So tonight I was at a Celebrate Recovery (CR) meeting. I love these meetings, especially the small group portion. The group of men at the CR I attend is relatively small and, consequently, we have grown to know each other pretty well. One young man, who is new in recovery, was discussing how he had been tempted to the edge of relapse and had come through the fire of that temptation in victory. This was the first real test of his recovery. Even though he survived it, he generally lamented that he had faced the test at all.
His comments fell familiar on my ears. I have often wondered and asked recovery veterans if the cravings…that powerful pull for one more run, would ever go away. Mostly, I wish I didn’t have them at all. As I stared at the floor and listened to his story, my mind was drawn away…back to my days in the military.
For many men who sign up to serve their country, their potential service has been something they have dreamed of since they were quite young. Certainly this does not apply to all, but, for many, the warrior spirit has been in them since birth. They join, they train, they prepare with one singular focus; to apply their knowledge, their wit, and their natural leadership abilities on the field of battle. Combat to them seems like a birthright. This may be hard to understand, but for them it is almost a tragedy to complete a tour of service and not have been under fire.
I thought to myself how this same concept applies to recovery, especially if your recovery has a strong spiritual basis. A lot of time and effort is put into an individual’s recovery. There are many components to it. An analogy for “bootcamp” is the absolute horror of our lives prior to seeking help; that collection of misery that eventually leaves us so broken and empty that we have no other choice than to seek God. Then we train…we repent, study scripture, seek accountability, work through our past, go to rehab, attend meetings, pray through, cry, struggle against our flesh, do step work, read books, and generally apply ourselves to Christ and to anything that will help us stay clean and sober.
Wouldn’t it be a tragedy for us also, if we never had the chance to apply our new nature to our addiction. If we did all that work…suffered through the physical pain, all that blood sweat and tears…and never were given the opportunity to experience victory through the testing of the desires of our flesh. We tend to wish away the opportunity to see God work in our addiction. When we were “reborn” in Christ, we were given a new birthright; to glorify God in our victories on the battlefield of addiction. To never have been tested under fire would leave us feeling as though we somehow failed to fulfill an obligation given to us when we were first set free.
I remember being a young Marine and looking reverently upon the old grizzled veterans in our unit. They had a presence about them that commanded honor. They were weathered, scarred and strong. You could see in their eyes and on their chests all that they had been through and survived. We learned from the wisdom they had gained through the combat they had seen. There is no training that serves as an adequate replacement for those experiences.
Someday, I hope to be that old grizzled veteran of recovery for someone else. There is only one way to get there.
Whether it is addiction, our Christian walk, our role as parents, husbands or wives maybe we should be careful not to wish away our tests. Through them we gain irreplaceable wisdom…through them God is teaching us…through them He is glorified.
Don’t flee the battle…relish in the opportunity to fulfill your new birthright.