Lots of “Re’s” in our world right now….rebuild, reframe, refocus, to name a few. It is undoubtedly a season of recovery. I’m finding it helpful to look towards experts in personal recovery for wisdom in how to be in moments like this. Those experts are the anonymous heroines and heroes of Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA and its myriad associated personal recovery movements.
Father Sam Shoemaker and Bill Wilson are the two major AA founders, along with several others who impacted their thinking. Ironically and typically, each credits the other while accepting no personal accolade for themselves. Knowing that, I find this statement from Bill Wilson persuasive:
It was from Sam Shoemaker that we absorbed most of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, steps that express the heart of AA’s way of life. Dr. Silkworth gave us the needed knowledge of our illness, but Sam Shoemaker had given us the concrete knowledge of what we could do about it. He passed on the spiritual keys by which we were liberated. The early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Group and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and from nowhere else.
In my opinion, it was the brilliant leap from understanding alcoholism as a sinful defect of moral character to alcoholism as a disease needing empathy, treatment and personal accountability which defines personal recovery. In this Lenten season, and can’t one immediately recognize core Lenten Prayer Book elements of Shoemaker’s program in the Twelve Steps, should we not all be pursuing a robust and ruthlessly honest program of recovery? Perhaps not all of us from alcoholism, although perhaps for some, but recovery from sin intensified by this pandemic global chapter. The pandemic has illustrated quite effectively all the elements of sin: alienation from God and from one another, how we, left to our own unaccountable devices, can often stray into various experiences of darkness, how easily we can devolve in personality to be less than the beloved children of God our Heavenly Father created us to be. And on and on…..
I want to leave you today, dear readers, with this simple analogy. Whom better to pioneer a navigable path through Lenten pandemic towards recovery than those who have travelled their own searingly personal path already? Is not Lent all about recovery, a providential pairing of the liturgical season with this present moment? Tomorrow we examine the recovery tools in their considerable toolbox!