The Belief Gap – Part 3

000_6910RetouchAnother common belief among people (especially those who struggle with addiction) is the idea that they are ‘terminally unique.’ While it’s true that we are all individual; our experiences are not.

If you’re like me, when you feel like no-one ‘gets you,’ your first instinct is to withdraw. It feels like the right thing to do at first, but usually the opposite is true. It’s a sign we need to reach out to others.

The problem is that hurting people tend to isolate if their pain stems from feelings of unworthiness. In a previous post I wrote about how difficult it was for me to ask for help. I told myself it was because I was so capable. But the truth is I subconsciously believed the lie that I wasn’t worthy enough to receive anyone’s support. When we try to manage our struggles alone we usually dig ourselves deeper into the pit we are living in.

Proverbs 18:1 says: whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

When you spend all your time alone and never seek counsel from others you become self- focused and make bad decisions.

Healthy fellowship shows us we are not alone and teaches us how to connect with others. It’s a place where we can begin to let go of the shameful things in our past. At first we are silent but then we hear stories from other people who have experienced (and done) similar things. Then we too can find the courage to share.

This is when real healing begins.

Jodie Stevens

The Beleif Gap – Part 2

000_6910RetouchThe Belief Gap – Part 2

Another faulty belief at the core of addiction and self-destructive behavior is: “No one will ever be able to meet my needs; therefore, I must meet my own needs.”
(Dr. Patrick Carnes, Out of the Shadows)

I used to tell myself things like: “I don’t need anyone,” and “If I’m ever going to get anywhere in life I have to do it myself.”

My definition of strength was really a form of pride that stemmed from deep hurt and feelings of unworthiness.

Asking people for help felt nearly impossible to me. I told myself it was because I was so capable. But the truth is I subconsciously believed the lie that I wasn’t worthy enough to receive anyone’s support. This falsehood had a face and it was fear. Afraid to ask for my needs, I would try and manage alone. This was the perfect recipe for isolation and frustration which drove me to self-medicate.
By the time my addiction had taken over the pattern of self-reliance was ingrained in me like the alphabet.

“The Addicts Story” by The Good News Editor describes this dynamic perfectly:

“Inside most addicts is an enormous preoccupation with self. It becomes a form of idolatry because the belief that “no one can truly meet my needs” inevitably influences the addict’s perception of God.
The self-reliance and preoccupation feed the cycle of addiction to the point that, even in the face of adverse consequences, the addict will not stop his behavior. The belief that help is not found outside himself is strong. It prevents him from seeking the help he truly needs, so he remains trapped by his beliefs.”

The real truth is that God wants to meet your needs and He wants to use others to help Him (and you) do it. The real truth is you were not meant to meet your needs alone and trying to do so will only escalate your problems and make you bitter and intolerant.

When you allow yourself to need other people God will begin to do miraculous things.

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Jodie Stevens

The Belief Gap – Part 1

000_6910RetouchThe root of addiction and other self-destructive behaviors can usually be found in incorrect beliefs about ourselves. One of the most common faulty beliefs is:

“No one could ever love me if they truly knew who I was.”

(Dr. Patrick Carnes – Out of the Shadows 2001) http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/addicts-story-whats-root-addictions/

For example, when I was a child I developed a belief that I was stupid. I didn’t think anyone could ever love me if they really knew how dumb I was. Although God is using me today, part of the reason I got into the entertainment industry was to manipulate how others viewed me. It’s called ‘hiding in the spotlight’ and people do it all the time.

I used drugs and alcohol to sooth the pain of isolation that comes from putting up a ‘false front’ and by the time I finally hit my bottom I didn’t really know who I was.

God began to heal my self-esteem and show me who I was in him; only after I got honest with myself.

Too often what we believe about ourselves is quite the opposite of what God believes about us.

2nd Corinthians 5:17 tells us:

….those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun.

Now I am married and working in Christian radio – proof that God has better ideas about me than I ever did!

What is so compelling about this particular scripture is that it tells us a new life awaits us in Christ and our past does not have to define us.

Jodie Stevens

Everyone Is Talking About Robin Williams

1459190_10201344609605162_207257741_nThe tragic death of a Robin Williams is a reminder that mental illness and addiction don’t discriminate. No amount of fame, money, brilliance, talent, charisma or good looks can bring happiness. They’re all transitory and most people realize it at some point in their life. Unfortunately, for some people that epiphany can be devastating.

The news of his suicide left me feeling incredibly sad because someone so loved, talented and extraordinary felt like there was nothing left to live for. He said he felt alone and afraid when he started drinking again in 2009 while filming on location in Alaska: (the place I took my first drink)

“It’s just literally being afraid…. And you think, oh, this will ease the fear…. And it doesn’t. You feel warm and kind of wonderful… And then the next thing you know, it’s a problem, and you’re isolated”

For years I used alcohol to curb my own fear and anxiety; up in Alaska, alone and afraid. Who would have known the two of us had so much in common?

His death also left me feeling ‘selfishly hopeful’ because I knew if God hadn’t intervened in my life, I too could have eventually been overtaken by addiction and despair. Many of the troubles I had before I got sober are still with me today and I still experience bouts of fear and anxiety. The difference is that I have God in my life. My God is bigger than my problems. It is when we let our problems become bigger than God that they can consume us.

This is why they say in meetings: “…we get a daily reprieve contingent upon the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”

I am grateful to have God.

