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Journey to Healing and Joy

It Is Okay To Be Scared

Written by Lynda Ward on .

FerrisWheel

At the carnival, my five-year-old daughter was immediately enamored with the huge, colorful Ferris Wheel. Children her age were riding it with their moms or dads and smiling and squealing.

Even before my disclosure day (D-day), which brought many new fears into my life, I had a fear of heights and of being trapped: not being able to leave whenever I wanted. The Ferris Wheel combined both of my fears into a single, carnival ride.

My daughter kept her eye on the Ferris Wheel even as I said, "Let's check out the petting zoo!" I pulled her along, hoping she would forget about the Ferris Wheel.

My D-day was very dramatic. Actually that’s an understatement. I won't go into the details, but because of the way my D-day went down, I could not hide my reaction from my daughter. At age three, she saw my uncontrollable crying, the panic attacks so severe it looked like I was having seizures, my inability to eat solid food for two weeks, and the disassociation: my staring off into space for long periods of time, overwhelmed and lost in a sea of pain.

As a parent, I already knew my daughter was always watching me. I was very much aware I was her role model. So from D-day on, I felt like a constant failure. I was the mom. I was supposed to be teaching my daughter how to be resilient in the face of hardship. Yet I could not stop or hide the crying, panic attacks, and terrible grief and pain.

When we finished with the petting zoo, my daughter immediately pointed at the Ferris Wheel and said, "Let's ride." I knelt beside her and gently reminded her, "Mommy is afraid of heights and feeling trapped."

"I know," she said. "I'm scared too. Let's ride it anyway!"

As she pulled me toward the Ferris Wheel, my heart was pounding, and I started to sweat. Once we arrived, because there was no line, the man immediately opened the gate and ushered us in. My daughter paused for a moment to look up to the top. For someone just barely over 3 feet tall, it must have looked like a skyscraper. She grabbed my hand and squeezed it.

The man helped us into our seat. He fastened the big seat belt around us both. Then he snapped into place the thick iron bar that would prevent us from leaving, or falling out of, the seat, and checked to make sure it was locked. 

I started to tremble. "I'm scared," I said. My daughter scooted over close and wrapped her arms around my waist. "It's okay to be scared," she said, "because when you're scared and you do it anyway, that's what it means to be brave."

Surprised, I asked her, "Where did you learn that?"

"From you, Mommy," she said. "You taught me."

Suddenly the man pulled the lever and up we went, holding on tight to each other: up, up, higher and higher into the bright blue sky— and beyond to a place neither of us had ever dreamed we could go. 

In her Journey to Healing and Joy Workbook, Marsha Means quotes Robert Suby to remind us that challenges and hardships are a very real part of life. Everyone has them. To try to hide our hardships (or hide from our hardships) only creates anxiety and shame. And hiding our struggles gives our children — along with anyone else who knows and observes us — a false impression: life is problem free and hardships only happen to other people.

In fact, the new brain science reveals it is important to walk toward (not away from) life’s hardships and the emotions they create, because our response to life's hardships and challenges —  how we embrace and experience the difficult times and difficult emotions — determines our resiliency. 

There are so many good books on this topic, such as the award winning Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being by Linda Graham.

My daughter’s motto has become, “I’m scared, and I’m doing it anyway!” And, unaware until she pointed it out, this has become my motto too. I have learned it is okay to feel hurt, overwhelmed, and scared in response to hardship, because if you are never scared, then you never have the opportunity to practice being brave.

Mother’s Day Blessings to all of our brave and resilient readers!

Grace & Peace, Lynda, Administrator
A Circle of Joy Ministry Team
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The Roller Coaster of Rage

Written by Coach Steve on .

 roller coaster 800w

Rage is a very real emotion that most of us have experienced to one degree or another. It can rear its ugly head in the middle of an otherwise peaceful day. For example, you are driving down the freeway enjoying a song by one of your favorite Christian artists, feeling joyful and alive in the love of Jesus. Without warning, some knucklehead suddenly begins riding your bumper, honking his horn, flashing his head lights and waving his arms. You get over as soon as you can, the motorist behind you quickly speeds up, and as he passes you, he gives you the California wave. You have handled all of this without an angry reaction. But then, the very motorist who had just been riding you bumper pulls in front of you, nearly hitting the left front of your car as he does, before slamming on his brakes right in front of you! As you slam on your brakes, reason gives way to emotion, and rage suddenly suspends all of thoughts of love, joy, peace and mercy!

