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Having the Sponsor Conversation

14 May

I’ve been through Celebrate Recovery’s 12 steps five times now, four at First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas. Through that journey, I’ve had three sponsors and sponsored 10 men. I’ve been asked to sponsor others, but for various reasons did not agree. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve found to be the keys to success:

When asking someone to sponsor you…

  1. Pray about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the right person; if they decline, do not get discouraged. Pray some more and ask the next person God puts on your heart. Let Him choose your sponsor for you.
  2. Seek a godly man (or woman…must be same-sex). I caution against asking a stranger. It’s best to observe the person and see if their walk matches their talk. God can always choose someone outside of this parameter, but in my opinion, it’s wise to have this personal insight going in. Note: In C.R., your sponsor must have completed a full 12-step study to qualify.
  3. State your reasons for choosing the person when you ask. State your objectives and expectations up front. Why did you choose this person? What do you want to accomplish? What do you expect from the relationship? What are your terms and conditions? What timeline? Know your answers before you ask. It will clarify your prayer in step 1 (above) and set the table for a successful journey.
  4. Ask the person what they expect of you. What will they require in return for sponsoring you? How will you work together through the steps? Where will you meet? How often? What are their terms and conditions?
  5. Don’t demand an answer immediately. Place the request and then suggest that you both sleep on it. If you agree to terms, set a “get to know you meeting” right away. Don’t wait for the 12 steps to call a meeting. Set a level of familiarity going in, and pray at all your meetings.

When agreeing to sponsor someone…

  1. Ask if they are a believer. In C.R., Jesus Christ is our Higher Power. You will not be able to arrive at His plan in the relationship without both of you leaning on Him. If they are not a believer, you should explain God’s salvation plan and be prepared to lead them to Christ.
  2. Ask why they thought you’d be a good sponsor? Check their motivations. Explore their terms and conditions. Consider if they are a good fit, before the work begins.
  3. State your expectations for the relationship. My suggestions include:
    1. You (the person asking you) must be in a 12-step study; otherwise, we’re just accountability partners. End of discussion.
    2. Jesus is your Higher Power.
    3. We agree to complete confidentiality; open, honest sharing is the foundation of the relationship.
    4. You are responsible for your own stuff; I am not your banker, boarder, bail bondsman, chauffeur, clothier or chef.
    5. You attend all regular and small group meetings.
    6. You fill out all the questions in the guide before your meetings.
    7. You commit to a thorough, written inventory and complete amends process.
    8. You call me regularly and work with my schedule when possible in setting meetings.
    9. Agree on a timetable for the relationship (i.e., just steps 4 and 5 or more?).
    10. What’s the exit plan; how will the sponsorship end?
    11. Pray about it. Sleep on it before you agree.
    12. If you agree, pray for each other and together, throughout the relationship.
    13. Get their group leader’s name, phone and email for accountability.

In general…

  • The sponsor-sponsee relationship must be same-sex (too many snakes in the grass otherwise).
  • It’s best to work with someone in a similar struggle, but not imperative.
  • Remember, either of you can choose to end the relationship if you’re not growing in your recovery. No hard feelings. Open exit lanes for both parties keep it safe.
  • If the relationship falls apart, agree that you will work together temporarily until a new sponsor is in place.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” (NLT) Having a good sponsor relationship is central to CR success.


Obedience is Rewarded – Complete your 4th Step Inventory

25 Apr

Many of us need help with our inventory, or as Obi Wan Kenobi says examining our “dark side!” I really rebelled at mine. Perhaps you can find encouragement from this testimony.

Trying to work 12 step programs several times over several years, at Step 4 I always bailed.

I was fed up with how I had been thinking and living; ashamed of the many wasted years of my life; ashamed of my disobedience. Finally the Holy Spirit convicted me that I was useless to Him until I completed a step study at Celebrate Recovery.

I found myself at Step 4–AGAIN!

It just didn’t seem necessary to rehash the pain and terror of my childhood–that was in the past. But, my past wasn’t in the past! It dominated my day to day life. My past affected how I treated others and myself; and how I behaved at work and at church. Every thought was controlled by negative issues from my past. Most significantly, my spiritual life was controlled by my past.

Why did I consider UN-recovery disobedience? Because I was deliberately sinning by being useless to God. I could not pray, read, or study the Bible regularly. I was intentionally hiding from Jesus. If I had died, I would have hung my head in shame at meeting Him because of my uselessness to His plan for my life.

Now having the experience of being on the other side of a “searching and fearless moral inventory” I can verify that it was necessary and liberating. Gladly, the obedience has renewed my relationship with the Lord.

If you’re avoiding the required work of inventory and you’re rationalizing, as I did that this is too painful, pointless, not the right time, or you just want to give up, please know that you are not alone.

A long-time procrastinator, I finally ran out of excuses! My group was moving on without me! Remembering my commitment to Jesus, I started the inventory.

