Every zombie movie is the same. The majority of the movie is spent building suspense as the protagonist futilely runs from the zombies. The hero hides in the barn, hides in the abandoned building, runs into the woods, maybe even sets a few weak traps to try and slow the zombies down. The hero might buy some time, some minutes or hours, but eventually the zombies, with their relentless pace catch up. The hero must come to the realization that running and even fighting isn't enough. To kill zombies, it is a no holds barred, bring the biggest, baddest guns you got, and go for total annihilation. Kill or die trying.
So many times we treat our addiction like zombie movies. We think that if we just out pace it, we’ll be fine. We tell ourselves that this will be the last time. If we are just more committed to a routine. If we just spend more time in groups. If we just pray with more faith. We fall for the lie, again and again, that if we just change something external, we will finally be free. We change jobs, change workout routines, change cities, change spouses thinking one of those things will allow us to put the past behind us. And it might work for a few weeks or years…but our addiction, with its relentless zombie pace, always catches up.
It isn’t until we come face to face with our old self, our zombie self, that we are able to finally begin the work of killing it. We leave nothing hidden. We must be ruthless and relentless. Any hint of immorality, any hint of withholding and hiding, any hint of shame and we allow the zombie to live on. To kill our zombie, we must go nuclear on it—facing its deadly effects on each and every aspect of life. How does my zombie impact my view of myself? How does it impact friendships? What about my faith? My career? My parenting? My everything? Our zombie self brings its death to each part of our person. To change a few behaviors or end a few friendships is not going to be enough. Everything about us must die.
Okay, here are some of the big guns you need to face and kill your zombie:
Journal. Go ahead, roll your eyes. Many of the guys I work with have a hard time journaling. They treat their journals more like Kirk’s Captain’s log, “Stardate, August 28, 2020. Today, I encountered a hostile wife as I attempted to boldly go where I never have before. I feel like she is angry, but I am doing okay. I also ate pizza…” (note: he did not actually talk about any genuine feelings). Effective journaling is not merely logging the days activities and your behavioral reactions to them. Effective journaling reviews the day, evaluating deep emotions. It also looks to reactions and behavioral patterns that might be a symptom of something deeper. Effective journaling looks at the distant past to see where those reactions, behaviors, and mindsets first took seed. Once the patterns and the roots are discovered, effective journaling charts a course forward so that you engage life differently; no longer succumbing to zombie thoughts, behaviors, or reactions.
Connection. Most recovery programs might call this accountability. But can we please be real about this? Much accountability, particularly Christian accountability, is weak sauce. Many guy groups are a bunch of guys that show up, drink some coffee, confess what they did, pat each other on the back for being honest, then go from the meeting only to act out again…rinse/repeat. These types of gatherings are akin to the “Let’s all gather in the abandoned warehouse” in the zombie movies. In essence, it makes it even easier for zombies to catch us. Gathering and cowering together is no more safe, and maybe even less safe, than hiding all by yourself. Don’t get me wrong, connections with other men are essential. But the kind of group you choose and connect with is really important. More often than not, you’ll have to create your own group. Men you select must build into you. Choose men you believe will not settle for anything less than total annihilation of zombies. They ask about deep questions. They allow uncomfortable silence. They cry with you. They embrace you. They call you out. They won’t tolerate you phoning it in, because their survival depends on you showing up, and vice versa. You are stronger together, so long as you have the same objective and commitment.
Coaching. A shameless plug or perhaps a simple fact. You need outside help. Listen, if you’ve discovered Redemptive Living, if you’ve read enough of the content to find this blog, if you’re read to this point…this means you have been searching for a while to find something that will help. You have tried to do it by yourself. You’ve tried to read a book or go to a church group. You may have even done counseling and marriage counseling only to fall again. The right type of help makes a huge difference. You need a professional who has been there before, someone who believes in you, your marriage, and has hope during dark time of life. A skilled coach will show you intense care and compassion, while also confronting you. Coaches continually push you to become your best self. Coaches can guide you in the depth of work you must do to find the underpinnings of your acting out. Coaches help set a path forward, not just for recovery but for a powerful new trajectory of the whole of life.
I remember coming to the point in my journey where I was faced with completely killing my zombie self. I had been doing recovery work for a few months and I realized there was more to do. At that moment I was scared. I did not know what would happen if I completely killed my zombie self. Would anyone like the real me? Who is the real me anyway? Would I even like myself? Here’s the thing I held onto: “Without death there is no resurrection.” If I was going to become a new man, my old self would have to completely die. And in so doing, I was trusting that God would give back the parts of me that were good, noble, and pure.
No more running, it’s time to kill our zombie.
Blog Post by: Nathaniel Gustafson (click here to see more about Nathaniel)
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