Tag Archives: boundaries

12 Things I’ve Learned 12 Stepping 

I didn’t know anything about 12 step programs before 2015. Maybe a few jokes here and there. Maybe how it was depicted on a sitcom. 

I was a Seinfeld fan and there was an episode about Step 9. And how George was looking for an apology from someone who was in AA. So my concept of 12 step programs was from a sarcastic place and that all anyone talked about who was in a program was the program. 

Now look at me 16 months of working a 12 step program. And yeah I do talk about the program a lot. 

The thing is, my life has changed and I am continuing to grow closer to my Higher Power, HP or who I believe is Jesus Christ. I am continuing to understand and let go. I am continuing to be that much closer to my authentic self and who God wants me to be. 

So in no particular order, 12 things I have learned from my 12 step program.

1. Working a program is just that, work. You can’t just show up to meetings and do nothing else and things get better. So I….Got a sponsor. I have surround myself with  a sober community. I read recovery materials. Celebrate Recovery has a step study which are workbooks that ask some hard questions on each step that you answer and share with a small group, so I joined that group. I read the Bible. Putting all these things into action is working a program. Doing all of those things, you can’t help but change. 

2. What you struggle with does not define you. The 12 step program I attend is for anyone with  hurts, hang ups or habits that separates us from God and that you want to change. I love that when we introduce ourselves we say ‘I struggle with’ not I am. Mistakes of my past doesn’t mean that is who I am. 

3. Forgiveness is not for the other person but for yourself. I will never contact my ex boyfriend again but I have forgiven him. The freedom of owning my part and understanding his and forgiving him is life changing. I no longer carry the guilt and shame of my actions. 

4. Forgiving myself has been the hardest thing.  My actions hurt other people, I knew it and then I isolated, shut down and hind because of my shame and guilt. Forgiving myself took me the longest to do but then a friend in program reminded me that God had already forgiven me and I should too. 

5. Worry does not change ourcome. If fact worry is a form of not trusting God. God is in control and already knows what is going to happen and knows the mistakes I will make in the future. He has a plan in place to help me through these times too. So worry only takes energy from the now and prevents you from being present. 

6. Understanding codependency. I learned to cope with life by being codependent. When I thought I was helping, it actually caused damage. I made excuses, lied to cover up for and took care of things that were not my responsibility. And it turned out that I prevented the other person from growing from the experience of managing his own problems. 

7. I’ve learned about setting boundaries. Boundaries not only keeps me in a safe space, it also allows me to communicate in a healthy way what I need and what I am willing to do. I don’t always have to tell others my boundaries, me knowing in some cases is enough. This has not only helped me with my relationships but also with work. 

8. It’s hard to complain when you are grateful. Gratitude reminds me of the things in your life. Often addictive behaviors starts from lacking something and it’s a way to escape. It’s so hard to bitch about life when you start to become aware of all the little things to be grateful for everyday. I am grateful for all the little things, the good things and the trials too. 

9. Feelings are hard and that’s ok. No one likes to feel unappreciated or hurt or singled out or not heard. Addictive behaviors are often to avoid those feelings. Feeling of not being good enough. Feelings of not being enough. Feelings of being disappointed or disappointing someone else. But there are also feelings of love and acceptance and joy that by avoiding those negative feelings you also miss out on the good ones too. So sometimes you have to sit and feel those feelings that you don’t want to and then move on. 

10. You are exactly where God wants you to be. In number five, I said that God has a plan in place for my future mistakes but He also has a plan for the good times too. I am in the right place…..right now. Maybe there is a lesson that has yet to be learned. Maybe there is someone else that you will cross paths with for you but what if it was actually for them. Isn’t that a cool thought. Don’t worry about where you are right now, just be there and enjoy every second. And before you know it, you will be in another place with new challenges and new good times and then that is where you are supposed to be. 

