Overconfidence In Recovery
If you’ve been in recovery for any period of time, you’ve probably been to a meeting attended by Mr. Recovery. Confident, witty, and quick to turn a phrase, he commands the respect of the entire room. Women love him, and men want to be like him. His breathtaking rise to the top of the AA/NA food chain took almost no time at all. He knows the program, and he feels just great. His life is back on track. Nothing and nobody can stop him. The group hangs on his every word as Mr. Recovery shares his pearls of wisdom for the advancement of all mankind.
There is only one problem. Shortly afterwards he relapses. Some of us, upon hearing that Mr. Recovery is in rehab throwing up on the detox techs, are left in dismay wringing our hands and telling ourselves that, gosh, it can happen to anybody.
Not so. In fact, relapse need never happen to anybody. Regardless of outward appearances, we will stay clean and sober if and only if we prayerfully rely on God.
None of us has the superpower within ourselves to overcome alcoholism and addiction. They are a chronic, physical disease that cannot be cured. We are powerless, as evidenced by our past personal histories based on hundreds or even thousands of experiences. We have to accept this. Not even the well-meaning people in our lives can supply this power deficit for us.
Make no mistake: not using always must be our first order of business – anywhere, any time, and under any circumstances. But we can only do this with God’s help. We “simply do not stop . . . so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.” Big Book, at 98. It is only when we express “a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves,” that “we commenced to get results.” Id., at 46.
Real recovery looks not so much like a hero’s rise to stardom as it does Paul’s experience with the thorn in the flesh described in 2 Corinthians. Although Paul pleaded for this physical malady to be taken away, God’s answer was a resounding no. In time, however, Paul came to understand not only that God’s grace was sufficient, but also that His power was made perfect in Paul’s weakness. Id. 12:8 – 9. Paul concluded the matter by stating that he might as well brag about his weaknesses, “so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Id. Paul’s example is our blueprint for a lifetime of recovery with confidence.
Importantly, our reliance on God entails prayer. Its necessity cannot be overemphasized. Too often we reach for the formalities of AA without developing our relationship with God. We learn the protocol for meetings, memorize the steps and various sayings, and immerse ourselves in the recovery culture, and we assume that these things keep us sober. If we do this, we risk falling into the same trap that so many religious people do when their spirituality rests solely upon holding the right beliefs about God and belonging to the right churches. They become spectators, not participants, in faith. We can not pretend that any of these things substitute for the actual relationship with God that comes through prayer.
In Step 11 we improve our conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation, praying:
only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
We should take a minute to let the pointed simplicity of this step wash over us. It is worth noting here, too, that the Lord, on the only two recorded occasions where he expressly praises people for having faith, neither involves individuals who believe the right sacred facts, espouse the appropriate doctrines, or are members of the right religious denominations. In fact, it’s obvious they don’t. See Matthew 8:5-13 (faith of the Centurion) and Matthew 15:21-28 (faith of the Canaanite woman). What distinguished these people is that they sought the power of God in circumstances that everybody else thought impossible. They made their requests with humility and in faith, and they were not disappointed. Our experience today is no different. We can enjoy a lifetime of recovery, with complete confidence, when our recovery is based on God.