Last week, I completed a 12-Step Study as a part of the program I am working with Celebrate Recovery. This wasn't my first step study, but I experienced a lot of growth with this one, in a way that really surprised me. And I developed a really close connection with the group of ladies I went through the study with. On Tuesday we had a little graduation ceremony at CR to celebrate our accomplishment, and some of us shared a brief testimony. Today I've felt led to share that with my friends.
Some of this was really difficult to share outside of the comfort and security of a small group of ladies. But I am learning that God can use the experiences of my past to help bring hope and healing for others. If you are unfamiliar with Celebrate Recovery, it is a 12-step recovery program for anyone with any sort of hurts, habits or hang-ups. I've seen countless lives changed through the program, and it is the tool God is using to help shape me into a woman more like Him. I still have a long way to go, but I know I'll never have to walk the path alone.
I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with Depression and Love & Relationship Addiction, and my name is Sarah.
I was born in a loving, Christian home, and I always knew that God loved me and had a plan for my life, but I have struggled with a low self-esteem for as long as I can remember. I didn’t have very many friends, and I frequently experienced rejection from the other kids.
I was always a boy-crazy little girl, with a long list of boys I had crushes on. I remember in Kindergarten spending every recess chasing boys on the playground. Perhaps this was where my notion first began to take shape that someday, when I found (and caught) my Prince Charming, my happily-ever-after would begin, and I would finally be complete. This quest that began in childhood would shape many of the decisions I made as an adult.
When I was a teenager, the boys weren’t interested and I never dated, but my obsession with finding love only grew. I would spend countless hours with movies and books about romance. This opened the door to curiosity about sex, and led to a struggle with lust and pornography that would haunt me for many years; I continually fantasized about the happiness and contentment that I was certain would come from finding “Mr. Right”.
At church I would pray, asking God to forgive my secret sins, but later I would fall into temptation again. I was stuck in an endless cycle of guilt and shame, and I felt lonely and unlovable. By the end of my teens I grew tired of the struggle and waiting for God to reveal His plan for me. I was certain that He must intend for me to remain single, and that was just unacceptable. I made the decision to turn my back on God, and I told Him that I was taking over control of my life.
At the age of 20, I had my first boyfriend – a married man. The affair lasted several months, and when it ended I was left feeling used, hurt and lonely. Determined to live life on my own terms, I turned to one-night stands, alcohol, drugs, food, and shopping to numb my pain.
Four years later, I was living in a travel trailer, hundreds of miles from my family, married to an emotionally abusive alcoholic, and lonelier than I had ever been. I finally had to admit that my way of doing things wasn’t working. I could no longer numb my pain, and my marriage was far from the fairy tale I had always envisioned. I prayed for the first time in years, and rededicated my life to God. I started attending church again, and my first recovery experience came through the secular program of Al-Anon, where I began learning how to focus on my own issues with codependency, instead of my husband’s drinking.
By the age of 28, I was divorced and living with my parents. Once again hurting and lonely, I began slipping into old patterns of self-destruction and inappropriate relationships. I knew that I still needed some kind of help, and I found it in 2010, when I attended my first Celebrate Recovery meeting.
In CR, I have found a safe place, where I don’t have to hide my problems. A place where I know I am welcomed, accepted, and loved just as I am. I’ve been able to find healing from the pain of the past and the security of knowing that God loves me unconditionally. I’ve learned the value of having a support team that I can rely on. I once had few friends that I could trust, but now I am learning what “iron sharpens iron” friendships are supposed to look like. I have had sponsors that challenge and inspire me, and accountability partners that encourage me and keep me honest. I never had a sister until I came to Celebrate Recovery, but now I have several.
Nearly two years ago, I married my husband John. I love him dearly, but our marriage is not a fairy tale. I am learning that God never intended for my happily-ever-after to come from anyone or anything on this earth. When I am tempted to try to find my happiness and fulfillment in my family, my career, or even my church, I am gently reminded that true fulfillment can only come from my relationship with Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 says, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” I find great hope in knowing that God isn’t done working in me, and He will continue helping me with this process until the day He calls me home to live happily ever after with Him.