Why I am a Professed Approval Addict

I am an approval addict. There, I said it.

“I AM AN APPROVAL ADDICT!!!” Goodness, that feels good. It’s empowering to own up to the things we struggle with, don’t you think?

Being an approval addict began as a child, for me and intensified over the years. Now, in the age of social media, it only exacerbates the problem. I have the constant temptation every time I make a post to see if people “liked” my post, left a comment, or the ultimate compliment, “shared” my content with their followers.

Maybe I am the only one to deal with being an approval addict, but my guess is on some level you too are challenged with wanting, really needing the approval of others.

How do I know this?

We were all created with a need for approval. As image bearers of God, He created us with a desire to be fully known, and fully approved by Him. But, here is the good news.

“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

Did you catch that last part? Let me repeat it, “God favors what you do.”

He. favors. you. Gosh, I love those three words.

But here is the problem, as much as He has set our hearts to be approved by Him, we get it all mixed up.

We take the desire God gave us for heaven, and we set our sights on earth. #approvaladdict

We warp the pure relationship we could have with Him which is healthy, honorable, and true and exchange it for one that will never be able to fully satisfy our needs.

We seek the approval of those around us. In our homes; at school; in our workplaces and online.

We put more value in what the person on the other side of the screen thinks of us than honoring the God who created us.

In the core of our addiction, we have a slew of challenges wrapped up in packages of people pleasing, insecurity, jealousy, control, and anger, just to name a few. When we let it all pile up we isolate and become depressed. (Fact: People in depression and taking depression related medication have hit epidemic proportions.)

It’s been years since I admitted I had a problem. Since then God has taken me on a journey to learn how to overcome this addiction to approval, and though I am not completely healed, yet…I believe I have some wisdom I can share with you. 

This is why I have written a book called Like Me…or Not: Overcoming the Addiction to Approval which will tentatively be in bookstores this summer (2018).

So why would a self-professed approval addict, ever go through the intense approval-seeking, platform building and editing-process of publishing a book and announcing this inner-struggle to the world?

You.

You are the reason why I am professing I am an approval addict to the world.

You are why I just spent the last year pouring out my heart over what was once 65,000 words, now chopped down to 57,000 words and by the time my editor at Worthy-Inspired gets through with it, it will be less than 50,000 words. (Talk about having to be willing to let go of your need for approval. Ouch.)

You are also why I am subjecting myself to the daily temptation of seeking approval by posting online, writing blogs, finding speaking engagements, and sharing some of my most vulnerable moments with the world.

I am doing all of this because I know there is strength in vulnerability. We can find unity in our weaknesses. And that maybe, just maybe, as I share my struggles you can feel the freedom to share yours.

Why I am a Professed Approval Addict @dawnmarieowens #approvaladdict

Does any of this sound interesting to you? Great! Because now, I am going to need your help. It’s one thing to write the book. It’s another feat to find an agent to represent you, and then to get a publisher that is interested in publishing the book. As if that is not enough, now I have to figure out how to sell the book.

But, that’s where you come in.

So, here is what you can do to help. If you aren’t already, start following me on one of my social media platforms through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I also am starting to have a presence on Pinterest.

You will also want to sign up for updates because I know you want to be up-to-date on all the new book information. So stop reading now, and subscribe to my blog emails. You can do that on the right-hand side of the page. That’s all I need you to do for now. (Unless of course, you would like to happen to share some of my blogs, my posts, my tweets, or pin images to your boards.) The key now is for me to start sharing with everyone that I can that I wrote a book and help others know they can find answers if they read it.

The key now is for me to start sharing with everyone I can that I wrote a book about overcoming the addiction to approval and how it can help others know they can find answers if they read it.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to share with you the back story of how God opened up the door for me to get my book published and how I had to battle my approval addiction at every turn.

Even if you don’t ever want to publish a book, I promise you’ll learn a few things from my missteps, which will help you not only understand more about your need approval. But, it will also teach you how to deal with those everyday challenges us approval addicts need to learn how to face head-on.

Let’s start off our journey together nice and easy, shall we? Tell me who you are, where you’re from, and why you feel like approval addiction is an important topic for us to cover in this day and age. Share below so we can all engage together and we’ll know none of us are alone.

Want to check out my last few posts?

Hope: How Badly Do You Want It

5 Ways to Lose Hope

hope that is seen

Hope: How Badly Do You Want It?

Some things in life are just worth the fight. Hope is one of them. But what about when your circumstances dictate the exact opposite? Then what?

How badly do you want it? Would you go to battle to see the very thing you are hoping to come to fruition?

And if you are, what will you sacrifice to get there?

Sometimes, when, our future seems bleak, we need to choose to fight. We’ll need to be ready to get uncomfortable to face our fears, and then we need to dig in deep to decide we are not going to lose hope.

If only it were that easy.

Times when our beliefs and emotions vary, we need to find comfort in the tension. Enter hope.

Lori felt exactly like that when she went off to jail for the first time at age thirty-eight. She never thought her life would land up this way, but it did. All she had in front of her was a pile of her consequences.

Lor's Hope in Family
Lori (middle) with her daughter and husband.

Five years before this time, she had a wonderful husband, two children, and life was good. Despite being brought up by her grandparents as a toddler and then later, by two parents caught in the grips of alcoholism. Lori overcame the odds of what could have been in growing up in that environment, that was until her husband went to jail for a year, on a misdemeanor charge. While her husband sat in jail, Lori’s world turned upside down.

Instead of helping her while her husband was away, people took advantage of her. Within a year she was raped twice, and to numb her pain, she turned to drugs.

When her husband came home from prison he didn’t even recognize her. He said to her, “What happened to my wife?”

Her response was one born out of pain, “She died.”

This lifestyle then extended to her husband as life seemed to get worse and worse for them. As she sat in jail, with her future looking bleak, no family to support them, and little in the way of options. Her and her husband, also in jail at the time, decided that they would pray.

