Hope for the Future
You've begun a long journey on your way to giving birth. The bleakness you saw before is becoming light. You've made selfless decisions, and you'll make more. Because of you, a child will soon be born. No one can predict how many people your child will help.
"Crisis" comes from a Greek word which means a discerning. You've faced a crisis and survived. Your crisis has helped you discern who you are and who you can be. You can never return to the you of before.
You may not be happy with the way your life has turned out to this point. Perhaps you feel that there has to be more to living than what you've experienced or felt. Maybe you want things to improve for you and your baby. You can find the peace you're looking for.
BEING A POSITIVE PERSON
You can begin to find peace by deciding to be a positive thinker. Remember the ideas in Chapter Two? They work! Build your confidence by thinking positively, by exercising to release your stress, and by doing activities that you enjoy. Know your limits. You don't have to say "yes" to every request for your time or talents. Know what you can do, and do what you can. Avoid stressful situations the way you'd avoid the flu!
Be especially aware of those who surround you. Look for optimistic friends. Avoid the negative thinkers, complainers, and depressing personalities. Their attitudes are contagious, and they'll make you depressed. Be alert to people who will use or abuse you or who constantly belittle you and your ideas. Associate with those who will increase your self-confidence, not erase it.
Usually you can find positive thinkers in community or religious groups, most often those providing service to others. When you begin to help those less fortunate than you, your own problems gain perspective. Helping others will also make you feel better about your own abilities.
Take time to be alone and to relax. Reading a good inspirational book, going on a quiet walk, or listening to soothing music may give you perspective and help you think more positively.
Remember to live one day at a time. Do your best today. Worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.
You may have some deep, emotional problems that have never been faced. These problems may have started with an abusive childhood or relationship or when peers rejected you. Perhaps you hurt yourself through substance abuse, sexual excess, self-harm, or extreme rebellion. You may not like the way you feel but not know how to change.
Counseling is a good way to get to know the root of your problems and grow through them to become a mature, happy person. Insurance companies sometimes pay for counseling performed by licensed psychologists or psychiatrists. If you have no insurance and you cannot afford to pay professionals, call a local government-sponsored mental health center. These centers often provide counseling on a sliding fee scale, which is set up according to what you can afford to pay.
Remember that some clergy are excellent professional counselors, too, and their fees are usually reasonable. A local association of clergy or churches or synagogues may be able to refer you to clergy counselors.
Be certain that the counselor you choose is in agreement with your decision to have your baby. Deal with your baby through a PREGNANCY AIDgency and use a professional counselor to help you deal with yourself.
THE TWELVE-STEP PROGRAM OF SELF-HELP GROUPS
Self-help groups generally form to help their members overcome a specific problem in their lives. Alcoholics Anonymous is probably the most widely known self help group and follows a twelve-step program to sobriety. Many other self-help groups are based on the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. By joining one of these groups and by changing the word "alcohol" in Step One to whatever compulsion, addiction, or worry that you are facing, you can follow the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous to a fuller, happier life.
The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over
to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.*
*The Twelve Steps are reprinted with permission of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Permission to reprint the steps does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. AA is a program of recovery from alcoholism. Use of these Twelve Steps in connection with programs andactivities which are patterned after AA, but which address other problems, does not imply otherwise.
Working the twelve-step program takes a lifetime. Most people take several months just to work through step one. You need an equally long time to work up to and achieve the other steps. Overcoming a lifetime problem will take a lifetime, so be patient. The twelve-step program is obviously successful. So many people are using it every day, and just starting on the program will bring some positive changes to your life.
You do not have to be battling the specific problem of a self-help group in order to be helped by it. Attend meetings of different self-help groups. Find one that follows the twelve-step program and whose members make you feel comfortable being there. If you can't find a self-help group, consider starting your own.
If you find a self-help group that follows a program other than the twelve-step program, evaluate what you hear and observe. Does the program seem to work? Do the members seek to change their unhealthy ways of coping with life in general, or are they simply present to support each other in dealing with a specific crisis, such as suicide of a loved one or death of a child? Decide if the group can help you, and stay if it does.
Agencies in Appendix H will help you locate or start self-help groups in your area.
God in the Twelve-Step Program
You'll notice that the twelve-step program is based on a belief in the power of God as you understand God to be. Twelve-step programs do not advocate a certain religious view. Whether God is male or female or whether one religion is "right" in its beliefs is not the point. Ninety-four percent of United States citizens believe in God or a universal spirit, according to the the Princeton Religion Research Center Gallup Poll. You will find many believers and seekers in self-help groups.
Most self-help groups based on the twelve-step program will provide you with a sponsor, if you request one. A sponsor is a member of the group who has followed the twelve-step program for a reasonable period of time and, by doing so, has successfully managed the problem addressed by the group. This person will guide you in your own journey and become a great friend and adviser. If you want a sponsor when you join a self-help group, go to many meetings before choosing one. Get to know the group members. Choose a sponsor who seems to be practicing the twelve steps successfully and who has the inner peace you are seeking for yourself.
