Sermon for Common Ground Recovery Community on December 7th, 2022
One of the Readings for this worship was from the recovery resource Courage to Change p.45. That is what I reference as “the Reading.” The livestream of the service can be viewed here. Sermon starts around the 37 minute mark.
My name is Micah and I’m an alcoholic.
I want to thank you all so much for inviting me to be with you here this evening. I am especially grateful to Pastor Tom and Vicar Mycah for this invitation to this incredible ministry. I have long wanted to worship and gather with you all, knowing the incredible work that you all are doing together. This is indeed a place where good work is being done.
Jumping right in, and letting you get to know way more of me than you need to know: My biggest fear is being incompetent. I suppose that’s a good way to put it.
You see, I don’t like not having the answers. It’s not that I need to fix problems necessarily. And It’s not that I need to be needed.
For those who understand this language, I am an enneagram five.
Which means, I want to be perceived as having the answers and the solutions. I never want to feel like I’m incapable. I never want to seem confused or be perceived as incorrect or giving bad advice or information. And I certainly don’t want to look like I need help.
I always want to look like I’m in control of myself, my life, and my decisions. I want to look like I’m capable of being a resource for others. Especially for others whose lives are not in control.
And that’s been true for most of my life. Even as a kid, I’d be the one on the playground giving advice to a friend. Never “needing” advice myself but only ever administering it to others.
Well, I’m sure many of you know where this story goes. I am an alcoholic through and through. Physically and genetically, I am predisposed to it. Mentally and emotionally, I self-medicate. And spiritually, I have had the longing, that emptiness that desires to be filled. I had a sponsor who once called it the trifecta.
As an alcoholic, it gets to be very difficult to be in control when you literally can’t contain the shakes or the panic attacks from daily withdrawal symptoms.
The chaos of addiction and alcoholism, is that we drink or use to gain control, right? We want to control our emotions, our pain, our fears. We want to find homeostasis that will just take the bad things away long enough for us to be able to just relax and have some fun. To loosen up a little bit. To quiet that little voice in our heads a bit.
But, of course, the irony or hypocrisy of addiction is that it instead leads us to drink or use so much that we lose all our control and we become a chaotic nightmare of random decisions, many of which endanger ourselves and sometimes others.
The very thing we turn to for control, instead sends us spiraling wildly into chaos.
After six years of heavy drinking through high school and college, my body began to shut down. I was admitted to the hospital with pancreatitis. I remember lying in the bed, multiple IVs in my arms, unable to eat or drink because my body was too messed up to even digest food. The doctor came in and told me, that if I didn’t stop drinking, then I would end up right back in the hospital, or my body would fully shut down and I would die.
My life had become unmanageable. In my desperate attempt to gain control, I’d instead lost control of everything. And I had no idea how to move forward.
Thank God (as I understand God, my higher power). Thank God for the program. Thank God for my family. Thank God for my friends and my church.
Because at that moment in my life, my greatest fear was my reality. I was completely lost. With no answers. No direction. No idea how to move forward.
I was totally confused. But through this gift that is my community, I learned the hardest lesson of my life: That not being in control and not knowing the future is okay.
The program would be my steppingstones and all I had to do was stay sober and take it one day at a time, one step at a time.
Our reading from Courage to Change today is one that I think should be required reading for all of us. But certainly for me.
Confusion is not the enemy. Confusion is not the end of the world. Our reading tells us, Confusion can be a gift from God.
Because when we are confused, whether it be because of too much information or not enough. Whether it’s at a time when we’re overwhelmed, or we are bored, confusion is time that gives us a chance to stop, to pause and reflect.
Addiction tells us that times of chaos and confusion require us to act and act rashly in order to try and regain some semblance of control.
But our reading today tells us, Confusion can be a gift from God.
What if instead of viewing confusion as something lesser, something bad, we instead felt it and heard it as an invitation to pause. As we heard in our reading, Confusion is a reminder that we don’t have to act. Instead, we can enter into a time to practice patience and listening.
I love this ministry here at Common Ground, and I love the recovery program, because places like this taught me to listen more than I ever had before. To listen to the voices of others. The wisdom of the rooms. The stories of those who have gone through it before. Because recovery in and of itself can be confusing.
At the beginning, you let go of the substances that you used to control and suppress those terrible feelings. And now without those substances, you start feel all these emotions. Sadness, grief, depression, happiness, joy, excitement, all with no filter for the first time in years. Sometimes all of them will hit you at once and it is just a mass of confusion.
Or even now, 8 years sober, I was taken aback on my last sobriety anniversary. In past years it had felt like a big deal, a major event. But this year, just last month, it felt more like a holiday. Something familiar that was deeply a part of me but not out of the ordinary. And internally I felt a bit confused because this anniversary felt different for some reason. While previous anniversaries felt poignant and significant, this past anniversary felt ordinary and almost routine. Was this growth or decay? Was this progress or regression? Confusion.
And so, in times of confusion, what if we pause. Taking a moment to listen, to reflect. What if in these moments, we didn’t move right to action but instead entered into discernment and exhibited patience.
In the church, we are in the season called Advent. It is the 4-weeks that lead up to Christmas and the birth of Christ. And traditionally Advent has been a season of waiting and preparation. Preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus. Readying ourselves for Christ to enter into our lives. Waiting and pausing for this anticipated moment.
But the world does not follow the church seasons.
I don’t know about all of you, but Christmas has been rushing toward me like a freight train since the end of October. As a pastor I still need to plan the Christmas Eve service and the Christmas Day service. I still need to check in with the musicians. I need make sure that the Poinsettias are going to be delivered to the church and that we have enough candles for the candlelight singing of Silent Night. Meanwhile, as I procrastinate that work and watch TV, I am inundated with commercials that remind me that I haven’t bought Christmas presents for my wife or Dog yet. My phone goes off with notifications reminding me that the credit card needs to be paid off before I can buy those presents. Simultaneously as I think about upcoming payments, I remember that we need to go grocery shopping but first I need to throw away the Tupperware that still has leftovers from thanksgiving that are just taunting me in the fridge. All the while, my texts go off reminding me that there are friends and family members that I haven’t seen in a long time that would like to see us over the holidays and are asking us when we might be available.
If your to-do list is anything like mine around this time of year, it is a time of year that demands that we act and act rashly even though we might be confused, overwhelmed, or stuck.
But remember – Confusion can be a gift from God. Confusion can be an invitation to pause.
What the 12-step program tells us, what our readings today tell us, what the season of Advent reminds us, is that the world is always going to try and speed us up and move us toward rapid action. But when that happens, when things are getting chaotic and confusing, we are reminded time and time again to take it one day at a time. One step at a time.
We are reminded to pause. To listen to the wisdom of the rooms, our supports, and our higher power. We are reminded that the most important step that we can take is the next step that keeps us sober, healthy, and in connection with our community.
And if something falls or doesn’t get done. If we need to pause our schedules. If the poinsettias don’t get onto the altar for Christmas Eve. If we need to put the family gathering on hold for a minute. That is okay.
Remember the wisdom of the rooms and the program.
“No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints.”
During this season, when the world wants everything to speed up, the wisdom of our elders reminds us that we need to slow down.
Confusion can be a gift from God. Because it reminds us to pause, to listen, and to reflect. It positions us to take the next right step that will allow us to be our best selves and to be our best for the community we serve.
Pause. Listen. Reflect. And take it one day at a time.
Thanks for letting me share.