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Trauma And The Twelve Steps 

Trauma And The Twelve Steps – Part 1 - What Is your Trauma Story?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a Pastor and Recovery Coach having taught on addictions for many years and having run recovery homes, I am convinced that many of the people I have worked with were suffering from Childhood trauma and all the emotional ramifications from that. And yet not many programs treat that subject. We medicated to regulate our emotions and yet we don’t go after the root of our addiction. I am doing this series, Trauma and the Twelve Steps to help identify some of the issues. If they speak to your heart I encourage you to check out our Emotional Resilience – Living with the Fruit of the Spirit course that will help transform your life and overcome the emotional issues that come with Childhood trauma. Let’s get to it!

 

Did you have trauma growing up?

There are no perfect families. All parents have faults and no child goes through childhood without some trauma. In reviewing the comments below you may identify with some or many of them. All this means is that you may have had trauma in your life that is causing you issues today. If so you may want to seek a counselor and share some of your concerns. The significance of trauma is what it cause us to end up believing about our own self at the time of trauma. What conclusions did we draw from it? What predictions were made?  It is possible that what you are feeling now as volatile emotions are the same ones you felt as a child. Today when your sensations remind you of a time of trauma in the past your brain sends out a signal and puts your body on high alert. Your emotions will mimic those of your earlier trauma and the conclusions and predictions that were set in motion a long time ago will once again be active in your current onslaught of emotion. Of course in addictions, we medicate to regulate our emotions. So many go through treatment and relapse over and over again because they never deal with the emotional issues that have them bound. Today, you can start down the road of emotional freedom.

 

What Is A Trauma?

Trauma is an experience (or experiences) that overwhelm our emotional capacity to handle the situation. This prevents us from acting in the way God created us to.

Stress + Learned Helplessness = Trauma

Learned Helplessness is the result of feeling there is no use in trying. I am “helpless” to do anything about my situation. There then is a lack of optimism, confidence or hope. It affects our feeling of worth, love, safety and security.

 

Suffering vs. Trauma

Suffering

This is how a person with “love capacity” reacts when a tragedy strikes. They are not destroyed or stuck in emotional turmoil. They “suffer” by being saddened and they grieve, but they remain intact and are able to eventually return to emotional stability. When a person suffers, they may find their capacities drastically reduced, even to the point of death, but they continue to be themselves with the capacities and dominion they have left. Jesus was an example with His suffering right to His death. He never lost who He was or what His personal mission was.

 

Trauma

Trauma is anything that reduces who we are, or who we understand our self to be. It robs us of love capacity. Love capacity is the ability to know that we are loved and secure no matter what our circumstances that comes from having a loving and nurturing childhood. We feel secure and know that our current situation does not define us. With a strong love capacity we are able to bounce back from painful situations knowing that we are okay. We are resilient. It is our love capacity that helps us overcome traumatic events. A person who has low love capacity is susceptible to unregulated emotional intensity. They do more than suffer, they remain in trauma and get stuck in their emotional reaction unable to move on to the next level of maturity.

 

Many of us do not deal with early childhood trauma because we have it hidden out of our view. It was our “normal” so why should we see it as abnormal. It could be that the experiences were so frightening that we just do want to go there. Perhaps we were left with deep feelings of worthlessness and other painful emotions that are too painful to live with. So we build our life around it like a person who creates paths through a mine field. The goal of this exercise is to help us understand the type of trauma we may have suffered with.

 

Unresolved trauma can be very troubling so please proceed with this exercise conscious of your comfort level. If any of the examples I give trouble you take that as an indicator that you should perhaps see a counselor. The goal is not to overwhelm you but rather help you see if there may have been a wounding that needs to be repaired. Again, It may be that you need to see a counselor that can help you process your uncomfortable feelings. Remember, you are here now. Take a deep breath, relax and let yourself return to joy in this present moment.

 

Type A Trauma

This is the trauma resulting from the lack of necessary good things. This could be abandonment, rejection, malnutrition, isolation, lack of love or the absence of encouragement. For example a child needs to be nurtured and cared for. This gives them a secure attachment. When this does not happen it is experienced as Trauma A. Type A inhibits the development of love capacity.

 

Rate the following phrases with a 1-4. (1 = Never, 2= Seldom, 3= Often, 4= Very much so) Begin each phrase with, “While growing up…”

Emotional neglect

People failed to celebrate my birthdays. ____

Christmas was poorly celebrated. _____

One or more of my caregivers were absent. _____

I was left alone to tend on my own. _____

I was left with a caregiver that was emotionally absent. _____

I was left with a caregiver that was drunk, high or hung over. _____

My family seldom celebrated my extra-curricular activities. _____

 

Physical neglect 

There was not enough food in the house for everyone. _____

As a child I was left alone for long periods of time. _____

I had to wear dirty clothes. ____

I was living on the streets by the time I was a teenager or even earlier. _____

I felt unsafe in our home _____

 

Type B Trauma

This is not the absence of necessary good things, it is the actual experiencing of bad things. Things that should have never been. Things like a predominant atmosphere of humiliation, betrayal and contempt can be traumatic. The next level would be constant intimidation, anger and threats. Finally, there are more extreme cases of abuse, molestation and violence where there is physical harm. The result of type B trauma are non-secure attachments.