11. Being in program taught me how to listen. Being in dysfunctional relationships, I often felt that I was not heard. During the share time, each person is given 5 minutes to share whatever they want. No one can interrupt them. No one can ask questions. No one tell you how to fix it. No one can tell you that you are wrong. It’s only 5 minutes but it’s the only 5 minutes that are like that in my week. I’ve learned to listen. And I don’t judge or think less of them because I know they don’t think less of me. It’s how this works. During the week I may check in with them or next time I see them, we’ll talk about how whatever went or ended up. 

12. Recovery doesn’t end, it’s a lifestyle. I hate to be the one to tell you, but working a program is not a one and done thing. You have to work and embrace the steps everyday, every single day. And when you do, you change, you become aware. You feel things that you don’t want to but you cope with it in a new way. You learn to recognize and own your part and you set better boundaries for next time. And you share your experience, strength and hope with others. And why do we do that? We share our story for His glory and to show others what God has done in our lives.
I want to add a 13th thing I’ve learned because people joke about the 13th step. The 13th step is that someone in program hits one newer member of the group. 

But this is my experience of other people in the group…..

13.  Sponsors, accountability partners and friendships born from recovery are amazing. People in the program are full of wisdom and grace. And this combination is incredible. They have worked the program. Your sponsor will push you in a loving way. You accountability partner will ask you questions that will make you think and maybe give you reason to pause. And the fellowship you share with other members of the group is like no other friendships you can ever have. I have learned how to give grace because others have given grace to me. 

Stay on this journey with me, the best is yet to be.

My journey to serenity continues…

3 Circles Method…

This week I for the 1st time taught a lesson at my Celebrate Recovery meeting. I’m sure it’s different hearing it over reading it, but I wanted to share with you what I learned and taught. 

I am humbled and honored by this experience and feedback I received.

Everytime I practiced, I cried at the same place….everytime. So I decided to just embrace who I am as a crier and not worry about it or try and stop it. After all there is healing in tears. And it’s just part of me being real. What I was not expecting is that I started to cry sooner and i forgot to bring tissues on the stage. My niece was there to support me and when I saw her leave the room I was concerned she was upset about what I said. But I was wrong, she left to get me tissues and walked on stage and gave me  the biggest hug. And then I was able to keep going. 

It’s a little long but enjoy. Please tell me what you think! And if you are not familiar with Celebrate Recovery, it is a Christian based 12 step program for anyone who wants to overcome hurts, hang ups or habits. 


Hi my name is Mar and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. I struggle with codependency, I’m the daughter of alcoholics and I struggle with compulsive overeating. 

I am so grateful for doing this teaching this week as the holidays have been a difficult time for me. Before CR I would get into a bad headspace of what I don’t have during the holidays rather than what I do have. 

I listened to a Celebrate Recovery podcast and learned about the 3 Circles Method. I felt so strongly about doing this for myself that I wanted to share it with you and I am grateful for the opportunity. 

James has become one of my go to books of the Bible. Several years ago after I was separated, I was missing something from my life. I grew up Catholic. We went to Church every week and I went to Catholic school for all 12 years. But my faith had become quiet in my adult life. 

So I started searching for a new Church home. It’s funny those of you who are Catholic know this but Catholics do not study the Bible. I found that by doing Bible Studies there were so many people I didn’t know about. There is Wisdom, Strength, Courage, Hope and Grace. 

Everywhere I turned at first, I found James. James 1:2-3 Dear brothers and sisters when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity of great joy. For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 

Great joy in trials, my life was falling apart how could this possibly be joy. My life continued to spiral into chaos but I never stopped searching. I knew there was more for me and my life. 

Did you know the Bible talks about addiction? You can find one example in James 1:14-15 Temptations comes from our own desire which entice us and drag us away. These desired give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. 

Some of us are one use away from losing everything or death. Many of us know someone who has died from their addiction. My Mother was an alcoholic. Her entire life she coped with or didn’t cope with life by drinking. I watched her die from cirrhosis. It was the saddest time of my life. Watching her body shut down and being helpless. She was in denial. She was in denial until the end. The day that they suggested there was nothing left to do but to go home with hospice care. My Mom sat up and said ‘hospice, hospice is for dying people’ and in that very moment, she realized she was dying. 24 hours later she was home. Her bed was set up by the window. I spent that evening brushing her hair and putting lotion on her hands and feet. My Mom passed away a few hours later. 

