Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Recovering from Religious Abuse, 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom by Jack Watts

Over the years, there have been quite a few books written on abuse, but few deal with the specific topic of recovery from religious abuse. For those books that have been written, most deal with a novel or informative approach, few actually providing a resource that can actually help one recover; that is, until now! Howard Press, a label of Simon & Schuster, has just released a new book, Recovery From Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom by Jack Watts.

For me, the assignment of review quickly turned into something I didn’t expect—a process that I would apply to my own life, by working the steps to recovery offered in the book.

The concept of spiritual abuse is unfortunately, not a foreign subject to author Jack Watts. Watts decided to write the book out of his own recovery in a mode that would allow him the opportunity to help others. In his life experiences, the abuse and situations he faced from various religious groups and individuals led to his own substance abuse. In getting help for those forms of abuse, he became more aware of not only the process of recovery for his own abuse, but in ways that would give him insight into helping others.

Recover From Religious Abuse is not so much a book to read, but a step-by-step process that includes 91 days of exercises and journaling. At the completion of the process, the reader will go places most books won’t take them—to a legitimate life changing adventure that can make them a better person. It is here that I have to give some personal commentary.

Many, who have read my writings over the years, know of my personal history of physical and sexual abuse. I have even been accused at times of having issues with the ‘institutional’ or ‘traditional’ church. What many either ignore—or don’t know in their accusations—is the history of my own story, where individuals within the ‘established’ church hurt me. In fact, according to the definition of abuse provided by this book, I have been abused. It was after reading the first few chapters of the book that I realized that in order to give a fair and appropriate review of the book, I would need to work through the steps to see of the effectiveness of the book.

It was early on that I decided to take the 91-day journey. As a result, not only will the reader of this review have my initial review of the book, but I am also planning on posting and blogging my own 91-day journey through the blogging process. While the 91-day journey may seem like a long time, it isn’t really that bad, as each journey is a short step, normally no more than 2 pages, which includes a brief reading, scripture, a prayer, and a journaling and reflection step. I have found that the thought that goes into each step lasts far longer than the 10-to-15 minutes to actually read and do the work. For me, I have let the book be my daily devotional, and like any good devotional should, it challenges me, helps me, and moves me along in my walk—not just in my faith—but in my day to day life.

Watts does something early on that many authors of information and self-help books seem to ignore or forget. He tells his own story, and it’s a story the reader will appreciate because they can relate in a way that is easily understood. Watts writes in an easy flowing style that has the book being a page-turner, unique especially for a self-help book with a process, which resembles in some ways a workbook for the reader.

It will be easy for the reader to want to go ahead of the journey. I would recommend taking the time to devour the pages like a fine meal, or better yet, like a meal a body builder or elite athlete experiences—a meal that while it may taste good, also has a vital role to play in the high performance and development of the body and mind. Most elite athletes don’t just eat, they eat to experience the most out of the food and nutrients provided by the food. The reader really needs to do the same thing with the pages of this book. In doing so, they will go places, and experience things they may have never felt possible.

It doesn’t happen overnight though, which is one of the reasons to stick to it. As individuals go through my journey with me, they will see, for example, that there are several epiphany moments for me in the process, moments that are equivalent to stepping on the scales and suddenly seeing the effectiveness of the diet one has been on.Jack Watts has written a book that will, can, and has changed lives. It is a book that looks at religious abuse in a real way, yet at the same time, recognizing the importance of faith, religion, and spirituality. Watts is an unapologetic Christian, and while much of the abuse he experienced came at the hands of Christians, he recognized that Jesus—through the power of the Holy Spirit—is also the solution to recover from that abuse.

I am not completely finished with the book at this point as I am again, working through it. So far though, through the steps I have completed, I will say this: whatever the retail price of the book is, it would have paid for itself in the progress I have already made in this area. I have no doubt that, if given the opportunity, the person who has been hurt and abused will experience similar results as they go through the process.

I know that for me, with my own experiences of my own book, along with the work I do through The Virtual Pew and the pastor work I do, that the people I come into contact with who have experienced the horrors of abuse, this will be at the top of my recommended resources. I suspect that counselors from all walks of life, Christian or not, who are working with people who have experienced abuse, but still want to have an effective and impacting faith walk, this will be for them, as it has for me, a highly recommended resource.

On a scale of 1-to-10, if you add the numbers of the 91 days to recovery together, I give a very enthusiastic and deserving 10.

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