 

Rate the following phrases with a 1-4. (1 = Never, 2= Seldom, 3= Often, 4= Very much so) Begin each phrase with, “While growing up…”

 

Physical abuse

Did people in your home ever hit you so hard that it left bruises or marks? ____

Did punishments that you received seem too severe or cruel? ____

Were you poked in the chest, grabbed by the head or hair or shoved? ____

Were you slapped in the face so hard that it left a red mark? ____

Were you spanked so hard that it left welts or bruises? ____

 

Emotional abuse

Did people in your family yell and scream at you? ____

Did people in your family say hurtful things to you? ____

Were you threatened with physical punishment? ____

Were you threatened with being sent away? ____

Were you picked on about your appearance? ____

Were you teased with a hurtful nickname? ____

 

Sexual abuse (As a child and adolescent)

Someone asked to touch me inappropriately. ____

I was touched inappropriately by someone I knew. ____

I was attacked and inappropriately touched by someone I did not know. ____

I was asked to do inappropriate sexual touching or acts to someone else. ____

I was asked to be spectator to sexual behavior. ____

I was spied upon or purposely watched at while dressing, undressing or bathing. ____

 

Type C Trauma 

These are situational traumas that are not inflicted by another person. Sickness, catastrophes, acts of nature, accidents. These cause trauma that needs to be dwelt with.

I experienced prolonged childhood sickness ____

I experienced childhood hospitalization ____

I or someone close to me experienced a traumatic natural disaster ____

I experienced the death, severe accident or sickness of someone close to me ____

 

Results of Type A, B or C Trauma

The severity of the results depends on our age, severity of the trauma, existing love capacity and the strength of the attachments we already have. The results of trauma are:

Relational pain             

Pervasive fear              

Stuck in painful emotions.

Immaturity                              

Highly sensitive toward various sensations that remind you of the trauma

Negative and immature beliefs about ourself and life in general

 

Make a mental note of a specific childhood trauma that I mentioned that was disconcerting to you. Then I would recommend that you process it later with someone you trust or a professional counselor. You can live in freedom from the past!

 

 

For more information you can order my book, Completing the Twelve Steps

 

 

 

 

Trauma and 12 Steps Part 2 - Emotional Pain Based Thinking

We usually talk about Cognitive learning. Thinking with our mind. But there is a whole other region of our brain that causes thoughts. That is the Limbic or the emotional part of our brain. The result of trauma is that it can create emotional-based thinking. Some major painful emotions are anger, fear, shame, sadness and hopelessness. When something is perceived, either in our environment, another person, or our body as dangerous, our amygdale, in our emotional part of the brain, takes over. We begin to run on adrenaline becoming non-relational, not able to distinguish people from objects. We can also become non-rational, not open to logic, reason or persuasion. The left brain of logic is shut down.

 

1. Deep emotional gut reaction – Emotions are Sensations!

Emotions are bodily sensations that cause “motion”

Trauma often causes deep emotional reactions. Normally we think of emotions in terms of feelings. The obvious are could be fear, anger, confusion, sadness, disgust or hopeless despair. (6 major painful feelings). But emotions are the physical reactions in the body that happens to us before we label it as a feeling. The purpose is to make us react, move hence the word e-motion. The tightening of the chest, the pressure in the temples, the rapid beat of the heart, the sweat in the palms of the hands. As we consider these we then label them as feelings. Of course the word emotion and feelings are used so interchangeably it would be impossible not to think of emotions in terms of feeling. For this study however we wanted to make a distinction and consider emotions in their pure form, that is the physical reaction to internal and external sensory input.

 

2. Beliefs and Assumptions

When there is an elevated emotion, disproportionate to the event, we react. Later we (maybe just seconds or after it is all over) it is often followed by some sort of assumptions. We have to think of a rational. Before twelve years old the emotional brain is in charge. Even though we can do well in school and have our intellect functioning, our rational prefrontal cortex doesn’t come on line till twelve year of age. Instead we deal emotionally to situations. For example with shame we would turn away, a drop of the head, a twitch of panic crying, or a freeze. We would not be able to label the reaction, “Gee, I feel shame” but nevertheless our reactions would be burned deeply into implicit memory and our body.

At around two years of age (When a baby learns to ask “Why? over and over again.) the baby would start to make childish immature assumptions of why there was pain. So when someone looks a certain way at us or uses a certain tone of voice or exhibits some other cues we make up certain assumptions about the situation. We may think, “It is unsafe.” “I am going to be abandoned.” “Here comes pain.” “They are not happy to be with me.” Or we could have assumptions about others –  “I don’t trust them”, “This person is trying to hurt me.” Or it could be general assumptions such as, “People don’t care”, “I can’t trust anyone”, “If I am not good people will not like me.” Finally as this repeats itself we start to believe negative thoughts about ourself. - For example, we may think, “I am not any good”, “It’s my fault.”, “I am in danger.” “I am unlovable.”  “There is no use trying.”

 

3. Feelings

As a result of our emotion and the beliefs we attach to them we can end up with feelings. We usually describe these feelings with a word or two. They we find that it can change to another feeling. Sadness can quickly turn to anger. These feelings then create action. Many times then, we get an implicit memory and it stirs up the same feeling. Usually way out of proportion to the event we are experiencing. We are really reacting to the past pain. This is why we ask need to ask our self, “Is this emotional response proportionate to the event?” If not it is probably a reaction from a previous event held in an implicit memory.

 

Where are the memories of Type A, B or C Trauma stored?