She never got to understand the freedom there is in recovery. 

But through recovery we learn that we need to admit we are powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors. We learn to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. And that we made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God. 

Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans but the Lord determined our steps. 

In recovery, wherever we are tonight, we can put the 3 Circles Method into action and it will keep you safe and keep you working your program and the 12 steps. 

Plan your work, work your plan. 

Because if you are not working on your recovery, you are working on your relapse. 

THE FIRST CIRCLE – The Center Circle

The first circle is your abstinence statement. Knowing what your are abstaining from is the place to start. Giving it a name. Defining it for you. 

What do I need to avoid? Substance or behavior. Whatever it is. YOU define what abstinence means to you and your program. Is it: Alcohol? Dependency on other? Drugs? Food? Sugar? Pornography? Anger?

For me, I struggle with codependency and have been involved in unhealthy relationships with active or dry alcoholics. But if that is not your struggle and drugs or alcohol is, than abstaining from those would be in your center circle. 

I had to look at my food issues and figure out where I struggle and what I need to avoid. For example, not eating from boredom or emotion is in my center circle. Or I have in the past I have just not eaten and lived on coke or coffee. So not eating is also in my center circle. 


The second circle is your boundaries list. This is self imposed limits that promote health and recovery. 

It’s boundaries around situations, people and behaviors and these limits keeps you safe. 

Early in my recovery I made boudraries without even knowing it. If I was in a situation where I felt uncomfortable, I quickly recognized that it was not a safe place for me. 

In the past, boundaries were like suggestions. And when someone crossed a boundary, I gave them a pass or just moved the boundary. 

But now boundaries or limits keep me working my program. 

If you struggle with alcohol, maybe having a boundary that you can’t go to a bar to play darts or listen to a band because it’s just not safe for you. 

Maybe you have to limit how much cash you carry so that you are not tempted to buy something you shouldn’t and having to use a card to get cash would stop you or would help it become noticed. 

Maybe you have to create a boundary around some of your old friends from your old life. I know I did. I reconnected with someone I went to high school with in late 2014. It ended in the worst of ways buts that’s a story for another day. We have many of the same friends on Facebook. Because I now have a protective order against him, I unfriended some and felt I needed to share with others what happened to keep me safe from indirect contact. 

If you are looking at your partners phone when they are asleep or in the other room to see what he/she are doing maybe you need to set a boundary not to and focus on your program and not take someone else’s inventory. 

A boundary may be to install software on your computer or phone so you don’t view certain websites that you shouldn’t. 

Whatever it is you need to keep you out of the center circle. 


The third circle is the best one of all. It’s where you create your plan. A plan you make using the tools we have to be healthy. Healthy physically, healthy spiritually and healthy emotionally. 

1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is  faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endore. 

This is how you endore. This is your escape plan. This is your safely net. This is your relapse prevention tool box. 

I keep my bag in my purse. It’s actually a Bible cover. I like it because it’s the perfect size and had pockets. But you may keep your bag at home or work or in your car. Where ever you need it. when you are struggling to do the next right thing and that center circle is calling your name, this is where you go. 

This is what I have in my bag and other ideas of what you could have if yours. 

The serenity prayer, 12 steps and 8 principles. We get a copy at every meeting and sometimes simply reading these is enough to reset your mind. 

CR Book – You get one at your first meeting. It explains the program and it has testimonies. If you do not have one, they are available in the gathering space. 

List Of Meetings – if it’s not a Tuesday night and you want to go to a meeting, we have a list meetings in the area also available in the gathering space. 

Phone a friend – this is a list of people to call. Written down. No excuses that your phone is dead and you don’t know the number. You have a list of people to call. When I got my drivers license, my Dad taped a quarter to the inside of my glove box and told me no matter what, if I ever needed a ride home, no questions asked just call if I need a ride. So I glued a quarter to my phone a friend card to remind me….no risk, no judgment just call and ask for help. 

