My journey of healing includes 12 steps…


But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:8 and 11


My dad was a drinker.

A violent alcoholic born into a line of violent alcoholics where one more drink intoxicated to the third and fourth generations.

And it wasn’t only the ones that picked up the bottle themselves.

It’s the ones like me who can look good on the outside, but inside there’s a thousand inebriated pieces piercing my heart.

I grew up with fear as my constant companion and lots of screaming and cursing and running out of the house to get away from all the craziness. And I grew up a bit twisted, and it can be a journey of 12 steps for many miles.


Jesus saved me. Jesus heals me. And thank you, Jesus, I don’t know where I would be today without You, my precious Lord.

But please, dear Christian, don’t just hand me a scripture verse when I say that I am struggling.

Allow that God may work differently in me than He does in you. And that He is a big God who has it all under His control.

Please don’t tell me “just forget the past” and everything will be fine.

Yes, there is a time to forget, for God tells us He makes all things new.

There is also a time to remember. And in remembering comes releasing and moving on, unhindered by the ghosts of the past.


To be fair, perhaps only someone who grew up with the chaos and dysfunction of an alcoholic or mentally ill, abusive or extremely controlling parent gets it.

For me healing has come in many ways: private prayer times, and during sermons; Christian counseling sessions and the practice of journaling.

It arises from Sola scriptura or a Christian self-help book.

And it also comes during a solitary walk in the woods or from listening to an evocative piece of music.

And I am not ashamed to say that I have also received healing from a 12 step program for Adult Children.

Someone recently told me that the Red Book, the Adult Children of Alcoholics fellowship book, is untrue.

I did not feel the need to reply for I know the Truth.

I also know the truth I lived as a child and how it has affected me into adulthood. I see my story printed in Red Book testimonials and realize that I am not alone. And I am not insane, even if my childhood was.

Reading someone else’s story helps me unravel my own and in so doing, let it go. I may not agree with every word in the Red Book, but by God’s grace and direction I can take what I need and discard what I don’t.

I know that I am a child of God, set free eternally. And I am secure in this.

But I’m also an adult child of an alcoholic who sometimes struggles with my past.  

Dysfunctional patterns of thought and behaviors that arise from that kind of childhood can trip me up in the present day.

Yet I am not blaming my past for any choice to sin in the present. Rather, this realization is an opportunity to grow more Christ-like.

I share my story because maybe your dad drank, too, or your mom was mentally ill and emotionally unavailable or maybe your uncle sexually abused you or there was some other awful messy secret in your family home.

Reading my words may perhaps shed light and help you take a further step on your own healing path.


And didn’t Jesus heal in varied and unique ways, as different as the one-of-a-kind people He was making whole?

In many instances, God called the person seeking healing to do something that may have seemed unusual like Naaman washing in a dirty river.

Earlier this year during prayer, God whispered in my ear to Google the characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics.

And when I did I saw a number of my own struggles clearly listed. So I found a local group that’s a good fit.

Sitting round the table in a safe and confidential venue and sharing my story with fellow sojourners who want to improve their adult lives and relationship with God and others, is an incredibly healing process the simplicity of which can almost be confounding.

And as the candles on the table cast flickering shadows, the stories in the group help chase away the shadows of my soul.

Like working out my sanctification in fear and trembling, I walk out my healing by doing that which can be a little uncomfortable or unfamiliar at first but is the very thing that Abba, our Great Physician, prescribes for me.

There is love and acceptance in this group where no one tries to fix me, blame me, shame me or tell me to get over it already.

When it is my turn to listen, my heart is touched through recognition, expanded upon through community and healed by stories, many of which are worse than my own.

I feel the Lord with me in the rooms.

And my heart, holding hard to hurts from a long time ago, softens as it realizes that the behaviors I adopted as a method of survival don’t serve me well anymore. As an adult they have caused problems in past marriages that failed. And can even create a rumble in my good marriage today.

And as I listen and learn, I let go of control.

God sobers my heart and makes it more mature, and I am better able to follow Him more closely with increasing acceptance, patience, and grace for myself and others. Not for one moment do I forget that my healing is from Him.

With just enough light for the next step, I follow the 12 steps for a season as God directs and He holds my hand along the way.

