Today is the last day of the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life program that I joined last September. Praying an hour a day has been a great, no an awesome, disruption to my life. Because of it I recognized for the first time I am an addict. I have come to realize my life as an addict is unmanageable and my only recourse is to surrender myself completely to God. As I have done that before, at least I thought I had, I have to ask myself what is different this time?
Shortly after disclosing my addiction to my family, I started going to a therapist and I joined a 12 Step program. My therapist is great and is doing me a great service, but it is in the 12 Step program where the real recovery work is done. It was after attending meetings for a few months that I felt, but didn’t understand, the magic of the program. It was a great mystery to me that I was feeling better in some way.
It took more meetings over more months for me to discover what I think is the mojo of being in a recovery group. It is the connection with other addicts. Here is where we work on our recovery. Even the 12 Steps themselves are not taken in isolation. It is all about we and us and our. There is no “I” in the program. We are embarking on this recoverery as a fellowship. The fellowship of recovery includes confession, accountability and comraderie. Connected in fellowhsip, I know I am not alone; other’s have my back.
So the difference in my surrender this time is that I am not alone. The third step of recovery is we surrender our addiciton to higher power as we understand him. Paul also understood the principle that we do the Spirit’s work together as he wrote to the Galations about it. (5:25-26, 6:2-3, 9-10) “If WE live by the Spirit . . . let us not grow conceited . . . and let us not grow weary of doing good . . . so then as we have the opportunity let us do good to everyone.” We cannot do life alone. We’re in this together whether we realize it or not.
I am often distracted by my own self interest. Instead of living into the image which God has created in me, I manipulate my image to become important to others. I even consider my image to be of some import on its own. Masking my emotions is one way I try to manage my image, and this feeds my addiction.
On the other hand, I can also be absorbed by another’s presence. In a group I can fade into the background, become invisible. God does not want this either. With God’s help, when I am in touch with my centered, image-bearing self, I operate from a solid inner base from which I can speak and act without apologies – humbly and convincingly. When this paradigm is operating freely in me, I don’t even notice it.
So when I accept myself as image deo, that is fully an image bearer of the Almighty, then I am free to be me. Then I am completely me, no strings attached. Of course, this matters to God because he wants me to operate from this solid inner base that he has created in me. It matters to other people because when I am totally myself in relationships, I am differentiated from others and thereby act in a caring and a challenging way at the same time. God’s love in us is not anemic. It is robust. As a result I become more confident and that is why it also matters to me.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
Psalms 19:12-14 ESV
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,
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.