Jodie Stevens

Does Forgiveness Come From The Heart Or The Mind?

000_6910RetouchIn her book “Forgiveness” June Hunt describes what we can do when we don’t want to forgive someone:

“Whenever you don’t feel like doing something you should do, examine your thoughts. While you can’t control what your offenders do, you can control your thinking about your offenders…….when you carefully choose what you will dwell on, your emotions will begin to line up, and you will gradually even feel like forgiving.”

For a long time I have known thoughts are what ultimately lead to sin and that long lasting transformation comes from the renewing of the mind as it talks about in Romans 12:2.

For example, I have been sober for over 9 years. Maintaining that sobriety meant aligning my thoughts to that of the behavioral outcome I was trying to achieve. In addition, I’ve experienced a dramatic difference in my quality of life in recent years due in part to my decision to think more positively about my circumstances.

However, when it came to forgiveness I experienced a great disconnect between the act thereof and my thoughts about the offense. I knew it was a conscious choice to forgive and I would remind God time and time again that I had indeed chosen to pardon my enemies. And yet I continued to relive their misdeeds against me over and over in my mind while repeatedly asking God the question: “how do I know if I’ve forgiven someone?”

It never occurred to me that perhaps forgiveness has more to do with the mind than the heart (at least initially).

The things we are to meditate on are clearly written in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable –if anything is excellent or praiseworthy –think about such things.”

Applying the above scripture to our enemies and transgressors is a challenge. However, if our thoughts are instrumental in determining our destiny; than how we choose to think about our offenders could play a major role in our emotional health and overall life satisfaction.

Jodie Stevens

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

securedownloadThe hike up to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park is mostly wooded until you reach your destination. Then the forest opens up to a body of water settled below the mountains. Winter’s frozen condensation blankets the peaks until summers’ warmth melts it away; creating dozens of waterfalls that feed this mountain lake you’d never know existed if it weren’t for the signs.

It’s a two mile trek through the trees and a 500 foot climb to reach this stunning sight that looks nothing like the trail that meets it.

Then again, things aren’t always what they seem.

“These waterfalls will be dried up a month from now.” Remarks my husband to an onlooker.

“I don’t think they’ll dry up at all.” I say.

Since I can’t see past the small patches of snow left on the few visible peaks I have nothing to base this comment on other than instinct. My memory’s not so sharp and 19 years have come and gone since I’ve seen a real winter; one that leaves traces of itself throughout the summer as a reminder that it is never far off.

Several hours later, while on a helicopter tour the pilot flies directly over the lake. Cradled by peaks on all sides sits a glacier that can’t be seen from below in the summer; its runoff feeds the lake year round.

securedownload2It creates crevices in the rocks, and provides nutrients for plants and trees. It makes a place for fish to swim, lovers to enjoy a picnic, or a spot to cast a line on a lazy afternoon. If it weren’t for our rare vantage point we’d have never known it was there.

Things aren’t always what they seem.

Had we visited two months earlier it would have been a different scene all together, with avalanche after avalanche roaring down the mountains and covering the earth below.

Sometimes life is like an avalanche. It buries you and you don’t see it coming. Just when you think it’s going to let up, it hits you again. Like a lake in the winter, you feel numb, cold and barley alive; beaten down by an unseen force from above that others tell you only brings love.

But eventually relief starts to come. The warmth of spring slowly begins to melt away the cold inside; giving birth to a new creation. The remnants of winter leave fresh scars. Some are permanent like crevices in a rock. Some fade with time like a creek that dries up. Still others are beautiful like rare wildflowers that only bloom in just the right circumstances. They are delicate yet sturdy. Year after year they re-bloom. Each season more magnificent than the last.

Like creation itself, this new entity will know wisdom and strength. People will come seeking solace, advice and direction.

And you will know how to guide them because you are ready for the winter.

People will wonder how this knowledge could from one such as this. And you will tell them the truth: “things aren’t always what they seem.”

Jodie Stevens

What Determines Happiness?

000_6910RetouchAn article by a hospice worker describes the top regrets most patients have at the end of their lives. One of the most common is:

“I Wish I would have let myself be happier.”

http://www.vamshare.com/top-regrets-people-make-on-their-deathbed/

I’ve heard genetics and environmental influences account for roughly half of our overall happiness level; the other half is our thoughts and actions. The good news about past negative environmental influences is they can often be overcome through positive reinforcement as well as counseling and recovery programs when needed. The bad news is it’s easy to let our past determine our present or future potential for happiness by telling ourselves we are powerless over it, when really quite the opposite is true.

Thinking is the precursor to any action or decision. If we were trained to think one way, then it’s certainly possible to retrain our brain to think differently. Sure, it’s more difficult when we’re older because it requires constant repetition but it can be done.

I’ve always had a proclivity towards negativity but over the past 10 years or so I’ve worked hard to think more positively about myself and life in general. The result has been pretty astounding. I’m about 80 percent happier than I was 10 years ago.

So what about the death bed patients? Why did so many of them have this regret? According to our hospice worker there’s a reason:

“Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Is there something that’s keeping you from letting yourself be happy today? Don’t let it be past circumstances or fear of change. And don’t believe the lie that fate will have its’ way.

Although bad things happen, often times our thoughts and decisions have more of an impact on our lives than things out of our control.

Jodie Stevens