DRAWING INSPIRATION FROM THOSE IN RECOVERY
Working in substance use treatment has opened my eyes to deeper layers of meaning into this chag (holiday). Here are two lessons I have gleaned from my experience with those in recovery from addiction that have helped to transform my personal Purim experience:
LESSON # 1: WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TO TURN TO ONE’S HIGHER POWER IN TIMES OF FEAR AND DESPAIR
On Purim, we remind ourselves that in times of seeming helplessness and chaos, and when facing the threat of annihilation, God is orchestrating each piece of the puzzle from behind the scenes... all we have to do is unmask His presence.
Through reading the Megillah as a linear narrative it becomes abundantly clear that each piece of the story, though appearing like a series of coincidences, becomes synthesized into an elegant, meaningful whole. The purpose of painful experiences become revealed, despite the struggles experienced along the way.
This is a message that those in recovery from addiction are living and breathing on a daily basis:
"My act of Providence came as I experienced the total bankruptcy of active alcoholism - everything meaningful in my life was gone. I telephoned AA and, from that instant, my life has never been the same. When I reflect on that very special moment, I know that God was working in my life long before I was able to acknowledge and accept spiritual concepts. My life continues to unfold with divine care and direction."
- Alcoholics Anonymous Daily Reflections, p. 17.
Anyone in the clutches of addiction will tell you of the looming threat of annihilation being confronted daily:
"With [the alcoholic illness] there goes annihilation of all the things worthwhile in life."
- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 18....
"As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find understanding, companionship and approval. Momentarily we did - then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the hideous Four Horsemen - Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy drinkers who read this page will understand!"
- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 151
Yet despite this insidious threat, those who maintain hope, too, have uncovered hidden miracles through finding and turning to “a power greater than themselves”:
“To watch the eyes of men and women open with wonder as they move from darkness into light, to see their lives quickly fill with new purpose and meaning, to see whole families reassembled, to see the alcoholic outcast received back into his community in full citizenship, and above all to watch these people awaken to the presence of a loving God in their lives – these things are the substance of what we receive as we carry A.A.’s message to the next alcoholic.”
– Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 110…
The age of miracles is still with us. Our own recovery proves that!
- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 153
How does this miracle emerge? The process has been found by many in these three principles:
(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives. (b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism. (c) That God could and would if He were sought
“When we developed still more, we discovered the best possible source of emotional stability to be God Himself. We found that dependence upon His perfect justice, forgiveness, and love was healthy, and that it would work where nothing else would. If we really depended upon God, we couldn’t very well play God to our fellows nor would we feel the urge wholly to rely on human protection and care. These were the new attitudes that finally brought many of us an inner strength and peace that could not be deeply shaken by the shortcomings of others or by any calamity not of our own making.”
- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 116
On Purim, let us draw inspiration from those in recovery who continue to demonstrate the transformative power of turning to God in moments of hopelessness and looming threat.
LESSON #2: WHY SUBSTANCES SEEMED LIKE THE SOLUTION
On Purim, many of us experience the potency of alcohol. We are encouraged to utilize the day of Purim as “yemei mishteh v’simchah” (a day of drinking and rejoicing).
In fulfillment of the deeper theme of Purim and wanting us to reach a mental state of “Ad D’lo Yada,” our sages clearly recognized that alcohol was a powerful means of altering our consciousness and to this end, encouraged intoxication:
“Rava said it is one’s duty levasumei to make oneself fragrant [with wine] on Purim until one cannot tell the difference between blessed be Mordechai and cursed be Haman.” -Megillah, 7B
A discussion of what this means in practice and policies surrounding alcohol consumption on Purim is well beyond the scope of this post, but one thing is clear: on Purim, we recognize how drinking has the capacity to help us transcend our current reality and enter into another. To tap into the deeper dimensions of ourselves. To shift into a more joyful state.
Individuals in recovery or treatment for substance use disorders, too, have experienced the potency of alcohol or substances.
For various reasons, they believed alcohol would be an effective means of entering into a new reality, a much desired "Venahafoch Hu," as theirs was no longer tenable. And it worked, as it does on Purim....And it continued to work until it took over and became a force of destruction:
"Creation gave us instincts for a purpose. Without them we wouldn't be complete human beings. If men and women didn't exert themselves to be secure in their persons, made no effort to harvest food or construct shelter, there would be no survival. If they didn't reproduce, the earth wouldn't be populated. If there were no social instinct, if men cared nothing for the society of one another, there would be no society. So these desires - for material and emotional security, and for companionship - are perfectly necessary and right, and surely God-given.
....Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives. Our desires for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us. When thus out of joint, man's natural desires cause him great trouble, practically all the trouble there is. No human being, however good, is exempt from these troubles."
- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, . p. 42
On Purim, let us be inspired by those who are in the fight for recovery, and as we experience a day of "Ad D’lo Yada" be reminded that individuals seeking treatment are in need of support, compassion, and admiration, rather than judgment.