Beginning with the person who had caused the most harm, my fingers could not type fast enough! Addressing the pent up pain and anger gave me such energy and motivation that I didn’t want to stop!

The inventory wasn’t as painful as I had expected–I was merely remembering the abuse–not re-living it! I was safe. The wonderful Holy Spirit protected me.

I finally understood the reason for this step. As I listed the abuse, I became empowered. A child abandoned by my father to the mercy of a dangerous, out of control alcoholic mother, I had not been allowed to even consider that I was being mistreated and neglected. I had never been allowed to verbalize the pain and suffering.

The inventory not only allowed me to express the pain, but, it required the expression that was denied me for so many years! I could hardly contain that sense of freedom at being allowed to say what had happened; that it had actually happened; and that it was wrong! This was empowering!

The door opened and I was able to leave my prison. I’m still rejoicing!

On a higher level, we want to be obedient to our Lord and give our lives to Him. We want to be sanctified–not ashamed—when we eventually see Him face to face.

None of us should have been abused. BUT we bore it and we figured out how to survive.

Now, my dear brothers and sisters, it’s time for us to THRIVE!

It’s understandable to want to quit at Step 4. This is the most painful of our recovery effort so far. But the work has a purpose–longed-for healing.

Please, continue to rely on the Holy Spirit of God. Proverbs 20:27 assured me … “The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.”

You know, I was never able to learn from others’ mistakes. But I’ve learned some things through recovery at CR. My experience of rebelling at the 4th Step is offered in the sincere hope that you may be a better student than I and learn from my mistake.

May you continue in your recovery and receive His wonderful blessing at your obedience.

Romans 8:18 “The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that is coming!”


The Power of the Testimony & Step 4

24 May

Step 4 – We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 4 for persons of sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse – We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, realizing all wrongs can be forgiven.  We renounce the lie that the abuse was our fault.

Isaiah 1:18, “Come, let’s talk this over!” says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you clean as freshly fallen snow.  Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!”

Ephesians 4:31, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

Hi, my name is Janie, a grateful believer in Jesus Christ celebrating recovery from the bondage of an unforgiving heart.   In the four years I have been coming to Celebrate Recovery meetings I have heard many testimonies and don’t recall one that a person didn’t share a hesitance or resistance to moving forward into the Step 4 inventory, but with the perseverance of pushing through and completing an inventory they’ve shared the most amazing stories of transformation, of redemption.    Each testimony has been the story of a changed life.    To see God’s power at work in someone’s life; how He can take so many painful, hurtful, shameful things and brings new life from them leaves me in awe. 

In my recovery, I really began to see change in my life when in my heart I became “willing”, just willing, to come and talk it all over with Him.  I can tell you from experience that actually writing down the hurts, habits and hang-ups in black and white was powerful.      I had prayed about things and talked about some of the things on my inventory with friends and family before but hadn’t been able to move PAST them.   In one of the Step 2 lessons, the lesson on Sanity, it says that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result each time but sanity is a wholeness of mind, making decisions based on truth.   Writing these things down, not just talking about them, help me to be more concise and I feel more truthful about them.     I had become willing to have a conversation with Him, not just tell Him my heart but willing too to hear His heart on the matters, to stop a moment as I looked at each thing I had written and listened to what He was trying to say to me.  

When I worked my inventory I went at it a decade at a time, praying first for His help to try and remember things as they were, not to relive them but just to remember them and talk with Him about it as I poured out my hurt and shame on the page.   In each decade I wrote down persons who came to my memory; family members, friends, co-workers, teachers, events that had an impact on me.    I know I struggled with seeing more bad than good the first time I did an inventory and I feel that was partly due to the fact that I was so much pain and I was better at carrying around the hurt than to see any of the good that had been in my life.   Writing it all down, as best as I could remember and as complete as I could, I was able to see looking back those things that were my part(my choices and actions) and as well to see the things that were not my part (the choices and actions of others that affected me) and to see that there were not only times of hardship, trouble or rebellion but also time of joy and happiness. 

Now the inventory is not Step 12, it’s Step 4 and we all are encouraged to not take this step alone, we need someone to walk along side us in this process.   My prayer for each one who might read this entry is that you would just become willing to start this process and along with that prayer for His power to give you the strength to push through it and past it!    Don’t stop before the miracle comes, there is HOPE!!

H – Higher Power “Our Higher Power tells us, “My grace is enough for you; for where there is

                                   weakness, my power is shown the more completely.”  II Corinthians 12:9, PH

O – Openness to change “Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for

                               the better.  Yes, you must be a new and different person.”  Ephesians 4:23, TLB

P – Power to change “For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives

                                          me the strength and the power.”  Philippians 4:13 TLB

E – Expect to change “I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right

                                 on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on

                                  that day when Jesus Christ returns.” Philippians 1:6 TLB

The Real Me

15 May

MASQUERADE! Paper faces on parade…

Masquerade – hide your face so the world will never find you!

