The Trouble with Recovery

Can I tell you what codependency recovery feels like for me?

I feel like a recovering alcoholic working with people drinking wine all day. I ABSORB everyone’s codependency and feel like an absolute crazy person.

I have been going to counseling for two years now. I have charted out all the abuse that I can remember happening in my formative years. I have processed how I felt then and how it makes me feel now. I’ve read all of it out loud to my counselor and discussed it. I’ve cried out all the tears I put away for too long. I’ve made the list of my character defects and processed them with God. I’ve made a list of people I have wronged due to my character defects. I’ve asked forgiveness to the ones I’ve hurt along the way. Now, I process how I feel and I raise awareness to others.

Yet, after going through the 12 steps in codependency recovery, I find myself still in the battle. It’s a daily. Battle. Today, I’m tired and I want to run to my car and hide there for a few hours… maybe a few days. You know, grab my dog, gather up my friends, and hit the road. Take a vacation with all the money I don’t have. Somebody drop me a line over here!

The chaos of everyone’s dysfunction is just hanging in the air like an electric field and I’m too tired to pray about it. To do the exercises to get me centered. I want to go the lazy route and just shove all the chaos deep down.

My codependent self wants me to not process today because I’m afraid. I am embarrassed by how I’ve responded to life and I want to be hard on myself. My toxic shame wants to take away the lessons that could be learned from scenarios I reacted to instead of responding in a healthy manner. Basically, I either want to distance myself from life and shove everything down or embrace everything in a self-deprecating manner. Ew.

But here’s the thing… I shouldn’t do that. Why? Because life is too good to live in misery.

Thanks to the work I’ve done, I am only a few steps away from peace. Before, I was carrying years’ worth of unprocessed emotion. Now, I have a much lighter load and I’m learning every day to give it to God.

Recovery is a process. There are times of bliss and times of lesson-learning. Both are valuable endeavors. So, press on in your recovery! I’ll be working today out with God despite my desires to hide in a hole.

Happy processing!

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Celebrating the Life of Nabeel Qureshi

Apologist, husband, and father, Nabeel Qureshi, passed away September 16, 2017. It may seem that I am a little late in writing this, but I’ve honestly been having a difficult time processing all the thoughts that came with his life this past year, death, and entrance into a new life.

Nabeel was diagnosed with an aggressive stomach cancer in August 2016. I had read his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, maybe a year prior to his diagnosis. He was a man of strong conviction, intelligence, passion, and love. He spoke around the world and often in places that were hostile to his message: that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only way to salvation.

He was an attentive husband and deeply cared for his young daughter. He loved his family very much.

When I heard the news that Nabeel had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, my immediate thought was, Why, Lord? Nabeel was having a large impact for the gospel and was only in his mid-30’s. Surely this was just a trust test that God was bringing him through. He’d do some chemo, struggle a little, get better, and continue on with his life.

Well, that was my hope, but that was not reality. Nabeel had his ups and downs during treatment, but ultimately, the cancer took over and he died.

Attending Nabeel’s funeral was not what I expected. I realized, sitting there, that God wasn’t done using Nabeel yet. Nabeel may be gone, but the powerful impact of his life stayed hanging in the air.

I looked around at the people present and saw such a variety of individuals coming to pay their respects to a man that had influenced their faith. Nabeel’s life and testimony had strengthened my faith in the past, but I didn’t know his death would grant me peace and courage for a fear I hold.

In a blog post earlier this year, I wrote about my crippling fear of eternity. God has been gentle in walking through this fear with me and taught me a lesson at Nabeel’s funeral. On the front of the funeral program, it had a picture and the words, “Celebrating the Life of Nabeel Qureshi.”

And that’s what the funeral was: a celebration of the life Nabeel lived here and a celebration of the life he is now living in the presence of God. I’ve never experienced a funeral quite like this one and I believe that contains some reasoning as to why eternity has not been a welcome thought for me. The only reality I had of eternity was that time would essentially be nonexistent. Everything else seemed too abstract to even think about.

But this funeral changed that. The sting of a young man dying, while leaving behind a wife and daughter, was overcome with the certain hope that they will see him again. The songs we sang became songs of joyous triumph because we knew that Nabeel was not dead. The power of Jesus’ resurrection took Nabeel’s soul from here straight to God’s presence. He is now in a reality greater than ours.

