September is National Recovery Month and September 14 is National Sober Day. Hats off to all you silent soldiers daily struggling to stay sober – free from the control of addictive substances. I can so easily forget how MANY people are working so hard to change their lives and free themselves from addictions. My “rose-colored glasses” tend to get in the way, I guess. But if it is not my own personal experience – with alcohol or drugs at least – it can be so easy to downplay what heroic efforts this may take for so may people trying to escape the nightmare of a life lived in addiction. Maybe there’s some other, not-so-obvious addictions I might be struggling with, that could help me understand better. Food, gambling, shopping - anything that becomes an obsession in one’s life, taking control of one’s decision-making powers.
But it can only give me a glimpse into the fear, isolation, shame, despair felt by so many trying so hard to escape an addiction and embrace a life of sobriety. And most folks who are going through this may not want to be recognized for this (shame is hard to let go of), but quietly put one foot in front of the other, sometimes white-knuckling it. It can’t help but impact their social life greatly, though, making it difficult to spend time with others in activities where the object of their addiction may be a big part of the socializing. Finding new ways to socialize where the temptation cannot get the best of one, can be so difficult.
What can I do on this National Sober Day to support people I may know working so hard to live soberly? I can reach out with a text or email or something, just to let them know I see them, they are good people traveling a tough path… perhaps not even addressing their addiction, but just affirming their giftedness and strengths and goodness. I could live in solidarity with them – to the extent that I can – by letting them know that today, on National Sober Day at least, I am supporting them by doing sober activities – enjoying life without addictive substances. For instance – today I am going to get together with friends to talk, laugh, enjoy one another’s company without the crutch of food or alcohol. I can enjoy people – often better – without those things. Or maybe I can try only having non-alcoholic beverages starting on September 14 and going for a week, a month, maybe longer, to truly begin to feel the solidarity. I could invite a person struggling with sobriety to do an activity with me that requires no addictive substance, and also goes a long way toward relieving any stress that might tend to push a person toward their addictive substance – like go for a hike or bike ride or paint or do a puzzle with me, or play cards or a board game, learn a new skill by taking some classes or lessons together. Yes, all those things can probably be done with addictive substances, but I would offer the experience with me without them.
Just to be aware of how many people I might never see who are silently struggling with trying to find sobriety and abstinence from their addictions can change the way I do things, and help me become more sensitive to the struggles folks have - even when they may not be obvious. This is the compassion in action – the Love – that God offers to us and asks us to pass on to others.
Please bless with your strength and perseverance those struggling against an addiction and working hard to become or remain sober.
Help me to become more sensitive to the hidden struggles people might be facing, might be silently white-knuckling through, might be often tempted to give in to.
Keep me from posing a problem for them by my own actions, however inadvertent.
May we celebrate their determination and may they embrace a joy-filled, sober life.
May they know you are with them, loving them through their struggles.