These haunting lyrics are from Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.  Ever been to a masquerade ball?  I can imagine it to be fun – for a couple of hours you get to guess who is behind the mask and be a different person.  However, if you tried to wear a mask every day it would eventually get uncomfortable and tiring…

Being codependent and in recovery from an over 20 year eating disorder affected me in such a way that I didn’t show others the “Real Claire.”  I tried to be who everyone else wanted me to be, and worked really hard at pleasing others.  To hide the pain and discomfort, I used food.  Rejection was my biggest obstacle.

The inventory, through Principle and Step 4, helped me work past some of those codependent traits seeing all the patterns of my behavior.  In Celebrate Recovery, we go through our inventory through a step study that is set up to go through questions individually, with our sponsor, and with a small group.   Some of the questions include evaluating our relationships with others, our attitude, integrity, our mind, and how we’ve treated our bodies.  I can remember as far back as 5 years old putting on a mask trying to live up to expectations I had set for myself through what I thought was a “good person.”  That mask strangled me by the time I hit my late 20’s and I needed relief.  That relief was found through the inventory when I discovered that it was ok to be Claire as God had created her to be!  Through CR I felt like myself – for the first time in my life.  Now 5 years later through recovery the “Real Claire” is being revealed to the world!

Natalie Grant wrote a song about her recovery from bulimia called “The Real Me.”  I’m so thankful that God only calls me to be myself through Jesus! I hope you enjoy the song.


Beginning Your 4th Step Inventory

17 Apr

You CAN Do This!

Words of encouragement as you begin “…a searching and fearless moral inventory…”

I recall previous attempts to compile my inventory to the point of becoming DISOBEDIENT in my refusal. I had so many excuses. Rehashing the past wasn’t going to be helpful. It was done and over. I had survived. I didn’t need to re-expose myself to the abusers again. It was too embarrassing.

Now having the experience of being on the other side of “a searching and fearless” I can verify that it can be challenging, painful, and tedious. It is also essential, beneficial, and liberating. It is OBEDIENCE; and it is so worthwhile!

My past was not in the past! My past influenced the current moment; it governed my day to day life and thoughts. My past affected how I treated people and myself; how I behaved at work. My thoughts were controlled by negative issues from the past. Past issues have greatly affected my health. Most significantly, my spiritual life was controlled by my past. My past was insidious!

Disobedience means that I was consciously sinning by being useless for God’s kingdom. I could not pray, read, meditate or study the Scriptures consistently. My relationship with Jesus was weak. I was ashamed to call myself a Christian. I felt that should I die and face my Lord that I would hang my head in shame for the lack of usefulness I had been to His plan and purpose for my life.

The reason to finally complete the 12 steps was the fact that until that goal was accomplished; I was not useful to the Lord! I was facing my 60th birthday—where did the years go—and didn’t want to spend the last years of my life as I had lived the previous.

I joined CR and made a commitment to my Lord to complete the goal. I was sick and tired of whom I was, how I had been living, and ashamed of the waste my life had been.

If you are at the dreaded “searching and fearless” point. It can be daunting and dreadful —WHY is this necessary? This seems like ANOTHER round of abuse! If you feel this step is painful, pointless, overwhelming, and you want to give up, please know that you are needed by your CR family and that you are not alone. Everyone in CR leadership has been there and we are praying for each one of you. Our heavenly Father is cheering you on!

 If you need to begin by just going through the motions right now, then do that. I began that way. Time got short. Remembering my commitment, I began with the person with whom I had the most issues. In the process, I became angry and that gave me the energy and the motivation to continue.

 Remarkably, I found that this step wasn’t at all as upsetting as I had expected. I was merely remembering the abuse, not re-living it. The Holy Spirit protected me and reminded me that I was safe and that I was being obedient.

 As I listed the abuse, I became empowered. As a child, I was not allowed to even think that I was being mistreated. I was not allowed to verbalize my suffering and pain…now it was not only allowed, it was required! I could hardly contain my joy at finally being permitted to say what had been done to me; that it had actually happened; and that it was wrong!

As a result of that inventory and subsequent steps, shackles have fallen from me. Those who have completed the 12 steps will rejoice with you when the prison door swings open and you experience freedom for the first time in years!

Each one of us came to CR in pain. We sought relief from that pain.

On a higher level, we want to be obedient to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and we want to be sanctified when we see Him face to face.

You have invested months in this process. It is more difficult now. You may have survived and / or committed unspeakable horrors of abuse, neglect, and pain that no one should have endured.  You have survived, but now it’s time to THRIVE!

 Please remember, each one of you is important, needed, and precious in our Father’s eyes.

Be strong in the Lord!
Be strong in the Lord!
Be strong for each other!
You can do this!



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