Step four, month four in the path to recovery
Carlin: ‘From mess to message’
It may not seem like a long journey to most, but 12-steps are sometimes the longest, hardest, and most beautiful steps a person may take in their life.
Out of those 12 steps, step No. 4 can be one of the most difficult, as it requires the person to make a fearless inventory of oneself. The biblical equivalent to this step can be found in Lamentations 3:40.
For Christy Carlin, the act of taking a personal moral inventory is a step she revisits often.
Carlin is seven years sober and proud to be the mother, the wife and the grandmother she always wanted to be, but her journey wasn’t always picture perfect.
“I started using meth when I was 21 years old,” she said. “I was going through some things in life and I had been talking to this neighbor I had about them.”
That neighbor listened to Carlin, but eventually introduced her to the drug methamphetamine.
“I’m not sure exactly why I thought that this might make my problems better,” Carlin said. “It helped me escape from the reality that I was living. I soon began using meth every weekend, then before I knew it I was using every day of the week.”
This was her life, for two-and-a-half years.
“I then became pregnant with my third child,” Carlin said. “I stopped using at that point. I remained clean for five years, and then started using prescription drugs such as pain pills, anxiety meds, and muscle relaxers.”
Carlin said she watched herself become a completely different person.
“Pills have a physical withdrawal, so any time I would even try to stop or run out, I would start having withdrawal symptoms, and that then would push me to just go find more,” she said. “After using pills for about two years, I then over a period of time switched back to using meth and just pills periodically.”
This came to a screeching halt in 2010, when Carlin was charged with possession.
Carlin got a five-year probation sentence, but continued to use drugs heavily. In July 2013, she had a warrant out for her arrest for failure to report to her parole officer.
Carlin decided to run.
“I had never been to jail — I was scared,” she said. “[I was] looking over my shoulder everywhere I went and just always wondering when I was going to get caught. Until one day, I came up with this idea that maybe if I go to rehab then I won’t have to go to jail.
“On Nov. 3, 2013, I checked myself into a rehab facility in Branson.”
After only two weeks and one day, Carlin got angry and called someone to pick her up.
“This didn’t work out quite the way I thought it was going to because I had the police waiting for me to arrest me when I returned back to the place I had been staying,” she said. “I went to jail in November and was released in December, not too long before Christmas.”
Carlin spent 35 days in jail, and was then released into Barry County Drug Court.
“Looking back on all this, now I can see God’s hand in it all,” she said. “He needed to get me to a place that he could work on me, a place where I was completely broken in order to start the process of rebuilding me — rebuilding a life with God in it.”
Of those 35 days spent in jail, Carlin spent that time inside of her Bible.
“The day I got out of jail was also my first time to go to Celebrate Recovery,” she said. “I remember feeling such an attitude of acceptance by everyone I met. I was at a bad place in life for sure, and it’s important to have people that just accept you for the broken mess you are.”
On May 7, 2015, Carlin graduated from drug court, but she has been clean since that first day in rehab on November 3, 2013.
“A lot has happened over the past seven years,” Carlin said. “I have gained two grandbabies, gotten married to the love of my life, two of my children have graduated from high school and the baby will graduate 2022. We bought a house, I have a great job, I got a dog that I wouldn’t trade for the world, my oldest son got married and my youngest son has gotten engaged.”
On a sadder note Carlin has lost her sister and grandfather.
“The point is, I wouldn’t have been here for any of this if I wouldn’t have gotten clean,” Carlin said. “I would have been in prison or maybe not even not have been alive to be able to experience these such things. It didn’t happen all at once. It’s been a work in progress, but just keep making the right choices and you will get there.”
Carlin dug deeper and deeper into her journey with Christ.
“I live with a peace and joy in my heart now that I’ve never experienced,” she said. “But, the tough part is still present. It didn’t all get better at once. It was a slow process for me.”
Carlin said you can’t do step four without step one, two and three.
