Yesterday I posted a number of comments I heard people say at a gathering I was at recently. A guest asked me to elaborate on these. I thought I would take on the first comment for my blog today:
“There are only two kinds of people in the world – those who need recovery and know it and those who need recovery and don’t know it.”
I have read a number of books that deal with addiction and several of these suggest that we all have addictions, ways of thinking or acting that we keep going back to even when they may be harmful to us or to others. Addiction to a substance is easier to identify than most other addictions. The inability to break away from alcohol has baffled mankind for centuries. Bill Wilson and his friend Dr. Bob came up with a way for people to free themselves from the hold of addiction and together they created the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Over the years, people afflicted with other addictions have found that these same steps can help them as well. Today there are groups for people with addiction to drugs, food, sex, and gambling. Put in almost any word – “_______________ Anonymous” and you have the makings of a program of recovery from something.
It may seem like this is overkill. But I have heard people say to me that they wish there was a program like Alcoholics Anonymous for non-addicted people. They say this because they see the serenity that people seem to find in 12 step programs but also because they themselves are struggling in some way. I think that all of us, because we are human, are struggling over behaviors and thoughts that seem to have a hold on us. Addiction may seem like a strongword but if we keep returning to such behaviors and thoughts even when there are negative consequences, we are beginning to see what addiction is.
St. Paul, writing to his friends in Rome said, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” If that doesn’t describe addiction, I don’t know what does. (I love the way Paul spoke about himself here. This is the way a good 12 step group would work, each person speaking for themselves and their own struggles without judging or preaching to others.)
Somewhere else in scripture it says that we all fall short; “All have sinned” is the way it reads. I think this is true. We all need recovery from something, as the saying above suggests, for our own sense of peace as well as for good relationships. The problem is that we get so used to living with harmful thoughts and behaviors that it feels normal to us. It feels normal to argue with others when they aren’t agreeing with us. It feels normal to carry around resentments for past hurts. It feels normal to criticize others or, as people in recovery programs call it, to take other people’s inventories. It feels normal to take more than our fair share because “we deserve it”. It feels normal to be so zealousness about our religious or political beliefs that we are driving others away. It feels normal to get angry when all our personal plans are thwarted. But all these things that feel normal are actually getting in the way of our happiness. Waking up to the fact that these thoughts and behaviors are harmful to ourselves and others is the beginning of recovery, for once we see the problem, we can begin to look for a way out.
I like the word recovery. It implies finding something that was lost or taking something that was ruined and returning it to its original state. I believe we were all born precious and loved by the One that created us. I am reading a book now that talks about how as children, we begin to create an ego, a false self, that helps us to maneuver in the world and protect us from what we perceive as harmful. The problem is that the ego is not our true self and over time it can get in the way of our living fully as God intended. Recovery is the process of seeing this ego and learning to keep it from controlling our lives. The recovery process is for those who “need recovery and know it.” As for those who don’t know they need recovery, these are not likely to look for a solution to a problem they don’t know they have.