01/06/2013: David Burns
Hi my name is David I am a grateful Christian believer who struggles with depression, post traumatic stress disorder and have been in a life long struggle with anger. Most of my life has been a constant struggle with trust, anger, selfishness, and a huge feeling of being weak and powerless. I began my road to recovery on April 21, 1995 my 42nd birthday. On that day I was admitted to the Professionals in Crisis program at Menniger’s Hospital in Topeka, Ks. Here is what my initial exam said about me. Obviously sleepy but cooperative with the examination. Cooperation was in excess of what was expected given his degree of exhaustion. Mood was numb and depressed. Affect was flat and congruent with mood. Thought content totally preoccupied with his work situation. He had both thoughts of killing a co-worker and several suicide plans. Awake but could not called alert. Intelligence clinically estimated at above average. His impulse control was dubious as indicated by his history in the last few days. Current GAF 15, some danger of hurting himself or others.
That was where I was at the day I began to work on my recovery. The time between then and now has not always been easy. However I have had 2 things working very much in my favor. Number 1 the grace of our loving God Romans 5:17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Number 2 Seven years ago I was introduced to Celebrate Recovery ministry.
So how did I get there and where have I gone since that day in 1995. I was born in southern Kansas to the typical middle class dysfunctional family. My Father worked for the railroad and my Mother worked in the food service business. I have no doubt that my parents were the very best parents they knew how to be in the first 14 years of my life. I learned early in life that a quick temper will get you some attention, I also found out that it was not always negative attention as my bouts of anger were often laughed at by adults who thought it was somewhat cute. This only served to reinforce to me that it was okay. I also learned early in life that the best way to stay out of trouble was to keep things to yourself share them with no one and trust nobody. I have memories of my mother talking about me being a mistake as she had been told not to have any more children. I can still today feel how hearing here say that made me feel. I don’t believe today that she meant it the way that I took it but the damage was done and I felt unwanted and unneeded. At age 9 I was called to front of my school room by my teacher and given swats for being dumb. That was a real esteem builder for someone who already felt like an accident and had a very quick temper. Today I can remember both the shame and rage that I felt at that time. But as I said earlier I learned not to share things and nobody in my family up ever knew what happened in that class room. At age 11 I got my first job working for a whopping 65 cents per hour. This very quickly became my way of getting away from all things painful and I worked many more hours than a young person should and quickly became a co-dependent workaholic. Exodus 20:3 You shall have not other gods before me. I was devoted to work and to the money I made and felt quite pleased with the positive reinforcement I got from doing a good job. It would be many years before I got over this. At age 12 I was sexually molested by a person I was supposed to be doing some work for and at age 13 was taken to a strange town by a family friend and sexually abused. I met up with my parents the next day and never told them one word about it. Until age 42 only 2 people in my life knew about it and it was years before I told them. ..Again the anger and shame were just filed away and never dealt with. In Nov. 1967 my brother who was a senior in high school got married because he had gotten a young lady pregnant. Remember this was 1967 not 2011 the shame that I felt because of this was much like I felt when called to the front of the class at age 9 to get swats for being dumb. Again all these thoughts were filed away in my head and never dealt with.
Dec. 23, 1967 I was 14 years old and my father passed away suddenly. Two days later on Christmas day I went to work because that is where I was most comfortable and was very co-dependent upon my job. Shortly after Dad passed away I began to figure out that my mother had a problem with alcohol and that I was pretty much going to be responsible for myself and my actions. Luckily my parents had raised a highly responsible kid who had a desire to do what was right (even though I didn’t much of the time) and wanted to grow up to be a cop. I was now angry at the world and ready to go over around or thru anybody or anything that got in my way. I became a master of using intimidation to get what I wanted. This got me all the way to last half of my junior year of high school. I was on the verge of flunking out, I did not care about anything or anyone and then by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ he placed an obstacle in my way. A young lady who actually cared for me and about me. It felt so good to know someone cared. I went from flunking out to ending my senior year on the straight A honor roll. This relationship ended when she went away to college. She happened to be a good friend of the lady who is now the love of my life and told Teresa to watch out for me. By the grace of God Teresa has been looking out for ever since. God does have a sense of humor though to this day Teresa and I are still good friends of her and her husband. (my kids still can’t figure that one out) I will be forever grateful to her for the sense of belonging she gave to me.
