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Is Your Recovery a “White Knuckle” Recovery or a Freedom Recovery?

Is Your Recovery a “White Knuckle” Recovery or a Freedom Recovery?

When I was five years old, my parents took our family on a day trip to an amusement park outside of Philadelphia. I begged my parents to ride the wooden roller coaster at the park only to discover that it was a traumatic experience that would linger with me for many years.  The amusement park did not have height restrictions, seat belts or other safety precautions back then. They should have had those safeguards though because my mother fought to keep me from falling out of the ride!  Many years later, I can still remember the trauma of being unable to hold onto the safety bar and bouncing around the car only to feel as if at any second I would fall out.  That experience stayed with me and I was unwilling to try anything adventurous at amusement parks for many years after that.  Finally, a friend convinced me to try the roller coaster again when I was 14 and I discovered I enjoyed the adrenaline rush! After that, I tried anything and everything until I hit the age when motion sickness became the norm.
I share this story as a means of explaining recovery.  Sometimes, you can hold on really tight to recovery and the sheer exhaustion of holding onto recovery causes us to tire and release our grip. Then, we bounce all over the place in times of high stress. I call this kind of recovery “White Knuckle” Recovery.  I am holding on to my recovery so tightly because I have not grown emotionally to the point that I have the strength to hold on the emotional safety bar with ease while I ride the hills and curves of stress.  Many times people are white-knuckling their recovery to please a person who is also riding through life with them. They hold on to the safety bar of recovery so tightly that they eventually lose strength, let go, and give up again.  There is a constant cycle of holding onto the safety bar of recovery only to eventually cycle out of recovery when the going gets rough. It can be a vicious cycle. The person holding on tightly to the safety bar of recovery is emotionally weak because they have not worked to strengthen their emotional muscle energy.  True recovery comes when people do a variety of activities to make sure they can hold on to their recovery. These activities include :
1.  Working on the issues of their childhood that cause them to lose their grip.
2.  Growing in their understanding of the truth about themselves and replacing childhood beliefs with adult beliefs.  Just like we grow physically, people will grow emotionally when they focus on self-growth.
3.  Feeding on a steady diet of emotional and spiritual truth. This is the food that enables a person to have the strength to withstand the speed and stress of the ride of life.

We are not promised a life without struggle. However, we are promised that truth will bring freedom, that love can replace fear, and that letting go of childish ways can enable us to ride through life in a freedom that helps us intuitively know what to do when we encounter difficult stress.  Are you “white knuckling” your recovery or are you taking the steps to enable yourself to make stronger decisions and ride in freedom?  Believe it or not, you can enjoy the ride when you take the steps to no longer ride as a child.

I Corinthians 13: 8-13 ( NIV)
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

You Cannot be Knocked Over Easily When Your Water Bottle is Full

You Cannot be Knocked Over Easily When Your Water Bottle is Full

 

I am not sure if anyone ever told you that you were a water bottle, but you are.   When your water bottle is full, it cannot be tipped over easily; however, when your water bottle is empty, you will be more readily knocked down physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  When you are born your body is about 78% water, and by the time you are an adult, men need their body to have a water hydration level of 50-60% and women need their water hydration levels to be 45-60%.  Water runs all of the systems of our physical body including our brain, and we need to take in water to keep our systems running in a healthy manner. This is a good correlation to keeping yourself hydrated spiritually and emotionally; if you’re not hydrating yourself in these way, then when troubles come, you will be knocked to the ground easily.  When you are hydrating yourself emotionally and spiritually, you will make better choices in the care of self and others, but when you are not…well, the consequences are apparent. I believe that from the moment you are born, you have needs and longings that are hardwired into you from your very creation. From the moment a baby is born they are crying to have their physical and emotional longings fulfilled, but somewhere along the way, we learn to suppress those longings and we use addictions and control of various things as a means of suppressing those longings.  However, no person can fulfill all the longings of another, and thus we have a puzzle of how to let in our spiritual creator and other safe humans to take care of these longings. Proverbs 13:19 states that a longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but most people who have no idea what they have natural longings for because they have been suppressing those longings for so long. When your needs and longings have received the emotional and spiritual water they need to to be healthy, you will make better emotional and spiritual choices and will be less likely to medicate or control things in life.  What do you need today to fill your water bottle? Here is my general list of emotional and spiritual elements people needs. What would you add to the list?

