2017, Vol 6, Num 6 - Nov/Dec


A Friend in Need

It is easy to think of ourselves as better than others. This is particularly true when we disagree with their beliefs. While there may indeed be a problem with government, school and church leadership, it is important to remember that our leaders are human and prone to much of the obsessive thinking and harmful compulsive behaviors as us.

We can learn much from church history and in particular the life and work of Martin Luther. Five hundred years ago this past October, he nailed the 95 Theses to a door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. This began a reformation in the Christian Church that continues to provide a positive influence and impact in the church, and in particular our Seventh-day Adventist Church today.

Luther certainly could be proud of all he accomplished as a pastor, theologian, composer, Bible translator and reformer. However, he recognized that much of his thinking and behavior was centered on self. He got it right when he wrote: “I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.” I believe this statement could apply to all of us.

Remember, the problems that may exist in our churches, not only negatively affect the members (such as us), they also affect the ability of the church to provide a positive witness and to effectively share the good news of Jesus’ love, acceptance and forgiveness. In short, evangelism is curtailed.

The Journey to Wholeness and other 12 Step recovery groups can and will help us become mature, loving and lovable Christians. This will benefit our lives and the churches where we worship and work together for Jesus Christ.

Ray Nelson, MDiv, MSPH

12 STEPS to Recovery —  STEP #11
The Journey to Wholeness is basically a daily journey of living the Christian life, emulating in our life, with the power of the Holy Spirit, the character of Jesus. Each day we must admit that our lives are unmanageable and that by faith in the power of Jesus we can be changed.

Christ changes the heart. He abides in your heart by faith. You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continued surrender of your will to Him, and so long as you do this, He will work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Steps to Christ, p. 61.

Consecrate yourself to God in the morning, make this your very first work. Let your prayer be ‘Take me, O Lord, as wholly thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.’ This is a daily matter. Each day consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ. Steps to Christ, p. 68.

When the 11th Step is practiced on a regular basis in our lives it strengthens and protects our sobriety and brings rewards in several areas such as: (a) the ability to dissolve misunderstandings; (b) freedom from the fear of being found out; (c) freedom from guilt; and (d) the ability to help others.

As we live each day of our Journey to Wholeness endeavoring to walk with the power of God we must remember that we can ask for strength and wisdom from God who is a “very present help” (Psalm 46:1). God is ready to assist us with this Step as we seek “through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him;” so that we deal with things promptly that have resulted in big problems in the past. And most important of all, we can boldly come to the throne of grace admitting our faults, failures and shortcomings to God and then ask as David prayed after his great sin “Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. It is a joyous and wonderful thing to be able to end each day knowing that we have received a “knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Harlene Smith


Generally, when a person thinks about addiction they think about alcohol or drug use. These were not my drugs of choice. Instead it was video games. I know that perhaps as you are reading this you might say that video games aren’t a real addiction. You may think that, but for me it is real.

When I was around eight years old I was introduced to video games. My siblings had gotten a Nintendo game emulator on my family’s home computer. And we proceeded to play. It seemed like a harmless past time that was fun, constructive, and a ‘learning experience.’ I enjoyed playing the games that we had at the time. However, just a year later I ended up being sexually molested.

I didn’t really know where to turn to assuage the pain in my heart. So, I turned to the one source that I knew had given me pleasure in my life before: video games. This lead to years of playing video games. At first, I thought that I could manage how much I played online. And at first, I could. Later, the addiction controlled me. I would spend countless hours playing video games. Even until three or four in the morning even if I had to work the next day. This addiction became so serious I lost my job, I lost my home. I almost lost everything.

Prior to this I had known God. But I hadn’t connected with Him on a personal level. I had tried by this point to quit gaming, but I never could. I didn’t have the power in myself to give it up. Then I heard a series of sermons. One of which changed my life. It was about asking God for a miracle in one’s life. I hung onto that hope and began asking God for a miracle. He gave me one. I was led to attend a Journey to Wholeness group where God began to work on me through the people that attended and the sharing that I did. I praise God that that He has put me on the path of recovery from my addiction.

John W.


Besotted Brain Blunders

“All week we’ve been trying to guess how you define ‘bad behaviors,’” said BJ, as she and AJ walked into the office.

“We can’t agree,” AJ said with a wry smile, “but that’s par for the course.”

“Continued disagreements can trigger the stress response,” I said. “And the cortisol released can contribute to weight gain.”