After 2 years of college I was madly in love with Teresa and certainly considered her to be the light of my life as well as my cure to never being lonely again. We were engaged to be married I was thrilled and looking back even though she loved me Teresa was scared to death. I know now that was due to do with my anger and the huge chip on my shoulder thinking the world owed me something and the fact that I was not the one her parents would have picked for her. But it was all about me and I was going to make it work. I was certain that I could change her to be exactly what I wanted. James 3;15 (listen carefully) Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual of the devil. Obviously this thought did not come from a very good source. Psalms 31:17 sums Teresa up pretty well “She sets about her work vigorously her arms are strong for her tasks” Well she did set about being a great companion, wife and mother quite vigorously but she was way too strong to change into something she did not want be just because I wanted her to. To this day the only one capable of changing her is herself through the grace and power of God.
Teresa and I made the wisest decision of our lives in 1983 when we decided to make Jesus the Lord of our lives and made public our decisions. This was and is the foundation of our lives today. Christ has been molding me and changing me ever since and now I would like to share with you how, when and why some of those changes have come about. To give a quick rundown of the years between 1983 and 1994. In the fall of 1983 I began dealing with my mother and her full blown alcoholism, in 1986 we moved to the Kansas City area and began what was probably the best 6 ½ years of our lives. A wonderful church home and lots of great friends also an extremely stressful job. In 1992 I accepted a job promotion on the railroad and we moved to Chicago I of course did this without consulting my family. Bad decision really bad decision. Luckily we were in Chicago for only 2 ½ years and returned to Kansas specifically Topeka. During this time I was still the angry, self-absorbed person that I had been all of my life. When we came to Topeka I was just sure that everything would be just wonderful. We were back in Kansas where we wanted to be and I had the job on the railroad that I had always wanted. The main problem was that I was still the angry workaholic self absorbed person that I had been for years. However this is when my past really began to haunt me. I found myself working for a man we fondly referred to as the human hand grenade. He brought out in me every bad feeling that I had ever dealt with shame, anger, lack of self-esteem, and I found myself working 100 – 120 hour weeks and growing more and more angry every day. I know now that I began to see in this man the perpetrator who had wounded me at age 13 and I was not handling it well. Something had to happen and it did. I have never shared publically what I did but God has told me to share it so I must. I loaded a gun into my company car and after a screaming match with my wife I set out to go to work with the goal of confronting this man before the day was over and putting an end to his life. I must also share with you that today I have no idea where this man is nor do I care. I certainly would have lost my job and probably spent the rest of my life in a prison. But God is good and once again I was blessed with a large amount of God’s grace a wonderful wife and a really good friend who all played a part and I ended up at Menninger’s hospital in the Professionals in Crisis program. I really did have a crisis and God sent me just what I needed. A fine wonderful Christian psychiatrist and caregivers who really made me feel as if someone did care and I was not the only one in the world dealing with these types of problems. Many hours, days and years of therapy and treatment and I was doing much better and was at least able to function in life. In 2005 over a period of about 6 months my friend Phil Baker continually invited me to Celebrate Recovery and finally my desire to get better finally got stronger then my denial and I attended my first CR meeting in May of 2005. Hebrews 12:1 Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us. First of all I finally began to realize that God has a particular and unique plan for me. Second I finally was becoming ready to rid myself of all the unnecessary baggage and failures in my life. I was just not sure that I could get rid of the bitterness, the anger, the desperation, loneliness, selfishness, and hurts that I was holding on to. But you know what I was wrong I could and I did. My higher power Jesus Christ went to the cross so that I could. He has forgiven me over and over again why should I not be able to forgive. Isaiah 43:18 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. That does not mean ignore it but learn from it by offering forgiveness, making amends, and releasing them I can be free from guilt, grudges and grief. Was it easy? No it was not and bear in mind that I am still a work in progress but God is not interested in how I started but in how I finish.