When I miss Nabeel, I find myself wondering what he’s doing now. And that’s such an interesting thought… because he is doing stuff. He’s alive and interacting with God on a level I can’t really imagine at this point, but the reality that Nabeel is in that realm makes it more real for me. Heaven has grown in familiarity because he is there. I look forward to seeing him again and hearing about what he’s got going on up there.

I wouldn’t say Nabeel’s funeral “cured” me of my fear of eternity, but it gave me more perspective. I hope that my funeral is like his. I hope it’s a celebration of life and that it puts joy in the hearts of all who attend. I know there will be sadness because I’m not around, but there should also be a miraculous elation in the power of God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What’s Your Interest?

Hello everyone!

I wanted to thank those who have decided to follow my blog. It’s encouraging to see others interested in codependency and my take on it. We’ve got a small band of followers on here, which is great, because we can interact easily together.

I’m curious to hear from y’all. Is there any part of codependency that you’re interested in? Is there a topic I haven’t covered that you’re wondering about? What is your struggle that you’d like to get more of a handle on?

Let me know and I’ll get to researching and writing! Those are my favorite things. 😀

You can comment below or e-mail me at writemegbutler@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from y’all and am so glad we get to work through this codependency together.

Also, what do y’all think about the picture of a wadded up blanket I took? So random, but I thought it was beautiful for some reason.

-Meg

I Was Scathed By Harvey

Correction from my last post, I was indeed scathed by Harvey… but not in the way I was expecting. It goes like this:

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Bumper to bumper, compiled madness of every working man and woman in Houston trying to get to work and home on the same freeway and spare back roads. Lord, help us. If you’ve read my posts about working in corporate, you already know it’s a struggle for me… but now with a commute that has been doubled and, may I say it, tripled since Harvey… I’m scathed. I’m so scathed.

Yesterday, after two hours of braking and nowhere near my home, I broke down. It was tragic. And I had plenty of witnesses since all of us are so packed in and driving transparent fish bowls. People could see the tears in high def… and it wasn’t a pretty sight. I lost it.

Why? Because of everything I was losing.

I had already spent an hour driving to work, nine hours working, and now two hours driving… and getting nowhere. That’s TWELVE HOURS. I ain’t a nurse! I don’t do 12 hours shifts away from home if I can help it. It’s already difficult being away from home the regular 55 hours of a work week (yes, I include commute and lunch).

Here’s my list of losses:
Time with Tucker
Time with my roommates
Time to make dinner
Time to just relax and think about what I wanted to do with my evening

Bottom line: I lost time.

That does not feel good. Ever. I was out of control of my circumstances and couldn’t get over the injustice of personal loss. Who could I blame? My bosses for not adjusting work hours the next couple of weeks? Other drivers for making poor traffic decisions? Harvey??

Shifting blame around is pointless. It doesn’t help anything. It definitely doesn’t help my traffic situation. There are several things that need to occur for my mulligan trip home this afternoon.

  1. Surrender the moment. When I come into a situation with expectations, I set myself up for inner conflict. God is sovereign and in control. He has different plans than me for my day. He knows exactly how the day is going to go and His will trumps mine – and that’s a good thing! When life goes a direction I don’t expect (good or bad), I need to surrender it to God and see what He has in store for the time. Let. Go.
  2. Trust God. You want to know crazy? Here it is: my mind and heart were desperate to get home so I could see my dog. I am an obsessive parent. It’s true. I have no idea what I will be like as a mother to a child (if I ever experience that). I mean, I’m going to need to continue seeing my counselor and probably more frequently once I have children.Stuck in traffic, I was so sad that my time with Tucker was being taken by such a miserable alternative. Plus, I needed to feed her dinner, take her on a walk, and just play around. However, what have I learned before? She is best in God’s hands. He can do more for her than I can. So, this time around, I must trust God and know that He has everything taken care of.
  3. Redeem the time. I am a strong believer in spiritual warfare and I do not doubt that Satan wants to get the most evil out of Harvey as he can. And, you know what, I think he’s disappointed. The city, state, and nation have come together to help each other out. There is unity and light in the darkness.Now, he’s coming at us via intense traffic and loss. Well, not today, Satan! The time will be redeemed! My friend and I are resolved that we will stand firm against attack. Two and a half hours of traffic hell can turn into a two and a half hour praise session with God. It can be prayer. It can be working through our character defects as they arise. Instead of defeat, we will get stronger in Christ. We will draw near to God. Our mission is not to be “on time”, but to glorify God at all times.
  4. Don’t play the victim. Once I arrive home (whenever that may be), my goal is to enjoy the time I’ve been given. Even though my time at home may be condensed, I can enjoy it to the fullest. I’m only hurting myself if I come home and sulk the rest of the night due to my misfortunes.My plan is to look at the next couple of weeks realistically. Are there extra things I’m doing outside of work that can be postponed for a bit? How am I planning on taking care of myself in the midst of high stress circumstances? Where is God directing me in all of this?

