Recovery Manifesto

What do you want your recovery to look like in a year? What do you want your marriage to look like in a year?

If you can’t answer that question, then where do you expect either of them to end up? Not sure about your life, but in mine the best things don’t happen by accident. Good outcomes and growth aren’t my default. Quite the opposite! I frequently say that my life is like going up the down escalator; if I’m not actively pursuing who God is calling me to be, then I’m passively slipping back into who I’ve always been. That holds true personally, professionally, spiritually and maritally.

Recently, a client has been working on a recovery/marriage manifesto. His task has been to write a declaration answering the question: What do I want our lives and relationship to look like in 1 year, and how will we get there?

I just want to share an excerpt from that manifesto:

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how we’ll get there…

I don’t know all the things that will happen between now and 365 days from now. But what I do know is how we’ll accomplish the goals set out above. This manifesto will ring true if…

  • humility is the focus of approaching our marriage and our relationship
  • communication is open, honest and humble
  • we trust in God, at the deepest level we’ve ever trusted him, by praying like it all depends on him and working like it all depends on us
  • we connect in true intimacy
We’ll look back at 2013 and say with confidence that it was a hell of a year because of the hopelessness, despair, helplessness, fear, betrayal, deceit, rejection, guilt, and shame felt by us both. But it was worth it because true transformation came out of the deepest, darkest pit we were in. I want us to say that 2013 was the year that everything changed for the better.
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This fires me up! Frankly, I think that fires God up too. I think he sees this, jumps out of his seat, yells “OH YEAH!” and high-fives the closest angel. In effect, this manifesto sets the stage on which God can orchestrate radical redemption and gives the curtain call for Him to get the glory for it. 2013 is the year it all changed. It’s the year God showed up. It’s the year redemption began to be real.

Will 2013 be the year everything changed for you?

There’s still time. The year’s not over.

(not so) Happy Holidays

turkey1

The holidays are upon us and for many people, they aren’t so happy. The reason is that the holidays usually mean engagement with family, which can be incredibly triggering. This can be true for both a man struggling with sexual integrity issues and also for his wife.

For men, often family-of-origin issues are at play. It can be an interaction with dad that taps a nerve. Or it could be a comment from mom that just sits awkwardly.  It could be the house or a particular room in the house that brings back old memories. Whatever the event, it can be a trigger that catches people off-guard. Without realizing it, some of the old emotions can surface and subtly lure a man back towards medicating and acting out.

Likewise for wives, family and often (especially) the in-laws can be triggering. I hear stories of wives returning from Christmas with the husband’s family bearing resentment, anger, and also insight! They sometimes see relational dynamics that shed light on their husband’s mannerisms, attitudes and behavioral patterns. In fact, I frequently hear wives say they see the kid come out. In other words, they see the origin of some of the childish behavior they witness in their adult husbands.

All that said, here’s the good news: the holidays can be an incredible time of growth! Personally, we can grow by handling family triggers better than ever before. We can do intimacy (speaking non-sexually) with our spouses unlike ever before.  We can connect with the folks walking our journey with us. We can also let the difficulties drive us deeper towards Jesus.

So, a few of suggestions for this holiday season:

  1. Practice self-awareness through journaling. For both husband and wife, it is imperative to be dialed-in to what’s happening in your heart. Finishing your day with a quick download in your journal can be enough to process some of the emotions that could lead to acting out.
  2. If you know your family situation causes strife and is potentially toxic, prep your accountability partners/support people for daily phone calls to check in. It may be a 10-minute conversation with someone in your corner that can talk you off a ledge.  It can also be a conversation like this that helps you see your family with a new level of grace.
  3. Try to remember that everyone comes to the Thanksgiving table with a story. People show up with that story playing out, and sometimes it’s messy.
  4. Remember that no matter where you are in your story, you are not disqualified from helping someone bump into Jesus.

Final Four

After the brief detour to talk about the many faces of a man in recovery, we’re getting back on track. Time to round out the discussion on Secondary Boundaries. What we’ve covered so far:

  1. Geographic
  2. Situational
  3. Relational
  4. Intellectual
  5. Psychological
  6. Financial

Now for the final 4.

7. Emotional feelings. This is the stuff going on at a heart level that might propel us into the addictive cycle. It is important to identify and acknowledge which emotions increase your propensity to medicate. That said, we have to go to the deepest levels. For example, Anger is easy to identify. However, underneath that anger may be hurt, fear, failure, shame or disappointment. We must identify those. Stress is a common one. But when many people say stress, what they mean is they feel overwhelmed and fearful of failure. Some guys act out when they feel excited and happy. Others when they feel sad, lonely or rejection.

8. Spiritualwhere are you and God? We know we can’t fight this alone. And we know that if God doesn’t intervene we’re hopeless. Sometimes God is near, sometimes far. In one of my groups a guy described his relationship with God like this: “I feel like I’m a member of a large audience, 1000’s of people, and I know God the way I know the speaker on a stage. He doesn’t know me, he just knows I’m out there. I don’t really know him, but I know he’s up there speaking, and I should be listening.” Living in that relational space with God could be a space where you act out sexually. Or perhaps when you feel like God is miles away. Or maybe even when you come off a mountain top high with God, like after a mens retreat. The important thing here is again to raise your awareness and plan for those occasions.

9. Physiological – think body. It is unfortunately too frequent for guys to say that crossed a line and acted out sexually because of some bodily urge. Is there a reality to our cycles of sperm production and the feelings of needing a release? Yes. And did God make appropriations in our bodies for that release? Yes. Which means we don’t have to take matters into our own hands (literally or figuratively). Don’t let natural urges be the driver on acting out. Create plans around physiological boundaries. Limit time laying in bed in the morning, or limit time in the shower. Double check your motive for pursuing sexual intimacy with your wife. Don’t give yourself the excuse that your urges and just natural impulses and thus you are entitled to some behavior. I always come back to this verse when thinking about these boundaries:

Jude 1:10b – and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals – these are the very things that destroy them.

10. Technologicalanything related to technology. We’ve heard so many of the stories of guys acting out using playstations, kindles, ipads, cellphones, laptops, etc. There’s an endless supply of media devices to be used for evil or good. Don’t be so careless as to think that using an online device is safe. It is not. There is always a risk, even if you have a filters in place. Create safeguards around how & when you use technology. Make sure your accountability folks know those boundaries and help you be accountable for them.

Hopefully this info is helpful. Another reminder, the goal isn’t to have a narrow, boxed in life. It is to have freedom because we have guard rails that keep us from getting off in the ditch.