I Am Not a Statistic or Stigma

As a child, I thought my name was "Clinical." As an adult, I know my name to be written in the scrolls of life. I am a person who has lived with mental illness for decades: clinical depression and addiction/substance use disorder. I am, more importantly, a person in long-term recovery (clean and sober) but I still live with the echoes of distant depressions, coming awash over me for months at a time.

But I am the face of Recovery. I am not a statistic, nor am I am a "stigma." I am a man, a brother, a son, a friend, a lover, a rebel, an advocate, a healer, and a shepherd. I am a recovering addict, but I am NOT my dis-ease.

I am free, even though society judges me. The "normal" world calls me a drunk, a junkie, crazy, a wacko, broken, a sinner, defective, a felon, criminal, and so many more names.

But my name is Niles. I am the son of an alcoholic and the grandson of an alcoholic. Addiction is mental health illnesses have ravaged my family, and my world.

But my dis-ease, my depression and my addiction, have become the great gifts from God.

Addiction is the thorn of which I speak.

Recovery is the rose.

My addiction – the supposed greatest “failure” of my life – has become the vessel through which the greatest sources of grace and God’s love have come into my life; it came in the face of recovery.

It is in and through my addiction that I have become intimately aware of and experienced the truth that “God’s power is made perfect in weakness” because when I am in my great weakness – for me, my alcoholism and addiction – I come to point of absolute surrender and in that space I essentially get out of the way and God is, for lack of a better phrase, given room to flood my world with grace.

And flood my life, God does!

Addiction is the thorn that has become the great gift. In recovery, all my foibles, frailties, and darkness fall into the abyss of this thing, this reality, called God’s grace. Hard to explain, and sometimes even harder to experience, God’s grace is the thing that comes to those who cry out for it, in moments of weakness as well as in moments of tenderness.

Grace is a bloody figure dangling from a cross, disfigured, impotent, and scraped of all sense of power and dignity; and forgiving those who crucified him. And it is precisely through that instrument of execution that the tear in the fabric of humanity has occurred allowing a means for grace to come to us.

Grace is a sloppy drunk like me finding healing, hope, and health for many years now through God and all the grace afforded me through my faith and being in a recovery fellowship.

And oh does it come to those of us who are grafted into the Tribe known as Addicts and Alcoholics. We are not unique, but we are a special people.

It has been said that God has a special concern for fools, children, the poor and drunks; well that’s me! It is this thorn called addiction — the darkness, the emptiness, the death — that has become the greatest gift in my life …”by the Grace of God first, last and always.”

(found at WildMonk.org)