All of the above is what I have learned so far. I plan on stumbling imperfectly into these lessons and seeing what beneficial habits come from this experience.

#HoustonStrong

 

Equal in Value – Lessons from Harvey

During the worst of Harvey, I was safely stuck at home watching the storm pass by. For reasons unknown, I went completely unscathed by the storm. The water levels rose too close for comfort towards my house, but never made it in. When the storm passed, I was able to sit on my back patio and witness the rain clouds part to reveal a beautiful, blue sky.

While I had a mild Harvey experience, what pains me is seeing all the tragedy happening around me. Every day I turn on the news, I hear another story of a person’s recap of their loss because of Harvey. They are going through the heartbreak of losing everything but their lives. People are being housed in shelters, sitting in an open space figuring out how to pick up the pieces of their lives. Others are assessing the damage of their homes that sat for days in 6-7 feet of water.

Through all this, there was almost 24/7 footage of rescues happening. As tragic as the circumstances were, I think it brought a lot of hope and encouragement to Houston as we watched selfless people using their time and resources to help those in need.

Tragedies bring humanity to a basic fact: People are valuable. They are worth saving. We, as people, did not create this philosophy, it was born in us. Genesis 5:1-2 says we were made in the image of God. That means we did not create a god that fits our characteristics. We are living copies of the real God who created us.

If you are questioning your value, take heart. What viewers witnessed on the news during Harvey is a confirmation that we inherently believe human life is to be preserved, protected, and treasured. That includes you.

So, when in doubt about your value, ask God. Ask Him for whatever you need! Try bringing this exercise into practice: when you have lack, ask God to provide in whatever way He chooses.

It’s easy to place expectations on God by believing you know how He should answer your prayers. Let go of the expectations and anticipate the creativity of His response. Do you believe you are valuable and worth saving? If not, ask God to show you that you are valuable. Look forward to His answer!

Check In

As Rachel on the Bachelorette would say, I’m going to “keep it 100” with y’all and let you in on the struggle I’ve had the past couple of months.

An ongoing weakness of mine that runs in my family is depression. I know depression sounds miserable (and it is), but it’s also oddly comforting. I am familiar with curling up on the couch to take a nap and escape the world, driving to work in a numbness of surrender to unhappiness, maintaining a safe fog of distance at work from reality, and shoving down the little thoughts that pop up telling me to process my situation. It feels horribly good to be a victim.

But ultimately, being depressed is mainly just horrible.

I’ve allowed depression to manipulate my life decisions in the past. I’ve quit jobs because I was miserable, ended relationships, and not completed creative projects that could’ve really benefited people. Depression, for me, is basically a long, numb venture of pure laziness. When I’m in the midst, a proverb always enters my mind:

How long, you sluggard, will you lie there?
When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to relax,
and your poverty will come like a robber,
and your need like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:9-11)

It’s a cycle I am familiar with, yet, can’t seem to shake when I’m in it. I was in this depression when it came time for a counseling session, and I am so glad I entrusted to my counselor how I was feeling. It can be hard, even with counselors, to be honest with how you’re doing. I’ve been seeing mine for quite some time and I was concerned she’d be disappointed with my seeming regression in recovery.

Of course she wasn’t. She shared with me an exercise to do through the phase and I want to share it with you, because it helped me sooo much.

CHECKING IN:

Set a reminder to check in with God every two hours.

