It isn’t out of reach to consider recovery from addiction as a sort of ‘rebirth’ or ‘resurrection’ of life within the man or woman challenged by substance abuse. No, we didn’t die. Some of us came gruesomely close – a lot closer than most acknowledge – as a result of dependence on chemicals human tissues don’t favor much.
Each Spring, Christians around the world commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth around 33 A.D. The man was executed in the Roman tradition of the time: Crucifixion. Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead three days later when the tomb was found empty. He then ascended into heaven 40 days after being put to death. By all historical accounts, he (He) really lived and really was put to a gruesome death.
Whether you fancy yourself to be a non-believer or just choose to believe something else, the Biblical story of Jesus’s resurrection carries a few lessons about the metaphoric resurrection addicts in recovery experience.
Don’t be afraid to come back
Jesus was slain. Martyred. The man’s body was nailed to a cross and pierced. The Romans at the time were a brutal cast of characters and this was their method of public infliction of pain for those who dared cross Rome, and creating stigma by terrorizing and shaming those who would ever think to run afoul of Caesar. Those crucified are nailed or roped to an elevated cross beam and left for dead. In reality, they died agonizing deaths from bleeding out, exhaustion, suffocation, exposure, or any combination of the four. The Romans did this for centuries. They got it from the Greeks: Alexander the Great humiliated his conquests with public crucifixions 300 years before Jesus lived.
When the Romans did it in Jerusalem it was because the Romans had the city within their empire. They lived there. Jesus came back to the same land where people KILLED him.
When we come back from our addictions, home awaits. Regardless of what transpired or who we hurt. Go back. You have a new life. Live it where you want.
Look, nobody is going to build a shrine to any of us just because we got sober or got off the pipe. Recovery doesn’t work that way.
Jesus wasn’t revered and shrines weren’t built in his honor because he came back from the dead either. He embodied humility. Most martyrs throughout history are known for decent, humble lives of service, not for miracles. The lesson of Jesus life was simple: Although revered as the Son of God, he washed the feet of peasants and common folk. He helped others out of a willingness to do so, not for reward. Jesus saw a need and filled it without consideration of money or notoriety.
Be prepared to prove yourself
One great Biblical account of Jesus and his rising from the dead in the Christian New Testament is his encounter with one of his followers. His friend Thomas was notably absent when the resurrected Jesus first appeared to other followers. Thomas – throughout history known as Doubting Thomas – would not believe Jesus was for real unless he got to probe the crucifixion wounds. He needed proof.
There are people who will require proof from you of your sobriety or abstinence. Some people will require years of it. Some people will never be satisfied with your recovery no matter what evidence you present. Nobody says you have to prove them wrong. It’s not their lives you’re living, it is your new one. However, the worst possible scenario for your new life, is to prove the doubters right.
Even if you relapse, you’ve proven only that you have a chronic, relapsing, progressive, fatal disease. Go back to bullet point one. Face them another day.
The main reason Jesus’s followers believed in the resurrection is that they saw Him alive after He was dead. Jesus hung around for 40 days after his come back. He presented Himself alive on a number of different occasions to His followers. This firsthand evidence is a powerful argument for the believers in Christ. It’s going to be a part of people believing in you once again once you’re done with your drug of choice.
Take your time in recovery. There isn’t a need to rush back out to every social event. However, the hard work of rebuilding your life means nothing if you don’t leave your living room.
In my third book, I wrote about becoming a PANonymous alcoholic: One who doesn’t hide the disease and is visible in recovery. It helps others to see that recovery is possible. And it helps reduce the ridiculous public stigma attached to addiction that all in its grip are forever hopeless degenerates.
Know when to leave
Jesus was visible for more than a month after dying. So isn’t it conceivable that He could’ve just gone back to what he was doing? Or stayed and lived a resurrected life indefinitely? Theologians will argue that because there is a huge worldwide following and an addiction recovery article mentioning him two millennia later, Jesus in fact lives today. Converting you to that mindset isn’t the point. The point is that Jesus knew when to leave.
You don’t need to show up for every event to which you’re invited. You never have to stay. Nobody has to participate in every argument brought to your doorstep. In fact, the greatest gift we learn from our walking away from a drug that once controlled us is that we can walk away. From anything.
Scott Stevens is the author of four alcohol books including the December 2016 release, I Can’t See The Forest With All These Damn Trees In The Way: The Health Consequences of Alcohol. Get the new BookLocker title now on Amazon (viewbook.at/prehab), alcohologist.com, and everywhere you buy books. Click Alcopocalypse for the author’s 2017 Alcohol Awareness Month whitepaper. Image by Kevin Carden, used with permission.