Perhaps the above example has not happened to you, but, chances are, you have received a rude phone call, an unjust, accusatory email, been victimized by someone else’s dishonest and ugly Facebook post, or faced undeserved, extremely destructive criticism from an employer, a friend, or a loved one. All of these experiences can produce powerful emotions, not the least of which is rage.

Yet none of these can compare with the trauma we suffer when we experience deep and personal betrayal. Unfortunately, the closer you and I allow someone to get to us emotionally, the more devastating the results of the betrayal. Such betrayal has the power to emotionally crush us. It can and does cripple our ability to function normally. Feelings of depression, isolation, frustration, self-doubt, despair, hopelessness, paranoia, and yes, rage, replace the peace, love, and joy for which we long.

Nearly 22 years ago I experienced such betrayal. Married for over 18 years to the love of my life whom I had met at Bible College, my wife and I had three wonderful teen-aged children. I was pastoring a very successful church that we had founded 7 years earlier. Our children were healthy, we all loved our community, and were enjoying very close fellowship both inside and outside of our church family.

Then, one day, my wife shared that she was struggling emotionally and needed a break. She quit her job and went to spend two months with her three sisters, all of whom lived in the same community 10 hours’ drive from our town. At the end of the two months she told me and our children she was not coming back. It was time for her to live for herself rather than for them and me. She had found a new life that had no room in it for any of us or God.

For the next several months I drove back and forth from where she was living and our town, paying for marital counseling and praying for a miracle. Yet, in the end, she moved in with another man, divorced me, turned her back on her faith, and finally, married one of the men with whom she had dated.

I must confess that I experienced an entire rainbow of emotions. As if the betrayal of our marriage vows were not enough, she also ran up thousands of dollars in partying, traveling and frivolous spending, leaving me holding the financial bag and making it far more difficult to provide for my children’s needs. The feelings of betrayal, abandonment, rejection, self-doubt, and humiliation cut very deeply and left me feeling helpless, and, at times, hopeless.

All of these emotions led to a deep sense of anger over the seeming injustice of the whole matter. I discovered that such anger cannot be repressed and kept inside or it would have destroyed me. So, on several occasions I invited God to go on a drive with me. I would roll down the windows and begin sharing my emotions with my Heavenly Daddy. Within a few minutes I would hear myself screaming. A few minutes later I would be sobbing, feeling guilty for such an emotional outburst. After all, how could a Christian man, a pastor no less, be so full of anger?

On some of the drives, I would cycle through several waves of this emotional roller coaster: from feelings of hurt and betrayal to full-on rage to a deep sense of loss and sorrow to feelings of guilt and shame. I will always be grateful to my Heavenly Daddy for His understanding, comfort, and long-suffering as He allowed me to work through my emotions rather than deny their existence.

Why do I share this now? I believe that many men who are in recovery do not fully appreciate the roller coaster of rage on which their wives find themselves due to the unfaithfulness of their husbands. The husband has unloaded his shame and guilt in a full disclosure, he fells a great weight has lifted from his shoulders, and now he is ready to go full steam ahead toward full recovery. Following years of acting out, temporary euphoria, shame and guilt, self-promises to never do that again, a period of sobriety, building tension and stress, then another episode of acting out, and so on, the husband has reached the point that he is ready to leave all of it behind.

Unfortunately, his wife’s hell has just begun! Her whole world has collapsed upon her, and everything she held dear has just been exposed as a sham. Self-doubt, self-recrimination, and self-loathing are often experienced by the very women who has been betrayed and lied to for years. But soon the shame, betrayal, and deep emotional wounds give way to rage.

