I'M CELEBRATING MY RECOVERY!
(By: Eddie T. Flores)
Fear is one of the most tormenting mental bondages a person can experience. I speak from personal experience.
I'LL share a little about my early years as a child and what took place in my home, to help you see how those early years were the original breeding ground for the tormenting, haunting fears that followed me right into adulthood.
My parents were from Mexico and life started out pretty good for them, until 1955 when my father was involved in a car accident. The accident took the lives of a mother and father and left a child paralyzed for life. My father had been drinking after work that day and was severely intoxicated while trying to make the drive home from Fort Ord to Seaside in California, where we lived at the time.
This accident was not only an unbearable tragedy for that family and the child left behind, but this accident also impacted our home and family as well -- physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. This accident happened eight years before I was born, but it had its impact on me because my father becoming an alcoholic after the accident. With his active addiction and mental issues, the rest of us suffered his physical and emotional abuses.
There were many fights in our home where the Fairfield, California Police would come to our home and take my dad with them to jail, but only after a fight. This was to impact me with not liking my world. I would often lie to cover up what was really happening in our home. This would make me feel negative when I lied. I was raised around the church and knew lying was wrong, so I began to feel shame, guilt and condemnation for my actions and behaviors.
I did not know it then, but I began suffering from low self esteem, low self confidence, poor self image and I just had an overall negative outlook on life.
At about this same time I was molested by a relative, which would become the anchor and driving force for all the negativity I believed and perceived about myself. Because of this taking place, and the thoughts, feelings and emotions I experienced surrounding this event, my ability to have healthy relationships were severely impacted, especially intimate relationships with females.
Not knowing how to process this in a healthy manner, I was introduced to alcohol and drugs, and they did for me exactly what I wanted them to do. They became my escape from world and self. This was the beginning of several destructive addictions and mindsets that would last for nearly 22 years.
I was about 13 years of age when my older siblings began attending a church here in Fairfield, California, and I ended up joining them. The church we began attending taught about salvation, heaven and hell, but it also was a doctrine of legalism. This doctrine of legalism is one of a performance based salvation. In other words, you had to try to earn your salvation. (Salvation cannot be earned. In fact, it's impossible to earn your salvation. Salvation meaning: Forgiveness for your sins and assurance that you will go to heaven when you die, for anyone not familiar with the term. It is the free gift of God).
I tried with all my heart to live according to all the laws, such as: Do not lie, steal, cheat, hate, gossip, judge, covet, etc. -- everything that I had begun doing, to cope with my insides. I found myself falling short on every attempt. This would eventually compound the already negative feelings I felt about myself that I carried from my younger years.
In my late teenage years I began to walk away from God - towards the drugs, alcohol and now other addictions. I could never get enough of them. They consumed my every waking moment and sober thoughts. My inability to process these inner thoughts in a healthy manner become the destructive foundation feeding my emotions, which compelled me to continue in a very ungodly lifestyle.
Because of my drug addiction, I also become a drug dealer and found myself committing felonies daily surrounding the purchasing, selling, and transporting of Cocaine and Methamphetamines. Needless to say, I ended up being arrested several times for drugs, and eventually served time in San Quentin and Folsom State prisons.
This eventually all came to an end after almost two decades by way of hitting an emotional, mental and physical bottom. Many times I had to rebuild my life from the ground up, only to destroy it over again. But this time something was different. I was done.
I ended up running into an old friend whom had entered recovery. His name and voice were the same, but all other resemblances of him were gone. He came with a peace, hope and confidence that attracted me to him. I just knew something had happened to him and I wanted what he had.
At this point in my life my belief in God was still with me, but my understanding of Him began to change. During this time, I knew God was the only one who could straighten out my thinking, which was consumed with fear.
I cannot explain how God revealed his grace, love and mercy, but yet it was there. I felt I was accepted and loved by Him. I would like to say that everything was well and wonderful at this point, but that is not the truth. I asked this man to become my sponsor, and we began working the 12 Steps.
It was while writing out the 1st Step that I realized how powerless I really was over many things, such as what people thought of me; what life brought my way each day, and of course having to begin repairing the wreckage of 22 years of rebellion, disobedience and not trusting God with my life.
It seemed like everyday I was receiving bad news of consequences I was to face, or financial amends I was to make. It was there that I realized how powerless I really was, and how much I tried to control things in my life, only to create more unmanageability in my life, whether it was relationships, finances, my freedom, or just plain peace of mind.
