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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Some Thoughts About Quitting

People as me quite often: can't someone quit drinking or using without 12 Steps?  The answer is: yes, some people can.

To be very honest, the 12 Steps are a lot of work.  Going to meetings is a lot of work.  Spending hours writing lists of people we are resentful is a lot of work.

Generally speaking, we humans always want to find the easier way.  If you can find it, then take it!  Use the easier way.  There is no shame in it if it leads you to freedom from your obsession.  Just be careful you are not replacing one obsession with another.  That would be the only warning.

However, being a Christian is a lot of work as well.  We pray constantly, we go to confession regularly, we attend services, and serve our brethren.  We are called to live lives of virtue according to the gift of the Holy Spirit within us.  We are warned to repent or face the consequences of our actions.  This is all a great deal of work.

And, all of this is the 'backbone' of what the 12 Steps sets out to do.  A Christian that follows the tradition in an honest manner not only immunizes himself against the 'disease' or loss of will-power to his passions, but he receives the cure for whatever passions may already ail him.

Some people experience a spontaneous gift of sobriety from God, and they never seem to have to go through the long process of the 12 Steps.  However, what comes to them that receive this miraculous healing is not just sobriety, but the same level of repentance and forgiveness of others that the Tradition of the Church and the 12 Steps set out to accomplish in all men.

From Luke 14:16-24  -  

But He said unto him, A certain man made a great supper; and he bade many: and he sent forth his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a field, and I must needs go out and see it; I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
And the servant came, and told his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor and maimed and blind and lame.
And the servant said, Lord, what thou didst command is done, and yet there is room.
And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain them to come in, that my house may be filled.
For I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper.

We know this parable to be a portrayal of what happens: God offers us His joy and peace, but we become too busy to come.  The spiritual way is 'too difficult' because we have other things in place of it.  Sobriety is difficult, quitting is difficult, because we have lost our sense of priorities.  This is where the loss of willpower comes into play: our minds have become so lost in the maze of our replacements for God that we can no longer see a way out.

The first thing that comes to mind when someone wants to quit is how he will deal with life without his addiction.  This is not the big daydream about being a millionaire and living on a yacht, but dealing with the family, work, etc.

Stopping an addiction is not as much about 'quitting' as it is about living.

In my own experience, I had know idea how to live as a normal person.  I was afraid of everything.  My own experience required me to sort out the things that I was afraid of and see them with a new light, the Light of God.  Only then was 'quitting' even a possibility.

The Gospel is the 'Good News' because it provides a vision, a hope for life beyond the fruitless cycle of addiction and despair.  Helping addicts is not really about shaming them or forcing them into this program or that, but first and foremost giving them hope through the vision of life without the addiction.

This is an impossible task unless we first are healed.  We cannot shew people into the 'great feast of the Master' unless we ourselves are in attendance.  We cannot give to others what we don't have.  If we don't live the message, then we have no message to share.  All we have are words.  There are lots of those out there.

Our goal ought not to be one of forcing addicts into one treatment scheme or another.  I don't think it is helpful (and a majority of those who are successful in treating addictions agree on this) to even label someone an 'alcoholic' or a 'drug addict' if he hasn't tried to quit a dozen times and failed to stay clean, and then I think it is still not helpful unless he realized the problem and says that he is.  What I think about his problem is less important than what he thinks.  After all, if he does not think he has a problem, he is like the guests that would not come to the feast.  He does not see the feast as a big deal, and what he has is more important.

It is only when we become like the poor people living on the side of road that the feast begins to have meaning.  It is only when we see the feast as a real meal that we need that we will respond to God the way we are supposed to.

That sense of poverty is our 'bottom,' when we start to look for a way out of our condition.  Then we are ready to leave the road and enter the palace.

That's when we really start to quit.

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