The God Man of the gospels that hung on a cross and bled out empty makes it possible for me to be filled with love’s freedom.

The One who was divinity and humanity left the tomb empty as a symbol of the fullness of His eternal power and love.

And this love of His intoxicates me with healing and joy as I journey to wholeness for a thousand generations to come…


Adult Children of Alcoholics

With praise to God, ten years before my dad — deeply wounded in his youth — died he quit drinking cold turkey and became a much kinder, gentler person and a blessing and great help to me and my boys. God’s grace allowed for me to forgive him and I love him. I share the story of the secret I grew up with so that others may find healing from their darkness. Thank you.

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14 thoughts on “My journey of healing includes 12 steps…

  1. Each one us is led to wholeness by the Father’s hand and each journey is specifically designed and laid out for maximum healing. It is so kind of Father God to not only know us but to know the path we need to walk down for that healing to take root. Thanks for courageously sharing your heart with us!

  2. I’m so glad you’ve shared about this, Sheila. There are many like you and I who grew up in dysfunctional families who need to do a 12 step approach to find healing. My dad wasn’t an alcoholic but a workaholic who grew up with a father who was physically abusive along with many other vices. My mom was that “controlling parent” you referred to. So I worked through a program to deal with my codependency issues and wounds as well. Mine wasn’t a 12 step but a 10 step through the book, Love is a Choice. Anyway, it really helped to set me on a healing path with Christ being my ultimate Healer and Helper. Thanks for your honesty and challenge to those who’ve been deeply wounded, my friend! And thanks for encouraging Heather, my MM team member today in the comments at my place. Hugs to you!

    • Beth…we are sisters from a different mother but the same FATHER!! And it is so good to connect with someone “who gets it.” Thanks so much for being such an encouragement to me. I am with you…HE IS OUR ULTIMATE HEALER. My pleasure to comment on Heather’s post. And HUGS back to you 🙂

  3. Dear Sheila
    The ways of our Pappa God is not to be boxed up in neat little rules, Sheila! You do what you need to, my friend. If your conscience doesn’t convict you, you are doing nothing wrong! When well-meaning people tell you this, that or the other just thank them and move on, dear one! Go look in your husband eyes that burn with love (and something more!!) for you!
    Much love XX

  4. Thank you for sharing your heart. Your words that you know truth – God – were very powerful. I also know that God is a healer and a comforter and He is ready to wrap His arms around us with His loving embrace.

  5. Hi Sheila, Thanks so much for visiting me. My goodness our stories are very, very much alike. Our experience is so similar, you could be my sister. But, our healing process will be vastly different, varied and unique ways as you said, hand-picked individually for us by the only One who knows us totally inside and out. I’m so thrilled to hear that you had the time together with your father before he passed away. I didn’t have that, but I’m okay with it now. Father has done years of work in me, and continues. Wrapped with you in the Great Physician!

    • And it does indeed take years and years of Him working on us, patiently, tenderly, one day at a time, before we really start looking like Jesus and loving the way He does. He works it all for good. And how good of Him, Betty Jo, to allow our paths to cross — sisters from other mothers, but the same Father. Far apart yet close in heart due to shared pain and a shared Lord. All I can say is GLORY to HIM! Thanks for visiting back. Hope we see more of each other around the blogosphere. Blessings…

  6. Thanks so much Sheila for sharing your heart here. Your words are so heartfelt and we need to hear them. As I read your words I was reminded of the verse in Luke 17:14 where it says that the 10 lepers were healed “as they went on their way.” The first time this phrase caught my attention I was struck by the fact that Jesus spoke healing into them, but they weren’t whole in that moment. They were cleansed after they left him and went on their way. You are on a journey to complete healing. You are being healed as you go on your way in obedience to the word God has given you. So glad I stopped by here today!

    • Thank you, Stephani, for such sweet words of encouragement. God is so
      good and faithful and His healing grace I believe will work in us all
      the way till the end…which will really be our new beginning! Blessings
      to you this weekend…I was just at your blog and my heart goes out to you…

  7. Beautiful post, Sheila. Thanks for making yourself vulnerable to share your heart with us. I’m glad you stopped in over at my blog Doorkeeper. Blessings!