OCTOBER 2016

Continuing A Healthy Recovery
After graduating the program at Fresh Start Ministries, it’s important to realize your journey isn’t over. As a matter of fact, addiction will be an eternal recovery process. It’s important to know where to go for support after graduating Fresh Start Ministries. There are many options; but, Fresh Start offers an Aftercare facility, “Sober City” where apartments are affordable and there is a lower level of accountability to help you transition back into society. For other support besides the Fresh Start support group meetings on Tuesday nights, two other of the most popular are Alcoholics Anonymous and The Most Excellent Way.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international program which has existed to serve for more than 75 years. They have an agnostic view of race, politics, and religion, addressing your power source as a “higher power” rather than “God, Jesus”, or other faith-based name. The twelve step program begins with admitting you are powerless over your addiction and that there is a “higher power” which can restore you to sanity.

As families around an addict knows, the environment can feel insane at times. Once sanity is restored, you take a personal assessment of yourself and begin to restore relationships which have been severed.

The Most Excellent Way (MEW) is a Christian view of recovery, addressing the ten attitudes of victorious living with a coordinating Scripture. MEW addresses addiction whether to alcohol, drugs, pornography, or other addictive behaviors. The first three attitudes of victorious living, humility, repentance, and submissiveness, take AA’s first two steps and incorporate faith and Scripture into them.

Following these steps, they address honesty, taking an honest look at your life, and reconciliation (attitude 7) to restore severed relationships.

These programs are in cities around the United States and can support you as you continue your path to recovery.

Fresh Start’s Sober City

  12 Unit bldg

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   In A State of Transition

Transition happens in everyone’s life………marriage, divorce, birth of a baby, death of a loved one, job changes. How do you survive through uncertain times? Navigating transitions can be difficult; with an adjustment in how we respond we can navigate transitions much more smoothly. An adjustment in our attitude will often change how we view the problem opening up potential solutions we wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

Transition is normal; how we navigate it can make a world of difference.

As an addict in recovery there is transition and additional stressors. An addict will often feel more anxious and depressed than a person who is not also addressing their recovery. An attitude adjustment can smooth the waters of transition. Support is also a critical factor for an addict in recovery and transition simultaneously.

Often a counselor will recommend not going through major transitions during the first year of recovery. Sometimes, however, that is unavoidable. Or perhaps it was due to the addiction that there are major transitions such as loss of a job or a divorce.

Another tip to navigate the waters of transition is to have realistic expectations. In other words, if going through the birth of a baby know the first few weeks may rob you of some sleep; but, it gets better after that. If you have lost your job, have the realistic expectation that you may be out of work for up to several months. When you establish realistic expectations, you are less likely to become disappointed leading you into depression and anxiety.

Remember that transition can also mean great opportunity. Life is presenting you with new opportunities which may yield happier endings. And, being on the road to recovery is an opportunity to yield happier end

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Setting Goals

By Pastor Tim Carlsward, Program Director

Most addicts when they come into recovery find their lives in shambles.  With all the destructive behaviors that are produced through addictions, it can leave the addict and their families with many consequences to deal with.  As we begin the process of recovery we have to look at our past which helps us determine where we ventured off course in life, and aids in our treatment plan.  Focusing so much on our past can sometimes hinder us from following our passions in life.  Setting goals is very important to our recovery.  The bible says in Psalm 37:4 that the Lord gives us the desires of our heart if we delight ourselves in Him.  God places those passions in us and therefore it is important, with the help of a counselor that we make short-term and long-term goals for our lives as we work through recovery.  This gives us something to shoot for, it gives us a reason to continue with recovery.  Setting goals and following our passions can be challenging at times, although well worth the time and energy we put into it.  As the men and their families here at Fresh Start continue to grow and become healthier week after week we appreciate all your prayers and support.  May God richly bless you.

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CHURCH SCHEDULE

 Our goal is to help each man experience a variety of local churches while he is enrolled at Fresh Start with the idea that once he is on his own, he will know which church or type of church he’d like to attend. We always encourage the families to meet us at church and sit with their loved one. There is something so basic and bonding about being together in church. Below is our church schedule for this month.

10/2/16 9:00 am Church in the Son
4484 N. John Young Pkwy.
Orlando, FL 32804
10/16/16 9:00am Christ Church of Orlando
2200 S. Orange Ave.
Orlando, FL 32806
10/9/16 9:45 am Celebration Church  
(in Howard Middle School)
800 E. Robinson St.
Orlando, FL 32801

 

10/23/16 9:30am Journey Church  
1965 S. Orange Blossom Tr.
Orlando, FL 32703

10/30/16      9:45 am     Celebration Church  

(in Howard Middle School)

800 E. Robinson St.

Orlando, FL 32801

  TUESDAY SUPPORT GROUP MEETING TEACHING SCHEDULE

Our goal is to help network and support folks who are in the same boat and to lend a bit of knowledge about addiction recovery or codependency by providing a short 20 to 30 minute teachingduring our weekly support group meetings. After the teachings, we break into small groups for 30-45 minutes to process what we’ve just learned. Below is this month’s teaching schedule. The last Tuesdayof every month is FSM Graduation and there are no teaching or groups that night. But graduations arevery encouraging and uplifting hearing the testimonies of both the graduate & his family!

10/04/16 7:15pm  Guest Speaker: Jim Adkins

Expectations & Perceptions

10/18/16 7:15pm Dreams & Goals
10/11/16 7:15pm Building Relationships 10/25/16  7:15pm  GRADUATION:

Kenny W. and Rod J.

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WHY AM I HERE?

By Pastor Joseph Cordovano, Founder/Executive Director

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Why am I here?” The first time I asked myself this question was 35 years ago, at a time in my life when I was a new Christian.  Like most of you I had asked myself that question also before becoming a Christian but never got an answer or it just confused me, So without purpose, I was led to drinking, drugging, or partying in general, and of course not going any further to find the answer.

One day it came up again and I had no way of skirting around the question. I was a Christian, stone cold sober, and it was part of my training class at a place called Dunklin Memorial Camp.  My teacher that day was the founder of DMC, Mickey Evans, an old cowboy who always insisted on an answer when you were posed a question. You had to pray until you got an answer from God. I remember that day because the answer God gave me changed my life forever.  Philippians 1:12-19 Paul speaks of God’s purpose for his life. Also in Proverbs it speaks of people perishing because they don’t have a vision or a purpose.

Our purpose defines who we are. If you ask people on the street to define themselves most will tell you about their occupation, where they come from, the number of children they have etc.  We seem to find our identity in things that we do from personal experiences.  When you read Philippians 1:12-19 you’ll find Paul getting to the core of his and our purpose in life and that it to bring glory to God in all that we do.  We need to find our identity not in what we do, or where we are from, but in who we serve and worship, and that should be God.

As we focus on our relationship with the Lord our focus is always directed away from ourselves.

When we know why we are here, and dedicate ourselves to living God’s purpose for our lives, that purpose begins to define who we are. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that God’s purpose not only tells us where to go, but that as we adopt it as a goal for our lives, it will transform us into different people.

At the beginning of this article I said answering the question, “Why am I here?” transformed my life. On that day I realized I wanted to help the addicted community come to know Jesus Christ, stop their addiction, and be healed of mental and emotional hurt that were caused by their addictive lifestyle. I wanted others to see THEIR purpose as God sees it and watch other’s transformation. That led to my wife, Kelly, and I starting Fresh Start Ministries 30 years ago and we haven’t looked back since.

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Managing our Relationships

An addict manages his relationships in a unique way: precariously balanced, open yet secretive trying to be who he is not.

An addict manages relationships through blame. If he can make you feel guilty for being “who you are”, he feels better about who he is and how he responds to you. Resentment and self-pity makes him critical, blaming others for the way he reacts. What the addict doesn’t realize is that his actions are a choice; the “blame game” works for him because he justifies his behavior.

The addict puts on a heroic facade, saying “no one is going to tell me what to do!”. Defiance and oppositional behavior are the tools he uses to keep his facade in tact. These tools allow him to ignore those he is close to when they question his rationale and his clarity of mind. This facade is a facade of self-confidence, sometimes convincing those closest to him that he is a capable, functioning “hero”.

In conjunction with his heroic facade, he also knows that “ the best defense is a good offense”. Therefore, he navigates his relationships by turning the attention off of his behavior and onto the other’s behavior. They get defensive and critical of others while ignoring the traits of their own that irritate those around them.

Even a “dry” addict can manage his relationships this way. Unless an addict is willing to address the underlying problem of why he has an addiction, his relationships continue with some level of dysfunction through blame, a heroic facade, and offending those who love him and spend the most time with him.

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  Idol Worship

Idol Worship

When you hear idol worship you might picture your upbringing in church if you experienced a religious upbringing. If you have been part of the new age movement or other religion, you may have been chastised by Christians saying you worship idols, or false gods.

As a father, your children see you as their idol.

When your child is two they follow you around asking, “Why, Daddy, why?” When they are five, they want you to play with them. As you pitch the ball or teach them to ride a bike, they begin to worship you. By the time they are twelve they are fascinated with your career and want to grow up “to be just like you”.

As teens they mimic your behavior, treating their mother as you treat her. As adults, your son most likely carries your behaviors into his relationships with women as he begins to date and look for a spouse. Why? Because all his life he’s idolized you.

One young man has carried the father’s pattern into his relationships for twenty years—cheating on his significant partner, leaving a string of short-term relationships in his wake, and saying he will follow his father’s footsteps settling down when he gets “older”, the kids are grown, and he’s less focused on himself and his career. He has idolized his dad all these years unable to see how damaging broken relationships are.

Dad, your kids worship you. You are their idol. Are your choices, behaviors, and actions those you want them to copy? Are you worthy of their worship? Worth pondering……

You are their idol. They may grow up to be just like you.

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When An Addict Relapses

You’ve given so much of yourself emotionally already–first, to get your loved one to admit he is an addict, then standing by his side while he goes through withdrawal and treatment. Now, he is safely in recovery. Or is he? An addict has a tendency to relapse. This is emotionally exhausting for everyone.

What do you do when your loved one relapses?

First, you must understand addiction is a chronic disease, not a choice. For most addicts relapse is NOT inevitable. For some it is a lifelong battle struggling with the cycle of relapse and recovery again and again but it can be stopped. For some it just takes more work than others.

Next, if possible, continue your support. An addict struggling to stay in recovery needs support to get back on the right track. But he doesn’t need to coddled. They must understand they have opened up that can of worms again and it is almost like starting over. If caught quickly, it is much easier. If not, it is just like day 1 in treatment.

Relapse

Finally, help the recovering addict find a healthy distraction. Sometimes being in his head is the worst thing for him. Having distractions is sometimes helpful. This can include finding new hobbies and interests or diving into a fulfilling project at work or home. Remember, you can support him/her, but YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE to keep him/her from relapsing, nor can you fix it. You can only support to move forward.

Relapses are hard on the addict and his loved ones. Unfortunately, statistics show it happens for most addicts until they finally get well, but it is NOT inevitable! Find help. Have a support system for you and him. And, when possible stay connected and supportive of the addict WITHOUT being enabling. It can shorten the cycle of relapse when a support system is in place. If his relapse is more than a once or twice use, he must get back into treatment. He cannot stop on his own. Get him back to Fresh Start’s 12-Step Support Group meetings and other meetings to supplement during the week. If he continues to relapse, he needs treatment again.

