has been covered in a fast two years and 2017 is here. In the codependency daily devotional, Letting Go, a series of questions are presented for the New Year. One of them struck me in particular: What blocks or character defects would you like to have removed?

After having devoted two years to my love addiction recovery, this year, I would like to focus on removing my love avoidance. It’s a side of myself that has received very little attention due to my out of control love addiction. This year, it’s time to take on the avoidance. Socializing, here I come! It’s time to work through my fear of intimacy and connect… omg.

Loss of Control

I have bad weeks.

This past weekend – bad weekend. What was so bad about it? Externally, nothing. God is in control and He has blessed me with many great things. I got to go to my last class on church history for the semester on Saturday, discovered my car has an electrical problem (need to get that fixed), I got out of class early and hung out with my roommates and my dog, I went on a walk with my neighbor, and after all that went to bed. I tried a new church on Sunday (I think I’ll stick with my current church), got home before noon, hung out for awhile, and went to a Christmas show… came home with a migraine and nausea so I went right to bed. Woke up the next morning, and wanted to crawl straight back into bed and forget my existence. I was low. I was anxious. I was guilty. About what?

What I didn’t tell you in my weekend summary, is that underneath all the activity, there was a growing feel of pressure, anxiety, stress, and guilt. A nervous feeling of being in a rush and having my time stolen. What I really wanted to do all weekend was nothing. And when I say nothing, I have this image in my mind of slowly waking up with no alarm, sitting on the couch drinking coffee and staring at my Christmas tree, no time commitments, just hours of free time waiting to be filled with relaxation, reading, and creativity. There would be a couple of nice dog walks in there. Work on some manuscripts and enjoying the warmth and safety of home.

I’ve created time slots for mini versions of my day dream into my planner. At the beginning of the day, I have 30 minutes to drink coffee, sit on the couch, and write. At the end of the day, I set aside 30 minutes to sit in a chair and read whatever I’d like. I have intentional time with my dog, Tucker, for both parts of the day and it’s in these times that God refuels me to go back to work and spend the majority of my time earning money to not be homeless.

It’s a nice system I have, however, what happens when a stick gets thrown in the spokes? I mentioned I had class this Saturday. Did I mention it’s from 8-5? Yes, an all day class. Which is basically going to work for another full day. Also, did you catch that my car has an electrical problem? The turn signal, headlights, and interior dashboard lights are all not working. Yaayyyy. That means I have to find time to get to the dealership (which does not have weekend appointments). Also, I tried a new church and had a Christmas show Sunday evening. Does any of that sound like my day dream of the perfect day? No! A thousand times no!

And guess what I did all last week? I dreaded the weekend (and that was before I knew I’d be having car troubles). Last week I was tired. The work days seemed longer and I just needed some time! But I wasn’t getting any because people and institutions were taking it from me. Every week I feel robbed and I choose to focus on the negative rather than the positive of each day. And somehow, doing that leads me to feeling out of control, anxious, resentful, trapped, and guilty.

Work and rest are both important. If I spend all my time at home, how will I be an ambassador for God and have those conversations that really matter? So, my job is not just to refrain from homelessness, it’s to be a walking light of truth to those in darkness.

I know things need to change, but it’s going to be so, so hard. I do love my resentments and I do love possessing my time and working towards that day dream. There are three forms of codependency going on with this part of my life: fear, control, and fantasizing.

To start, I’ll write a letter to God and describe in detail all the things that are bothering me. I’ll surrender them to God and ask Him to remove the feelings of anxiety, fear, resentfulness, and guilt. I’ll ask Him to replace them with His characteristics and to forgive me for idolizing my schedule, my dog, and my dreams over Him. I’ll thank Him for the good work He is going to do. I look forward to it! He’s always done me right in the past and I know for certain He won’t stop now.

Desire without Knowledge

Desire without Knowledge

“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” -Proverbs 19:2

Have you ever made an impulsive relationship decision? I have. Many, many times and over again. Usually it is in response to my obsessive thinking.

Obsessive thinking begins with a desire. The desire could be seeking a cure for loneliness, pleasing someone, it might be to solve a problem… something to make your life better than it currently is. Desires are natural. We are wired to satiate our needs and that’s not bad. It’s how we seek to satisfy those needs that can get us into trouble.

For example, in college, there was a guy I was friends with. He was a great guy but I had never liked him in a romantic fashion. He, on the other hand, liked me a lot and was waiting for me to come around. I knew this even though he hadn’t communicated it to me. Guys can be so annoyingly obvious (when you don’t want them to be).

One night, I was in my apartment and felt this strong need to connect on an intimate level with a guy. I wanted to be associated with someone. I didn’t want to be single anymore. I wanted to have “that someone” I could talk to. I felt so warm and sure about this feeling. It was definitely time to make that happen. Well, who do you think popped in my mind to fill that longing? My friend who liked me, of course!

I lovingly texted him that night (because who talks about serious things on the phone anymore?) and confessed to him that I really did like him as more than a friend. He was very excited about this news and felt that his waiting was finally paying off. We set a time to go on a real, official date. I went to bed that night feeling satisfied. The obsessive thoughts and the feeling of being incomplete now over.

Guess how I woke up? Terrified.

The romance of a lonely night being over, the reality set in of what I’d done. I’d told a guy that really liked me that I liked him back… when on reflection, I realized I didn’t like him like that at all. I felt better in the morning. Not so alone. But now I had a serious problem. I had let a guy on that I cared about. He was thrilled thinking that we were off to a romantic journey that would end with us getting married and having a lovely family (is this true? I didn’t know because he had never said that, but it was what I assumed he was thinking – another bad trait of living in a fantasy world and not reality).