It took me about 45 days to complete the 1st Step, and at that point I began to humble myself, realizing the depth of the deep-seated fear I had, and that only God was going to be able to comfort me. As I diligently tried to relinquish the little control I thought I had, God began to work things out for me -- sometimes quickly, other times slowly, but nonetheless He did, and with that I began to feel a peace I could not understand, but knew it was real.
It ended up taking me about three months to actually work Steps 1-3, and with that I was better able to release my internal and external struggles more easily to Him. But the Step I really want to talk about is the 4th Step. This was the hardest of the Steps for me to work because with it came my darkest thoughts and secrets I had about myself that nobody was ever going to know. They were going to my grave with me. These were the driving force behind my negative perceptions of myself as well as my negative outlook on life and inability to trust God.
About my sponsor -- I know he was sent from God to me because of his story being so parallel to mine. As I said earlier, when I first heard him speak, he spoke about his dark past secrets so openly. They no longer haunted him, nor had power over him. When he shared them with me, I wanted to tell him mine, but I could not; not yet. There was still too much shame in being that open with him.
I remember the day that I had finished writing about 20 pages. I called him and told him I was done. He then told me over the phone, 'No you're not'.
I then said again, 'Yes I am'.
He replied again, 'No! You're not!'
I got angry with him and exclaimed, 'How do you know?! You haven't even read it!'
'Eddie - I want you to not write anything for a week. During this time, I want you to pray and ask God to give you the courage to finish it out'.
Little did I know that God was telling him to say that to me. I did as my sponsor asked. He was the only person I ever did exactly what he told me to do. For one week straight I prayed each day for God to help me finish out my 4th Step. I knew I needed and wanted to change because I could no longer trust my thinking at that point, and the pain of living was greater than the fear of change.
I remember taking two books and a pad of paper with me to a place where as a kid I used to hang out. I parked my truck in the farthest parking spot where I wouldn't be bothered, and there I began reading the 4th Step from two difference sources: From a book called: The 12x12, and another: 12 Steps For Christians.
As I began reading, I was also praying and crying for God to help me finish out this 4th Step. I clearly understood no matter how good and eager my intentions to change were, I alone did not have the power, courage, willingness and self-honesty to make the changes myself, and knew I could no longer trust my thinking, which was self-centered and always ended up with me sabotaging my several attempts at recovery.
I ended up writing, praying and crying for about two-and-a-half-hours. Twenty-eight pages later, I was done. I felt the weight of my sin, and how I had hurt all those people who loved and cared for me, but more importantly, I felt God's love and forgiveness.
I remember going to a men's 12 Step meeting that night, and just sat there quietly weeping to myself. The men did not approach me until the meeting was closing. At that time the secretary asked me, 'Eddie - are you alright?'
I answered, 'Yes. I just feel really bad. I just finished my 4th Step.'
They closed the meeting and suggested I call my sponsor. I stepped outside of the meeting and did just that. When he picked up the phone and heard me crying, he asked what was wrong. I told him I had just finished my 4th Step.
He began laughing and I got angry with him. I asked him why he was laughing at me, and he said, 'Because you're feeling ' and you haven't felt life in a long time!' He then told me to go home and write about my good qualities.
To be honest, I did not believe I had any at that point. As I was driving home, I called my sister and explained to her what had just transpired, and she also laughed (She has 30+ years clean through her Christian faith, as well as having a thorough understanding how the Steps work). She began to tell me things that my mother probably would have said. My mother, who passed away in 2001 from cancer, used to always see the best in me.
With my sister's advice, I stopped crying and went home and began writing about my good qualities. I wrote out two more pages, and that was my 4th Step.
My sponsor came to my house the next day and we sat opposite each other. We prayed first, and then I began reading my 4th Step to him. It took about 1 ' hours for me to get through it because I often stopped and cried while my sponsor was jotting down notes.
It was there that I shared about my being molested. I genuinely felt the love and acceptance from him that I now know was God working through him. He hugged me with sincere and compassionate love between two men like that of David and Jonathan in the Old Testament. I carried this secret for over 27 years, and no one was ever going to know about it. I cannot describe to you the feelings of freedom and release I felt that day. It was like a weight had been lifted and I could walk with my head up, instead of being bent down.
I knew that this secret could no longer hurt me. I knew right then and there that God had brought my sponsor into my life for just this reason. The shame I carried over this event that had taken place when I was 5-7 years old was completely gone. It had been the primary and root causes of my insecurities, self-centered fear, low self-esteem, negative self-image, and of course distorted my perception of God and my relationship with Him and others.