Sometimes when there seems to be no way out, the only place to look is up.

Romans 8:24, NIV says, “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

Lori and her husband soon learned that God could provide a way out. In their desperation, they realized they could not go back to the same place they came from or back to the same friends. They needed hope, and it came in the form of rehab.

God provided through family members who had earlier given up hope, but through their prayers, God changed their hearts.

Now, both Lori and her husband are fighting for what their future in rehab. In the midst of what felt like a hopeless situation, Lori and her husband have learned to put their faith in what God could accomplish, not in what they could.

In doing so, their lives changed significantly.

Lori enrolled in a 9-month residential rehabilitation program through Restoring Women Outreach. She also enrolled in our Pure Joy Goods job-training program. In her job-training program, here at The Community Place, Lori uses her gifts and talents to create beautiful pallet art. She takes classes, attends recovery meetings, and is mentored by one of our staff.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick

You can support Lori on her journey to hope, by purchasing a piece of pallet art. For every $10 you spend, it is the equivalent of one hour of job-training and support services.

So how about you? Are you like Lori, recognizing hope exists in the unseen, not in what you currently perceive? Or will you allow your emotions to dictate what you believe your future will hold?

If you want to fight for hope you are going to have to do the following:

  1. Submit your will to God’s, just like Lori did in jail.
  2. You’ll have to believe beyond your circumstance that your future includes hope, and not focus on how today feels. Your emotions do not dictate what God has in store for you.
  3. Cling to the scriptures. You will need them to be armed against the attacks of the enemy as he seeks to deter your faith.

Someday, Lori’s family will be restored, all because she fights daily for the hope of what will be, not what it is today.

Everyone struggles when the situation looks bleak. But we have a choice. How will you arm yourself in battle to obtain the hope you seek? Comment below and let’s encourage each other in our battle for the things we do not see.

 

Uncomfortable: One Family’s Story of Reconciliation

Leslie never imagined her life would turn out that way.

Addicted to drugs.

Estranged from her family.

Selling everything she had to eat and to use.

She never imagined a day when the Department of Human Resources (DHR) would take her 3-year-old son, Garrett away from her.

But it happened.

A few weeks ago we discussed how there are times in our lives we need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to receive a blessing. We used a story from 1 Kings of Elisha and the Shunammite woman. You can read that post here.

At the time Garrett was taken from Leslie, her addiction got worse, not better. Having her son removed from her custody only increased her drug use rather than her wake up call, her rock bottom.

“The day they took Garrett from me, I remember throwing a fit on my porch,” Leslie shared. I slammed my head against the pillar, kicked the table, and slammed the door going into my house.”

By this time Leslie had so much anger, hurt, and unforgiveness deeply rooted in her heart, the only way she knew to cope with the pain was by acting out.

She was already distant from God. She distanced herself further from healthy, safe people, and sunk deeper into addiction.

For Leslie it wasn’t an “ah-a” God moment that turned her life around. In fact, the thing God used to get Leslie’s attention was fear. And let’s face it, fear can feel really uncomfortable.

“ I was sworn into Drug Court, in lieu of going to prison. I had to spend the next twelve months going to court a few times a month, going to the Intensive Outpatient Program three days a week for three hours a day, and consistently test negative for drug use,” Leslie explained.

“Knowing that if I relapsed or didn’t follow through I could be sent off to prison got me moving forward in the right direction.”

For Leslie, she had to learn how to surrender to God in the uncomfortable.

And in doing so she learned how to forgive, how to submit to authority, and how to exhibit patience when all she wanted to do was run.

How about you?

Are you in a place where you feel stuck?

Perhaps you feel like you are spinning around in a destructive cycle and can’t seem to figure a way out.

What if God is allowing these circumstances right now for you to feel uncomfortable so that ultimately He can bless you with His spiritual blessings?

What can you do while you are in this very uncomfortable place?

  1. Surrender to God. I love what Peter says in Mark 10:28, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” That’s the sum of it. Leave whatever it is you are clinging to: control, addiction, anger, unforgiveness, unbelief and surrender it to God.
  2. Embrace the discomfort. As hard as those words are to read, and even harder to do, embracing the season your in is so much easier than fighting against it. When you embrace your discomfort, it can become your companion rather than your enemy.
  3. Wait on the blessing. “Blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18 Your blessing is coming, God promises it. But you are going to have to choose daily to wait on Him to bring that blessing in His timing.

garrett and leslie

Garret is now 9 years old and has been back living with his Mom for over five years now. God allowed this season of discomfort in Leslie’s life to help her find freedom from addiction, forgiveness, and hope.

Leslie is no different than you and I. God will is able to do more than we ask or imagine (Eph 3:20, NIV), when we choose to surrender to the uncomfortable.

How do you feel when you are uncomfortable? Does it bring you comfort to hear stories of how God can provide blessing in the midst of discomfort?

How to Reduce Recidivism One Heart at a Time

When I was 26 years old I had an encounter with God like I had never experienced before.  In fact, up until that point, I wasn’t even sure He existed.

At the time I was extremely depressed. Still trying to work through the pain and  guilt of a recent divorce and subsequent bad decisions. You would have never known it as I was able to put on a pretty good show. The mask I wore made me look put together, put underneath I was falling apart.

God knew it and made it very clear how badly I needed Him.

On June 23, 2001 I surrendered my life to Him and everything changed. At the time I was living in Ohio and knew very few Christians.

Once I got connected to a local church. At my baptism I shared my testimony and it was not long after I was asked to go into the local jail to share with the female inmates. At the time, this felt like one of the strangest requests I think I ever received.

I had nothing in common with anyone in jail. (Well, except for that one night in college I spent in the drunk tank) I was different than then as I wasn’t strung out on drugs, I wasn’t a thief, I wasn’t a violent person and I had never killed anyone. So why in the world, would my testimony be of any help to a female inmate?

