The group I attend in Texas is on Sunday nights. I don't really love that because I always selfishly want Sundays to be about spending more time with Ben...but I determined that I would attend group here regularly. Because I need to. I really need to, and I recognize that. (insert exasperated sigh) It's just so easy to come up with excuses not to go, and the fact that it's on Sunday is one of those easy excuses. "I need time with Ben. I'm healing my marriage," is one of the tricks Satan uses to talk me out of going. That, and yesterday, there was the fact that it was Easter.
I went back and forth all day about going to group or not. Because it was Easter. "There might not be many people there. Or maybe it's supposed to be cancelled, but they forgot to tell us last week. So I'll drive 25 minutes and the church will be locked." Excuses, excuses. Then, Ben was having a hard time, and I co-dependently wanted him to tell me he needed me to stay home so I could use that as an excuse. Except when I realized I was not being true to myself, I took a moment to really think about why I didn't want to go to group. The plain and simple truth was that I was afraid of going because it's still a new group. And I was being lazy because it's a 25 minute drive. So I said a little prayer in my heart asking for guidance, and I felt like I needed to be there.
I needed to be there, and I'm so glad I went. There was no better way that I could have honored Christ on the Sabbath, and especially on Easter.
One reason I needed to be there was because we had a new attendee. It was her first group experience EVER, as she had discovered the porn just a week ago. I was able to have a really good conversation with her and bear testimony of the hand of God in my life--my recovery, my husband's recovery, and OUR recovery. I was able to bear testimony of so much, and it was a really powerful experience for me (and I hope it was for her as well).
Another reason I needed to be there was because we studied step 10--my favorite. Well, they are all my favorites, but step 10 was my favorite last night.
I love step 10 because it is a gentle reminder and application of ALL THE STEPS. It's a reminder that we need to hold ourselves accountable on a daily basis.
I kind of stopped working the steps because I was really depressed. And, I'll be honest, I really struggled with my group in Arkansas because it was so small and I felt like I wasn't getting much out of it. I was just in a bad place and had a hard time finding my way out.
The "bad place" comes and goes. I really fought it last week. Bad. It was a chore to get up and get dressed every day. I counted the fact that I woke up as an accomplishment. And if I did the dishes or made dinner it was an accomplishment. Sometimes we have weeks like that, and we really need them. I know I am mourning and grieving still, and it was necessary for me to have that time last week to process. I don't regret needing that time to process or feel depressed. But I did behave in ways, on occasion, that were mean. I use depression and PMS as an excuse to be mean, and it's not okay. SO...
How much different could my week have been had I been applying the 12 steps?
I know the 12 steps don't always strike everyone's hearts like they do mine, but I have a firm testimony in them. It is my personal belief that no matter what you say, we all need and use the 12 steps (it's a powerful tool to recovery when combined with the other tools out there. I certainly don't think there is any one way for anybody to recover). Even if it's subconscious. I mean, the only true way to "come unto Christ and be perfected in Him" is through the process of understanding that we are not in control of our lives, hoping in God's power to restore us to complete spiritual health, deciding to turn our life over to Him, experiencing a change of heart, being humble, seeking forgiveness and repentance, practicing the principles of the gospel on a daily basis, seeking and carrying out the Lord's will in our lives, and giving service. No matter what your circumstance may be.
I am very familiar with the pattern of the 12 steps. I am familiar with the message and power they give me. I am familiar with the process of carrying them out, and yet I still forget about them. More especially, I still forget about daily accountability.
I was reminded recently (in a church talk or lesson? The book I just finished reading? I don't know) that Jesus Christ is supposed to be my best friend. I need to be turning to Him before I turn anywhere else. When I am struggling with the depression, pain, anxiety, and grieving that has been caused by this addiction, I need to turn to Him first. I have many ways of processing, but when I humble myself and ask for His help, I always pull out of the depression faster. Always. And that should really be the first step I take to get out of the "rut." Sometimes it takes me days before I turn to Him because I still harbor that pride saying, "I can do this on my own." Sometimes it takes me hours. Sometimes I know I need to be humble, so I will attempt humility, but it's not truly in my heart (which doesn't work that well, but does work better than no attempt at all). Regardless, I know without a doubt that God has always heard and answered my prayers when I turn to Him humbly with full purpose of heart.
That brings me back to my question: How much different could my week have been had I been applying the 12 steps? Specifically Step 10: Daily Accountability?
As we studied and discussed this chapter last night, it was like a nice slap in the face. It was a gentle reminder of truths I desperately needed to hear. It was full of guidance I need for future weeks:
"The first nine steps helped you learn a pattern of life based on spiritual principles. These principles now become the foundation on which you build for the rest of your life...The final three steps will help you maintain your new spiritually minded way of life, so they are often called the maintenance steps."
"...maintaining a mighty change of heart takes effort."
"To retain what you have gained, you must stay in fit spiritual condition."
"Continue to watch for pride in all its forms, and humbly take your weaknesses to your Heavenly Father."
"If you feel worried, self-pitying, trouble, anxious, resentful, carnal minded, or fearful in any way, turn immediately to the Father and allow Him to replace these thoughts with peace."
I need to ask Heavenly Father to remove my negative thoughts and feelings.
I need to examine my motives. And sometimes they are not pure. Sometimes I am manipulative. Because I'm hurting.
Am I taking care of my basic spiritual, emotional, and physical needs? (Self care! Boom!)
Do I serve others?
I need to be alert for old thinking patterns and behaviors during highly stressful situations.
"The Lord has all power. I'll relax and trust Him."
"Cast aside pride and remind yourself that sincerely saying 'I was wrong' is often just as important in healing a relationship as saying 'I love you.'" This especially applies to me--because, believe it or not, I do enough wrong in our relationship. And I harbor lots of pride because Ben is the one who should be apologizing to me regularly, right? Nope. I still need to recognize what I am doing wrong.
Before I go to bed, I need to examine my entire day and counsel with the Lord.
I will continue to make mistakes, but by committing to step 10, I am committing to take full responsibility for my mistakes.
I can't just sit back and ride along. If I live my life that way, I won't get very far. Sitting back for the ride has its place and is necessary sometimes, but I'm getting to the point where sitting back and riding the emotions isn't going to cut it much longer. It's certainly been helpful, and I know I will still need that practice at times in the future, but I need to make serious effort to living my life the way it needs to be lived or my recovery and healing. I need to adhere to the principles I know will bring me to Christ. I need to maintain my recovery. To do that, I need self-evaluation. I need humility and repentance. I need to stay in "fit spiritual condition." And humility. I need to turn to the Father and allow Him to replace my negative thoughts with peace. I need self-care. And service. I need to be alert. And trust God. I need to counsel with God--morning and evening. I need to bring Him into my life like He is my best friend.
All of this is easier said than done. But I'm working on wholehearted healing, people! These are the things I need to be doing to experience true healing and a closer relationship with my Savior.
Right now I'm full of light, hope, and energy. I know it changes daily--sometimes hourly. It's all part of the healing process. But these days, I am finding more hope and light than despair and darkness. I hope to keep it that way. And I can--if I follow the maintenance steps, which basically means I follow all the steps. And live with them close to my heart. Daily.