The fourteenth-century mystic Julian of Norwich said, “Our courteous Lord does not want his servants to despair because they fall often and grievously; for our falling does not hinder him in loving us.”
My life depends on this being true. The past nearly three years have been for me a predominately dark time with only intermittent rays of light. I have fallen often and grievously, putting to test Julian’s theory in the most grandiose ways. I have scars to prove it.
Nearly three years ago to the day I relapsed. A nightmare I thought I left behind, and from which I thought I was healed, rushed back into my life like a hurricane. There are many reasons why but the root of them all is a slow, steady, progressive disconnect from God. As a pastor and recovery minister I got consumed with doing the work and forgot how to be with God and others. I let my guard down. I got lazy. And without a regular support group for myself (as opposed to one I was always leading) to belong to I had no idea just how unprepared I was for whatever storms might come.
I still play that night over and over in my head when I reached for my phone and searched for things I hadn’t looked for in years. I play it back slowly at times, thinking that maybe this time I’ll make the right decision and I’ll wake up as though it were all a bad dream.
But that never happens. We addicts love our non-reality though, don’t we? What quickly became my reality was a downward spiral from a momentary relapse to full on addiction. Looking back, I see how I could have stopped the slide had I reached out to someone for help. But my shame over what I had done, coupled with the responsibility I felt towards the church I pastored and the recovery ministry I helped launch paralyzed me. So I slithered away into the night.
This is the first time I’ve written about this. If you’ve followed this blog in the past and gleaned something from my writing about recovery, I want to take this moment to apologize to you. And not just to you, but countless others. I let down a lot of people. My family, my church, my friends and a community that trusted me. And while I don’t expect this post to fix any of that, and personal amends are yet to be made, I needed to bring all of this to the light because it’s the only way I can continue to recover.
I also needed to share that this week marks my 10th week sober.
I’ve been embarrassed by that for too long. In my head I made up stories that people probably expect I should be much farther along than I am. And to be honest, I wanted them to think that. I am good at putting on the imposter persona which looks sober and clean for my audience. But the truth is the past couple years have been full of starts and stops, gains and losses. I’ve fallen grievously and hurt myself and others. There were many long dark days where I was convinced that death was my best option.
I’m so grateful that in those darkest moments God showed up with skin on and reminded me that I was not forgotten or alone. These men and women showed me love when I didn’t love myself. From a couple I knew only through Facebook opening their home to me when I was homeless. A friend I hadn’t seen in years gave me a van when I was carless. A 12 step group opened their arms to me and encouraged me to keep coming back. A recovery preacher in Knoxville who I kept listening to online. A girlfriend who stood beside me through the peaks and valleys. These and others gave me hope when I felt hopeless.
Today I am not ashamed that I am 10 weeks sober but grateful that I am alive to share that I am on the road to recovery. It’s important to me to come out of hiding and share where I am with you. I’m tired of living behind a mask. I’m an addict in recovery and I’m making progress. And today I am choosing to embrace the truth that God loves me completely for who I am today and not some future version of me with more sobriety.
While my falls have been many and grievous, I will not wallow in them. I reject the lie of the enemy which has whispered to me over the last few years, “You’ve squandered all of your Father’s blessings because you relapsed, divorced, or washed out of ministry.” Rather, I choose to believe that my Father has long been standing at the door watching for me and comes running towards me with every start. Because of who he is, I believe the best is yet to come.
Thank you for taking a moment to read this.
Grace and peace,