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Apply What We’ve Learned

By Pastor Tim Carlsward, Program Director

Change takes place whenThe last few months at Fresh Start Ministries’ weekly Family Support Group meetings we have focused on several important areas of recovery. First our attitude, what influences it and how we present ourselves through it to address many different circumstances that arise in life. Secondly we focused on our thought life that actually dictates what kind of attitude we will have and display.  It is extremely important to have a healthy thought life and with it we can accomplish great things if we choose to pursue it.

Now that we have provoked a dialog on these two very important topics we need to apply what we have learned, and that simply takes a choice. Sometimes I hear people say they’re trying to improve their life in some way, for example like wanting to quit smoking or stop over-eating or something similar that may be harmful to them, to which I say, if you’re still “trying” then you have not made the “decision” to stop whatever you want to eliminate in your life.  Change comes first by us making a decision to apply what we have learned through whatever means we have educated ourselves.

If you have something in your life that God has put on your heart to change, I want to encourage you to make the choice to start the process today. Through the grace of God we can accomplish whatever He puts on our heart to do, and as long as we keep a good attitude and stay obedient to Him, it will come to reality.  I want to thank you for your continued prayers for the men in the program and their families and I pray God richly bless you all.

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On the Ballot

vote
In the state of Florida, the proposal was on the ballot to pass the law to approve medical marijuana. Interestingly enough, marijuana exposure in children under 6 years of age increased by 147.5% from 2006 to 2013. However, in states that legalized marijuana it increased a whopping 610%.

83% of these exposures happened in the child’s home. The legalization brings more exposure to the children.

In states where usage of pot was legalized, emergency room visits nearly tripled from adverse effects or poisoning due to exposure. Many of these children were less than 3 years old.

These statistics show that children pay the price for the legalization of marijuana. Although some may argue that there is medicinal benefit, these facts certainly make it worth taking notice before we decide the benefits outweigh the risks.

We all love a brownie, warm and gooey and full of chocolate; but, nearly 75% of these cases happened from children ingesting. Medical or recreational marijuana in the form of edibles is tempting to a child.

There used to be a commercial that cautioned “Think before you drink.” Given these statistics, maybe we should consider “Think before you vote.”

When it’s on the ballot, what will you do……?

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Attitude: What Does That Have to Do With Sobriety?

#Stuff happens. #Life happens. We deal with it. Sometimes with joy and calmness, sometimes with impatience and anger.

We all have the choice to face our day with a good attitude or a poor one. But, there’s a good chance a good attitude is even more important as we practice sobriety.

First, a good attitude can help us frame our to-do list in a positive light. We can choose to feel productive or overwhelmed as we check off our to-do list. A good attitude makes it easier to feel productive. When there is something on your list you are dreading it will make it easier to conquer. Sobriety continues easily when we feel valuable; checking off our to-do list helps us see our increased value.

Success breeds success. When we succeed we are more likely to be motivated to do more.

A good attitude helps us face our painful past with a fresh set of eyes. Adopting a healthy attitude, accepting responsibility for the pain you caused, and forgiving those who inflicted pain on you can propel you forward in your sobriety. Whereas holding on to the pain of the past can bring you right back into the painful cycle.

Third, our attitude affects our health. Scientific studies have shown when we are happy we are able to resist colds, have a healthier immune system, and be more emotionally balanced. Therefore, smile; it increases your face value.

Finally, that smile and good attitude may just be contagious to those around you. When you make others happy, it invariably projects back on you making you happier.

It seems attitude can indeed help our sobriety. Smile!   A Big Smile

 

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Heroin Addiction

a group getting highHeroin is one of the leading drugs abused in the United States by young, white males. Between 2011-2013 usage increased 109% by males ages 18-25. This has become an epidemic and a health crisis prompting public policy changes. Interestingly, heroin abuse goes hand-in-hand with prescription drug abuse. Those addicted to prescription drugs are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin.

Because of these staggering statistics, here are some facts to help loved ones determine if heroin is being used.

Symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

    • Runny nose
    • Cramps
    • Chills
    • Elevated heart rate
    • Elevated blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils

A heroine addict can be polite and charming, hoping to coerce the doctors into providing him with meds to “tide him over”. However, if the addict is denied, he quickly becomes angry and threatening. The craving for heroin makes him belligerent and unruly.

While withdrawing the addict can alternate between cold chills and hot flashes. Muscle cramps may also cause him to “kick” or “twitch” in his legs. Meanwhile, diarrhea and stomach cramps persist as the substance leaves his system.

Because it is an epidemic, it is important we watch our loved ones for these symptoms.

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Painkillers: Health Care Failure

pills2

Prescription painkillers are the fault of our own health care system. The number of prescriptions prescribed for every 100 people ranges from 51 to 143 different prescriptions. A study on the heroin epidemic stated, “Enough painkillers were prescribed by American doctors during one month in 2010 to medicate every American around the clock for an entire month.”

The “white suburbs” have prompted attention to this “health problem”. Why? Because almost half of those addicted to heroin are also addicted to painkillers.

There are more drug overdoses from prescription painkillers than heroin and cocaine combined. One mother who lost her son to a drug overdose stated, “It’s important for people to realize that prescription drugs have adverse interactions with other drugs. Therefore, if you are taking prescriptions drugs, it is important to know which ones not to mix with other substances.”

Dependence on heroin became more prevalent in 2013 than alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. Because of the correlation between heroin and prescription drugs it is important to note that abuse of prescription painkillers also increased.

These facts are unnerving. This health care failure stems from our policies and health care laws regarding how and why our doctors write prescriptions for painkillers. These unnerving facts must be shared so we can correct this epidemic before more lives are lost.

If you or a loved one is abusing prescription painkillers, contact us today.
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Maintaining A Healthy Thought Life

By Pastor Tim Carlsward, Program Director

The last several months we have focused on two important subjects.  First, “Why we do what we do” and secondly, “The benefits of a positive attitude”.  These two topics have provoked much thought with the men at Fresh Start Ministries, which brings us to this month’s focus, “experiencing a healthy thought life”.  The bible says in Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinketh so he is”.   Our thought life is extremely important and paves the way for healthy relationship’s and long-term sobriety.  How we think determines how we feel, and how we feel determines how we respond to life’s circumstances.  A positive thought life with a great attitude produces a healthy individual and a productive member of society.  Please pray for the men of Fresh Start Ministries and their families as we address our thought lives in the coming weeks.  Thank you, we appreciate you all.
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Sept 2016

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Replacing One Addiction with Another: How to Break the Cycle

On the path to recovery it is often filled with a few relapses. We don’t always understand why we’ve committed our lives to a certain behavior, but any coping mechanism (even if it’s unhealthy) feels better than succumbing to our stresses. Alcohol and drug use offer an escape from our pain when self-discovery and healthy emotional coping does not seem to provide it. And once you’re in the cycle of addiction, the problem becomes both psychological and emotional. There is no easy separation from how we feel and how we act.

Addiction recovery often involves cognitive behavioral therapy to replace old habits with new ones. But it is not enough to stop drinking or using drugs if the addictive behaviors are still your primary method of dealing with unpleasant emotions. Some people will replace their addiction with binge-eating, gambling, or intimacy with another person. The intention is the  same: escape. But the channel for escape changes from one behavior to a more socially acceptable behavior.

To end addiction, you must look at the emotion you’re trying to avoid, and consciously accept it’s presence in your life. Is it fear, depression, anxiety, or shame? Accepting this feeling as a part of your life, but not the definition of who you are is a key step to overcoming your addiction. These feelings often stem from repressed beliefs that you are inadequate or not completely accepted by your family and loved ones. But this is not true. You may not have led a perfect life, but you are whole. You are completely loved, and completely lovable in the eyes of God. Fresh Start deals with these issues in our Phase 2 classes.

change of heart

You must accept that your addiction is not you. Just because you’ve been addicted to a behavior does not mean that you have to be an addict. You can learn to cope in a healthy manner, and not let your emotions or insecurities control your life. In order to completely accept this, implement some of these changes in your mindset:

      1. Listen to your desires, not your habits. Do you drink, or use drugs regardless of how you feel or your circumstances? Do you engage in your addiction even if you’re feeling happy out of habit or comfort? Sometimes our addiction surpasses that of a coping mechanism, and becomes a way to connect ourselves to a life that seems so distant from our current situation. Next time you feel the need to drink or use, ask yourself if you can wait until tomorrow. By tomorrow some of the emotions you are feeling regarding the situation may have passed.
      1. Don’t replace your addiction. Many people will quit drinking or drugs, and then add another obsession into their lives to keep their minds occupied. Some of these addictions seem beneficial (an obsession with a partner, or a new activity), but the result is the same. Your new addiction will take over your life, and you will again limit your experience to that which aligns with your addiction. Accept that the behavior, and not the method, is what you want to change, and take incremental steps to reach that end.
      1. Care for yourself during times of relapse. Every addict goes through relapse. It is not necessary for recovery but often the case. You don’t break any habit overnight, so don’t judge yourself when it happens. Trust yourself that you will not stay in the cycle forever.

Realize that addiction has a clear end, and a path to recovery. With faith in yourself and God, a vision of what you can control in yourself, and acceptance of what you must endure, addiction of any kind will stop controlling your life. When we are at our weakest, HE can work in us.

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Do I really deserve this?  Challenging Core Beliefs

dont believe everything you think

There’s a common psychological belief that if a child is unwanted or criticized in childhood, they will enter poor relationships later in life. They have a foundational belief that “I’m not worthy of love and respect,” so that when loving and caring people try to step into their lives, they deny the relationship altogether. People who treat them poorly, however, are seen as “authentic,” and the person accepts their mistreatment as punishment for the wrongdoings they committed as a child. Of course, no child could do anything to not deserve love from their parents, but this core belief sticks with them for a lifetime if not brought to their attention.

The same dilemma is common for people suffering from addiction. While they may accept that the behavior is hurtful and emotionally unhealthy, the belief that “I deserve to be punished” overrides any messages of unconditional care and support. You may have been conditioned to believe as a child that you do not deserve the love of others. Even if you intellectually accept that your imperfections do not merit any form of neglect or judgment, the subconscious messages remain. If you were to ask yourself, “Do I really deserve to feel miserable?” your conscious mind will tell you “no” but your subconscious mind might tell a different story.

Think about the people in your life that may have led you to believe that you are somehow fundamentally flawed. Do they have hidden insecurities that may be causing them to project their faults onto you? Many people will express what they do not like in themselves by criticizing other people. Realize that this is not an accurate reflection of yourself. These people, too, have flaws and while you may believe their words, they are not always true.

There’s a major difference between criticism and judgement. Someone who criticizes wants you to know other people’s perspective of you in an honest and understanding way. These people will love you unconditionally, and because of that want you to know when others are disappointed in you but won’t say it. They will approach you with problems about your addiction, but will come from an angle of empathy and support. People who judge you are looking for flaws in themselves that they can blame on you. Someone with an anger problem will use you as a subject for abuse, and blame you for their behavior. Again, this is not an accurate view of who you are as a person.

