Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No Spin

Day 64.

I’ve been struggling.

Why is that so hard to say? When I started this blog, I wanted to lay it all out, everything from the beautiful to the repulsive. Essentially, I wanted to document what it’s like to be an addict. But I find it surprisingly difficult to reveal the ugly stuff until I’m ready to pair it with a redeeming ray of sunshine, which I will now proceed to do. But what if I’d written this entry yesterday? All I could have said was this:

I’m looking for relief in all the wrong places. I’m in emotional and physical pain, and I’m trying to fix it by taking medicine I don’t need, smoking obsessively, drinking energy drinks, and looking at not-quite-porn. It started when my wife left for the weekend, in an attempt to soothe the obsession without falling off into relapse. It wasn’t necessarily that destructive or hurtful, but it was wasteful, and kinda lame. I set up a bunch of safety precautions – phone calls, accountability reports – but it really comes down to what’s going on inside. Once I stayed at my parent’s house while Linsey was out of town, to be “safe.” I ended up using in the bedroom next to my son while he slept. I mean, until I fix what’s going on inside, what can you do? Chain me up?

I’m not fixed.

In my efforts to reign it in, and get through this rough patch, I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with my new sponsor. This is growth – I hate the phone. We’ve talked a lot about “middle circle behavoir.” SAA’s middle circle is a double-edged sword, with both powerful and dangerous potential. I firmly believe in the concept: define behaviors that can lead to relapse, so that you know where you’re headed before you get there. If you do it right, you’re asking for help before you crash and burn. This takes a lot of honesty and vulnerability. If you do it wrong, you’re defining behaviors as middle circle “on the fly” to suit your desires in the moment. Then you’re in trouble. Basically, you’ll do OK with the middle circle concept if you can admit that you’ll never be fixed. If you’re looking for complete release, the ability to say “I used to be an addict,” then it won’t work for you. Because every time you call up a program friend and say you’re in the middle circle, you’re acknowledging that you’re still looking for illicit comfort, you’re still messed up, and you’re still a heartbeat away from relapse.

In this morning’s meeting, my sponsor gave up two and a half years of sobriety. His slip had been a little bit of internet porn. I remembered the relief I felt when I recently started over. He echoed my experience, that honesty and continued growth are more important than your chip-record. Chips and the sobriety time they represent are invaluable. So is being able to admit that I’m not yet (and never will be) fixed. I find it interesting and relevant that God never did take away Paul's "thorn in the flesh."

I’m broken.

This week in my church, a woman shared her testimony. It boiled down to this: She is heading to Korea for missions work, and wasn’t sure they’d want her. The reason? A few years back, she went through a divorce. I caught her after the service and told her with tears in my eyes that I admired her. Not for going to Korea, but for choosing to share with us her struggles. As a newly single woman, she had been living in her parents’ home, but avoided our church out of shame. Going back meant walking into the building where she’d married, and facing friends who had attended her wedding. Eventually, she did return, and found love and acceptance. (Thank God – that’s the kind of church I want to be a part of.) I learned that my actions as her Worship Pastor had been part of her healing. What a humbling lesson on the mystery of God’s plans: I was filling an orchestra and a choir. God was healing a broken heart. I believe that in her ministry, she will discover, as I have, that her wound is not a liability. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [2Cor12] It’s really true.

I need God.

Our guest speaker had worked as a missionary in China. She was down to earth, funny and authentic. She had recently spent two weeks in a poor farming province teaching about the Old Testament. (Shout-out to my Jewish friends…) Everyone wore thick jackets in the pictures, the kind I wear once a year when we take the kids to the snow. They sat on a kang, a raised heated platform, where they also ate and slept. It was crowded. The church service in the city was also crowded, and had expanded from a living room to an entire floor of a factory. How does one keep an illegal church service (with 200 people) secret? These people are hungry. They need and want more of God in their lives. And when given the opportunity, they respond. Our speaker contrasted this with our reluctance to go to the altar. We worry, what will people think if they I know I need God? How did we get the idea in our heads that needing God makes us less spiritual? I have a long way to go, but I’m done debating the first couple of steps. I’m powerless, my life’s unmanageable, and only a power greater then myself can restore me to sanity.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. You articulated some things I'm working with too. We're powerless. We will never find the strength in ourselves to be perfect. God will help us. But I guess I'm learning that God's help won't come in the form we might have hoped for at first: perfecting us, so that we don't wish for things that aren't good for us, or act in ways that hurt the ones we love. Instead God helps us live with our imperfections, still suffering from them, but knowing that our weakness makes us that much more receptive to his help, so that we can learn (slowly, with setbacks) how to live with our own perfections so that we don't hurt ourselves and others as often. But that result is impossible without total reliance.

    I may be wrong about all that. I'm learning.

    I just read about a kind of prayer that early Christian monastics practiced called "welcoming prayer." It involves looking at your own negative emotions (or impulses, or whatever) and welcoming them, instead of trying to just push them out. Anyway, it's more complex than that, but working with it has helped me realize that the goal isn't to not have these emotions.