"No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain on the vine."
Here is a teaching by Jesus the Christ that flies in the face of my addictive nature with the ultimate choice. Whom, Greg, do you choose? Addiction, or trauma, or my own way of thinking and doing...........? OR sobriety, healing, with community and forgiveness, and the wisdom in the stories of my fellow human beings.
Off the vine, I find the experience of self condemnation: Greg, you know you don't deserve to be happy; you don't deserve to enjoy peace; you know you have hurt too many people to deserve forgiveness.
Off the vine, in my loneliness, I hear the endless script of self destruction. This message is loud, clear, and yet painfully familiar and comforting. What is there about our addictive, traumatic, self destructive nature that we find so attractive? I look over the years of comfort I experienced when I could so easily numb my pains, fears, and anxieties with my drug of choice. That drug of choice offered a psychotic sense of peace and relief. The drug of choice, my reliable friend, kept me isolated in my place of self-centered security. I did not have to be concerned about the side effects of addiction because life was only about me and my source of peace and relief. I could easily blow away the residue of my actions.
Somewhere in this isolated life, the hopelessness became overwhelming. For me, it was not any one earthshaking experience. There was a series of small, collective interactions that created an internal conflict, an internal battle that kept life in constant upheaval.
You see, part of my psychotic, addictive nature was to stay involved in doing good things when I wasn't using my addiction. I was involved in lots of church stuff like bible studies, retreats, teaching, etc. I heard a constant barrage of compliments that offered some balance to the self destructive language of my addictive nature. Then I met Don. He recognized my truth. He simply offered me an alternative. He simply accepted me without judgement and held out his heart and story to me.
At this point, I'd like to say that the miracle occurred and that my life turned around and I was saved. NOT! I wasn't that easy to convince. I dove into the recovery game and did the recovery stuff: meetings, readings, prayer, but I kept connected with my addictive deeds. They were still a source of addictive comfort, and recovery stuff created a fear inside. I was afraid to meet the stranger that was sobriety.
Sobriety offered truth. I didn't know truth. So I stayed disconnected from the heart of sobriety.
The heart of sobriety is the people.
The heart of healing is other healing people.
The heart of peace is other people sharing peace.
The heart of courage is courageous people.
The heart of my Higher Power is your heart.
I experienced a slow erosion of my addictive nature, marked by an ongoing current of encouragement, forgiveness, accountability, forgiveness, ass kicking, forgiveness, outstretched hands to pick me up, forgiveness. Did I mention forgiveness?
70 X 70 X 70!
The forgiveness continues.
The erosion of addiction, the constant current of forgiveness, the lapping waves of acceptance....... These are the experiences I only find on the vine. The individual branches keep braking off and drying up. The vine is nourished by the water, the restful, persistent, patient, and gentle waters.
Most of you reading this know that you are the nourishing waters and the connective membranes of my vine. You know that our waters are not always gentle and peaceful. Yet, here we are, holding each other during the storms, and standing in wonder and awe when each storm passes. We know the agony of our choices. We know the mystery and miracle of the power of our shared stories.
Some days we walk the beach. Some days we dive in. Always, we find rest together.