These traumas are often stored in sub-cortical implicit memories.  (Explicit are those normal memories that we recall, implicit are those hidden from our biographical memory.) When trauma occurs, cortisol is pumped into our system which in turn shuts off the hippocampus which is charge of storing memories. This is why we often don’t remember the trauma event. During the trauma, our senses still send signals to the different parts of the brain but the reassembling mechanism of the hippocampus is stymied. However the amygdale, which is the container of our emotional memory remembers the senses connected to the event in vivid detail. It will tag all the sensory information with a “danger” code so the next time it senses the same thing, it will send out an alarm.

 

Why Is This Important?

Because these are not normal memories, they are IMPLICIT memories. They are in the background out of awareness. They are part of an auto-pilot protection system.

The amygdale will hijack the brain causing our sympathetic nervous system to go into “high alert.” It almost seems like we are having an emotional response without any reason but it is really reacting IN THE PRESENT to something that happened IN THE PAST. There are FOUR different reactions;

  1. Run and get away (Flight) (ESCAPE)

  2. Protect ourself and make the distress stop (Fight)

  3. Acquiesce, people please, co-dependent (Fix)

  4. Shut down until the pain goes away (Freeze)(Collapse)

 

Positive experiences can cause great joy. But painful experiences can cause reactions too. If a caregivers, sibling or relative was displaying a temper, if there was yelling and screaming, if there were threats of violence or abandonment, if there was humiliation; the child would be incredibly afraid. If the child was punished severely for something they did not do it would create fear and confusion. If the punishment was not in proportion to the behavior there would be fear and anger. How could you trust? This type of negative experience causes us to relate to similar other people and situations, even years later, in the same way. 

 

Our childhood experiences influence our own image of our self. Ever see a beautiful person that absolutely convinced that they are ugly? That is how powerful our early experiences are. It may be a conscious thought, “nobody likes me” or an internal negative feeling, like a “gloom and doom.” As children we do not have the capacity to question our caregivers behavior or assumptions. If they act angry or extremely punishing, or ignore us, it sends us a signal that they think we are bad. Worse, the consequences to a child of parental rejection is terrifying! It is a sentence of death to the child. It is hard to minimize the internal fear a child feels. (Actually, they are not capable of really experiencing the full extent of the terror. Instead they go into fight, flight, freeze or fix.) Of course some caregivers make sure you believe that it is your fault by their outbursts and abusive putdowns. Even still, as children it is hard for us to believe it is the caregiver’s fault. We don’t have the ability to cast doubt on their judgment. Instead we internalize their negative view of us and try to protect ourselves from anyone else’s negativity. Here are a few reactions to the pain from trauma:

 

We escape to get away from the emotional pain of past trauma

For a person in trauma it was being “powerless” or “helplessness” that created the trauma. So they have many coping mechanisms in place to keep them away from being powerless again. For example a “codependent”, “people pleaser” or “perfectionist” is always over compensating either helping others, pleasing others or making sure everything is just right and yet their own life could be in shambles. They are exhausted, troubled, suffering in interpersonal relationships, physically unhealthy and the last thing they would want to face is to think that their life was unmanageable or that they were powerless. This is where DENIAL comes from. The truth is we want to become resilient, to bounce back from triggers but we are trapped into ESCAPING our emotional pain instead of dealing with it.

 

ESCAPES – Over indulgence in Excitement, Substance, Compulsive behavior, Avoidance, People, Emotionalism, Sex.

When we have a craving we long to fulfill it. When we feel anxious, we long to be comforted. We want to regulate these alarming sensations. In other words, we do things to regulate our emotions. If we do not know how to delay gratification or return to a peaceful and joyful place by ourself, we will try to “regulate” or bring down the sensations through other ways that comfort or give immediate satisfaction. Drugs comfort for a while but it is not a legitimate comfort. Overeating, gambling, pornography, being emotionally enmeshed with someone, procrastination--there are all sorts of ways to get “relief,” but these are not comforts that come from legitimate resolutions to a situation or painful emotion. It is just a temporary escape. So we trade acceptance, love and nurture (Things that SATISFY) for a quick “comfort.” (Things that excite or calm us) We call these ESCAPES. ESCAPES happens when the painful emotions become too much that we escape through the overindulgence of Excitement, Substance, Comfort, Avoidance, People, Emotionalism, Sex.  In moderation each one has its place, but it is the overindulgence and dependency on these for relief from painful emotions that cause the trouble. Instead, we were created to be resilient and bounce back from painful emotions. This returning to love, joy and peace is what God desires for us.

 

 

Deep in our heart we know something is wrong. We have always had a suspicion. Others have told us that we are broken but we deeply fear insanity! It is losing who we are and it is a dreadful fear.

Of course when our life goes: Trigger-React with sensation-Relapse-Reshame-Retrigger; it does seem like insanity. Keep trying to fix it in the same way expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

In this step we need to let go of our self-reliance! Where has it gotten us?

 

The second step in the twelve step tradition says that we Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

God wants to “DELIVER” us from this struggle we are in. He can do this different ways. For some it is an “Ah Ha” and they are instantly delivered. It all makes sense. For others it is a “process.” There is incremental progress toward more and more maturity. God can deliver us! Instead of Trigger-React with sensation-Relapse-Reshame-Retrigger we want to:

Trigger – Pause – Give it to God – Ride the wave of sensation – Ask, what am I believing – Ask, God what is the truth?

