Stepping Out of Denial…Again

I am no stranger to recovery. I have done group therapy, journey groups, grace groups, multiple 12-Step programs, and individual therapy over the last twenty-two-ish years. One might think I would have it all together by now.

One might be wrong.

I imagine that on this side of heaven, I will always be working on my hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Hopefully, I won’t always be working on the same ones, but I might. The Apostle Paul and I have something in common in that I too, desire to do what is good, but often I cannot carry it out. (See Romans 7:18)

Denial often leaves us feeling lonely and ashamed and causes us to isolate ourselves from others.

I started my fifth 12-Step Study today through Celebrate Recovery. I am a leader with a co-leader and that is both scary and comforting at the same time. But I know that God has an amazing plan for healing in my heart and in the hearts of the women in our group. I am truly excited to see what layers He pulls back in me. It’s rarely what I expect.

I walked into my first Step Study with a plan for God to heal particular habits in my life and, God being God, He showed me that I had many layers to peel back before we could even talk about addressing my plan. It turned out that I was in denial of so much more than I ever thought or imagined. That was ten years ago and God is still peeling back layers in me.

I believe it is fair to say my level of denial is nowhere as deep as it used to be. I can safely say that I am fully aware that I am flawed in many ways and in many places. I know that there are temptations in my life I will always need to be on guard against because they are areas that once had vice-grip like strongholds in my life. I also know there are places so awful that God snatched me from in order to set me on higher ground. I have experienced so much freedom and relief from those dark places that I will never have even the slightest inkling of a desire to go back.

When we face our denial, we learn that we can not ever receive healing by ignoring a wound or pretending it isn’t there. Stuffing feelings and resentments doesn’t make them go away. Stuffing anything into a tight space hardly ever ends well. Over-stuffed containers have a tendency to explode. It’s just science.

Denial:

Disables Our Feelings. When we stuff away and attempt to numb one feeling, we end up numbing all feelings. We become slaves to hiding them away and attempting to protect ourself from future harm.

Energy Lost. When we deny our feelings and attempt to numb them, we end up spending a lot of time worrying about the future and running from the past. We seek ways to avoid thinking about our life and waste a lot of energy worrying about future pain.

Negates Growth. There is a popular phrase in recovery that says, “We are as sick as our secrets.” When we try to keep our habits and our hurts hidden from the world we spend a lot of time doing a dance of denial. We wear ourselves out keeping our secrets hidden instead of living fully in grace and truth.

Isolates from God. 1 John 1: 5-7 reminds us, “God is light; in him, there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Alienates Us From Our Relationships. When we live in denial we think no one knows our secrets. We don’t open ourselves fully to those we love and we keep our true self locked away. Our life becomes a lie we live, thinking that others don’t see our pain.

Lengthens the Pain. We start to believe that stuffing our hurts away and not talking about our wounds is protecting us from pain. In reality, it only causes our wounds to fester. Just as you wouldn’t slap a bandage on a physical wound without cleaning it and treating it with medication, you can’t hide your emotional wounds without allowing God’s cleansing and healing love to wash them clean.

I know from experience that time does not heal all wounds. It is only when I am truthful about my life – my hurts, habits, and hang-ups – and work the steps of recovery, that I experience true peace. I have been longing for true peace my entire life! I have tried to find it on my own in so many ways. I have tried to shop my way there, eat my way there, drink my way there, sleep my way there. I’ve even tried to rely on the love of others to get me there. It’s all been a messy lie. When I work the steps of recovery and allow Jesus to take the wheel of my life, I don’t have to rely on my dysfunction, my compulsive behaviors, or my addictions to act as a temporary fix for my pain. When I allow Jesus to be in charge of my life, he covers me with healing peace.

If you would like to know more about Celebrate Recovery or would like to find a Christ-centered 12-Step program near you, I encourage you to visit the Celebrate Recovery website. If you are near me, know me, and would like to be a part of our Monday group, we are accepting new members. Contact me today and I’ll see about getting you connected.

No one gets through this life unscathed by sin. Jesus never promised us that following Him would be easy. In fact, he promised the opposite. But he does promise that we never have to walk the journey alone. He will hold our hand and light our path the entire way and all we have to do is follow. And he will bring people along side us to walk with us so we never, ever, ever have to feel alone.

(This post was written with information found in A Purpose Driven Recovery Resource- Stepping Out of Denial into God’s Grace, Participant’s Guide 1 by John Baker. It is a Celebrate Recovery Curriculum.)

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