Nonetheless, I was asked three times to go into the jail.
And three times I turned them down.

Fast forward to 2013. I was now leading this new ministry and about to open up The Link Center in my now hometown of Cullman, AL. The first couple who comes to visit with me were “ex-felons.” They shared that they were homeless, they were in need of jobs, and really just some help/encouragement in moving forward. Even though they shared their story with me, which included Jesus and some pretty horrible charges, I still fell in love with them. It was exhilarating to consider what God could do with their lives now that they wished to live for Him.

At the time, we (The Link of Cullman County) were partnered with our local mental health organization to help homeless individuals get into an apartment. But in order for them to receive the funding, they had to give me permission to speak with local agencies in the community. One of them was DHR.exhilaratingpink

DHR shared the details of their case and I felt like I was punched in the gut.

I went home that night questioning everything. How in the world was I supposed to lead a ministry that ministered to the poor, which would also include those who had been engaged in criminal activity, if I was struggling to love this couple.  I was not the least bit equipped to love these two and help them be restored to God.

At home that night, I started searching the internet for prison ministry information. I don’t know what I thought I was going to find. Google had a lot of information but all it did was remind me how ill-equipped I was for this new role.

As I asked God, “What do I do? How do I love someone who has done these things?”

I felt like God was impressing on my heart, “You love your neighbor as yourself. Nothing changes.They are no different than Paul (murder), David (murderer and adulterer), Moses (murder), or the thief on the cross.” I think sometimes God likes to talk to me in extremes, so I don’t miss his meaning.

From that day forward everything changed. It became blatantly apparent to me at that point that their sin was no different than my own. I was called to love them, just as much as God had loved me in the pit of my sin.
equalatthefootofthecross

From that point on it was like the Holy Spirit put out an “APB” into our community. Every where I turned someone was asking me if we would help ex-felons, if we would give them a second chance. I got Facebook messages, phone calls, and one by one they started coming in.

About 3 months later I was setting up a meeting with the Warden of our local jail to teach a bible-based jobs preparedness program to the inmates. And that is when my calling became more real than ever before.

In August of 2013, we launched Jobs for Life(TM) class. The class started with around 30 women and by the time we ended the 16-week class, we had 3 women left.

During that time, I learned more about me and the things inside my heart than they ever could have taken away from that class.

One of the verses that God used to get Chris (my husband) and I to move to Alabama in the first place (you can read more about that here) was Isaiah 61:1-3.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me
 because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
 to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,”

It was at the end of that first class that I read those verses inside the jail.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you can feel the intensity of it. Like you know for sure this is where you are supposed to be, at this moment in time, for such a reason as this? When I have those moments the hair on my arms will often stand up.You too? I knew you would understand.

As I read those scripture verses, it was like everything I had done, everything that God had called me to, everything I thought this ministry was going to be came to a halt. And things got real.

Never before in my life did I realize the significance of me choosing to love my neighbor beyond their choices. It was never more real than standing in the jail that day with those women.

I became committed, sold-out, extremely passionate about understanding the plight of the prisoner and the ex-felon. I wanted to understand everything about their situation. How they got there, what their story was. I asked lots of questions, listened as much as I could, and started watching documentary after documentary on prison and drugs.  But none of it prepared me like actually walking with someone through it.

In that very first class was a woman named Peggy. I connected with Peggy because of her eagerness to learn. I am a teacher, what can I say…I tend to be drawn to the eager ones. At the start of the class she spoke of being tired of going in and out of jail. Peggy had a drug problem and an abusive husband. She needed a GED and was on disability. She had lost her kids years ago due to the drugs and her poor choices. She had landed up homeless and reminded me at one point when she had come to The Link Center to get help with a hotel room.

Peggy, Tutwiler Prison ID

Peggy was taking the Jobs for Life(TM) class because she knew she needed something to be different. Being on disability had held her back from working, but it had also gotten her to where she was, as a repeat offender. Peggy looked like she was in her mid-40s with her mouth drawn in from lack of teeth and her sun-worn skin.

Peggy wasn’t much different than a lot of the other women in there, as she was awaiting her fate in court. But, over time, Peggy started to desire more and more of her life to change. She started to seek God to change her, her circumstances, and her future.

She was inspiring others with big prayers that stretched her faith. And before we knew it, we started to see God move. But, not everything happened the way Peggy had hoped. It wasn’t long after the class was finished, in November of that year, that Peggy was sentenced to Tutwiler.  If you live in Alabama, you know what that means. If you don’t live in Alabama, you can learn more about the all-women’s prison here. Tutwiler is hell-on-earth. It took everthying in me, of hearing of her fate, to not want to burst out crying.

Sure Peggy had some issues with drugs and in her desperation she not only became a user but a seller. But in my mind none of that deserved the fate of Tutwiler.

But God had another plan for Peggy and so off to Tutwiler she went. While she was there we corresponded frequently through mail and phone. Tutwiler offered her a few class options and she was court-ordered to take the SAP (Substance Abuse Program). I often recall Peggy calling me in tears because God had opened up another wound to help her work through the healing. The more I spoke with Peggy, the more I heard her life stories and the more my heart was opened to loving her.

When Peggy secured a bed at a local rehab, I picked her up and dropped her off at her new home. It was a far cry from a mother picking up her child from college to bring them home, but for some reason it felt familiar. I realized then Peggy and I were in this for the long haul, this story was not going to end any time soon.

Peggy grew while she was at the rehab and I would go and visit her frequently as I was the only “family” close by at that time in her life. It was often a tough burden to bare, knowing she may not have someone come see her as she watched the other residents with their family and friends. My only consolation was knowing she had other friends from Cullman who were there for her when I could not be.

