I’ve been writing a series on recovery. My particular bag of choice was liquor, but yours might be different. Perhaps you’re into pills, or eating, or not eating, or materialism. No matter; we’re all in recovery from something. Welcome to the Recovery Room. (And while you’re here, please consider liking my Facebook page to receive Recovery Room updates.)
“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”
― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
I penned a piece for Shawn Smucker last week, a sort of naked confession about alcohol dependency. I don’t suppose I’ll make a habit of writing about addiction too much in these parts--at least not for a time--but I wanted to share some feedback I’ve been receiving from the piece.
I found myself at the IF:GATHERING, a women’s conference in Austin, Texas this weekend. I know; I know. It’s always awkward for man to find himself high-centered at a women’s event, but Amber was in attendance and I was scheduled to have a meeting directly after the conclusion of the conference, so I sucked up every ounce of testosterone I had and made my way to Austin Music Hall, which was flooded with estrogen. (Can I say that?)
I camped out in the lobby with another fella or two (men are like magnets to other men at these sorts of events), and we waited for the gathering to end. During the breaks, the women came into the lobby, gave us boys the old side-eye (“what are they doing here,” they might have said) and, for the most part, went about doing their thing. But here’s the meat of the matter: a few women came to me in these breaks, told me that they had read the piece at Smucker’s, and then said, “we’re not so different, you know.”
They shared with me of their eating disorders, their pain killer addictions, their dependency on liquor, or men, or fill-in-the-blank. I suppose I should have said something more than, “thank you for sharing your story,” but I don’t really have much advice for my fellow addicts (aren’t so many of us dependent on something?). Anything beyond “I hear your confession and thank you,” seemed trite, or platitudinal, or put on.
It’s not just been the women at the IF:GATHERING either. Some of you have privately emailed encouragement, confession, and the like, and I just want you to know that I hear you; thank you. These kinds of common stories bolster, remind me of the universality of brokenness, and also how recovery is hastened by the vulnerable kindred.
In these matters, I wonder if “I hear you,” and “me too,” are the most important thing we can say. Somehow, this kind of human connection matters in recovery. I don’t understand the magic of it all, and I don’t suppose I ever will, but I don’t reckon any of us will find our way beyond dependency without a confessor or two, and even then, without a few human crutches to help us hobble home.
I think Mr. Berry is right, “we use [alcohol, drugs, food, sex, cynicism, etc.] because we have lost each other.” Well… here’s to the finding.
I’ve generated a Recovery playlist for those of you who share struggles (which is to say the majority). It’s a faith-based list, and it has been very helpful over the last 145 days of sobriety.Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.