by Joshua Hoe
I remember a conversation I had with someone a long time ago after a meeting, we were talking about how bad someone looked, but not in a caring way. We were almost looking down on the person and criticizing them for not maintaining sobriety.
Ashamed to say I felt that way. I hate that I am capable of such cruelty.
Forget Comfort, Avoid Fear, Care More
I guess my reaction shouldn’t entirely surprise me, my thinking mirrored the way our entire society prefers supporting and helping the people who “have” instead of those that “have not.”
Why would I be any different.
I don’t want to be unduly harsh, I care very deeply about the person I had that conversation with (a great person), and I like myself (most of the time).
I just think I value the wrong things sometimes.
I think we all sometimes filter everything so much through our personal comfort and safety filters that prevent us from really seeing what is at stake.
The person suffering the most needs support and hope the most.
The person suffering the least needs support and hope – but, not as much as the person still suffering.
It is not hard to connect this to Jesus message (and to the Christmas season).
I try not to be too religious here, but to me the beauty of the New Testament is the humility of Jesus (something baked into 12 step programs).
I Try To Embrace Humility
Sometimes, I make the mistake of putting myself in the position of a paternalist.
The person with all the answers, the person “helping” others in the program, the person with lengthy sobriety.
I might have these things, but those things don’t make me better than anyone else, they make me luckier.
Without recovery, I was in prison (I am sure everyone knows the dictum about the alternative being prison, death, or the asylum).
For me it was prison.
The only difference between me and someone who comes to a meeting wrecked is that I am lucky enough to have found recovery.
Why would I want to deny that to someone else, ever.
Humility is NOT saying but for the grace of God there go I, in the sense that God has chosen me to be better than someone else.
It is literal, but for recovery (God’s grace) that IS ME.
I am both who I am now and who the struggling addict is, both are me.
I am not different than the addict struggling, I am and always will be the addict, the difference is because of grace I am not the one currently suffering.
That doesn’t make me better, it makes me the same, and that means that I should have a heart full of empathy for anyone who walks in that door.
The more they are struggling, the more empathy I should have, because I was there.
I am hungry for them to have what I have.
I did not create what I had, I am not morally superior to have found sobriety, I am not more talented, I am luckier.
The lesson of Jesus ministering to prostitutes and lepers was not that Jesus was superior to them, it was that he was human as they were, it was that they were the same.
And he understood and empathized with them.
I think he might have felt he was lucky to have grace built inside himself.
When I am feeling paternalistic, I need to get back in touch with my humility.
I am not there to help someone, I am there to share grace with them, and I am there to show them it is possible to recover.
And, most important, I need to have fellowship with them. I need them to know that I am with them in the spirit.
And, I should certainly never think of myself as superior, no matter what they have done.
We have a progressive disease, we are them given enough time and different circumstances. They are us. We should treat them as we would want to be treated ourselves.
Read The 12 and 12
I know I just wrote a post complaining about the 12 and 12.
Two things you should know:
1) I love the 12 and 12. My point is just that a few parts are kind of sketchy.
2) My point wasn’t that AA and other 12 Step Programs are not Christian, they are, and I am. My point was we should not tell people they can choose any higher power and then admit we really just want them to “come along over to Christianity.”
Anyway, there are some really powerful things in the 12 traditions about who can come to meetings. Tradition Three is particularly informative on the question of who can/should come to meetings:
I don’t feel comfortable quoting AA literature, as it would be promotion, but, some ideas you might get from reading Tradition Three:
* You are a member if you say you are
* Nobody can keep you out – even if you are a criminal
* We are not scared of you, we just want you to have the same chance we have had – no matter how twisted or violent you are.
Pretty powerful stuff.
And that was written over 50 years ago.
I have already shared my feelings on the notion of sobriety shaming as well.
To my mind, the more someone is struggling, the more they need to go to meetings, and the more meetings they need to go to.
The person who needs the fellowship the most is the person struggling.
ABE – Always Be Empathetic
I am not putting myself above anyone, I am not any better about this than anyone.
I am writing this as much as a reminder to myself as to anyone else.
I am ashamed to have felt it was okay to not embrace someone entering a meeting because they looked to be at the bottom end of a binge.
I have been there myself.
And my biggest fear the very first time I walked through the door to my very first meeting was that I would be shunned.
At the heart of addiction for me was the feeling that if people ever knew the real me, they would never accept me.
And at my first meeting, when I shared my story, when I told the old timers giving me orientation that I was awaiting sentencing, they did not even blink an eye.
They showed me empathy, caring, and shared their stories with me.
I am a leper, I am a prostitute, and they shared grace with me.
Sorry, to anyone reading this who does not share my faith, I am truly trying to share the best of what I think of my faith, and in no way would I ever use it to exclude your own story.
Happy Holiday season to everyone of all faiths or beliefs.
I do not speak for any program and speak in no official capacity. Any discussion of 12 Step methods are my own feelings and my own interpretation. I do not identify myself with any particular 12 Step or other program, but do endorse the 12 step method.
What do you think about the person suffering? About humility and paternalism? If you think that I am wrong, please feel free to share your own experiences, leave a comment!