FamilyHealingRecovery 5 minutes to read

Healthier is the goal. “Health” doesn’t exist on this side of life, other than the health we find in the saving, justifying work of Jesus. We are all on a journey toward healthier or less healthy. 

Some days we trend more toward healthier. We got a good night’s sleep; woke up on time; ate a healthy breakfast; and took time to enjoy the sunshine, music, our family, and more. Other days we wake up late from a poor night’s sleep and try to play catch up all day, procrastinating from dealing with our reality. We have so many different tasks and areas to pay attention to during the day. 

When it comes to trying to get healthier, one of the challenges many of us face is that we have the tendency to put areas of health into categories that don’t touch. How do we approach health, recovery, self-care, in a holistic and interdependent way when, in general, we see it more independently? Being holistic isn’t a bad thing, by the way. Holistic is defined as: characterized by the belief that the parts of something are interconnected and can be explained only by reference to the whole. This sounds a lot like the body of Christ and the Trinity. 

So how do we take all of the independent parts of ourselves and our lives and process them so that we understand them in relation to each other?

Here are some ideas.

First, write down your top five goals for recovery. Remember that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection. Better connection with people and God. Don’t limit the language of your goals to things like “sobriety” or “purity.” What are your relational goals? What are your creative or career goals? Personal goals? All of this is recovery in the sense that you are recovering the life you were intended to live before destructive coping got in the way. 

Second, make a list of all of the things you did, do, or can do for yourself to pursue “healthier.”

Here are some categorical options: spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, financial, and gastronomical. I actually have my clients use these categories when they are filling out the outer circle of the Three Circles exercise. I have them do this so they can come up with an exhaustive list of all the self-care things they can focus on. I want the list to be as long as humanly possible. Just to help make the list even longer, I have them add time frames to the equation: yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, things that take more than an hour, 30 minutes, 5 minutes, and 1 minute. To take it one step further, the items in the outer circle (self-care) can be broken down into two more categories: things that make you feel relaxed, refreshed, and rejuvenated (laying in a hammock) or things that are not fun to do but make you feel better afterward (going to the dentist).

Putting healthier behavior into these categories is helpful when it comes to making an exhaustive list. It helps us to think of things we might otherwise leave off. For example, in the spiritual category many people will identify things like prayer, Bible reading, and worship. But they leave off the list a once-a-year event like a retreat. They will include lifting weights in the physical category but forget to include hydrating every hour. 

Once you’ve completed the list, set it down and come back to it a few days later and add more. The goal isn’t to do all of these things all the time, but to have resources to draw from so that you always have a diversified, holistic, fresh way to go about taking care of yourself. 

Third, come up with your own health cascade. If you’ve ever seen a cascading waterfall, you know that the water makes it from the top of the falls to the bottom, like any other waterfall. The difference though is what it does on the way down. The water falls from the top to a pool or shelf part way down. It collects there until it overflows to the next pool. It continues to do this, each pool feeding into the next, until the water finally reaches the body of water at the bottom. 

The goal, you could say, is to get the water to the bottom. This goal is only accomplished by the movement of the water at the top, cascading its way down to the bottom. The bottom, in this case, represents the five goals you listed in step one. 

Here is what I have discovered. There are certain activities we do that will set in motion a cascade of health, to eventually get us to where we want to be. For example, I have listed in my outer circle four things that seem relatively unconnected and are in separate categories. 

  • Physical: exercise
  • Gastronomical: healthy eating
  • Relational: play with my kids
  • Emotional: be present with my wife

Out of these things, two of them are goals for recovery: play with kids and be present with my wife. Historically, I have spent a lot of time trying to play with my kids and be present with my wife. What I have learned, though, is that all four of these things are connected for me. But I have to do them in a certain order to make it the most effective. If I get things out of order, the cascade doesn’t make it to the bottom. So I allocate energy to doing things at the top of the cascade, which for me starts with exercise. IF I exercise, THEN I will eat better. IF I eat better, THEN I will feel better. IF I feel better physically, THEN I will also feel better emotionally. IF I feel better emotionally, THEN I will be more likely to play with my kids and be present with my wife. 

But if I just try to eat better without exercise, I know I will be less motivated with my food. I also know that I will drink less water and be less hydrated. And, as a result, my brain and muscles will not be functioning at peak performance. It always pays off for me to exercise an appropriate amount, because if I do—exercise, food, energy, emotions, play with kids, be present with my wife—I’m more likely to accomplish my goals. It’s worth it to allocate resources to exercise. 

The last thing worth mentioning in reference to holistic health is that none of the above matters if there are things in your life you are ignoring. None of this healthy behavior can compensate for emotional realities that you are ignoring. You CANNOT self-care away unresolved issues. So if there is something in your life or reality that you are not addressing, most likely because of fear, all of the self-care in the world will not resolve this issue for you. Until you face these things you’ll be putting gold into a bag with holes in it. 

Take courage and face the pain. Then do these steps. It’s worth it.

The views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and do not reflect an official position of Pure Desire Ministries, except where expressly stated.

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Robert Vander Meer

Robert is a Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP), certified through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). Robert and his wife, Rebecca, represented Pure Desire in Latin America for a few years before returning to the United States to join the clinical staff in 2013. He is the Associate Pastor at The Oregon Community and one of the founders of The Oregon Public House.

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