Tag Archive for: Recovery

Recovery Room: The Fast

It’s Thursday, which means we’re walking into the Recovery Room. It’s also Lent, which means many of us are walking into an intentional penitential season, a season to turn back into a fresh work of recovery. Some are fasting. (If you’d like to join our community fast, follow this link.)

Have you considered your Lenten fast this year? Have you considered the reasons behind it? I’ve posted this here before, but it’ll be new for some. Give a listen, get alone, and consider how you’ll fast this Lent. Come along?

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Recovery Room: From Gumption to Inner-Sobriety

Over the last year, I’ve received my fair share of me-too emails, emails in which the writer has reached out to say, “you’ve wrestled with addiction? Me too.” These emails take various shapes and forms–advice from someone ten years ahead of me on this recovery journey, confessions from other addicts on the other side of the screen.  This is the beauty of confession–it both invites the wisdom and grace of age, and encourages the lame to take their own first step.

Yesterday, I received an email from a reader who shared his pain. He’d come to the conclusion of Coming Clean and decided to stretch back into the possibility of God. He wrote, “my life hasn’t changed at all yet… I still ache all the time… I am still trying to take it in, trying to really believe it all… trying to get up the gumption to believe in Jesus again, maybe just a little….”

Trying to get the gumption–what a line.

These are the confessions that are difficult to field, especially in a relational vacuum, but I did my best. As I closed my response, I typed,

“‘trying to get up the gumption to believe in Jesus again…’ Maybe this is the trick. Maybe it’s intestinal fortitude, and intuition, and a bit of wonder that keeps us holding on, or reaching out (depending on our posture). I think God sees that. I think God is okay with that. In fact, I think God smiles on it.”

I clicked send, sat in the silence, and considered my bald assertion.

***

You may not be a twelve-step disciple, may not attend Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or a Sex Addicts Anonymous. (To put all cards on the table, you should know I’m not a regular attender.) But even if you’ve never stepped into a meeting, if you have no disordered attachments or disruptive addictions, even if you’ve only had passing conversations with true addicts (whatever that might mean to you), don’t you have some familiarity with the twelve steps of the Anonymous programs? Don’t you at least know the first two?

Step 1: admit you are powerless over your addiction, and that life has become unmanageable in that addition.

Step 2: admit that only a Power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity.

These are the foundational principals of the twelve-step programs designed to beat addiction. And herein lies the problem: even if one believes his life unmanageable, even if addiction, or pain, or our spiritual condition has rendered him powerless, what if he can’t quite admit that there is a Power greater than himself? What if belief in God is a struggle at best, and impossible at worst? Is recovery possible?

I’m not here to give you the twelve-step answer to the struggle, or to chide your disbelief. I’m also not here to provide resources for atheist and agnostic twelve-steppers (though they exist). Today I’m writing for a far different purpose; I’m writing to inspire your imagination.

Ask yourself this question: What if I don’t believe in a Power great enough to save me from addiction? Consider yesterday’s emailer; he was onto something.

There’s no such thing as perfect belief this side of the veil. So what if we admitted our doubts, the weakness of our faith, and responded, I’m trying to get up the gumption to believe in Jesus again…? What if that response–imperfect as it might seem–was good enough for our communities of recovery? What if our communities (both twelve-step communities and church communities) made space for doubt, faith, and the gumption in the liminal space between? Wouldn’t that be a community of honesty and authenticity? Are there any better weapons against addiction and disordered attachments than honesty and authenticity?

***

In these recovery conversations, let’s make space for the doubt and disbelief. Let’s make space for unresolved pain and questions. And instead of giving all the right answers, let’s inspire those around us to gumption. Perhaps their gumption is God’s gift for the recovery of their faith, for the recovery of their inner-sobriety.

Can you imagine it?

***TINY LETTER***

CC Austin OuttakesThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my latest release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

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5 Ways to Reach the Addict in Your Life

Over the last several months, whether by phone, email, or coffeeshop banter, I’ve fielded this question: how do I breakthrough to my addicted [husband, wife, daughter, cousin, fill-in-the-blank]? It’s an honest, unnerving question. The truth is, I’ve no answer for ushering the divine providence of God into the life of an addict. I’m no guru.

Yesterday I spoke with a friend who’s walking out his own path of recovery. He’s one of the rare wise ones, proof that sometimes sage souls really do walk the Ozark highlands. We sat across the table, and he told me he’d been sober for more than 90 days. (Opiates were his bag.) We discussed the tiny ways in which the providence of God intervened, the ways in which God brought the craggy bottom of life up to our falling.

We chatted for a bit, and I decided I’d throw him the knuckleball question.

“When folks ask you what they can say to their addict friend or family member, what do you tell them?”

He smiled, shook his head. “Tell them? It doesn’t work that way. You know that.”

