recovery in Christ when life is broken

Showing items filed under “Honesty”

If You Knew My Secret, Would You Even Like Me?

 

As I sat in church in 1997 reflecting on the events that brought me to this point in life, no one would have believed the pain I was feeling on the inside. I sat lost in my emotions. Many didn’t understand the cold feelings sent my way by my wife, even though we enjoyed fellowship with a few other couples in the congregation. I was experiencing success on the job, moving up in my organization with new and exciting opportunities coming in regular intervals. We lived in a beautiful house located in a recognizable community. Our children appeared to be flourishing. I was being groomed to be the next president of our congregation, while leading small groups of Christians who respected me. I enjoyed an active lifestyle in the local golfing community. We took family vacations to the beach each year. Growing up in a violent and addiction ridden home, I was often told that I beat the odds. I considered myself a survivor...All of this, because I kept secrets!

Everyone only knew the public me, not the “behind closed doors” person. That person was very insecure and afraid.

I met my wife during a period of time which I had been free from the demons in my closet. I thought I had beat them in 1995 when we married. Free for over a year, I was living a healthy and focused life. We met through a dating service, and hit it off from the start. Dating only 3 months before tying the knot, we both felt we knew what we were looking for, and found it. Thank God for his grace!

About a year into the marriage, things weren’t as rosy as I had hoped. My wife’s two daughters didn’t take to me as I had imagined they would, pressure at work had placed demands on our time, and I felt a distance from her that scared me. I turned to pornography as comfort, this was my secret. When she caught me, the pain was way more than I anticipated. I had deceived her, and hurt her more than I ever thought possible.

My wife was willing to stay with me, even though we were just existing. There was a cloud hanging over me that I couldn’t get relief from. I was addicted to pornography, and now she knew my secret.

Soon after, we moved to Tennessee and found a church. After taking the membership class, they suggested we get into a small group. This was the last thing I wanted to do! I had kept my secret for years, and had no intentions of bringing it out of the closet. We continued to struggle, just existing as husband and wife. I thought it would only be painful for us to bring it back up. Well…really, I didn’t want to cause ME any pain, because I was rebuilding my image in a new place. And, I couldn’t bear to see the hurt that I had caused in her eyes again. But, she wanted to join the group, so I agreed.

Though I kept my secret from this group, I met a mentor who would disciple me for the next 5 years. What a blessing! He had a heart for people like me—a Christian, who didn’t know how to have a relationship with God. Through his guidance, I was able to lead some church groups. Because of my service, I was asked to be part of a team that would bring recovery to our church. Our pastor asked if I could go with him to Dallas to meet the leadership team for re:generation.

I was in wonder from the moment I met the people from re:generation. Their freedom from the same addictions that bound me up was intoxicating. While there, I was asked twice “Why are you here?” or “Why are you passionate about helping others?”. I answered with very broad and unrevealing answers—still guarding my secret. But, I left knowing that God loves me in spite of what I had done, that sin would not define me if I chose to be honest and turn from it. For the first time, I felt that freedom was possible.

In 2014, we launched re:generation at our church. In a last-minute schedule change, I became the speaker on our first night. I was afraid as I prepared my testimony, but I wanted that freedom more than I wanted to guard my secrets. No one (including my mentor) knew all the sin that was about to come out. I wasn’t sure if the church would even want me around. The enemy had convinced me that if people really knew who I was, they wouldn’t want anything to do with me. With about 100 people in the room, most of them leaders in our church, I shared my story authentically for the first time.

To my surprise, when I finished, I was met by the pastor with a big hug. For the first time, I was truly free, and still didn’t realize just how free for some time after.

It brings tears to my eyes when I look back on my journey since that night. I’ve continued to share my story weekly for the last three years with our newcomers to re:generation at our church. I’ve even shared it from the stage on Sunday in front of 1500 people. For me, it is still difficult, but each time I share is just as freeing as the first time. God has used my testimony to open so many doors to help others know that through Christ they can be fully known, loved, and free from the pain of the past. I can’t imagine keeping God’s work in my life a secret ever again. He uses my mess as His message of freedom.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.”