About 6 months into her stay there was an incident at the rehab that became a red-flag to the courts. Long story short, the judge released Peggy to come back to Cullman and finish out her recovery through an out-patient recovery program. Peggy had nothing. No home, no car, no job, barely any clothes, no family close by and she was needing to make all new friends.

Thankfully a safe and welcoming family from her past opened up their home to her and gave her a place to stay.

Peggy is one of a handful of women I have walked with in their transition back into society as “returning citizens” (we don’t call them ex-felons, as we tend to live out the labels that are placed on us) that I have seen God do a transformative work in.

You can watch more of Peggy’s story here:

Peggy, along with the others, have taught me so much about what it truly means to love and walk with our neighbors behind bars and then beyond.

Here are 5 ways to cut down on recidivism one heart at a time, starting with yours.

1.Jail is Different Than You Think
When I went into the Cullman County Detention Center for the first time, I experienced something I never expected, acceptance.

After I met with the Warden he asked me to share what the Jobs for Life class would entail  with the female inmates. I was so emotional, filled with fear and excitement, that it overwhelmed me. When I asked them if they had ever heard about The Link of Cullman County before, hands went up. They started telling me, “My Momma told me to come.” “My aunt told me to come.” “I was going to come, before I landed up here.” The tears  just started rolling down my cheeks. I was so overwhelmed I could barely hold it together.

I heard from the crowd,” Its okay, baby girl, we’ll wait on you.”

That was the last thing I expected to hear. It ripped open my heart and allowed me to see, these ladies, well, they were the same as me. Vulnerable and needing acceptance.

2.Loving a prisoner is a heart-issue
We have the tendency to want to put sin on levels. It is understandable. If I am honest, I don’t want my “little white lie” to be as bad as someone else abusing their child. I don’t want my jealous issues to be viewed the same way as someone who sells drugs. It’s not the same, right? Well, yes and no. One is not treated the same as the other, but they all lead to separation from God and eternal hell.

pslam103finalBut the issue here is not their sin, it’s our hearts.

To love our neighbors behind bars or walking on the streets, we must ask God to reveal our hearts. The reality of it is, we never want to see our own sin on the same level as their sin. However, God’s word does not discriminate. The words He speaks to you is the same as He speaks to them. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps 013:12, NIV)

This may be the area that we need to be aware of most. If you are going to love someone behind or beyond the bars, you are going to have to be willing for God to do the work in you first.

3.Just because they are in jail does not mean they don’t know Jesus
I went into jail believing that NONE of them knew Jesus and it was our job to get them all saved. HA! Not true. In fact, churches had been sharing the gospel with them for years before our team showed up on the scene. Many of them experience “jailhouse Jesus.” What I have learned is that at times it’s actually easier for them to follow Jesus in jail than it is when they get out. Why? Because the jail is filled with broken people. And more often than not, broken people realize they can no longer do life as they were doing it and they need a Savior to help them. So Jesus is more tangible in the jail then when they are released.

What became apparent to me is that many of them need to be equipped with how to live like Jesus, rather than being introduced to Him. Now, I will put a caveat on this. I live in the South, where its been said ‘We first have to convince people they are lost, before we can help them accept Jesus.’ On the other side of that coin, there are also people getting “saved” in the jail all the time. This is a good thing. But we need to understand is not all of them need to be saved. What they need to learn is how to live like Jesus.

4.The real test of your character is not loving them in the jail, it’s sticking with them when they get out
In our local Detention Center, there are close to 30 churches/organizations that go in to teach and share the gospel. Thirty. Do you know how many of them stay with them on the outside? About a handful. That makes me sick to my stomach. We are willing to go in and share our “love” when they are in a contained space, but when they are released and most vulnerable we turn our backs on them. Come on Church! We can do better than that.

If I have heard it once I have heard it a thousand times. “Those church ladies/men come in here and minister to us, and they are really nice, but where are they when I need them on the outside? Their churches don’t accept us. They say one thing but their church does something different.” UGH!

We all need a heart-check on this. If we are going to be apart of God’s desire to transform our communities by loving our neighbors, we are going to have to get over ourselves and start changing our ways.

getoverourselves

Jesus said to the Pharisees, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”  (Luke 5:31, NIV) Our churches and our ministries should be like hospitals set up to receive the sick, not a sanctuary for the healed.

5. Loving the prisoner means believing beyond their circumstances
Remember, every person in jail has a story to tell. They too were once children and their stories can break your heart. In order for them to overcome their circumstances, sometimes you need to see what they cannot and start speaking those things over them, praying it for them, and loving them as if they are such. We have the power to speak life and death through  our tongue. If we choose words that speak encouragement, love, and respect it is only time before they start to believe them. Here’s the bottom line.We can choose to focus in on their sins and therefore perpetuating the problem, only reinforcing what they already believe: they are nothing, can do nothing, and therefore should just continue down the path they are already on.

Or, we can choose to love them as we are commanded to do because it was shown to us in our pit of sin. In doing so giving them the opportunity to be restored back to their God, to themselves, to their relationships, and to the world around them.

We  who call ourselves Christians, Christ-followers, and the body of Christ, we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. He came to set the prisoner free both behind the bars and beyond. In order for us to do as He has done, we are going to have to start with our own hearts. As we are transformed, God will use us to go and transform others.

What is it about ministering to someone beyond bars that scares you the most?

 

 

9 Ways to Love an Addict Even When It Hurts

Trying to love someone in active addiction is hard. Frustrating. It can be downright heart-wrenching.

In fact, apart from God, it is impossible. 

Because here’s the deal, the person you once knew (the sober person) they are gone. You are dealing with someone completely different. Someone who has now decided to partner with darkness and who is in bondage to an ugly, flesh-eating, family-destroying, brain deteriorating drug. That drug has now consumed them, every bit of them: mind, body, and soul. The only thing they now care about is getting their next high, their next fix, their next drunken stupor and who you are and what you meant to them no longer matters.