It was about this time I began attending Celebrate Recovery and ended up meeting some wonderful and healthy Christian brothers who shared the similar fears, struggles and challenges as myself, and had overcome them with God through a right relationship with Christ while working CR's 12 Steps. I was drawn to the men and women whom had the humility, honesty and hope, while being transparent about events in their lives which had brought them to the Lord and CR, and how they were transformed into new people who were no longer in bondage to their past as I myself had been. I knew I was home, after searching for so long in all the wrong places and things this world has to offer.
Since entering into this right relationship with Christ (not religion; religion will destroy your love for God, and once that dies, so will your peace and joy with life.) Religion is based on always having to obey rules to try to please religious leadership, as well as to try to please God. Like I said earlier, religion is based on personal performance to one degree or another. Religion is actually Satan's counterfeit to the real thing. What is 'the real thing?' It is a love relationship with God. In this love relationship with God, we do not have to do a thing to try to be worthy enough to receive the fullness of God's unconditional love for us. Our worthiness is found in our identity in Christ. Because salvation is truly a free gift, so is God's unconditional love for us a free gift. When we give our lives to Jesus Christ as an expression of our love and appreciation for dying on the cross and taking the punishment for all our sins, with that comes God's unconditional acceptance, God's unconditional love. I cannot believe how good God is, and how much He loves me, as He loves us all, and wants the very best for us.
It was the most painful and fearful part of my life in working the 12 Steps, but that is what it took for me to finally address and work through those lies (I believed about myself) which fed my insecurities and fears that caused me to exercise my self-will along self-defeating and unhealthy behaviors, which kept me bound to many addictions and lifestyles and even beliefs. It was like a veil was removed from my eyes and I was able to clearly see for the first time. It is like I had worn dark sunglasses, no matter how beautiful and sunny the day -- I saw life a shade darker. I was always consumed and preoccupied with fear, insecurity and doubt. All life ran through this filter in my mind, causing me to be in collision with anything and anybody and always searching for the negative in everything. Where I used to impose my will on others to perform as I thought and believed would make my life happier and better, I now make conscious decisions to love them, especially if we disagree.
Today I daily try and nurture my relationship with God by being conscious of his indwelling Spirit within me, and exercising my thoughts and self-will along the lines of faith, hope, courage, peace, patience, kindness and self-control. It is not easy when I try on my own strength. I realized that in my own strength I will end up frustrated, discouraged, bitter and sometimes angry or critical of others. I am far from doing this relationship with God perfectly, but I keep pressing on; getting up when I fall down, saying I am sorry when I do or say something that hurts somebody, or just getting out of my selfishness and self-centeredness by helping others. I am not where I would like to be yet, but I thank God I am not where I used to be.
I have come to understand that if I never had to trust God, I probably never would trust God. That is what it took for me to experience the spiritual principles and power that was to begin the inner healing that is released from honestly and diligently working the 12 Steps of Celebrate Recovery. They would became a working part of my mind and spirit in all life situations and relationships with others, especially in regards to my thoughts, feelings and emotions, which were driven by self-centered fear. Fear left when I was able to realize that no one can earn God's love, forgiveness and acceptance. Can you believe it's totally FREE in Christ?!
As I look back, they used to powerfully influence me to exercise my self-will in ways that were contradictive to my Christian belief and faith, bringing about more negative consequences compounding the perception of my self.
Today I believe the 12 Steps are tools for me to continue growing and maturing spiritually in my walk and faith in Christ, enabling me to share the living hope that lives in me through action with whomever crosses my path daily.
In closing, if you are new in this journey with Christ and the 12 Steps, don't despair when the pain and fear surface, because for in working the 12 Steps of CR you will begin allowing the Holy Spirit to begin transforming you from the inside out as spoken of in Romans 12:1-2, filling you with a peace, hope and courage you never knew existed.
Thank you for supporting me in my recovery. I thank God and I thank those in Celebrate Recovery for allowing it to happen. Grace and peace to you all.
Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. You can even have that assurance RIGHT NOW! Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you...please don't make such a tragic mistake.
To get to know God, to be at peace with God, to have your sins forgiven, to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity, to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help you understand the importance of being reconciled to God. What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, precious one. Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life, because in Christ, it is impossible to put a value on the worth of your soul in light of eternity.
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Remember: All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-20 is our assurance)