I had a secret that kept me enslaved…now, I know true freedom in Christ.

 

- Rich Riesz, Director of Care and Recovery, Grace Fellowship Church, Johnson City, TN

How do I know if I’m addicted to porn, alcohol, drugs, pills, sex, relationships, work, gambling, my phone, food, love, shopping, etc.?

 I googled this question on December 22nd, 2005 – and God used it to save my life. Literally.

What could be life-saving about this question? Because, if you don’t know and admit you’re addicted, you won’t get help. Things may even get worse before they get any better. That was my story.

People used to tell me, “I think you might have a drinking problem.” I would quickly snap back, “Are you kidding me? We were drinking together!” They would reason, “Yeah, but it’s different with you.” They were right, but I wasn’t ready to admit it. It was different with me…I drank scotch out of a coffee mug some mornings to hide my drinking. I would sneak drinks before dinners to appear like I was on pace with everyone else, when I was already multiple drinks into the night. I would drink until it was gone or I was gone. I would drink alone, and often preferred to do so, because no one would monitor the volume. Until I was ready to acknowledge my addiction, I wasn’t about to address it or seek to change. Thankfully, after a family intervention in 2005, I googled “How do you know if you’re an alcoholic?” and ended up “acing” the test that popped up from Alcoholics Anonymous.

In that moment, I didn’t feel sad, let down, disappointed, or ashamed…I felt relieved. It was as if I had this nagging, aching pain all of my life and finally a doctor told me I had cancer. There was shock and sadness that things would never be the same, but at least I knew the truth. “This finally makes sense,” I thought. Now, I could start addressing the illness and seek healing.

In reality, most of us don’t seek healing until we admit there is a problem. My hope today is that you’ll better understand your problem so that if you’re hurting…if you’re addicted…you can begin to seek help for healing.

Answer the following twelve questions and then we’ll talk next steps:

  1. Do your family and friends think you have a problem with _______? Yes or No
  2. Do you hide and lie about _____ to protect it and enjoy it although you know others wouldn’t approve? Yes or No
  3. Have you ever missed work or events because of _______? Yes or No
  4. Have you ever tried to stop _______ and find that you can’t go more than a week or two? Yes or No
  5. Has _______ caused relational, financial, marital, occupational, spiritual trouble in your life? Yes or No
  6. Do you find yourself daydreaming and planning your next use of _____? Yes or No
  7. Does _______ make you feel ashamed and yet you continue to do it? Yes or No
  8. Are you afraid that if someone knew the extent of your use of ______ it would be taken away? Yes or No
  9. Is ______ a main priority in your life (when you consider the amount of time/money/thought/energy spent on it)? Yes or No
  10. Is it hard to imagine your life without ________ in it? Yes or No
  11. Are other things in your life (relationships, work productivity, health) are starting to drop-off because _______ is getting more of your time/energy? Yes or No
  12. Do you engage in _______ alone so that no one will trouble you about it and you’d rather do it alone anyway? Yes or No

Now count up how many “YES” responses you gave.

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, our experience tells us that you may be struggling with addiction or close to becoming addicted. And, we often find that if people answer yes to one, they answer yes to many. Addiction creeps into every area of life.

BUT…THERE IS HOPE.

I didn’t know it back then, but alcohol wasn’t my problem…alcohol was my solution. It was my coping mechanism for the pains of life. I used it when I was lonely, tired, bored, angry, stressed…any reason really. It was my default; my go-to.

When I admitted I couldn’t get free on my own, that I was addicted to a poisonous solution, I cried out to God. I asked God to free me and give me a new life. I started walking daily with others who were trying to get free of their addictions. God became the person, the solution, that I went to when I was struggling with life. God responded to my request by flooding my life with peace, joy, purpose and freedom.

You don’t have to go through life addicted. Jesus came to set you free and give you a new life. Not a better or improved life; a new life. And who wouldn’t want that?!

Watch this video on Step 1 “Admit” to learn more about freedom!

-John E.

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recovery in Christ when life is broken.