I used to have my life under control. I always knew the right thing to do. In fact, I was right all the time.
Yet for nearly the last four years I have been consistently working on recovery from my hurts, habits and hang-ups.
I haven’t talked much about recovery here – yet. Because it’s hard to know who I can trust with the deep things. But I’m choosing to trust you, because I’ve reached a place where I’m ok even if you don’t understand or get defensive or are uncomfortable. Because I’ve been and am all those things at times, too.
The thing about recovery is that it is very self-focused. It has to be. I can’t fix you and you can’t fix me. And it is also about being surrounded by people who will listen and let you vent and rant and cry and break through to healing. Also because it has to be.
I had attended a different recovery program several years ago. Same place, but I didn’t have to focus on my own issues. It was a Christian alternative to Al-Anon. I enjoyed the sessions as those who wanted to talk shared their issues and ongoing struggles, but I never did more than dip my toe in the healing waters of recovery.
What I wanted was to talk about a couple of things from my past that I had never really shared with anyone, and then get over it and move on. But I wasn’t comfortable talking about it in front of the men in my group.
So after almost two years I drifted away for a while. And a couple of years later I was in a frustrated time of my life. I was honestly ready to walk away from my church and find a new one, but even though I begged God to make me feel good about that, he didn’t. So I decided to at least go to Saturday services at the church that had hosted the recovery program.
My husband and I went just before Easter four years ago, and as we walked in, I thought I recognized one of the greeters. During the service the pastor asked each person to write the answer to the question “What is keeping you from being all God wants you to be?”, and leave it at a cross at the exits.
I wrote “paralyzed potential”, and prayed that God would show me how to use the gifts he had given me to fulfill what he wants me to be, as I left it at the cross.
I walked back out the same door, and introduced myself to the familiar man, the co-leader of my group at the old recovery program. He remembered me, and invited me to come to Celebrate Recovery “because we can use more good leaders.”
Well, wasn’t that a swift response from God? I knew I was capable of so much more than others were seeing in me, and here was someone who recognized that. Recovery ministry was one I felt sure I could help lead.
Because my life was under control, I knew the right things to do, and I was right all the time.
Well, I still thought that. Up until the next Friday when I attended my first Celebrate Recovery.
At that time CR had been in existence for almost 25 years. It had stood the test of time, and had a well-organized format that worked because every Celebrate Recovery group agrees to conduct their meetings sticking to some non-negotiables, with leeway for each local group to infuse their own flavor.
Even though I was confident I would be able to move into leadership of some kind quickly, I was actually nervous at my first meeting. It was in the same area where the old program met, and I found a table out at the edges intending to sit by myself.
Except a woman sitting with a couple other people motioned me over and asked if I needed a seat, and encouraged me to pull up a chair and sit with them. We all introduced ourselves, and I said I’d sit at the next table over. But it was obvious this group was friendly.
Then another woman sat beside me and opened up about some of her personal struggles, and my first thought was that this was a different kind of recovery program. These people were serious about getting past the pleasantries and diving into their issues.
I sat through the large group program, was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the information I heard, and then picked an open share group to participate in. I thought I’d just sit back and listen, like in the old group, and let the regulars talk. But this was organized differently. It was all women. And along with a couple other guidelines, we would each have 3-5 minutes to talk about whatever we needed and no one was allowed to interrupt. Wow. That was different.
I was able to hear a few other women share before my turn came, and I have no idea what I said, but it was so freeing to have the chance to say anything or nothing. It was time to focus on myself.
Several of the women talked about something called a Step Study, and how a new one for women had just started. I showed up for it the next Tuesday. But instead of just one 3-5 minute time slot, we went around and answered question after question from the workbook. The other women dug deep. And I gave very shallow, protective answers.
Because after only one Friday and a few days of soul-searching questions, I came face to face with a few things.
I may not be right all the time. I may have a sense of what the right thing is to do, but I’m better at telling other people than doing it myself. And I was just beginning to see that I was not in control of much of anything.
Celebrate Recovery is based on 12 Biblical steps and 8 Biblical principles. Principle 1 is:
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 5:3a TEV
After that first meeting and Step Study class, I was beginning to see that I had a long way to go before I could lead anyone.
Celebrate Recovery was already changing my life.