I got into the very first step study and immediately tangled with Principle 1 Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. You see I thought powerless is what I was when a monster took advantage of me at age 13, or when the human hand grenade was yelling screaming and cussing at me. It never dawned on me that I was powerless to change or do anything without turning my life over to God. Matthew 19:26 says that “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” I had been a Christian for a long time why did it take so long to understand how to change. I don’t really know I guess you just have to ready.
I do know that once I understood this. A lot of long overdue forgiveness needed to take place in my life. I have learned that the inability to accept or offer forgiveness can block, stall, or even destroy my recovery. I had buried my wounds and my pain for years Jeremiah 6:14 “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there.” Believe me I tried for many years to bury the pain and shame that I felt from the abuse I had endured in my life. 1Peter 5:10“After you have borne these suffering a very little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to share in his eternal splendor through Christ, will himself make you whole and secure and strong.” Today I no longer feel the physical and emotional pain placed upon me by my perpetrator because he no longer has power over me because I have forgiven him. My mother, the human hand grenade, the 4thgrade teacher and others no longer have power over me because I have forgiven them and most importantly I have forgiven myself. The darkness of my past no longer haunts me. Isaiah 1:18-19 “come let’s talk this over! Says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool! If you will only let me help you.” Forgiveness does not change the past but it sure does change the future.
Sounds like the end of story but not hardly I still had much to learn and more crud to deal with in my life. As I said earlier I have dealt with anger issues all of my life. I grew up with a huge chip on my shoulder angry at what had happened to me at age 13 and extremely angry that my father has passed away at a young age. What I did not know is that anger had appropriate ways of being dealt with and I was about to learn a lot about how to do that. Have I ever mentioned to you that I am married to the most incredible woman in the world and since the day we decided to become one I simply cannot imagine how life would be without her. In the past to even think about losing her would cause great feelings of desperation in me. A few years ago she and I got into an argument and she told me that she was leaving and picked up her purse. The feeling of desperation kicked in and as she walked to the car in the garage I grabbed her purse strap which caused her to turn into the mirror on the side of the car causing her injury. I felt terrible but of course I was still angry and she was really angry and certainly was not up to an apology at that time and to be honest I was not up to providing one at that moment. Word got back to the leaders here at Cr and a couple of days later I got a call from John Zobel asking me to come by his office at a certain time. He of course was not telling me why. I had a pretty good idea. When I got to his office the next day there sit John and Phil Baker who were prepared to confront me about what happened. I must tell you that they did this in a very loving a spiritual way. Galatians 6:1 “Brothers if someone is caught in a sin you who are spiritual should restore him gently, but watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. I am glad that both John and Phil are spiritual men as I am sure that at times during the meeting that they both would have liked to rip my head off but thankfully they were able to resist the temptation to do so. For me it was both a terrible meeting and a wonderful meeting. I was in no way wanting to attend this meeting but I knew what they wanted and I knew that it was my duty to face up to what I had done. After I spent some time with them being really angry and ugly something positive began to come out of the meeting. First of all they understood that I had not injured my wife intentionally and secondly they both realized the desperation and anger that I still dealt with even though I denied it. John came up with the suggestion that he and I spend some time going through the Anger Workbook by Minreth and Myers . Well I spent a lot of time in that book and John spent a lot of time listening to me talk about the things I was learning and understanding about myself and my anger. The time spent in the workbook and with John made a huge difference in my life.