I hope you can hear my heart, husbands. This rage will be aimed at you! It does not mean that your wife has not forgiven you or that she hates you. It does mean that her wounds are so deep and have caused her such pain that the resulting rage cannot be contained. It must get out or it will emotionally cripple her. The fact that she has not left you is evidence enough that she still loves you. However, both she and the marriage have forever changed. There can be no going back to the way it was. There must be a new normal, a new beginning, a new relationship firmly grounded on truth, transparency, and intentional honesty.

Husband, you wounded her, and now it is you who can help her heal. First of all, most women stay in the rage cycle because they feel that their husband is not listening or does not get it. So the wife escalates because she desperately needs her husband to appreciate the depth of her pain and validate the emotions she is now experiencing. Most husbands react with fight or flight; we argue defensively or evacuate her presence to avoid the fight. Both options only inflict greater pain and lengthen your wife’s recovery.

Rather than fight or flee, stay with her and validate her and her emotions. Accept full responsibility for her pain, give her your permission to scream, and allow her to cycle through the rage that is flowing from her broken heart. Be the rock to whom she can anchor as the waves of rage emotionally toss her to and fro.

When the rage subsides, be there with her, using words of encouragement, affirmation, and reassurance of your love and commitment. I know that this sounds counter-intuitive, but it is the only way to help your wife work through her emotions and achieve full emotional health once again. Your presence in these moments coupled with your loving affirmation will go a long way to creating the new, intimate normal for which you both long.

It is my desire to help men learn the skills necessary to live in step with God’s Holy Spirit and to love their wives like our Lord Jesus Christ loves His church. Feel free to contact me via email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or by phone (480-888-5991), or visit freedomunit.com to learn more about upcoming phone groups for men.

 

Five Ways to Support Your Health During the Holidays

Written by Kristie Farnworth on .

The holidays. Just the mere mention of this time of year can elicit all sorts of emotions within us. How about you? Does it bring memories of joy, laughter and happiness? Perhaps. But for most of us, it also brings something else…stress! There is so much to do! Shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, wrapping gifts, mailing out Christmas cards, attending Christmas parties and going to gatherings with family and friends. And unfortunately for those struggling with chronic health issues, this time of year takes an even greater toll on our bodies and can leave you feeling absolutely depleted physically, emotionally and even spiritually. To help you better survive and thrive during this time of year, I would like to share with you five things you can do to help support your health during the added stress of this season.

1. Accept Yourself as You Are – Many of us struggling with chronic health issues also experience other limitations. Your body is likely not as strong physically as it used to be, fatigue may be a constant companion for you, you may have gained weight and do not see yourself as attractive as you once were, your mind may be a bit foggy and your confidence level may have suffered. I know, because this is what happened to me. And if you are like so many women, your response is to withdraw from the outside world and crawl inside your shell until you feel better, but this is very hard to do during this time of year. So what do you do? My prayer for you is that you pause and reflect on the beautiful person that you are! Despite these physical challenges, you are still the same person with the same heart and soul and your health challenges do not change these aspects of you. Focus on and connect with the love and passion you have for people and life…because that is who you really are!

2. Listen to Your Body – There are so many extra demands placed upon you during this time of year and it is essential that you learn to listen to your body. If you are experiencing fatigue or pain or even depression, stop and ask yourself what can you do to support your body. When your body says it is tired or in pain please stop and give it the rest it needs! In the long run, you will get more done and it will help protect your body from dipping into a worse state of being. And even more, it will give you renewed energy with which to enjoy your family and friends!

3. Learn to Let Go – of Even the Good Things – There are so many good and worthy activities that we can invest ourselves in during the holiday season. But the problem is that we have a very limited supply of energy for each day. It is as if we are a little oil lamp and once all the oil in our vessel is burned the light goes out and all we can do is sit on the couch or go to bed. So what do you do? You need to learn to say no---to even the good things and activities. You may not be able to attend every holiday party that you are invited to. Maybe you order gifts online rather than running around from store to store. You don’t need to bake 6 different types of Christmas cookies; one or two will be just fine. And it is okay to enlist the help of others. Most of our loved ones will be more than happy to help out to give you the rest you need to survive this time of year. Remember, your health is paramount. And to have the energy to enjoy the most important activities of this holiday season, you must learn to say no.

