Road to Recovery: Discipline or Act of Grace?

I was talking with one of my clients – in recovery for 12 months – who mentioned that he was curious as to why some alcoholics recover and others don’t. He remarked, “Some of us are more disciplined and hard working than others, we just do the work.”

He was given something of tremendous value that he didn’t merit any more than other struggling addicts…-Arthur P. Ciaramicoli

He was of course partly correct, that some do the work and others seem reluctant to do so. I did remind him, however, that he too had little motivation to do the work when he was drinking. By chance he saw a cousin he has always admired while food shopping. They got into a long conversation and his cousin let him know that he was a recovering alcoholic, a surprise to my client, and then he gave him my card and pleaded with him to call me. He also asked my client to attend an AA meeting with him, where he introduced him to a man who eventually became his sponsor. Today, as a result of these occurrences, which he did not seek, Pat is sober and has regained the trust of his family, friends and employer.

In my opinion Pat’s sobriety began with an act of grace. He was given something of tremendous value that he didn’t merit any more than other struggling addicts or alcoholics. He didn’t earn his chance meeting with his cousin but nevertheless it happened. It was an act of grace that he encountered a human being who cares for him, who was willing to disclose himself and willing to give of his time and counsel. Ironically he happened to be a former client of mine, another act of grace.

A Negative Internal Story

This attitude puts us at the center of all life circumstances, it makes us mistakenly think our lives and the lives of those close to us are exclusively dependent on our actions… that can easily create an addiction or contribute to a relapse.-Arthur P. Ciaramicoli

Pat grew up with a negative story about himself and as a result he tends to have a punitive self-voice. When we are self critical we tend to believe that our self worth is solely dependent on our achievements, our successes, and when things don’t go well we feel less than, as if we are a failure and didn’t perform as well as we should. This attitude puts us at the center of all life circumstances, it makes us mistakenly think our lives and the lives of those close to us are exclusively dependent on our actions. A formula that can easily create an addiction or contribute to a relapse. From this perspective we are never in a position to accept acts of grace.

Grace comes our way not because of what we do or what we don’t do. It is a variable some believe is directed by God, others believe it is the Universe directing our fate. I will leave the potential debate as to the origin of grace to theologians who possess far more wisdom than I in this matter.

The critical point for our purposes is that we are often not in control of the circumstances that affect our lives. When self criticism is an integral part of your self voice it is hard to accept that you are not always accountable for the direction of your life. If you were held overly accountable early in life, made to feel unrealistically responsible for others, this tendency can be crippling and needs to change for you to feel emotionally liberated and addiction free.

Life, to a certain degree is like the weather. I am on the coast of Maine, it’s a beautiful day today, sun is shining, and the sea is glistening. I have been given, through grace, a gorgeous day. I didn’t earn it, nor would I be responsible if it were raining. I am, of course, not implying that we have no control, just that we do not have ultimate control. We need to be able to distinguish what comes under our roof and what does not. We were born in the United States of America, not Syria, not Iraq, not Afghanistan. This happened, not because we are more deserving than the people suffering in those regions, it happened because we were given the gift of grace.

I am, of course, not implying that we have no control, just that we do not have ultimate control. We need to be able to distinguish what comes under our roof and what does not.-Arthur P. Ciaramicoli

Grace and Humility

When we accept the grace we receive it fosters a feeling of humility. We are not the center of the universe and we are subject to many factors in our lives that we cannot control. Sobriety is obtained through “doing the work” and through the grace of those who are put before us to help our souls heal, while lending us their faith in ourselves until it becomes are own.

Be humble, be grateful and flow with whatever circumstance you encounter, taking responsibility when you should and shedding responsibility when grace is guiding the way.