Beauty to Ashes
"Three chapters of my recovery story - each of these has deep, personal meaning"
Press in comes first...
After seeing my reactions to stress over the years, in late 2010, Cindy and I decided that I needed to seek professional help. I went to a Christian therapist. After 2 sessions, she thought it would be best for me to see a colleague of hers. It was at that point that I knew something was truly going on inside me that needed help.
I don’t recall ever feeling helpless or hopeless before. Previously I would have “decided” that I could handle things myself, but this was different in a huge way. For me to say “yes” to getting help, was a difficult decision. However, now, despair had shown up and I did not like it. Pressing into the moment was key. I could not breathe. I could not sleep. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I actually needed help, but I, indeed, needed help.
To decide to walk into a counseling office again was huge. I knew that I had to dig deeper to get help. I knew that this would probably get worse before it got better. I was repressing memories of some childhood trauma that I did not know about at the time of these sessions. My reactions to stress were not healthy and without exposing these memories, there was no way to get better, to function normally again.
So, I chose to dive in and see what was really going on in my past that could affect me in these adverse ways. I pressed into each session and did my “homework” even though I did not want to. I decided each week to go back for another session and expose more of the hurtful past.
Pressing in was my first choice. I shot up a flare and God answered. It took time (a lot of time) but I have zero regrets. God is Good. Press in to what He wants for you today. Reach out to others who have pressed in already and can give you godly assistance. Feel free to email or message me as well.
After "Press in" comes "Press on"
I started therapy with the second therapist in late 2010 and we dove in. After two sessions she confirmed there was something deep inside and it would take some work to get to the core of it. I have to say, fear entered in. It almost paralyzed me. It was hard to think about facing the unknown giant that was about to be exposed. I had an inkling of what it might be, but I did not want it to be that!
With each session, more memories came to the surface. How could something like this could be hidden in my mind? How? It was about a two-month process to get all these nightmarish memories out to the forefront. There it was, now, the truth in all its ugliness and awfulness, memories as fresh as if they had just happened to me. I won’t go into detail here, but it was terrible. There were some real moments that I thought not being here would be better than living with this. I felt ashamed even though I had no fault in this as an 8 year old. I was also MAD! Were the memories better hidden away? The answer is a resounding “NO”. They were not better hidden, but I had to figure out a way to deal with them and move on.
So, what’s next? Thank God for a therapist who loves Jesus and could help me press on. Her kindness and wisdom were absolutely incredible. As I did my difficult but healing homework, we began to see slow progress. Each day I was able to press on a little more. My whole family was so supportive and kind and gentle. I am so blessed! My wife was (and is) a rock star! I could not have done this without her!
Fast forward 10 years now. The things that happened to me in my past do not define me. Yes, they happened, but God controls my future if I allow Him. I chose to press on. I chose to do the very difficult work of recovery. I had a therapist (and some meds that I needed at the time). I joined a Celebrate Recovery group in Apple Valley. Celebrate Recovery is an amazing ministry that helps people deal with all sorts of life struggles like sexual abuse, codependency issues, loss of a spouse, drugs and alcohol addictions, pornography addictions and the list goes on. I leaned in to the help that was available and spent time with those further along in the recovery journey.
God saw the flare I shot up, came to me and threw me the life line! Beautiful. Now I am here to tell you there is help and hope. Feel free to email me. Tell someone you trust. Get some help. You can overcome! It takes work for sure, but it is worth it! You too can press on! The work “press” even feels like something that will take work. It does. You can do it!
Pass it along
I pressed in, I pressed on. Now what?
Most of us in this “category” think you cannot and should not talk about it. My therapist told me, “Mark, I want you to tell your wife about this experience.” I said “No.” I told her anyway. It was very hard to even utter the words, but I pressed on and told her. My therapist was happy about that. Then she said, “I want you to tell your kids.” I said, “No.” I told them anyway. Really hard! But they were so comforting and reassuring. There! I did what she asked me to do. Surely that would be all.
Then she told me, “Mark, I want you to tell your pastor.” I said “No.” I told him anyway. He was amazing. He cried with me. He walked with me through so much! My therapist was happy. Then she said, “I want you to give your testimony at Celebrate Recovery." I promptly said, “No!" I told them anyway as part of my testimony. It was so healing and so freeing. People lined up afterwards and said, “That happened to me also. I didn’t know you could talk about it.” My therapist was very happy about that.
Then she had the gall, the audacity to tell me, “Mark, I want you to give your testimony in church.” In CHURCH? In front of all those people? People that know me? I said to her, “Are you crazy?!” (I really did.) She chuckled and reassured me that this was part of the process. I told her “this process sucks.” I was firm in my NO. I gave my testimony anyway. I stammered through. I cried on stage. People cried in the congregation. I gave glory to God for walking with me through this. And they clapped. They stood up and clapped! Not for me, but for what God did for me. And guess what happened after? Yup, people lined up and said, “I didn’t know you could talk about that. That happened to me also.” I was able to meet with so many people, to give encouragement and direct them to help and hope.
We live in a fallen world full of corruption, deceit, immorality, selfishness and more. The test of this life is real. God has called me out of the darkest place I can imagine and called me into light. He has called me to help others, to Pass it Along.
You are not alone. As you move through your trials, through life, as you press in to Him, He will help you through it, help you press on. And then He will help you Pass It Along to others! He will. Just ask me!