07 Apr How Sobriety Became My Religion
My son recently graduated from New Life House and has taken the first steps to live a sober life independently. Before we found New Life House, our family was in deep turmoil as a result of his drug addiction. My wife, daughter and I experienced our own versions of anger, self-hatred, shame and despair that made our lives seem hopeless and desperate.
New Life House saved us from that misery and to our great surprise enabled us to make profound changes ourselves. Engaging in the New Life House recovery process taught us a meaningful worldview based on humility, gratitude and honesty that has made us better people.
Everyone with an addict in their family has their own journey including stories about the deep desolation of addiction and the tempered joys of recovery. In many cases, faith in God is the primary plot of their stories. AA emphasizes the need to accept a higher power and to pray for guidance and the well being of others. Many families that we came to know and love embrace Christianity and Judaism and we have been privileged to share the wisdom and divine comfort that they convey on Saturday mornings within our group of parents.
For me, based on what I learned in that house in Torrance beginning in July 2013, sobriety became my religion. To be sober,
- You must be brutally honest with yourself about your character defects and be committed to continuous improvement.
- You must be an active member of your community and proactively seek out others whom are also committed to sobriety.
- You must be helpful and genuinely willing to lend a hand when a brother has a need.
- You must be generous in all ways.
- You must make a life long commitment to seek the truth using knowledge learned from your own life experiences based on your concept of right and wrong, not based on the influence of others that you wish to please or impress when you make judgments and decisions.
- You must be sincere, authentic and true to yourself.
- You must be forgiving and compassionate to others and to yourself.
- You must live a clean and orderly life.
- You must be grateful for all of the gifts and hardships that life brings.
- You must accept that life is a struggle and be prepared to face the crises and challenges (and successes) without using drugs or alcohol.
- You must find the courage to walk through your fears.
- To truly love someone who is an addict, you must be willing to let him fail, whatever that may demand.
- You must be humble.
- You must learn to get out of your own way, leaving yourself alone by proactively managing your thinking.
Saturdays at the House are spiritual, inspirational experiences that include a unique form of communion between parents, house managers and alcoholics. Both the parent meetings and the Al Anon meetings before them can be highly charged, emotional events. These meetings often include raw, jolting interaction between house managers and alcoholics that are intended to provoke recognition and improvement of character defects like dishonesty, selfishness, and laziness. Al Anon sessions often include intimate, soul baring confessions among parents sharing their anxieties, fears and insights. After participating for twenty months, I can testify that these events provide the purist sense of fellowship that I have ever experienced including the serenity derived from being with trusted friends who share a common goal, the health and well being of our sons.
We learned along the way that in order to live a sober life, you cannot take yourself too seriously, so as intense and powerful as these sessions can be, they also involve good humor and camaraderie; something else for which I am eternally grateful. Not long after our son became part of this family of recovering addicts and we began attending the Saturday meetings, I came to think of the parents as the congregation, the house managers as the spiritual leaders and our sons as miracles in progress. Watching first hand their transition from ravaged addicts to attractive, thoughtful, articulate young men made me believe in God. The whole is greater than the sum of these parts. The whole is my higher power.
What I have learned at New Life as a result of my son’s recovery:
- Not getting loaded is an outcome of living a sober life.
- Abstinence is a crucial requirement for addicts who are physically unable to tolerate exposure to the toxic poisons contained in alcohol and drugs. It is not a lifestyle choice and it cannot be dealt with casually. Addiction is a lethal illness.
- Most “normies” do not live in a state of sobriety.
- We all have character defects and we live in a world overflowing with temptation, so we cannot stay sober alone.
- A sober life can be a vivid life with an abundance of happiness, adventure, excitement, fun and love.
- Take life a day at a time. Live life on life’s terms. And stay in the middle of the herd.
- Expectations are the equivalent of resentments under construction.
With my newfound belief system, I am certain that if I live each day with a sense of gratitude and humility, I will have led a life worthwhile. I hope and pray for the same for my son. For all of our sons.
-New Life House Father