This is emotional relearning. This is getting to what is behind the trigger.

 

But the truth is, it is hard to break out of a state of mind. Why does a person stand on the corner and live under a viaduct for years? It is a state of mind. Change is risky. I feel safe doing the same thing even if it is bad for me. That is why in this step for a person plagued by trauma we need to let go of TOXIC LOYALTY. Whether it is to our dysfunctional family or those that we have surrounded ourself with that do the same thing. We need to break out. The third step fo the twelve step tradition says, We Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

It is time to Let go and Let God. Let Him reparent us. Turn ourself over to His care.

As a co-dependent we do to others what we needed done to ourself! It is time to let GOD DO IT FOR US!

 

You can come to God because:

He sees you

He hears you

He understands how hard it has been for you.

He has always been there with you

He is here now

He can do something about what you are going through.

 

Meanwhile God is coming to You. He chooses you!? This is the God of the Bible. Hear God say:

I see you

I hear you

I understand how hard it has been for you.

I have always been there with you

I am here now

I can do something about what you are going through.

 

God can help you with your emotional based thinking. Bring your emotions to Him.

 

For more information you can order my book, Completing the Twelve Steps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trauma and the 12 Steps Part 3 – Importance Of A Clear Conscience

 

Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

 

If you were to survey 100 people that attended AA how many would you say have really completed the 4th and 5th step? There are wonderful reasons for clearing our conscience but for someone recovering mental health but if read wrong step 4 and 5 are just another way to uncover our deep seated SHAME. 

 

Guilt, False Guilt, Feeling Ashamed and Shame

At first glance these words may seem the same but for a person living in the wake of childhood trauma there are huge differences.

 

Guilt – This is knowledge that what I have done was wrong. My behavior was wrong and in my conscience bothers me. This is usually the result of breaking a civil law, code of moral conduct or social norms.  The right kind of guilt can lead to healthy remorse in which we choose to repent and make amends. This is part of the goal of the 4th and 5th step.

 

False Guilt – Should, could and would are words that can conjure up false guilt. This is a guilt that masks itself as morally or socially unacceptable when in reality it is neither. It can come from a hypercritical upbringing in which we are never good enough, forced to constantly confess “wrong-doing” and made to feel guilty over many morally-neutral activities. These grey areas become more “black and white” and trigger feelings of disapproval. This drives a person toward remorse and self-loathing. It comes from an overbearing conscience and is stuck in a remorse loop and has to do more with shame than guilt.

 

Feeling ashamed – This is an emotional response to guilt. It is the realization that what I have done has caused an emotional response of remorse and regret. This is the larger area where the 12 steps want to work. The goal is to identify any area of embarrassment, guilt, emotionalism or guilt and deal effectively with it. Feeling ashamed means we agree with our guilt and have a wide range of emotion from remorse, feeling sorry, being perplexed and even confused. This is about our behavior and can be dealt with. Christ came to deal with our shame.

 

Shame – For many of us with a trauma background shame plays a major part in our emotional condition. While guilt says, “I have done something wrong.” shame says, “I am wrong.” Shame is not about our behavior as much as it is about our personhood. It is a pervasive bodily feeling and belief about myself. I am broken, defective, damaged goods, non-redeemable, condemned. Worse the deep down core lie is that if found out, I will be unloved, unprotected, banished and face annihilation.

 

Shame will keep us from working on the 4th and 5th step. We do not want to revisit past behavior or dredge up painful emotions that fill us full of self-condemnation. Instead of liberating us from a guilty conscience we feel as if it will only expose us and bring us more shame than we already have. The only good news here is that this shame based thinking is built upon lies and knowing the truth can set us free.

 

There is now no condemnation

In Romans chapter 5-8 Paul deals with our whole sin nature. He goes through the struggle of doing good vs. doing bad. He talks about our “powerlessness” and how we need God. He writes in Chapter 7

 

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 

Then Paul starts chapter 8 with this resounding proclamation:

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

 

This “no condemnation” is a legal term referring to the punishment attributed to the charge. When Christ died on the cross, He paid the penalty for our sin. He took the guilt. His death, resurrection and forgiveness take care of the guilt. But His unconditional love and amazing grace takes care of any shame. He is not ashamed of you. He does not see you as broken, unlovable or defective. He sees you as a person that has made choices and repents of them. A person who is sorrowful and desires forgiveness and a new start. He sees you as a person that can be born again, renewed, cleansed and take a rightful place as His child. It’s is a do over. You are no longer a slave to sin, condemnation or shame, YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD!

 

A Clear Conscience

Clearing our conscience is God’s way of helping us stay at peace relationally with God and man. Paul writes to Timothy, “Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.”

The Apostle John wrote, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

 

So now we can look at:

Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Knowing that the love of God stands behind us we can come to Him and ask Him to help us make a fearless moral inventory of ourself.

Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

We can read these and know deep in our heart that this is not an admission of our unlovableness therefore we are condemned to banishment and annihilation. Rather we are unconditionally loved by God and can go about clearing our conscience and settling our guilt with God and others once and for all.

 

The reason I have taken the time to tell you about the importance of a clear conscience and the unconditional love of God is to prepare you to actually do the inventory. Why? Because many people never finish these steps. A lot has happened before, during and after our addiction that needs to be cleared up. Relationships need to be mended.

