"One reason alcohol is addictive is that it doesn't quite work. It's difficult to get enough of something that almost works. It temporarily gave some relief so I chased it again and again, and it made me feel worse. For me alcohol had become a mirage. It wasn't the solution but I hoped it was going to be and I kept returning to it, desperately."
These words are from the book The Outrun written by Amy Liptrot. In it, she shares her struggles to recover from alcohol addiction. She traces her life from living with a father who has a mental illness, her time in London which included seriously flawed relationships and lost jobs, and finally back to her family's home in the Orkney Islands in Scotland.
The first sentence in the quote really struck me. "One reason alcohol is addictive is that it doesn't quite work." The reality about alcohol, or the "focus" in any type of dependency, falling short of its intent is a perfect description of the insanity of addictions. When I drank, I knew I was not reaching my goal of relief. And yet I kept on trying to reach that goal time after time after time.
The sentences following that part of the quote made me do a little soul-searching. "For me alcohol had become a mirage. It wasn't the solution but I hoped it was going to be and I kept returning to it, desperately." In the recovery world that would be defined as denial. But the idea of a mirage opened up more questions for me.
For me a mirage is something that I see and immediately feel I need. And so I go after it and try to make it part of my life. Then when I have it, I have a jolt of reality when I discover I did not receive the expected result. What I thought was reality was simply a mirage, something that was only in my mind. But, like the guy crawling across the desert who is desperately seeking relief, I see another pool of water in the distance and so I take off crawling in that direction.
Sometimes various aspects of my life are mirages. Oh, they are real enough, but my expectations are not. It could be money, a job, relationships, or one of many other objects or persons. It could even be recovery. Through them, I hope to find fulfillment in my life-but always at a level I desire. As long as I can change my expectations and not make those my goal instead of recognizing the blessings I have, I can work with these mirages. What I need to avoid is that crawling to countless imaginary pools of water. That can bring only misery.
But there will come a day when, much like a mirage, these wonderful gifts God gave to me will fade away. I see recovery, my marriage and children, and even my church as essential parts of my life. I also know what it says in 1 John 2:17 "The world and its desires pass away," Now don't get me wrong. I am not saying those parts of my life are not important. I shudder to imagine what I would be like if my wife and children were not around. My church has always been part of my life too and I would be a different person without it. And certainly recovery has given me a second chance.
But when I die and stand in front of my Creator, there is only one thing I can point to that will mean something. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9.
No matter what a great wife I have, and she a wonderful, I can lay no claim to heaven because of her. No membership in any church or denomination assures me entrance into my eternal rest. All my children, their spouses or 13 grandchildren with all their faith in Jesus as their Savior do not count one bit towards my entering heaven. Not even a recovery from alcoholism that lasts for 40, 50 or 75 years or more is worth anything on that day. Any hope I have in any of these is as useful as the illusion of water pictured in the mirage above.
There is only one way to get to heaven: belief that Jesus paid the price for my sins. My sins are real and no mirage. Without his perfect suffering and death, I have no hope of heaven. In Jesus there is no mirage only the reality of my place in heaven.
Denial or mirages as I have now chosen to call them, are common in everyone's life. (And if you say no, "not in my life," I have an imaginary pool of water to which I want to direct you.) There is no place for either of those when it comes to eternity. Jesus came to save all people and offer heaven. He is the only way. I pray that everyone comes to believe that undeniable truth.
Hope you come back sometime. I will wait you.