Trying to love someone in addiction feels about the same as picking a rose from a bush. You know there is beauty at the end of it, but your going to have to go through a whole lot of pain to get there.

As we discussed in last week’s post, you need to be emotionally and spiritually healthy…full of compassion, love, and forgiveness if you are going to have a chance at loving them well. The only way to do that is through the Spirit of God, because it is God who taught us to love in the first place.we-love-because-he-first-loved-usIn Galatians 5, Paul is sharing with the church in Galatia about their freedom and how through their freedom they can either choose to walk by the Spirit or by their flesh. In 5:13 14 he says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

What does it mean to live by the flesh?

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Now before we start judging those around us let’s take a look at some of these that related to us loving our neighbors in addiction. Last week we talked about forgiveness because we were angry at the people who are in addiction…that can easily be also viewed as hatred, discord, fits of rage, dissensions, or factions. We also may had to confess our anger with God for what has happened. When we put up anything before our worship of God, we are in the sin of idolatry. Idolizing “little gods” that we put in the place of our Almighty God is truly not hard to do. I know this because I do it. It is also why God made sure to make it second of the 10 Commandments.

So now that we can see that we all fall into one of these categories of walking in the flesh .(I didn’t even get into the other ones…that is another post in and of itself, just remember there are no rankings there. Witchcraft was right next to hatred, and factions came right before drunkenness and orgies. Hello!) Let’s be reminded why it is of utmost importance to have the Spirit of God as we seek to love those in addiction.

The very next verse explains it all:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal 5:22-23)

Because the fruit we need to bear is from the Spirit of God there is no way to truly love someone unless His Spirit is in us.

In the Galatians 5:22 verse, it says “fruit of the Spirit,” not fruits of the Spirit.

One of the things I love about God is He is can be very mysterious.

When we think of a fruit we think of a singular item. But when He defines “fruit of the Spirit” He multiplies it. So instead of us bearing only one kind of fruit we bear nine.

Because of this I don’t believe the fruit of the Spirit has a specific order to them, one is not greater than another, they are all equal. However, for the purposes of this post, I am going to pull them out one-by-one in a way that will help us all learn how to love our neighbors in addiction.

FIRST FRUIT: SELF-CONTROL

If you are going to love, nah, scratch that, when you are loving someone in active addiction, you are going to have to learn the word, “No.”

So, let’s start there. Repeat after me, “No.” Good, say it again. “No.” One more time like you really mean it. “No.”

Yeah! High-five! How did that feel?

In order for you to love someone in active addiction you will have to set boundaries. And the best way for you to start that is realizing you will have to say, “No.”

Boundaries are good and healthy. God sets up boundaries for us in order to help us, guide us, and set us free. It is just like how we set up boundaries for our children…go to bed by 8, up by 6, don’t eat too much sugar, save your money, don’t touch the hot stove…these are all boundaries we set for our children to help them stay healthy and not endanger themselves…right? Most of the time it’s because Mom/Dad needs rest and a sugar-high kid can drive you nuts , and who needs more Legos to step on, and the stove just hurts, right? You get me? Ok, good.

Boundaries are a form of self-control. By setting up boundaries around us, we are telling others what they can and cannot do. By saying “no” to the person who has chosen alcohol/drugs over your relationship you are communicating to them, “Your destructive choices are not going to determine how I live my life.” When we respond this way we are exhibiting self-control. And in doing so, we are also loving them. We are loving them because we are also no longer enabling them by giving into their every need. When we enable an addict, we can basically start digging thelatishaeditedir grave. The last thing an addict needs is for you to give into everything they ask for because once they know you’ll give it to them, they’ll just keep coming back. if they know you’ll give them money, they will give you every excuse in the book to get more. if you will continuously get them out of jail, not only will you chance losing everything, they’ll continue to make the same poor choices, cause they know someone will always bail them out.

You want to know why addicts continue to cycle in and out of their addiction, in and out of homelessness, in and out of jail? Enabling is a big part of that equation. Exhibiting self-control on your part can help them to hit their rock bottom. From there they can start healing. That in essences, is one of the most loving things you can do.


Enabling = death. Boundaries =life.


SECOND FRUIT: GENTLENESS

How about gentleness?

The definition of gentleness is: Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

When an addict is spinning out of control and they are angry at you and the world around them your response in gentleness can disarm them. It gives them less reason to keep responding to you in that manner. It can also restore them and keep them from continuing to sin.

Galatians 6:1 says, ” Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”

And no one needs you too falling into temptation cause then things just go from bad to worse. In this case, you may not be tempted to use drugs or alcohol, but you may be tempted to get angry right back at them. You may want to use your own set of manipulative techniques to try and get them to stop using. Either way, responding with gentleness is yet another way you can show love to your neighbor in addiction.

THIRD FRUIT: PATIENCE

We live in a society of now. Of have it your way, when you want it, how you want it. And nothing will teach you patience like addiction, I can promise you that. I have driven in snowstorms that should have been a 30 minute trip that took 7 hours and honey, that is NOTHING compared to the patience you’ll need to love someone in active addiction. I can’t tell you anything more than the straight out truth…this is your reality. There are no silver bullets, there is no perfect prayer to pray, fasamberting will change you but I cannot promise it will do anything for them. The only healer I can point you to is Jesus and His timing on this is often way different than ours.

But to exhibit patience you will have to stop trying to control the person and the situation. Trying to control them may even make it worse. You have to let them go. As scary as I know that sounds you have to them let go because the only way for them to ever get clean is if they hit their rock bottom. You don’t know where that bottom is. I don’t know where that bottom is. Only God knows. We need to trust Him with their deliverance. Patience speaks love to an addict because they know loving them can be hard. But when you respond to them with patience, you are saying, “I love you even in the midst of what you are going through and being here for you is more important than what I want for you.”

