Our friend was approaching end-stage alcoholism: dehydration, extreme weight loss, malnutrition, and bouts of delirium tremens. Then in her weakened state, she fell and broke her foot, injured her shoulder, and sustained lacerations – deep purple hematomas swelled beneath her skin. Even so, patched and propped up in an armchair, she defiantly refused treatment. “No!” to the hospital ER and detox; a vehement “No!!” to rehab; and at the last resort, a mute, dismissive smirk to a bit of egg, a bite of toast. Some hours later, a counselor briefed her family on an array of worst case scenarios, with only a hairline allowance for grace to intervene – a margin we know to be more than enough. That’s why we pray for it.
The details are now sketchy and in any case, no litany of them could explain grace’s workings. But, providence shimmered and our warrior painfully breathed a “yes” that sped her to the hospital for primary treatment, and from there to detox and the senior unit at a well-regarded rehab for a six-week program of recognition, acceptance and, hopefully, eventual recovery – one day at a time.
Her husband of many years is, himself, in the throes of retiring from retirement – choosing a setting for their independent living, then advancing through assisted and nursing care under his own life’s end- game arrangements. He is her elder by a fair margin and it has always been assumed that he would “precede her in death”. Perhaps so; perhaps not. Addiction is no respecter of plans and dreams.
Recovery from anything implies a gateway to something else. As we recover from our addictions, we encounter ourselves and all the hurts we’ve accumulated inside. We have been wounded “too much, too often and too long” – our heroine’s own words at the depth of her demise and further proof that at its essence, recovery is an inside job. As raw apprentices, we take up the twelve steps, tools to strip the veneer of our personas, our crafted identities, our layered coats of avoidances and pretense and coping– clumsy or sophisticated, awkward or artful. We scrape and sand to arrive at the natural grain of our timber, its rings, fibers and resin. We discover, too, that we’re not the only tree in the forest and that if we are all to somehow thrive in the grove of marriage and family, we must all grow together. It may come as a shock to co-dependent “others” that they also must take the rasp to their painted strata, their cosmetic devices. At any age and in every time, the only way to recover, share and cultivate our authentic selves is to expose the heft and color and grain and texture of ourselves to each other and to our God as we encounter him. Lignum Vitae: the Wood of LifeUltimately, it is in peeling away the glaze of self and our mirrored affects that we engage, as never before, God as the author of creation, the artist of our creation, whose only desire is for us to recover our lives in the embrace of his animating love.