 

I first did an inventory when I was around 20 years old. It was a very freeing exercise. I wanted a clear conscience and did the best I could to make amends with everyone I could. Now being a person with a severe conscience and overbearing sense of false guilt I had to put in a few guidelines for my own mental health. I would like to pass these on to you so this can be a profitable exercise for you and not one of self-condemnation.

 

A. No one is perfect – This is not about every time you did something wrong. It is about attitudes and behavior that seriously hurt someone that needs to be  cleared up. Ask yourself, did I hurt the person? Is it possible that they need to forgive me? Here is a good guideline

1. Feel free to list offenses that come to mind and ask God for forgiveness. Many of them need to be left there with God. If the person you have done an offense toward does not know about it and it hasn’t seemed to have hurt them then make your confession to God.

2. If it was one of many smaller offenses then consider making amends for your attitude toward the person that resulted in the many offences. Ask yourself, “What is the underlying negative attitude I have had toward this person?” It might be better to make amends over the attitude that you had. For example:

Being mean (bullying, attacking, abusive) to the person

Taking them for granted

Being rude, inconsiderate and impolite

Not appreciating them

Not being kind and loving

Abandoning them

Other ______________________________________________________________________

 

3. When looking at defects don’t put down more than 12 or so. The purpose here is not to drown in self-condemnation. We all have many defects. For many instances the chances are you may have already apologized when it happened or were forgiven by the person out of their own kindness. Yes, you may feel a sense of shame still but you need to take that up with God. We are looking for areas where there are known offences that are unsettled and have hurt people and are left unhealed. 

 

4. After you are through, keep your list of offenses short. Make amends when the offenses occur. Keep your conscience clean with God and others as it happens.

 

B. We have PDF’s of two classic worksheets used around the world that are taken from different sources in the AA field. You can download them and use them free. We have a video on them that will explain how to use them.

 

1. Moral Inventory

2. 155 Questions

 

It would be great to find a trusted friend, sponsor, Pastor, someone you can trust to help you go through these. Click on the link below for your Free booklet.

 

 

For more information you can order my book, Completing the Twelve Steps

 

 

 

 

Trauma and the Twelve Steps Part 4 – Removing Defects

 

We have just finished steps 4 and 5 making amends. This may have been difficult and humbling. But done right it should leave you feeling free. It is deeply spiritual.

Now we are ready for step 6 and 7.

 

Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7 - Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

 

The Bible speaks of transforming us

This is what step 6 and 7 is all about. Listen to what The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans.

 

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans 12:1-2)

 

Paul tells us  to be “transformed”! In this text it is translated "transformed".

Transformed is in the passive voice, which indicates that this process is being performed by an outside force, in our case, the Holy Spirit. In addition "be transformed" is in the imperative mood (Paul meant it as a command), which suggests human responsibility. We are to allow the Spirit to do His work within our hearts and lives.

Paul says “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.

Webster Dictionary = To Change in character, nature or function. In Greek we get the word “metamorphosis” from. Caterpillar changing into a butterfly!

 

This renewal depicts an essential change in character of your thinking - you can now think a way that wasn’t possible before. This renewal is the gradual conforming more and more to that new spiritual world into which we have been introduced & in which we now live and move.

 

You and I are Transformed BY THE RENEWING OF OUR MIND –

This was not some pychobabble. This was 1900 years before Freud.

Instead God shared with Paul about the way humans function

 

TRANSFORMATION IS AN EVERYDAY PROCESS

 Because it is a process we incur struggles everyday

We must realize that the battle is in the mind!

 

 

We must realize that the battle is in the mind!

 

You see we often think that emotions cause us to think certain ways but in reality it is our thoughts that cause our emotions.

 

Thoughts cause feelings. Many emotions you feel are preceded and caused by a thought, however abbreviated, fleeting, or unnoticed that thought may be!

 

It is this early thought process, it is OUR self-talk  that needs to be renewed.

OUR SELF TALK IS: 

1. Subtle – in shorthand. Listen to the emotion that these short pharases have – emotionally laden words – “getting sick” – “can’t stand it” – “lonely” – “ won’t be loved”  - “no good” “rejected”  – “should have”  “could have”

2. Almost always believed! This is where jumping to conclusions comes from, mind-reading, over generalization, polarized B& W thinking. This is where chronic anger, grudges, predijuices, bitterness comes from here. – grudges, unforgiveness—I’m not loved, They hate me, I’m awful

3. Spontaneous – Our self talk is believable because they come out of nowhere. So they are not challenged.

4. Often negative – We tend to awfulize. This is where ungratefulness, pestimissim, complaining, whining comes from. Overgeneralized, mind-reading

5. Different than our public speech. We come and put on our Sunday talk and then later we talk to others in a different way. Our self talk often flies in the face of what we say we. This is why we can be one way on Sunday and a different person at work, home or alone in front of the computer.

6. Persistent and self-perpetuating – Hard to turn off.

7. Is learned – This is the part that gives me the greatest hope! If indeed our self talk is learned then it can be unlearned and new thoughts can replace them.

THIS IS WHAT PAUL MEANT WHEN HE SAID, By the Renewing of your mind!

