Reaching Out to Find Support
Reaching out to find support from others in your journey in difficult relationships is an important part of your healing. Whether it is a support group, 12 Step recovery group, a mentor, counselor, spiritual leader, or individual that you believe will understand and guide you, you will benefit from reaching out and stepping out of your isolation.
Support groups are a powerful means of healing from addictions, compulsions, painful life experiences, and the effects of difficult relationships. Being in a group with other people who truly understand what you are experiencing gives you hope and ideas for handling your own dilemmas. Listening to others share about their own struggles gives you insight into your own soul. Having others stand beside you gives you strength in your weakness.
Many of us suffer from shame as a result of the difficult relationships we have been in and the guilt we carry about the choices we have made. Shame tells us we are bad and worthless rather than telling us that we have made mistakes but are still of invaluable worth. Reaching out to a group that is accepting and understanding when you share who you really are and what you have done is the greatest antidote to shame. We are wounded in relationships and we are healed in relationships, as we confess the truth about ourselves to others (James 5:16).
***** 12 Step Recovery Groups *****
Twelve Step recovery groups use the 12 Steps originally written by Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 Steps are one of the most effective ways of dealing with all types of addictions and dysfunctions. The Steps lead you through a process that includes admitting powerlessness over your own life, coming to believe God can help you, turning your will and life over to God, engaging in self-examination and confession, becoming willing to change yourself, making amends, and sharing your hope and healing with others.
Christian recovery is based on the same 12 Steps as Alcoholics Anonymous. Two of the most well known are Overcomers Outreach, which was started in 1977 by Bob and Pauline Bartosch and Celebrate Recovery, which was started in 1993 by John Baker. Churches also form their own programs based on the Steps. Some Christians prefer to go to Christian recovery groups, because they feel most comfortable in a program that uses the Bible to support the recovery principles and Jesus as their Higher Power.
However, secular recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Sexual Addicts Anonymous, Codependents Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and others are highly effective and based on sound principles of healing supported by Biblical principles. Secular groups may have more meetings making it easier for you to find multiple meetings a week and to find one that you feel comfortable in and has people you identify with. They also may have larger numbers, giving you a greater chance to meet people you readily identify with. I personally found them to be a major help to me in my recovery. Regardless of whether you choose Christian, secular, or both, recovery groups will be a powerful force for healing in your life.
***** Support Groups *****
Support groups are also an effective means of healing with others. They are not based on the Twelve Steps but rather on the group having a mutual problem or life experience. They can share similar feelings and dilemmas and find themselves understood by others in the group. Some are structured around a curriculum and others are more loosely structured. Some have a leader, teacher, or facilitator. The small groups that have studied my books are a good example. We study the books, do homework have a teaching, and then break into small groups to discuss answers. I have watched an incredible amount of growth in just a short time with this format.
***** Counseling *****
Reaching out to an individual person for support is also helpful. You can do this in addition to your participation in a group or alone. Professional counselors have the advantage of being trained to recognize difficult relationship patterns and also diagnose and treat things such as depression, anxiety, grief, and other issues. Christians often feel the most comfortable with a Christian counselor, however, if it is the case where a Christian counselor isn’t available on your insurance plan or within your budget, you will also find counseling to be beneficial with a non-Christian counselor. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to find a counselor that fits your style and personality. If you go to one and it doesn’t seem to be a good fit for you, it is in your best interest to try someone else.
Finding a mentor, Stephen minister, friend, or church leader to share your struggles is also helpful. The benefit of this is that it is free and many Christians feel most comfortable reaching out to someone who shares their same faith. The risk is that you may reach out to someone who doesn’t understand the complex dynamics of difficult relationships and they will give you “pat” answers that may cause you to remain stuck, feel false guilt, and/or keep you in a place of Scriptural misunderstanding. Other Christians do not do this willingly, they are just often inexperienced in dysfunctional relationship counseling and may inadvertently tell you things that reinforce your confusion.
It is my hope that you will be encouraged to reach out and explore the help that works best for you. Don’t get discouraged when you are reaching out: Keep trying until you find the right support that will help you heal and grow. It is worth it!
For a complete explanation of reaching out in Principle 3, please refer to Karla's books: 10 Lifechanging Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages and When Love Hurts...
Click HERE to return to the 12 Principles...
In addition to the resources below, check out Karla's Ebook and Audio series "Working the Twelve Steps: A Pathway to Healing and Restoration":
Click HERE for more information...
Articles on 12 Step Recovery
Summaries of the Twelve Steps
The Twelve Steps Simplified
12 Steps to Insanity
12 Steps To Change My Relationships
Just for Today
Articles on Professional Counseling
Nine Signs that Your Relationship Needs Professional Help