This is how it ended with this guy and how most of my relationships played out: I tried to stick with the relationship and hope that my feelings would grow for the person I had roped myself into dating. It never worked and usually within two weeks, I was breaking up with the guy, he was confused, and our friendship was over. He was hurt… and so was I.

“Desire without knowledge is not good.” In Proverbs, Solomon teaches that knowledge, wisdom, discernment all come from God. If you are not including God in your decision making, you’ve only got half the brains… maybe less. The second part of that psalm states, “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”

I lost my way repeatedly because I was reacting to my desires and leaving knowledge (reality and God’s will) out of it. Losing my way caused the guys I dated to feel lost, as well. We ended up with hurt and confusion.

If you struggle with love addiction, it’s important to let the fit pass before making a decision. Wait at least a week before making big decisions, especially when it involves another person.

It’s easy to believe that only a significant other can satisfy your desires. If that were true, God would not be as awesome as He says He is. The great thing about God is that He always does the unexpected. You think you know how He is going to answer a prayer and then He does something you could have never dreamed and it’s way better than you could have imagined.

When you feel lonely, tell God and ask Him to remove the feeling of loneliness and replace it with His love, contentment, and companionship. Ask Him to heal your feeling of loneliness in the way He deems best. Let Him know that you look forward to seeing how He does it. If there is a person you have in mind that you would like to fulfill that need, let God know but be open to His way of doing things.

Through my recovery, I am now beginning to see the patterns of my emotions and thoughts. By slowing down and making myself wait to act on my desires, it’s helping me gain discernment on areas of my life that are unhealthy. I’m learning to go to God and surrender my desires and seek His will on an issue. This is so much better than falling prey to my desires which have no foundation, minus my fantasies.

Bottom line: wait on God. His will is best and He knows better than you do what you need to fulfill the desires He has given you.

Exercise: If you struggle with impulsively acting on your desires, pause. When you’re obsessively thinking, stop and write out your desire in detail. Surrender it to God. Ask Him to satisfy your desire in the way He deems best. Thank Him for what He’s going to do. Then, wait. Don’t make a decision for a week. Surrender your desire to God as many times as you need. Remember, you’re in no hurry. Allow time for prayer, reflection, and hindsight. Embrace your desires (meaning, it’s okay to feel lonely for a little bit. You’re not going to die.). Wait on God and He will answer.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Eating at Thanksgiving

Eating at Thanksgiving

For someone working towards being an intuitive eater, special events can really throw us off. Normally, you may not have a bunch of candy lying around just waiting to be subconsciously eaten, but during Halloween, it’s everywhere… and someone needs to finish it. Birthdays, well normally you wouldn’t have cake and ice cream around, but it’s there and you don’t want other people to feel uncomfortable about you not eating it. And here we are with Thanksgiving.

Such a glorious time of year with changing leaves (in some parts of our country), cooler weather, nostalgia from our younger days, family, friends, and… food. FOOD. That’s what it’s all about, right? The food. Turkey, mashed potatoes, and whatever else you please topped with homemade gravy. Sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, broccoli and rice, cranberry sauce, rolls, cookies, cake, PIE! And the social trend of bragging on the fatigue of overeating due to the volume of holiday foods begging to be placed on your plate.

How does a subconscious, chaotic eater resist?

Let’s take the focus off of the food and the people pleasing. What’s left of the Thanksgiving holiday? Think for a moment about where you’re going for Thanksgiving. And this is not meant to make people depressed. Don’t overthink it. I know there are plenty of family problems we could focus on right now or the dread of being somewhere full of triggers for some codependency episodes, but think of generalities right now. Think about the name, “Thanksgiving.” What does it mean to you?

Think about the attitude of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans at the time they celebrated the first Thanksgiving. What was it like? Why were they thankful? So much so that they came back the next year and the next to remember?

Why else would one go to Thanksgiving? Who will be there? Is there someone you’re looking forward to seeing? Is there something you can contribute that would take the focus away from merely sitting down and overeating? Maybe you could designate yourself as the family photographer, the dish cleaner (everyone would love you), or a leader in getting some games started. Switch it up this year. Instead of going with the thought of what you will receive, think about what you could give.

I know holidays are not easy. It is often big, overwhelming crowds, people you haven’t seen in forever, football (zzz), and food. Food at a holiday can be a nice little friend to keep your mind distracted from the social anxiety that is sure to creep up in a setting such as this. However, I believe this year is well worth the try of something new. Think about the feeling you will have of not being sick over your meal and of being a giver. How many people can you bless at Thanksgiving that maybe really need it?

Be prayerful about this Thanksgiving. Ask God if there’s anything He would like you to contribute, along with the food you’ll be bringing. Stay in connection with God throughout Thanksgiving Day and ask Him where the needs are. When you’re gathering food at the designated, official meal time of the day, get everything you want, but just a little bit of it. I guarantee doing that will still give you more than you can handle! Enjoy the food and listen to your body. Do I like the way this tastes? What is it about the texture that I like? Do I not like this? Then, after you’ve eaten half, ask yourself, Can I taste this anymore? Or am I just eating to eat? Stay in the present. Trust your body and stop when you’re satisfied.

Then, go engage with some family members. My family likes to go on Thanksgiving walks. 😀 And Pray!

Happy Thanksgiving!