FOURTH FRUIT: PEACE

Which is why you are also going to have to ask God to give you supernatural peace. A few weeks ago, I talked about how important it is to have peace and suggested how you can obtain it. But here is the gist of it…you don’t have peace because your worry, anxiety and fear are ruling you. And listen sweet Mama, I am talking to you again, with my tender eyes looking at yours, and my hand on your hand…I know why. I know why you worry. It’s because that is your baby and you still see that sweet baby insides the drug that has consumed your child.

But you must remember that sweet baby grew up and starting making their own decisions and forgot all the things you taught them. All they care about right now is them. So just as I explained in my last post that no matter who we are, we are going to have to forgive them, God and yourself, now we need to take care of our hearts and give over that anxiety, worry and fear to God.

 “Do not worry about anything but in everything with prayer and petition, give thanks to God. And the God of peace who surpasses all understanding will guard your heart in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Because when you are trying so hard to love someone who can no longer conceivably love you back, you need your heart guarded by the only one that can truly protect it. Can I get an Amen?

Guarding your heart with peace is yet another way to love a person in addiction because your peace overflows into their lives. When you are feeling peace, you speak peace into them, you pray peace over them, you respond to them with peace and in doing so, they will start to experience that peace and want it for their own life.

FIFTH FRUIT: FAITHFULNESS

Next up, is faithfulness. You be faithful to that person. You be faithful in prayer. And when you pray you pray for big things, believing big things knowing that you serve a God who is BIG. Ephesians 3:20 speaks so well to this…for He can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine. Circle that person up in this scripture verse. You dream up who that person will become and you start speaking that over their life. You don’t focus on where they are now but rather where they will be when they are fully restored.

” For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 3:20)

I speak this to the girls we minster to in the jail whenever I get the chance to. You know why? It speaks hope. It reminds them that God already knows what their good works will be, He already prepared them. And I challenge them with this…

“Will you dare to walk in those good works you were already purposed for or will you continue in the lifestyle you are in? Will you choose to allow the devil to continue to steal, kill and destroy (as he has already done so well) or will you choose a life of abundance.”

patienceBut here’s the deal. I have said those words to hundreds of women. But only a few have actually take me up on it. The rest, I am still waiting on. Because being faithful means never giving up on them, it means loving them, even if its from a distance. Faithful means  believing God for their healing,  pursuing them letting them know you are there when they are ready, and most importantly praying for them daily.

Prayer is one of the most powerful tools you have. Do not downplay its effectiveness in this situation. I have pleaded on the behalf of women who relapsed that the Lord would spare her life and if she would not get clean, that she would be placed back in jail. I would beg God to keep her from the grave.

Jail may not be the place that you would want to be, but I can promise you this, when you are stuck in addiction and spiraling out of control, it can feel like the hand of God pulling you out of your pit and saving you from destruction.

We must choose to be faithful through the Spirit as it does not come naturally to us. And as we do, we will show those in active addiction our love for them.

SIXTH FRUIT: KINDNESS

Which brings me to kindness. The Bible says, it’s by His kindness that He calls us to repentance.

Job 6:14 says,  “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. We are to show kindness as He has shown us kindness.

Our kindness, when faced with adversity, draws people to God. Cause it begs the question, “Why?” Why would you show me kindness when I have done these things to you? You cannot show kindness to someone you are angry at. You can’t show kindness to the person who frustrates you. It’s only through the Spirit that you can show kindness to those who are difficult to love. Don’t forget that Job, the author of our verse above was being mocked by his friends for the trials he was going through. This is Job’s response in the midst of that. Can you show kindness in the midst of your trial? Is there someone you can show kindness to who is trying to overcome their addiction?

SEVENTH FRUIT: GOODNESS

And we must point them to the goodness of God. If all you ever do is remind them of His wrath, His discipline, of Hell, you mind as well say your final goodbyes. They will run to the hills and they may never look back. More than anything they need to know that they have a God who loves them regardless of what they have done. One of the ways they can know that is how you show them.

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EIGHTH FRUIT: JOY

Of all the fruit of the Spirit, this one may be the hardest one to exhibit when you are trying to love someone in active addiction. There is absolutely nothing joyful or joy-filled about this situation for anyone involved. In fact, its the exact opposite. It can be down-right heart wrenching to watch someone you love destroy themselves. So why in the world, would I even consider using the fruit of the Spirit with this included in it to explain how we can love people in addiction?

Because you can’t love someone in active addiction in your own strength. It is absolutely physically impossible. In our own strength we will become exhausted, frustrated, angry, depressed, bitter, enraged, lonely, or just completely complacent. I have heard people say that it feels like torture to not know whether or not their loved one is alive or dead.

That is why we need to rely on God. When we do He reveals to us how we are to respond to challenges such as these.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3, NIV)

Consider it pure joy?! Really?! Why in the world would we want to consider trials, such as trying to love our neighbors in addiction, as pure joy. Has James lost his mind? I actually think James actually learned a huge spiritual secret in how to live. It’s in the next few verses we see that not only can we learn perseverance (also known as patience…I think we talked about that one already) but James says that we can also become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James knows something, we can all learn from and that is if we focus in on our situation we’ll find nothing but grief and despair. But if we look beyond it, realizing that it’s not going to change anytime soon, but instead we can change…well, then mayyoull-need-to-choose
be then there is something to this. You and I have to choose to go on, even as our neighbors stay stuck in their addictions. Even as they become more and more destructive. And with those choices, we can choose joy or we can choose sorrow or anger or defeat. But know this: your choice either way will not change their sobriety, but it will determine how you live and whether or not you are capable of truly loving them.

Consider it pure joy….because you will persevere, you will be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Including with it the ability to love.

