The Living Free Program has been developed to help individuals look at painful experiences from their past that are continuing to influence their lives today. Participants in the program have an opportunity to redefine their knowledge and understanding of themselves through writing about and sharing their progress in recovery. A Christ-centered version of the Twelve Steps, as adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, is the foundational discipline used in the program.
Participants in the program often discover how their opinions of themselves and others have been founded on faulty information. This information is often passed on to them from parents, siblings and others who are unaware of their own worth and value, or the beauty of others.
Participants in all levels of the Living Free Program have an opportunity to see life through the eyes of an adult, rather than the eyes of a terrified, fearful and shame-filled child. They learn to stop viewing themselves as victims, accept the reality of their past and work toward enhancing the quality of their lives with the help of God’s grace. The principal of Christ-centered partnership is exemplified in ECCLESIATES 4:9-12 "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! . . . Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
A challenge often faced by participants is being willing to communicate with a "recovery partner" between meetings. A "recovery partner" is someone who can be trusted, and who will help an individual to recognize how denial can inhibit one’s ability to discover the truth about themselves. Working with a recovery partner on a one-on-one basis makes it easier to identify the fears and resentments that are an after affect of the dysfunctional and addictive behavior.
Sharing with a "recovery partner" offers an opportunity to experience one-on-one relating without the distractions found when groups meet together. For individuals who have felt betrayed in the past, this is an opportunity for them to rebuild their trust. The dynamics of self-revelation (discovering exactly what one feels and thinks) can occur more easily through communicating with another trusted person. Through the process of sharing, something subtle and powerful happens that provides the courage to face reality and deal effectively with the fear of discovery.
Many people have difficulty overcoming the fear of revealing their true feelings. They may hide their fear by stating that they have nothing to offer. By communicating privately with a recovery partner they have an opportunity to develop mutual trust and reveal themselves to another person without feeling intimidated by others in a group setting. This dynamic can cause a breakthrough in learning to trust in someone and be willing to share openly about their life experiences.
Participating in the Living Free Program prepares individuals to become mentors to other people who are newly aware of their condition. They can demonstrate to others what they are learning for themselves and how the discipline of the Twelve Steps is strengthening their walk with God. By sharing their experience, strength and hope with others, they can grow, and at the same time help others to discover some of the joys they have discovered for themselves. By their continued commitment to work the Twelve Steps, face their character flaws, and through God’s grace have them healedthey find others looking to them for comfort, direction and wisdom.
Choosing a Recovery Partner
A recovery partner is similar to a mentor and can be a role model for an individual who is learning how to enjoy a better quality of life through the love of God. It is important to choose someone who demonstrates qualities that are valued and respected.
These qualities include:
- a belief in the Christian faith and a willingness to demonstrate their walk with God.
- sincerity and honesty in sharing personal stories of recovery and how the Twelve Steps work in their lives.
- a willingness to provide support and encouragement by listening and giving honest feedback without trying to force change.
- an ability to confront difficult issues and ask for accountability in keeping commitments.
- openness of communication in all matters, even when discussing sensitive issues such as sexual abuse, violence, or other severe trauma-inducing subjects.
When choosing a recovery partner, it is advisable to select an individual who:
- shares common interests and experiences and demonstrates positive results in recovery.
- understands and identifies with the addictive, compulsive, or obsessive behavior that is being addressed (still encounters and is challenged by the behavior).
- has patience and compassion, is willing to listen attentively and offer suggestions without giving advice.
- is available to spend time together when it is necessary.
- is the same sex and can relate to personal issues in a non-threatening way.
Some questions and expectations that arise when choosing a recovery partner:
- What happens when one hears "No"? The process of dealing with fear of rejection can occur when asking someone to be a recovery partner. The program encourages rigorous honesty, and this is an opportunity to reveal to the other person the discomfort in asking to enter into a recovery partnership. By giving the other person freedom of choice, we can experience peace by detaching from the outcome of the request. This program is one where God works miracles. A recovery partnership may just "happen" as one participates in the recovery process.
- What happens when you are asked to be a partner and don’t want to be? This program can assist one in more clearly understanding boundaries. Boundaries include how we spend our time, express our feelings and enter into new relationships. Knowing when to say, "Thank you for asking, but that won’t work for me," can be one of the important steps we take in simplifying our life, and does not require an explanation.
- What do you do when you grow out of the partnership? Ending a "recovery partner" relationship is part of learning to decide when to select more appropriate support and to know that one may not meet the needs of the recovery partner "forever." Personal growth is a natural part of the process. The outcome may still be a very good friendship.
Principles to Follow
The following principles have been adapted from the Principles and Guidelines for Recovery Support Group Meetings in Chapter 5, and include biblical references to support the statements.
- Partners provide a non-threatening system of mutual accountability. For example, a partner can agree to call the other for support and prayer in abstaining from a harmful habit.
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." JAMES 5:14-16
- Partners minister to each other’s specific area of need with directed prayer each time they meet. Openly sharing thoughts and feelings helps to clarify needs in problem areas. This also contributes to being freed from the past to live honestly in the present with realistic expectations.
"Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 THESSALONIANS 5:17 (NIV)
- Partners encourage one another to progress from a state of physical, emotional and spiritual sickness to wholeness of life. Discomfort often takes place when unhealthy familiar behaviors are being transformed into new and healthy ones as we seek to do God’s will.
"…consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." HEBREWS 10:24 (NIV)
- Partners aid one another in applying biblical truths to personal and relationship needs. When partners openly share their faults with one another, honesty, trust, and healing occur. This also means we can quote scripture to exemplify an experience.
"Jesus said,’If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." JOHN 8:31-32 (NIV)
Mutual Agreement Between Recovery Partners
A key part in establishing a relationship with a "recovery partner" is to reach an agreement on how the partners want to interact with one another.
The agreement can establish:
- what the expectations are between one another.
- the period of time in which the agreement will be in effect.
- specified times to evaluate the quality of the relationship.
- an understanding of how the relationship and/or agreement can be terminated.
The agreement is intended to encourage the partners to make a sincere effort to:
- Focus on the Twelve Steps and scripture as a tool to enhance one’s relationship with God and others.
Moving at one’s own pace is important. At times there may need to be encouragement or confrontation when one has quit working the Steps. If a partner is unavailable or can’t answer a question, seek out another twelve-step person to assist in understanding how they use this discipline in their recovery.
- Be available for phone calls or meeting in person.
A key to success in recovery is making and keeping commitments. Having someone committed to being available may be something new and is an important part of honestly confronting discomfort. Willingness to ask for or offer support and encouragement helps to achieve healing and wholeness.
- Share my true feelings with my "recovery partner."
Rigorous honesty is important when sharing feelings. Feelings require acknowledgement and appropriate expression without their being judged right or wrong. Selective disclosure when talking about feelings creates doubt between partners. Telling the truth by clearly identifying and sharing one’s feelings supports healing.
- Refrain from giving lengthy explanations when sharing.
Sharing is not intended to be a lengthy or dramatic recreation of personal stories. Referring to journal notes or workbook writing keeps the focus on the subject being shared and helps to avoid "intellectualizing" when sharing.
- Complete the homework assignment each week.
Partners can provide support and encouragement to each other in completing the assignment. Sharing the results of homework writing often helps clarify the meaning of questions and is an opportunity to hear another perspective.
- Spend a minimum of 15 minutes each day reading scripture, praying and meditating, including prayer for your recovery partner.
Prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening to God. Spending time in prayer and meditation can be a vital part of the recovery process. This is a spiritual program founded upon seeking to know God’s will and experiencing His grace.
- Respect confidentiality by refraining from disclosing information about my "recovery partner."
The effectiveness of this program is largely based on trust. Fear of gossip may prevent some people from honestly sharing the pain of their lives. Healing will be hindered unless there is trust that personal matters will remain confidential.
- Accept some degree of discomfort as part of the healing process.
Some meetings may be painful when memories of certain events or hurtful feelings are recalled. It is important to have a "recovery partner" available to show compassion and be supportive as we confront painful issues. During the early stages of recovery it is advisable to accept discomfort and not be distracted by entering into new intimate sexual relationships.
- Support my "recovery partner" by listening attentively and giving him/her my undivided attention.
Listening attentively and asking questions enables one to explore the options and possible courses of action. This can strengthen one another’s ability to make healthy choices that foster suitable outcomes. This program does not include a plan to fix others and give unsolicited advice.
- Be kind to myself by accepting personal progress rather than perfection on this journey toward wholeness and seeking God’s will.
Recovery is a personal spiritual journey that is enriched by our personal relationship with God. Progress is not measured by the standards of others. Accepting progress rather than perfection can increase self-esteem by allowing mistakes to happen as part of growing.
- Not to overly spiritualize my sharing.
Partners are not spiritual directors to each other, or a source of advice which is more appropriately handled by clergy or a professional therapist. Use examples of how God is working without excessive emphasis on scripture. Keep the focus on one’s own life as a way to illustrate how God’s will is being done. This concept supports God’s desire to relate to us on a deeply personal basis.
- Focus on the Twelve Steps as a tool to enhance one’s relationship with God and others.
At times there may need to be encouragement or confrontation when one has quit working the Steps. If a partner is unavailable or can’t answer a question, seek out another twelve-step fellow traveler to assist in understanding how they use this discipline in their recovery. It is inappropriate to impose personal views on one’s "recovery partner," particularly regarding one’s relationship with God.
Being accepting of our "recovery partner" or others does not mean accepting addictive behavior slips or the rationalizations that follow. Being able to lovingly detach means not taking the behavior breakdown as a personal affrontthat one has somehow failed the recovery partner.
Partners are not responsible for each other; their responsibility is to listen and respond from their own experience, strength and hope. Being heard by a trusted person helps us to work through the decision-making process.
Having a "recovery partner" may be a way to experience the unconditional love of God for the first time. A sample of a Mutual Agreement Between Recovery Partners can be found in the Appendix 2.