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Recently, I saw of photo of a clouded leopard, lovingly gazing into its trainer's eyes. There was unconditional trust and affection in that gaze. At least, I hope it was and not an entrée selection.
But, looking at that leopard's face, I was struck by that adoration look. It could be unconditional love or a food craving, but the emphasis is still the same. It can be person, place or thing. And that's the thing about addictions; they can also be person, place or thing. But the adoration answer is definitely there somewhere. It's the magic solution to our lives. It's the promised fix of "happily ever after."
That adoration look frequently shows up on Harlequin romance book covers. Someone is in a pirate's outfit; someone's in a bodice and petticoats. But when you look at that the cover, there's that gaze, that kind of "my life is now complete" gaze.
And that's addiction. It's addiction because it is a substitute for God, the spiritually driven hunger for connection with our first love. We may not even know He is just that. After all, God started the whole thing...
Recently, I chatted with a young girl I've been mentoring. She's currently in an eating disorder treatment facility- and fighting her treatment. She has flat out refused to eat, drink or take any medication. She's been closely monitored, mainly due to a recent episode in which she swallowed glass.
Yes, you heard me right; she swallowed glass.
I asked her what brought this on and she responded she wanted to feel pain and she was tired of waiting for her recovery. I don't think it has sunken in that recovery is very much a process, not an instant cure.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18
When was the last time you said, “I’m bored”, and when was the last time you used drugs because of it?
Everyone gets bored sometimes; it’s only natural. But let me tell you something about boredom, and the dangerous apathy that creeps into the minds of men. Man is the only one of God’s creatures who is capable of being bored. No other living thing can ever be bored with itself or its environment.
Boredom is one of the sure ways to measure your own inner emptiness. Like mercury in a thermometer, it accurately measures just how hollow your inner spirit really is. Each person who is thoroughly bored is living in a vacuum, and nature requires that all vacuums be filled. Like “what goes up must come down”, it is one of the unfailing rules of the universe. But it is entirely up to us how the vacuum is to be filled.
Few issues have generated more heated debate among Christians than that of the morality of alcohol consumption. The dispute has generated responses ranging from local educational temperance movements to federal amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Certainly there is evidence of widespread abuse of alcoholic beverages today; this few would deny. Furthermore, the Bible clearly condemns all forms of alcohol abuse, by binding precept and by notorious example. Yet the ethical issue before us is, Does the Bible allow for a righteous consumption of the beverage alcohol? The fundamental question is ethical, not cultural or demographical; it requires an answer from a Biblical, not an emotional, base.
Among evangelicals, the fundamental approaches to alcohol use may be distilled (no pun intended) into three basic viewpoints.
(1) The prohibitionist viewpoint universally decries all consumption of the beverage alcohol. Adherents to this position do not find any Scriptural warrant for alcohol consumption, even in Biblical times.
(2) The abstentionist perspective discourages alcohol use in our modern context, though acknowledging its use in Biblical days. They point to modern cultural differences as justification for the distinction: widespread alcoholism (a contemporary social problem), higher potency distilled beverages (unknown in Biblical times), and intensified dangers in a technological society (e.g., speeding cars).
(3) The moderationist position allows for the righteous consumption of alcoholic beverages. This position, while acknowledging, deploring, and condemning all forms of alcohol abuse and dependency, argues that Scripture allows the partaking of alcoholic beverages in moderation and with circumspection.
(The third in a three part series on resistance to recovery.)
In the first of this series of articles I emphasized that the most difficult form of resistance to recovery is our own resistance. Recovery is not easy. It is a difficult process. Telling the truth, acknowledging our need, accepting help, making amends - these are some of the difficult tasks of recovery. It is understandable that we resist such a difficult process. In addition, recovery involves change. We have spent many years practicing our dysfunctional ways of living. The path of least resistance for us is to keep doing the same old things. Change is difficult and it is understandable that we resist it. In the second in this series of articles, I emphasized that in addition to our own internal resistance to recovery, recovery also often takes place in a hostile environment. For a variety of reasons, not everyone in our lives will welcome the changes which recovery brings.
Many of us, unfortunately, have experienced some distinctively Christian forms of resistance to recovery and it is this kind of resistance which I would like begin to discuss in this article.
In a previous article I discussed the most insensitive, intransigent and personally painful kind of resistance to recovery - our own resistance. We tend to be our own worst critics. We resist the changes most tenaciously. In most cases we fight it, reject it, hate it - probably more than anyone else.
It is often true, however, that the recovery journey takes us through territory that is either ambivalent towards or downright hostile to recovery. Recovering codependents, for example, may find that some people prefer the 'good old days' when they were more compliant and self-sacrificing. Unpleasant emotions, once medicated with addictive substances or processes, may be experienced as threats to relationships that have adapted over the years to the insanity of addiction. Some people in recovery experience hostility when they start telling the truth in social systems which have been committed to silence for generations. Other people experience shame and rejection when people are skeptical about or merely uncomfortable with the changes that recovery brings.