“Truce,” said BJ. “We already agreed to go with your definition.”

“It’s very simple,” I said. “Any behavior that fails to result in positive outcomes.”

“Ouch,” AJ groaned. “By that definition I’d be hard pressed to find a behavior in my life that qualifies as anything but a bad behavior.”

“You did say there was a formula we could use,” said BJ hopefully. “It’s got to be simple, though. Everyone we’ve talked to so far hands us a stack of books or ten URLs for websites, and it’s just all too, too overwhelming.” AJ nodded.

That’s two things they’ve already agreed on today, I thought to myself. Things may be looking up.

“There is a success formula that I’ve used with people who were struggling with related bad behaviors, and I’m glad you’ve already identified some of them because you can only manage what you can label and describe. There are five steps to the success formula,” I said, gesturing toward a chart on the wall pegboard. Two pair of eyes followed my Disneyland Point.

Suddenly AJ let go with a peal of laughter. “My Snails race With Vigor? I had a pet snail when I was a boy!”

“That phrase is just an acronym to help you remember the five steps. BTW, I had a pet snail, too. Creepy.”

“Oh, that’s rich,” said AJ. “Mine was Slime.”

For the next hour we discussed the five steps of the success formula.

Step #1: Mindset - A mental attitude or disposition that predetermines your responses; establishes your direction and gets your brain on board. Everything starts in the brain and it begins with a mindset—yours—if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. Think of your conscious mind as the 15-20% of the iceberg that sticks up out of the water and your subconscious mind as the larger portion submerged below. Your massive subconscious (80% of brain tissue plus your entire body) has an uncanny sense of whether you mean business. If you think you can, the brain mobilizes its considerable resources to help you; if not . . .

FIXED mindset individuals think that who they are carved in stone—when they perceive failure, they feel unlucky, worthless, and often give up. GROWTH mindset: individuals believe that improvement is possible; they learn information, turn it into knowledge, apply it, rehearse, learn from their experience, are aware and vigilant, course-correct as needed—and improve.

“Do you remember the triune brain from last week?” Immediately both made a fist with their left hand and then cupped their right hand over their fist to resemble the drawing posted on the cork board.

The neocortex or 3rd brain layer uses language—silently or aloud—to create internal mental pictures. The 1st and 2nd layers do not use language per se but they can perceive and follow the pictures that are created. Give your brain instructions using short, positive, present-tense words and phrases. These are one-step process and easier for the brain to follow than negatives, a two-step process. In Mindset, author Carol S Dweck, PhD, pointed out that the brain is always eavesdropping on your thoughts. As your brain listens, it learns. Your brain can only do what it thinks it cannot do. If it does not perceive and expect success, it will perceive and expect failure.

Step #2: Self-talk – What you tell yourself and the words you use make all the difference to your success. Talking to yourself in a negative style (‘don’t’) tells your brain that it is expected to reverse the first picture that was created… but to what? Also, the 1st and 2nd layers may miss the ‘don’t’ altogether and just follow the first picture. Dr. Daniel W. Wegner in The White Bear Phenomenon explains that when you say “Don’t think about the white bear,” a working representation of a white bear goes into working memory and you will likely think about it even more often. It’s the difference between “Don’t touch the stove,” and “Keep your hand away from the stove.” Work by Ethan Kross PhD has shown that likely the most effective way to talk to yourself is to use your given name and the pronoun you. Talk to your brain as if it were a separate entity.

“Which is likely to be more effective: AJ, you drink a big glass of water whenever you think you’re hungry OR Don’t think about eating when you feel hungry.”

AJ laughed. “I’m already thinking about eating. I see what you mean.”

“Your brain is a ‘sponge’ —using your ‘given name’ and ‘you’ helps depersonalize things slightly and indicates that you are working with your brain.

Step #3: Rehearsal – Rehearsal can be actual—you do the behavior in real time to start create new brain software (e.g., a life-boat drill) and then practice regularly to strengthen the software.

Rehearsal can also be virtual—you picture yourself doing the behavior in your mind’s eye (e.g., airline safety video) and then replay that on a regular basis to reinforce your actual behavior.

You can even use virtual rehearsal to prepare in advance and enhance the likelihood of success when actual rehearsal is impossible or impractical

Step #4: – Willpower is a function of the prefrontal cortex (directly behind your forehead), believed to be completed by the mid- to late-twenties. Its purpose is to give you energy and perseverance to attain a specific goal. Hopefully you’ve been developing and honing your decision-making and willpower skills since childhood.