RELIGIOUS PRAYER GROUPS
Many churches, synagogues, and other religious groups can direct you to prayer groups or other religious support groups. The members of these groups most often have a certain religious orientation. If you practice a specific faith, seek out a prayer group of that faith. If you are searching for a faith experience, call local clergy and ask about prayer groups and worship services. Find a group whose members seem kind and helpful and are practicing their beliefs peacefully and joyfully.
Prayer groups can be a tremendous help in crisis. Most of the women who best survive pregnancy crisis have faith in God. Probably 90 percent of counselors in PREGNANCY AIDgencies believe in and try to trust God. A prayer group can help you develop your own faith and work through your crisis while other people support your efforts.
Prayer groups will help you develop a conscious awareness of God through prayer and meditation. You might be encouraged to read the Bible, pray daily, or attend religious services. You'll learn that the members of the prayer group love and accept you, just the way you are. So does God. Knowing this will help you forgive yourself for any poor choices you think you've made. You'll also learn to forgive others who have harmed you. You might even have to forgive God for letting bad things happen to you.
Prayer groups and worship services will help you understand that God is a real presence that surrounds you, lives in you, and cares deeply about you. God is willing to help you, but you must accept that help. Tell God about your angers, worries, frustrations, and complaints. God knows about them anyway.
A Word of Caution
Supportive prayer groups will help you deal successfully with your life, but those associated with cults will create more problems for you. Some cults use prayer groups and Bible study get-togethers to recruit new members.
Before you join a prayer group, get some information about it. What person or religious body sponsors the group? Do the members meet for regular worship? Where? What are the beliefs of the group? What demands does it make on its members? Refer to Chapter Three for additional tips on how to determine if a group is trying to control you. Appendix F has questions to consider when evaluating a group. Also have some friends or counselors evaluate the group before you join it.
Avoid prayer groups and Bible study groups that have bizarre ideas, follow charismatic leaders, make demands on their members, are unclear about the way they originated, or persuade their members to conform to unusual dietary, dress, or behavior patterns. A supportive prayer group helps its members find God in their own diversity. A cult-run group persuades its members to conform to a lifestyle and adopt someone else's ideas. If all the loving, supportive, long-time members of a group seem to be clones of each other in their ideas and lifestyles, then you may be dealing with a cult. Call some established religious groups in your community and locate a more mainstream prayer group to help you.
"No one is where they are by accident," one member of the clergy said. You have a purpose in life. You will slowly come to realize what it is. Maybe no one else can do what you can do, right now, right here.
Your own deepest hurts may make you more sensitive to the pain others feel. Someday you may be helping them.
You have talents and abilities you may not recognize. Not everyone can do everything well, but each of us can do some things better than other people can. For example, a child who consistently failed reading in school became a success in life by using a talent in construction to work for a contractor and the government and to build the family's home. You can use your talents to help yourself and others.
Soon you will meet people who can use your help. Some people will accept your advice and help, while others won't. What's important is that you have the inner peace and direction to help. You have changed and grown.
Although Mercedes came from a loving family, she was raised without values or direction. She ran with a fast crowd, wondered who she was, and even considered suicide. When she became pregnant, she aborted her baby, whose existence seemed as meaningless as her own. Now she felt even worse.
Mercedes' friends didn't want to talk about what was hurting her. Then she met John, who regretted helping a girlfriend get an abortion. Both uncomfortable with their friends, they shared their thoughts and hurts with each other. Together they continued a search for God that John had begun. Was there meaning to existence? Did an Objective Truth exist?
The two married and were struggling financially when Mercedes became pregnant. Delighted even though they were poor, they continued to study various faiths, then joined a religious group that they felt held the truth they sought. A member of the clergy helped both of them forgive themselves and experience God's forgiveness, too.
Since both had been hurt by shallow friends and by abortion, John and Mercedes decided to be real friends to women in pregnancy crises and help them have their babies. Soon others joined them. Today this group helps many women. John's and Mercedes' closeness to God, their family, and others continues to be strong.
THE JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME
Living is a journey. The roads we choose now lead to our future. However, a lifetime is not long enough to "make it" to our destination of total peace, happiness, and trust. We are always in the process of learning more about ourselves, of dealing more wisely with others, and of trusting more deeply in God.
If you want peace and hope in your life, you must start someplace. The suggestions in this chapter will help you make a good beginning. By using self-help groups, counselors, or religious groups, and by working to think positively, you will find your life slowly gaining direction and purpose. No matter how troubled your past seems, your future can be brighter if you look ahead today. Put on a smile and get to work. All you have to gain is a lifetime of joy!