By Martha Woodroof
‘Tis the season of personal reinvention. Armed with hope and good intentions, most of us see a more organized, slimmer, more fit, more patient version of ourselves marching through 2011.
This particular Faith Unboxed is not really for those of you who’d like to lose five pounds or have more patience. Instead, it’s for those of you who suspect, on some level, you’re an alcoholic or an addict. By which I mean that a) you cannot imagine how you’d get through life without whatever substance you’re abusing; and b) there are few loved ones you haven’t let down because of your drinking and/or drugging.
You see, I’m a recovering alcoholic/addict myself, even though my self-image kept me from accepting this for years. Chemical dependency was just so not me. I was too intellectual, too well-read, too well brought up to be anything so déclassé, so inherently boring and defective.
But then, twenty years ago this month, I had the good fortune to spend a night in jail, charged with being drunk in public. Getting real is the first step toward getting sober, and something about being locked up in a concrete and steel cage allowed me to admit I was dancing with devils I couldn’t let go of. Bourbon and pills were destroying me, yet I could not imagine how to get through life without them. The idea of living sober terrified me.
Okay, here comes the faith part.
I am, as I say frequently in these posts, a person of faith who is not religious, by which I mean I happily live my life in partnership with God, the great Whatever. When I went into that jail cell, however, I didn’t recognize any power greater than my own intellect. Yet, as is the case with many who maintain long-term recovery, I’d finally come up against something that scared some humility into me. Looking back, I think I dimly acknowledged God’s existence that night in jail. And, motivated by fear of my own future, took some of the great Whatever’s inexplicable assistance.
God and I still hang out today, and I’m still not drinking or using. I can’t begin to tell you how our relationship helps keep me sober, I just know it does. I consider the fact that I don’t have to drink or use today as my own small, private, daily miracle.
God, to me, is really simple: Something in each of us that isn’t of us that’s available for partnership. And this partnership, once we take it up, helps us lead kinder, gentler, more productive, and more realistic lives. Within this partnership, we can do things like get sober and stay sober, as well as let go of all the fear, pretense, anger, and other baggage we pick up during our years of drinking and using.
If you’re a fellow addict/alcoholic who’s still using, all I want to say is I vividly remember the feel of the Addiction Devil’s paw on my back – and how powerless I was to get loose on my own. And yes, I do have one piece of advice to pass on to you, one drunk/addict to another: Don’t feel you have to understand how sobriety happens in order to accept its gift. Don’t let arrogance prevent you from taking help from God, from me, or from any other recovering addict/alcoholic who’s got some help to offer. Just, please, get real, get humble, get going!
There’s no better time than right now.
Addendum for those of you who are not chemically addicted, but still have some seriously destructive/ self-destructive behavior you’d like to stop.
First, get real about how unhappy and scared this behavior makes you. Change is possible as soon as you’re willing to face yourself and your life as they actually are, instead of how you like to pretend they are.
Ask for help – from the great Whatever, from a Twelve Step group, from any kind person you know whose firmly ensconced in reality. Avoid those who would excuse your behavior or encourage your self-pity.
In my experience, changing self-destructive behavior, even when there’s no chemical dependency involved, takes a combination of spiritual partnership, relentless self-honesty, and tough, good-humored help from other people.
Have ideas? Want to talk about facing substance abuse or other self-destructive habits? Post here or at the Faith Unboxed site, where I’ll have your e-mail and can get back to you.
Martha Woodroof hosts the website, Faith Unboxed, and is the author of How to Stop Screwing Up: Twelve Steps to Real Life and a Pretty Good Time.
Martha note: This is round nine of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, civil, respectful conversation about faith I invite you to participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the website), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.