Regen is a ministry at my church (Faith Bible Church in The Woodlands, TX) that I have participated in for a few years now.
Hello, my name is Kyle and I am a new creation in Christ. I am recovering from self-pity, apathy, and angry outbursts.
I think I’m pretty average, maybe not a hundred percent normal, but pretty average. There are some things I’ll mention, but not really go into detail on, like that my parents divorced when I was two, a few years later my dad remarried, and a few years after that my mom had a sex change and also got remarried. That short series of facts is all that really matters of that situation as far as these three recovery issues are concerned. For me, self-pity, apathy, and despair or hopelessness are all tied together and take turns coming to the forefront.
Let’s start with a few definitions.
Self-pity: “pity for oneself; especially : a self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes” and while Merriam-Webster doesn’t have the phrase “self-pity” entering the English lexicon till 1604, the Bible is familiar with the concept: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?” asks Habakkuk chapter one, verse two.
Apathy: “lack of interest or concern” Basically, I would stop caring about something, or everything. Got grounded from hanging out with all two friends I had? Oh, spoiler alert, the kid that could name more Star Wars characters than contemporary songs wasn’t super popular in school. Let’s see, where was I? What happened when I got grounded from hanging out with both my friends? I’d think: They probably wouldn’t want to hang out with me anyways, besides, I can have just as much fun sitting here, staring at the kitchen table… Pretending to do this school work that I have absolutely no interest in doing, it’s not like I’m ever going to use this stuff, and I’m already not doing well in this class, this homework isn’t going to change anything, I mean, what are my parents are going to do? Ground me? I’m already grounded from everything, including sugar. Some Captain Crunch would be nice right now, but I’ve been grounded from it for so long we don’t have any, so even if I did get ungrounded I would see absolutely no benefit.
This is about five seconds of thought that would run through my head on any given weekday evening as a pre-teen, meanwhile my parents didn’t understand why I couldn’t get punished into doing what I was supposed to do.
Despair: “loss of hope; hopelessness” Okay, what is hopelessness?
Hopelessness is “having no expectation of good or success“ “not susceptible to remedy or cure” “incapable of redemption or improvement”
I was standing outside, around this time of year actually, it was maybe 10:30 at night, having just yelled, no, screamed at my wife, before leaving. I forget what the fight was about, maybe money being spent in a way I disagreed with, maybe the house being a mess, maybe us not having had sex for a while. Whatever it was, I’d thrown a chair across the room while making my point. Then I realized what I had done, how I was acting; I quickly apologized and told my wife that she and the kids would be better off without me. I one-hundred percent believed it. There are still plenty of times that thought goes through my head. And I walked out of the house, and down the street, and I’m not sure where else. Maybe an hour later, I came home. Aside from me apologising again, we didn’t discuss what happened any further.
I’ve had thoughts like what Habakkuk expresses at the beginning of his book in the Bible, “Why doesn’t God fix this? Is He even listening?”, but in John 16:33 we’re told we don’t need to think like that: “…in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”.
By the way, both those verses are from Step 1, Week 1.
Okay, enough definitions. Time for some background info!
I got married when I was twenty to a girl I’ve known since second grade and eventually started dating in highschool. Our ten year anniversary was last month.
We have two kids, it would be three, but we lost our third, Jaxlee, to a late-term miscarriage a little over two years ago. I have an older brother and two younger sisters.
I don’t know when my recovery issues sprang-up in my life, but I know it was fourth grade at the latest, so, since I was nine or ten years old. I spent most of my time at my dad’s house, which was a strict one, and I was constantly grounded, ie the narrative I gave two minutes ago. During the summers and Christmas I was at my mom’s house though, which was pretty much the opposite of my dad’s, few responsibilities, few rules, few expectations. I started seeing school counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists at a young age. Because of my mom’s situation both sets of parents seemed to expect my brother and I to have problems. When I had trouble learning in school I had to go to more counseling and was diagnosed with, and medicated for, ADD and/or ADHD, depending on which doctor I talked to and the general mood of the shrink community at the time; this lasted a few years. Also, my mom had started marriage counseling shortly after getting remarried, and would triangulate me in regularly.
I often felt inferior to and less loved than my brother and sister, my second sister didn’t come along till I was a teenager – so she wasn’t really part of me developing those feelings.
I was suspended for a little bit in eighth grade for trying to sell some fake drugs at school, and when I started high school my parents decided homeschooling would be good for me. I wanted to be homeschooled, I had even made a Power Point about it to help me present the case to my parents. I saw homeschooling as an easy way for me to deal with less people, and I saw other people as the source of my problems. By the time I was sixteen I had gone through several cycles of caring and not caring, about school, friends, etc. And after a serious threat of suicide, blade in hand, my parents put me in a facility for three days. After that I had to go to counseling again.
