When You Want to Make Good Decisions, But Fear Chooses Wrong {Day 9}

by | Oct 9, 2013 | Uncategorized


Beside my apartment complex swimming pool, I lay face down on a lounge chair in my swimsuit reading Codependent No More open on the concrete beneath. Hiding tears behind my sunglasses, I was thankful it was a week day and the pool wasn’t crowded.  In my early twenties while living alone, healing hovered over me through a canopy of sunshine and the words of a book. It was the first time I realized I was no longer held captive by fear and the consequences of my mother’s alcoholism. The first time I realized that I needed help too.

I bought the book when I started to look at my behavior like a spectator watches a play from the audience. Who I was on the inside – the good girl who makes good decisions – didn’t match my behavior on the outside. Yet, I felt helplessly addicted to the behavior, terrified of who I was becoming.

My attempt to “save” someone was stopping me from being emotionally honest. I didn’t realize it then, but one of the ways to numb feelings — avoid the pain of vulnerability — is to insert yourself in the place of God in relationships. It’s easier to escape the reality of your own life, by focusing on the layers of someone else’s unhealthiness.


It all broke apart one sleepless night seething with anger over a boyfriend’s selfish behavior. I jumped out of bed, drove to his house and beat on his bedroom window while standing in the bushes. His father answered the door in his pajamas. He happened to be the one sleeping in my boyfriend’s room that night. He graciously let me in and escorted me through a dark house to the room where his son was sleeping.

When I crawled back in my own bed an hour later, I was mortified by my actions. I woke up an entire household of people. I didn’t recognize myself. And that’s what scared me.

Oddly, I thought I was choosing a relationship with someone who made me feel better about myself. But I chose the person of potential I idealized below the layers of bad choices instead of the reality staring me in the face.

As the child of an alcoholic, I chose emotionally needy relationships because they gave me a faulty sense of empowerment, a distorted view of my identity in helpfulness.

After that middle-of-the-night encounter, I decided to attend my first Al-Anon meeting.

Week after week, I sat among a group of empathetic strangers in stages of recovery, beginning a journey toward wholeness. And God wooed me toward greater intimacy with himself.


On the heels of ending what my girlfriends called that ridiculous relationship, I met H at a church party. After our first date, he surprised me with an impromptu visit. While he knocked on my apartment door, I hovered in silence on the other side holding my breath.

When you’re more comfortable surrounded by people who keep you on an emotional roller coaster, you aren’t sure what to do with genuine kindness without ulterior motive. H didn’t need my help; that was new for me. I opened the door after he left and found a wrapped box lying on the doormat. I chose to take an uncomfortable step toward wholeness that day. I think you know how it ended.

Jesus didn’t come for the perfectly put together, he came for the needy, the broken, and the sick. (Mark 2:17) I don’t cry behind my sunglasses any longer, there is nothing to hide.


Join us in the comments and for further discussion at Redemptions Beauty Book Club on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown as we let go of numbing, powerlessness and scarcity this week to cultivate a heart of resilience, gratitude, and joy. This is day 9 of 31 Days of Letting Go in the Deep End. Find out more here and join us for daily posts delivered to your inbox by adding your email address to Subscribe in the sidebar. It only takes a few seconds and it’s painless, I promise.


Linking with Jennifer and Emily.


Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. ThandiweW

    beautiful. Sometimes being brave is all about trying…

    Peace and good,

    • Shelly Miller

      Great to see you here Chelle. Appreciate you.

  2. Michelle DeRusha

    Oh I love this story, Shelly. You are so brave. I admire you so much, girl.

    • Shelly Miller

      Right back atcha Michelle.

  3. Janet

    I was an enabler too, Shelly. When my ex and I first split, I started going to AA meetings too. Those meetings were eye opening. Finally I knew I could have a better life. Now I have been married to a wonderful man for 13 years. No more hiding. No more pretending. Thanks for being brave enough to share your story.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thankful for healing and redemption Janet. Grateful we have that, aren’t you?