If you can challenge your core feelings of inadequacy, incompleteness, and fault, then you can begin to accept yourself as a whole person. Remember that who you are as a person is not comprised of just your past or your mistakes. You are who you are today in your actions and decisions. Those can change every day, which empowers you to be a new person everyday.

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Why Do I Do What I Do ?

It’s hard to explain why an alcoholic does what he does. It’s even harder for the alcoholic to figure out why he does what he does; he can’t understand himself. The one thing that does seem to be conclusive is that he is two different people: his “normal” self and the alcoholic. When one personality is fighting the other for control, that is why he does what he does.

personalities

Here are some reasons the logical alcoholic will give for his behavior:

          • I’m not as bad as other people
          • I’m not hurting anyone but me
          • It’s the way I am and you knew it when……..
          • Nobody is going to tell me how to live my life
          • You aren’t perfect either, so don’t expect me to be

In his “normal” state, he can justify his behavior. In his intoxicated, addicted state these excuses are “easy” to justify why he does what he does.

So why does an alcoholic do what he does…….? Because he is “two in one” until he decides to get help and get sober.  A simple solution, not an easy one to why he does what he does

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4 Signs of a Cocaine Addiction

4 Signs of a Coke AddictionCocaine is one of the most widely used “hard drugs”, is easy to get, and is “fun to use”. Therefore, those who try cocaine can find themselves addicted very quickly. It’s provides a high most people enjoy; this gives the user less incentive to stop. In a short period of time cocaine often move from experimentation to addiction.

Here are 4 signs of cocaine addiction:

              1. Extreme mood swings. Although mood swings are common among addicts for various reasons, cocaine can cause even more extreme mood swings. Initially when they start using, they are happy and life is good. They feel “on top of the world”. But, when the drug begins to wear off they can become hostile or reclusive.
              1. Physical changes. Because cocaine is often snorted through the nose, it can cause nose bleeds and loss of smell. Bowel problems and lack of emotional expression can result from long-term use. Cocaine affects the brain and the body resulting in numerous unhealthy changes to the body.
              1. Mental changes. Cocaine not only causes physical changes to the brain, it also causes mental health disorders such as depression, paranoia, and anxiety which could require the aid of a mental health provider or admission into a suicide ward.
              1. Financial challenges. Although cocaine is readily available, it is expensive. And, the fact that it provides a “fun” high means it is bought more regularly. This cycle results in a very expensive drug habit which can quickly exhaust the weekly paycheck and deplete savings. A cocaine addict may turn to gambling or crime to fund his addiction.

Cocaine is one of the more difficult drugs to withdraw from.

              The extreme mood swings can be even more intense during withdrawal than when the addict was using. Insomnia, depression, anger, irritability, and irrational thoughts can make the addict restless and disturbed during the detox process. In addition, the desire to get high, on cocaine or another drug, plagues the mind of the addict as his body withdraws from the chemicals. To detox from cocaine, it is usually recommended the addict does so under the care of a professional.

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5 Signs They Might Be An Addict

5 Signs they maybe addictedAlthough these signs do not guarantee someone is an addict, if these signs are displayed consistently, it could be an indication. And, although we imply drug and alcohol addiction when we hear the word “addict”, addictions can include many things. Pornography, eating, gambling, and sex can be some other addictions one may struggle with. Therefore, watching for these signs, and observing them on a consistent basis could warrant further observation.

              1. Being too busy. Sudden changes in someone’s schedule can indicate a problem. Because an addict tries to hide his behavior, he might disappear for extended amounts of time, take more frequent breaks at work, or excuse himself from activities he used to participate in.
              1. Mood swings. This is usually caused by guilt or withdrawals if the addiction is to drugs. Irritability, impatience, anger, and depression are the most often seen among those struggling with addiction.
              1. Defensiveness. An addict can become extremely defensive when confronted with his behavior. He becomes adept at deflecting the attention of of him and what he has been accused of and places it on an unrelated topic. Not confronting the real issue is a sign of addiction.
              1. Blame. The “Blame Game” can be found in the way the addict describes the beginning, where he first experimented with the thing he’s addicted to, to where he is today. If it weren’t for __________, he would have never started _________. If it weren’t for the stress he’s under today, he would never be ___________. The “Blame Game”: it’s everyone else’s fault or a rough circumstance that caused them to become addicted.
              1. Keeping secrets. Whether it’s sex, food, alcohol, drugs, or gambling, the signs of secretive behaviors being covered up is a sure clue to an addiction. Perhaps there’s unexplained charges or withdrawals to the accounts. Perhaps there are unexplained disappearances while they are off engaging in their addiction. Keeping secrets happens because the addict knows his behaviors are wronging someone, hurting loved ones, or is sure to bring a negative consequence. Therefore, he lives a “double life” keeping the secret as long as possible.

When you begin to see any of these 5 signs with any regularity, it might be time to confront the behavior. However, if you sense the confrontation could turn violent, it’s important to seek help first. Your safety during confrontation and intervention is imperative.

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What Does Recovery Feel Like?

Recovering people have a common bond. They understand one another.
Recovering people become friends, woven together by a common past and a similar vision for their future.
Recovering people must become authentic–honest with themselves and others.
Recovering people recognize their sense of mortality, forgotten in their disease.
Recovering people create a sense of community with each other.
A community of openness, trust, courage, and hope for the future.
Recovering people are ordinary people living extraordinary lives.
Recovering people learn to love themselves, others, and their extraordinary lives.

Choose Recovery

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Treatment Is Only the Beginning

It’s tough to watch your loved one, struggling with addiction and alcoholism, reach “bottom”. He must reach “bottom” typically before he admits to needing help. Once he admits he is powerless over addiction, treatment begins.

But, treatment is only the beginning. At Fresh Start Ministries we know once the addict or alcoholic is admitted for treatment the journey is only just beginning.

Every journey begins with a single step

A step forwardOur treatment team watches the transformation of the addict from the time he is admitted into our treatment center until he “graduates”. He comes in many times angry, thinking he is different than the others here. He doesn’t “belong” here. His addiction isn’t “that bad”. He was using just a little bit more to get him through a “rough spot”. He is also angry at himself. Angry that he is unable to manage his usage. Angry that he didn’t wear the mask “just a bit longer since he really isn’t an addict”. These are all the lies going through his head as he processes his anger in the program.

As he releases his anger, he begins to feel his brokenness. Realizations come quickly now. He realizes how many loved ones are hurting on his behalf. He realizes what a mess his life is.

After denial and anger come bargaining and depression. This is where the support system and counseling at Fresh Start Ministries are helpful. Our addictions counselors work to help the addict process these new feelings he’s become aware of. After this comes acceptance.

When an addict accepts his addiction, then he can move from brokenness to healing. Treatment and recovery are a step-by-step process; but, the journey is worth it!

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When the Addict Isn’t Willing to Admit….What Do You Do?

One of the first steps to an alcoholic getting treatment is to admit they need help and can not control their addiction on their own. Each addict has a different level of tolerance, or “reaching bottom” as they say, before they are ready to admit they have a problem, can’t control it, and need help.

What happens when your loved one, the addict, is not willing to admit it?

There are two answers to that question. You can let it go, ignoring it or you can make them get help against their will. Obviously, making them get help involuntarily comes with some challenges. First, you must feel strongly that the problem is bad enough they need you to intervene. Next, from a purely physical standpoint, you have to be able to get them somewhere to receive treatment against their will. Finally, you have to be able to deal with physical or emotional repercussions of their emotional outburst toward you that may occur.

If you choose to move forward to help them receive treatment involuntarily, there are two Florida Acts that can assist you, the Baker Act and the Marchman Act.

Baker ActThe Baker Act allows for voluntary or involuntary treatment; involuntary treatment is allowed if the person has a mental illness or is a harm to self or others. The Marchman Act, like the Baker Act, can be voluntary or involuntary. However, to receive involuntary treatment, the person must exhibit a need for treatment in a public place or in a way that attracts an officer’s attention. Any person with the knowledge of the person’s need for treatment, can involuntarily admit them if they are likely to do harm to self or others or is so impaired they don’t realize the need for treatment. Additionally, a loved one or 3 friends can petition the court to provide involuntary treatment.

The difference between the two primarily, is the Baker Act is intended to be used for those with known mental health issues, and the Marchman Act is meant to treat those with substance abuse issues.

However, as stated previously, someone receiving treatment for substance abuse (addiction) may be extremely angry at being involuntarily admitted. Because both Acts only allow for restraint for 72 hours, there can be a concern for physical or emotional attacks once the person is released. Hopefully, the addict will realize within that 72-hour window that they do need treatment and thank you for caring enough to involuntarily admit them. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Make sure you speak with a professional and have a plan to deal with any repercussions in case the addict doesn’t respond well.

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TREATMENT IS ONLY THE BEGINNING

It’s tough to watch your loved one, struggling with addiction and alcoholism, reach “bottom”. He must reach “bottom” typically before he admits to needing help. Once he admits he is powerless over addiction, treatment begins.

But, treatment is only the beginning. At Fresh Start Ministries we know once the addict or alcoholic is admitted for treatment the journey is only just beginning.

Every journey begins with a single step

Our treatment team watches the transformation of the addict from the time he is admitted into our treatment center until he “graduates”. He comes in many times angry, thinking he is different than the others here. He doesn’t “belong” here. His addiction isn’t “that bad”. He was using just a little bit more to get him through a “rough spot”. He is also angry at himself. Angry that he is unable to manage his usage. Angry that he didn’t wear the mask “just a bit longer since he really isn’t an addict”. These are all the lies going through his head as he processes his anger in the program.

As he releases his anger, he begins to feel his brokenness. Realizations come quickly now. He realizes how many loved ones are hurting on his behalf. He realizes what a mess his life is.

A step forwardAfter denial and anger come bargaining and depression. This is where the support system and counseling at Fresh Start Ministries are helpful. Our addictions counselors work to help the addict process these new feelings he’s become aware of. After this comes acceptance.

When an addict accepts his addiction, then he can move from brokenness to healing. Treatment and recovery are a step-by-step process; but, the journey is worth it!

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Family Time With An Addict

Father, Mother, and adult children (including the alcoholic) are anxiously awaiting the arrival of extended family. Visits from extended family redefines “anxiously awaiting”. Of course, you are anxiously awaiting the moment you embrace loved ones you haven’t seen in quite a while at the airport. The initial greeting is laden with hugs, kisses, smiles, and the initial feelings of overwhelming love. They have been anticipating this moment for weeks now; the moment of joy is here, finally reunited!

“Anxiously awaiting” also has a different meaning. Everyone knows there will eventually be moments of tension. Mom, Dad, and adult children have vowed to keep the spirits high and the tempers low, and they intend to make every effort to do so. The arriving family members know from past experience that mounting tension is inevitable. Part of keeping the spirits high means “Cheers!” over a drink. For most this is a happy occasion; however, for an alcoholic this means overindulging, becoming irritable, and tempers flaring.

Everyone pastes a smile on their face, and is genuinely happy to be reunited after a long absence. But, they know the inevitable is coming……they anxiously await because they don’t know when; but, unfortunately for everyone it will come.