 

⚪Healthy Touch like a safe hug, a comforting hold, holding hands, snuggling

⚪To be heard- talking with someone who listens so I feel valued and heard

⚪Affirmation – need to hear something good about myself

⚪Joy – a good laugh, doing something I love, being with people who are joyful, having a spiritual experience, singing

⚪A need to create – art, music, dance, write, decorate, cleaning, organizing, building,  fixing.

⚪Peace – quiet, alone time, a nap, a bath, etc.

⚪Beauty – Outdoors time, beautiful things, color

⚪Passion – something to get excited about, vision, new experience, new knowledge

⚪To feel useful- to feel like I am making a positive impact on my world

⚪Other ______________________________________________

 

You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abound in glory that just pours out into eternity. Phil. 4:20 (MSG)

Are You Embracing Winter?

Are You Embracing Winter?

Here in the Northeast, we start dreaming about tropical climates and Island getaways by the beginning of January. By the end of February, we are pretty sure we will buy a beach home, and by the end of March, well, we won’t go there.
For most of us, it is hard for us to embrace winter, both in the natural and in the emotional and spiritual. Spring and summer are easy to embrace because everything is new. New growth, fresh fruit, and new beauty. We need winter in the physical and in the emotional and spiritual because in winter the pests die. It is in the winter that we are forced to deal with the conditions on the inside. So, for all those who are in a “winter” season in their lives, be reminded that winter is only a season. Thank God it doesn’t last forever!
Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 (NIV) There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.

What Happens in The Quiet

What Happens in The Quiet

This morning, I got up early and walked the dog as I always do before I came to work. I savored my alone time on the walk, and then on my drive into work as it was the first quiet, non-stimulating alone time in five days. The holidays are exciting because we spend time with people, and have special foods, specials concerts, and stimulation of all shapes, sizes, and textures. However, my walk this morning told me I desired the structure of my alone time more than I realized. This year I have valued my solo pre-dawn walks of the dog so much that I went out of my way to ask for a Christmas gift of a unique, heavy-duty coat for walking in the extreme cold. It’s long, heavy, and it has this fantastic, all-encompassing hood that kind of makes me look like the grim reaper; however, it gives me the coverage to continue below zero walks of the dog. When I take the time to be in the quiet, I organize my thoughts, perceptions, needs, and desires in a manner that makes me feel empowered in my life. When I fail to take the time to be in the quiet, I am more disorganized, forgetful, less spiritually focused and I put aside the things that I need without taking the time to recognize what I need to pursue. I am a more focused and happier version of myself when I include daily periods of silence.
In my line of work, I hear all the reasons why people cannot have the alone time they need, but not all the ways they are working to make it happen. Many people desire the quiet at the same time they fear it. We need calm. We were designed to value quiet so that we would pursue that which impacts our body, soul, and spirit. However, many people fear the quiet and the alone because their tormenting thoughts invade the space of the quiet. Tormenting thoughts are the signal you need to process your thoughts on paper with God or with someone like a trusted friend, pastor or counselor. If you ignore the feelings that come in the silence, they will grow louder and will begin to be heard by you in your interactions with people, your work, and your family relationships. The holidays are winding down; I look joyfully to the reboot of peace and structure of the new year. How about you? Are you dreading the silence of January? Do you have tormenting thoughts to be processed so that you can embrace peace? Isaiah 30:15 b says this about quiet, “In return and rest you will be saved; quietness and trust will be your strength, but you refused.” It’s important to understand that many of the individuals that achieved much take the time to retreat into the quiet to build their strength instead of running harder to get to their goals. If you are training to be stronger spiritually and emotionally, it’s essential that you begin to incorporate quiet into your day. Make the decision to face down the elements that prevent you from entering the quiet and equipping yourself with the necessary tools and boundaries that make quiet possible.
Start asking yourself and God why you prevent yourself from being in the quiet and make a plan to move toward it.

