LIVING PRAYER, Vol. 26(1): 26-26, Jan./Feb., 1993
ADDICTION, RECOVERY and GOD
By Irving B. Mace
As a member of a self-help fellowship, I am profoundly aware of just how large a part an individual belief in God plays in the recovery process. But since it is an anonymous fellowship, few people outside our ranks ever come to appreciate this fact, especially when most of us appear to be not that much different in ways that would normally be considered spiritual. Thoreau has said, "The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run."
People who become addicted to chemicals sooner or later learn just how much they have sacrificed in the name of the Almighty High. Every inch that they first thought chemicals gained turns into ground seemingly lost forever. The price of redemption is an amount they pay each and every day of their recovery; a price paid in giving as opposed to taking. By freely and unconditionally giving to others who desire their help, they begin to experience a gratification that far outshines the false brilliance of chemicals they once loved. In the morning that feeling is there to start the day. And as it is extended, so are their days of new found comfort. It is this kind of human gratification that becomes understood as coming from a power greater than themselves - God. They don't try to understand it any more than they try to understand the many physiological and psychological reasons why they became addicted in the first place.
Trying to understand addiction is like trying to understand God. By freeing themselves from an intellectualism often unwittingly reinforced through "professional" intervention, addicts become free to experience what is, as opposed to why it is. The spiritual rewards within the varying dynamics of helping our fellow humans are there for the taking, as we perceive them in the faces and behavior of those whom we help. Any addict or alcoholic involved in service work knows exactly what I am talking about, as do others with courage to do the right thing simply because it is right, with no regard for the reward. The good that I myself feel each and every time I leave the drug and alcohol rehabilitation ward where I donate my services each week, can never be found in even the biggest paycheck.
Most recovering alcoholics and addicts, like myself, learn a value that lies outside the materialistic world. As that value grows, it becomes apparent that it is of God, though there is no need to call it God. We feel that it is the act itself that counts more than any name behind it. However, for those who, through giving themselves, can discover and hold on to a greater wisdom, there comes a point when God cannot be denied.
I suspect that the difference among the levels of spirituality is the degree to which we can detach ourselves from the influences of materialism. None of us, including the most isolated monk, can ever truly escape the materialistic world into which we are born. The secret is not to escape materialism, but to live spiritual lives within materialism. I once read that we are not physical beings experiencing the spiritual, but spiritual beings experiencing the physical. Once this is properly understood, life takes on new meaning.
What was once thought to be important suddenly becomes insignificant. We begin to act in ways characteristic of those who see only what's in front of them. Our integrity of vision contradicts the often negative impression of our actions. We, in effect, have become truly individual members of society, and of God, without feeling a need to explain that individuality, or how it may have come about, for we neither know nor care. If it works, don't fix it or waste time trying to understand it. God is God, just as electricity is electricity to most of us.
The cost of our addictive choices is defined by the hours they keep us awake at night; by the days wasted trying to be accepted for what we ourselves do not accept; and for the time spent away from doing what we instinctively know is right. Recovering people, whether they be recovering from drug addiction, or from some other kind of mind-altering affliction, all must learn that indeed, the best things in life are free, yet only for those who are free, thanks to the God who created us.