By now, you know it’s National Recovery Month, the month dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who find recovery. (People like all of us.) In sober celebration, I’ve taken a hard look at my own recovery (alcohol was my lover). I’ve reviewed my old journals and asked whether I’m keeping my own inner sobriety fresh. Recovery, see, is a sourdough starter; you have to keep feeding it or it’ll die a stinky death.
Yesterday, I reviewed some Jesuit materials that have shaped my thoughts on true sobriety. I read and contemplated the Jesuit Principle and Foundation, which goes something like this:
“Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls.
God created all things on this earth [even wine, food, sex, etcetera, etcetera] to help us fulfill this purpose.
From this it follows that we are to use the things of this world only to the extent that they help us to this end, and we ought to rid ourselves of the things of this world to the extent that they get in the way of this end.” (Bracketed portions are my additions.)
I sat in the quiet and meditated on the Principle and Foundation. I considered my own journey toward inner sobriety in light of it. (Only toward; do we ever reach the finish line?) As I did, I found myself high-centered on the notion that God has created things for our good.
The human ingenuity that gave us pain pills, social media, the wheels of commerce?
Yes, I reckon, all things were made for the good of men, but men seem to have minds of their own; if a little of something is good, a helluva lot is better. And if that ain’t you, count yourself among the luckiest of saints.
I considered God’s creation of the fermentation process, how he knew men would make wine and brew beer. And doesn’t a little wine an beer make the heart merry? Isn’t imbibing amoral? And yet, if my desires lead to over-use, to lack of presence with friends and family, to disruption of my scruples, it’s a hinderance from my chief end to “praise, reverence, and serv[ice] to God….” The Principle and Foundation then requires I put my desire to death.
Burn the booze at the stake.
Send sex to the firing squad.
Shove shopping through the meat grinder.
By killing the desire to overuse, to supplant God with the materials of his making, we incarnate the reality that God is our primary fixation. Everything else is secondary.
And that brings me to the most humbling part of my reflection. I came up with no less than a half-dozen things I misuse, abuse, or use to get a fix.
Son of a fix.
Good thing, I suppose, that it’s National Recovery Month.
Today, would you ask yourself these questions:
What are the things that hinder me from praising, reverencing, and serving God, even though they might be perfectly amoral otherwise?
Can I list them?
Can I come up with strategies to let those things go?
1. Coming Clean: A Story of Faith shares my 90-day journey into recovery. And isn’t it fitting that it began in September (2013). This is my story, sure. It’s your story, too. Grab a copy. Grab an extra copy for your friends.
2. Yesterday I asked my Facebook community what they’ve learned from others in recovery. The responses were amazing. You don’t want to miss this thread.
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