Addiction recovery

Freedom at all costs

Have you seen the movie ‘Harriet?’

It is about Harriet Tubman, an incredible woman who was born into slavery, escaped and then led many missions to rescue slaves and led them to freedom. It is a true story and a compelling movie for many reasons. 

Harriet had suffered a head injury as a child and as a result she had headaches and dreamlike trances.  She believed her trances and visions were God’s revelations.  Because of her strong faith she listened carefully to God and she would only go where she felt God was leading her.  She had extraordinarily success on her missions despite the unfavourable odds against her and the real danger to her life and she lived to over 90 years old.  A truly inspirational story.

In the movie there is one scene which impacted me as I felt like she was speaking directly to this current generation.  In this scene Harriet is meeting with a group of prominent and important politicians and those working to abolish slavery and they tell her that further rescue missions are too dangerous and impossible.

Harriet replies to them, ‘Many of you don’t know slavery first-hand. You were born free, or maybe you have been free so long, you forgot what it’s like. You got comfortable and important’.   (paraphrased)

It made me think about my freedom in Christ.  There was a time when I was a slave to addiction, to brokenness, to sin and to pain. I was made free by Jesus over 20 year ago and I fight with myself all the time to not to get too comfortable and forget what it was like to live under the slavery of world.  There are people in our communities and all over the world living under oppression, captivity, and hopelessness, who need us not to forget or to get comfortable in our lives.  They need us to stand up, to fight for them, to make it our mission to find them and led them to Jesus to be set free.

In the movie Harriet goes on to say What those still enslaved are going through right now! I have heard their groans and sighs, and seen their tears, and I would give every drop of blood in my veins to free them! (paraphrased)

We need fresh eyes to see the pain all around us and fresh ears to hear the groans and a fresh spirit of a warrior to take action, to not allow comfort or the busyness of our modern lives or our lack of confidence to stop us from stepping on to the battlefield. We can play our part in the plan, we can see Jesus change lives and set free the captives. When we listen to the voice of God, go where we are called and go where we are led by God just like Harriet Tubman.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. 

Harriet Tubman
‘Harriet’ the film

Under Construction

I might be a work in progress but every day, I get a little bit wiser, a little bit better, a little bit stronger.

Across the road from our house there are 3 new housing developments.  It is noisy and busy on our street, with trucks taking away dirt and contractors working on the sites.  It is interesting to me that even though the projects all started the planning stage at a similar time, the progress looks vastly different.  One site has the houses built and they are now finishing them off, one is still working on the ground preparation and third has yet to start.  So many factors affect the progress of the work because they have different budgets, specifications, planning requirements and challenges.  They have the same goal but different strategies to getting there and different time schedules.

This is true for our personal development as well.  It is easy to look at your someone you know or a close friend who is on a similar journey to you and judge your own progress against their progress.  The problem with comparison is that it does not consider those different strategies, time schedules and variable factors.

Often what we see or what is visible in our life does not reflect the progress we are making inside.  So much of the progress we make as we develop our character and learn and lean into God is under the surface.  We might spend a long time in the planning and preparation stage and be working hard on ourselves, or a project or a goal and not see any fruit YET.  It can take time to see the change. 

Sometimes that fruit can come in suddenly and it looks to those around you as it happened overnight.  Suddenly you have changed or succeed or achieved something but, that preparation work has been going on for a while. 

We are all a ‘Work in progress’.  We are an unfinished project that is still being added to or developed.  In Philippians 1:6 Paul wrote ‘I am sure that God who began the good work in you will keep on working in you until the day Jesus Christ comes again’.  Paul knew that we are a work in progress and that God would keep working on us, in us and through us.

Set your own progress schedule with God leading the way.  Focus on your own development, do not compare yourself to others, do not feel like a failure because you are not going quick enough.  Gods timing and direction will be perfect.  After all, God is the ultimate master builder. 

“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”

Sophia Bush

The Promise of Freedom

Over time, we settle for what is easy and familiar. When you have lived with stress, depression, or pain, you get familiar with it and it becomes your companion; a measure by which you judge your life. There was a time in my Christian walk I was hiding behind a ‘good Christian’ façade, but I believed I was too broken, too sinful, or too damaged to expect anything more from life. The freedom I heard other people talk about was for them, not me. This was my lot and I was going to try and be content with it.

In the middle of mental illness, emotional pain, addictions, or even physical illness, it can be nearly impossible to imagine what it would be like to be completely free and joyful. Freedom is so much more than just being out of captivity or having a slight improvement in your circumstances. It is embracing a future that God plan especially for you and growing as a person and following your dreams.

