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Beside Restful Waters

“When you come back, you have somewhere to come to re-introduce you to your humanity.”

Patty Loew, Ph.D.

Dr. Loew is a member of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe of northern Wisconsin. She is a noted Native American historian. The statement above was part of her discussion of how Native American soldiers were welcomed home from their duties in the American armed forces. She explained the importance of the warrior nature of Native American people and how they were supported by their tribal families upon return from their military assignments. Warrior Spirit is a an energy which is a foundation to Native American community.

Yes, I carry a Native American blood lineage. No, I have not served in the military, though three of my brothers have served, and two of my children have served or are now serving. But what does this have to do with recovery?

Soon I will celebrate my 20th year in addiction recovery. Over these two decades, I have witnessed the warrior nature required to obtain and sustain sobriety. First, we are admitted in to a family of others at various stages in our battles with addiction. We are not recruited in to this family. No, we enter as wounded warriors who, often, are not even aware of our enemy. What we know is that we are losing a battle for life.

Second, our membership in to this family is simple: we need the help of others who are engaged in the same battle. The rest is a history of ongoing battles. It is the fight with our scarred selves in the battle of honesty versus addiction, of denial versus truth, of shame versus self- worth............. There are so many enemies in this battle. The most formidable opponent is the self who has built monumental barriers to the truth of our addictions.

We find in our first encounters with sobriety an amazing family of love and support. Our boot camp is not one of learning battle strategies. No, it is one of accepting the non-judgmental support of veterans of sobriety. The initial battle is one of learning how to be loved. Most everyone I have met in my recovery journey has shared their battle with the humility required to be loveable.

Here, at the 20 year mark of my personal battle, I can say that the war continues, but it is not the raging, pain filled combat that started decades ago. It is the more insidious silent war of an addictive nature that is unwilling to let go. It is the cold war of the mind and spirit that was strong and nearly invincible for the 50 years that led up to my cry for help. The strategy of sobriety is much simpler: It requires a change of life style marked by a Spiritual integration in to the family of sobriety – loving, accepting, encouraging, supportive – a family that has never turned me away due to my injuries, relapses, and self-centered pity parties. This family holds me accountable for the work of sobriety without demanding perfection. These are all new strategies of war.

I have come to be loved by people with numerous battle scars. Some are related to addictions. Others are related to a variety of trauma induced injuries that have rendered them paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. All of us are connected by our willingness to avoid judgement, strengthen encouragement, and engage in a love that has only one source, a common Higher Power.

As our sobriety strengthens, our warrior spirit grows, but it grows in love, forgiveness, acceptance – in grows in strategies that are foreign to the more common expectations of warfare. I cannot fight love. I cannot out punch forgiveness. I cannot die from acceptance. This is a battle that ends in surrender. Surrender is my ultimate victory.

Nuts, huh?

Win the battle of sobriety by surrender!

That’s us, winners by surrender.

Every time we come back, we are home and being introduced, and re-introduced to our humanity, our dignity, our Divinity, our family.

Once we accept our family, we are family forever. We need only accept our place in the family.


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