It is not uncommon in the business of addiction recovery to witness the horror of relapse on the part of another. We see the telltale signs. We try to intervene. We hope to stave off the inevitable and all too often we only exacerbate the problem. The truth remains that we each have our agency and it also remains that interfering with that agency is manipulative. I know, you’re probably saying, “The definition of manipulation requires a self serving motivation on my part. I am not interested in myself; I am concerned about my friend.” On the surface this may be true, but this chapter is about control and wanting to be in control is always self serving.
I remember when I first began attending 12 Step Meetings there was a great deal of angst about a particular individual who was dangerously falling off the wagon. That person did fall and wound up close to death in the emergency room. Weeks in rehab ensued and the individual returned to join our group with a whole new humility and presence. Not too many years passed before this person was a guiding light for the rest of us. Her precipitous fall and subsequent calamity had been just the thing she needed to set her on a solid path to recovery. Where she was once casual in her efforts, she became serious and intense. She became an example to us all.
Then one day, another of our number began to show signs of relapse. Again panic seemed to be the order of the day. “How can we intervene?!”
It was then that it occurred to me that we were yet children in understanding the principles of recovery.
We had all come to accept Step One. We had willingly admitted that we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable. But, we had not realized that the same principle applied to our relationships with those around us. We needed to admit that we were powerless over their addiction and that we were utterly unable to manage the consequences of their behavior. Step one is admitting that I have a problem I can’t fix and by extension, with regard to others; admitting too, that they have a problem I can’t fix.
It follows then that Step Two also applies to others as well as us. We needed to come to believe that the Power and Atonement of Jesus Christ could not only restore us to complete spiritual health, but our friends and neighbors also.
Finally, Step three, we needed to turn them over to God, just like we had turned our own lives over to Him. We had learned we could trust ourselves to His care and keeping, but we were reluctant to do so with those around us.
It is a painful thing to accuse myself of manipulation. It is so easy to justify. I can tell myself until I am blue in the face that I am only seeking what is best for my daughter, or friend, or neighbor. But am I?
If I am acting out of fear; I am acting selfishly. Fear is selfish. Fear is an indicator that I want things to go my way and I am afraid they won’t unless I or someone else does something.
What if, instead, I act in faith? What if I trust God? What if I truly believe that God loves His children and has their best interest in mind? What if I actually, willingly, trustingly, turn all of my problems over to His care and keeping? That is selfless, and there is no manipulation in it. That approach is based on the Plan of Salvation. That approach acknowledges the merits and mercy of Christ. That approach is born of testimony; of the belief that God loves our loved ones even more than we do. It is born of the conviction that it is indeed God’s “work and glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
We often hear in 12 Step groups that “when the pain of the problem gets worse than the pain of the solution, you will change.” This is so true. Too often, though, we find ourselves trying to help people avoid the pain that will inevitably cause the change of heart we seek for them. Consequences are a part of God’s Plan for us. If we, in any way, try to help people avoid consequences their behavior warrants, we are delaying the day when they will reach their bottom and begin to seek the healing balm that will restore them to happiness.
While, there are those who through teaching and admonition, will choose to change before painful consequences humble them, there are many who will not. Thus it is important to teach and invite all to come unto Christ. But, for those who reject such admonition, it is also important to be willing to “let go and let God.”
In my work with troubled teens I have often expressed the reality that addiction is a degenerative disease. I explain that addiction leaves a person with only three choices:
1. You can get better, or
2. You will become institutionalized, or
3. You will become dead.
Those are an addict’s only options.
After number two, I always pointed out that lo and behold, here they were, in detention – institutionalized.
Teen agers are quite cynical at times. Having little desire to change and knowing they’d one day get out of the institution that held them captive they acted unscathed by the death prediction. Oh, they didn’t deny it. All of them personally knew someone for whom death had been the premature outcome. Their attitude was more of a resigned, “So, that’s that.”
I always came back with, “No that’s not all there is. If this kills you, which it may; you’ll go to Hell. But when you wake up there don’t be too discouraged because I’ll be there too and we’ll take up with the Twelve Steps there, right where we left off here.” Whereupon, I always point out that Hell is God’s Alternative High School. If we don’t get it right here, we go to a place where we have an alternative means of learning life’s lessons. (See Chapter Two)
God’s plan is not going to be thwarted. He is a successful parent; one who loves each and every one of his children. Hope is not lost when the consequences seem too harsh. We often remind people of this and while extending a heartfelt invitation to come and be partakers of the Heavenly Gift. “If you are not ready yet, be comforted in the knowledge that God will continue to prepare you so that you will, one day, be ready.” Whether it is unfortunate that such preparation often requires affliction, or not; is just a matter of perspective. I personally consider the affliction that drove me to humility, to be the greatest blessing of my life.
In his book, Odds Are, You’re Going to Be Exalted, Alonzo L. Gaskill reminds us:
“Even when we have the best of intents—the purest motives—we cannot discern others as God sees them….We are so prone to doubt, to doubt man’s intent and ability to succeed—and to doubt God’s divine plan for saving His children. Certainly most of us do not see ourselves as doubting the Lord. But, as it has been said, to despair is to turn one’s back on God—to doubt Him and His promises. Thus, when we experience despair, fear, or worry, we are not exhibiting faith; we are manifesting, instead, our doubt.” (page 84)
Then, when we doubt God, we seek to take matters into our own hands. We seek to control situations that are not ours to control and we wind up playing into Satan’s hands as we manipulate matters toward our own ends.