      • Janet

        Yes, Jesus gives us 2nd chances, and makes our life beautiful. Redemption saves us. Healing shows us His love.

  4. MsLorretty

    resonates deeply. climbing out….wish I’d done it sooner. You def. are kinfolk girl. Thanks.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thankfully, God isn’t limited by our time table. Thankful for kindred spirits, yes?

  5. Karrilee Aggett

    So much beauty and brave here friend!

    • Shelly Miller

      I think people like you buoy me to step into the deep end of brave Karrilee. Thank you.

  6. Kelly Greer

    Shelly, that is such a beautiful testimony to being true to self, and becoming healed. I was really touched by this one – deep.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thankful Kelly, may God be lifted up, He is good.

  7. Dawn Paoletta

    I read that book…and the saving of others…that unhealthy role, reserved for a Savior and not we who need saving. Resonate? Heck yeah, I banged on more than one door in my life. Thank you for the reminder here to keep it real and it struck a cord “but one of the ways to numb feelings — avoid the pain of vulnerability — is to insert yourself in the place of God in relationships. “- I must ponder again…because old habits die hard, after all. Just keep swimming, Shelly!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m dog paddling, doing the back stroke, anything to stay above the water line Dawn. Thanks for your encouragement.

  8. Elizabeth Stewart

    My attempt to “save” someone was stopping me from being emotionally honest. I didn’t realize it then, but one of the ways to numb feelings — avoid the pain of vulnerability — is to insert yourself in the place of God in relationships. It’s easier to escape the reality of your own life, by focusing on the layers of someone else’s unhealthiness….

    This, I think I may need to ponder it, to let God show me the truth about me in this statement. I can get over my head trying to “save” others.

    • Shelly Miller

      It was a revelation God gave me as I read this chapter in The Gifts of Imperfection Elizabeth. Sometimes the way we numb is obvious – drinking, eating, scrolling mindlessly through Facebook – but this one is sneaky, yes? Praying with you today.

  9. Christie Purifoy

    Or, maybe just happy tears? 🙂
    So grateful for your story. It’s beautiful and beautifully told!

    • Shelly Miller

      Yes, lots of those Christie, indeed. Thankful for YOU.

  10. Sylv_R


    Do I ever relate! How I ever got myself into the “rescuer” role I don’t even know. I don’t think I ever sought it in the first place. I was just fooled by the things of earth, charmed by the antics of the person, and rationalizing away good sense. For me the alcoholic wasn’t a parent but boyfriend who became husband. I had reached the brink of self-annihilation when a phone call with a friend, followed by emotional dumping with her at the kitchen table, eventually led me to Al-Anon, too, where God taught me how amazingly He would take care of me if I would just surrender my “fixing” behaviors, let Him be God, and look to Him for all my needs instead of to some needy person or myself.

    I hope you write more about this distorted rescuer/helper mentality. After having lived it so much I recognize it in others who just don’t “get” it and are just doing themselves *and* those they’re “helping/rescuing” a lot of harm. (Hm, maybe I should, too?)
    God bless.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think it’s deceptive Sylvia, why we don’t recognize it as unhealthy. It is virtuous to help others and Godly because Jesus was a servant first, right? But when we find a sense of self-worth in it and helping becomes part of our identity, then it controls us instead of the other way around. The enemy loves to distort, find a hint of truth in our behaviour and take us to a dark place, create a murkiness in our reflection so we can’t see Jesus clearly. Yeah, I have lots to say about it. I mentor/counsel women in this area of life often.

  11. Missindeedy

    I can relate to so much of what you wrote here, Shelly. I’m so deeply encouraged by your bravery in writing here. And I see such redeemed grace in your words.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m thanking God for His faithfulness Missy, through your comment. Truly thankful.

  12. Linda@Creekside

    Yes, yes, yes. The pastoral counselor in me is touched by your words, your healing, your story today. Thank you for your courage in sharing what has been true … and what Christ has done in His transforming work.

    • Shelly Miller

      I can relate Linda, to the pastoral counselor part of you. I mentor and counsel women in this area, its part of what gives me the courage to share it. I know how my story seems to help people be brave.