My Top 10 Things To Do Instead – these are personal and what brings you joy and distracts you. My top 10 are. Call my sponsor. Journal. Listen to music. Go to a meeting. Read the Bible. Meditate. Paint. Go for a walk. Write a thank you note. There is always someone to thank. And an act of kindness. Doing something for someone else feels good for them and for you. 

Remember Why I Started – in 2015 I was dating a dry and then active alcoholic. I was trying to save him from himself and make his fall a softer landing. But what I did was put myself and my family in harms way and I prevented him from growing from the experience. My life was unmanageable and I just needed the chaos to stop. So I started this journey to stop the chaos.

My 100 Things List – One of the first things my sponsor had me do was to write 100 positive words that describe me. This took me a month. And I asked friends. And I used the thesaurus.  But when it gets in my head that i am not enough, I read these words to remind me who I really am. 

I also created  a word bubble with the 12 steps and serenity prayer and other slogans. Reminding myself that God is in control, that I need to share my story with others, to live one day at a time, examine and confess, pray and meditate. This can easily change my focus from my current temporary situation to something positive. 

Nail – I have a nail to remind me that Jesus Christ died for me. He paid the price for my sins. I keep it in a little box on the front I wrote 1Timothy 2:6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. And on the back I wrote 2Peter 2:19 You are a slave to whatever controls you. 

Pictures of Loved Ones – on the back I wrote what is at risk if I relapse. 

Write a Letter – write a letter to yourself, write it now when you are feeling strong. What you would tell yourself in just moment you were about to use. Ask loved ones to write a letter too and explain why your sobriety matters to them. 

I AM Statements – it’s like my 100 words list. There is an app I AM that will send positive affirmations during the day. 

Play List – have a play list on your phone or iPod  loaded with your favorite songs. Mine is filled with many of songs we sing here at CR. 

Read the Bible – One thing I do when I don’t know where to start to look for something I Google ‘what does the Bible say about —-‘ it gives me a starting point. 

Write, Journal or Blog – I’ve been in the CR program for 9 1/2 months now and 8 months ago I started blogging. I have 104 posts and 150 followers that I don’t even know. I have 6000 hits from 2000 visitors from 33 countries. 

Meditate – there’s a app for that. I use Abide. It’s a prayer meditation style app. You can search by feelings and there even is a CR Guide that has a prayer for each step. 

Listen to a Podcast – just like I did to learn about the 3 circles method. Did you know there are hundreds of CR meetings available to listen to from the podcast app or online? 

The Three Circles

YOU define what YOU are abstaining from. 

YOU define YOUR boundaries. 

YOU define YOUR plan. 

I think this is a cool visual. Because people in recovery talk about those things in the black center circle. We are willing to be vulnerable, genuine and are willing to share with others what we struggle with. 

It makes these things small. Talking about it puts it in the light and it’s no longer a secret. You are no longer isolated in your addiction. And the more boundaries and plan you have around the center the smaller it becomes. Your life becomes healthy. Your plan keeps you on track when you live in the orange and grey circles.

Why do you need a fire escape plan? 

Having a plan helps you to avoid trigger situations. Being prepared for a situation will help you with alternatives when there is a trigger. 

Having a plan helps you to forgive yourself of slips. Having a plan will help a slip from becoming a full relapse. 

Having a plan helps avoid keeping cravings a secret. Talk to your sponsor or accountability partner. We are as sick as our secrets.,

Having a plan helps you to work on healthy behaviors and putting energy into healthy places is the best self care. 

Having a plan helps you to try something different and alternative choices. Be willing to try something else after all our best thinking got us into CR to begin with. 

This is My Final Thought

My final thought. 

From Philippians 4 8-9 And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. 

And the God of peace will be with you. Another word for peace is serenity. And the God of serenity will be with you. 

Keep coming back, it works if your work it and you are worth it. 

