“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