  1. Write down how you’re feeling in that moment
  2. Ask God to show you what He’s teaching you in the process
  3. Ask God to remove any negative feelings
  4. If you have to, go into the bathroom or somewhere else private and literally shake the depression (or other negative feeling) off of you
  5. Thank God for what He’s going to do in your life
  6. If God has placed any phrases in your mind or led you to a specific scripture, place it somewhere you can see throughout the day

Try it out! I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me.

A Mini Break

Hello, friends!

I’ve been MIA for the past month, but it’s been for a good reason. God blessed me with a contract job to write a 5 week devotional for families traveling together. That, along with work, my book proposal, and another side job have kept me pretty busy. But! I have finished the devotionals and would like to share one of the days with you.

When I write for churches, I don’t use blatant codependency terms. It’s not a popular concept within most church congregations yet. However, I try and describe as best I can what connecting with God through recovery truly feels like. I want people to know that they can live in freedom and joy in Christ.

Below is day three entitled, “Grace Perspective”. Enjoy!

Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Read devotional as a family:

Even though many say they are Christians, it’s hard to come by individuals actually living the Christian lifestyle. When I say “living it out”, I’m not talking about their actions. I’m talking about their perspective. How many Christians do you know that are still living, frankly, a miserable life?

Reading Romans 5:1-11 and seeing the gains from a life under faith in Christ, it’s hard to imagine a Christian emanating darkness instead of light. It happens all too often, however. God opens someone’s blinded eyes to the light, they accept His truth, and revert back to their dark chaos. This is not to say their lives have no transformation and their salvation wasn’t real. It’s to say that the choice is frequently made to live a life of complacent, sepia-toned Christianity and not step into the daily adventure that God has created for those who love Him. It’s a choice to push away that breezy-blue-sky-Saturday-with-people-you-love, hot pizza when you’re starving, packed out dance party, confident like a boss; “so young and in love” type life.

When a Christian attempts to operate out of their human capabilities, obligation creeps in and life is not lived as an overflow of joy and gratitude for the gift of eternal life in Christ.

Before we could see the truth of God we were in darkness. It is when we come to see the truth of our depravity, the salvation Christ offers, and the justification we receive through faith that we can live a life of peace and joy with God. Peace. Isn’t that what everyone is looking for? Peace, contentment, satisfaction… lack of worry. And we have it!

That’s not all we gain from receiving Jesus as our savior. We receive access to the presence of God because of the grace we have been shown. It is this access to God’s presence that allows us to obtain such peace. We also gain hope in the glory of God. The word hope in this context is ἐλπίς in Greek. It means expectation. We are given not only peace in the present, but expectation for things to come. Namely, the glory of God. We are expectant to see the reveal of God on earth.

After being given peace with God, access to His presence, and hope, we get the gift of the ability to rejoice in our sufferings. Why? Because no longer are sufferings pointless inconveniences and disappointments in a one-shot-at-life mentality, but they are a process of sanctification getting us ready for the glorious kingdom ahead. Sufferings lead back to hope because we have been given the Holy Spirit as our guide and counsel through those times of suffering. We overflow with love no matter what circumstance because of the power of the gospel.

God’s peace gives us the freedom to put away obsessive thinking and surrender our anxieties. The hope of the glory of God provides an eternal perspective that fills this appetizer of a life with purpose. The Holy Spirit clears our mind of chaos and replaces it with clarity, confidence, and direction. God guides us every day and provides all our needs in their right time.

We have all of this, not because we deserve it, but because God loved us in the midst of our weakness. He wanted us to be in His presence so He gave the ultimate sacrifice of parting with His Son for a time so that we can all be with Him. Jesus died for us at the time we were the complete package of a depraved Romans 1. And it is His sacrifice that covers our messed up selves in the presence of God.

It is through Jesus’ blood that we are justified to God and saved from His wrath. We died with Christ to now live. The understanding of who we were, where we were headed, who Jesus is and what He did, what we gained from His life, death, and resurrection, and who we are now because of who He is leads us to a life of freedom, gratitude, and joy. What could we possibly need that God hasn’t already provided? If He went to such great lengths so that we could be with Him, why would He not come through in other matters?

Live in the freedom of a life with God through Jesus Christ here and in the eternal future.

Discussion:

  • What are potential consequences of living for ourselves and not for God’s glory?
  • Do you feel that you are living in the peace of God every day? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe that God will come through for you? Why or why not?