When I look at the face of this 52-year-old man in the mirror, I finally understand why my fears look the same as they did in 1973 when I was in first grade. I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. I struggle with anxiety and its different manifestations. My name is Michael.
My early childhood was torn apart by alcohol, anger, and abuse. My father was a violent alcoholic. My mother was a nurturing codependent who loved him as long as she could. They divorced when I was 4. My world was already filled with fear. But it wasn’t from fear of physical threats or beatings. My fear began as soon as I felt I had something to hide. I had an older friend who was 7 or 8 at the time. He was teaching me things that were always our secrets. I was told not to tell anyone. He said people would be angry and punish me. Or even worse, they would be ashamed and send me away. From age 4 through 6 these days were common in my life. A child that age doesn’t see the lie or understand he is a victim of abuse.
At age 6, my grandfather died. That’s not especially uncommon, but my grandfather was my best friend. He was not my abuser. When his heart stopped beating, he fell at my feet looking me in the eye. I just knew that it was my fault. The Enemy convinced me that all the things wrong in my life were my fault. I was petrified that someone would find out.
I had always believed my anger, manipulation, and control problems actually caused my anxiety. It wasn’t until my third Celebrate Recovery® Step Study that I realized the truth. From my earliest memories, anxiety wasn’t the product of my feelings; it was the cause. If I had been a child today, I probably would have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. The undiagnosed and untreated anxiety that ruled my early days made it impossible to concentrate. Coupled with the traumatic loss of my grandfather, this fueled a childhood filled with struggles.
At an age when I should have been learning the basics of reading, I was lost in my own scrambled thoughts. It was called daydreaming or just not paying attention. It made my failing scores appear to be more and more my fault. I wouldn’t realize it for decades but this beast called anxiety claimed years of my life. It never entered my mind that I might have a mental health problem; it had to be everyone else.
As an adult, I controlled people, situations, and perceptions of my family and myself. I manipulated ministries, my children, and a marriage that failed after 25 years. I even tried to make deals with God. But he loved me too much, and finally, I heard him tell me the truth. Five years ago while trying to find a new ministry for “Those People,” I found myself at Celebrate Recovery.
I believe that Celebrate Recovery is the most effective method of inviting broken human beings into a lifesaving relationship with Jesus Christ that exists today. Whether the battle is with addiction, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, consequences of bad choices, or any specific mental health issues, Celebrate Recovery saves lives. Every week we state that we make decisions based on the truth. The truth is that my life was saved. I am redeemed and rescued from a life based on the lies I believed for 48 years. The truth has a name; it’s Jesus Christ.
I am a senior pastor, husband, father, and friend. I am a Celebrate Recovery Ministry Leader and the NE Regional Coordinator for the Celebrate Recovery Mental Health Initiative. God has given back the years the locusts have eaten. Celebrate Recovery works if you work it. Just keep coming back! Thanks for letting me share.