NINTH FRUIT: LOVE

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I like to save the best things for last. And this piece of our fruit is most certainly the juiciest of all. I know, I know I am contradicting myself. But I can do that, it’s my blog. Here is the proof in the pudding. We cannot love our neighbors in addiction without the Spirit because the Spirit produces love. It’s plain as it can be.

And this love is the greek word “agape” which is a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.

Paul could have used one of the other four versions of this word, but he chose the one that he knew spoke of the love of the Father. And that is exactly the kind of love we are to have as well.

Selfless.
Sacrificial.
Unconditional.

This means listening to them, taking time to hear their struggles and empathizing with them, offering them a shoulder to cry on, allowing them to share their hurts, apologizing even when you may not have done anything (not to encourage their behaviors but to let them know you see their pain), apologizing when you have done something.

What if you said, “I am so sorry i have been enabling you all this time, I didn’t realize how hurtful that has been for you to be able to heal and stop using. I am going to do my best to help you make your own decisions and not do things that you can do on your own.”

Loving is putting their emotions before yours, even when you are hurting. Loving is sacrificial in that you would choose to love, over choosing to judge. This does not mean sacrificing EVERYTHING you have to try and save them. Remember there is only ONE SAVIOR and His name is Jesus.

These are the nine fruit of the Spirit and it is with this fruit that we can fully, completely, selflessly, sacrificially, and unconditional love our neighbors in addiction as ourself.

Sometimes when you are too close to the situation, trying to love your neighbor in active addiction can feel like you are inflicting more pain on yourself. What do you do to self-care when loving them gets too hard?

 

 

Can Community be the Cure to Addiction?

During the last four years, I have spent most days learning how I can come alongside people who have found themselves addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Although, I had my days of partying, and fairly hard at that, by the grace of God, when He set me free of that lifestyle, I never looked back.

But because of that, I often found myself in either one of two camps of thinking: I either thought that Jesus can just heal their addiction and if the person had enough faith to believe, the need for the drugs/alcohol would be taken away or I couldn’t understand how they could get addicted in the first place.

Although I enjoyed at times going out with friends for drinks, any drug I took never really impressed me enough to want to do it everyday. In fact, when I was on the really heavy stuff after a surgery, I wanted to switch to extra strength Tylenol as quick as I could.

But God has done a few things in my life that I want to share with you today, especially to those of you who keep those in active addiction or recovery at arms length simply because you don’t understand. I too have been there, some days can still find myself there, and therefore can completely empathize with you. But because I have heard story after story of why people use drugs, read books on it, watched documentaries, and most importantly prayed and sought the Lord on it, I have a few thoughts for you and me (I’m still preaching to myself) about how we can all better respond to this growing epidemic that is leaving a line of bodies in its tracks.

Side note: To those of you who are reading this that are in active addiction (and I hope you are reading this) and those who are walking in recovery, I pray this article helps to build bridges for you to have people come along side of you. I am a cheerleader for you and with God’s grace, an advocate for you. So if I get something wrong, I hope you know it’s not intentionally, but I am always open and willing to learn. Teach me what I need to know.

Now, to those of you who, like me have looked at an addict and thought…”Why? Why would you do such a thing to your body? Why would you do this to your friends, family, loved ones? I don’t understand why?” I hope this encourages you and helps you to maybe consider seeing things from a difference perspective.

I start by saying this to you. The reason why an addict uses has nothing to do with you and everything to do with you.

If you’ll stick with me, I promise you I’ll explain why that is true.

Last week, I told you in this blog post about my friend Sherry. Sherry is just one of many women in my life who are recovering from addiction. Each one of them have their own struggles to overcome. But just as I tosherry_blogld you about Sherry, I believe these people to be some of the bravest people I know. They have chosen to daily let go of a lifestyle that had a huge grip on them to follow Jesus in sobriety. They are re-inventing themselves through the identity that He has given them.

As I have walked with them, God has revealed some things about me that has helped me to relate. One is that I too am an addict. No, I’ve never needed to go to rehab for drugs or alcohol, but I have found myself addicted to other things. Years ago, I was addicted to shopping. Any chance I got, I wanted to go shopping and purchase the latest and greatest finds. I loved it. The thrill of the spending, I felt powerful being able to buy things I wanted but just like an addict the aftermath of it left me feeling ashamed, empty, and powerless.

I have learned that I am also in recovery from being an approval addict. I find myself on many occasions seeking and needing the approval of others. Though God has brought me a long way on this, I still find myself refreshing Facebook to see who “liked”, commented, or shared my post. I still check to see how many people read my blog and I still pray every time that I write only for God and not to tickle the ears of the people reading.

Over the past few years I battled with another form of addiction, sugar. There were times where I would dream about it and think about where I could get my next “sugar fix.” Sugar is cheap and easy to find, it was also easy to hide because I could purchase it, consume it, and no one would know otherwise. The evidence was easy to cover up and it didn’t alter my state for anyone to know what I had done.

I think if each of us took a moment to think about those things in our lives that we crave outside of the Word of God. Those things that we need, that we have to have, that we cannot get enough of…even things that may seem to be healthy, we’ll realize it’s not difficult for us to be addicted to something. And from these experiences I learned and hopefully you can too, empathy. Or let me say it this way, compassion.

Romans 9:15 (ESV) says, this… For he (God) says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

What does it mean to have compassion? It means to have sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Synonyms are pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow, feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity.

When you feel these things for someone it opens your heart up to them, it helps you get into their shoes, and it helps us to love them right where they are at.

To be honest with you…I don’t care which camp you come from. It doesn’t matter whether you believe that addiction is a sin, a disease, mental health issue, or genetics. God doesn’t make exceptions to the rule. We are to love regardless. Regardless of why the person has gotten caught in the addiction.

And to love people, sometimes you have to do it the same way Jesus did it for us, sacrificially. It’s easy to love someone you believe is doing everything the way you think they should. It’s not so easy when they aren’t.

