Keeping Things Simple

When I first got sober, people would tell me I only had to change only one thing—EVERYTHING!  This is an overwhelming thought, and I questioned if it was even possible.  Being newly sober can be very confusing and complicated.  Many of us have left a path of destruction during our time of addiction.  These could include:

  • Legal Problems – Many of us have legal problems in the beginning of sobriety. This alone is a heavy burden to someone who feels very raw and vulnerable at the onset of staying clean and sober.
  • Money Issues – Most of us have little or no money left when we reach recovery and perhaps an immense amount of debt.
  • Damaged Relationships – I don’t think I’ve met one person in recovery who didn’t have damaged relationships stemming from their addiction. Many of us have lost custody of our children and may be dealing with divorce.
  • Unemployed – Many of us have lost our jobs due to our addictions.       Having no income causes much anxiety and stress.
  • Homelessness – This is an extremely stressful situation. I too was homeless for a period of time. It’s a horrible feeling. Every day is a struggle.

Handling these problems all at once will certainly set you up for failure.  Keeping things simple is paramount.  But how can I keep things simple when the problems I’ve having are so huge and all consuming?

Often we take on more than we can chew in the beginning.  It’s important to understand these problems can take a long, long time to recover from.  But don’t be discouraged!  Every day you stay sober, little by little, you will start to see these problems getting just a little less day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year.  One by one we start to tackle our issues.

Some suggestions for keeping things simple:

We have to slow down our thinking.  Make a list of the major issues that you need to address and then relax your mind.  We deal with one thing at a time.

Keep big problems from getting any bigger.  Although you may have a big problem that can’t be solved overnight, be rest assured, staying sober will enable you to address the issue once and for all.

Legal problems must be faced immediately.  We don’t have a choice on when to deal with these issues because it’s all mandated by the court.  A great person that can help you with would be a sponsor or the house manager if you’re in a halfway house.  When I was living in a halfway house, my house manager even went to court with me.  She was so supportive and made the experience less stressful.  I didn’t feel alone.

Finding a place to live should be the first issue to address.  You have to get some sort of stability in your life.  Having a place to live will ease your frustration and fears.  I stayed in many different halfway houses.  Halfway houses were the only place that would accept me without having a dime to my name.  I had burned all my bridges with family and friends.

Secondly, find a job.  After securing a place to live, let’s get employed and start generating an income so we can start to address our money issues.

Write a list of money owed.  Tackle the smallest amount that is due and get those paid first.  Bigger money problems will take time.

Start mending one relationship at a time.  For me, it was my parents, especially my mother.  Work on getting back your kids or mending a damaged marriage.  Damaged relationships take a long time to heal.  Some may heal right away and others could take years, if at all.

It’s important to reach out and ask for help.  If you go to AA or NA meetings, there are allot of people in the rooms who are willing to help you get things organized and give you some great advice.  Trying to tackle all these issues by yourself is too overwhelming.  Having someone to lean on and give you advice will help you keep things simple so that you can focus on staying sober one day at a time.

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What’s Your Motive?

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, Renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10

Wouldn’t that be a great name for a game show, “What’s Your Motive?” Motives are a sort of mind game, aren’t they? It’s ultimately about our intention to have you believe something or to acquire something we want. Motives can be good or bad, wrong or right, pure or impure.

Have you ever known someone always seems to operate with a hidden agenda? You know the one. The one who is “fake”. The one you can’t trust. The one who whenever he/she is talking is more than likely lying to you? Do you remember when you first found out this person had a hidden agenda? You figured out this person’s method of operation was tricking you and deceiving you for their personal gain? Maybe it was subtle. Maybe they just wanted you to believe something that they are not. You feel deceived, betrayed….like you got kicked in the stomach.

You see, I was one of those people. In active addition, that was my M.O. I wasn’t like that when sober though. No where near it. As days of sobriety started to add up, God revealed to me the subconscious manipulation methods I used in order to get people to do what I wanted. He showed me how I could be subtle in my intent and that my motive was not pure. I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. It had become a learned behavior and half the time I wasn’t even aware of it.

So I asked God to help me stay sensitive to the motives of my Heart. I ask God often to bring to the surface the little bits & pieces of impurity that may have lingered or have worked their way back in again.

“Grant me purity of heart, that I may honor you.” – Psalms 86:11

God doesn’t reveal these things to me so I will feel bad about myself. That is what the devil wants me to believe. I use to live in a state of guilt and shame (see my post about forgiving myself). God knew my self esteem was unstable back then, and in time I would heal. But now He reveals the condition of my heart so that I can repent any unconfessed sin. I want Him to. I ask Him for this. He reveals my subtle motives so that I can become pleasing in His sight. So I can change. So I can honor Him.

God knows my heart. He knows me better than I do. God knows that I really don’t want to hurt people or even hurt myself. He knows I wanted to change and I wanted to please Him but I couldn’t do that until He showed me the motives of my heart. It’s important that I keep my motives in check on a daily basis. Without purity of hear, I won’t be able to move forward to what the Lord wants for my life.

