Have you heard someone share about the steps?

The Twelve Steps are a clear-cut pathway to shed destructive patterns and open up the hearts of blocked, trapped, hurting people to encounter the love of God. Not to intellectually comprehend God’s existence, but to truly experience divine love more and more and more. If you have a desire to hear more about the steps—whether you’re a struggling addict, a recovering addict, a friend or family member of an addict, or merely curious—I encourage you to listen to Buck M., a long-time member of Al-Anon who tells his story and outlines his practice of each step with beautiful humility. He describes how following this way of life has mysteriously led to his personal transformation: “I’m not what I ought to be, I’m not what I want to be, I’m not what I’m going to be. But I’m the best Buck M. I’ve ever had.”

I listened to Buck’s recording on a recent road trip and as he wrapped up his testimony, I found tears softly running down my face. His words brought my mind back to the not-too-distant days when I used to listen to online 12-step speaker tapes as I sat isolated and uncontrollably bingeing on food. I couldn’t stop stuffing my stomach to the point of misery, but even while doing so, deep down I knew it was actually a spiritual hunger that was rumbling within my soul. I sensed that my God was guiding me to join a 12-step program, but I was highly resistant, sure that pursuing that path was basically doom. Listening to speakers was the only action I was willing take at the time, and though I knew that both my body and spirit were withering, it still took quite a while until I desperately decided to ask for and actually accept help from other recovering addicts. That was by far the best decision I’ve made yet.

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I’ve heard it said that the alcoholic’s excessive drinking is a displaced thirst for God and that when alchies start drinking from the truly satisfying Source, the spiritual results are powerful. I believe that. Buck’s story is evidence.

Today I’m rarely tempted by life-destroying substances—a priceless gift from above—but the underlying Al-Anon issues of codependency, self-doubt, people pleasing, approval seeking…those still give me much trouble. As I heard Buck share, I could feel my heart longing for the deep peace his calming voice carries. His God has led him faithfully through the great pain that accompanies alcoholism, and due to his continuous involvement with the 12-step fellowship, he’s also had the privilege to witness incredible miracles. I want what Buck has. Perhaps my heart is nudging me to seek some more teachers and ask for some more help.

“AA and Al-Anon and Alateen is the bread of life for the alcoholic and his family…So big is the human being’s soul that only God can fill it…Love is the one thing that God reserved to conquer every man…love is the one thing against which the hardest heart will eventually melt. And this is not theory; I’m sharing my experience with you.” (22:20)

Have you heard someone share about the steps?

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Who in your life has angel eyes?

I recently had to say a pretty painful goodbye. After counseling a little seven-year-old fellow (let’s call him Carl) for about two months and just beginning to build a solid therapy bond, I had to look into his pair of precious eyes and tell him I was moving towns. I imagine that Carl’s resilient young soul bounced back from the news and our subsequent separation without much trouble, but it sure hurt my heart. Goodbyes are hard.

It didn’t help that this particular kiddo is a half-white/half-black absolute cutie with that smooth honey-colored skin, a superb head of bouncy curls, and huge hazel eyes that can manipulate like nobody’s business. His humor is priceless and while some sessions included tears, a good dose of laughter was always a guarantee. And how closely I related to his dear emotional sensitivity, which is a delicate gift that he is now beginning to learn to handle with care. Needless to say, when Carl showed up on my caseload, I received an unexpected blessing.

Saying goodbye was especially difficult for me to do because Carl’s current family is flat-out chaos. Stability is something he craves, and I couldn’t stand the idea of being a person who stepped into his world, shared a short stint of love, and then stepped back out. Much of my heart wanted to stay, to walk with him, to try my best to be present and supportive and dependable. But life was leading me a different direction—to another location a couple hours away—and thus our farewell was fated.

So I sought help from a supervisor: What do I say to a child who clearly needs consistency as I prepare to walk out of the door and never see him again? How do I communicate that trusting other people is possible when I’ve asked for his trust and am now turning my back? How do I let go when I’m secretly wanting to embrace this sweet little guy and help him feel at least somewhat secure?

My supervisor passed along a few wise words that I received gratefully not only for my client, but for myself as well. Basically, he advised me to close with a discussion about the simple idea that God sends us safe people—angels, if you will—who come into our lives at just the right time. Sometimes these people stay a long while, perhaps accompanying us along our entire life journey. At other times they enter for just a bit, and so our “hi’s” and “bye’s” have to happen fairly quickly. Though it’s never easy to part ways with these special people, we can always trust that when one leaves, God will bring another. I told Carl that we always need to be on the lookout, as if we’re on a treasure hunt, because God never leaves us alone. If our eyes are open, we’ll be able to see angels all around.

