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The Only Way to Deal with Your Pain and Mistakes

Johnny BakerBy Johnny Baker

I’m going to be honest, this is the hard part. Lots of people say recovery is hard, and usually this is the part they are referring to. Dealing with the past is hard. It isn’t a lot of fun, and if it’s your first time, it can feel pointless. But it is one of the keys to recovery.

The main key for success in recovery, and life, is a relationship with Jesus Christ. There are lots of things that go into a successful recovery process. Safe relationships, investing in recovery and taking it seriously, and attending meetings are just a few of them. Another one is dealing with the pain and mistakes of the past. Facing our past mistakes and pain, head on, is the only way to get it where it belongs: behind us.

To find freedom from the pain of your past, you must see your past as it really is, not as you wish it was. The best way I know to do this is by taking an inventory of your life. Taking an inventory is really just listing all of the things that have happened to you, remembering both the good and the bad, so you can see what is really going on in your life.

Before I was called into ministry, I worked for a restaurant, and I loved it. In the course of five years, I worked my way from a busboy all the way to manager, and I was sure I had found my calling. I really enjoyed most aspects of the job, but there was one thing in particular I did not like, and that was our daily line check.

You’d think working in a restaurant would be great because you could eat good food every day, and yes, that’s a nice perk, but the line check was pretty miserable. Here’s what we’d do: every shift the manager on duty would grab a bunch of spoons and head into the kitchen, or “the line.” We’d take the spoons and dip them into the individual ingredients that went into the dishes the cooks would prepare. So on a typical line check you’d eat marinara sauce, plain lettuce, chicken, ranch dressing, jalapeños, partially cooked pasta, tortilla chips, pepperoni, raw onions, sautéed onions, garlic, sausage, garbanzo beans, and much more.

In the right dish some of those things work together brilliantly. On spoons, sometimes at 6:00 a.m., it tastes awful. But it is essential. The only way to know the ranch dressing hasn’t spoiled is to taste it. The only way to make sure no one would get sick, or that old ingredients weren’t being used, was to go through them one by one. This “daily inventory” helped us see the food for what it really was, not for what we hoped or assumed it was.

This is true in life as well. Taking the time to do an inventory, taking the time to see your life for what it really is, is essential in helping you move forward into what God has planned for you. The absolute best way to do this is to join a Celebrate Recovery Step Study, but if you can’t or won’t do that, you can begin this process by asking yourself some tough questions. This whole process begins with the willingness to explore, to seek answers. As you read through these questions you might feel like they are too hard, or that you don’t have the power to do this. That’s okay. The power we need doesn’t come from ourselves at all. The power we need comes from Jesus. Remember, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’ ” (Matt. 19:26).

If you have not yet attended Celebrate Recovery, ask yourself these questions:

  • What one thing do I hope no one ever finds out about?
  • What was I never allowed to talk about as a child?
  • Are there any events of my childhood that haunt me today?
  • Do I have any out-of-control behaviors or tendencies?
  • How am I trying to cover my pain?
  • What events of my past shaped me?
  • Why am I resisting getting the help I need?

I would suggest writing your answers out on paper, because something about seeing them in black and white helps make the answers real. As you answer these questions, if you find you’d like some help dealing with your pain, please visit: to find a Celebrate Recovery ministry in your area. You don’t have to face your pain alone!

Whether it is an unpaid bill, a medical diagnosis, or any other painful situation in our lives, dealing with it head-on is the only way to get through it. Leaving the bill on the table doesn’t get it paid; it adds late fees. Avoiding medical treatment doesn’t cure disease; it allows it to fester and get worse. And avoiding facing the pain of our past doesn’t make it go away. Just like cancer, if our pain is left untreated, it will grow and get worse and worse. The first step is to see our pain clearly, to write it down and face it. Then we can take action on it.

One word of caution: don’t go through this alone. Get around other people and ask for help. Attend Celebrate Recovery, get a counselor, or lean on trusted friends to help you through this process. The Bible says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:9–10, 12). Get some people around you for help. By facing your pain, and by taking action on it, you will find freedom you may have never thought was possible.


The Road to FreedomAdapted from The Road to Freedom: Healing from Your Hurts, Hang-Ups, and Habits by Johnny Baker. Click here to learn more about this title.

Each one of us has hurts, hang-ups, and habits that need healing. The Road to Freedom is the path to hope for all of us who are in pain or simply stuck. With practical application and inspiration, Johnny Baker shares his story of recovering from alcoholism and offers the truths he has learned from his 25 years with Celebrate Recovery.

Baker’s father, John, founded Celebrate Recovery when Baker was 15 years old. Later, Baker would become involved with alcohol himself. Even though he saw his parents’ marriage heal and watched his dad become a new person, he had to experience his own journey of healing.

Baker began the process of recovery as a young adult. Now he serves on the leadership team of Celebrate Recovery, sharing his testimony of how God brought him back home. In the years since leaving alcohol behind, Baker has witnessed thousands of other lives change through the power of Christ.

Whether you are dealing with substance abuse, relational struggles, or eating challenges, or you simply want to let go of what is holding you back in life, you will find answers in The Road to Freedom. In addition to telling his own story, Baker offers ten principles of healing. These life lessons remind you that pain has a purpose, small and steady improvement lasts longer than overnight change, serving others leads to deeper healing, and facing your problems is the only way to heal.

The Road to Freedom will help you move from coping with hurts, hang-ups, and habits to the hope and health that only Jesus can bring.

Johnny Baker has been on staff at Celebrate Recovery since 2004 and has been the Pastor of Celebrate Recovery at Saddleback Church since 2012. As an adult child of an alcoholic who chose to become an alcoholic himself, Johnny is passionate about breaking the cycle of dysfunction in his family and helping other families find the tools that will lead to healing and openness. He knows that because of Jesus Christ, and by continuing to stay active in Celebrate Recovery, Maggie, Chloe, and Jimmy – his three children – will never see him drink. Johnny is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer, and teacher of Celebrate Recovery. He is a coauthor of the Celebrate Recovery Daily Devotional, Celebration Place, and The Landing, and is an associate editor of the Celebrate Recovery Study Bible. He has been married since 2000 to his wife Jeni, who serves alongside him in Celebrate Recovery. Connect at

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