The Problems of Pain

I’ve been thinking a lot of the allegory of physical pain and emotional pain, and how you treat both as I go through extensive physical therapy for my physical pain.  My physical pain requires me to focus on stretching out my muscles multiple times a day so that I am in less pain each day.  It’s a challenge to choose to do painful exercises that take away time from other portions of my day, but my physical pain increases when I decide not to do the stretching exercises.  Likewise, it is this way in the therapy process.  Clients ask me, “How long will this take?  How many months or how many sessions will this take to get better?”  My response is always the same:  to whatever level you put into practice the things that I tell you to do outside of the sessions is to what degree you will recover faster.  Last time I was going through physical therapy, I had a severe achilles injury that required doing daily stretches.  The problem was that I was in the midst of a move to another house and forcing myself to stop packing up my house and do the necessary stretching was very difficult.  I wound up requesting that my doctor sign off on doing more physical therapy so that the therapist would force me to do the work I needed to do to get my leg back.  The process of physical therapy took longer because I was putting many other things ahead of my recovery.  Moving towards emotional pain and the work we need to do to recover ourselves to psychological health is a painful process.  We are forced to stare down the things that we avoid dealing with in life, and we are forced to deal with the feelings that we would medicate by keeping our minds occupied.  However, I have noticed that the higher my physical pain levels are, the more I self-medicate and the less I reach out to others.  My mind is so preoccupied with my pain that I am unable to focus on giving proper care to those close to me.  I realize that I must force myself to do the exercises that cost me time and pain in order to get better for both myself and others.  My life is happier when I am pain free.  I am not hindered in my daily life and the activities that I can choose to do when I my pain is lessened.  The same is true for my loved ones.  I give them better care when I am not focused on my pain.  I am much more pleasant and amiable when my pain levels are down.  How about you?  How are you dealing with the emotionally painful things in your life?  Are you facing them down daily or are you avoiding them at all cost?  Each decision has its own payoff.  Avoidance of the pain feels as if it lessens the pain in the short term, but  the less we deal with it, the more the pain grows, the slower the process of recovery, and the less I give those whom I love the quality of care they need.

Are you Emotionally Ambidextrous?

Are you Emotionally Ambidextrous?

I’m currently in the midst of recovering from a severe shoulder injury.    My injury creates an inability to move my arm above my head,  to carry weight with the arm, and to do anything that would require the twisting of my arm.   It’s been a hassle and frustration to deal with the loss of ability.  However, I’m slowly learning to be more ambidextrous.  I realize the number of times I can use the other arm to do the same thing that I’m used to doing with my primary arm.   It’s fantastic to understand that I am capable of doing the same task with a different limb, and I’ve never done it that way before this point in time.  The same can be true when we’ve had a significant loss in our life.  Be it the death of a family member, a loss of a spouse, or change in a relationship, we think we know what we are capable of doing but many times we are capable of doing much more than we perceive because we’ve never done it that way before.   Emotional ambidexterity (which is my made-up word)  is my way of explaining that you are capable of doing something different and ,with practice, you will become skilled at doing it differently.  At the moment I am talk typing because typing with my right arm is virtually impossible, and typing with my left arm is slowly progressing.    How about you?   Do you stop trying when what you’re used to doing things one way and that can no longer be done?   Or do you try to learn new ways of doing what you used to do?   It’s very empowering to think that we can do things differently when we force ourselves to learn new ways of doing things.   The first time I did something with my left arm I felt a little proud of myself because I was learning how to develop a whole other part of my being that has been virtually unused.   I have to remind myself always to use my left hand because the old way keeps kicking in and taking over and then the pain comes from doing it the old way.   How about you?  Are you learning how to use different emotional muscles than you used before this point in time?  Even as I type with my left hand, I feel more powerful to be using a skill I never developed before today.   You may be used to doing things one way, but the reality is you hold unlimited capability within you that has yet to be tapped from the inside!   Keep reminding yourself to do it the new way, and soon you will find yourself skilled in areas you never knew you were skilled.

 

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Do you Have CSSS(Cinderella Step-Sister Syndrom)?

Do you Have CSSS(Cinderella Step-Sister Syndrom)?

