Every big life change thrusts you into a new world that you must learn about. Addiction is no different. There are so many topics related to this issue. Every time that I think I understand so much, a new little twist pops up. I am constantly surprised. I began looking into the beginning of AA and the 12 step program. I discovered what a fascinating story that is. I want to share with you a little of what I've learned. I think it will help you whether you have addiction in your family or not.
Let's start with a working knowledge of terms. Addiction is THE disease. It isn't just alcoholism or drug addiction. Scientists have learned that in the brain of the addict, it doesn't matter what the substance is. If it is booze or pills, stimulants or depressants, in the brain of an addict, it all behaves the same way. Their brains have over a period of time, become rewired. That is not to say that they don't have a drug of choice. It just helps us to understand that the big problem is that of addiction. Other substances might be substituted with many of the same effects of the drug of choice, in the life of an addict.
About the time of prohibition, we began to see a lot of alcoholics. Few doctors recognized alcoholism as a medical condition. Bill W an alcoholic, had found one doctor who looked at addiction as more than just a moral failing. He had treated Bill three other times. Bill was told that if this treatment failed, he would go to a mental institution or die. On Bill's fourth hospital stay, he was feeling hopeless and cried out "I'll do anything, anything at all." "If there is a God, Let him show himself." He then experienced a great light, a sensation of ecstasy and serenity. It was after this experience that he realized that any recovery could only happen because of a spiritual awakening.
Bill later meets with an old drinking buddy who is now sober. He tells Bill that he has found religion. It helps Bill to talk to this friend. He realizes that alcoholics need other alcoholics to recover. He then meets a doctor who struggles with addiction. His name is Dr. Bob. Together they begin forming what is now AA.
Now fast forward a few years. The AA "Big Book" has been printed. There are a few meetings going on. But, Bill is frustrated that things aren't taking off as quickly as he'd like. It was a very cold sleety night. Someone comes to the door and Bill in his fatigue thinks it's another bum. He is tired but says come on in. The fella removes his coat which reveals his priest's collar. The man is Father Ed Dowling, a Jesuit priest. He came to tell him how similar the 12 steps are to the "Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius." Bill replies, " never heard of him." This gets a laugh out of Father Ed but begins a great friendship between the two men.
Now, let's go back in time. St. Ignatius, the author of the spiritual exercises, had his own "at the bottom" moment. He was a great warrior. He was very proud. An injury forced him to be bed ridden for a very long time. He requested reading material that had to do with warriors and battles but the only reading material was "Vita Christi" by Ludolph Saxony. This book known as Simple Contemplation, asks the reader to place himself at each of the scenes of the gospel stories. It was a condensed version of spiritual instructions, meditations and prayers that he had heard from over sixty writers, with regard to spiritual matters. This made Ignatius experience a conversion. He went on to form the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
OK, this is a very abbreviated version of a couple of men, separated by more than 400 yrs. What could they possibly have in common? As a parent of an addict, I have acquired this new vocabulary this year. We've talked about detaching, learning the will of God through discernment, we've talked about dependence on God, we've talked about understanding the harms that we've done to others and then to make amends for them, we've talked about sponsors who advise you and have the courage to tell you when you are wrong. We were advised to continue to take a moral inventory of ourselves and to make amends. We do this so that thru prayer and meditation so that we can improve our contact with God. And we are taught to take this message to others. Learning these things was like hitting the lottery. These activities have helped our family so much. I had wished that the 12 steps were around when my grandfather, Henry was alive.
Guess what, they were. Well, not the 12 steps. But, the idea that we give up control and become dependent on God. The idea that we get to know ourselves and our motivations better so that we can learn through the gospel stories how Jesus lived. The idea of frequent confession so that we can focus on the will of God. St. Ignatius gave such great instructions for discernment. He thought that everyone needed a spiritual advisor who could be honest so that they could see their authentic self. Then he advised them to take God's message to others.
Sound familiar? Ever heard, "they need to hit rock bottom?" Well, Ignatius and Bill had hit rock bottom. In both cases, God intervened. Ever heard of an intervention? I really thought I was learning new cutting edge information. Nope same problems, same solutions. Do you suppose addictions are only to drugs and alcohol? I don't anymore. I think we are ALL addicts. We might have different drugs of choice. Ours might be legal. But, addictions are something we need more and more of. They are something we don't think we can live without. We might spend more and more time trying to get what we want. I love sugar. I've told my endocrinologist that I needed AA for sugar and he agreed with me. He said it was an addiction. There is also power, money, attention, sex, food, and ANYTHING that you can't or won't give up to maintain a healthy relationship with God (remember he is a jealous God). You are as, George Strait says in a really good song, "Lookin' for Love in All the Wrong Places."
Why are we so afraid? Why were Adam and Eve afraid in the garden? Sin....it is that voice telling us that it won't hurt to do what we want. This is were we need to get to know ourselves....where we need to practice discernment. Does the voice we hear tell us what we want to hear or does it bring us back to God?
When we start peeling all of the rubbish off of our pile, we learn what is important. Peeling back....detaching. Relying on THE ONE, can show you what God sent you here for. Now, how cool is that? How exciting is that? We, like the addict, have been mucking up God's plans. But, it's not too late. It never is.
Today my prayer is that each reader will peel back to learn what is underneath. God is at our core. Can you find him? I pray for the ability to recognize right from wrong, good from evil and life from death. I also pray for the soul of my Henry and yours.