My Take on Gratitude Part 2

000_6910RetouchIn my last post I wrote about how expressing gratitude can save marriages and turn a rough start into a great day.

In some instances I believe an ‘attitude of gratitude’ can save lives. In recovery meeting gratitude is sometimes referred to as an action. If we are grateful, what will we do to help another and show our appreciation for what has been freely given to us?

There is a saying: “You can’t keep it unless you give it away”.

In the bible Jesus heals ten lepers and yet only one comes back to thank him:

“Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Does only this foreigner return to give glory to God?” (Luke 17:17-18)

Here we clearly see gratitude as a verb. After being healed, this man turns around and returns to Jesus and gives thanks.

To realize the full benefits of gratitude surely we must do something to show it:

“There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude.” ~Robert Brault

When we express gratitude by helping others it makes us feel happier and releases pleasure endorphins in the brain. Research shows a five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent.

Notice these are all actions and they are quick and easy ways to a life improvement. If a new Maserati isn’t in the budget and you don’t expect that $300,000 pay raise anytime soon, a little altruism may be the perfect prescription for a better life.

Jodie Stevens

My Take on Gratitiude Part 1

1459190_10201344609605162_207257741_nI’m thankful for many things, but gratitude feels different; sort of like deep inner peace that comes from being grateful even in difficult times. Sometimes it wells up inside me and tears spring forth as I think about how much God has blessed me in my sobriety.

I believe grateful hearts can lead to happy marriages and rescue ones on the rocks. The other night my husband forgot to close and lock the back door (something that irritates me). I set about to warn him of his ‘carelessness’ but then I recalled how blessed I am that God brought us together in a way so divine that even an atheist would be impressed. Instead of complaining, I locked the door and let the ‘offense’ go.

You might think I was just ‘choosing my battles,’ but without gratitude in the mix those little disturbances can multiply into big resentments.

Marriages crumble over less because people aren’t grateful for who they claim to love and what they possess. They are careless enough to think something better awaits them around the corner.

I believe grateful hearts can save the day. After something unfavorable happens do you ever hear yourself say: “It’s going to be one of those days?

This was one of my favorite and frequent murmurs. Now I say: “things got off to a difficult start but it’s going to be a great day from here forward.”

99 percent of the time the day ends on a high note.

I realize today that a huge part of dealing with life is attitude and a huge part of managing my attitude is directly tied to how grateful I am!

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Can you talk about someone behind their back without it being labeled as gossip?

000_6910RetouchCan you talk about someone behind their back without it being labeled as gossip?

For the longest time I thought the answer was a definite ‘no’. While speaking the truth about someone I would often feel a strange ping of guilt.

“Well, we better stop talking,” one of us would invariably say, “We don’t want to gossip.”

Where did we inherit our understanding of gossip? The church: according to author Dean VanDruff. In his article “Gossip and Christian Scripture” he says:

“Our man-made religious tradition defines gossip incorrectly as ‘talking behind other people’s backs.’ But let’s think this through. If true, God would be the chief gossiper, telling tales of Pharaoh and Ahab and Jezebel and hundreds of others without their permission; the apostles and early disciples used gossip to spread the gospel; and the Bible is then a book of gossip in general.”

Interestingly, we never feel bad when we talk nicely about people behind their backs. But if it’s negative we label it ‘gossip.’

He goes on to say:

“….the religious tradition about ‘gossip’ is basically ‘damage control’ for sinful leaders. It is ‘image management’ via trying to foster an environment of fear by stifling normal conversation in the body.”

You may find his line of reasoning too extreme. However, it did get me thinking about all the wrongs, hurts, and misdeeds we let slip by (especially in the church) because we don’t want to ‘gossip.’

The dictionary defines gossip as: idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others:

However, our friend who inspired this piece defines it as:

“… a ‘false witness’ of slander. Gossip and slander orbit around each other. Slander is the lie, and gossip the spreading of lies. Attractive gossip will not always be completely incorrect–it may well have some bearing on the truth. But it will always have a perverted ‘twist’ to it that is the lure.

What about Matthew 18:15-17 where we are told to take up our grievances with our brother and bring witnesses if he refuses to listen? If we fail to do this but the information we hold is true, then are we guilty of gossiping, or of simply failing to follow this commandment?

What do you think?

Jodie Stevens

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)

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