Do you have Cinderella Step Sister Syndrome (C.S.S.S.)? “What in the world is that?” you ask.  It is the attempt to live someone else’s dream that doesn’t fit who we are, such as Cinderella’s stepsisters did in Grimm’s famous fairy tale.   In the original story of Cinderella, written by Grimm, the stepsisters did physical harm to their feet by cutting off toes and heels to attempt to wear the glass slipper designed for Cinderella.   Many times, our effort to live someone else’s dream can cause physical, emotional and, spiritual harm to us, but because we are living out a dream, we don’t see the cost to us, but we certainly will feel it.  Sometimes when we are not living our best life, we find ourselves daydreaming of what life could be like if things were different or trying to shove our feet in shoes that we cannot walk in.  Alas, neither of these options produce little more than frustration in our life.   In my line of work, I meet many people who are living the lives that others have created for them instead of writing their story.  Many people still live the lives their parents set up in work, finances, and relationships.  They have assimilated the beliefs of their parents into how they live, and in turn, they live someone else’s life; a life that of their parent’s design.  Be it parents, teachers, pastors, partners or friends who influence the choices that you make; you need to have a clear image of who you are so that you start making decisions that will move you toward your passion.  Once you have located your passion, you will find it easier to make choices because you will understand what options or people to embrace and what choices not to embrace.  Your truth about yourself will bring your peace and energy and will cause you to set boundaries for anyone or anything that negative encroaches on that which you hold dear.   The Cinderella Stepsister Syndrome recovery challenge is to find your passion in life and move toward it because it is when we move toward who we were created to be in life that we start finding our fulfillment.  The psalmist David understood this about God and was able to recover from many challenges in life because he understood this concept of God.  Today, I challenge you to search the internet for passion finder assessments that will help point you in the right direction (my personal favorites are the DISC Career assessment, COPSystem, and the Destiny Finder profile), and to search out people who see the same things in you that the assessments provide.  We need people in our lives who will embrace us for who we have been called to be, not who they need us to be for their purposes.  I often relate this to my life when I think about the mentors in my life who had supported my passions even when they did not benefit from those passions.  I know that I would still be living the life somebody else had created for me and being confused and powerless, had someone not stepped forward and said to me, “ I see who you are in this area and you need to do much more of it!”  Cinderella’s stepsisters never received what they wanted out of life because they were living the life their mother had created for them.  It’s time to create a life that brings you passion, not one that crushes your dreams because you live for others.

 

Psalm 139

1 You have searched me, Lord,

   and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;

   you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;

   you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue

   you, Lord, know it completely.

5 You hem me in behind and before,

   and you lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

   too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

   Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

   if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

   your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

   and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

   the night will shine like the day,

   for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;

   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

   your works are wonderful,

   I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you

   when I was made in the secret place,

   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Recently, a rare bird has been spotted in my neighborhood and neighbors have spent the last weeks hosting hundreds of bird watchers from all over the United States and Canada. Over 900 visitors have visited and signed the guestbook, and neighbors are all a little confused over the fascination that would cause someone to travel thousands of miles to view a bird. I have to admire their passion that drives them to spend time and money to seek out that which fulfills their dreams. How are you at investing in your dreams for your future? Do you spend time and energy on moving toward your dreams or do you just wish you could move toward your dreams? For most people, they know what their dreams are, but they don’t know what keeps them powerless and unmoving. Powerlessness can be likened to an invisible chasm in which you don’t know where it starts and you don’t know where it stops. Therefore, you wait until the fog clears to get a better view only to realize that the only way you are going to get a clearer view is to change your perspective. You need to go higher above the fog line by inviting the higher power of God into your sight line, or go deeper below the surface you are standing on and get below the fog line. Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do for ourselves is to understand what is the below the fog line; the aspects of our past and that of our parents that keep us from walking forward. I usually do a family genogram with people during our first information gathering session where I draw out the family tree on the whiteboard for people to see the feeds from their past that get into their sight line. Rare is the person that doesn’t see something that they never saw before as their history it is now in their sight line on the whiteboard. Rare is the person that does not have fog removed from their eyes when they seek to understand their past from a different perspective. Sometimes one just needs to see things below the fog line to get clarity on how to move forward. In my case, one of my empowerments came from understanding how repeated patterns of treatment from my abusive grandmother caused me to interact with my world, bond with my world, share in my world,etc. When I came to see that much of my perfectionism was tied to the beatings and verbal abuse I received for mistakes I made as a child, I could finally learn to take the fog of perfectionism out of my sight line. Before digging deeper and going below the fog line, I knew I was a people pleaser, and I knew God did not want me to live there, but there was trauma tied to mistakes that needed to be rooted out so that trauma responses were not fogging up my sight line. God wants us to achieve our dreams. He desires to us to flourish and grow because he is the one who created us. He is cheering us on to walk in power and authority and move toward our dreams, but we may have to look at some things from our past that are hidden below the surface so that we can clearly see how to walk forward.