I nodded, smiled. “Yeah. Too bad, isn’t it?”

Call it addiction; call it dependency; call it a minor problem. Call it whatever you want, but an addicted soul can’t change what an addicted soul doesn’t have the power to change. (Stop and reread that sentence?) More to the point, perhaps, a sober soul can’t change what a sober soul doesn’t have the power to change.* You cannot browbeat an addict clean.

It can be a disheartening thought. After all, don’t we all want to see our people walk into freedom? I’ve been considering this what-can-we-do? question over the last few weeks, and I think I’ve formulated an initial five-step action plan of sorts. It won’t be easy. It will take commitment, dedication, and the practice of slow speech. But I think you’ll find it might just work.

The 5 Step Action Plan to Reach the Addict in Your Life

1. Pray

In the 1960s, French philosopher Jacques Ellul wrote extensively about the place of the Christian in the political arena. He reminded the French evangelicals of the day, that, the exclusive province of the Christian is prayer. Ellul’s thesis was simple: while the world thrashes about seeking political solutions, the faith-bearers are the only ones with the power to pray the great Kingdom Come into earth as it is in heaven.

Political commentary aside (the good Lord knows I’m not aiming to delve into politics on this blog), Ellul’s point is applicable in a great many spheres. We thrash, and we thrash, and we thrash about in hopes of changing our friends. We scheme and scheme, conjure ways to bring others to their quickening moment of sobriety. We plan interventions, ask our recovering friends to speak to our addict friends. And yet, how many of us pray—knees to the floor, face to the ground, hands on the carpet? How many of us retreat to our rooms, shut the door, and whisper secret, uncontrived, non-public prayers? (Matt. 6:6)

Are you ready for my confession? I pray far less often than I speak. Perhaps I have an addiction to pride, to thinking I can be the change someone else needs. Simply put? It doesn’t work that way.

2. Love

In an article entitled “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and it is Not What You Think” (that title could have used an editor’s touch, eh?), Johann Hari demystified the notion of addictive chemical hooks. Walking through the science of addiction—the more modern, quantifiable science—he writes, “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.”

Hari’s point—and it’s experientially true—is this: a breakthrough to the heart of the addict is possible when you love unconditionally and incorporate him into your community. Hari’s assertion has basis in the biblical narrative, too. In Ephesians 5, Paul gives his antidote for the sins of isolation and addiction, encouraging the addict to be involved in a loving, encouraging community of faith. (Eph. 5:18-19)

3. Pray

Pray again? Don’t worry. It’s not what you think.

It’s an easy thing to do—spend all your prayers on the addictions of your friends without turning inward. Let’s try a different tact, though. Find some space; sit in the quiet. Ask God, “show me my addictions, even if they’re socially acceptable.” Make a list.

Shopping? Working? Eating? Exercising? Escaping into entertainment?

Ask why you’re engaging in your own obsessive, addictive behaviors. Confess them. Pray that through exposing your own addictions, God might give you empathy for your struggling friends and family members. After all, without empathy for our neighbors, is breakthrough possible?

We’re all drunk on something. What’s your bag?

4. Love

Love again? Yes. Always love.

If and when the addict comes clean, there is a great temptation—the temptation toward I-told-you-so. How does it work itself out in conversation?

I tried to warn you six months ago, but you just wouldn’t listen.

Didn’t I ask you whether you had a drinking problem? Why did you lie?

I knew you had a problem; how could you not see it?

My bible-study group has really been praying for you. We just knew you had a problem.

In the course of my life, I’ve found that when folks don’t know what to say, they often say the wrong thing. (I’m not immune to this syndrome. I’m the chief of blabbermouths.) So often, when a closeted addict comes out, friends and family members don’t know where to start. I’ll give you a hint–it all starts with a hug.

Don’t say anything, unless it’s “I’m sorry,” or “I love you.” Give a hug. Ask if they need anything. Then? Love, love, love, love.

Love is all you need.

5. Pray

When all else fails, pray, pray, pray. Pray without ceasing. The prayer of a righteous man accomplishes more than any intervention ever could.

A Final Word on Interventions and Tough Love

This isn’t to say there won’t be times when intervention is necessary, or when tough love is needed. There will be. But loving well and praying hard come first.

Pray, love, pray, love, pray. Repeat it as a mantra. Internalize it. Then? Go in peace to love and serve.

*Word of disclaimer: I’m no therapist or addiction counselor. I’m just a fella who’s walked the road of denial, which as they say, ain’t just a river in Egypt.

***COMING CLEAN***

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, is available. You can order online wherever good books are sold, or visit your local Barnes & Noble and pick up your copy! While you’re there, check out this month’s Relevant Magazine, which features and interview with me about Coming Clean.

