A lens of grace

April 8, 2013

[Episcopal Diocese of Washington] This blog is the first in a series in honor of Alcohol Awareness Month. Each week in April, we will feature addiction awareness blogs written by clergy and lay people from throughout the Diocese of Washington. We invite you to share your thoughts, responses, and reflections with the Diocese of Washington on Facebook.

“There is a life waiting for you, the likes of which you cannot imagine.” A simple testament, but powerful beyond measure and often what motivates an alcoholic or addict to accept help.

In each of the hundreds of interventions I’ve facilitated, their friends and loved ones have given the testament above. Just as in each intervention, there has been a moment when I’ve been guided to ask, “Are you ready to have a different life?” Both the testaments and my question cause emotional warfare for the addicts, as if Jesus and the Devil were wrestling inside them. Their disease screams, “No one understands me, you people are over-reacting, I’m not that bad.” But their hearts, digesting loving concern and a possibility for redemption, whisper softly, “I don’t want to continue like this, I don’t know who I am, my life is a tomb.” When all goes well, the whisper wins.

Bearing witness to this process countless times, I can only describe that moment when the addict accepts help as a moment of grace: ‘unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.’ The grace comes to me, helping me know the best moment to ask my question. It comes to loved ones, giving them the courage to stand up for health and lay boundaries against self-destructive behavior. And, of course, the grace comes to the alcoholic or addict, inspiring them to accept the possibility for new life that has been offered.

Given our culture, it would be easy to deny this as grace. It would be easy to feed our ego-driven norms – justifying that I knew when to ask the question because I am a seasoned interventionist, that the family decided to take a stand because they were at wits’ end, that the addict was forced to accept help. All those things are true – but so is grace. And so that is the lens I choose. Because in the midst of this most painful and cunning and baffling disease, it fortifies me to remember that grace is there.

In this season of resurrection and in this month of Alcohol Awareness, we are invited to review the lenses we use to view our lives. We are reminded that we choose the lenses – just as we choose to have faith. Though we can become distracted from grace, though we can be lulled into forgetfulness, grace is there just the same – for us to look at and through.

I believe we are all walking in grace. We are all the recipients of unmerited divine assistance. And through that, no matter our afflictions or burdens, we can each have a life the likes of which we cannot imagine.

– Don Sloane is an interventionist and recovery care manager.

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