  13. Laura

    Thank you for sharing this – I think we could be twins. It seems I have to keep learning the same lessons over and over. I am so glad that God is patient with me.

    • Shelly Miller

      His love for us is truly unfathomable isn’t it? I’m overwhelmed on most days. Glad you are here Laura.

  14. Cimarron Morris

    What a beautiful story you have. So similar to mine. Feel so blessed that God is using this broken vessel and that my story includes my own personal H.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thankful for you Cimarron, and for the way God connected us all those years ago. Look at you now!

  15. Glenda Childers

    Thank you, Shelly.

  16. Shelly Wildman

    Beautiful, Shelly. I know you are going to help many people with your words.

  17. Deidra

    The boyfriend I had before meeting my H qualifies as that ridiculous relationship, too. It’s strange how that happens, isn’t it? How we sometimes have to experience the yuck to appreciate the good?

    This post stirs up all sorts of feelings on the inside of me. I see myself. I see some people I know and love, and wish I could love better. I’m glad you opened that door, Shelly. Glad for the gift that was there on the other side.

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh my, how weird is that? We have that in common too. I tell ya, only God could bring us together in friendship. He is good, yes he is.

      You know, the greatest miracle in my life is that H was standing on the other side of that door when I was going through all that inner healing. And he decided to stay. Still blows me away, after 23 years.

  18. pastordt

    Well, hallelujah and amen! Al-Anon is one of the greatest orgs on the planet and I’m so glad you found it and the truth. Beautifully written, Shelly. Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Diana, you are so kind to visit. I’m having a hard time making the rounds. Been wanting to get over to your place all week. Blesses my heart that you stopped by.

  19. Emma

    Shelly, I’ve lost count of how many times I have read this post today, I can identify with so many aspects of it. I am so thankful that God chooses the right time for each of us & gently leads us towards wholeness – as he shows us his love for us and as we slowly respond to it we are changed – a change that enables us to move forward. Thank you for sharing your story, your bravery shows real trust in a father that is leading you onward.

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh Emma, I’m so blessed that God saw fit for us to find each other. He is good. Love you friend. Glad this resonated, praying for you.

  20. Lisa notes...

    It took a lot of courage to go to that first meeting. And look what God did after that. It amazes me how he can turn around our stories.

    I’m trying to picture you as a crazy girl pounding on a window from the bushes. Can’t do it. 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      I know Lisa, I can’t picture it either. Who was that girl?

  21. Alecia Simersky

    I feel I could have written this. When I was young I was riddled with insecurity and self-doubt and my relationships proved it. I think I even read the same book you mentioned, or something similar. When “normal” boys would come into my life I wouldn’t know what to do with them, their normalcy made me uncomfortable.So, I pushed them away. I’m so thankful God did an overhaul job on me. I can’t imagine living my entire life like that. Great honesty and transparency, thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Me too, thankful for the overhaul. It’s painful, but so needed. I’m even more grateful that my wonderful husband still wanted to marry me in the middle of it. That is pure grace and providence. God is committed to us, yes he is.

  22. Louise Hughes

    Your transparency is a gift and a blessing to many:)

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you Louise. I think the same about you. It was great to see you in person yesterday. Hope it won’t be as long of a wait until we can do it again.

  23. Christy Willard

    Oh, wow! Thanks for your honesty. I think we all are guilty of trying to “save” people. It makes us feel better, in a way. Thank you for sharing your experience and what you learned.

    Christy @ A Heartening Life

    • Shelly Miller

      We definitely get something out of it, don’t we? There is the rub. What we get out of it isn’t always healthy or for our good. Thanks for being here Christy.