 

When God renews and transforms me

I can be aware of the weak, needy limited parts of who I am, freely admitting my failure…

I can be open, soft and curious about others…

When I’m offended I can ask questions to explore what happened…

I can let things go…

I can see people as gifts to be loved and enjoyed…

I can forgive myself and others

I can get rid of the defects that constantly weigh me down

Let’s Look At 4 Things We Can Do To Overcome STINKING THINKING and allow us to RENEW our mind

 

Let’s look at ways that we are transformed

 

1. Born Again

When we come to Christ we become a new person. Jesus said that we become born again by believing in Him, turning from our old ways and receive Him as the one in charge of our life. Look at step 1 and 2.

 

Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

 

Based on a Biblical perspective of God, I would encourage you to translate those a little more personally and intimately. Something like:

Step 2. I have come to believe that God is love and that He is the most loving, compassionate force in the universe.  I believe His word when He says He loves me and calls me His child. I therefore come to Him as a loving and compassionate parent who loves me unconditionally. He will help me with a deeper understanding of life and fulfill my soul’s longings for significance, love, safety, purpose and belonging.

Step 3. I made a decision to accept Christ as my Savior and accept His death on the cross as the payment for all my wrong doing. I accept His resurrection as the source of power for my new life. I am now a child of God and His Spirit lives inside of me. I am a new person, forgiven, deeply loved and empowered to live for Him therefore I turn my life over to Him. 

 

2. Being Re-parented

I love Christianity. It is the perfect plan for human beings! (Hmm, maybe God knows what is good for us?) God brings us into the world as a baby. We cannot help the environment we are in, and often we can get hurt and end up making bad choices. But we were children! God in His wisdom allows our brain to grow and as an adult we have all the tools to begin afresh. With insight and encouragement we can see things from a more mature perspective. We can fight the feelings of shame, guilt, fear and humiliation with His love and forgiveness. This will in turn help us development a self-compassion and self-forgiveness.

 

Being Re-parented by God we can take advantage of two incredible realities

1. He Is A Good Loving Parent

For some this is a hard reality to grasp. The person who was to love and be kind and nurturing may have been the same that abandoned or abused them. This causes much confusion and forces the child into shame and feelings that all of it was their fault. As we get older we can begin to understand that our “normal” was not really normal but it is still hard to relate to anything different. How can you comprehend a loving parent without some emotional frame of reference? The good news is we can emotionally “relearn” what a good parent is and believe that we are loved deeply and can trust that kind of love. 

Jesus taught about the “loving Father.” One of the most famous stories that Jesus told was about the Prodical Son. It is found in Luke 15:11-24 (NLT)

 

“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.”

 

This story is significant because it was given in a time when it would be perfectly acceptable for that father to divorce his son from their family. The son had brought shame upon the family and the father would have every right to disown him. But Jesus instead illustrated a father that was compassionate, forgiving and full of unconditional love. Not only that but we see that the father was “looking” for him to return. When we read of the reunion of the father and the prodigal son we notice three very significant positions that the father takes toward his son.

 

The Father displayed Unconditional Love

The first was the unconditional love and acceptance the father had for the repentive son. God has the same for you! He loves you as His very own. It is an unconditional acceptance and love. God has created you “loveable!”  Please try to understand that. You were created as a lovable human being. It is in your essence! You are inherently and in your very essence lovable, therefore it is not hard or unreasonable that God sees that in you and acts accordingly.

 

The Father Restored the Sons Honor

The second important point we see from this story is not talked about too much in American culture. It is more in the East but it was an important part when we look at recovery. The father restored the HONOR of the son! You were born with honor! You were created by God and somewhere along the line you were treated dishonorably. It is hard to crasp what honor is when you do not experience it. The father saw the son and said to the servants, Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.” The robe, ring and sandals were all the symbol clothing of sonship. His rightful honor was stored as a child of the father.

This is what God has done for you! He sees you as His son or daughter. There is no doubt, no hesitancy, no wavering in His thinking. You are His child. Jesus paid the price for that restoration. Now we can do the forth and fifth step not to restore our honor or to be loved but to clear our conscience and start fresh and new.

 

The Father Gave Total Forgiveness

The son had a plan. He would repent, be sorry and ask to be a servant. He no doubt knew that asking that would be a huge stretch for any father in that culture. But this father had something else in mind. He had grace and mercy toward his son. He completely forgave his son. In fact he was willing to act as if nothing had ever happened! That is what God has done for you! Jesus paid for all your wrong doing and when God sees you He sees someone He totally loves and forgives. He is more interested in the rest of your life!

 

What do we do with this?

1. We exercise self-compassion

This is where we begin to rebuild our own concept of our self. If God is compassionate toward us then we need to learn to be compassionate toward ourself! But beware, self-compassion is not easy for someone who is shame based. It is hard to grasp the concept but it can be done. It takes practice. It takes self-awareness and correction of our thinking, posture and affirmations. It takes meditation and the practice of thinking about ourself in all new ways. We can’t just say it and seemingly acknowledge it. We must feel it. Our body and emotions need to become believers. We need to come against all the lies about ourself and triggers that will cause us to slip back into shame , should of’s and self-loathing. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit, the word of God and fellowship with other believers to truly grasp practice the new reality.  

 

2. We need to practice self-forgiveness

The second thing that we can begin to do is to practice self-forgiveness. This is really more in line with the 4th and 5th step. When you look at these steps as a cleansing ritual it takes on a whole new meaning. It is not to shame us but to set us free. We begin to learn that much of what we did was out of our old self and the false beliefs that we had. The consequences are broken relationships and a guilty conscience. But God in His mercy provided Christ’s death on the cross for God’s forgiveness and the ability to make amends as a way to begin anew relationally with others. It is part of the “getting rid of the old, and putting on the new.” It is the process of cleansing and self acceptance that will allow us to know deeply the love and forgiveness of God. And with His grace, what He forgives, we should be able to forgive.