Be clear that willpower rarely if ever works well to deprive yourself of something you already do to make yourself feel better, such as trying to end a bad behavior. Willing yourself NOT to do something puts the thing you don’t want to do in working memory and you think about it even more frequently, which tends to increase the behavior.

Consistently exhibit the new behavior for a minimum of twelve weeks—mark it off on a calendar—and by then the behavior is usually firmly in place. Then just keep on keeping on! Eventually the new replacement behavior can become as strong, if not stronger, than the old behavior.

Step #5: Vigilance – Oliver Wendell Holmes said that Awareness is the first step on the continuum of positive change. Train yourself to be mindfully aware of your behaviors, with a goal of preventing or interrupting any that you no longer wish to exhibit. Mindful awareness is the price of success—it is very simple although not always easy.

Remove anything from the environment that could trigger a desire to repeat the old behavior and that could sabotage your new replacement behavior. Keep only what will help you stay on track.

If you trip and fall or slip off your chosen path, get right back on it—not tomorrow or next week, NOW! Course-correct as necessary. Keep your life in balance because every period of exhaustion is followed by a corresponding period of depression. When you are fatigued and sad it is difficult to stay consistent with your new replacement behaviors.

“I’d like a copy of the snail drawing,” said AJ. “We have some housekeeping to do”

“And I want a copy of the poem,” said BJ. “I need to develop a positive mindset and self-talk.

The couple were on their way in more ways than one..

[Editor’s note: This is the Part Two of Dr. Taylor’s two-part series on the addicted brain.
Part One appeared in the September-October
issue of the Journey to Life.

Arlene R. Taylor PhD
Realizations Inc

[Editor’s note: This is the Part One of Dr. Taylor’s two-part series on the addicted brain. Part Two will appear in the November-December issue of the Journey to Life]


Southern Union
The Georgia-Cumberland Conference is planning to develop a Congregation Addiction Recovery Coordination Center Plans include:

➢    Knowledge of Local Recovery Resources
➢    Help people seeking recovery (inform community of availability)
➢    Educational programs on Addictions and Recovery
➢    Provide Recovery Coaches and Sponsors
➢    Recovery Meetings in your Center
➢    Network with GCC congregations to determine needs and share.
➢    Committed pastor and congregation members to the effort.

For more information:  Frank Sanchez, Southern Union Adventist Recovery Ministries Coordinator – email:  gailileo1@yahoo.com, phone: 864-238-8602.


Recovery related news, pictures (protect anonymity of individuals in meetings) and upcoming recovery and awareness events can be sent for future newsletters. Please send these to Ray Nelson, Journey to Life Editor – adventistrecovery@gmail.com and/or Angeline David, Adventist Recovery Ministries Director – health@nadadventist.org.

The year 2017 was significant in remembering the past, particularly in reviewing the history of the Reformation.  And holiday season is often a time to look forward to the future.  In this issue we focus on the need to look internally – to evaluate what is going inside our minds and hearts.

It’s not easy to face yourself, but it’s important to do so.  But equally important is how we do so and what we do with the information. I encourage you to read the chapter titled “The Victorious Life” from the book Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers by Ellen G. White. Here are some key excerpts.

You have had a time of unrest; but Jesus says to you, “Come unto Me, ... and I will give you rest.”…Do not talk of your inefficiency and your defects. When despair would seem to be sweeping over your soul, look to Jesus, saying, He lives to make intercession for me. (p 516)

It is your privilege to trust in the love of Jesus for salvation, in the fullest, surest, noblest manner; to say, He loves me, He receives me; I will trust Him, for He gave His life for me. Nothing so dispels doubt as coming in contact with the character of Christ. (p 517)

You may believe that Jesus is true to you, even though you feel yourself to be the weakest and most unworthy of His children. And as you believe, all your dark, brooding doubts are thrown back upon the archdeceiver who originated them. (p 517)

It would not satisfy the heart of the Infinite One to give those who love His Son a lesser blessing than He gives His Son. (p 518)

God rejoices to bestow grace upon all who hunger and thirst for it, not because we are worthy, but because we are unworthy. Our need is the qualification which gives us the assurance that we shall receive the gift. (p 519)

I pray this time of year gives you great peace, and a renewed hope in the ability of God to fulfill His promises in your heart today.

Angeline B. David, DrPH, MHS, RDN
Health Ministries / ARMin Director
North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists