Keep Walking

“You ever feel pressure to be perfect? Like, once you start in your steps you can never fail again? We all have the ability to become robotic in our recoveries and avoid feeling. Nobody likes to be tense, uptight, or stressed. Celebrate Recovery can help people recover from perfectionism or control. We all make mistakes and will continue to make them. We need to have grace for ourselves and others… just like God has grace for us. You are not a robot.” (quote from February 1, 2022, post on Celebrate Recovery Facebook page)

This year, I volunteered to co-lead a Journey Begins step study in my local CR. I was honest with my other co-leaders that I had come to realize that my first step study really dealt with my own self-hatred and the issues I was dealing with when I first entered recovery. As I have dug deeper into my heart and sought to bring ALL my hurts, hang-ups, and habits to Father, I realized that there was a lot of pain I had still been suppressing. Those have been rising to the surface in a desire to find the same freedom and healing that I initially experienced, and I have been hard-pressed to continue to ignore them. In fact, I did try for quite awhile, but there is still a hurting little girl inside me who demands to be seen and taken care of, and I have learned I am not loving myself well if I neglect those hurting parts of myself. I feel like I am clinging with all ten of my toes to a precipice overlooking deep pain, and I have no idea how I am going to react once I step off that ledge. There is a part of me that fears that possible reaction. I am afraid that it will be more than I can handle, and that I will shut down or even have an emotional breakdown. I wanted to be upfront with them, even though a dear mentor and one of the leaders of my very first step study assured me that would not happen. It’s so easy to fear the unknown, even when that is one’s self.

As I have gone further into our first Participant’s Guide answering each question honestly, I have seen my anxiety, my co-dependency, and what I am calling my control-freakiness explode. It took me awhile to realize that a lot of this is due to the fact that I was caught unaware by all the pain that I still have lurking, including, to my dismay, things I thought I had already worked through. My sponsor has encouraged me that I HAD worked through some of those things, but as I access deeper pain I also am bringing to surface the coping mechanisms that I developed in order to be able to survive that pain when I was not ready to deal with it. One of those things, I am finding, is perfectionism. I’ve always known I had perfectionist tendencies. That tends to go along with having a critical parent whose love seemed to be conditional upon my performance. Failures were always noticed and criticized. Achievements were rarely acknowledged. I have lived my life with a debilitating fear of failure. If I was uncertain if I would be able to learn to do something quickly and proficiently, I would not even try. Failure was not an option. It was too great a risk to try something I might not be good at, or even worse, FAIL in doing. And I have come to realize that my fear of failure is rooted in an intense fear of rejection and abandonment. The whys of that are for another time. What is relevant to me right now is that taking a step to lead this step study has been a huge risk. What if I FAIL? I have spent my life perfectly content to be in the background, on the sidelines, out of notice but also out of responsibility. Now, there are women looking to me to lead, to be an example for them to follow and learn from my experience, strength, and hope. Becoming a sponsor was terrifying. This is on a whole other level. What happens if I lose it? What happens if I fall apart? What kind of an example am I then?

The truth is, which I would tell any sponsee if she asked me the same questions, I WILL fail…in some things. I am NOT perfect… and that’s okay. In fact, I am incapable of being perfect. In recovery, relapse is not the end. All I need to do IF I relapse is go back to that first step. Choose again to admit that “I am powerless over my addictions and compulsive behaviors and that my life has become unmanageable”. The great news is that I have travelled this road before. The steps are familiar, and I know the way. I just need to release the control, “consciously choose to commit my life and my will over to Christ’s care and control”, and work the steps again…one at a time. I don’t know what the future of this step study holds for me. I don’t know what my next inventory will dig up. I do know a few things. There are a whole lot more positives on my inventory this time around. I have experienced healing and freedom from the pain of addiction before, and there is HOPE that I will do so again. Father hasn’t changed. He is the same God who took me through the pain of my sexual abuse and equipped me to truly forgive my perpetrator. He is the same God now who can heal the wounds of emotional abuse and neglect and be the constant and unconditionally loving parent that I lacked. And IF I fail, as long as I don’t give up, as long as I start with that first step again and keep taking one step at a time, I am not a FAILURE. The road to recovery is full of starts, stops, rabbit trails, resting, sitting down by the road, going back to the beginning, but still moving in a forward direction. Recovery is “Progress, not perfection”. And no matter which way this goes, I know my experience will still be able to help and encourage others along the road.

Keep walking.

Recovery During a Season of Grief

Recovery is hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it as anything other than hard work and tenacity. There are seasons of rest and joy and celebration when the work pays off, but there’s also a need to be honest with myself about the pain that has driven me to do the things I do and make the choices I make and a willingness to work through the pain I’ve spent decades avoiding because the only real way out is through. But those times I get that victory, and those hurts get healed…it makes every step of the journey worth it.