Changing My Way of Thinking

This is probably one of the hardest things to do and it’s an ongoing process that has to be worked on on a daily basis.thoughts

Don’t be discouraged though.  It can and does happen if you allow Christ to work in your life.

“Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

I was a tough nut to crack, stubborn and resisted change, even though I wanted to change!  I had to commit to reading God’s Word and learning all I could about God’s character and what He wants from me and what I can expect from Him.  I became hungry for the Word and that hunger hasn’t stopped!  I was allowing God to speak to my heart and open to receive His love and grace.  Satan’s lies were so engrained in me and I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.  So all the energy I had put into my addicted days, I used the same energy to immerse myself in the Bible and Christian books.

A fantastic book written by Joyce Meyer, “Battlefield of the Mind, Renew Your Mind Through the Power of God’s Word” helped change my life.  I highly recommend you read this book to enable you to learn how to change your thoughts.  I started to learn what were Satan’s lies and what was the Truth (see my post “The Devil and His Tactics”).

I started changing!  I stared getting inspired!  I started listening to Christian music.  I stared dressing more modestly.  I started paying attention to my speech and my cursing.  When I gained the desire to please the Lord, my way of thinking started to change.

The apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:12-13,

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection!  But I keep working for that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants to be…I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing—forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”

The Freedom of Forgiving Myself

For many years, if not most of my life, I lived with self-hatred.  For years I could not forgive myself for my past, my actions, my behaviors, my choices, but most of all, how many people I have hurt through the years, especially my mother.  The pain I put my family through, the many tears shed on my behalf and the feelings of helplessness my loved ones must have gone through seeing me destroy my life.  It still hurts to think about it.  I couldn’t understand why I kept doing the things I was doing, even though I really wanted to change my life.  I grew deeper and deeper into confusion, depression, and self-hatred.  Why was I like this?  How did I get to be such a horrible person?  The “why” questions would consume me.  I gave up on myself.  I gave into the devil’s lies. 

The devil had me believing for years that the way to show remorse to my family was to remain guilty and ashamed.  If I showed happiness of any kind it shows my family that I don’t care.  I didn’t have a right to happiness and peace.  I believed the lie that feeling guilty showed my family that I loved them and felt bad about everything I did to them. 

One night when I was four months sober, I finally forgave myself for all I’ve done.  I had been in active addition my whole adult life.  I truly, honestly and wholeheartedly forgave myself.  I was praying and crying out to God that night because I was in distress from my ex-boyfriend being verbally abusive and screaming throughout the house.  I was locked in my bedroom and cried and prayed for him to stop.  The Lord spoke to me about forgiving myself, even though that wasn’t what I was praying for specifically.  He said, 

“Who are you to not forgive yourself when I, the Almighty God, have forgiven you long ago!  Don’t you trust Me?  I know your heart.  I know all you are.  I know who you are.  You will not grow in Christ if you keep hanging on to your past and allowing abuse to stay in your life.  I love you.  Your family loves you.  They have forgiven you too so why aren’t you forgiving yourself?  It’s okay.  You can let go now, and let go of this relationship.  I know your heart and you are my beautiful child and I love you.  You are not that person anymore when you were using.  You never were.  You just lost your way for a while.  Forgive yourself.  Allow Me to direct your path from now on.  Obey Me and trust Me.  You can let go now.” 

My body suddenly became very warm and an overwhelming peace came over me.  My scalp tingled and I took a deep breath.  I felt a sudden sense of freedom and calmness.  I stopped crying and reflected on what just happened to me.  It felt like the Holy Spirit filled my entire being.  I was calm.  I could breathe.  All while my ex was still screaming and yelling outside my door.  I was still.  I had a breakthrough.  I was free.

Constantly Renewing The Mind

“Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better. Yes, you must be a new and different person, holy and good. Clothe yourself with this new nature.” Ephesians 4:23-24

How do we change our thoughts? How do we change our way of thinking? This was really baffling to me and to be quite honest, I didn’t believe it. After all, I am who I am, right? I have no control over what thought pops into my head. I mean, I must have million thoughts a day. How in the world can a person change the way they think? I can’t control that…or can I?

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We have so much more power over our minds than we realize! The devil will try and convince you of just the opposite. Don’t believe it! It’s a lie! We don’t have to settle for “I was born this way”. For many, may years I was stuck in a mindset that was shaped by the dysfunction around me and by the choices I made. My views and perspective on things weren’t right. It’s understandable why I thought the way I did, but it wasn’t right thinking. It didn’t bring glory to God.

Joyce Meyer, author and world-known teacher/evangelist says,

“Your problem is really not your problem, it’s your attitude toward your problem that’s the problem”.

In other words, our perspective, how we see things. It was pretty clear to me that I was an out-of-control addict for many years. I was born with it. I couldn’t help it. It’s just who I am and how I’m made. I don’t know anything different. I’ve tried to change but it doesn’t work. I told myself these things on a daily basis. Yes, I hated it, but couldn’t change it. Why? Because I had to have a renewed, God-like thinking in order to change.