 

Like self-compassion  when it comes to self-forgiveness we can’t just say it and seemingly acknowledge it. We must feel it. Our body and emotions need to become believers. We need to come against all the lies about ourself and triggers that will cause us to slip back into shame , should of’s and self-loathing. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit, the word of God and fellowship with other believers to truly grasp practice the new reality. 

 

3. Practice Spiritual Disciplines

Reading the Bible, praying, going to church, continuing in meetings, fellowship with other believers. This is all key to allowing God to show us our defects and having Him remove them. This is a Spiritual issue and demands a spiritual lifestyle.

If you want to know more about this I invite you to order our book, The Five Signs Of A Healthy Christian. This is a great book to get you on your way. You can find it on Amazon or our website www.empowerforliving.com

 

 

So today, let God re-parent you. Accept Him as your heavenly parent. Commit yourself to Him and let Him build up your new self-esteem. Accept and embrace your new reality and honor as an unconditionally loved and totally forgiven Child of God! Practice spiritual discipline in your life.

As you do you will find God removing defects and helping you to mature.

 

For more information you can order my book, Completing the Twelve Steps

 

 

 

 

Trauma and the 12 Steps Pt. 5

 

Making Amends

We have been talking about doing the moral inventory and seeing it more as an exercise to clear our conscience and to partner with God in letting go of the past. The purpose of this paper is work on the next steps

 

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

 

Reasons to make amends

1. Receive forgiveness and cleansing

One good reason to do a moral inventory is to bring to mind anything that might be between us and God and other individuals. The goal is to have a clear conscience, to get rid of all guilt and false-guilt. We want to be completely forgiven and cleansed because of what Jesus did on the cross for us. This is possible when we receive Him as Savior. He is not confused about our past. He knows all, but as events come to our mine we want to be able to “agree with God” in our repentence (Yes God, I agree it was wrong and I am sorry and turn from it) and forgiveness (Yes God, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for these sins and I accept His total forgiveness and cleansing.)

 

2. Ability to make amends

Part of the cleansing process will come later when we go and make amends with those that we can. No matter what their role and percent of blame we own our part and when possible receive forgiveness. How will we do this if events are not brought back to our attention? Out of awareness does not mean we are not affected. It is like putting a motion detector up in a room. It can be quiet for years as long as no one is in the room. But as soon as someone walks across the threshold of the room the alarm goes off. Implicit memories are like that. That event is out of memory but when something comes us that is similar we begin to feel guilty without even knowing why. We are not living in freedom. Making amends allows us to clear our conscience and live in victory.

 

3. Power to forgive

Doing a moral inventory allows us to zero in on those resentment and past experiences that have created unresolved feeling in us. With the inventory we can review these resentments and consider whether forgiveness is in order. Many times we care bitterness and resentment and the thought of forgiveness becomes unthinkable. But there is a high price to pay for bitterness. The Bible is clear bitterness and unforgiveness allows Satan to have a foothold in our life. Left untended bitterness grows not diminishes with time. In doing our inventory we can recall things that we need to let go of for our own good. It is time to stop letting the abuser abuse us any longer. We do that by forgiving and not reliving the emotional experience over and over again. Yes, we may still have consequences because of someone else’s choices but we can still forgive. Forgiveness gets us emotionally off the hook. It allows us to separate and get on with our life. It is transferring the burden of what happened from us to God. We allow Him to deal with it and let Him begin to bless our life. We forgive from our heart because of our love for God and all that He has forgiven us of. It is a choice, one that Jesus modeled and will give us strength to do.

 

4. An opportunity to correct false self-beliefs

So many events in our childhood have erroneous beliefs tied to them. Negative self beliefs along with their perceived consequences play havoc on our behavior. For example a child may have been severely beaten and has the misconceived idea that they deserved it. They were a screw-up, damaged goods, never going to amount to anything. Worst this brought a sense of shame and being unloveable which carries with it the fear of abandonment and pending doom.. This self-definition in and of itself has a painful And of course the more they acted out that way as a result of such a poor self-image the more they were punished. The more they believed it was their fault. So they learned to fight, take flight or freeze in order to avoid this kind of confrontation in the future. As we do a moral inventory we will be able to recall pits of our past and will be able to sense the emotional strength of it. If it is strong then we can ask ourself, “What am I believing about myself right now? When we grasp that we can ask the very liberating question, “What is the truth?” The truth will begin to set us free from the tyranny of the past.

 

5. Opens up conversations with God

God has the power to change us but we never take the time to ask questions or listen. Life keeps moving on at a fast clip. But when we reflect on the past and emotional episodes are exposed we can converse with God. He is not afraid of our hard questions? Instead we will begin to experience what Jesus meant when He said that He will send us the Comforter to comfort us. God wants to heal. We need to let Him.

 

6. After you are through, keep your list of offenses short. Make amends when the offenses occur. Keep your conscience clean with God and others as it happens.

 

 

RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS

1. Who has hurt you? What specific action did they take? What effect did it have on your life? What damage did it do you?