Sometimes days are filled with fun, entertainment, touring the local attractions, and laughter. Drinks are poured, hugs are given, laughter and lighthearted conversation are exchanged, and diving deeper into “catching up” ensues. It feels good to be reunited. Sometimes a nerve is touched too soon and it’s only hours before the lighthearted joy disappears.

When conversing with an alcoholic, you never know when something will be said to upset them, tempers begin to flare, and the mood is no longer pleasant. Unfortunately, the mood never seems to return to the initial joy they experienced as they hugged one another at the airport. The hurt and anger from the words that caused tempers to flare lie under the surface for the remainder of the visit. Although the family members anxiously awaited the arrival, now it seems everyone is anxiously awaiting the departure to release the tension. And so the cycle continues….

If this story resonates with the last few family visits you’ve experienced, it may be time to get help and get off the cycle….we are anxiously awaiting your arrival at Fresh Start Ministries in Orlando, the City Beautiful.

Family time

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 The Unconditional Love of a Dog

 Many times an addict becomes an addict because they feel disconnected, abandoned, and alone. They long for someone to love them and accept them unconditionally. This has been a struggle since childhood, and now they have masked the pain with alcohol or drugs.

This cycle has gone on long enough they now struggle

And often the struggle has gone on long enough that friends and family have given up hope. This leaves the addict feeling more abandoned.

Although a dog can’t heal an addict, a dog can aid in the recovery process. There are many ways a dog helps in the recovery process. First, they provide companionship. Unlike people who have things to do and places to go, a dog is there for YOU. They are your companion willing to take a walk, sit beside you, or crawl up on your lap (no matter how big they are!).

Dog - the unconditional love

A dog is companion. People come and go in our lives. Sometimes this is due to circumstances out of their control; sometimes the addict has driven them away. However, a dog is always there. He lives to make his human happy and even excuses bad behavior, neglect, and mistreatment for the most part. (Although we are NOT advocating this, dogs are more forgiving. Please do not mistreat your dog.)

Animals have been used in many forms of therapy and dogs have been especially beneficial for the blind and service dogs for law enforcement. However, dogs also help with emotional well-being. Their companionship has been shown to calm anxiety, PTSD, and other conditions. An addict tends to suffer from anxiety and panic disorders due to trying to balance his two worlds. The calm companionship of a dog can minimize these symptoms.

Finally, a dog can provide purpose. Many times an addict can’t find a reason to get out bed in the morning. When life doesn’t seem worth living sometimes the wet kiss of a dog can get you out of bed. Or perhaps the practical side of you kicks in and you realize the dog depends on you to let him out and feed him. He depends on you; your life has purpose and meaning. And someone loyal is waiting on you. Appreciate those sloppy, wet kisses and get out of bed.

Whether you have a dog or not, YOUR LIFE HAS MEANING.

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ClassWhat Does Treatment Look Like?

At Fresh Start Ministries treatment looks different than you might see in other programs. Programs are offered around the country; some a faith-based, others aren’t. Some require in-patient residential treatment; some are out-patient only. Your level of “dependency” on the substance you are using determines whether you might be successful in an outpatient program or require in-patient treatment. Obviously the more you use the more likely you need to be totally removed from the environment where you find yourself using. Therefore, in-patient treatment is important to improve your chances of success.

Fresh Start Ministries is an in-patient, faith-based program for men in Central Florida. Most men are admitted to treat substance abuse, either drug or alcohol, which are leading to other life controlling issues.

Fresh Start Ministries finds in-patient to be a more comprehensive approach allowing the patients to receive counseling and emotional support while being treated for the addiction to substances. While FSM is a “working” program, you are still removed from the environment where you currently use (whether work, home, or out with friends) and limiting the accessibility to purchase substances drastically increases your odds for success.

Our staff takes you through four phases, or levels, of treatment. First, we focus on drug and alcohol information helping you understand your addiction, your triggers, and recognizing and admitting your symptoms.

Phase two is a customized treatment plan developed between counselor and patient. This focuses on the individual needs of the patient and takes into consideration the level of substance abuse.

Phase three incorporates the faith-based belief system. At Fresh Start Ministries we know that there is a higher power, God, which is the ultimate Healer. Without Him we are powerless; with him we draw on His power.

Phase four teaches you how to seek and receive aftercare. One thing we know after treating thousands of addicts is that addiction is an ongoing battle. Using the skills learned in phase one to recognize your triggers, you can take care of yourself and remove yourself from environments that stimulate those triggers.

We have helped thousands of addicts and alcoholics in the Orlando, Florida area in out year-long residential treatment program. This has impacted the lives of nearly 58,000 people. Remember your addiction isn’t only affecting you. It’s affecting the lives of your family and others around you that love and care for you.

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A VISIT WITH AN ADDICT

messy addictA mother went to visit her son, an adult child in his young twenties. She arrives at his place to find it unclean and unkempt; trash was everywhere, open beer bottles sat on the kitchen counter, extra people asleep on the floor from the night before. Her son curses that he wasn’t prepared and was still sleeping. They sit and wait on the laundry to get dry. All his clothes lay on the floor in a wrinkled heap.

 As he rubs sleep from his eyes, he pops a pill and smokes a cigarette.

They prepare to leave and the complaining and anger begin. The sun is too bright. He hasn’t eaten in a couple of days and is starving; unfortunately, many others are too since it’s the peak of breakfast seating. Restaurants are packed with an hour wait. This frustrates him more and they opt for fast food. Quickly on their way, they go about the activities they planned together.

Since Central Florida is known for “The Mouse”, Disney World, they’ve planned the day at Animal Kingdom. With limited smoking areas, he is frustrated by not being able to smoke. During a show he nods off, wakes up, and blames it on the pill he popped as he woke up. The anti-anxiety pill was to make him less irritable; however, the mother wasn’t sure he was.

Central Florida is known for rain on a July afternoon. Suddenly, they find themselves drenched and headed back to his home. The conversation begins. The conversation centers on statements like

“There is no point to life.”

“I could make more money without a job.”

“Everyone I work/live with is stupid.”

He becomes increasingly more irritable, and the visit is cut short.

He is irritable and fighting sleep from a combination of being out all night and taking an anti-anxiety pill. These two signs show symptoms of an addict. An addict doesn’t practice good self-care when the desire to use takes over.

This young man is only in his twenties; he has an alcoholic father and grandfather. However, blaming alcoholism on heredity is inaccurate. Alcoholism is a treatable disease; but, without the support and connection to a parent (especially a male parent) children tend to indulge in alcohol to “kill the pain of disconnect”, becoming an alcoholic until they seek counseling and treatment to process the hurt and interrupt the addictive tendencies.

The mother is sure the son did not want to spoil their time together being irritable and tired, living in disheveled surroundings. But, unfortunately, he lives this way every day and has accepted this as normal. Until he “hits bottom” each visit is likely to be similar to this. Alcoholics are irritable, tired, and unfocused on their cleanliness when they live each day for the next drink.

Alcoholics can also be very functional alcoholics, working hard and being respected at work. The son has gone through this cycle, too, working two jobs.

Addiction has no “normal picture”; but, the signs of addiction can be seen. Prompt your loved one to seek treatment. If you feel an intervention is needed, plan one. At Fresh Start Ministries we can provide you the guidance you need for your loved one.

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noise in your headFIGHTING THE NOISE

Noise: The Addict Fights the Noise in His Head

An addict knows he’s struggling. He is trying to balance the life of two distinctly different people living in one body. The first person is the responsible one with good, upstanding character. The one who wants to go to work, take care of his family, eat right, pay his bills on time, be a part of the community. The other person inside, however, is hiding his addiction. He is trying to keep it under control. To do this he can’t be fully immersed in the activities of his family and community. He can become agitated at work because the hours at work are keeping him away from drinking and/or using substances.

The addict is almost like a person with dual personality disorder. He is fighting himself inside.

When you are trying to balance two separate lives, there is noise in your head. These voices say things like:

“I can’t wait to see the family. Let me stop off for a drink first and unwind.”

“I know money is tight right now. I’ll take cookies off the list; after all, the kids don’t need the sugar anyway. Then I can afford a 6-pack.”

“I need to slip out of work early. I work harder than anyone else when I’m here. All the guys are going fishing this weekend and I need to stop and buy the beer.”

“Boss, I can’t come in today. I think I have another sinus infection……(to self: I know I didn’t drink that much last night)”

Maybe he finds himself volunteering to coach the little league team; but, halfway through the season, he just can’t get to practice on time because he’s stopped off for a drink……and left after several.

Maybe he finds himself taking the wife out on a date only to end up arguing because he’s ordered more than one drink.

These are not situations he intended to have happen. These are the “two people” inside fighting one another. The responsible one makes the commitment; the addict breaks the commitment.

The family sees the broken commitment. Unfortunately, they don’t hear the noise in the addict’s head. They can’t grasp a full understanding of what the addict is struggling with and how bad he feels that he lets everyone down….yet again. The voices in his head are indeed a struggle. When we have noise and indecision, it is impossible to make good decisions.

The only way to get rid of the noise is through counseling and recovery.

FRESH START MINISTRIES OF CENTRAL FL, Orlando, FL 407 293-3822

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Hi, my name is _____ and I’m an alcoholic.

Alcohol - Liquor_bottles
No one that ever begins drinking expects to say those words. Yet those are the words spoken in A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings daily all over the world. No matter what age you were when you took your first drink, usually you expected it to be fun. Just to enjoy with friends. For some, that’s all it will ever be. For others, it becomes an addiction.

For those that become alcoholics it typically takes years and many times “hitting bottom” before they admit (voluntarily or involuntarily) that it’s a problem. An alcoholic has a “couple” of drinks with friends or to “unwind”. The couple of drinks turns into a couple every night. The “couple” turns into innumerable drinks. This is when friends and family start to comment that there is a problem.

The alcoholic then justifies that he can “control it”. He begins to “control it” or hide it for a while until people “get off his case”. This cycle continues. And continues. And continues. Unfortunately, as the cycle continues this is when he hits his bottom. The bottom looks different for everyone; but, ultimately it’s whatever becomes a wake-up call and gets the alcoholic’s attention.

With the wake-up call, the alcoholic then seeks treatment and an A.A. meeting to get involved in. At the A.A. meeting the first step is to admit you are an alcoholic. At the meeting you stand up and introduce yourself, saying, “Hi, my name is _____ and I’m an alcoholic”. Without admission, no one is able to help you. This is an imperative first step. Once you admit you are an alcoholic, have a problem with addiction, and are powerless to control it on your own, then you become empowered to accept help and receive treatment.

No journey is meant to be a journey for one though. Alcoholics Anonymous pairs you with a sponsor. This sponsor has walked a similar journey with addiction, has found sobriety, and can understand where you are and bring you to where he is, in sobriety. At Fresh Start Ministries we know that once you admit you are an alcoholic and need help, sobriety is a daily choice, and one that requires support.

Nothing happens until you admit that you need help. Once you do that, we are here for you.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is defined by Psychology Today as “a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (alcohol, drugs, etc.) that can be pleasurable; but, the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with normal life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health”.