Thank you for letting me share. 
My journey to serenity continues…

Open Letter to My Sponsor…

I started Celebrate Recovery 9 months ago. 9 months ago next week, I took a 24 hour token. Stating that I was ready to commit to a new way of life and surrender my life and will to the loving care of God. 

The woman who would later become my sponsor is a program leader and the more the attended meeting and learned about her story the more I realized that our walk was very much alike and she is a beautiful example of a loving wife and mother in recovery. 

So one day, I took a chance and asked her to be my sponsor. And this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. She took my hand and said lets do this. 


Dear J –

You are so amazing as my sponsor. You ask me the right questions. You understand how I think. You call me out and lift me up. You remind me that I’m strong and special and am enough. You extend grace to me when I need it and allow me the opportunity to figure things out in my timing. 

You cry with me and for me. When you say ‘I’m so sorry’, I know you mean it to your core that you are so sorry for what happened to me. 

You kept me balanced when doing step 4 and supported me when I said I just wasn’t ready to finish my step 4 on my mom. Many hard conversations during that step. Many many tears and raw emotion.

I love that you love that I blog about my recovery journey. You are supporting me with leading my first meeting with a concept that inspired me that I found in a pod cast. And have been so supportive of me putting this teaching together. Your excitement gets me even more excited. 

This week we are starting a step study with a group of women. I’ve excited to dive deeper with you in this study and commitment to the program. 

Friendships that are born out of recovery are different from other friendships. We know so much about each other. We support each other in all aspects of my life. 

You have helped me reconginize where I need to create boundaries and have pointed out that I’ve made boundaries without even realizing it. 

I would not have made the process I have in 9 months without 1.my willingness and commitment for a better life and 2. your commitment to me and loving guidance. The perfect recipe for sponsor/sponsee. 

Thank you for walking along side me. For holding my hand and telling me how proud you are of me. 

Celebrate Recovery and the 12 steps are becoming part of who I am. It’s become natural and sometimes I catch myself using recovery lingo or phrases or a scripture reference and think to myself….wow look at that I understand now. Look at where I’m heading. It’s a beautiful thing. 

Continue on this journey with me, the best is yet to be. 

This girls journey to serenity continues….

The price of playing poker…

Last year I thought I knew about boundaries. I thought I had boundaries. I thought I knew how that stuff worked. 

I didn’t. 

When my ex boyfriend hit a boundary what I should have done is stuck to it and give him push back but what I did is run around covering for him, made excuses and I put myself and my family at risk. 

The price of playing poker and the stakes are high. 

The price of playing poker for me was my worst nightmare…my children. When things got out of control again in July, my kids left and went to live with my ex husband. 2 of my kids left for 2 weeks. 1 just came back home last month. 

That was the darkest time of my life. After the boys left, I kicked my ex out of the house again. 

I remember sobbing on the sofa. That awful cry that no one should see. I felt so alone and crushed by what was happening around me. My kids left and my boyfriend in binge drinking and my life was a mess. 


I cried so much I felt dehydrated. Terrible things went through my mind. What if I wasn’t here. What if I ended it all because the pain I felt just almost too much to handle. And what stopped me, was I couldn’t leave my boys. I couldn’t burden them with the pain I was feeling. It would end my pain, but increase their pain a million times and I couldn’t let them think it was their fault, because it was mine. 

After I was out of tears, I had to figure out what to do. And I continued to make foolish decisions because all I wanted back was the sober man who said he loved me. 

But the mistake I made is that I ran after him. I continued to make excuses even to myself to justify his bad behavior. I was not truthful to my sons when they came back home about where I was and who I was with. 

It’s took me several more months to unravel my heart and head from this relationship. 

And it ended with a protective order and my broken heart. 

In some ways I feel like I am still paying the price of playing poker. It has taken time to earn my boys trust again. It has taken time to unravel my heart from his. I am healing. It will take time. More than I want it to because we what what we what when we want it. 

All things happen on Gods perfect timing. God is working in my life everyday. And I am grateful to have finally be in this place and not in that place anymore. 

My journey to serenity continues…

The graphic used in this post was created with the help of Google Images and Font Candy to add the text.