“Going to church and Celebrate Recovery helped me to examine myself on a deeper level,” she said. “God truly changed the desires of my heart — I didn’t want to get high anymore. Instead I put my focus into being the person he designed me to be, the mother I needed to be, and the mother my children needed me to be.”
Carlin said each day, God showed her something she needed to work on.
“The awesome thing about God is, you don’t need to fix everything before coming to him,” she said. “He helped me fix things along the way. I went from looking for drugs every minute of every day to looking for ways to make life better.
“I’ve made a lot of wrong and bad decisions in my life but God has restored what the enemy has stolen from me.”
Carlin says she asks herself daily what she can change.
“Moral inventory keeps me clean,” she said. “It keeps the rubbish from being buried deep down inside and eventually popping out all at once.”
Carlin said keeping moral inventory means she stays on top of the choices she makes in life.
“When I feel like I have made a wrong one or hurt someone in the process, I go to them and apologize or fix the situation,” she said. “Moral inventory to me is staying on top of the feelings you have in life and just to feel them whether that be anger or sadness or happiness.
“I have to feel them and not suppress them. Eventually, that ugliness builds up and will venture out in one form or another, and for addicts, that form is usually the use of drugs. It important to have a clear and moral conscience.”
Carlin says just because she now has the tools to better deal with these emotions and triggers, doesn’t mean things are always easy.
“Trust me, there have been times I get very frustrated with things in life, but then I seek answers and God always shows me the truth,” she said. “It’s hard to look deep at situations we have in our lives and there have been many times I’ve had to push myself out of the way in order to get the results I needed. I’ve had a lot of pain and heartache along the way, but I’ve always come out ahead when I’ve looked to God for the answers.”
Carlin said even when she has failed God, he has never failed her.
“I know taking moral inventory is scary and frightening to see and relive all the past decisions we have made, but do it,” Carlin said. “Do it with lots of prayer and an open heart, God will show you the way through it.
“Go to Celebrate Recovery and find someone to help you if you need to. Find help at church. It’s freeing and it only makes a way to much bigger and brighter things.”
Carlin said she couldn’t have done so much if she didn’t have such an awesome support group and family.
“Family is where true happiness is at,” she said. “Make good choices and make them count — from mess to message.”
This article is part of a monthly, 12-part series giving an inside look into the testimonies and lives of a dozen individuals who have met their recovery goal. Each month will focus on the corresponding step in the 12-step process, as well as its biblical comparison.
While the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, it also deals with the pandemic of addiction. For a time, due to social restrictions, Celebrate Recovery and other meetings were postponed. Those in recovery understand the struggle when they are unable to reach out for help.
With these testimonies, they aim to reach those who need help, but are unable to get it. They want to reach people in their communities and offer them a hand, a resource and a safe space.
In 2019, there were 304 felony and misdemeanor drug-related charges in Cassville, and as of the first week of December, there were 293 for 2020.
Places people can turn to include:
• Celebrate Recovery Cassville — Tuesdays at the First Baptist Church’s Family Life Center in the loft. Meal is served at 5:45 p.m. and large group is at 6:30 p.m. Child care is provided. People may contact Mark Barton at 417-766-5449.
• Celebrate Recovery Seligman — Wednesdays at Mozark Fellowship in Seligman. Meal is served at 6 p.m. and large group is at 7 p.m. Child care is provided. People may contact Mike Avers at 417-342-8659.
• Celebrate Recovery Monett — Thursdays at New Site Baptist Church in Monett. Large group goes from 6-7:30 p.m. Child care provided birth to fifth grade, and The Landing group is available for youth grades 6-12. Meals to go at the end of every evening. People may contact 417-235-6135 for more information.
In addition, the local Clark Center office number is 417-476-1000. The 24-hour Crisis Line is 1-800-801-4405, and the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
Those involved with this 12-month, 12-step series hope to reach as many people as possible in their communities.