0-4 years old

5-12 years old

13-18 years old

19 – 30 years old

31+

Current

 

Look at list above, against whom are you holding a grudge?

Against whom are you still seeking revenge?

Are you jealous of any of them or perhaps someone else? If so, who?

 

Who have you hurt?

Who have you been critical of or gossiped about?

What resentments do you currently have?

 

Positive Note: What relationships have improved since you have been in recovery?

 

WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES?

After making the decision to turn your life and your will over to God, in what areas of your life are you still not putting God first?

What in your past is interfering with your doing God’s will?

What ambitions or pleasures are interfering with your doing God’s will?

What self-centered or self-serving priorities, friendships or personal goals get in your way of living for Christ?

Who did your priorities or self-centeredness affect?

Positive Note: What good priorities have you adapted since being in recovery?

 

YOUR ATTITUDE 

1. Do you always try to have an “attitude of gratitude” or do you find yourself always complaining about your circumstances?

What circumstances in the past have you been a complainer?

What present circumstances?

2. In what areas of your life are you ungrateful?

From the past?

In the present

3. Who in the past have you been angry with blowing up at them that you have not made amends with?

Who do you currently treat with anger and outbursts?

4. Who in the past have you been sarcastic with?

Who are you currently being sarcastic with?

5. What in your past is still causing you fear or anxiety?

 

What currently has you in the bondage of fear and anxiety?

Positive Note: What attitudes have improved since you have been in recovery?

 

YOUR INTEGRITY

1. In what past dealings were you dishonest?

In what current situations have you been dishonest?

2. When have you stolen things in the past?

In what current situations have you been stealing?

3. When in the past have you exaggerated yourself to make yourself look better?

In what current situations have you exaggerated yourself to make yourself look better?

4. In what areas of your past have you used false humility?

In what current situations are you exhibiting false humility?

5. When in the past have you pretended to live one way in front of your Christian friends and another way at home or at work?

 

In what current situations have you pretended to live one way in front of your Christian friends and another way at home or at work?

Positive Note: In what way has your moral attitudes and behaviors improved since you have been in recovery?

 

GO BACK AND REVIEW ANSWERS then answer the following:

With God’s grace, what do you need to let go of?

Who do you need to forgive?

What wrongs do you need to repent of?

What amends, if any, do you need to pray about making?

Positive Note: What improvements and victories can you Praise God about?

 

May God bless you as you make amends with those that you have offended.

 

For more information you can order my book, Completing the Twelve Steps

 

 

 

Trauma and the 12 Steps – Part 6 - Relapse Prevention

 

In this video we want to consider relapse prevention. When I first started teaching about substance abuse it became obvious to me that the real issue for most people isn’t whether or not they were addicted. That was for the newbie. Instead I found myself working with people that had relapsed over and over again. I began studying relapse prevention and seek to teach it whenever I can. You can stop today. You don’t have to keep going on this merry-go-round. Lets look at the last two steps of the Twelve Steps.

 

Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

 

Some would argue that there are no slips. That every time we fall prey to our craving and slip it is a relapse. Others would say “A slip is a one time thing with quick repentance and correction. A relapse is when we find ourself stuck all over again in denial and addictive behavior. “ The bottom line is that slips and relapse happens and we need to work on preventing it.

 

How Can I Stop This Cycle Of Relapsing?

It is so hard. There is no guilt quite like the guilt of relapsing. You think you can’t sink any lower, can’t lie any longer, hurt those you love so you decide, “This time I am going to stop!” And you meant it. And yet you found yourself relapsing again. You are so tempted to say, “It’s no use. I’ve tried everything.” Over and over you whisper, “What is wrong with me?” Perhaps the better question is, “What else can I do differently to overcome this?”

 

Don’t isolate - It's time to get back - Work The Program

1. Don’t isolate go to meetings – AA and all the other 12 Step programs, Celebrate Recovery, Overcomers anolynous

2. Get a sponsor

3. Work the Steps – If you have then you may want to go over step 4-7 incase there is fallout from this relapse

Maintain spiritual disciplines – God is at the heart of AA. Not just a God of your choice, but a God that chooses you! Go to church, join a Bible Study, pray and use your Christian Spiritual resources.

 

Working the steps means doing step 11 and 12.

Many people forget that this is a spiritual program. It is that way because it works

Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Do you have a daily devotional time with God. Are you reading the scriptures everyday? Do you spend time in prayer. This is what Christianity is about. A Relationship with God through his interactive presence.

 

Joining a Bible Study is good as well. There are many offered at churches across the country and there are many good ones on line as well.

 

Get to a church. There are churches for every taste in preaching, worship and activities. Most have websites so you can check them out first. Find one you like and start going. It will feed your soul.

 

We have several aids in this category –

5 Signs of a Healthy Christian – There are whole sections about your spiritual growth.

Power Up Biblical affirmations

Moment In The Word.

You can go to Amazon and search Ronald Ovitt or go to our website.

 

Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Help others with their sobriety. Nothing helps us more than trying to help someone else. Research has shown that when a person is involved in helping someone else their chances ability to function well in the program goes us. One of the hottest aspects of mental health today is peer-to-peer assistance. You know the struggles. You know the games that we play. You would be a big help to someone else. At the same time there is a reverse accountability that is going on that keeps you in check. Helping others in a win-win. Now that you are through with the 12 Steps, go and help others. It will change your life.

 

For more information you can order my book, Completing the Twelve Steps

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