The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don't make anything happen. Every word I've spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making.”
John 6:63 The Message
“This life therefore, is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it: the process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road; all does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.
It’s An Inside Job
When we talk about recovery, what we are really talking about is a deepening of a person’s integrity. In Webster’s dictionary, integrity is defined as a completeness, a unity, soundness, personal honesty and independence. For the purposes of recovery, let us think of integrity as a healthy condition of the soul. Integrity is sanity. A condition of sanity that incorporates completeness, unity, soundness, personal honesty and independence in that we are not dependent on any person or thing in a way that’s destructive for us.
Ultimately, addiction and integrity cannot exist together, although they do exist to some degree in the reality of each of our lives. Where addiction takes root in the small cracks and crevices of our hearts and minds, and then splinters us even more, recovery heals this split, bringing integrity and sanity back to our lives. Recovery is an interpersonal coming back together; a re-integrating of our heart and our mind together, as one.
To illustrate this let us tell you about a friend of ours named Mike. Mike restores old pickup trucks for a hobby. What he does with these old trucks is an example of what we do in our recovery. First, Mike starts by considering the overall condition of the truck, evaluating the best he can as to what needs to be done to make the truck new again. Then, with help from others, he begins the process of dismantling the truck, cataloguing each part as he goes. Every piece is closely inspected by Mike and his restoration partners. Broken or damaged pieces are either discarded for new pieces, or they are repaired as necessary. Because Mike has learned that he can’t do it alone, he’s had to learn where to go to get the help he needs when he needs it. Sometimes it’s a welder, sometimes a painter or a mechanic or an upholster. Whatever help he needs, he asks for it.
Now, there comes a time where the process begins to reverse itself. Mike, with help from his friends, begins to put the parts back together again. Each part and piece are reconnected together according to the original builder’s design. When the work is done, an incredible process has been undertaken, more than any one man could ever do on his own. The old has been made new again. All of the originally designed pieces have been renewed and re-integrated back into proper alignment with one another. The process was restoring an old truck but the end result is a new old truck. For you see, no matter how good a job that Mike and his friends have done, it could never be more than the original designer had intended. Furthermore, without the original designer’s intent, Mike and his friends, and all of their combined efforts, could never make what the truck has become in its restoration.
Here is where Mike’s hobby can guide us. We are solely responsible for doing our recovery work. It is our job to reach out and ask for help. No one can do for us what only we can do for ourselves. Just like Mike with the truck, we have to learn where to go to get the help that we need when we need it. This is where our “higher powers” come into play. We all have “higher powers” in our lives. Employers, parents, family, doctors, governments, law enforcement, each has power to control and influence our behaviors. These are external powers that can effectively influence what we do and how we do it. In the recovering community there are 12 step programs, medical and mental health professionals, plus there are sponsors and recovery mentors who have experienced their own restoration of sanity. Each of these can help us in the “heavy lifting” of our personal restoration. And while this help is essential, it will not be enough. It should be noted that even the best of helpers can only do so much for us. They themselves will still lack some degree of integrity. They are only human after all.
So, this is what it looks like. We, with help, do our recovery work, but it is God, working through people, that restores sanity and integrity to us. In recovery, we can say that today we are better integrated than we were yesterday or the day before. And, the greatest indication that integrity is growing in us is that we develop an increasing inclination to admit where and how we lack integrity. We can never make this kind of growth on our own. It only comes from The One who made us. Similarly, what Mike and his friends do is great but even with all the work they’ve done in the restoration process they did not make the truck. That was done before they ever came along. There was an original Master Planner and Builder who made the truck to begin with. Really, all that Mike and his friends have done is to bring the truck back to what it was originally made to be.
And so it is with our lives. We are an original. A one of a kind that is described in the Bible as being “created in the image of God.” Believing that we can be restored to sanity means to live out our lives in a spiritual way. In times past, we lived like we were physical beings trying to become spiritual, or religious as some would say. In reality, we are spiritual beings first and we are living out our lives in physical ways. Being spiritual obviously does not make us perfect as proven through our ever-present good intentions that so often end up in ways we did not intend. In the balance of this spiritual and physical life that we live, we are ultimately responsible for our own work of recovery and at the same time we can only be restored to sanity by the work of an ultimate “Higher Power” that we call God.
At the end of the day, sanity is an integrated life that is lived according to an authentic faith in God. This authentic faith is born inside of us as we are, in our spirit that is touched by God’s Spirit. It’s simple really. We do what we can and God does the rest. As we are willing to work and trust, which is faith in action, God gives us the Spirit of Life who brings life to our efforts and sanity to our lives. After all, it was God who formed us.
Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629