Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The wisdom of addicts

I cannot tell you definitively that those who are addicted are wiser than the average bird. (Though in general, I think they are smarter than most.)

I can only tell you that those who are in voluntary (and proactive) recovery from their addictions have taken a self-awareness pill. They have taken the pill, drank the self-awareness koolaid, if you will, and so they tend to drill down to the essence of their problems in record speed. It is the first of 12 steps that initiate this process: admitting I am powerless to help myself.

And given the fact that most of us struggle or have struggled with some kind of addiction—pride, food, nicotine, drugs, lust, codependency—you name the crutch, it would follow that all of us could choose the path to greater self-awareness.

Especially when Jesus enters the picture, and gives the hope of a new heart for the old one, delivering on his promise to make all things new

Each Sunday night I plop down on a couch facing six or seven women who are recovering from drugs and alcohol and we talk about recovery and what Jesus has to do with it. Some weeks, what comes out of their mouths stops me dead in their tracks. This week was one of those weeks.

Wise words erupted, intertwined with stories of utter brokenness and redemption:
  • "Things are a lot less painful when you're sober."
  • "Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."
  • "And I said, 'Oh, God, sometimes you talk too much.'"
See what you can learn in one short hour-and-a-half Bible study sitting on an old couch?

  • Our addictions are meant to dull the pain—and they end up intensifying it.
  • Unanswered prayers, the ones we beg most to be answered "our way" often bring benefits: brokenness and healing we can't even conceive of in the middle of life's mess.
  • God is speaking, warning, guiding, instructing, and we sometimes quench His Spirit, try to quiet His voice, to our detriment—and sometimes, to our destruction.
That's it. That's what I learned from 7-8:30pm last Sunday night while the rest of the world was eating nachos and watching the Superbowl. I think from now on I'll call our weekly visits "Sunday School," the very best kind, where Jesus teaches me words of wisdom from those who are wise enough to know they are broken, and smart enough to believe Jesus can do anything.

Your turn: Do you have someone in your life whose deep self-awareness and brokenness has instructed you? What have you learned from them?


  1. Yes, I do. And he is a recovering meth addict who spent three years in prison for dealing. He loves Jesus, is lit from the inside out, and is one of the least self-affected people I know. His honesty often stuns me, and always challenges me. And grace can bring him to tears.

  2. Funny, dear Leigh, just reposted your Wednesday Words for today on facebook. Then I see your comment here. God has blessed us, hasn't he? These friends who shed light on the utter beauty of stripping things bare, seeing them as they are, and then watching the love of Christ overflow. As much as we love words, I often struggle to put into words all that I discover and understand through these amazing women.