4. Practice Good Self-Care – Good self-care is taking the time to care for you. And believe it or not this is very difficult for many of us to do! We are so focused on serving others and meeting their needs that we put off taking care of our own needs, especially during this time of year. Here is what I suggest that you do. Make a list of activities that restore you, such as taking a walk in nature, listening to soft music, taking a warm bath or getting a relaxing massage. Then make sure that you take time each day to love on yourself by doing one of these activities. Do not feel guilty if you do these. You are valuable to so many people and you deserve it!

5. Take Time to Fill Your Joy Cup – Everyone has a joy cup. And studies have shown that when your joy cup is full, it helps to regulate your emotions, your pain and your immune system. And it also releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Isn’t that amazing! Just imagine how much better you might feel if you can fill your joy cup! So how do you fill your joy cup? In a nutshell, you build your joy capacity through loving, fulfilling relationships. We experience joy when we are with someone who is glad to be with us; time with this person produces warm, happy feelings. So you need to ask yourself, who do you have in your life that brings joy to you when you are together. It could be your spouse, a sibling, a good friend. But think about who the person or persons is(are) and purpose to spend fun time with them. Don’t say that you don’t have time, because this is the very thing that will give you the strength and energy to enjoy this holiday season!

I hope that you will take the time to implement these 5 steps. I know that it will take some of your precious time and energy to do these things, but in the big picture it will help you find greater joy and contentment during the next several weeks. My prayer for you is that these steps will help you to not only survive – but thrive – this holiday season!

Surviving the Holidays by Coach Steve

Written by Coach Steve on .

 

"It just cannot be!” This is my reaction to the reality that this week is Thanksgiving. It seems like just the other day that we were swimming in the river, picking fresh vegetables and wearing hats to protect ourselves from the sun.

Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us. With the season comes dinners, extended family, work, church, school and neighborhood parties, friends, shopping, baking, wrapping, Christmas cards, long lines at the post office, fighting traffic at the mall, and on and on and on it goes. All of this on top of lives already over-flowing with expectations, commitments, dead-lines, stretched budgets, broken dreams and frayed relationships! Talk about stress!

For many men in recovery, this season brings some of the most difficult challenges in their journey towards wholeness and emotional/spiritual health. More than once I have been asked, “What can I do to help protect myself from set-backs during the holidays?” This is a great question! As I prayerfully and thoughtfully pondered it, the following a, b, c’s to “Thriving Throughout the Season” came to mind. 1) Attitude of Gratitude; 2) Be Intentionally Focused; 3) Consistent Self-Care; 4) Discipline Your Thinking; 5) Engage Healthy Community.

Attitude of Gratitude

With the above mentioned stress that accompanies mid/late November through early January in our culture, many people become filled with anxiety. There is no greater tool to help dissipate anxiety in one’s soul than a heart filled with gratitude. The Apostle Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi with these words, "Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:5,6; The Living Bible).

I have been told by many clients that, at this time of year, they are especially stressed with the anticipation of interacting with extended family. Some of these family relationships are very powerful triggers, conjuring up myriad memories and unresolved conflicts. How can we battle a bad response to such triggers: prayer with a thankful heart.

I encourage you to be pro-active. Rather than waiting for the anxiety to hit, take some time away from all of life’s distractions right now and ask God to remind you of the many things for which you can and should be thankful this year. As they come to mind, write them down and thank God for His provision. Keep the list at hand and, if necessary, read it again and again to help keep your attitude one of gratitude.

In addition, look for things in the lives of those you love for which to be thankful. Verbalize your thanks and allow your gratitude to influence others! An Attitude of Gratitude can become infectious. Instead of anxiety, broadcast thanksgiving this holiday season.

Be Intentionally Focused

Everyone is focused on something. It may be a person, it may be a project, it may be a task, it may be a sport, it may be a hobby, it may be a passionate desire, it may be self-pity, it may be selfish ambition, it may be past hurts/betrayals, it may be unmet expectations, it may be whatever. Ask yourself, “Where is my focus?”

