More God, Less Me

Keeping life simple is a key ingredient in the recipe of recovery. Sobriety—not using or doing that thing that makes your life unmanageable—depends on living a life marked with gratitude and humility. There is no room for boasting or making much of myself. Life can’t be all about me.

Rather, life today is more about others. How am I impacting the people God has placed in my circle of influence? I try to go about this quietly, avoiding drawing attention to myself. By nature, for a variety of reasons (including ego) minimizing my efforts proves to be challenging for myself at times.

He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

       but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

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You’ve all encountered the drunken braggarts at the local bar. Our fish tale keeps growing more preposterous with each rendition. Our hey-look-at-me circus builds into an explosive rant-filled dance begging for the spotlight to shine on us longer and brighter. Braggadocio is the life recovery calls us to leave behind. We no longer look to shine the light on ourselves but strive to build up others, helping them be all God intended them to be. We know that the Lord has a plan and that plan does not mean to do us harm. We are His servants, no longer slaves to our addictions, free to let God’s light shine through us, so that He may be glorified, not ourselves; so that others might benefit, not us alone.

We maximize God and lessen ourselves. We lift up others without highly regarding ourselves. We do it for the love of God and the love for others.

We recognize that we are lucky to be alive and whatever life we have is grand. Ours is a grace adventure, basking with gratitude and walking in humility.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5

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Otherwise, our world is bound to come crashing down around us. We have to ensure we keep first things first, taking care to daily order our priorities. Life in recovery is, after all, a day by day endeavor. Our foundation, secured through our Savior, must be built on prayer and God’s Word if it is to stand. The Lord must grow in us, and we must make ourselves smaller to make room for Him. Who are we, after all, that God would concern Himself with us? Yet, we know God does. We must try to learn and understand His ways and His thoughts, so that we can make them ours, letting His light shine brightly through us. In recovery, our life becomes about God and others and less about us.

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The Gospel of Mark 12:28-31

6,940 Days

6,940 days.

In a few hours from now, I’ll mark 19 years clean and sober on my life calendar. It’s been a long, long journey to here. The irony of this isn’t lost on me as I watch the nightly news report the sad passing of another brother who lost his fight. Robin Williams made so many of us laugh. He had an unshakeable joy. Maybe he knew how difficult this life can be and went all out to help each of us live another day. This world will be a little less funny without him.

I didn’t start out with the intention of being an alcoholic and an addict. One day, I stood before a mirror no longer able to recognize who I had become. “How did I get here?” I wondered. Surely, nobody decides to be like this.

Somewhere, something inside me is different than it is in some of you. I’m missing a switch or at the very least, it’s stuck in the “on” position. You have a drink, you stop, and you’re ok. I have a drink and say let’s have a few more. A few more quickly turns into too many. You can take a toke or pop a pill and be satisfied. I’m thinking of how I can score more. After all, the more the merrier, right? Somewhere, you and I arrived at the same point and you said “Stop, I’ve had enough.” I stepped on the gas, full throttle ahead.

My life is one of extreme high highs and pitifully low lows. To this day, I have times of prolific productivity followed by weeks of utter slothfulness. I have moments of ecstatic joy; the kind that makes the hair on your arms stand up and your face feel flush with the overwhelming rush of happiness. At the very peak, I come to the realization that this incredibly sensational feeling has to end and that it will undoubtedly be followed by the deepest, darkest, darkness. The higher the high, the lower the low.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve survived near death. Frankly, I’m surprised to be alive. I’m amazed that in all my insanity I managed to avoid doing irredeemable harm to a family or that I didn’t wind up killing someone one in some tragic late night accident. Certainly, my struggle has left plenty of wounded hearts and damaged souls in its wake. Mine is not a journey without scars or lives unscathed. As with any battle, there are casualties.

Some of you reading this won’t be able to relate to what I’ve written here at all. You won’t understand that it’s not simply a matter of will power or making better choices. You won’t grasp that this isn’t a lifestyle choice or a matter of self-control, but a disease. I’m okay with that because I’m not really writing it for you. Besides, I had to quit worrying about what other people think of me a long time ago. I’m glad that today, by God’s grace, I can say yes to life and living it abundantly. Every day and every moment isn’t perfect. But this too shall pass.

If you’re reading this and you’re struggling with alcohol, addiction or depression, I’m writing this for you. Know that you are not alone. There are plenty of people who are in this fight with you. Reach out. Get help. Speak up. Don’t slip away in the silence, succumbing to the darkness. Choose life. There is a light. There is a way. When the darkness tells you “No, you can’t”, know that “Yes, you can.”

To continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result is the manifestation of insanity. Something in my life had to change if I was ever going to have a chance at having a different outcome. You can do this. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Your life can change.

A few months ago, my late niece, Natalie, reminded me of the importance of cherishing every breath because none of us are guaranteed our next. I’m so grateful to be alive today—clean and sober. Although it is still a battle that I must choose to fight each and every morning, I know I can make it, even if it is still only one day at a time. Natalie also reminded me that life is better when you laugh. That’s certainly something she and Robin Williams are in agreement on. On this night, I know both are deeply missed.

But for the grace of God, there go I.

Press on.