  24. Jo Inglis

    All the yesses here and below to your replies particularly to Sylvia’s comment (how it is so deceptive.) Mum was a lifelong rescuer/helper & I only really fully understood why when I dug into family history after she died. I have spent adult life trying to disentangle and love better. It’s now in a part of the cycle where I’m seeking professional help to work forward again.
    Thankfully though we don’t have to be perfect for God to work (I have spent part of this evening medicating with chocolate after a pants day) but it was good to come across this post and the comments thread more than you will know.
    Oh and H has seen the best & worst for over 30yrs – he’s a keeper & resists fixing attempts like teflon

    • Shelly Miller

      Numbing a bit with chocolate tonight myself Jo. So lovely to see you here, glad you popped over and it resonated with where you sit.

  25. Mindy Whipple

    I love how God heals and restores in spite of ourselves…

  26. Marcy Holder

    “It’s easier to escape the reality of your own life, by focusing on the layers of someone else’s unhealthiness.”
    ….been there! I’ve spent years working through some of those same issues and am coming into a place of freedom and exhilarating courage as fear no longer chooses for me. This was beautiful. Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Marcy, rejoicing with you. I know that isn’t easy and I don’t take that place of freedom for granted. What a gift. Thanks for sharing that.

  27. Laura Boggess

    Oh, friend. I can’t wait to talk more about this when we are together soon. So much churning in side of me as I read your words. I think I could learn a lot from you.

    • shelly

      Yes, I think we’ll have a lot to share with each other Laura. Can’t wait to see you! Just two weeks. Oh my, that feels sooner than I thought.

    • Shelly Miller

      I realized that my previous reply to you didn’t show up Laura, Can’t wait to talk to you in a few weeks, we have a lot to talk about for sure. It’s a two way street here friend.

  28. Jessica Mueller

    “When you’re more comfortable surrounded by people who keep you on an emotional roller coaster, you aren’t sure what to do with genuine kindness without ulterior motive.”
    I just realized something akin to this with a few relationships in my family this weekend. I was shocked and embarrassed to realize, as a grown woman with a husband and family of my own, I grapple toward any chance they need me even if it’s an inconvenience to me or my family. Why? Because I still desperately desire their complete acceptance. But I’m realizing it’s a one-way street and I end up feeling like the work dog willing to do anything and they’re just stringing along the hope of acceptance with no true promise.

    It is a hindrance to my whole ness, but I guess I’ve always hoped things would change and become healthy. I mean…how do you pursue your wholeness but also keep an open hand for restoration in those kind of relationships?

    • Shelly Miller

      Jessica, as I read your comment I could feel a wave of exuberance welling in my chest. Do you realize how huge it is that you realized this? First, you have nothing to be embarrassed about, that is shame speaking. Can I challenge you to look at the circumstance as a challenge instead of a hinderance? It’s an opportunity for you to practice wholeness and begin to make choices that are about loving yourself. Not being selfish but actually being an example to your family of what healthy looks like. Every time you choose to be authentic and vulnerable, it is a step toward faith and wholeness. It’s just how you choose to do it after a long cycle of “doing” in order to be enough for your family.If you want to process further, I’m available by email. shelly@redemptionsbeauty.com. Praying for you and I’m actually excited. Feel God is on the move here.

  29. rachel lee

    ohhh, this is GOOD. STUFF.

    that ridiculous relationship was two-fold for me…two idiot teenagers that I refused to let go of until that very minute that I reconnected with my now-husband. This is so amazingly and fitting for me. I was actually dumped by my last ex barely ten minutes before my now-husband texted me for the first time. Profound, powerful stuff.

  30. Jillie

    Oh Shelly…Before I even read anyone else’s comments, I just have to tell you that this is bare bones honesty, in which I see myself. You have put it into words for me. I was the same way for years and years. Just wanted people to coddle me and tell me it was ok to feel bad all the time and react in the foolish ways I reacted. I don’t remember when I first stepped into my healing process; I just know God began a work in my wounded heart. I too, met a man who, yes, had some wounds of his own, yet he was not needful of my “expertise” at “fixing” his problems. He had a Strength I knew I needed. He is my stabilizing force whenever the struggle resurfaces in my life.
    Your writing here has been powerful for me today. I thank you for being another voice of wisdom and encouragement in my journey. Bless you, my friend. Indeed.

Pin It on Pinterest