Focus determines direction, therefore, if I want to move in the right direction I must be intentional in my focus. The prophet Isaiah declared this: "People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit" (Isaiah 26:3, The Message). The King James Version states, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee."

I have learned that, for me, my Christianity is not rooted in how much I know about God, but rather, in how well I know God. My Savior is a relational God, and relationships are made to be experienced at our deepest levels. God wants to experience relationship with you and me as a close and personal Friend.

In order for you and me to experience such friendship with God, we must intentionally take time out from all of life’s distractions and focus on Him. Between now and early January, commit to spending 15 minutes each day reading a Psalm, writing down any thoughts that come to mind as you digest what the Psalm is saying, and then thanking God for longing to have relationship with you. Be intentional in your focus and see what happens over the next six weeks!

Consistent Self-Care

With all of the added activities, hectic schedules, and opportunities to over-indulge and over-eat, this time of year can and often is brutal to our care of self. Yet, our souls and our bodies must have rest and nurture if we are to maintain healthy recovery.

Spending 15 intentional minutes with God each day and maintaining an attitude of gratitude will do a great deal to nurture our souls. However, if you or I do not take equally good care of these bodies God gave us to live in, the wheels can come off of the recovery journey real quickly.

Some questions to consider are: 1) How much sleep am I getting each night? Many studies show that you and I need at least 7 hours of sleep each night to maintain optimum performance. 2) How much water am I drinking? Research has shown that, on average, we need one ounce of water per day for every two pounds of body weight. 3) How much sugar am I digesting? Sugar is a powerful drug that can and does cause a variety of negative issues to our bodies and the way they function. Enjoy the extra meals and parties, but use discipline to limit the amount of sugar you consume this season. 4) How many drinks am I consuming? Some drink no alcoholic beverages, some drink more than they should. To keep yourself free from recovery set-backs, prayerfully set limits before you arrive at functions.

Discipline Your Thinking

“As a man thinks,” the Scriptures declare, “so he is.” An old saying we have all heard goes like this, “an idle mind is the devil’s playground.” As men, we can use discipline to guide our thinking or let our lack of discipline set the agenda for us. As a man who wrestled against temptation just like us, the Apostle Paul said, "we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5; New International Version).

It requires discipline in order for you and me to identify thoughts that do not belong in our minds, willfully determine to take them captive, and then choose Christ’s way over our own. Ask God to help you identify harmful thoughts as soon as they enter your mind. Remember, temptation is not a sin. It is how we react to sin that either liberates us or imprisons us. Once a harmful thought is identified, treat it ruthlessly. Leave no margin for further dallying with such a thought. Take it captive and subject it to the measure of Christ. Ask yourself, “If Jesus were right here with me physically, would I want to share this thought with Him?” If not, you know what to do with the thought. Our continued recovery is the result of disciplined thinking.

Engage Healthy Community.

Like it or not, you and I will find ourselves in the presence of people this holiday season that we would not, under normal circumstances, choose to hang out with. Whether a work-related event, church or school function, or a family gathering, we will find ourselves in some situations in which we feel less than safe or healthy. I do not believe that there is anything we can do to completely avoid such situations.

However, we can choose to engage healthy community. Plan to maintain your presence at SAA, Celebrate Recovery, or other recovery meetings. If you are in a men’s Bible Study or accountability group, be faithful in your attendance. The same goes for a couple’s group in which you and your wife may participate. Don’t allow the busyness of this season to keep you from the healthy relationships you must have. Be all the more diligent in engaging healthy community.

There is no way to remove the extra stress that the holiday season brings, but we can confront it and, with God’s help, continue our healing journey without set-backs and discouragements. May these A, B, C’s aid you to this end.

Top Tips to Survive Holiday Stress

Written by Marsha Means, M.A. on .

The holiday season can be extremely stressful even for women who are not in a relationship with a sex addict. For those who are, the holiday season can present a extra set of pressures and triggers. Our coaches have shared their top tips to cope with the addition of friends, family, and the pressure to create that "special holiday magic" that everyone seems to expect from us.

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