Recovery Sucks (Not Really)

i have a confession to make: i haven’t been doing well lately.

But like a lot of things, the truth of this reality has been operating below the surface — off my personal radar, so to speak — and it has only revealed itself in the most recent of moments.

Specifically, it hit me — like so many of my best thoughts and clearest moments with God — in the shower.

i can hear the gasps of horror ringing out among my friends and family, so let me address what many are thinking: this does not mean i have gone back to porn.

But now that you know that, don’t stop reading. Of course it’s great that i am not looking at porn again, but just because your legitimate fear of that possibility has not come true does not mean that the real crisis has been averted.

On the contrary, it means that now i can must address a deeper and more pernicious issue; namely, the resignation that has set up camp in my heart.

We often focus on the behavior of acting out — or not acting out, as the case may be — as though that’s the only stat that matters.

If we’re staying clean, then all is good. Right?

Far from true.

Naturally, staying clean is good, but doing so actually provides the chance for whole regions of the heart to surface from the murky depths.

And that’s the point.

All the deep cravings of my soul that had laid buried beneath the rubble of my compulsive sexual behavior have now, through years of sobriety, become strong forces that demand attention.

Recovery is tiring. In the early months right after my Confession i was tired from working so hard on not messing up. Now i am tired from the constant awareness of my true, deep longings that were actually driving the addictive behavior all along.

Those deep longings are consistent and insistent.

The ache that i mentioned in a previous post becomes more and more pronounced the more sobriety i get. The ache expresses itself with an acuteness that can find the most vulnerable places in my soul with the greatest of ease.

And this is why recovery sucks. As sobriety increases, so do the longings of my aching soul. Or perhaps i should say, my awareness of those longings increases.

Now, without porn to run to, i feel the gravity of the ache, which leads me to feeling overwhelmed. Nothing in this world can satisfy my constant craving.  More than that, it’s not just my own desires that overwhelm me, it is the world itself.

Our culture takes a toll on my heart. i don’t think i am alone in this. This election cycle hasn’t helped.

On any given day there seems to be so much anger, greed, corruption, mean spiritedness, and pain served up in the midst of the swirling frenzy of our culture, which moves at warp speed all the time. It’s brutal.

And so, resignation sets in. You know, that feeling of futility you get when you think i really should get to the gym and workout, but then you grab another handful of chips and sit down on the couch to binge watch your new favorite series.

Resignation is that attitude lodged in the core of your being that says, “What’s the point?”

It’s not really a question. It’s a surrender.

And then out of that surrender we run to all sorts of things we hope will comfort us.

In that moment of clarity with God in the shower i realized i had made a deep agreement with resignation recently.

i realized that i feel defeated because there are things i want to see happen in my life that simply aren’t coming to fruition.

More than that, the path to fulfillment of my dreams seems too difficult to navigate and, quite frankly, it seems as though so much of what needs to happen is out of my control. That’s really frustrating.

So in the face of unfulfilled desires and mounting frustration, i had resigned myself to What’s the point?

This is where, in the old days of my sexual addiction, i would have plunged head first into porn. i am not doing that now because my freedom is real. And while that freedom is real, it doesn’t mean that i don’t still numb myself in other ways.

i have found myself running to little pleasures (again, not porn) in order to feel something good. i resign myself to the thought: “This is as good as it gets; and this isn’t really so bad, is it?”

But after a while even the little pleasures stop working for me.  That glass of wine; that meal at my favorite Mexican joint; or that extra piece of Halloween candy — they simply fall short.  Things that used to taste good are bland. That show i sat down to watch, counting on it to cheer me up, left me wanting.

Hidden in that lack is a true gift.  When the little comforters no longer get the job done, i am forced to sit with and experience the real emotions of my soul. Allowing myself to be vulnerable to the legitimate disappointment, frustration, pain, self-loathing, and grief makes it possible for me to know, at a profound level, an abiding joy.

As Brene Brown says, we cannot selectively numb ourselves so that we only experience the highs of life.  My path to a vibrant life where hope is real and the satisfaction of my soul is true requires that i walk through the pain.

An anchored sense of wholeness is available, but it won’t come through shortcuts like little pleasures and false comforters.

This is hard, which is why recovery sucks. But then again, it’s also why recovery doesn’t really suck. In fact, it’s why recovery is excellent.

Recovery makes it possible for me to experience the life that is truly life, and that is what my heart truly craves.


2 Responses to “Recovery Sucks (Not Really)”

  1. Chris M

    Brilliant, James, and a timely reminder that while my life may not appear, on the surface, to be going well, deep down it really is.


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