Most addicts don’t admit that their behavior is compulsive or that it is interfering with normal life responsibilities.

There are two types of addiction: physical and psychological. Let’s examine the difference because the problem isn’t the substance; its the underlying cause, the reason, they are abusing the substance and struggle with addiction.

A physical addiction is where the body adapts to the amount of the substance going into the system. As the body increases its tolerance of the amount of the substance (drugs or alcohol), more is required to get the same effect. When a substance is removed from the body, withdrawal is experienced. Someone who doesn’t struggle with addiction and can indulge recreationally doesn’t experience withdrawal. The second type of physical addiction is triggered by cues. An alcoholic walking into a bar or a cocaine addict watching someone do a line of coke is likely to be triggered by these cues. This trigger can cause them to use the substance.

A psychological addiction is much more powerful than a physical addiction. They compulsively use because of a reaction to emotional stress. This stress can be brought on from a current event in their life or from an emotional pain from their past that they haven’t dealt with yet. Psychological addiction is most often referred to as “an escape”; the addict is trying to escape from the emotional pain of life. The addict that struggles with a psychological addiction is more likely to switch frequently from drug to drug, substance to another substance. Once this addict is “dry”, he tends to replace the substance with another addictive tendency. Perhaps, smoking, pornography, watching TV excessively…..anything to escape reality.

Whether addiction is a disease, mental illness, or an escape mechanism, it still interferes with a productive, healthy life, harms relationships, and requires treatment. At Fresh Start Ministries, our treatment philosophy encompasses the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

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Avoid Falling into Relapse

by Pastor Joe Cordovano

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  You all are in my prayers each and every day.  I pray for your health and wholeness in your spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical walk.  Summer is upon us & that means we’ve been through spring break, Daytona Bike week, and Leesburg Bike week.  Let me translate what that means: party, party, and party some more.  The parties continue through the summer on our beaches and lakes.  With all that said I thought it would be timely to share with you about the imminent dangers of falling into relapse.

There are many behaviors that can quietly or noisily signal a relapse, which means you always need to be on the alert for the following red flags, to avoid a slip.

1. Elaborate Excuse Making : When you find yourself going to great lengths to rationalize or explain away your behavior.  Missing meetings, being late for work, or just being on the brink.

2. Panic : Anxiety or panic attacks, thoughts of suicide, compulsive behaviors such as gambling, promiscuous sex, or over indulgence in eating.  I call this switching addictions.  Nevertheless they are signs that your life is careening out of control.

3. Irresponsibility : Avoiding commitments, procrastinating through deadlines, and doing things you know are not in your best interests.

4. Breaking the Rules :  Rules you laid out for continuing care.

5. Lying Low : Not checking in with your support group or mentor (sponsor).

6. Sick Thinking : You entertain thoughts of going to the bar or hanging with old drug buddies.  You act on impulse rather than forethought.

7. Strapping on Spare Parachutes : You turn down a ride to a support group meeting, you didn’t delete your drug dealers number from your phone.  You rationalize you need to keep that old bottle of pain killers just in case your injury flares up again.

8. Treading Water : You know you’ve hit a plateau but put off asking for help.

9. Neglecting Yourself :  You find yourself not showering, or brushing your teeth, not getting your hair cut or cleaning your living quarters.  These behaviors often reflect how you feel about yourself and your recovery.

10. Switching Addictions : Telling yourself you never had an alcohol problem, it was drugs, or vice versa.

By now you’re bummed out because reality has smacked you in the face.  You’re probably asking yourself, what can I do to stop this downward spiral?  The answer is to take action quickly.  You need to go back to the basics of what got you this far in your recovery.  Read you BUDD pamphlet, get back to meetings and church.  Remember, the thoughts of drinking or drugging will pass, but only if you do something else.

James 2:14 reads: (NLT) “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t’ prove it by your actions?”

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CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

How to recognize God’s voice and respond in obedience.

by Pastor Tim Carlsward

I was driving down a busy street when my cell phone rang. Fumbling for my phone, I snatched it up and pushed it against my ear. “Hello?” I was greeted with loud static. Through the electronic interference I could barely make out the muffled sounds of a woman’s voice. I strained to hear her words. “Hello? Who is this?” Suddenly, the static evaporated and the loud, ominous tone of an irritated voice came through crystal clear. “It’s your MOTHER!” Certain sins and failures are all but unforgivable: Near the top of the list is not recognizing your mother’s voice when she calls. It took awhile to redeem myself for that faux pas!

The experience I had reminds me of most Christians. They heartily identify God as the most important person in their lives. Yet, when asked about the last time He spoke to them, their faces register distant gazes, and they reminisce about their conversion experiences. The sad truth is, many Christians struggle to recognize the voice of their Savior.

Jesus said, “‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me'” (John 10:27, NIV). We should know our Shepherd’s voice. How else can we follow Him to green pastures and still waters? (see Ps. 23:2). Yet, even Christ’s closest disciples could be disoriented to His voice.

After one particularly disappointing encounter with the disciples, Jesus lamented: “‘Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? … Do you still not understand?'” (Mark 8:17-18, 21)

What prevents us from hearing what God is saying? We can be distracted by Satan, by worldly thinking and even by our own desires. All three of these compete for our attention and threaten our allegiance to God’s voice. That’s why it’s crucial for every Christian to know the difference between God’s voice and these counterfeits.

Satan’s Voice 

Can you imagine a soldier in combat who could not tell if the voice on his radio belonged to his commanding officer or his enemy? The Christian’s life has too much at stake for him to be fooled by Satan’s lies. Whether you are working on your marriage, choosing a new job or guiding your kids through adolescence, you must know the difference between a word from God and a lie from the forces of darkness. Understanding some basic truths can help you differentiate between the two.

God’s voice and Satan’s are fundamentally different. Certainly, the father of lies is cunningly deceptive, but there will be a qualitative difference between what he says and what God says.

First, the Bible will always verify what God tells you. On the contrary, Satan will subtly undermine and throw into question what God has said in Scripture.

Second, following God’s voice will bring Him glory. Satan will promise to bring you glory.

Third, God’s voice will lead you to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him (see Matt. 16:24). Satan will encourage you to affirm yourself, to avoid a cross and to follow your own desires.

Fourth, God will guide you to build up the church. Satan will lead you to sow seeds of discord among God’s people.

Fifth, God’s voice will be absolutely true. Satan will taint his message with untruth (see John 8:44). He is the master of half-truths.

Sixth, God’s voice fosters humility. Satan’s voice produces pride.

Finally, God’s voice exposes sin, bringing a sense of conviction. Satan tempts you to justify sin and to make excuses for your behavior.

The World’s Voice

The world embraces sinful, selfish values that are opposed to God’s ways. Jesus said of His disciples: “‘ … the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world'” (John 17:14). Christians are to live by a different standard than unbelievers. But if we are careless, we will inadvertently succumb to secular values without even recognizing what has happened. Sometimes we accept the world’s voice because it seems like common sense. For example, society recognizes career promotions, fame, wealth and material possessions as marks of success. God measures our success by our obedience (see Matt. 6:19-20).

The world admires those who fight for their rights and don’t get pushed around. Jesus emphasizes loving our enemies, not overpowering them (see Matt. 5:38-41). He urges us to surrender our rights, not cling to them. Our generation expends great effort to avoid suffering. Jesus said His disciples would suffer as He had (see John 15:20).

The world elevates physical beauty to the point of idolatry. The Bible says those who share the gospel with others are beautiful (see Rom. 10:15).

The world says be strong and finish first. Jesus said be meek and the last will be first (see Matt. 5:5; 20:16).

The world says God helps those who help themselves. Jesus said, without God, we can do nothing (see John 15:5).

The world says look to our strengths. God wants to magnify Himself through our weaknesses (see 2 Cor. 12:9-10).

The world concedes that everyone has enemies. Jesus instructs us to set everything aside and to be reconciled with anyone we have offended (see Matt. 5:23-24).

As Christians, we recoil at blatantly sinful practices such as sexual immorality and crime. But we are far too casual about the subtle, ungodly messages that saturate the world we live in. We deceive ourselves to think we can fill our minds with ungodly movies, TV programs and magazines and yet remain untainted by the world’s viewpoint.

We are fools to think we can walk unscathed in the middle of a sinful world without clear direction from our Shepherd’s voice.

Our Own Voice

One of the most harmful voices we hear is, in fact, our own. If we really crave something, it’s easy to convince ourselves God wants us to have it too. After all, it’s the desire of our hearts! (see Ps. 37:4)

When a commitment becomes more costly than we anticipated, we conclude that God wants us to free ourselves from our burdens. After all, we are weak and heavy-laden! (see Matt. 11:28)

Modern Christians are rationalizing themselves right out of their marriages. They argue that God never wanted them in that marriage in the first place and now He is “releasing them from their errors.”

If some people are to be believed, God changes His mind at a dizzying pace. He tells them to take the “perfect job,” then quit it a month later for a better one! He directs them to enroll in college, then determines they can’t bear the workload, and He leads them to drop out. He calls them into ministry, then decides a less demanding occupation would suit them better.

Christians can be tempted to view God as someone who sees life the way they do. They try to fashion God into their image rather than listening to what He is saying.

One of the most common practices of well-meaning but misguided Christians involves the idea of open doors. Of course God does open some doors to us and close others. But we err in our focus. The door is not the important thing; God’s voice is.

For example, if a door of opportunity opens, such as an attractive job offer, some conclude that it must be an invitation from God. If a promotion, transfer, leadership position or even a marriage proposal presents itself, some assume God must be behind it. They will pray, “Lord, close the door if this isn’t Your will!”

The truth is that not every open or closed door is a sign from God. The Word bears this out. Sometimes an open door leads to disaster and God does not close it. Read about Adam and Eve or David. Each of them paid a steep price for walking through a “door of opportunity.”

Likewise, if a door appears tightly shut, it doesn’t mean God does not want you to proceed. Consider the Israelites at the edge of the Promised Land. We need to take our focus off the doors and put it back on God. We need to be experts at recognizing God’s voice, not watching for open doors.

It can be easier to enter an open door than to develop a relationship with God. Some Christians seize whatever opportunities come along and wonder why God doesn’t bless their choices. It is far wiser to listen to God.

Hearing God’s Voice

There is no easy formula for recognizing God’s voice. The key is the relationship. If you are married, think back to when you first married your wife. You loved her but you probably didn’t know her very well.

But through the years, as you shared hardships and successes, you learned to understand each other. In the early days of your marriage, you probably missed many cues she sent your way–her tone of voice, her expression, her silence, her nervous manner. All of these clues might have been shouting volumes, but you missed them!

In time, though, your relationship with each other deepened. Now you know what every tone of voice means! Now you recognize the signs that she is hurt or frustrated. Now a sideways glance or a raised eyebrow tells you exactly what she is thinking.

All good relationships require both quality and quantity time. Your relationship with God is no different. Casual, careless time spent with God will produce a shallow Christian life. However, investing the effort to walk closely with God will lead to a deep and satisfying relationship.

How do you cultivate an intimate walk with God?