Reflecting on how closely my supervisor’s perspective applied to my personal experiences, I offered Carl comfort by assuring him that though I was having to step back, another “safe person” was sure to step right in. We then launched into a conversation about how to identify these so-called safe people and Carl softly spoke, “you can see it in their eyes.” I fully agree.

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Who in your life has angel eyes?

What are you keeping hidden inside?

Knowing of my current fascination with all things Texas, a friend sent me a quote today out of a Katharine Hepburn personal biography she’s reading. Her text put a big grin on my face.

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50fa597d53e06303b80ba59a2fcad303Who can fault Katharine for hiding her girlish affections from that rugged 6’4″ hunk of a man? Surely we can all relate—whether it’s butterflies, criticisms, admiration or envy, it’s human nature (and often healthy) to keep “embarrassing” or “unacceptable” thoughts and feelings tucked privately within.

I wonder how differently this world would look if all of our insides consistently matched our outsides, and if everyone chose to share openly rather than to screen. I wonder if always knowing how others truly felt would be freeing or unbearably overwhelming.

But more importantly, having now heard of Katharine’s tender heart towards the Duke, I sure wonder how he felt about her.

What are you keeping hidden inside?

What does friendship mean to you?

Companionship—the “journeying with” kind of relationship that can last a lifetime—has been on my heart and mind here lately. Such an intimate alliance seems to be a divine gift that can’t be forced and must be held with open hands, but also must be chosen and actively nurtured. Just yesterday a relevant post showed up in my inbox, introducing me to a beautiful pledge from one peer to another…

I offer you the gift of my friendship:
To accept you and affirm you.
To believe in you and be there for you.
To support your dreams and support your arms.
To give you the gift of knees in prayer
To give you the gift of hands in help
To give you the gift of heart in friendship.
I offer you the gift of being your Jonathan, your Barnabas, your Ruth,
by the grace of Jesus alone.

The author also included a joint commitment for the hard times:

We will offer each other the gift of
forgiveness when we fail
grace when we fall down
mercy when we’re messy
because we’re the ones forgiven of much
lavished with His grace
freed into whole skies of mercy.

I like that.

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What does friendship mean to you?

When your feelings are crazy, how is your soul?

Up, down, and all over the place. My emotions can be messy and messy emotions sure can complicate relationships. Honestly, it’s hard for me to discern which emotional fluctuations are typical human shifts in mood, which are standard female hormonal changes, which are biological chemical imbalances, and which are just crazy irrational reactions that need to be recognized and reframed.

Recovery from addiction adds to the confusion. Letting go of soothing difficult emotions with a substance, becoming able to identify what’s going on inside oneself, learning how to communicate the feelings and respond appropriately—these are “growing up” processes that take time. Most people gain these skills in a pretty standard developmental pattern alongside their peers. For recovering addicts, however, acquiring these skills can be quite humbling because while our bodies may appear one age, our internal emotional maturity usually lags far behind. Maybe we can fake levelheadedness and propriety when our drug of choice is within reach, but take away the substance and our childishness and unregulated emotions usually can’t be contained for long.

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To kick the maturation process back into gear, a person has to first let go of the substance and then let the not-so-fun “growing up in public” begin. Personally, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have other recovering people gently and lovingly guide me along this path—one that has punctured my pride time and again. I’m slowly learning to chuckle when I see myself acting adolescent (or even younger) in certain areas of life, and to be grateful that at least I’m now headed in the right direction.

In a recent bout of being rather bonkers, I came across a passage from the Imitation of Christ that reminded me where to find my anchor during times of turbulence. Maybe I am crazy. But even still, Christ stays stable.

Chapter 33: The Inconstancy of Our Heart and Directing Our Final Intention to God

Christ:
Son, trust not to thy present affection, it will quickly be changed into another. As long as though livest thou art subject to change, even against thy will; so as to be sometimes joyful, at other times sad; now easy, again troubled; at one time devout, at another dry; sometimes fervent, at other times sluggish; one day heavy, another lighter.
But he that is wise and well instructed in spirit stands above all these changes; not minding what he feels in himself, nor on what side the wind of instability blows; but that the whole bent of his soul may advance towards his due and wished-for end.
For so he may continue one and the self same, without being shaken, by directing without ceasing, through all this variety of events, the single eye of his intention towards Me. And by how much purer the eye of the intention is, with so much greater constancy mayst thou pass through these diverse storms.
But in many the eye of pure intention is dark, for men quickly look towards something delightful which comes in their way. And it is rare to find one wholly free from all blemish of self-seeking…the eye of the intention therefore must be purified that it may be single and right, and must be directed unto Me, beyond all other objects that interpose themselves.

Consistently maintaining a pure and single focus? Not this sinner, not this side of heaven. But it’s surely a worthwhile goal to pray for and take steps towards—especially for someone whose emotions can be as messy as mine.

When your feelings are crazy, how is your soul?