In 1992, as I was nearing my one year anniversary of sobriety, the season of Advent began. “Cast away the works of darkness” spoke to me in a new way that year, even though I had heard and sung that line for nearly 40 years. While the world around me moved into the darkest time of year, I was emerging from the darkest time of my life. Putting on the armor of light of recovery and the sanctuary of the Church was literally and figuratively meaningful.
Thomas Cranmer’s words about casting away the works of darkness was for me about shedding the darkness of 20 years of drinking, a darkness that was so familiar, yet so debilitating.
In detox and treatment, I learned that sobriety was going to require action on my part. Not difficult or stressful actions, but it was not going to be a passive undertaking. I’ve heard it said ‘I didn’t do a thing’ to acquire my sobriety. That’s not my experience.
If I show up for a meeting, I am taking action. If I ask someone to be my sponsor, I am taking action. If I go to lunch with a newcomer, I am taking action. If I meet a fellow alcoholic for coffee, I am taking action. If I pick up folks from a halfway house and take them to a meeting, I am taking action. Taking action is a way I put on the armor of light and experience God’s grace.
God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved, forgives us, enlightens us, and strengthens us. Only with those gifts from God do I continue to have the ability to cast away the works of darkness on a daily basis. For we know well that recovery is a daily reprieve, if we maintain our spiritual condition.
Until those last weeks and months before the bottom rose to meet me, I had never left the Episcopal Church. I believe that God missed me and came looking for me, through the action of friends who intervened, moving me to refuge and safety. Words came back to me from countless hymns. Immortal, invisible, God only wise, He tends and spares us, well our feeble frame he knows, God of grace and God of glory, I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true.
Together with what I was reading and hearing in treatment, I realized God was responsible for guiding me through the storm, keeping me alive and safe, when the course I was on was anything but. Tears of peace and joy streamed from my eyes one afternoon when I was overcome with that realization.
In retrospect, I realize it was in that moment I became conscious of contact with God, and I had the good fortune to feel the tears and be overcome with gratitude.
Advent reminds us that God has visited us. And God is coming again. Put on the armor of light, again today, and be blessed with another season of sobriety. Soon the season changes: the world is about to turn. The days get longer, the light moves closer, hope takes hold.Gary G.