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.
I remember a commercial from my childhood vividly in which the woman proudly declared she could bring home the bacon, take care of the home, and extend value to her relationships because she was a woman! It was an empowering message for women in the 1980’s who were breaking out of the constraints that had been placed on them by society, but it was a myth that grew in strength and has created a loss in many when they were not able to be everything to everybody. Every choice has positives elements that bring peace or life, and every choice has losses that are tied to that choice. For example, as a working woman, I may decide that I do not have the strength to make a homemade dinner and might opt for takeout. The choice is positive for me in that I have extended self-care to myself by the choice takeout has brought me, but the loss is in finances and maybe health quotient. So how do you make decisions when each decision brings loss? This is where I, as a woman, have to include my spirit. This is where I consult the higher power of the Holy Spirit because the Bible says the Spirit of God knows what we need when we do not. I will be honest: there are times I want with all my heart to make a choice for self-care and ignore the losses, but only caring for self can sometimes numb the loss. On a recent afternoon, I arrived home exhausted and laid down in my dark bedroom and watched “Christmas in Connecticut” thinking there was no way I could make dinner. However, as I gave myself care for that half hour things evolved and when I asked the Holy Spirit about making dinner, I felt encouraged to make dinner and did it with an ease that had not existed the previous hour. Where did that strength come from? God. It says in the Bible that Jesus is before the throne of God interceding for us and supplying our needs, but what we need changes daily and we have a God who knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows the power inside of us when we do not. Next time you are questioning what you should choose, ask God to show you. He knows what you do not and can direct you to deal with things you did not know you could deal with today.
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
1980’s commercial I referred to in my post
Throughout our Wellsprings offices, you will find many pieces of artwork with beams of light coming into dark areas, such as forests. It is the “picture” in my mind’s eye of what counseling can do in people’s lives if they allow truth to penetrate the dark areas where they are constantly hurt. When we are emotionally blinded in an area, we we are not sure what is going on because we cannot see what is around us. We feel things very clearly, but we are unable to distinguish what reality is and how to move around in it because the room is dark. Several years ago, there was a show on TV in which people were forced to complete tasks in utter darkness and many participants had extreme fear because they could not see clearly what they were really dealing with or touching. The only thing they knew is what they were told. One individual might perceive they were walking across a beam 40 feet in the air because they were told that was their truth and they were strapped up as if they were walking on a beam, but in reality they were only 12 inches off the floor. How did they know what was real or not? They could not see and depended on what they were told. They walked through the darkness in extreme terror not realizing they were believing lies. Sometimes the messages we were told as children verbally and nonverbally have created large areas of darkness in our lives because what was said or done to us was not really truth. I continually challenge those in my office to examine what is truth and make decisions on truth, not on the words of those in our past or our present. Words alone are not truth. Words alone are intentions or manipulations. Actions are truth. Words and actions combined can be a powerful light in darkness. Choose to be a person who focuses on the light today. It will bring illumination to the dark areas of your life. Make a list of things from your childhood you know are not true, but that you continue to walk according to in your life. These are the areas where you need truth revealed via praying and asking for God to show you truth or asking safe people in your life what is truth.
“For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.”