by ProfDave, ©2021
(Jun. 16, 2021) — Step One: We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
Romans 7:18: “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.”
The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have become the paradigm for almost every successful recovery program today – and it is no coincidence that they are also basic Christianity in hiking gear. Seven years ago, out of my lifelong brokenness, I began this journey for my own healing and growth. Since the death of my beloved, it seems this has becoming my new mission. Please allow me to show you that it isn’t just for alcoholics and needle scarred addicts, but a way of life recovery for anyone ready to change. For those of you who are Christians, I will also reference The Eight [parallel] Principles of Rick Warren and Celebrate Recovery®.
The first step out of the waters of De Nile is the hardest, but it is the foundation of all recovery and personal improvement. I will never be better until I admit that I am not perfect. And I certainly do not have god-like power to perfect myself (what a hoot!). I can change my brand of toothpaste and even give up cheese curls, but not much beyond that! Oh! I did give up New Year’s resolutions – they are useless because I cannot keep them!
“That we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors.” You are not an addict? Not compulsive? Do you have any hurt that you just cannot get over? You have to keep stuffing it back under the carpet? Do you have any hang-up that keeps you doing things that are all out of proportion to reason? Do you have any behavior pattern that you have tried to change repeatedly? What’s in your closet? You? I am addicted to my own brain chemistry, maybe you are too? It is hard to put the bottle down when it is inside your head.
We need to come to the place where we admit “that our lives had become unmanageable” at least in some dimension. Sadly, many people have to receive the “gift of desperation” before they seriously begin the journey to recovery and healing. But it does not have to be like that. Take a good look at your life. Could it be better? Healthy living is daily growth, not just the 911 call. Could your relationships with yourself, with others, and with God be better? Have you given up – as I did – the possibility of change? Are you riding the couch – or the pew– to the grave without hope? Just running out the clock? Are you tolerating the intolerable? Do you think you are born this way and this is as good as it is going to get? I did. Then I have Good News for you. You are ready for Step One.
Remember, the 12 Steps of AA are really a hypoallergenic version of Christianity in hiking gear. If you are not allergic to Jesus, read on. In Celebrate Recovery we just add Scripture verses and mirror it all in Rick Warren’s 8 Principles. It is an acrostic for the word “Recovery.” R is for:
Principle 1: Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. Matthew 5:3 – “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.”
This also corresponds with the ABC’s “To Encounter God:”
A stands for Admitthat God is right and you are wrong – unconditionally. We are alienated from God – and it is not his fault. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way”- Isaiah 53:6. “There is none righteous, no not one.” Psalm 14:1 etc. We have left God out of our lives – or shut him out. Even in our goodness we do not want a real God to rule over us – we want to be our own gods. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.
The narrow door – and the only door – into Christianity is to admit you are a bad person and cannot help it. Hate to break it to you, but if you have not been there and done that, your Christianity is bogus – a cultural veneer, only skin deep. “Good” people need not apply. Jesus came for the sinners, not the [self]righteous.
Not a sinner? Then Christ did not die for you. What is a sinner? Someone who does not love the One God with all their being and their neighbor as themselves. How about someone who breaks the ten commandments – any one of them? Have you ever lied? Did you just lie to me? What does that make you? Have you ever taken something that was not yours? What does that make you? Ever devoured someone with your eyes or imagination who was not your spouse – even though you did not actually get the chance to go to bed with them? What does that make you? So you are a liar, a thief, and an adulterer and that’s only three of them. See why secularists want to make the Big Ten illegal? You qualify – you just did not know it yet. He died for you. Good Friday is good for you, too!
All of us have done things which, when we think about it, were wrong: we have all sinned, just like the Good Book says. Worse still, we have shut God out of our lives.
But even those of us who have repented, been forgiven, and been born again (“Saved and sanctified” in Holiness terms) still have hurts, hang-ups and habits. God is in our lives, but we still have clutter and handicaps that hinder our relationships with Him and others. These things hinder our personal and spiritual growth.
Beneath the surface of ordinary us living ordinary lives, we are broken people in a broken world. We do the wrong thing and hurt ourselves and others. We get hurt by others. By life. We have hang-ups. We have habits. What can I do about the brokenness in my own life?
Have you ever been hurt? In our broken world it is almost inevitable. The feeling of being hurt is an emotional reaction to another person’s behavior or to a disturbing situation: abuse, abandonment, codependency, divorce, family dysfunction, losses (career, financial, health, loved ones, emotional, religious you name it) and relationship issues.
Do you feel like no one understands? Been told to “just get over it,” but you cannot? Have you tried all the pat answers – even the familiar Bible verses – but the pain keeps coming back?
Do you have a Hang-up? Have you ever been hurt?Just about everyone has. If you have ever been hurt, there’s a good chance you have developed a hang-up!
Hang-ups are negative mental attitudes that are used to cope with people or adversity. For example: anger, anxiety, co-dependency, compulsiveness, control, depression, escape and withdrawal (my personal favorite), insecurity, fear and un-forgiveness.
Do you find strong attitudes and emotions bubbling up that are out of proportion with the situation? Causing new problems bigger than the one you were trying to solve?
Do you have a habit? If you have ever been hurt, you may have developed a habit to relieve or to escape your pain. Or sometimes you can acquire a habit by bad example or almost by mistake. It may have seemed completely innocent at first. A pleasurable dalliance that has become a compulsion. A cute little pet that has grown to be a fire-breathing dragon.
A habit is an addiction to someone or something. Examples: alcohol, drugs (prescription or non-), food (compulsive eating, anorexia, bulimia), gambling, relationships (people or romance addiction), sex (lust, pornography, unwanted sexual attractions and others), shopping, smoking and any other compulsive behavior.
Have you tried to quit but can’t? Quit more than once? Does it take more and more of “x” to provide the comfort you crave? Does it cause more problems than it solves? Drain resources? Put you in awkward and dangerous situations? Take the place of God in your life? Hinder your walk with God and significant others?
Maybe Celebrate Recovery is for you? Don’t struggle alone.
Step One is very dear to me, because it was here that I received my miracle, ending sixty years of struggling alone by coming out of my denial. I like to say, “you are either in recovery or in denial!” God chose to break my chains when I admitted they were there. How about you? Are you ready to take Step One?
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.