Four years ago I walked through the doors of my church for a recovery meeting. I was really there to try to support… help… okay, fix another person that I thought could benefit from the meeting. What I found was how deeply hurting I was, and how I really needed the support and help to recover from my own hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
Celebrate Recovery became a safe place for me to take off my mask, understand myself and my issues better, and find healing in a Christ-centered recovery program. [Celebrate Recovery is an international program started at Saddleback Church with Rick Warren and John Baker in 1991. The program is now offered in over 35,000 churches, prisons, rescue missions, and colleges worldwide].
Over the past four years I dug deeper to the root of my issues, completed a 12-step study, attended a CR conference last summer in the Nashville area with 3,000 other people in recovery (it was AWESOME), and entered into leadership at our church’s CR ministry. I now mentor other women, help lead the Newcomer’s class, serve as the co-leader for the Monday night worship team, and am passionate about recovery in all aspects (not just my brand of recovery). This is part of the life work I know I am called to do, and I am so thankful for the way this ministry opened my eyes to the pain and struggle of others (outside of my own “stuff”). At the end of the day, we’re a room full of people who love the Lord and want to be real about where we’ve been, but also find hope in where God can lead us next.
The first step of recovery (for ANY area in life) is stepping out of denial; admitting that we no longer have control. In the language we use at CR,
“We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.”
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. -Romans 7:18
Once we admit that we do not have control over those compulsions, those painful areas of our lives, or other people, change is finally, truly possible. But first we have to get to that point of unmanageable–the out of control, rock bottom, heart break that life cannot go on like this any more.
Each Monday, for the past four years, I have introduced myself in this way:
“Hi, my name is Heather. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, and I am in recovery for codependence, anxiety, and divorce.”
We introduce ourselves in this way to first of all recognize that our greatest identity is found in the Lord (our addictions do not define us!). We list our areas of recovery second to keep us out of denial– there is something very vulnerable about sharing those struggles out loud… but also extremely freeing to know that there are others who can relate, encourage you, and spur you on to greater growth. Once we say them out loud, those secret heavy things we’ve been carrying around for so long start to have a little less power. It is then that we can finally get to work.
At some point I would love to tell you more about codependence and God’s journey in my life of shifting my identity away from extreme people-pleasing to finding my identity in Him. And I’d love to tell you more about these 12 steps that completely changed my life.
But this week, what’s heavy on my heart is that my busyness is no longer something I can manage. It is officially… unmanageable. I have shared before with friends, family, colleagues, and my recovery friends that this is a deep-rooted struggle that has been a part of my pattern of existence for as long as I can remember. High school was stacked full of the hardest academic classes I could take, school plays, band, student council, church youth group, private flute lessons and voice lessons, a touring show choir, and a restaurant job. When I got to college, I promised myself that the fresh start would allow me to hit re-set. It didn’t take long for me to pick up new roles and routines that were jam-packed into my days, along with trying to find more balance for a social life. But that meant lunch dates and coffee dates and weekend outings with girlfriends and more things packed in than I could handle. I kept pushing. When I would come home on Christmas and summer breaks I would just sleep for the first 2 or 3 days home, only waking to eat. My mom would ask me what was wrong, but I was just purely exhausted.
My adult life at 30? I could post a picture of my calendar here but I think that would only prove a point I’m finally coming to see– my own pride. A sense of self worth in how much I can juggle before breaking. I think there are roots of this busyness habit that are very much tied to my codependence (identity based in what others think/not wanting to let others down), but there is fresh, new work to do here. There are new layers to address about how I find a sense of worth in performing well, and coming to REST in the identity God has given me instead of one I create for myself or how I am perceived by others.
As this realization really started to hit me this week, in yet another cycle of burnout and exhaustion and a 4th of July Wednesday that involved sleeping and “wasting” half of my day off, I realized…. unmanageable. For how much I CRAVE rest, peace, stillness, rhythms that feel intentional and slow, why have I not been able to change this pattern? I picked up a book from my bookshelf that I started reading two years ago. But this message is right on target with the reminders I need right now, in handing over my whirlwind of a lifestyle to God and STOPPING. To learn to be more present than perfect. To be more still than successful. To have peace when I sit in quiet instead of a frantic to-do list constantly running in my head to do more, or to be more.
There was an ah-ha moment for me when I hit this passage in Shauna’s book:
“You can make a drug– a way to anesthetize yourself– out of anything: working out, binge-watching TV, working, having sex, shopping, volunteering, cleaning dieting. Any of those things can keep you from feeling pain for a while– that’s what drugs do…
Most of us have a handful of these drugs, and its terrifying to think of living without them. It is terrifying: wildly unprotected, vulnerable, staring our wounds right in the face. But this is where we grow, where we learn, where our lives actually begin to change.”
So on that note friends, I am ready to take step 1 to admit that my busyness has become unmanageable. I’m ready to strip it away and look at the wounds and meet change.
“Hi, I’m Heather. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. And I am addicted to busyness.”
This week, the greatest joys after making this realization were the moments of stillness and stopping to pay attention….
I realized that every time I get in the car I use my voice-activated Siri and tell her to make a note in my phone about new things to add to my grocery list, my to-do list, my writing list, or to send a text message for me. My boyfriend (a wise man who gets me/my heart) challenged me to use my car rides for prayer or worship time. I loved it on the first morning…. but by the afternoon I auto-piloted into making a phone call when I got in the car. It’s deeply ingrained, but I am making progress by taking note, giving myself grace, and making heart adjustments.
I wanted to work through lunch on Tuesday (a particularly busy/stressful day), but instead took a midday run through 90 degree humidity (I packed shorts, so don’t worry, I wasn’t running in a dress). I listened to a thought-provoking and centering podcast with J.A. Medders and Tony Merida about Christ-centered writing [Home Row, episode 31]. I let myself run slow up hills, and I took mental note of every single beautiful, simple thing I saw. I literally stopped to smell flowers. I waved at people I passed. I looked goofy, I’m sure, jogging in the heat, with a big happy grin on my face. But I felt peace.
I spent time digging into Romans and DELIGHTED over all of the exciting ways the Word came to life. I could not get enough! So this weekend, I am unplugging. I am going to pay attention to where my sinful tendencies rise up to cover up any emptiness with activity, and I am going to work on being more present with my son and the people God has me with each moment. I hope you can do the same, one day at a time, one moment at a time.
If any of this struck a chord with you, I’d encourage you to press in. Take note. Maybe sit with the question for a few minutes in a quiet place…are there any areas of your life that feel unmanageable/out of control? It’s okay (even freeing) to admit it to a safe and trusted friend… that’s where the healing begins. If I can pray for you let me know – I’d be honored.