Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hi, I'm John, I'm an alcoholic....sort of

"I came here because I didn't want to die, but now I'm here because I want to live a better life."  A middle-aged man slouched in his chair and tried desperately to avoid eye contact with anyone in the room as he shared with us, his weekly AA group.  After he had finished speaking a woman spoke up and told us plainly, "I tried to kill this body but I guess it just wouldn't give!"  One-by-one each person in the room shared their progress in combating alcoholism, trying to speak over the air conditioner that sounded like an airplane taking off when it clicked on.  

For the past couple of weeks I have been attending AA meetings in order to understand and love those with addictions.  I knew the weekly meetings would humble me but I did not expect to learn so much about my own problems.  AA is wholeheartedly committed to exposing everyone's faults.  The intrusive philosophy of exposure creates a weird vibe for those who are not familiar with it.  Even though I am not an alcoholic, when I first walked into the large room a couple of weeks ago I couldn't help but feel somewhat violated.  Once I darkened the doorway of my first AA meeting it was as if everyone understood I had problems.  I couldn't make an announcement and say, "Listen up everyone, I'm only here to learn from your mistakes but please understand that I am not one of you."  After one hour of only listening I soon learned that I was one of them.

Every person in there talked about starting their day over at any point in time and what power that gave them.  "I know that if I am really struggling to stay away from a six pack, I can start over at any time and begin taking the first step."  The steps in AA are integral to the program and to defeating alcoholism.  They aren't a list of legalistic duties one must attain, but instead guidelines that include being selfless, submitting to God, and admitting responsibility.  It was both humbling and enlightening to sit at the feet of the AA veterans who shared their accumulated wisdom from, in some cases, forty years of sobriety.  The veterans, more than anyone else, knew their battle would continue daily and that they could not win on their own.  If you have not seen the powerful sense of community depicted here then I suggest you start reading this blog over again.

The sin of alcoholism cuts across all sorts of demographic boundaries, as does sin in general.  I see people every week that I would not have thought to be alcoholics (including many school teachers).  I use to think of alcoholics as bearded men who wear ratty overcoats and sing old 70's songs; therein lies the problem.  We so often view sins like alcoholism only in the context of poverty or people who can't control themselves.  Truthfully, we are those poverty-stricken individuals who cannot control themselves.  The people in AA are teaching me to confront my addictions (or sins) and lean into God for grace, mercy, and second chances.  I am learning to wear my sin on my sleeve for the sake of letting others know they are not alone in this struggle.  Thanks be to Jesus for the chance to start over at any point in the day.  As Robbie Seay sings, "When you think it's over, you can start it over."  

1 comment:

Steven said...

great insight johnny. keep on writin. hope youre doin well bro.