My captivity at the time had been a combination of my past; my depression, my comfort zone, my religious beliefs, my addictions, and my low self-worth. I was a slave to these things. I could not move forward, but instead was held back in every area of my life. I was worn down by the struggle and the fight against my own inner demons and this kept me from seeing my potential.

I spent so much of my energy and time fighting to ‘break free’ from my addictions, my past, and my sin. I was fighting to fix myself and to do it through my own power. I was trying to earn my redemption when it was a gift God had already given me freely. I was wasting so much of my life pursuing the past rather than striving forward.

If we are not free, then we are captive. The world keeps us captive by telling us that we’re not good enough as we are; that we need to have more or do more. Jesus wants to turn everything on its head. Instead of making demands, he offers rest and recovery and to live freely and lightly.

My past had clouded the message of the Gospel. I just had to be more of everything and then I would feel ok and enough. I didn’t understand that what I did had no impact on God’s response to me. Grace is unearned and undeserved and God’s love and grace are abundant. That was the point of Jesus’s sacrifice for me, because of the cross I was accepted and loved. I could not do anything to make God forgive or love me more.

True freedom comes from an understanding of the total undeserved acceptance we have through Jesus. I never felt accepted or loved growing up and I never felt good enough. Even as a new Christian, I felt that the love and grace of God was based on my performance, on the things I did for God and the church. If I was just more attractive, smarter or more knowledgeable I would be worthy of love and acceptance. It was not enough for me to be just good, I had to be the best or perfect.

The freedom Jesus offers doesn’t come with special conditions. You can come to Jesus just as you are now. We do not need to ‘get our ducks in a row’ or try to make ourselves better before coming to Jesus. He wants us just as we are, warts and all. God loves me, not because of anything I did but because He created me. He knows all my very worst secrets and hidden weaknesses and loves me anyway.

As Christians, we are not promised to be slightly free or less burdened but totally free.

That change can happen quickly. It doesn’t need to be a long-drawn-out experience, freedom is instant. Your moment can occur right now. You don’t need to wait until you are at the end of your own strength to accept the strength of God in your life. In the New Testament, as Jesus travelled, he healed many people in an instant. In an instant you can choose to take that leap of belief and in an instant Jesus can change your life and free you forever. The Bible puts it plainly and simply: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Jesus sets you free and you are indeed completely free without conditions. He knows you, He loves you, and He has a plan for your life, to give you hope and a future.

Hope, joy, peace, and freedom are all things that do not depend on our circumstances, unless we allow them to. We can decide every day to live in freedom and joy, because we hold on to the hope for the future as we trust God’s plans for us.

Except from book by Staci McLean ‘Soaring out of the darkness’

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1 

Abandon shame, live free.

Shame and guilt are words that we use to mean the same thing. But they are vastly different, and they are emotions which have quite different outcomes.  One is helpful and leads to an improved life and the other is destructive, breaks relationships and causes pain.

When I first became a Christian, I understood the concept of forgiveness, that through Jesus I was totally forgiven. But even though I knew I was forgiven I was very much still lost in the shame of my past.

In my past, as an alcoholic and as a broken girl, I had done many terrible things and hurt many people. Although there was guilt associated with those behaviours, I had morphed my guilt into shame and self-hatred.

Guilt is a normal and helpful feeling when we have done something wrong.  Guilt is the prod from our conscience telling us to correct our error and take action to repair a situation.  Guilt is related to a specific behaviour or situation, i.e. ‘I did something wrong’

Shame however is a negative judgement about yourself because of that behaviour, i.e. ‘I AM wrong because I did that’.  Shame made me feel powerless and worthless.  As a result, I withdrew from people, never let my walls down, was mistrusting of people’s motives and felt in danger of being exposed as a faulty. I felt inadequate and ‘wrong’.

Living with shame is living as a captive, unable to be free or to live life as God intended for us.  God does not want us living in shame. Jesus came to set the captive free and allow us to live unashamed and bold. Guilt can give us control and responsibility over our behaviour, but shame is passive and helpless. 

Jesus met with many people on the margins of society. He never was ashamed of them nor did he shamed them, but through love and truth, he showed them their guilt and empowered them to change.  In Romans 10:11 we are promised that anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.

Shame makes us want to hide in darkness, but Jesus is the light and there is no shame in the light. To conquer my shame, I stopped hiding and stepped into the light.  I challenged the inner voice in my mind and separated the feelings of guilt and the shame-based self-criticism. 

I learnt to forgive myself and let go of my past.  Shame holds on to every mistake or wrongdoing as proof of worthlessness, but the grace of God is forgiveness and mercy, there is no need to hold on anymore. Learn to forgive yourself.  Do not reject the gift of forgiveness, if God can forgive you, YOU can forgive you. 

