by Carmen Renee Berry
This evening I trudged up the steps to my condo, weary and resentful of the work that still needed to be done. Sorting through my mail I saw a hand-addressed envelope amongst the bills so I opened it first..
A woman had recently read my book “When Helping You Is Hurting Me” and graciously took the time to let me know how my insights encouraged her to take better care of herself. A sad smile came to my lips as I read her kind words. “I’d like to write her back and thank her,” I thought, “but I’m so over-committed and busy helping others in their recovery that I just don’t have the time.”
I’ve never been a big fan of Freud’s, but I do wish he had been right about one thing – that insight was sufficient for change. To paraphrase Dale Ryan, if intellectual understanding could fix me, I’d be all better by now. In fact, I had enough insight into my addiction over ten years ago to write a book about the subject. And it would have been a very insightful book, if do I say so myself.
But living our recovery is altogether different than waxing eloquent about the problem. Insight comes easily to me. So, unfortunately, does slipping back into my addictive helping and workaholism, especially when my addiction is disguised as “recovery ministry.” I remember one week several years ago in which I drove for an hour to give an all day seminar to child protective services workers on how to prevent burnout and take better care of themselves. The next day I drove an hour in the opposite direction to give two back-to-back workshops for mental health professionals on how to prevent burnout and take better care of themselves. I woke up early the next morning to catch a plane to northern California to present a workshop to a state-wide convention of city officials on how to prevent burnout and take better care of themselves. A cab was waiting outside the workshop door to whisk me off to the airport so I could fly out of state in time to give a keynote address on . . .yes, you guessed it, how to prevent burnout and take better care of ourselves.
I Have Changed.
I’ve been in recovery for nine years last Spring, a journey that has been more painful and more rewarding that I ever imagined. The changes, both internally and externally, have been tremendous and real.
I am more attune to my body’s signals of stress and distress than I was prior to my first burnout in 1985. Rather than blame my body for migraines, sleepless nights or loss of appetite, I now recognize these body-experiences are God’s way of trying to get my attention.
I know how to nurture myself better through many avenues including massage, drawing, prayer, quiet walks, journaling, country western dancing and music.
I have a more supportive community of friends and colleagues who love me enough to confront me when I’m over-doing it and nurture me when I’m depleted.
I have a faith in a God who loves me, not merely as “an instrument” or an object used for some so-called higher good – a God who loves me just the way I am because I am a person of value.
I realize that I am not perfect. The changes I’ve experienced are real, but I am still in process. And I am kinder to myself when I make mistakes or fall back into my addictive pattern.
Yesterday’s Change Won’t Keep Me Sober Today
As I look at my enormous “to do” lists, groan over the unreturned phone calls, apologize for another missed deadline and explain to my friends why I can’t see them until the middle of next month, I have to acknowledge that I will always be susceptible to the addictive process. I don’t always live out all of the insight I have, nor do I always take advantage of the wealth of support God provides for me. I do not like it when my personal addictions rise from the ashes to threaten my serenity yet again. At times I fear that I’ve not made any real changes at all. The truth is, however, I have changed. I am a healthier person battling similar problems.
Because I made positive choices yesterday, doesn’t protect me from making mistakes today. I continue my process of healing, acknowledging the gains made and the woundedness remaining. My hope comes not from the illusion that I am fixed, but from the rich relationship I have with God. Every day I have the wonderful and terrifying opportunity to turn my life over to God who is the perfecter and finisher of my faith.
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