In Jan. of 2008 I changed jobs and began a 2 ½ year time period that I was gone from home a lot. My attendance at Celebrate recovery was almost not at all and I pretty much just stopped attending church altogether. I told myself and others that I would be fine that I was strong and all would work out. It pretty much did for a couple of years and then Teresa began telling me that I really needed to get back to CR on a regular basis and we both agreed that attendance at church on Sundays was also something that we needed return to. Of course doing something about it and doing it are two very different things. So what happened? God is in control and in June of 2010 I was fired from a job that I thought I was pretty good at and suddenly I no longer felt I was in control of anything. Teresa was mad at me wondering how the bills would be paid and would we have to move to the mission. I just did what I do best. I retreated and isolated myself wanting to see no one and talk with no one. That worked for a couple of days I was feeling sorry for myself and enjoying every minute of it. Teresa had informed me in her infinite wisdom that since I had time on my hands I could teach the lesson for her Friday night at CR since she doesn’t really enjoy doing it. I didn’t want to either but I was wise enough not say no. Finally on Wed. I got the Lesson Book out and looked at the lesson. It was lesson No. 2 POWERLESS. Oh boy this was going to be good. God really does have a sense of humor. I decided that the first thing I should do is pray. It was during that prayer that I knew that all was going to be fine and that God was in control of my life. When I arrived at Cr Friday night I knew just 2 things. First of all I was going to use the powerless acrostic in the lesson as that is required by the DNA of Celebrate Recovery and secondly every other word out of my mouth was coming from God because I really had no clue what I was going to say even though I had spent several hours studying for the lesson. I shared that night that I am truly powerless without the love God in my life and I have to be willing to accept his gift of grace which he freely gives. I know I shared that I had no job and no prospects of a job but I simply was not worrying about it. I knew that I would find a job and it would be a job that would allow me the time and freedom to be active in Celebrate Recovery and to attend worship services on Sunday morning. Little did I know what was in store for me. Teresa and I attended a new church that next Sunday morning and found a place to worship. I was without a job for a total of 29 days. Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
After reaching the point that I finally knew and understood that I was powerless to control things by myself Romans 7:18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. God began to show me once again what was in store for me. Aug. 17 2010 I was talking to my best friend Phil Baker on the phone when he suffered a stroke. Phil was not only my best friend, accountability partner, mentor, confidant, and the person that knew me well enough to know I needed Celebrate Recovery and invited me to come. I was devastated my relationship with my friend as I knew him at that time was forever changed. I quickly realized that what God had been preparing me for years was about to come to fruition. God had provided the energy, the time and the resources for me to be in a position to step up and do whatever I could to keep this ministry at First Southern going. It was not a job that I could begin to do myself but in pooling resources knowledge and time and energy with others this ministry today is alive and well. I take none of the credit it is simply what God had prepared me to do and also what he expected me to do. The gratitude that I have for this ministry is difficult for me to put into words. But Isaiah 66:9 sums it up well I will not cause pain without something new to be born. I would like to share some of those new things with you that have been born since April 21, 1995.
God showed me forgiveness and has taught me how to forgive.
I am a much better father and husband then I was then.
I am not God he is much bigger then I am.
I was unable to control my own life and have learned to quit trying to control others.
God shows me how to grow spiritually and emotionally each day.
I fail each and every day and am willing to admit it.
I try to start each day with an attitude of gratitude and maintain it throughout the day
I have always believed that God exists Now I know that I matter to him and he and only he has the power to help me recover
It is my job to share the good news of Christ Jesus and Celebrate Recovery with others
Thanks to each of you for helping me to let God’s light shine on my pain and melt my old hurts habits and hang-ups so that I can recycle them and use them in a positive way. Galatians 6:1 says “If a Christian is overcome by some sin.... humbly help him back onto the right path, remembering that the next time it might be one of you who is in the wrong. Share each other’s troubles and problems, and so obey our Lords command. I would like thank each of you for being willing to always help me back onto the right path. A special debt of gratitude to those men who participated in that very first step study with me Phil, Tom, Mike, Darrel, and Darren I know I tried your patience at times. Thanks to John and Jim who are always willing to listen to me. Thanks to my lovely wife who has allowed God to do what I never could and that is change you in some wonderful powerful ways. And to my Lord and Savior I pray that I will someday enter your gates with thanksgiving in my heart.
Thank You for allowing me to share a part of my story!