Monthly Archives: October 2017

Roar!

“Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8


Do you know what I left out?

I’m not even sure I was fully aware what I’d left out. That verse is incomplete. That verse up there is 1 Peter 5:8b from the New International Version. The first part of that verse says, “Be alert and of sober mind.”

To be of sober mind is like being physically sober, only in a more metaphorical sense. So, to be sober originally meant that someone was “completely unaffected by wine” (TDNT IV, 936). That’s a lot like how we use the term sobriety today in recovery. It means that we are not under the influence of our drug of choice.

Being of sober mind, then, implies “the unequivocal and immediately self-evident antithesis to all kinds of mental fuzziness” (IV, 937). In other words, we should be clear headed. The passages just before this in Peter’s  letter talk about putting off pride in favor of humility and letting God take anxious feelings from us. We have the ability and the opportunity to let go and let God, but we resist doing so because we feel like we should be able to do it ourselves. We’re too proud to ask for help. We’ve been taught to be self-reliant or pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

Some of us don’t even have our own bootstraps. We don’t have our own boots. We lost them because they weren’t as important to us as finding the next fix.

The 12&12 teaches us that “pride lures us into making demands upon ourselves or upon others which cannot be met without perverting or misusing our God-given instincts” (49). There are a couple of important things here. One is that we have God-given instincts. God has provided us with something to fall back on. Our sense of right and wrong is innate. We just have to figure out how to tap into it.

Another is that we should not be making demands of ourselves or others. We aren’t in the right frame of mind. We are confused by our stinkin’ thinkin’. Our own best thinking got us here in the first place. How clear could our heads possibly be? We’re neither sober in body or mind.

God called his people to be vigilant through Peter’s letter by using imagery common to the people of the day. Whether it’s obvious or not, there was a real likelihood for the first century Palestinian shepherd that a lion might stalk and attack their sheep. Just as a shepherd who is supposed to be guarding his sheep should work diligently to remain awake and of sound mind, so, too, should we remain watchful and aware of our surroundings.

Let’s be real for a minute. There aren’t a lot of lions roaming around in our lives. But just as the lion hides among the thicket, crouching and ready to pounce on her prey, our disease of addiction is “cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us” (AA, 10). Temptation lies around many corners and often appears in unexpected places.

Have you shown up to a high school reunion lately? All sorts of emotions and anxieties we haven’t experienced in decades can come rushing back to us in an instant. Additionally, some of the people we used to act out with are now staring us in the face expecting us to be the same person we were as teenagers. It’s a perfect storm.

That’s why we have to be prepared. That’s why we need to have a plan. That’s why it’s so important to have a support system in place. That’s why working the program is a daily part of our lives.

That way, when the unexpected rears its head, we aren’t overcome and overwhelmed by the desire to fall back into our old roles and habits.

But don’t fall into the trap that it’s just old haunts and triggers that will push us over the edge. It’s usually not one thing that leads us to a place where we momentarily set aside our newly acquired values, give into temptation, and experience a relapse. Relapse is the result of an unfortunate series of events that were not properly dealt with along the way.

We tend to have a lapse before we have a relapse. We tend to forgo talking to our sponsors or others who we know will hold us accountable. We experience a disturbance and convince ourselves that we can handle it instead of dealing with it as a top shelf issue. In reality, there’s not great difference between a newcomer white knuckling through months or years of sobriety and an old-timer taking on a disturbance alone.

To do so is to forget that “every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us” (12&12, 90). But it’s so easy not to ask the question, “Where am I in this?” that we bypass that step and move on as though nothing of significance has happened. What we fail to recognize is that not addressing what part we play takes us to an unhealthy head space which in turn has the potential to snowball back into unmanageability.

What is truly cunning, baffling and powerful within the disease of addiction is that it’s a spiritual disease, and as such, what we’re really battling is the oppressive enemy, Satan. That’s why we claim Jesus Christ as our Higher Power: the only possible victorious solution to defeat an enemy who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” is a God who come to Earth that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10).

So while our enemy might be like a lion hunting it’s prey, we don’t have to be like the warthog in the above video. We don’t have to succumb to spiritual death or physical death any longer. The White Book says that we have been “dying of guilt, fear, and loneliness” (2). Well we don’t have to live that way anymore.

If we can learn to keep and open mind and attempt living life differently, we might find that there are all sorts of things we’re capable of accomplishing which never seemed possible before. But for that to be the case, we must submit to the authority of God and the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

That’s not to say that everyone who has experience knows what they’re talking about, but the collective wisdom of those with some sober time under their belts is a heck of a lot better than the decisions one person has been making in a vacuum.

It boils down to this: if we want to live the best lives possible, we have to find ways to exist in a place and space of right thinking and right action. One might come easier than the other, and that’s okay. This is a process. It’s not going to happen overnight, and no two people will get there the exact same way.

But with God as our guide, we should find that our desire to do the next right thing grows as our relationship with God becomes stronger and more solidified.

Dear God, I’m sorry about the mess I’ve made of my life. I want to turn away from all the wrong things I’ve ever done and all the wrong things I’ve ever been. Please forgive me for it all. I know you have the power to change my life and can turn me into a winner. Thank you, God, for getting my attention long enough to interest me in trying it your way. God, please take over management of my life and everything about me. I am making this conscious decision to turn my will and my life over to your care and am asking you to please take over all parts of my life. Please, God, move into my heart. However you do it is your business, but make yourself real inside me and fill my awful emptiness. Fill me with your love and Holy Spirit and me me know your will for me. And now, God, help yourself to me and keep on doing it. I’m not sure I want you to, but do it anyhow. I rejoice that I am now a part of your people, that my uncertainty is gone forever, and that you now have control of my will and my life. Thank you and I praise your name. Amen

3rd Step Prayer, Dr. Bob

– Alex Walker

Two Step

Dance with the devil in the pale moonlight
Put your arms around him and hold him tight
Give up 2 the feeling and don’t try 2 fight
He wants your soul and he wants it 2night

– Prince

According to one world champion dancer, the Texas two step “is just walking to a beat.” In other words, it feels natural (or, at least, it should). The pattern for dancing a two step is measured over six beats in a common time signature and consists of two quick moves followed by two slow moves. Quick – quick – slow – slow.

