I have struggled with addiction and I have loved those struggling with addiction. I’ve wrestled with the Whys—Why can’t they stop? Why do they continue to hurt themselves? Why do/did I continue to hurt myself? My personal addictions include drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, food, men, work, and, the most insidious: obsessive thinking and wanting things my way.
My recovery journey began when I was 35. I am currently in my third decade of walking this path, which I now consider an inestimable gift from God. I have changed, been transformed, and I’ve witnessed others change. I’ve also watched others struggle, relapse, give in to the addiction and die, some by their own hand. We say in recovery meetings that we are “a high-risk group.” Through the years, I have tearfully asked many questions, trying to solve this puzzle of addiction. Today I ask fewer questions. I don’t have the answers, but I do have hope—for myself and for those I love.
“THINGS THAT ARE IMPOSSIBLE BY HUMAN RESOURCES, ARE POSSIBLE FOR GOD.” LUKE 18:27
Looking back, I see that at some point in this journey, I had the sense, the knowing, that the answer to how to be set free was a spiritual one: to be filled with faith so there would be no draw or appeal to fill myself with something lesser. But this would be a slow process. As I surrendered to the twelve-step recovery program, sought God as best I could, and didn’t give up on myself, I changed. Little by little. The ties to those go-to behaviors started to loosen, to fall off, to melt away. Over time.
So now, I don’t have a draw to most of those things—drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, food, or men, but I periodically struggle with work and obsessive thinking. The ties are not so strong now, and I can more quickly recognize when I’ve veered off God’s best path for me. If I am under stress, I can go to one of my self-medicators rather than go to God, but that reaction is pretty short-lived. Because once you’ve experienced the real thing, the others pale in comparison.
I’ve read that all addictions are really our misplaced longing for God. Something to ponder–and to find hope in. Now, I want God more than I want the substitutes–most of the time. I prefer to be bound only to the Divine. This is how I pray for those I love who are in the midst of this battle. I remember that we do not stand still. We are either moving forward toward the light–the good, full life–or falling back into the darkness. But God is in the light and the dark. There can be much meaning and value in suffering. Much to be discovered about God and about ourselves. Over time, I have become aware of my many limitations and how much I need help to live life to the full. I can accept that fact and be at peace because I’m also aware of how much I am loved by a powerful God who is my best ally. My hope lies in His love and power at work in my life.
The twelve steps are based on the Christian faith which calls for complete surrender and patience with the long transformation process. It’s similar to a Midwest autumn season with the trees surrendering, letting go of their leaves and waiting for the new life that spring always brings. In life, things sometimes fall apart before they come together. In recovery, we are invited to let go of the familiar with hope for the unknown future, which rests in our Creator’s hands. I want to trust the infinite God more than the human finite self—mine or another’s. God knows the way. When I get stuck, I can ask myself, “How free do you want to be?” Today I want to thrive, not just survive. God makes that possible for all of us.
My journey has also taught me the importance of community. The recovery program is called a “we program.” Our faith is also meant to be lived out together. When our hearts and minds are troubled, we need the clarity another can bring to us. We look to God and one another to become fully alive. We can give each other the gifts of encouragement, guidance, and, above all, hope.
As much as I would love to offer you a concrete, step-by-step solution to this puzzle, I cannot. I will leave you with the hope that the answers will come to you, God will come to you, if you stay open, honest, and willing to be changed. You can find your way and so can your loved ones.
“Always be in a state of expectancy, and see that you leave room for God to come in as He likes.” Oswald Chambers
As always, I’d love to hear your comments or questions. Feel free to email me, too.