I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, who celebrates recovery over the loss of faith and struggles with codependency, love and relationship addiction, and sexual brokenness. My name is Jill.
I can’t think of a better way to describe my parents other than being a mule and racehorse. My dad was hot-tempered but steady, and my mother was beautiful while always on the run. I truly believe with all my heart that my parents love me and did the best they could with what had been modeled to them, which was a lot of their own childhood dysfunction.
I have two siblings, an older brother and a baby sister, who truly are and always have been my best friends. It is safe to say that we were inconveniences to my parents’ drama, often forgotten, and never afforded the emotional or physical space just to be kids. We were not the siblings who fought or argued with one another as we learned very young to be quiet, be still, and stay unseen. We stuck together to protect one another and keep the peace.
For the first half of my childhood, my parents were either wrestling to stay together or fighting to remain apart, and I was shuffled from place to place with different people who were not always safe. My earliest memory is of sexual abuse, which led me to believe that physical touch was love, and I was married for the first time at fifteen. Thirteen years and two beautiful daughters later, that marriage ended in divorce, and just moments after my divorce was final, I was dating again. I had already been “breadcrumbing” a man along, and it didn’t take long for him to accommodate my sexual needs and give me validation while doing so. I felt loved again. That marriage didn’t last either, and I repeated the cycle of going from one relationship to another into my 40s– hurting many people along the way, especially my daughters, who felt very unseen during my dysfunction.
I was still very active in my cycle when I first showed up at Celebrate Recovery. I had just left my then-husband and already had another man in my life who attended CR. He kept inviting me, and I would decline because I believed the lie that God didn’t love me or He would have protected me as a child. Over time though, I complied to satisfy my own desire to be with him. As I continued to chase him into the doors every Friday night, God showed up for me by putting women in my open share groups who were willing to share their stories that resonated with my heart. Their transparency not only encouraged me to step out of my anger at God but also helped me identify my own hurt and the cycle I was in. Before CR, I would have never allowed other women to speak into my life. These women kept drawing me back each week. I even found myself coming back when my date could not come.
Over time in open share, I learned that I am addicted to love relationships with a strong history of sexual brokenness that has led me to master codependency behaviors. I struggle to feel worthy of love– even God’s love. I’ve been a peacekeeper in my romantic relationships, using my physical needs to poorly communicate with my partners as I didn’t know what my true needs were. I don’t feel valued and loved if I am not physically engaged. And most importantly, I’ve learned all of these coping skills are rooted in my childhood trauma. In the Open Share group, God revealed my part of the dysfunction of my past, and my healing began.
One night, I heard a testimony that piqued my curiosity about codependency. I read the issue pamphlet and immediately knew I had work to do. Now that my issue had a name, I could fix it. That same night, I signed up for a Step Study and bought all the books, the CR Bible, and the devotional book. I was determined to spend the entire weekend working through them all. I planned that by Monday, my life was going to work out. Let me mention that a Step Study is not designed to be worked alone for those who don’t know. It is a 9 to 12-month recovery journey, not an overnight success plan. I did complete that first Step Study and am now working on my third. I have realized that it took over forty years to get to the place I am now. There is no way I could use one Step Study to unravel the ball of knots surrounding my heart. I am so thankful for the safety of a Step Study, and I cannot imagine my life without having a strong group of women to share with and support me. I have learned so much about myself: the hurts, hang-ups, and habits we so often talk about in CR.
I have also learned to dismiss the lie I believed that the abuse in my past was my fault. It is not my fault. Yet, I had to learn to stop giving it control over my life. If you have experienced abuse, it is not your fault, and it was not of God. There are bad people in this world, but God is not bad. If you are an abuser, remember that your identity is in Christ, and His mercy and forgiveness are awaiting you. His grace is greater than any sin or shame.
I also had to identify my unhealthy need for sexual attention based on my childhood trauma, believing that sex equaled love. That is not how God created sex or love. Celebrate Recovery has taught me that God loves me. HE– the God of the universe, the one who breathed life into existence –CHOSE to create me, CHOSE to die for me; He CHOSE to save me.
By working Principle Six, I learned to accept God’s forgiveness. His forgiveness is complete and irreversible. All the mistakes of my past and the mistakes I have yet to make, when I lay them at Jesus’ feet, I trust His promise of mercy, grace, and forgiveness. God forgave the little girl in me who didn’t tell anyone; the mother in me who didn’t know how to be a mother; the wife in me who walked away from her marriages; and the woman who didn’t treat her body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. I had to do as the Bible instructs me to do: I had to forgive myself and ask for forgiveness from others.
Working on my recovery journey for almost four years now has taught me to be vulnerable, honest, and admit my wrongs, bringing new, beautiful relationships to my life. It has restored broken ones, too. I didn’t do it all wrong, but it makes my heart sad for my daughters to know their mother before Celebrate Recovery. I was less than what they deserved. When people or circumstances didn’t serve my need for love, I didn’t do the hard work. I walked away only seeing my own needs, which created a lot of hurt and trauma for them. By the grace of God and through my willingness to own my part of their hurt, they have forgiven me, and we now have wonderful relationships.
Remember the guy I chased into CR? Well, he is now my husband. We are both actively serving in Celebrate Recovery as leaders and volunteers, mentoring fellow strugglers, and working every day to learn what God’s desire is for a healthy marriage.
If you haven’t given Celebrate Recovery a try, what are you waiting for? CR has the tools to help you identify your hurts and break your unhealthy cycle. No matter what you’re running to or running from or what cycle you may be coping with, God will show up for you just like He did for me. God has a better plan for you because He loves you. The Bible tells us in Ephesians that God loved and chose us without fault in His eyes (Ephesians 1:4). The best part is you won’t have to do it alone. You will be welcomed right where you are, without judgment. You can move forward on the road to recovery to live the life of abundance and joy that God has planned for you.
Thanks for letting me share.
If you would like to learn how to start your own Celebrate Recovery ministry, to contact your Celebrate Recovery Rep, please visit: https://crgroups.info/. To get involved in an already existing Celebrate Recovery ministry near you, please visit: https://locator.crgroups.info/.