John 15:13 says “No greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”nogreaterlove

When we have compassion on them just has our Father had compassion on us, we can love people sacrificially.

But this is where we have failed. Instead of having mercy and compassion on our sick, we condemn them. Instead of loving them we shun them. I can’t tell you how many people over the last four years I have heard tell me that a local church told them they were no longer welcome there. They were told to take their tattooed bodies somewhere else. They felt judged and not loved.

Some of you are thinking…well, maybe they felt that because of the way they were dressed, they shouldn’t have worn that to church. Or maybe, you are coming up with a rebuttal to their tattoos, or their life style or something else, but I plead with you. Please STOP. Just stop.

For some of us that way of life is foreign. It’s such an extreme from what we believe it’s hard for us to understand. Stop trying to understand it. You can’t. You’ve never been there. You don’t understand the hurt they have felt, you can’t get to a place to make it make sense. This is not compassion, it’s the complete opposite.

With compassion you respond with “I’m sorry this has happened to you.” You sit and you listen. You don’t pass judgement off of your own experiences. You listen to hear theirs. You open your heart to hear what they have to say and what may be behind what they are saying.

Because there is more to people than the mask that they put on. I cannot repeat that enough. We all have hurts, we all have wounds. We all have learned how to cope with them differently. If you listen to recovered and healing or healed addicts enough, you will hear a common thread.

“I used to cover up my pain. I used to heal the wounds in my heart. I used because I knew no other way to cope with the hurt.”

Do you hear that folks. These are our wounded. Our heartsick. Our hurting. And they need us to love them, to have compassion on them, to be in community with them.

A couple of weeks ago Crossroads, our church in Cincinnati, showed this video and it opened up my eyes to a whole new important piece in the addiction puzzle.

Take a moment to watch this.

How’s that for a wake-up call Church?  What people need is community, and a compassionate one at that.

They need a safe place to be them with all their baggage, and their hurts, and their pain. They need community who will love them, encourage them, pray with them and lift them up even when they stumble. If I have learned anything from my addicted friends it is this…they will relapse. And sometimes when you absolutely least expect it. For sometimes no reason at all. It can be frustrating and challenging.But we need to be like the father of the Prodigal Son. We need to have our arms wide open waitingon them to come home.

what-people-need-is-community-and-a-compassionate-one-at-that

Now, I know that there are some of you arguing all of this as you read because your thinking…I did that. I did that and they overdosed. I did that and they are still using. I did that and all I got was hurt.

Please hear me on this, I get it. I didn’t say this was easy. But I want to say this as gently and as lovingly as I can (because I know some of you are sweet Mamas who have lost their loved ones or may feel like you are going to)… right now you can’t love them the way they need to be loved. Right now, you need healing. You are hurting.

And in that scenario, “Hurt people only hurt people.”

You will do more damage than you will do good because you are angry. What you want them to do, they did not do. You are angry at them. You may even be angry at God. You could even be angry at you.

This brings me to the point I was making above, the reason why they use has nothing to do with you or may have everything to do with you.

So to help us all, no matter what situation you are in with the person in addiction in your life, I have some steps for you to consider.

First, you need to start to forgive them. Forgive the person for not living up to your expectations. For harming themselves and the people around them. For not loving you the way you needed to be loved, for whatever transpired between you two. I don’t know and can’t list every scenario here. You know the situation. You know the why. Your job now is to start the process of forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” You being bound up in unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness does nothing to help them. In fact, it only gives more power to the enemy to defeat you and them and anyone else in your life it has affected.

Second, you need to forgive God. He is a big boy. He can take whatever offense you may have brought before Him. You may blame Him for the addiction. You may blame him for their recklessness. You may blame him for their death. But you must remember that we have free will, each and every one of us. When someone willingly subjects themselves to drug and alcohol abuse, they are exercising that free will. No one can stop them, but them. Their choice to begin is just as much their choice to end it. I don’t like it anymore than you do but it is true. So I ask you to consider, letting God off the hook for your own sake. He is still God, on the throne, seated high and exalted. Your not forgiving Him does not stop Him from being who He is. It hurts you more than it does Him. So forgive Him so that you can move on and be free of the bitterness and anger you are holding on to.

Third, forgive you. I don’t know what you have done in your past and you may or may not play a role in why the person is using right now. You may be the perpetrator of their wounds or you may not have anything to do with it, but realize you are powerless. You may have enabled them to use again. Whatever the situation is, again, you need to forgive yourself.

Jesus Christ died on a cross, sacrificially, for each of us so that we may be set free from all of our sins. I’ve heard it said before, When you keep unforgiveness in your heart, you put yourself in a cage and hold onto the key.” it’s self-deprecation and again it helps no one move forward in this situation.

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Stacey Hyde reconciled with her family.

What a person in active addiction or walking through recovery needs is YOU. You having compassion for them, loving them, encouraging them, praying for them, and speaking truth to them.

So start this process with you. Seek forgiveness. Break yourself free from your pain so that you can receive the healing you need.

Why? Because healed people can help heal people. People who are healed, forgiven, loved and full of compassion freely give what they have recived.

That is the greatest gift you can give to someone in addiction. A healed you.

Now that we have gotten to the end of this post I feel like there is more that I need to share to equip you to love those in addiction and recovery well. So, with that, we’ll continue this topic next week.

Join me when we’ll start to talk about how you love an addict so that you are not enabling them but rather empowering them to take ownership of their addiction in the hopes of them moving forward.

P.S. If you are ready to get help, please contact me or The Link of Cullman County. We are happy to help you get where you need to be to start your journey to sobriety. If you are not in Cullman,AL please call your local church, non-profit, recovery, AA, ALNON to get help.

I know I hit on some things in this post that people are going to want to talk about, so please comment below on and let’s model compassion for each other as we seek God to help us love those people in active addiction and recovery around us.