Recovery is about change and most of us will encounter resistance when change produces new and unfamiliar behaviors. It is not reasonable to expect that all of the changes which take place during recovery will be received with rejoicing as if they were 'answers to prayer'.
Resistance and Rejection
Most of the resistance we encounter in recovery will be personal and painful. Even when resistance comes in the form of intellectualized 'arguments' against recovery, it may feel like personal assault rather than dispassionate analysis. For example, suppose someone says: "You can't change the past, so you should focus on the positive." This may make some intellectual sense to you. It may 'ring true.' It might, indeed, be good advice at this particular stage of your recovery. But for many people it may also feel like a profound dismissal of their struggle towards sanity. The key to sorting out confusing stuff like this is not the truth or falsehood of "you should focus on the positive". What is critically important is the tone of voice in which you hear "you should focus on the positive". Is the tone practical and understanding? Or is it shaming and dismissing? Do I feel rejected as a person when I hear this?
Let's begin with the obvious. The most argumentative, tenacious, illogical and misguided criticism of recovery comes not from other people but from me. When it comes to my own recovery journey, I am the person who resists the most. Like many of us, I have always been my own worst critic. I can think of 50 reasons, easily, why my recovery is just a pop-psychology, navel-gazing, trusting-the-wisdom-of-men-instead-of-God, self-pity-party.
I do not need any external hostility to recovery in order to remind me of how I should be better by now, of how I should be able to just pray about it and trust God, or of how I should spend more time helping others rather than selfishly focused on my own needs. I have yet to find a criticism of recovery that I haven't already internalized in some way. I have recently finished reading a series of books highly critical of the recovery movement and there were few surprises for my personal Inner Board of Critics. This distinguished panel of Judges has left few stones unturned in criticizing my own recovery. I suppose there are some obvious reasons why we resist our own recovery so tenaciously. Let me mention just three.
Resistance to the Truth
First, of course, we experience denial as having such tangible benefits. Denial has a lot of appeal - it always seems like it's going to be less painful than facing the truth. I've gotten along so far without having to face this, why should I have to deal with it now? The truth, by contrast, always seems like the worst possible thing. So, we resist recovery because it is less appealing than denial. This is, of course, why few of us choose recovery just as a kind of personal enrichment activity - most of us don't begin the recovery journey until our pain becomes so intense that we are forced to take measures that in ordinary circumstances we would resist if at all possible.
"My Yoke Is Easy."
What do you think Jesus wants you to do?
I'm not thinking of specific choices like whether to have pizza or turkey for lunch (I don't think He cares). But in terms of overall life choices and directions, what do you think He wants? There are probably a lot of answers to that question, but I'm thinking of one right now that I'll bet nobody else mentioned.
I think He wants me to quit. (It's okay if you're surprised.)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
The scripture above is one of the most well-known passages in the bible. It's a source of comfort to folks who are buried under the weight of illness, despair, and impossible expectations. But it's even more comforting when we understand the historical context.
Prayer, as defined in the NKJV Study Bible, is based on the Hebrew verb palal, as noted in God's words to King Solomon when the Lord appeared to him the second time following Solomon's dedication of the temple:
Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: 'I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.
The word "pray," as used above in , means "'to intervene,' 'to interpose,' 'to arbitrate,' or even 'to judge.' The Lord was asking His people to intercede for others in their prayers." (NKJV Study Bible, Second Ed., p.671)
So, what does it mean "to intercede for others in prayer?" According to the NKJV Study Bible, based on the Greek words enteuxis and entugchano, translated "intercession," this term refers to "the act of petitioning God or praying on behalf of another person or group. The sinful nature of this world separates human beings from God. It has always been necessary, therefore, for righteous individuals to go before God to seek reconciliation between Him and His fallen creation. The sacrifices and prayers of Old Testament priests were acts of intercession that point forward to the work of Christ. Christ is, of course, the greatest intercessor." (NKJV Study Bible, Second Ed., p.1914)
"Now I am really confused," said Jerry. "I'm doing all the things I think I'm supposed to do. I've been in therapy for a year and a half now, and I've been going to the 12-Step group at church. But somehow I have lost track of things. What is this all about? And why is it so painful?" Like Jerry, many of us have experienced times in the recovery journey when we 'lose track' of things. Why are we doing this? What is the point?
Sometimes when we are in the middle of painful transitions it is particularly difficult to see clearly what's really going on. The changes can seem disorientingly fast and then, moments later, frustratingly slow. The changes can seem too good and too painful at the same time. In times like this, it makes a lot of sense to focus on the fundamentals. Afterall, there really isn't much in the way of 'advanced recovery.' If there is a graduate level recovery course, I haven't found it yet. I find myself returning again and again to the most basic and fundamental of truths. It is in Recovery 101 that I find renewed clarity, hope and determination to "keep on keeping on". I am quite fond of the old AA slogan "KISS" which stands for "keep it simple, stupid". That is precisely what we need.