Be aware of your thoughts. If a wrong thought pops into your head, the Bible tells us to cast down that thought.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

What this means is if we have a wrong thought we are to dismiss it and replace it with a God-like thought. This is where we “choose” our thoughts. I have found that memorizing a Bible verse and saying it to myself (or out loud) will usually dispel the bad thought pretty quickly.

Saturate you mind with reading God’s Word. If you are super busy mom or a person with no real time to sit and read, get some post it notes. Write some scriptures on them and place them around the house, on your car dashboard, around your desk or office. When you see them, read them. Say them out loud if you can.

God tells us what to think about. Philippians 4:8 says,

“…fix your thoughts on what is true, and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can, praise God and be glad about it.”

One of the perks of thinking a new way is the wonderful peace that comes with it. Confusion and a wandering mind doesn’t come from God. Peace and contentment comes from God. The closer we can get our thoughts to align with His, we can have a healthier and more enjoyable thought life.

Stepping Out Into New Things

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God is always doing new things.  Stepping out into something new in our life can be very scary.  We can choose to continue living in our past.  We can choose to stay where we are.  God doesn’t want a stagnant Christian.  He also doesn’t want us reliving our past to the point where we aren’t able to move forward and make progress.  It’s okay to remember the good things of our past, but not to get stuck there.  God wants us to step into new things.  He wants us to trust Him no matter what, with no apprehension.

I ask myself, “Why are you so resistant to new things, when you can clearly see how God has pulled you through so much in your life?”  Times when I didn’t think I had it in me to go one more day, one more week, one more year, my God got me through.  I don’t like being uncomfortable.  Maybe that’s where my resistance stems from.  Fear usually plays a part in it—fear of the unknown.  But mostly, I just don’t like being uncomfortable!

The Bible doesn’t tell me that I have to be comfortable to be obedient.

Sometimes I just have to do things afraid.  Look at all the wonderful stories in the Old Testament when God wanted someone to step out into new things.  One of these stories is in Joshua 1.  God tells Joshua that it’s time for him to take his new position.  Moses had died and Joshua was in mourning.  God tells him it’s time to move forward into his new responsibility, leading the people into the Promised Land.  God tells him to,

“Be strong (confident) and of good courage…”  Joshua 1:6

This process also involves “letting go”.  To let go of something that I have held dear to my heart is not easy!  God is finished with a certain part of my life and if I am to grow further in my walk with Christ I must make a choice to start living, leave a relationship behind and step out in faith.  I shouldn’t be afraid to walk away from something that God is finished with because His Word tells me He as something new and wonderful for me.  My God is a good God and He is a faithful God!  Being a Christian, I must avoid anything that may compromise my relationship with Jesus.  This includes friendships and relationships.

The enemy loves to steal our joy because after all—a weak Christian is not an effective Christian.  Quite frankly, I’m tired of allowing that to happen.  So I am making a conscious choice to step out into new things today and trust in the Lord to direct my paths and lead me into a new part of my life.

 

I Can’t But God Can

I want to share with you an experience I had that involves how God empowers us and guides us in our daily life.

I remember when I had been promoted to an assistant manager position at a previous job. I have only worked there 2 months and by being quickly promoted, it had me both excited and scared.

My confidence level needs much improvement though. In fact, I almost didn’t accept the position because I was really psyching myself out. I was allowing Satan way too much time in my thoughts and almost worked myself into a panic attack. I was questioning whether God really gave me this or was it my own will taking over. Satan had me questioning everything and I was obsessing over it. I was stressed to say the least.

Most of you know my past and the bad choices I have made in my life. My struggle with addiction and years of verbal abuse all play a part in how I feel about myself and my abilities.

I remember the first day running the store by myself. I had a staff of 7 and it was important for me to not only keep everything running smoothly but I also had the strain of having to cut people early due to high labor costs earlier in the week. We have a couple employees who are “high maintenance”. You have to constantly watch them and stay on them to do their job. This alone is very stressful.

As soon as I walked in, there were problems.

Running that store was like a machine. If all the parts aren’t working properly, it quickly falls apart and it can be difficult to recover. So if one employee is lacking, it affects the whole thing. Five minutes after I walked in that day I said softly out loud, “God, you have to help me.”

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:31

No matter what problem was put in front of me and needed my attention and/or leadership, I remained calm and focused. I handled things without getting upset or freaking myself out. I was able to solve any problems that came up and from what I could tell, customers appeared happy with the service. The day wasn’t perfect and we did have a few customers who got upset but I was able to resolve any issues and make them happy before they left.
God gets all the credit!

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This had nothing to do with me. God was with me totally and it was all Him. Our lives can get so busy that we don’t always realize just how much God does for us on a daily basis. We don’t see just how much God is in control and faithfully loves us and guides us 24 hours at a time.

I encourage all of you to take a few moments today and reflect on how God works in your daily life. Ask Him to reveal the “little things” that we often miss. Remember that by humbling ourselves to Him, He empowers us to do things that we normally couldn’t do if left up to our own will.