So we must stumble and fall, I am sorry to say…we must actually be out of the driver’s seat for a while, or we will never learn how to give up control to the Real Guide.” (Richard Rohr, Falling Upwards, p.66). While flying across the country in route to a long needed vacation, these words sang true as I sat in the back row of the plane, trusting the pilot to safely bring the plane back to earth. Even with something as simple as walking on the plane, I needed to give up control and trust that someone else, a skilled and trained pilot, will guide the plane on its necessary course. All I needed to do was to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight. And in fact, I did as the flight attendant directed. Somehow, when it comes to flying in the sky, I am able to enjoy the flight. Before recovery from addiction, there was no way I could do so. I needed to fly the airplane!
The wonderful and scary paradox of this quote from Richard Rohr, is the necessity of falling, of stubbing the toe, of being put off balance to the point that we must ask for help, and accept the help that comes our way. He even apologizes for having to name the obvious. The human condition is to avoid any action that might otherwise suggest that we are not in control, or holding the reigns, or simply making life look “easy.” Falling is a part of life. My grandfather, who taught hundreds of children to ski, would say the only way to ski is to fall down, and get up again. It is a simple paradox every toddler knows by instinct. It is a simple paradox any growing creature accepts just by living. We must stumble and fall, so we know what stability feels like. If we choose not to stumble, we lie on the floor until death comes our way, even if sustenance is three inches beyond our reach. We must stumble and fall if we want to stand up straight to see the sun.
Ten years ago I could no longer pretend to fly my own airplane. Even more paradoxical is when I thought I was standing mighty straight and tall, I was in fact a heap on the floor. No words, no wisdom, not even a whisper of truth could have brought me to lift my head. Ten years ago, something broke, and I started seeing how broken I was, how deep the hole was, and how my life was such a mess! But could I accept it? Could I, even in the middle of the mess, the middle of a career melt-down, a family crisis, a world of chaos, could I accept the fall and learn to stand again? Could I apologize for the obvious, accept the reality, and take up a new walking stick? Could I learn to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight of life?
In recovery, and only in recovery, could I hear and know what this quote means. But, I am a slow learner. In one year’s time, I first spent six weeks at an inpatient treatment center, and five months later, I returned for another five months. One fall was not hard enough. The road since has offered me opportunities for continued training wheels, returning to the basics and building up steam again and again. Sobriety is more than abstinence, it's a place to see and know and find God at the center of life. Today, I live not with a crutch or even training wheels, but trusting the “Real Guide” to give me hope for another day. Today I can listen to the flight attendant over the intercom remind me, “sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.” --Anonymous