Addiction, Courage and Christ

My mother was an alcoholic. Though she eventually found sobriety, she did so a little too late in her life. Five years into her recovery neck and throat cancer related to drinking and smoking overwhelmed her at age fifty-eight. Alcoholism, like many other addictions, affects one’s own body, mind and spirit, but it also eats away at the relationships with all who love them. It’s a terrible thing. Perhaps some of you have had experience with addiction and its impact upon a family.

Facing addiction and overcoming it takes great courage. One of the most familiar prayers recited to find and focus that courage is The Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Today, I’d like to share with you a story of courage from my friend, James, a Presbyterian ruling elder and a recovering addict. Thanks to another friend, Jan Leo at the Community House Presbyterian Church, I’m able to share a recording of James telling his story in his own words. The way James speaks makes sense to me, perhaps because of the experience with my mother fighting her addiction.
As you listen, ponder upon what courage and acceptance have come to mean for him.

When I listen it strikes me deeply that we in the PCUSA could learn much about courage from people like James. He speaks of “everyday acts of courage” to win back something deeply valuable, that is, yearning for a power greater than ourselves. For James, and for all of us Presbyterians, that higher power is Jesus Christ. James speaks of the “acceptance” in the Serenity Prayer as submission to Christ with a daily commitment to putting one foot in front of another toward fulfilling God’s will.

It may be that the church family is the hardest place to have the courage to surrender to Christ because this is what we are already supposed to be doing every day. James challenges us to move from the darkness of addiction into the light of Christ. I pray that we will see clearly how to move forward together when we look up from praying The Serenity Prayer.

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