Typically, this style of dance involves dancing with a partner whereby one person leads while the other follows. From the outside looking in, this dance is capable of being so simple that observers may not even realize a dance is happening before their eyes.

Of course, everything simple can be made into something complicated. The two step can become quite competitive, involving advanced turns and tricks. Likewise, there are advanced techniques which can be adopted by intermediate and advanced dancers. But by and large two-stepping is simple enough that practically anyone can do it.

That’s all good and well in the world of Texas style dancing. Matter of fact, if you step foot into any honky-tonk in the country, you’re liable to see any number of people participating in this simple dance.

In the recovery world, however, two-stepping means something entirely different. It’s just as simple and just as prevalent in the rooms as this dance is in country western bars. It goes something like this:

Step 1) We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors – that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2) Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.

That’s a recovery two step. Those unfamiliar with recovery might not immediately see a problem here. From the outside looking in, this is a simple progression.

I admit that I have a problem. That’s a huge step. It’s not to be taken lightly or looked down on. Recognizing that everything’s not okay takes a lot of cognitive wherewithal. Part of that admission is the realization that I’ve been in denial for such a long time. Things are truly out of control, and I need help. I’m in over my head. That’s not a great place to be, but it’s a good and powerful admission to make.

But that admission is not the be all end all of recovery. There’s a program that’s supposed to be worked, and the culmination of that program is carrying the message of the program to others that they might also have an opportunity to recover.

The spiritual experience which exists as the result of these steps requires that we actually work the steps. If we didn’t work the program and don’t continue to work the program, all we’re sharing with others are promises and pat phrases which we haven’t actually experienced ourselves.

That’s because the simple progression listed above in steps 1&2 are actually Step 1 and Step 12 of the 12 steps. But for people doing the recovery two step, these are the only steps that matter.

These people are in the rooms. Oftentimes they are sober and have been for quite some time. They are sponsoring others and teaching others how to work the program, but they haven’t done the work themselves. Trust me, these people know the steps. They are intimately familiar with the steps and the program on a conceptual and intellectual level, yet they haven’t spent the time getting their hands dirty by actively participating in their own recovery.

According to alcoholrehab.com, these are some of the primary reasons for two stepping*:

  • There are people who feel that the 12 Step program is not for them. They do benefit from the support of the AA meetings so they continue to attend the group.
  • …they find a part of the program too much of a challenge. The usual stumbling block will be around taking a personal inventory and making amends.
  • There are people who treat recovery from addiction as being similar to serving time in prison.  These dry drunks reluctantly come to the meetings, but they are not willing to do any more than this.
  • Some individuals have other problems that prevent them from working the 12 Steps. They may be suffering from undiagnosed depression or another mental health condition.
  • After a few months [sic] motivation can begin to wane. They might forget how bad things were in addiction so they become unwilling to do the things they need do to remain sober.

Whatever reasons or motivations a person might have for two stepping, it’s taking the easy way out, and we all know that taking the easy way out has not payed off for us in the long run. While many who two step might be or remain sober for a period of time, relapse is almost guaranteed at some point down the line due to unaddressed character defects and an unwillingness to get to the root problem behind our acting out.

The 12 steps are not intended to be just another coping mechanism in our lives, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t capable of turning them into just another crutch to help us limp through life. Our maladaptive coping strategies have done enough harm in our lives and the lives of others. It’s time for a heart change. Real self-examination accompanied by investment in God can and will lead to transformation physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

Just as almost anyone can learn to do the Texas two-step in a matter of minutes, it takes minimal effort to fall into the practice to two stepping your recovery program. That’s part of the problem for so many of us. We want a quick fix. When we’re ready to get better or make a change or detox, we want to do it right now. And when we find out that the solution isn’t nearly as immediate as getting a fix can be, we’re not interested.

What we have to remember is that we didn’t get to where we are overnight. We’ve dedicated days, weeks, months, and years to making ourselves the way we are at the height of our addiction. When everything is out of control, think about how much time or how much money or how much brain power has been dedicated to chasing after that next hit.

Imagine how different life could be if we were willing to dedicate as many hours of the day toward getting and remaining sober as we spent acting out and chasing the unattainable dream of that first time. People think they don’t have time to get sober. They can’t forfeit as much time as it takes to go to rehab or attend regular meetings.

Well, you had the time to get high. You had the time to get drunk. You had the time to go places you never would have gone before to meet people you never would have met before to do things you never would have done before.

So you have the time to get sober. You can’t not have the time. If you don’t have the time, you will die. This is not a sooner or later issue. It’s just sooner.

The sooner we figure out we need help, the sooner we can head down the path of recovery toward sobriety and wholeness. Otherwise, the only thing that’s going to happen sooner is us losing everything in life that matters to us, up to and including life itself.

Two stepping might be simple, but it’s not effective. Stick with what’s tried and true. And when in doubt, remember that those who’ve gone before you have your best interest in mind because they’re anxious to return the favors which were so graciously bestowed upon them.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
    my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
    and my place of safety.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and he saved me from my enemies.

The ropes of death entangled me;
    floods of destruction swept over me.
The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
    death laid a trap in my path.
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
    yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
    my cry to him reached his ears.

– Psalm 18:2-6

– Alex Walker

*Two Stepping in AA