A HIGH MOMENT OF GRACE
“Well, my story is like countless thousands of other people that go down a path of substance abuse and alcoholism. Addictions become all consuming. In my case they were all consuming because I didn’t really have much of a career. I had very little in the way of relationships. I didn’t have much to really say that I could be proud of. Then there was a breaking point that caused me to say I couldn’t take it anymore. For a lot of people, they refer to it as a bottom. But for me I think it was a high moment of grace that God chose to, at least, intervene in my life and to shine some light or grace on me to say that I needed to change what was going on in my life because my life had become so bad.
This seems a little strange but it was actually at a Super Bowl party of all places. I was with four or five brothers and we were all drinking. It seemed like a very sad situation to me. It struck me as odd, and for some reason, I told myself ‘I can’t continue to live like this.’
It has taken quite a long time. That was 30-some odd years ago. But it led from AA into another 12-step program which dealt with sex addiction.
I went to a conference recently and I heard one of the members say, ‘AA saved my life. SLA [Sex and Love Addicts] gave me one worth living.’ It sums up what these programs have done for me.
Even in the heart of my addictions, I don’t think I ever lost that connection with God, but I think it was strained. I actually stopped going to church for periods of time but I returned even when I was still active in my addictions.
There is one thing in the Catholic Mass when you give the sign of peace and that’s the one part of the ceremony where I actually felt something. It just told me there was hope.”
Steve Lawson is a dear friend of mine in Cincinnati and I will forever be grateful for his love and friendship. Steve fell fast into chemical and sex addiction in the 1960s and 1970s as he was growing up gay and closeted. He likes to say that he is an alcoholic, drug addict, sex addict, and food addict— not a gambling addict—but don’t bet on it! Today, Steve has a very successful and impactful career as a chemical addictions counselor, having earned the highest level of professional certification (Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor– Clinical Supervisor).
What amazes me about Steve’s story is how he continued to go to church during his many years of active addiction. It was not because he was trying to pretend to be something he was not, but for hope. It was the simple sign of peace that Catholics give to each other during Mass that resonated deeply with Steve and gave him hope that he might one day be sober and healthy.
It is so easy for many to write off all aspects of traditional religion, rituals remembered from childhood, or a simple ritual of our own creation. But should they be rejected? The sign of peace, in Steve’s case, was important. For many others I interviewed for this project, rituals included playing under their father’s tallis [Jewish prayer shawl] in synagogue, lighting a candle for a deceased loved one, or praying for a pregnant mother on bed rest. The most simple acts or rituals remind us deeply of who we are or who we could be.
I am grateful that Steve took hope in the sign of peace and that he went on to counsel so many people recovering from addictions. Blessed be the broken one among us who helps others to heal.
(P.S. We are all whole, we are all broken, we are all healers.)