The first step is obvious: spend time in His Word. You have at your fingertips the sacred record of how God has related to people throughout history. Read your Bible! Study it! Memorize it! Meditate on it by prayerfully pondering a scripture passage until God clarifies its meaning and applies it to your life. The best way to safeguard yourself from Satan’s lies, the world’s temptations or your own faulty logic is with God’s revealed truth.

The second thing is as obvious as the first–pray. There is a world of difference, however, between saying prayers and communing with God.

Don’t be satisfied with surface praying. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you talk with God at a deep level. Learn to listen when you pray. After all, prayer is meant to be a conversation, not a monologue.

Keep in mind that what God has to say is infinitely more important than what you have to say–and He already knows what you are going to say anyway. Yes, He wants to hear your heart cry, but His voice is your life. Listen for it and pay attention to what you hear.

Third, learn to recognize God’s activity in your circumstances. He often speaks to us through the ordinary day’s events, while we are driving or eating, but we tend to miss His message.

Recently, my 18-year-old son, Mike, discovered he has diabetes. I was shocked! As I sat next to his hospital bed seeking to comfort him, he excitedly shared with me all the ways God had been preparing him for that fateful announcement.

He told me God had been gently getting him ready all that week. He exclaimed, “Isn’t it cool the way God works!” Certainly my son heard a plethora of voices during that tumultuous time, but I am so grateful he has learned to recognize God’s voice in the midst of the commotion. In a moment of crisis, it made the difference.

The fourth way He guides us is through fellow believers. Wise Christians don’t isolate themselves.

They trust God to speak to them through others. Tragically, some people have reacted in anger when God used a fellow church member to communicate His truth. I have seen men weep as they confessed that God spoke to them through their wives, but they refused to listen.

It is critical to develop meaningful relationships with other believers so we can hear what God is saying through them.

God has been speaking. He wants you to listen. Take time this week to pay close attention. You may be amazed at what you hear!

Hi, my name is ______ and I’m an alcoholic.

No one that ever begins drinking expects to say those words. Yet those are the words spoken in A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings daily all over the world. No matter what age you were when you took your first drink, usually you expected it to be fun. Just to enjoy with friends. For some, that’s all it will ever be. For others, it becomes an addiction.

For those that become alcoholics it typically takes years and many times “hitting bottom” before they admit (voluntarily or involuntarily) that it’s a problem. An alcoholic has a “couple” of drinks with friends or to “unwind”. The couple of drinks turns into a couple every night. The “couple” turns into innumerable drinks. This is when friends and family start to comment that there is a problem.

The alcoholic then justifies that he can “control it”. He begins to “control it” or hide it for a while until people “get off his case”. This cycle continues. And continues. And continues. Unfortunately, as the cycle continues this is when he hits his bottom. The bottom looks different for everyone; but, ultimately it’s whatever becomes a wake-up call and gets the alcoholic’s attention.

With the wake-up call, the alcoholic then seeks treatment and an A.A. meeting to get involved in. At the A.A. meeting the first step is to admit you are an alcoholic. At the meeting you stand up and introduce yourself, saying, “Hi, my name is _____ and I’m an alcoholic”. Without admission, no one is able to help you. This is an imperative first step. Once you admit you are an alcoholic, have a problem with addiction, and are powerless to control it on your own, then you become empowered to accept help and receive treatment.

No journey is meant to be a journey for one though. Alcoholics Anonymous pairs you with a sponsor. This sponsor has walked a similar journey with addiction, has found sobriety, and can understand where you are and bring you to where he is, in sobriety. At Fresh Start Ministries we know that once you admit you are an alcoholic and need help, sobriety is a daily choice, and one that requires support.

Nothing happens until you admit that you need help. Once you do that, we are here for you.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is defined by Psychology Today as “a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (alcohol, drugs, etc.) that can be pleasurable; but, the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with normal life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health”.

Most addicts don’t admit that their behavior is compulsive or that it is interfering with normal life responsibilities.

There are two types of addiction: physical and psychological. Let’s examine the difference because the problem isn’t the substance; its the underlying cause, the reason, they are abusing the substance and struggle with addiction.

A physical addiction is where the body adapts to the amount of the substance going into the system. As the body increases its tolerance of the amount of the substance (drugs or alcohol), more is required to get the same effect. When a substance is removed from the body, withdrawal is experienced. Someone who doesn’t struggle with addiction and can indulge recreationally doesn’t experience withdrawal. The second type of physical addiction is triggered by cues. An alcoholic walking into a bar or a cocaine addict watching someone do a line of coke is likely to be triggered by these cues. This trigger can cause them to use the substance.

A psychological addiction is much more powerful than a physical addiction. They compulsively use because of a reaction to emotional stress. This stress can be brought on from a current event in their life or from an emotional pain from their past that they haven’t dealt with yet. Psychological addiction is most often referred to as “an escape”; the addict is trying to escape from the emotional pain of life. The addict that struggles with a psychological addiction is more likely to switch frequently from drug to drug, substance to another substance. Once this addict is “dry”, he tends to replace the substance with another addictive tendency. Perhaps, smoking, pornography, watching TV excessively…..anything to escape reality.

Whether addiction is a disease, mental illness, or an escape mechanism, it still interferes with a productive, healthy life, harms relationships, and requires treatment. At Fresh Start Ministries, our treatment philosophy encompasses the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Avoid Falling into Relapse

by Pastor Joe Cordovano

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  You all are in my prayers each and every day.  I pray for your health and wholeness in your spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical walk.  Summer is upon us & that means we’ve been through spring break, Daytona Bike week, and Leesburg Bike week.  Let me translate what that means: party, party, and party some more.  The parties continue through the summer on our beaches and lakes.  With all that said I thought it would be timely to share with you about the imminent dangers of falling into relapse.

There are many behaviors that can quietly or noisily signal a relapse, which means you always need to be on the alert for the following red flags, to avoid a slip.

        1. Elaborate Excuse Making : When you find yourself going to great lengths to rationalize or explain away your behavior.  Missing meetings, being late for work, or just being on the brink.

Panic : Anxiety or panic attacks, thoughts of suicide, compulsive behaviors such as gambling, promiscuous sex, or over indulgence in eating.  I call this switching addictions.  Nevertheless they are signs that your life is careening out of control.

      1. Irresponsibility : Avoiding commitments, procrastinating through deadlines, and doing things you know are not in your best interests.
      1. Breaking the Rules :  Rules you laid out for continuing care.
        1. Lying Low : Not checking in with your support group or mentor (sponsor).
      1. Sick Thinking : You entertain thoughts of going to the bar or hanging with old drug buddies.  You act on impulse rather than forethought.
        1. Strapping on Spare Parachutes : You turn down a ride to a support group meeting, you didn’t delete your drug dealers number from your phone.  You rationalize you need to keep that old bottle of pain killers just in case your injury flares up again.

Treading Water : You know you’ve hit a plateau but put off asking for help.

      1. Neglecting Yourself :  You find yourself not showering, or brushing your teeth, not getting your hair cut or cleaning your living quarters.  These behaviors often reflect how you feel about yourself and your recovery.
        1. Switching Addictions : Telling yourself you never had an alcohol problem, it was drugs, or vice versa.

By now you’re bummed out because reality has smacked you in the face.  You’re probably asking yourself, what can I do to stop this downward spiral?  The answer is to take action quickly.  You need to go back to the basics of what got you this far in your recovery.  Read you BUDD pamphlet, get back to meetings and church.  Remember, the thoughts of drinking or drugging will pass, but only if you do something else.

James 2:14 reads: (NLT) “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t’ prove it by your actions?”

______________________________________________________

Can You Hear Me Now?

How to recognize God’s voice and respond in obedience.

by Pastor Tim Carlsward

I was driving down a busy street when my cell phone rang. Fumbling for my phone, I snatched it up and pushed it against my ear. “Hello?” I was greeted with loud static. Through the electronic interference I could barely make out the muffled sounds of a woman’s voice. I strained to hear her words. “Hello? Who is this?” Suddenly, the static evaporated and the loud, ominous tone of an irritated voice came through crystal clear. “It’s your MOTHER!” Certain sins and failures are all but unforgivable: Near the top of the list is not recognizing your mother’s voice when she calls. It took awhile to redeem myself for that faux pas!

The experience I had reminds me of most Christians. They heartily identify God as the most important person in their lives. Yet, when asked about the last time He spoke to them, their faces register distant gazes, and they reminisce about their conversion experiences. The sad truth is, many Christians struggle to recognize the voice of their Savior.

Jesus said, “‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me'” (John 10:27, NIV). We should know our Shepherd’s voice. How else can we follow Him to green pastures and still waters? (see Ps. 23:2). Yet, even Christ’s closest disciples could be disoriented to His voice.

After one particularly disappointing encounter with the disciples, Jesus lamented: “‘Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? … Do you still not understand?'” (Mark 8:17-18, 21)

What prevents us from hearing what God is saying? We can be distracted by Satan, by worldly thinking and even by our own desires. All three of these compete for our attention and threaten our allegiance to God’s voice. That’s why it’s crucial for every Christian to know the difference between God’s voice and these counterfeits.

Satan’s Voice 

Can you imagine a soldier in combat who could not tell if the voice on his radio belonged to his commanding officer or his enemy? The Christian’s life has too much at stake for him to be fooled by Satan’s lies. Whether you are working on your marriage, choosing a new job or guiding your kids through adolescence, you must know the difference between a word from God and a lie from the forces of darkness. Understanding some basic truths can help you differentiate between the two.

God’s voice and Satan’s are fundamentally different. Certainly, the father of lies is cunningly deceptive, but there will be a qualitative difference between what he says and what God says.

First, the Bible will always verify what God tells you. On the contrary, Satan will subtly undermine and throw into question what God has said in Scripture.

Second, following God’s voice will bring Him glory. Satan will promise to bring you glory.

Third, God’s voice will lead you to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him (see Matt. 16:24). Satan will encourage you to affirm yourself, to avoid a cross and to follow your own desires.

Fourth, God will guide you to build up the church. Satan will lead you to sow seeds of discord among God’s people.

Fifth, God’s voice will be absolutely true. Satan will taint his message with untruth (see John 8:44). He is the master of half-truths.

Sixth, God’s voice fosters humility. Satan’s voice produces pride.

Finally, God’s voice exposes sin, bringing a sense of conviction. Satan tempts you to justify sin and to make excuses for your behavior.

The World’s Voice

The world embraces sinful, selfish values that are opposed to God’s ways. Jesus said of His disciples: “‘ … the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world'” (John 17:14). Christians are to live by a different standard than unbelievers. But if we are careless, we will inadvertently succumb to secular values without even recognizing what has happened. Sometimes we accept the world’s voice because it seems like common sense. For example, society recognizes career promotions, fame, wealth and material possessions as marks of success. God measures our success by our obedience (see Matt. 6:19-20).

The world admires those who fight for their rights and don’t get pushed around. Jesus emphasizes loving our enemies, not overpowering them (see Matt. 5:38-41). He urges us to surrender our rights, not cling to them. Our generation expends great effort to avoid suffering. Jesus said His disciples would suffer as He had (see John 15:20).

The world elevates physical beauty to the point of idolatry. The Bible says those who share the gospel with others are beautiful (see Rom. 10:15).

