Faith in the Recovery Season
By Stan Bumgarner M. Div., Counselor
The daffodils are here, so the long wait is almost over. The cold, short days of winter are giving way to warm daylight lasting way past quitting time. These are also days of transition. Powerful storms rattle with thunder across the South and Midwest, soaking the ground. However, these transitional days deliver with them the promise of spring.
Writer Kurt Vonnegut proposed calling this time of year “Unlocking” – the period between winter and spring. He argued it deserves its own name because it’s a turbulent, unsettled period when the earth is shaking off ice and snow like a dog shaking water from a summer bath. Spring can’t just appear; the earth needs to be unlocked from the throws of winter. It would be too sudden a jerk if we lurched from winter right into spring.
Early recovery is a lot like Vonnegut’s unlocking. No one can go straight from active addiction into full recovery. There are too many thought and behavior patterns to identify and replace in the span of thirty days or even a few years. Like the transitional period between winter and spring, folks in early recovery need a period of unlocking. In this period they may come to understand the life threatening malady from which they must heal and accept the work they must undertake to stay in recovery. It is a major process of change, but people do it every day, because they are willing to have faith in something bigger than themselves.
The 12-Step recovery process fosters the unlocking of addiction’s hold on our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. It requires us to admit our brokenness and need for change, embrace the concept of something greater than ourselves which may help us heal, and surrender to a new way of thinking and acting. The turbulent season we experience reflects the internal struggle between the old and the new, the unhealthy and the healthy, the dark and the light. Continuing the unlocking process requires us to take inventory of our personalities and work on sloughing off those aspects preventing us from being joyous and whole. It involves admitting our way of being in the world was working against us, and there may be a better way for us.
Oxford dictionary defines faith as, “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” The work of early recovery can feel scary and disorienting at times, like standing outside in the middle of thunderstorm. It helps to have faith in those who have gone before us; those who are willing to hold out the hand of compassion and understanding, to bring us into safe harbor. If we are open to it, one of the great benefits of recovery is connecting with people who can teach us a healthier way to live. It requires faith, but just as spring follows transitional storms, the challenges of personal unlocking may give way to a calmer, more manageable and joyous life making the turbulent times worth it.