If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)
It is important that you reach out to find relationship help from others. Whether it is a support group, Twelve-Step recovery group, a mentor, counselor, spiritual leader, family member, or friend, you will benefit from connecting with others who understand.
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 yourself. Having others stand beside you gives you strength and encouragement.
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 we have made mistakes but are still of invaluable worth. Reaching out to an accepting, understanding group 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). Don’t get discouraged when you reach out. Keep trying until you find the right support that will help you heal and grow. It is worth it!
Twelve-Step Recovery Groups
Twelve-Step recovery groups use the Twelve Steps originally written by Alcoholics Anonymous. The Twelve Steps are a most effective way of dealing with all types of addictions and dysfunctions, including Christian codependency. 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 Twelve Steps as Alcoholics Anonymous. Two of the best 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 Twelve Steps. Some Christians prefer to reach out 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 per week. They also may have larger numbers, giving you a greater chance to meet people you readily identify with. Regardless of whether you choose Christian, secular, or both, recovery groups can be a powerful force for healing in your life.
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. People 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. On this website, you’ll find Bible studies you can use in your support group for women and/or men. If you cannot find a group in your area, consider starting one of your own, even if it is with only a few people.
Reaching out to an individual 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 depression, anxiety, grief, and other issues. Christians often feel the most comfortable with a counselor who can offer Christian relationship advice. However, if a Christian counselor isn’t available on your insurance plan or within your budget, you will also find counseling beneficial with a non-Christian. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to find a counselor who fits your style and personality. If you go to one who doesn’t seem to be a good fit for you, it is in your best interest to try someone else. Some churches have lay counseling programs in which you are assigned one counselor for a specific time.
Reaching out to a mentor, lay counselor, Stephen Minister, friend, or church leader to share your struggles is also helpful. The benefit of these options is that it is free. Also, many Christians feel most comfortable reaching out to someone of the same faith. The risk is that you may reach out to someone who doesn’t understand the complex dynamics of difficult relationships. This means they might give you “pat” answers that can cause you to remain stuck, feel false guilt, and/or keep you in a place of scriptural misunderstanding. Other Christians do not do this purposefully. They are often inexperienced in dysfunctional relationship counseling and may inadvertently tell you things that reinforce your confusion.
One of the first things you can do to climb out of your isolation and begin to feel hope is to reach out to people who understand. Learn more about this Principle and the other Relationship-Changing Principles that can transform your life and relationships!