They Say the First Step is to Admit You Have a Problem

They say the first step is to admit you have a problem.  My church has a large recovery ministry and, as a result I have several recovering friends.  You should HEAR the things they have done!  It’s some pretty rotten stuff.  It would make your toenails curl.

Their stories are fascinating but I always felt I just couldn’t relate.  One time, when I really decided to get wild, I smoked a cigarette.  Yep.  My “party days” were actually just that one night I tried that one cigarette.  I can’t relate to those rebels.  My act is clean.

Enter my pride problem stage left.

Hi my name is Emily and I am ridiculously proud and selfish.

If I’m honest, according to me things in my (amazing) life just aren’t quite right.  Ever.  Discontent has plagued me and permeated my whole life.  My life has always been great but I’m too busy tearing holes in the blessings to experience them.  I’m irritated while serving breakfast all the way to bath time when I rush the kids off to bed so I can have some time for “me.”   Now I am not minimizing the fact that parenting small kids is difficult -believe me, if anything I make a much larger deal about it than I need to.  Focusing on my comfort and happiness is a joy-killing habit I’ve cultivated.  Because things weren’t working that well, I started praying for humility several months ago and I have been carrying around a boulder in my stomach since I had the realization that the reason my life is not working is ME.

It was ME before marriage.  It was ME while serving overseas.  It was ME throughout infertility and adoption and it’s ME today with the blessing of an amazing husband and two fantastical children.  I AMRIDICULOUSLY PROUD AND SELFISH.  It’s some pretty rotten stuff.  Make your toenails curl. 

And to make matters worse, I am a smarty pants which means I am adept at either dressing it up pretty so you don’t notice my pride or at least convincing you that my behavior is justified.  In fact, I had convinced myself until recently.

So, here I sit. Ashamed and sickened over my sin of so many years and yet hopeful because I have a Savior who began a good work in me and is carrying it on to completion (Philippians 1:6).  Mostly though, I sit here desperate to not forget this whole mess and return to my selfishness and pride.  It doesn’t look like a bottle or a needle but it is every bit as destructive.

So if you’re as wretched as me, here are just a couple practical thoughts I have gleaned from my dear recovering friends:

  1. Admit you have a problem.  Bring your struggle to the light. For years I have blamed and justified and ignored the sin of my pride and selfishness.  I have a problem with humility.  As in, I ran out of it when I started truly believing I was the bee’s knees.  I am talking about it now and it is freeing.
  2. Take it a day at a time. It’s called dependence.  And I have avoided it for so many years.  Throughout my life I have had untold amounts of disappointment as I promised and recommitted that I would be better. I don’t need anyone’s help, I just need to try harder.  So I pinky-swear to be humble not just for today, but for FOR-E-VER.  Needing to rely on God moment by moment is not what this thick headed woman had in mind but it is His perfect design and I’m starting to enjoy a deepening fellowship with Him as I depend on Him more.

I am still painfully new at admitting I have a problem and walking in close moment-by-moment dependence on God instead of relying on my own ways.  This path is proving difficult but that is because I am using new muscles and forging new habits.  I am hopeful and thankful for where God is bringing me and I want you to be encouraged.  Eph 3:20 tell us “Now all glory to God , who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

How about you? How easy is it to admit you have a problem?

Photo credit by Thangaraj Kumaravel via Flickr 


  1. Beth August 18, 2014

    i have to utterly laugh at God’s timing. 12 years clean and sober. Yep. And today is my belly button bday. Yep. and I tore a huge hole in the blessing. yep.

    there is a saying in our parts of recovery…every thing is ok i just don’t think so. discontentment turns into it is all about me. forget the fact that my wonderful husband took me away for the weekend. forget the fact that my wonderful bonus son is loving. forget…so even after 12 years of sobriety i have to remember it is a one day at a time deal. that i cant do it on my own. i need God to replace my tearing up. i need to realize He is enough.

    and that d word dependence is a scary beautiful, awful thing. i have to be vulnerable and selfless to say i need.

    i need God

    i need you

    i need

    Thank you for this…

    1. Emily Thomas August 18, 2014

      Oh Beth.  Thank you for sharing your story and I am rejoicing with you for 12 years sober!! You are so right that discontentment turns the focus to ourselves and that dependence can be a really scary word.  So thankful for how far He has brought us though and looking forward to His faithful hand in the future!

  2. Whitney Conard August 18, 2014

    I’m reading a book right now that is really speaking to me about this exact issue – Grace For the Good Girl by Emily Freeman – all about how we tend to wear masks and deny our need for God. I too have struggled with arrogance and pride, because my self worth and identity was based on my own good works. Praise God, he is working on me every day on that!

    1. Emily Thomas August 18, 2014

      I love Emily Freeman!  I have wanted to read that book.  Now I know I need to!  Yes.  Praise God He is at work in us.  🙂

  3. Colleen Mitchell August 18, 2014

    So, so good, Emily. Thanks for being so authentic. I feel like I could have written this. I also have recommended read that is still ringing in my head after completing it, Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Love Idol. Really helps you take a good look at the ways you’ve made affirmation, approval and the love of others an idol in your life and how to turn back to God’s love.

    1. Emily Thomas August 18, 2014

      Love that book!! I have written all over it and dog-eared so many pages it looks like I was trying to fold the book into some sort of oragami swan!  So glad you loved it too.  Maybe that would be a good one for a Velvet Ashes book study!

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