***TINY LETTER***

CC Austin OuttakesThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my latest release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

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Marriage Letters: The Quickening Moments

Dear Amber,

There are moments in marriage where all things quicken, where best or worst moments siphon out the essence of togetherness. In those moments, we’re brought to the edge of joy or pain, hope or despair. These are the moments that suck the air out of the room, moments leaving me in holy awe that, yes, this thing called marriage is an ordination, a calling.

I felt it first when the white wooden doors at the Guntersville Church of Christ swung wide, and you stood there in blinding beauty. This was the first time my future passed before me, and all the possibilities of life spread wide. I felt it again with the birth of Isaac, then Jude, then Ian, then Titus—the bundles of potential energy, of potential boyhood, of potential manhood.

There were other quickenings–the time you called from Louisiana; “grandma’s gone,” you said. There was the morning we woke to discover grandpa’s soul had fled his hospice bed and tore a hole through the great hereafter; he and grandma were together again.

The quickening moments of marriage are not relegated to life or death, to marriage vows or the renewing of vows. Confession, repentance—these are quickening moments, too. In September of 2013 I called from a conference in Austin, Texas. You were home with the children, and you answered at the end of a frazzled day. Our conversation was brief.

“I think I need you to get rid of all the alcohol in the house,” I said. “I think I have to quit drinking.”

“You have a drinking problem?” The words hung, lump forming in my throat.

“Yes,” I managed after too long a pause.

“Okay,” you said. “I love you.” And that was it.

You were all grace. It was a quickening moment for me, but perhaps for you, too?

You’d clung to a dream of Paris. In your dream, we sat in an outdoor cafe, wine in our glasses, baguettes and butter on our plates. At night, we turned down Parisian sheets, sipped chilled champagne and found the right mood. In the morning, we traveled to the French countryside, toured wineries and learned the slower way of the farmers. We collected wine stories, perhaps wine bottles. Your dream was one of art, French jazz, wine and love. Could there be anything more romantic?

S&A

My confession on that September evening stole your dream. I came clean, and your fantasy of Paris was thrown out with the bathtub gin. You didn’t tell me this until nearly six months into my sobriety (thank you). By then, you were glad to trade your dream for a more sober version of me.

There’s been a lot of talk and some abuse of the Holy Scripture’s recitation of wifely submission. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:22). Some doofuses quote this scripture as they bark commands, or as they push the women-folk down the chain of command. I’m not qualified to unpack this scripture in its entirety, but this is what I know: you led me into sobriety by your gentle-hearted submission. You crucified your full French fantasy to serve me in sobriety’s throes (see all the scripture you embody?). If that’s not submission, I’m not sure what is.

Perhaps there’s still Paris. Art, the countryside, baguettes, butter, and midnight romance–it’s still a possibility. There may not be wine or champagne, but there’s still us. Somehow, I know that’s good enough for you. I know I’m good enough for you. That’s a hard sentence to type.

Here’s what else I know: we’re siphoned, and siphoned, and siphoned, and I suppose one day there will be nothing left us but the bare essentials. Maybe we’ll submit to each other. Maybe I’ll crucify a few dreams for you. Maybe you’ll crucify a few more for me. Maybe we’ll have quickening after quickening. Maybe we’ll watch our children be siphoned. Maybe we’ll see our parents’ souls siphoned. Maybe we’ll watch the world be siphoned to its nothing-elseness. If we’re lucky, maybe the nothing-elseness will look like faith, hope, and love.

Submitting to the siphoning,

Seth

***COMING CLEAN***

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, is available! You can order online wherever good books are sold, or visit your local Barnes & Noble and pick up your copy! While you’re there, check out this month’s Relevant Magazine, which features and interview with me about Coming Clean.

***TINY LETTER***

CC Austin OuttakesThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my latest release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

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On Pain and Creativity (A Story Nashville Post)

This week, I’m traveling to the beautiful state of Tennessee to lead a breakout session at Story Nashville. I’ll be speaking about the intersection of pain and creativity. It was my pleasure to the below preview piece for the folks at Story.

*****

There are less awkward ways to introduce oneself, but for the sake of brevity, indulge me: I am a Christian drunk. Yes, there’s nuance to unpack, as everyone is so prone to say these days, and yes, I’ve been sober for some time. The truth is the truth, though, and the truth put another way is this: Gin and I are not good dance partners.

For a spell, I enjoyed the thought of writing the Great American Novel, and I gave it the old college try. I wrote in the evenings, always under the influence of gin or whiskey. The liquor loosened the voice of the muse—the Siren?—who distracted me from some very real pains in a very heavy season of life. At some point, the distractions became more more frequent, my lack of presence more pronounced. Alcohol replaces things, see. Replaces responsibility. Replaces creativity. Replaces family, perhaps.

Continue reading at the Story Nashville blog.

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Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In my most recent edition, I’m discussing the discovery of “The Quiet Sober.” Sign up and receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

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