Today is my hundredth day of sobriety. These past three months have been the hardest of my life. Leaning into my own pain is one thing, but watching the lines of pain crease the faces of my wife and sons is heart breaking.
I have come to know the steadfast love of the Lord differently. The cry of my heart is:
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit . . . I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover my iniquity . . . and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
My journey on this rugged path began when I was finally honest with myself about my condition. I want to live a life of honesty. I realize that Jesus is the Truth and that truth is something I must practice each day.
“Jesus is the light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
Until one hundred days ago, I lived in the shadows. Like the older brother in Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, I was lurking in the shadow. I believed I was obedient and working hard for the Father, but I was hiding part of my life from myself, from others and from God. I tried over and over to break out of the darkness, but I was always lured back. I know now I was powerless to control my addiction. On September 23, I stepped fully into the light, first with myself and then with others. On that sunny fall day perched on the steps of an old Capital Hill home amidst trees draped in golden leaves, I pledged to be honest to myself. I understood that God knows me completely, loves me completely, and by His disruptive grace, forgives me completely. I hope and pray I will also be able to love and forgive myself.
I am a pilgrim on the path of recovery. This will be my journey for the rest of my life. I am surprised by the unique challenges and joys of each new day. I live under God’s “severe mercy” and am thankful that I am able to share my experience with you.
Grace and peace for today,
I read today that resentment is fueling my addiction. I am “addicted to resentment as a spiritual attitude.” I remember a time when the opportunity to direct a choir at church was taken from me. It was an honest blunder on the part of the pastor in that he thought I wasn’t really interested in the work, that I was only doing it out of a sense of responsibility. There was another person ready and willing to take over the position.
I was livid when I found out. I paced the streets around our home snorting obscenities to myself. I became more agitated with each step. I resented the pastor and the person who would be taking on the role of choir director. My mind was racing and my heart was pounding out the rhythm of rage. Why was I so worked up?
Resentment was my drug. I was trapped by a response elevating my own ego to a place of power and control over others. I marched into the pastor’s office on a Sunday morning before the service and expressed my anger in a way that shocked and hurt him. Eventually, I was given the position but several bodies lay along the path of my seething aggression.
I see now that my addiction to an attitude of resentment is masked by my addiction to sex. When I am sexually sober, then resentment wells up inside me. I resent people who have opportunities that I don’t have, I resent God for not healing my addiction, and I resent myself for not being able to control myself. I must confess and repent from resentment to break the pattern of self-obsession. When I am self-absorbed, I deny God in my life and turn to self-pleasure. I think I deserve the feeling but it is fleeting, over in seconds, and I’m left with deep shame and overwhelming guilt. The twin companions with which I have been trapped for most of my life.
Breaking the cycle of addiction means breaking the pattern of resentment toward others. Only then can I continue down the path to recovery.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time . . . Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ
Recovery is hard, slow work. I’m only a fledging in the journey so I must be a student, willing to learn from the experiences of others. Recognizing I am powerless to control temptation, my sobriety comes moment by moment only by grace, a gift from God.
My impatience and desire for stability serve to press me to retake control and direct the recovery process. This act of ego and self will only leads to stronger temptation. Instead, I must lean into the instability of being on the way to something unknown, something completely new. I must believe that God is leading me and accept the anxiety of feeling myself in suspense and incomplete. Through the uncertainty, I must submit to the slow, steady tempo of recovery.
Can I trust in the slow work of God? I pray I can.
Recovery work is not a solitary business. Only in a community context will the hard work of breaking the cycle of addiction be available. We need each other. I balked at this notion early on in recovery and admit that I don’t fully understand its implication for my life. I do, however, believe that staying sober is more than having accountability partners. They are important but the primary reason that recovery in community is crucial is that my own journey narrative intersects in many ways with the stories of other addicts.
I get glimpses of hope when I attend meetings and hear others talk about their experiences. I understand my own journey more deeply as I share it. We must talk about our deepest struggles to be healed of the darkness that comes from our own self-hatred. I can learn to love myself when I see love in the eyes of other pilgrims. We must keep gathering together even when we don’t feel like it, because when we do, we are able to honest with ourselves. At the beginning of the meeting I mimic what others say, “Hi, I’m an addict.” By the end of the meeting I am able to accept those words, breathed into me with each shared statement from others like me.
So I will continue to go to meetings. I long for the time when it will be more natural to attend. But in the mean time, I will simply and willfully, just go. As a result, I believe I will grasp more fully the healing process and join my comrades in the journey of recovery.
I am a pilgrim on the road of recovery. The journey is rugged, full of rocks, valleys, and crevices. Yet, looking toward the horizon, there is stunning beauty. So far I’ve joined a twelve step program, and I’m currently seeing a therapist. When I revealed my addiction to my family on September 22nd, 2017 my life changed forever. From that day forward I pledged to live an honest, one person life. Since I was a teenager, I had been living a Jekyll-Hyde existence. Over a fifty year period, my addiction had grown stronger and darker. I began to cherish the darkness over the light. Hyde was overcoming Jekyll. I was powerless to quit. I was lurking in the shadows and hiding from those closest to me. My only way forward was to be completely honest about my behavior. When I did, I became one, whole person for the first time since taking my first, lustful drink. I was born again.
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Night and day your hand was heavy upon me and my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgression to the Lord.’ And you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32
This journal will recount the story of my recovery. As I reflect and write about my own experience, I hope it may give you hope in your own journey whether you are in recovery from some addiction or not. I suppose in some way, we are all recovering from that part of our life that has kept us captive. I want to lean from the shadow into the sunlight. I want to stay sober. I want to be in the will of God.