Where do I begin? Perfectionism? People pleasing? Anger? Pushing myself deep into work to the point you can officially call it workaholism?
There's so much to unpack in a short span of time.
Church was a standard place for me to be. As a young child, much time was spent with my friends at church camps and Vacation Bible Schools. As I grew, I found ways to serve and teach the generations behind me. At the time I was too young to understand why, but the church where my foundation was constructed crumbled under the weight of some type of bickering and debate. Destruction of my childhood church didn't stop me. I sought any way I could to be in church as much as I possibly could be.
Too young to drive, I frequented the church on my block when my family stopped serving at church. A few years passed and my parents found a new church for us to attend. That's the church I called home for many years. The one to which I returned even after moving away to study ministry. However, despite my study of ministry and my time spent serving at a young age, some unexpected turns took me down roads I never thought I'd travel.
Most of my childhood was riddled with a hidden addiction.
Not many knew it was there and that's just how I wanted it to stay. I'd serve at church and grow through reading my Bible all while popping off the path for a bit just to stumble through my struggles. It became my coping mechanism. My escape. My way to handle pain. Satan knew it was easy to pull me into the thick of his lies, if only for a little while, just to keep me from walking the path I was supposed to walk.
Through the years I found accountability partners and programs. Systems were put in place to keep me from straying off the path, but nothing seemed to pull me out of the depth of my addiction. For me it came from self-loathing and a belief that no one could forgive me for what I had been doing for so long so why even try to stop. Especially not God though, how could He forgive me?
The Bible tells us His grace is sufficient; yet despite the numerous times I read that truth, I never felt it was written for me. No way could this grace cover my sins and my actions. How wrong I was though.
At the time Celebrate Recovery was nothing but ministry in a church, yet I was living out one of its principles without even knowing. There was a time when my wife approached me to finally start a relationship, and yes, she approached me. That's a whole different story. But I knew that if I was to be a husband, I needed to get my addiction under control. I didn't want to enter a relationship only to give her this extra baggage. That was the moment I practiced Celebrate Recovery's principle 4, "Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust."
Finally, I found someone I trusted to confess it all in safety and there was healing in letting it out. Her forgiveness of my actions even though we hadn't officially begun our relationship is where I realized truly that God's grace is sufficient, even for me.
Nine years later in marriage I find myself over ten years clean. About six years ago now, my wife and I experienced a roller coaster of emotions wrapped in the ribbons and bows of the holidays. Joy is an integral part of the Christmas season, it's a time to celebrate Jesus coming as a baby, so how could we not share a joyous announcement of the coming of our firstborn? We glistened with hope and joy when we spread the news. However, the glistening of our joy quickly mucked up like a snow thrashed by the dirty tires on the road.
Within a mere twenty-four hours of our announcement, we ended up in the hospital at the start of our losing our first child before even getting to meet his sweet little face.
Chelsea and I agreed that Colvin would be a fitting name so that is what we named our first child who I am sad to say I haven't met. Despite the pain and confusion, I stood strong for my wife. I sought help for us to properly grieve and yet the counsel I found lacked wisdom. The counsel, in essence, shrugged off our pain when we were crying out for help. Instead of finding us a refreshing drink to quench the thirst of our pain, our counselor filled our cup with the melted mucky snow that dripped from the backs of tires. Needless to say, I chose to harbor this pain and hold it inside at that point.
Since then we have had a son and he is growing by leaps and bounds while keeping us on our toes at all times. He is God's gift and I enjoy his infectious personality and laughter. This little one can light up a room with such creative joy it's amazing to watch. However, there's still an anxiety of loss that comes around every corner when it comes to raising this young man. I've struggled through anger without even realizing it was a problem for the first few years of his life. God has opened my eyes to see that the next steps in recovery are letting go of the anger. I've had to come to a point where I'm no longer ashamed to ask for help. I'm no longer too proud. Men should have our emotions intact says the standard set by the crowd. If we can't control them, bury them, they say. Remove inclination that they once existed and stand firm and faceless as if that shows a leader worth following. No! No more! A father without emotional awareness eventually leads his children astray by not leading by example. People find ways to pour out what's inside and it's my job to lead by example.
Fast forward to our first home. Should be a great adventure with a few bumps, right? How about a Father’s Day flood? We came home to find over a foot of water filling our basement floor. A few days prior, we had just finished setting everything where we wanted to enjoy this house as a home. This set me deep into depression as another big hurdle. Why would this happen? How could we have purchased a house with such a huge problem? Thoughts crossed my mind that made me doubt God. I wondered how I could provide for our family to get through this situation. Guess what, I can't. But God can.
It was hard to see but God has used this to teach me tough lessons of trust and faith. Our house has become a house of prayer. Still today I struggle to set things up though. I fear if I finish a project it will immediately come to ruin. If I announce a joyful happening in my life, I'll be left void of the joy it was to bring. Hope is found in Christ and I do anchor myself in Him.
Sometimes I pull my anchor up and drift away. But it's me that lifts the anchor, not Christ.
He never promised life would be easy. He did promise to be with us. It's in the storms of life where I've found whether or not I'm anchored. When the storm ends, am I still praising Him, or have I drifted so far away that no one would know I was once close to Him? These examples are some honest life events that brought doubt into my heart. I started to step away from God and lift my anchor to the point that I drifted slowly away. Where once I served others to see them grow closer to God, I found myself hardened and refusing to serve.
For a season I didn't care about church or Christ. But God opened a door for service that just couldn't be rejected. It was right up my lane to work with students through life's hurts, hangups and habits. Little did I know God was using the ministries of Celebrate Recovery and The Landing to help me grow through my pains.
For those who don't know, the Landing is Celebrate Recovery for high school students in grades 7 through 12. Since addiction is another part of my past, I thought that's how I could help these teens in their various hangups to bring them into healthier relationships with Christ, others and themselves. But I've come to find recovery is so much more than the stigma of addiction. Recovery is for pain, anxiety, anger, grief, people pleasing and so much more.
God has taken me on a path I didn't expect to walk. Each step down the road of recovery opens my eyes to struggles I didn't even realize needed addressed. But for that I'm immensely grateful as I've been reminded to anchor myself in Christ again. It's in returning back into service and leadership where I've found a healing because of the nature of the ministry I've stepped into. Not that my identity is found in what I can do for others, but rather what Christ has done and is doing in my life.
Confidence in Christ is now real and attainable for me.
I'm starting to see who Christ sees me to be, though I'm still a work in progress. I leave you, my reader, with this challenge: what past pain is keeping you from recovery? Recovery is possible in Christ and I've been reminded of this thanks to Celebrate Recovery! Now it is a journey, not an overnight trip. You didn't acquire the baggage, the souvenir knick knacks of your past pain overnight, no those things you have on your shelves that remind you of the past, maybe they're in a box in your attic, or your storage locker, but wherever those things are hidden they took time to collect and it will take time to work through.
Submitted by: Brian DiGia
Thank you Brian for sharing your incredible testimony. I found this Bible verse that I wanted to share with you,
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV Bible.
I'm so proud of you and the work you are doing! I pray for continual strength for you!
Love and lemons,