For the rest of my teen years and early-to-mid twenties I was able to either keep my more extreme feelings of self-pity, apathy, anger, and hopelessness under control; or at least not talk about them. I either opted for pretending I was fine or would take out my emotions on my wife like I talked about earlier. And I’m not saying I was always hopeless or apathetic, I’m saying that things would be going okay, and then something bad would happen, and I would descend into a “woe is me” mentality. Eventually I’d opt for a numb emotionless state over continuing to feel like there was no way to succeed, that I failed at everything, that I was letting my family down, hurting others and myself, knowing I was not acting the way God wanted me to, but not knowing how or what to do to change. What did that look like? Isolation. Not finding joy in things that should have lit me up, like my amazing kids. Not doing stuff around the house that I should have been doing. Being very demotivated, a little sad, and just wanting to get through the day without any challenges. Eventually things would go “not bad” for long enough that I’d slowly come out of my self-imposed haze and dreariness, until something else happened, and then the cycle repeated, and repeated, and repeated, and repeated, and… you get the picture.
By 2016, I had given up hope of my marriage improving, but my wife requested we go through re:engage; so we did. While in that program I realized that I needed to fix my issues, I needed to quit believing that “that’s how I was”, or “this is just how life is”, and quit blaming my wife for the situations that I was causing (or at least participating in) but unwilling to accept responsibility for. I knew that I wasn’t right with God, and wanted some help working on that. So when Karah got invited to participate in the re:generation pilot program I was hopeful that I could participate too. She put in the request for me and one of the leaders gave me a call. One awkward conversation later, I was in (still lacking those social skills)!
I’d been a Christian since I was a child, and the first three steps (Admit, Believe, Trust) seemed pretty basic, so I glided through them (which is, like, one step above glossing over). But then I started to pick up on something seemingly small that I’d ignored in my rush to “get fixed”. Have you thought about the way we introduce ourselves? “Hi I’m Kyle, a new creation in Christ…” This comes from 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].”. I never really thought of that as my identity though. I identified with what I did, my family, my work, my interests. But to be a new creation in Christ is actually a pretty big deal, and a good big deal at that. And that change in thinking is the biggest thing re:gen has helped me with. There is a lot of great value in the inventory, repentance plans, and all the other steps, but unless you have that foundation of knowing that you really need help and are open to learning where you need to change (you know, admitting that you are completely powerless, believing that God is the only one that can help you, and trusting in Him to do so), then the rest is just going through some motions to complete a book.
I am very blessed to have the mentor I do, and thank God for him in my life and in this process specifically. I went through my books and got to hear a lot of great things from some good guys. Each of our journey’s through re:gen were different, but just like you may have heard from other leader’s testimonies, my walk with Christ has gotten closer, deeper, and stronger.
I can’t say I never get angry anymore, but my blow-ups are smaller and less frequent now. I think it’s that way for three reasons, (1) I want it that way and believe that it can be that way, relying on Christ instead of myself, (2) I pray often (not just while doing regen work or studying the bible, or at meal times, or when putting my kids to bed), but throughout the day, and (3) if I do lose it, I’ll go through the process of inventorying, confessing, repenting, forgiving, and seeking amends… and that’s just too much work for one little tantrum, just kidding, kind of. To say “it is a whole lot better to just do the right thing the first time to avoid an Earthly consequence” would actually be behaviour modification, and that’s not our goal here. To recognize the damage my actions do to my relationship with Christ, how it hurts others (usually my family members), and the seriousness of needing to heal those wounds, is a God-honoring way of considering my actions in a situation.
I do still get tempted with negative thoughts, but now I am equipped with tools to evaluate if my thoughts and feelings are honoring to God and I have a foundation of relying on Christ for not only “the big things” but the “little things” that so often people think they should be able to, and thus can, control.
Now, if you’re like me, a Christian that is struggling with something and decides to share that struggle, someone just telling you a verse and acting like “so… just do that and you’ll be fine” is just about the most infuriating thing that someone can do. So, while I am about to share my new favorite verse with you, Romans 15:13, I don’t expect me reading this verse to you to solve any problems. But if you do struggle with hopelessness like me, I’d encourage you to think about it some, talk with your mentor, recovery partner, or group members about it, and pray on it. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.” The fact is that our God is the God of hope and He has made promises to believers and we can trust Him. For me, re:gen was one of the ways He fulfilled some promises, by providing a network of loving, godly people who would walk with me through my struggles while I sought to walk closer with Christ.
Hello, my name is Kyle and I am in recovery from hopelessness, dissatisfaction, and a desire for ease. What, those recovery issues are different from the three I started with? Then, I guess I have some more work to do…