The world says be strong and finish first. Jesus said be meek and the last will be first (see Matt. 5:5; 20:16).

The world says God helps those who help themselves. Jesus said, without God, we can do nothing (see John 15:5).

The world says look to our strengths. God wants to magnify Himself through our weaknesses (see 2 Cor. 12:9-10).

The world concedes that everyone has enemies. Jesus instructs us to set everything aside and to be reconciled with anyone we have offended (see Matt. 5:23-24).

As Christians, we recoil at blatantly sinful practices such as sexual immorality and crime. But we are far too casual about the subtle, ungodly messages that saturate the world we live in. We deceive ourselves to think we can fill our minds with ungodly movies, TV programs and magazines and yet remain untainted by the world’s viewpoint.

We are fools to think we can walk unscathed in the middle of a sinful world without clear direction from our Shepherd’s voice.

Our Own Voice

One of the most harmful voices we hear is, in fact, our own. If we really crave something, it’s easy to convince ourselves God wants us to have it too. After all, it’s the desire of our hearts! (see Ps. 37:4)

When a commitment becomes more costly than we anticipated, we conclude that God wants us to free ourselves from our burdens. After all, we are weak and heavy-laden! (see Matt. 11:28)

Modern Christians are rationalizing themselves right out of their marriages. They argue that God never wanted them in that marriage in the first place and now He is “releasing them from their errors.”

If some people are to be believed, God changes His mind at a dizzying pace. He tells them to take the “perfect job,” then quit it a month later for a better one! He directs them to enroll in college, then determines they can’t bear the workload, and He leads them to drop out. He calls them into ministry, then decides a less demanding occupation would suit them better.

Christians can be tempted to view God as someone who sees life the way they do. They try to fashion God into their image rather than listening to what He is saying.

One of the most common practices of well-meaning but misguided Christians involves the idea of open doors. Of course God does open some doors to us and close others. But we err in our focus. The door is not the important thing; God’s voice is.

For example, if a door of opportunity opens, such as an attractive job offer, some conclude that it must be an invitation from God. If a promotion, transfer, leadership position or even a marriage proposal presents itself, some assume God must be behind it. They will pray, “Lord, close the door if this isn’t Your will!”

The truth is that not every open or closed door is a sign from God. The Word bears this out. Sometimes an open door leads to disaster and God does not close it. Read about Adam and Eve or David. Each of them paid a steep price for walking through a “door of opportunity.”

Likewise, if a door appears tightly shut, it doesn’t mean God does not want you to proceed. Consider the Israelites at the edge of the Promised Land. We need to take our focus off the doors and put it back on God. We need to be experts at recognizing God’s voice, not watching for open doors.

It can be easier to enter an open door than to develop a relationship with God. Some Christians seize whatever opportunities come along and wonder why God doesn’t bless their choices. It is far wiser to listen to God.

Hearing God’s Voice

There is no easy formula for recognizing God’s voice. The key is the relationship. If you are married, think back to when you first married your wife. You loved her but you probably didn’t know her very well.

But through the years, as you shared hardships and successes, you learned to understand each other. In the early days of your marriage, you probably missed many cues she sent your way–her tone of voice, her expression, her silence, her nervous manner. All of these clues might have been shouting volumes, but you missed them!

In time, though, your relationship with each other deepened. Now you know what every tone of voice means! Now you recognize the signs that she is hurt or frustrated. Now a sideways glance or a raised eyebrow tells you exactly what she is thinking.

All good relationships require both quality and quantity time. Your relationship with God is no different. Casual, careless time spent with God will produce a shallow Christian life. However, investing the effort to walk closely with God will lead to a deep and satisfying relationship.

How do you cultivate an intimate walk with God?

The first step is obvious: spend time in His Word. You have at your fingertips the sacred record of how God has related to people throughout history. Read your Bible! Study it! Memorize it! Meditate on it by prayerfully pondering a scripture passage until God clarifies its meaning and applies it to your life. The best way to safeguard yourself from Satan’s lies, the world’s temptations or your own faulty logic is with God’s revealed truth.

The second thing is as obvious as the first–pray. There is a world of difference, however, between saying prayers and communing with God.

Don’t be satisfied with surface praying. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you talk with God at a deep level. Learn to listen when you pray. After all, prayer is meant to be a conversation, not a monologue.

Keep in mind that what God has to say is infinitely more important than what you have to say–and He already knows what you are going to say anyway. Yes, He wants to hear your heart cry, but His voice is your life. Listen for it and pay attention to what you hear.

Third, learn to recognize God’s activity in your circumstances. He often speaks to us through the ordinary day’s events, while we are driving or eating, but we tend to miss His message.

Recently, my 18-year-old son, Mike, discovered he has diabetes. I was shocked! As I sat next to his hospital bed seeking to comfort him, he excitedly shared with me all the ways God had been preparing him for that fateful announcement.

He told me God had been gently getting him ready all that week. He exclaimed, “Isn’t it cool the way God works!” Certainly my son heard a plethora of voices during that tumultuous time, but I am so grateful he has learned to recognize God’s voice in the midst of the commotion. In a moment of crisis, it made the difference.

The fourth way He guides us is through fellow believers. Wise Christians don’t isolate themselves.

They trust God to speak to them through others. Tragically, some people have reacted in anger when God used a fellow church member to communicate His truth. I have seen men weep as they confessed that God spoke to them through their wives, but they refused to listen.

It is critical to develop meaningful relationships with other believers so we can hear what God is saying through them.

God has been speaking. He wants you to listen. Take time this week to pay close attention. You may be amazed at what you hear!

noise in your head

FIGHTING THE NOISE

Noise: The Addict Fights the Noise in His Head

An addict knows he’s struggling. He is trying to balance the life of two distinctly different people living in one body. The first person is the responsible one with good, upstanding character. The one who wants to go to work, take care of his family, eat right, pay his bills on time, be a part of the community. The other person inside, however, is hiding his addiction. He is trying to keep it under control. To do this he can’t be fully immersed in the activities of his family and community. He can become agitated at work because the hours at work are keeping him away from drinking and/or using substances.

The addict is almost like a person with dual personality disorder. He is fighting himself inside.

When you are trying to balance two separate lives, there is noise in your head. These voices say things like:

“I can’t wait to see the family. Let me stop off for a drink first and unwind.”

“I know money is tight right now. I’ll take cookies off the list; after all, the kids don’t need the sugar anyway. Then I can afford a 6-pack.”

“I need to slip out of work early. I work harder than anyone else when I’m here. All the guys are going fishing this weekend and I need to stop and buy the beer.”

“Boss, I can’t come in today. I think I have another sinus infection……(to self: I know I didn’t drink that much last night)”

Maybe he finds himself volunteering to coach the little league team; but, halfway through the season, he just can’t get to practice on time because he’s stopped off for a drink……and left after several.

Maybe he finds himself taking the wife out on a date only to end up arguing because he’s ordered more than one drink.

These are not situations he intended to have happen. These are the “two people” inside fighting one another. The responsible one makes the commitment; the addict breaks the commitment.

The family sees the broken commitment. Unfortunately, they don’t hear the noise in the addict’s head. They can’t grasp a full understanding of what the addict is struggling with and how bad he feels that he lets everyone down….yet again. The voices in his head are indeed a struggle. When we have noise and indecision, it is impossible to make good decisions.

The only way to get rid of the noise is through counseling and recovery.

FRESH START MINISTRIES OF CENTRAL FL, Orlando, FL 407 293-3822

____________________________________________________________

Hi, my name is ______ and I’m an alcoholic.

No one that ever begins drinking expects to say those words. Yet those are the words spoken in A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings daily all over the world. No matter what age you were when you took your first drink, usually you expected it to be fun. Just to enjoy with friends. For some, that’s all it will ever be. For others, it becomes an addiction.

For those that become alcoholics it typically takes years and many times “hitting bottom” before they admit (voluntarily or involuntarily) that it’s a problem. An alcoholic has a “couple” of drinks with friends or to “unwind”. The couple of drinks turns into a couple every night. The “couple” turns into innumerable drinks. This is when friends and family start to comment that there is a problem.

The alcoholic then justifies that he can “control it”. He begins to “control it” or hide it for a while until people “get off his case”. This cycle continues. And continues. And continues. Unfortunately, as the cycle continues this is when he hits his bottom. The bottom looks different for everyone; but, ultimately it’s whatever becomes a wake-up call and gets the alcoholic’s attention.

With the wake-up call, the alcoholic then seeks treatment and an A.A. meeting to get involved in. At the A.A. meeting the first step is to admit you are an alcoholic. At the meeting you stand up and introduce yourself, saying, “Hi, my name is _____ and I’m an alcoholic”. Without admission, no one is able to help you. This is an imperative first step. Once you admit you are an alcoholic, have a problem with addiction, and are powerless to control it on your own, then you become empowered to accept help and receive treatment.

No journey is meant to be a journey for one though. Alcoholics Anonymous pairs you with a sponsor. This sponsor has walked a similar journey with addiction, has found sobriety, and can understand where you are and bring you to where he is, in sobriety. At Fresh Start Ministries we know that once you admit you are an alcoholic and need help, sobriety is a daily choice, and one that requires support.

Nothing happens until you admit that you need help. Once you do that, we are here for you.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is defined by Psychology Today as “a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (alcohol, drugs, etc.) that can be pleasurable; but, the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with normal life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health”.

Most addicts don’t admit that their behavior is compulsive or that it is interfering with normal life responsibilities.

There are two types of addiction: physical and psychological. Let’s examine the difference because the problem isn’t the substance; its the underlying cause, the reason, they are abusing the substance and struggle with addiction.

A physical addiction is where the body adapts to the amount of the substance going into the system. As the body increases its tolerance of the amount of the substance (drugs or alcohol), more is required to get the same effect. When a substance is removed from the body, withdrawal is experienced. Someone who doesn’t struggle with addiction and can indulge recreationally doesn’t experience withdrawal. The second type of physical addiction is triggered by cues. An alcoholic walking into a bar or a cocaine addict watching someone do a line of coke is likely to be triggered by these cues. This trigger can cause them to use the substance.

A psychological addiction is much more powerful than a physical addiction. They compulsively use because of a reaction to emotional stress. This stress can be brought on from a current event in their life or from an emotional pain from their past that they haven’t dealt with yet. Psychological addiction is most often referred to as “an escape”; the addict is trying to escape from the emotional pain of life. The addict that struggles with a psychological addiction is more likely to switch frequently from drug to drug, substance to another substance. Once this addict is “dry”, he tends to replace the substance with another addictive tendency. Perhaps, smoking, pornography, watching TV excessively…..anything to escape reality.

Whether addiction is a disease, mental illness, or an escape mechanism, it still interferes with a productive, healthy life, harms relationships, and requires treatment. At Fresh Start Ministries, our treatment philosophy encompasses the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

_________________________________________________________

Avoid Falling into Relapse

by Pastor Joe Cordovano

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  You all are in my prayers each and every day.  I pray for your health and wholeness in your spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical walk.  Summer is upon us & that means we’ve been through spring break, Daytona Bike week, and Leesburg Bike week.  Let me translate what that means: party, party, and party some more.  The parties continue through the summer on our beaches and lakes.  With all that said I thought it would be timely to share with you about the imminent dangers of falling into relapse.