And then, I suddenly find myself an orphan. And the one person who had been there from my first memory isn’t there anymore. Suddenly, recovery becomes like trying to drag a 50-lb. boulder tied around my waist up a steep mountain on a path I can barely see anymore. It takes concerted effort just to put one foot in front of another. It takes a lot of setting aside time just to sob uncontrollably in a safe environment so I don’t lose it in a public place. It takes relapsing and running back to food to find some comfort when there’s none to be had. And then it’s shame because I feel like I failed, and I’m right back to step one…again and again and again. Recovery is hard. Recovery in the midst of grief is a battle. I lost a few skirmishes along the way. But I kept fighting. I’ve been bloody and bone-weary and felt like giving up. But I kept fighting. I’m still so very sad, and I miss my mom so much sometimes it is a palpable pain. But I keep fighting. I keep taking one step at a time, even if it is just an inch, because I know the fight is worth it. I know there is still hope and healing in honesty. I keep trusting the process. And I put my hand into the hand of the only Parent I have left because I KNOW He cares for me, and He will never leave me. And the journey continues.

Recovery is hard. Grief is hard. But I do not walk through either one alone. I have a team. I have encouragers. I have those who just sit with me and let me cry. I have people who pray. I have a coach who tells me the truth even when I don’t want to hear it and never gets upset when I say I’m not ready to talk about something. I have mentors who have walked the path before me. I have those who reach out when they haven’t heard from me in awhile because they know my tendency to isolate and shut down when I’m hurting. And I have a few friends that stick closer than sisters. I am not alone. Because I know I’m not alone, I know I can keep fighting. I can do the hard, “one day at a time, one moment at a time”.

1,095 Days – One Day at a Time

Three years ago, I could not have imagined where I am today. I walked through those double doors on a Friday night, absolutely petrified. I didn’t like crowds. I felt uncomfortable around strangers. And I had no familiar person to hide behind, which was my preferred place to be. It had been a long year to get to that point. A year of Father prompting and nudging that these were the steps (HA!) that I needed to take. Even after I decided I was desperate enough to seek help and shared with my best friends I was finally going to start this journey, it still took three weeks of loving (annoying) prompting from one of them (“Are you going this week?”) before I finally surrendered. And truth be told, I went that first week just to shut her up. (I did not realize yet how much of a people pleaser I am.)

Walking through those doors into that cavernous room filled with a cacophony of voices, I made a beeline for the outskirts, my favorite place to be. All the way to the left, as close to the wall as I could get, buried in the middle row so I wouldn’t be too far forward or visible from behind. A wallflower; invisible. My comfort zone.

Once worship started, I was able to set aside my fear briefly (for the most part). People around me weren’t paying attention to me. They were worshiping! It was glorious! I was able to lose myself in the singing for awhile, but soon the music was over and the lesson began. I don’t even remember what the lesson was that night. All I recall was sitting in that seat completely certain that no woman there in that “Fellowship Hall” was struggling with what I had been battling for three decades. I felt alone, hopeless, and fairly sure this place couldn’t help me.

Anyone’s first night at Celebrate Recovery, they are encouraged to go to a one-time group called CR 101. This is a group that educates newcomers on the small group format, what group options there are, and answers any questions. After large group, I dutifully filed into the room where CR 101 was held and sat down in the very back. I don’t remember processing consciously that it was so I could make a quick getaway, but having come to know myself a bit better, I’m pretty sure that was definitely a consideration. CR 101 has both a male and a female leader, and the group starts with each leader giving a short 2-3 minute testimony of their recovery. The woman that was leading that night began to share her story, and all I could do was sit there in shock, tears coursing down my face, as she told my story. In fact, her story was more horrific than mine, but there she was, boldly proclaiming that she had sought recovery for much of the same that finally drove me through those double doors. And I began, just a little bit, to have hope that maybe, just maybe, this WAS where Father wanted me to be.

The next week I returned, a little more hopeful, a little less afraid. I went to a small group I thought might fit (it didn’t). After small group, I went to Solid Rock, a gathering for meeting new people and developing relationships. I had skipped it my first week because I was so overwhelmed, but this time I was determined to track down that lady leader from the week before. When I found her, I expressed to her how much it meant to me that she had shared her testimony, that I had been convinced I was the only one. She listened to me then shared how she hadn’t even been on the roster to lead CR 101 that night. The woman that had been scheduled to lead had to cancel that afternoon, and she was the one asked to fill in. I don’t think I will ever forget the immense awareness of Father’s love for me in that moment.

I could not have imagined the amount of healing I would experience over the next three years. After decades of being depressed, I had no concept of what it would feel like to NOT be. I didn’t have a clue of the number of tools I would gain to help me learn new strategies for processing my pain, or that one day I would be sponsoring other women and helping them learn those tools. All I knew that night was that, for the first time ever, I had a sense that there was hope, and that I had taken that first step.

And I’ve never looked back.