I’ve been familiar with the twelve steps of recovery for most of my adult life but it wasn’t until about three years ago when I joined a twelve step group of my own that I really started to get to know them and attempt to enfold them into my life.
They are all difficult, there’s no getting around it. And depending on what step I was on at the time would determine which one I liked the least.
But I’ve always, always, always hated this phrase of step one:
We admitted…that our lives had become unmanageable.
Speak for yourself, I always thought to myself when we went around the room reading the steps outloud. Your life may be unmanageable but mine most certainly is not. I will admit no such thing. Have you seen my life? It is planned to the very last detail. I am known for my neat house and my organizational skills. A place for everything and everything in its place. Plan, plan, plan. Lists everywhere. People even occasionally asking me to help them organize their lives or desks or pantries (not that I ever did…that just seemed weird to me, for some reason). If the Type A, anal retentive, control freak had a mascot, I would be her (but only if she got to wear a boa and something in hot pink).
And then I read this…something I’ve read at least four times, I want to point out, as it’s in one of my daily readers (Courage to Change):
“…we have been living in chaos, worried about our families, full of self-doubt, and spiritually, emotionally, and physically depleted…”
So, here’s the thing. When I think of chaos, I think of externals like a messy house, a car that has fries in the backseat from who knows when, and closets that are overflowing and best left unopened. But that is not the unmanageability that the creator of the first step had in mind. He was talking about my interior world.
And in that case, oh yes, I worried about my family, like all of the time. All of the time. Obsessed about my family is more accurate. I was full of self-doubt. Oh my word. I questioned and second-guessed my every decision, my every choice (down to, I can’t believe I just ordered Sprite when he ordered water…I’ll get water next time…you should know this by now!). And, sadly, yes, I was depleted in every area of my life, but most especially emotionally.
My life had indeed become unmanageable. I was “one of them”. In part, I still am one of them.
But here’s the good news. I was in my recovery group for about a year-and-a-half before my husband moved out. So, I can testify that the steps can and will change your life even if your circumstances don’t change (another promise of the steps that I wanted to scream about because I thought it was a load of malarkey). And I can further attest to the work of healing on an even deeper level now that I am out of the painful circumstances I was in. Because, sweet ones, my life is becoming more manageable with each passing day.
I can honestly say today that I have more better moments than sad and horrible and emotionally-depleting moments. I can honestly say that though, of course, I worry about my children and how their upbringing and this divorce will affect them into their future, along with, sadly, their current safety, I no longer obsess. My current hardship is not the background music of my day-to-day life like it was for over fifteen years. I am being healed.
And I can honestly say that though I still have my fair share of self-doubt as a single mom of two teenagers, I now make decisions on my own (some good, some not so good) that I in general feel pretty okay about.
And I can honestly say that though, yes, I’ve still got about a good two years* to go before feeling “back to normal” (whatever that will look like for me), my spiritual, emotional and physical reserves are being added to and expanding each new day.
So move forward in your healing today, dear friends. Take one tiny step toward wholeness. Pray a prayer of help or gratitude. Talk to a friend who loves you. Take a walk in nature and breathe in deeply. Read a Psalm and rediscover what God thinks of you.
I know what it’s like to live a life that is unmanageable, and I am now learning what it’s like to live one that is. The difference is remarkable, healing is possible, and trust me, there is so much more joy on this end of the spectrum.
*Where did I come up with two years to go? I’ve heard it said that it takes about one year for every year of marriage to feel completely healed. With over sixteen years of marriage under my belt, I’m going with the fact that it’s been almost two years since we’ve lived apart and I therefore have about two to go. If my work has encouraged you and you’d like to partner with me as I reach out to help hurting women, click here for more information.
“My current hardship is not the background music of my day-to-day life like it was for over fifteen years.”. I love that you said this! In more ways than one.
We as Christians so often beat up the “one” who is distraught and worn out from the daily battle of living life with another who is harmful to them. The constant comments about not allowing our circumstances to affect our lives are, in my estimation, just an opportunity to judge another, proclaim our “superior” Christian walk or, if I were to be gracious about such comments, just a case of plain ignorance. Oh, I do believe that it would be wonderful if I could live above my circumstances all the time, but I can’t. I do my best, but my humanity gets in the way. “Circumstance comments” often just cause more shame and hopelessness.
Most of us may not understand the rigors that one puts themselves through to survive in a hostile environment. We don’t see the effects of being constantly beaten down emotionally (or any other way) while trying desperately to function in a healthy manner. For the sake of our children, our other family members, our co-workers, our bosses, our Christian community, our survival…and the list goes on. The complexity of the exhaustion, let alone the situation, is unfathomable to many of us.
I have a friend who shared her experience of seeing a Broadway musical for the first time. It was actually a dream come true for her and as her hosts had friends performing in the musical, they were able to go backstage. She was delighted and entranced by the performance but stunned and even a bit horrified by the chaotic disarray behind the scene. She learned something from that. She looked at me and made the following statement, “One never knows the price someone has to pay to look so good on the outside.”. I will never forget that very graphic “picture” and comment.
We don’t know what people have to endure. We don’t know what their coping mechanisms are like. We don’t know how complex or dangerous their situation is. We. Don’t. Know.
But, we can love. We can walk alongside. We can help where it is appropriate. We can empathize, yet not commiserate. We can take them to the cross. Trying to control or fix a hurtful or difficult situation doesn’t work. But, we can love.
Thanks for sharing your story (and sorry about my little soapbox rant)! Thanks for encouraging so many of us to pursue healing! I am happy to hear that the background music has changed for you! What a blessing!
woman, this is beautiful, inspiring, and perfectly timed. … as i’ve just come home from the ‘family day’ at a rehab facility where a very close family member is receiving treatment.
and i have also fought my own patterns of addiction for the majority of my life. “The difference is remarkable, healing is possible, and trust me, there is so much more joy on this end of the spectrum.” TRUTH and thank the Lord for that!
thank you so much for sharing about your struggle. i think one of our most important tactics in the battle is to be open and truthful about it. and it’s particularly important for Christians, i think, as we tend to “mask” our issues for fear of being found hypocritical or unfaithful – though we All have the same struggles.