There are many behaviors that can quietly or noisily signal a relapse, which means you always need to be on the alert for the following red flags, to avoid a slip.

  1. Elaborate Excuse Making : When you find yourself going to great lengths to rationalize or explain away your behavior.  Missing meetings, being late for work, or just being on the brink.
  2. Panic : Anxiety or panic attacks, thoughts of suicide, compulsive behaviors such as gambling, promiscuous sex, or over indulgence in eating.  I call this switching addictions.  Nevertheless they are signs that your life is careening out of control.
  3. Irresponsibility : Avoiding commitments, procrastinating through deadlines, and doing things you know are not in your best interests.
  4. Breaking the Rules :  Rules you laid out for continuing care.
  5. Lying Low : Not checking in with your support group or mentor (sponsor).
  6. Sick Thinking : You entertain thoughts of going to the bar or hanging with old drug buddies.  You act on impulse rather than forethought.
  7. Strapping on Spare Parachutes : You turn down a ride to a support group meeting, you didn’t delete your drug dealers number from your phone.  You rationalize you need to keep that old bottle of pain killers just in case your injury flares up again.
  8. Treading Water : You know you’ve hit a plateau but put off asking for help.
  9. Neglecting Yourself :  You find yourself not showering, or brushing your teeth, not getting your hair cut or cleaning your living quarters.  These behaviors often reflect how you feel about yourself and your recovery.
  10. Switching Addictions : Telling yourself you never had an alcohol problem, it was drugs, or vice versa.

By now you’re bummed out because reality has smacked you in the face.  You’re probably asking yourself, what can I do to stop this downward spiral?  The answer is to take action quickly.  You need to go back to the basics of what got you this far in your recovery.  Read you BUDD pamphlet, get back to meetings and church.  Remember, the thoughts of drinking or drugging will pass, but only if you do something else.

James 2:14 reads: (NLT) “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t’ prove it by your actions?”

______________________________________________________

Can You Hear Me Now?

How to recognize God’s voice and respond in obedience.

by Pastor Tim Carlsward

I was driving down a busy street when my cell phone rang. Fumbling for my phone, I snatched it up and pushed it against my ear. “Hello?” I was greeted with loud static. Through the electronic interference I could barely make out the muffled sounds of a woman’s voice. I strained to hear her words. “Hello? Who is this?” Suddenly, the static evaporated and the loud, ominous tone of an irritated voice came through crystal clear. “It’s your MOTHER!” Certain sins and failures are all but unforgivable: Near the top of the list is not recognizing your mother’s voice when she calls. It took awhile to redeem myself for that faux pas!

The experience I had reminds me of most Christians. They heartily identify God as the most important person in their lives. Yet, when asked about the last time He spoke to them, their faces register distant gazes, and they reminisce about their conversion experiences. The sad truth is, many Christians struggle to recognize the voice of their Savior.

Jesus said, “‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me'” (John 10:27, NIV). We should know our Shepherd’s voice. How else can we follow Him to green pastures and still waters? (see Ps. 23:2). Yet, even Christ’s closest disciples could be disoriented to His voice.

After one particularly disappointing encounter with the disciples, Jesus lamented: “‘Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? … Do you still not understand?'” (Mark 8:17-18, 21)

What prevents us from hearing what God is saying? We can be distracted by Satan, by worldly thinking and even by our own desires. All three of these compete for our attention and threaten our allegiance to God’s voice. That’s why it’s crucial for every Christian to know the difference between God’s voice and these counterfeits.

Satan’s Voice 

Can you imagine a soldier in combat who could not tell if the voice on his radio belonged to his commanding officer or his enemy? The Christian’s life has too much at stake for him to be fooled by Satan’s lies. Whether you are working on your marriage, choosing a new job or guiding your kids through adolescence, you must know the difference between a word from God and a lie from the forces of darkness. Understanding some basic truths can help you differentiate between the two.

God’s voice and Satan’s are fundamentally different. Certainly, the father of lies is cunningly deceptive, but there will be a qualitative difference between what he says and what God says.

First, the Bible will always verify what God tells you. On the contrary, Satan will subtly undermine and throw into question what God has said in Scripture.

Second, following God’s voice will bring Him glory. Satan will promise to bring you glory.

Third, God’s voice will lead you to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him (see Matt. 16:24). Satan will encourage you to affirm yourself, to avoid a cross and to follow your own desires.

Fourth, God will guide you to build up the church. Satan will lead you to sow seeds of discord among God’s people.

Fifth, God’s voice will be absolutely true. Satan will taint his message with untruth (see John 8:44). He is the master of half-truths.

Sixth, God’s voice fosters humility. Satan’s voice produces pride.

Finally, God’s voice exposes sin, bringing a sense of conviction. Satan tempts you to justify sin and to make excuses for your behavior.

The World’s Voice

The world embraces sinful, selfish values that are opposed to God’s ways. Jesus said of His disciples: “‘ … the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world'” (John 17:14). Christians are to live by a different standard than unbelievers. But if we are careless, we will inadvertently succumb to secular values without even recognizing what has happened. Sometimes we accept the world’s voice because it seems like common sense. For example, society recognizes career promotions, fame, wealth and material possessions as marks of success. God measures our success by our obedience (see Matt. 6:19-20).

The world admires those who fight for their rights and don’t get pushed around. Jesus emphasizes loving our enemies, not overpowering them (see Matt. 5:38-41). He urges us to surrender our rights, not cling to them. Our generation expends great effort to avoid suffering. Jesus said His disciples would suffer as He had (see John 15:20).

The world elevates physical beauty to the point of idolatry. The Bible says those who share the gospel with others are beautiful (see Rom. 10:15).

The world says be strong and finish first. Jesus said be meek and the last will be first (see Matt. 5:5; 20:16).

The world says God helps those who help themselves. Jesus said, without God, we can do nothing (see John 15:5).

The world says look to our strengths. God wants to magnify Himself through our weaknesses (see 2 Cor. 12:9-10).

The world concedes that everyone has enemies. Jesus instructs us to set everything aside and to be reconciled with anyone we have offended (see Matt. 5:23-24).

As Christians, we recoil at blatantly sinful practices such as sexual immorality and crime. But we are far too casual about the subtle, ungodly messages that saturate the world we live in. We deceive ourselves to think we can fill our minds with ungodly movies, TV programs and magazines and yet remain untainted by the world’s viewpoint.

We are fools to think we can walk unscathed in the middle of a sinful world without clear direction from our Shepherd’s voice.

Our Own Voice

One of the most harmful voices we hear is, in fact, our own. If we really crave something, it’s easy to convince ourselves God wants us to have it too. After all, it’s the desire of our hearts! (see Ps. 37:4)

When a commitment becomes more costly than we anticipated, we conclude that God wants us to free ourselves from our burdens. After all, we are weak and heavy-laden! (see Matt. 11:28)

Modern Christians are rationalizing themselves right out of their marriages. They argue that God never wanted them in that marriage in the first place and now He is “releasing them from their errors.”

If some people are to be believed, God changes His mind at a dizzying pace. He tells them to take the “perfect job,” then quit it a month later for a better one! He directs them to enroll in college, then determines they can’t bear the workload, and He leads them to drop out. He calls them into ministry, then decides a less demanding occupation would suit them better.

Christians can be tempted to view God as someone who sees life the way they do. They try to fashion God into their image rather than listening to what He is saying.

One of the most common practices of well-meaning but misguided Christians involves the idea of open doors. Of course God does open some doors to us and close others. But we err in our focus. The door is not the important thing; God’s voice is.

For example, if a door of opportunity opens, such as an attractive job offer, some conclude that it must be an invitation from God. If a promotion, transfer, leadership position or even a marriage proposal presents itself, some assume God must be behind it. They will pray, “Lord, close the door if this isn’t Your will!”

The truth is that not every open or closed door is a sign from God. The Word bears this out. Sometimes an open door leads to disaster and God does not close it. Read about Adam and Eve or David. Each of them paid a steep price for walking through a “door of opportunity.”

Likewise, if a door appears tightly shut, it doesn’t mean God does not want you to proceed. Consider the Israelites at the edge of the Promised Land. We need to take our focus off the doors and put it back on God. We need to be experts at recognizing God’s voice, not watching for open doors.

It can be easier to enter an open door than to develop a relationship with God. Some Christians seize whatever opportunities come along and wonder why God doesn’t bless their choices. It is far wiser to listen to God.

Hearing God’s Voice

There is no easy formula for recognizing God’s voice. The key is the relationship. If you are married, think back to when you first married your wife. You loved her but you probably didn’t know her very well.

But through the years, as you shared hardships and successes, you learned to understand each other. In the early days of your marriage, you probably missed many cues she sent your way–her tone of voice, her expression, her silence, her nervous manner. All of these clues might have been shouting volumes, but you missed them!

In time, though, your relationship with each other deepened. Now you know what every tone of voice means! Now you recognize the signs that she is hurt or frustrated. Now a sideways glance or a raised eyebrow tells you exactly what she is thinking.

All good relationships require both quality and quantity time. Your relationship with God is no different. Casual, careless time spent with God will produce a shallow Christian life. However, investing the effort to walk closely with God will lead to a deep and satisfying relationship.

How do you cultivate an intimate walk with God?

The first step is obvious: spend time in His Word. You have at your fingertips the sacred record of how God has related to people throughout history. Read your Bible! Study it! Memorize it! Meditate on it by prayerfully pondering a scripture passage until God clarifies its meaning and applies it to your life. The best way to safeguard yourself from Satan’s lies, the world’s temptations or your own faulty logic is with God’s revealed truth.

The second thing is as obvious as the first–pray. There is a world of difference, however, between saying prayers and communing with God.

Don’t be satisfied with surface praying. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you talk with God at a deep level. Learn to listen when you pray. After all, prayer is meant to be a conversation, not a monologue.

Keep in mind that what God has to say is infinitely more important than what you have to say–and He already knows what you are going to say anyway. Yes, He wants to hear your heart cry, but His voice is your life. Listen for it and pay attention to what you hear.

Third, learn to recognize God’s activity in your circumstances. He often speaks to us through the ordinary day’s events, while we are driving or eating, but we tend to miss His message.

Recently, my 18-year-old son, Mike, discovered he has diabetes. I was shocked! As I sat next to his hospital bed seeking to comfort him, he excitedly shared with me all the ways God had been preparing him for that fateful announcement.

He told me God had been gently getting him ready all that week. He exclaimed, “Isn’t it cool the way God works!” Certainly my son heard a plethora of voices during that tumultuous time, but I am so grateful he has learned to recognize God’s voice in the midst of the commotion. In a moment of crisis, it made the difference.

The fourth way He guides us is through fellow believers. Wise Christians don’t isolate themselves.

They trust God to speak to them through others. Tragically, some people have reacted in anger when God used a fellow church member to communicate His truth. I have seen men weep as they confessed that God spoke to them through their wives, but they refused to listen.

It is critical to develop meaningful relationships with other believers so we can hear what God is saying through them.

God has been speaking. He wants you to listen. Take time this week to pay close attention. You may be amazed at what you hear!