Make a stand against shame, it has no place in a Christians life. It will only hold you down and prevent you moving forward. Jesus has broken shame and its hold over you, so let it go.

“SHAME says because I am flawed, I am unacceptable BUT GRACE says though I am flawed, I am CHERISHED!”

Anonymous

Do you know how much you are loved?

Recently I went to a funeral of a very dear friend. She was a kind and caring person, who would help anyone, but she struggled with low self-esteem and confidence and she found it difficult to accept that she was loved by her friends and family or by God.

As I sat in her funeral listening to the people who loved her dearly, speak about the incredible sense of loss they felt, I just wished she could have understood how much she was loved. The room was overflowing with people who were all impacted by her life and by her passing. 

Had she been there sitting next to me, seeing what I was seeing and hearing the words of speakers, reading the messages of condolences and the tributes, I think she would have been overwhelmed. So many people loved her, and God loves her even more. I wish she had understood that when she was alive.

But do any of us really know and accept how much we are loved? 

Do we live our lives every day knowing deep down in our hearts that we are loved, accepted, and cherished by our family and friends? 

Do we really understand how much God loves us?

Our lives have the potential to be quite different if we can totally comprehend this love. If you knew you were loved unconditionally and completely, would you be fearful?  Would you feel insecure and unworthy? Would you be broken?  Would you feel alone or abandoned?  No. When we understand how much we are loved, we are confident, brave, courageous, loving, selfless, joyful, and strong.

Human love can be messy and complicated, but God’s love is not.  God is love. God’s love for us is complete, merciful, and perfect.  I love the song, ‘Reckless Love’ by Cory Asbury.  The chorus captures this picture of the love of God so well. 

The overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. It chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

God’s love is reckless. He gave it all for us. He chases us and fights for us, we do not deserve it and we can never do enough to earn it, but He gives us freedom, healing, and salvation through Jesus.  Jesus – the ultimate gift of love.

Know this, let it sink into your spirit and every cell of your body and mind.  You are loved and you are cherished by God. He wants to know you. He wants to cover you with love. He wants you to understand and feels His love and then live your life bathed in His love, serving and loving others.

From Hopeless to Happy

I was hooked on booze from the moment I had my first beer at 14.   I loved it immediately. I was never a ‘social’ drinker, I was a binge drinker, once I started, I could not stop myself.   The party girl who loved a good time.  I drunk to feel happy, to relax, to feel special, to block out emotional pain and to avoid facing reality. 

In the last couple of years leading up to finally giving up alcohol, my life was spiralling out of control.  My mother died after a short illness; her death affected me greatly, so I drunk more to avoid dealing with my grief.  

From the outside I looked like I was coping but inside I was consumed with pain and loathing.  I would drink to have a fun night and to forget, then wake up the next morning feeling sick and filled with regret and shame.   Every night out drinking ended up in a major drama and my relationships with my husband, family and friends were being significantly damaged by my behaviour when drinking.   The party girl was not fun anymore, she was a sloppy, crying and angry mess.

Late one night I was lying on the bathroom floor alone sobbing, I was so sad and in so much emotional pain it felt like my heart was literally breaking apart.  The thought of continuing to live like this was unbearable to consider.  I knew that I could not continue to do this anymore.  The only option I thought I had was suicide.  Amid the hopelessness and suffering I cried out a desperate prayer.  That small croaked prayer caused a shift in me, there was no angel choir or massive religious experience, but I felt a whisper of hope and a glimpse of a possible different future.  I got up off that floor and decided to stopped drinking immediately. 

I made a serious decision that night that I was not going to drink again.  I did not know how I was going to achieve this but making the decision awakened a drive and motivation in me which I had not experienced before.   Soon after that evening I was invited to church and shortly after I became a Christian.  My new faith in God gave me the courage to change and the church gave me a solid support network of people who wanted me to succeed and supported me.  

I learnt that I am stronger than I thought I was.  When I was drinking, I was out of control, I felt powerless, constantly ashamed of myself and hated myself.  Now I have hope, forgiveness, and a future.  

My life is vastly different now.  I have a happy marriage, two wonderful boys and many amazing friends.  My life is exciting and interesting.  I love waking up on a Saturday morning with a clear head and plans for the day, no more wasted weekends.

I have been sober now for nearly 22 years and I am grateful to God for every day I get to live with hope, freedom, and happiness. 

Want to read more about my story, check out my book ‘Soaring out of the darkness’ on www.stacimclean.co.nz