Addiction & Recovery, Hurt & Faith

The way we wash our clothes

I don’t know what it is in some of us that makes us think proper theology is the answer to all of life’s problems.

Like somehow, just by having the correct view of God, our troubles will dissipate.

I was reminded of this last night, sitting with a group of beautiful Christian women whose lives have been torn apart by addictions of all kinds — theirs or their husbands’ — and who meet together to talk, to pray, to listen.

Something someone said reminded me of the struggle I had had in my soul for so, so long. Christians don’ t have these kinds of problems. 

* * * * *

The only people I had ever known to confess to an addiction were instantly healed of it the minute they became a Christian. Or at least that’s what was said. . . or maybe it wasn’t said and it just seemed like they were.

But see, Dave and I were raised in Christian homes. We went to Bible college. We had “the best” theological teaching known to the evangelical world. And we were set on a path toward ministry and the church.

It was impossible that we could have this problem. Impossible.

Rehab was a blow. A painful blow to my pride.

Such a hit, that I believed it was the lowest point I could possibly reach and therefore merited the voice from heaven that would rebuke my pride . . .  but then restore my life.

In rehab, Dave admitted to the amounts of tramadol he’d been taking. 20 to 30 a day. So much in his system that the “cold turkey” withdrawal traumatized his body. The rehab doctors had to put him back on it and wean him off slowly.

When Dave came home, he had a “to do” list. 90 meetings in 90 days. Go to a recovery meeting every night. You aren’t fixed. You still need help.

But I don’t think either one of us really believed that.

After all, Dave had repented. He’d confessed and done time in rehab for his sins.

And we had church. He met with a Christian counselor once a week. He met with our pastor, too. And we prayed all the time. Dave didn’t need to go to a meeting each night with a bunch of alcoholics. Plus, a lot of them smoked. I didn’t think it was a good environment for him . . .

The important thing now was to get our life back together. He needed a job. We needed to figure out seminary. We needed to forget the past and move on. And really, we should keep this to ourselves. We would never have a ministry if people knew.

A few years later, when I heard about Al Anon, I was just desperate enough to toy with the idea. But I couldn’t bring myself to talk about our problems with people who might not believe what I did about God. What if someone recognized me? They would look down on me, and Dave, because my Christian Leader husband had a secret.

So much pride.

And an overwhelming sense of responsibility.

Like it was my job to make sure the name of Jesus wasn’t shamed by airing our dirty laundry in public.

What I didn’t know about AA and Al Anon is how crucial support is for true recovery.

I didn’t know the 12 Steps were actually Biblical principles. I didn’t know the beautiful bond that grows between people who share each other’s burdens. I didn’t know how much more like true Church it really was than what I’d been doing all my life. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16) Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

I remember how freeing it was for my soul that first time I opened up and shared in a recovery group about the things I had kept locked tight in my heart for years. Unburdening. Letting go.

* * * * *

I think back on the secrecy now and wonder at it. So short-sighted.

Hiding our struggles out of fear that people wouldn’t respect us. Believing we’d never have a ministry with people if they knew.

I wouldn’t trade what we have now for anything. Sitting with someone who is letting go of terrible burdens and admitting to soul-crushing pain. Being heard without interruption for the first time in her life — no one stopping her, no one patting her on the back and telling her to “just trust God,” letting her cry without being shushed. And then looking up to see faces filled with tears. Not out of pity. But because they know. And they pray for each other. For deep, painful things that they’ve never shared with another soul.

And then they talk about the things that resonated with them when Dave was teaching. Someone who gets it, who knows, who’s been there. Who talks honestly and openly about things that would make any other group of people uncomfortable. Encouraged to keep going by a man who in many people’s eyes forfeited his right to ministry years ago.

Sometimes people need to see your dirty laundry to know perfection is not the goal. And that your usefulness in this life isn’t in spite of your problems. It’s because of them.