As a woman in recovery, I see people all of the time who want to change, surrender, start a new way of life. Unfortunately, most are not willing to do what it takes to make such a big change. Most people are looking for a quick fix and as we all learn from being alive long enough there rarely are quick fixes in life.
However, if we are willing to play the long game, there are fixes.
The good news is that change is possible! Old dogs can be taught new tricks.
Ingredients Needed to Change
I find there are several key ingredients needed in a person if they are looking to make a lasting change. Isn’t that what we are after? A change that will last and allow us to have a more fulfilling, purpose-driven life? I am writing this post to share what I’ve learned in my 11 years of recovery from my own issues as well as helping other women seeking such victories too.
The first step in any 12-step recovery program is an admission of powerless over the thing we are addicted to or struggling with. Admission of powerlessness is the first step because one must recognize that things are out of control and willpower will not solve the problem. When I surrendered almost 12 years ago, I was empty, almost ready to die, and scared. Instead of choosing to continue going down the same road of insanity or worse, choosing to end my life, I fell to my knees and cried out to the God I once knew, Jesus Christ. I was completely bankrupt and willing to ask for help. Furthermore, I was willing to do whatever it took to change.
That’s the kind of surrender I’m speaking of. One that involves being at the end of the rope, at the end of ourselves, and where we are saying something like, “my way is not working and I need help.”
There is no shame in asking for help and I think it’s one of the most beautiful prayers a person can pray and some of the most important words a person can utter to another. In my experience, so many things opened up to me that I could not see until I surrendered. To quote an old Chinese proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Once we surrender the characteristic that will take us far is the ability to remain teachable. If we are admitting our former way is not working, then there is no room for pride. Actually, pride is always a stumbling block.
“Pride comes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18
Another thing to remember as we start submitting to either a recovery program, a mentor, or a discipler, is that there are no bad teachers in life. For me, my ultimate teacher is the Lord and by whom I measure all else. I can learn what my Father has to say to me by being in the Good Book and praying. However, I’m also willing to submit to others who disciple me. Although, if someone gives me advice that is contrary to the word of God, I don’t follow it. Bad teachers can just show us what not to do and cause us to strengthen our discernment muscles.
Focus on the One Thing
Anytime I’ve made a huge transformation it was because I worked to change one thing. That singular focus allowed me to go all-in on that one thing and make everything else secondary.
The funny thing about making one change is that it spills out into all other areas of life. For example, when I was 19 I decided to start working out. That’s the only change I sought to make and it began by getting a gym membership and going every day. At the time I was a smoker so I just started lifting weights and stayed away from the cardio. I got stronger and leaner and pretty soon I decided I wanted to try cardio so I quit smoking. Within a few short weeks, I was able to implement cardio into my routine and from there my overall health skyrocketed.
Food tasted better once I quit smoking and because I spent time working out, I noticed I just didn’t want to put crap food into my body anymore. Additionally, my focus improved and I found that I took my studies more seriously and became an active participant in life.
All of this good stuff stemmed from that one change – I began working out.
Unfortunately, those healthy changes would wax and wane for the next 17 years of my life until I faced my root issues which, untreated, always lead me back to drinking and drugging and away from health.
Fortunately, in my mid to late 30’s I hit my bottom and got sober. Here is another time where I only focused on one thing. That thing was my sobriety which led me to recovery rooms, 12-steps, accountability, amends, forgiveness, faith, family, facing my demons, healing, and true love of self through knowing Jesus Christ.
These changes have stuck to this day. Being willing to be discipled and going deep is why I no longer fear falling back into unhealthy ways.
Discipline through Discipleship
“Discipline is freedom” – Jocko Willink
There is a lot of freedom in learning discipline. The dictionary defines discipline as the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
Some people have strong internal disciplines and others need accountability. However, I will argue we all need someone to mentor us. Someone who is just a bit further along in faith, life, recovery, or whatever else you are seeking discipline in.
Discipline as a word is very similar to the word disciple. The dictionary defines a disciple as a personal follower of Jesus during his life, especially one of the twelve Apostles.
Why are disciples of Jesus so discipline? Because followers of Jesus are called to be open to correction, direction, and conviction. Furthermore, we are called to self-control, forgiveness, humility, love, kindness, goodness, patience, gentleness, joy, and peace.
Disciples of Jesus have one main discipler, Jesus Christ. However, we also have secondary disciplers in the form of pastors, ministers or the like. Jesus sent his disciples out two-by-two and that still holds true today. We all need one another and should not do this journey of life.
Willing to go Deep
Okay, here’s what really separates short-term change from long-term, lasting change. Are we willing to go deep? I mean really deep. Don’t worry, the onion can be peeled off one layer at a time. In my experience, God is a gentleman and has allowed me to uncover things as I am ready. As the layers come off, I’ve learned to really focus on the thing I’m dealing with and ask myself key questions…
- Do I owe any amends?
- Who do I need to forgive?
- What lies have I been believing?
- What is the truth that God says about me?
Once I have those answers it’s time to get to work. For me, much of the work is done on my knees in prayer and/or in prayer with others. When I’m making amends I really try to figure out what needs to be said, how I need to change, and how I can begin to live a lifelong amends with the people I’ve hurt. It’s not easy but for me, it’s so much more than an apology.
One of the best things about this life is that as long as we are breathing we get another chance to change. Nothing that has occured in our past needs to dictate our future. Sure, our pasts shape us and teach us so many things, but we don’t need to be condemned to repeat old negative patterns.
There are a plethora of free recovery groups and churches who would be happy to help mentor you on your journey to change. I’ve started a list of many recovery resources right here on my website.
God bless you on your journey.