Psalm 20:4 “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”
Psalm 33:11 “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
Psalm 37:4-5 “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

A Full Vase is Harder to Break than an Empty Vase

 

Recently, one of my clients made the statement, “a full vase is harder break than an empty vase, ” and I was again humbled to sit in the presence of genius. I sit with and walk with clients who have wisdom but have never had the keys handed to them to unlock all that is within them, and that day was one of those days. I, in turn, scribbled that phrase down to later come back to it and asked permission to blog about it because I like to meditate on phrases that catch my attention. I have no idea whether this fact is true in the world of science, but it is certainly true in the world of emotions. When we have filled ourselves with life-giving water, we are harder to break than when we are empty, and that is why we need to constantly be refilling ourselves where the stress of life has drained us. Jesus says he is water in John 4:14 and that he will fill us up when we fill ourselves spiritually by prayer, meditation and reading his words, but how else do you need to fill your vase so you don’t break easily? Life is stressful, and if all we do is pour out water on others and tasks, we are likely to have more stressed out/out-of-control moments in which we feel like we are breaking. I can remember one season in my life when I was caring for two preschoolers and was volunteering in many other positions, in which was a lot of pouring out of me and not a lot of pouring into me. Life was downright hard, and I remember being very frustrated with my reactions to people because I felt out of control; yes, the therapist is sharing that she felt out of control. Getting ourselves to the full position is not an easy process. Many times clients tell me that they do not have the energy to go out with friends or take a long bath, but the reality is you do not have a choice if you don’t want to “break easily.” When does the benefit of being full outweigh the cost of being empty? When we learn we are worth giving care to self instead of giving ourselves the punishment and lack of value we grew up with in our childhood, and when we learn that the care of self is just as valuable to God as the care of others is to him, then we will choose to fill ourselves with life. The choice to value self will only occur on a consistent basis when we change our perception of self and we can change that perception when we begin to embrace how our creator really views us. How does the creator view you?
This is Ephesians 3;18-19 in the passion translation;
Then, as my spiritual strength increases, I will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences – the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Jesus, the Messiah in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is His love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement, beyond academic knowledge – this extravagant love pours into me until I am filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!

January is Suicide Prevention Month, and suicide has been heavy on my heart the last several weeks as I know so many people deal with depression during the month of January here in the northeast. In our neck of the woods, the world is cold, the days are short, and, as holidays end, people are feeling the lost sunlight and lost joy. I begin seeing the “heavy hearted” come through my office at the end of November when sunlight reduces and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) rises. It’s a powerless place to feel the heaviness of sadness and feel trapped by it. I can remember one winter years ago when the sadness of depression kept me glued to the sofa, powerless to make choices because my brain was so full of foggy thoughts. I, too, understand what depression desires to rip out of our heart: our joy. So this month has become the month I challenge people to fight for joy. To fight to find joy they fail to see as the fog of depression attempts to roll in and steal their sightline. I tell people if they feel the depression fog trying to roll in they need to change position so they can continue to see joy. This is the month to have indoor picnics, plan trips to the art museum, do crafts, try the new Thai restaurant, etc. You need to plan your driving route through and around the fog. It takes careful planning and careful driving to be aware of where you are driving through fog. As the fog of winter depression attempts to roll in, plan careful road trips with destinations of joy all through the next several months and invite others to join you. There is no greater medicine than the laughter of friends also trying to find their way through the fog with us and we need to reassure each other as we drive this path.

Dear God, In the next several months show us where to direct our eyes, show us who to travel with, and show us destinations of joy to move toward so that we don’t let the fog mess up our sightline.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10New International Version (NIV) 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.