On Wednesday evenings, I am leading a series of studies/reflections I’m calling “Recovering Your Life: Everyday Spirituality and the Twelve Steps.” My basic claim is that the recovery movement, rooted in the remarkably practical and insightful wisdom of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, has a great deal to teach us about how to live our everyday lives in ways that are spiritually sensitive and holistically healthy. I’ve been reflecting on, and trying to practice, these ideas for a long time now, and I have had some help along the way, primarily in the form of books I have read. Here, in almost random order, are just a few of them:
The Spirituality of Imperfection, by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham. A fascinating series of “meditations” on spirituality for our ordinary messy lives. Kurtz and Ketcham draw on diverse sources of spirituality (including, but not restricted to, Christianity) to tell stories which point toward recovery and renewal. Kurtz, by the way, wrote an intriguing history of A. A. entitled Not God.
Addiction and Grace by Gerald May, M.D. May was a psychiatrist and a spiritual director at the Shalem Institute in Washington D.C. Addiction and Grace explores, with gentle but probing wisdom, the spiritual/emotional dynamics that are a part of addiction and recovery. It also makes a compelling case that addiction is a metaphor for helping us understand the idea of “original sin” (I don’t have time or space to unpack that here, but I am “almost persuaded” that May is right).
I have also been helped by a series of memoirs written by people who have written with transparency about their struggles. Here are three that I have found particularly helpful:
Holy Hunger, by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas. Bullitt-Jonas, an Episcopal priest, writes trenchantly about her food addiction.
Thirst: God and the Alcoholic Experience, by James B. Nelson. Nelson, now a retired theology professor, describes the complexities of his alcoholism. He is particularly insightful about the personal spiritual and emotional needs which made his attachment to alcohol difficult to break.
Broken, by William Cope Moyers. Moyers tells the story of his drug addiction and recovery with disarming honesty. His parents, the journalists Bill and Judith Moyers, figure prominently in this narrative, and the book would be a good companion for parents or other family members who are struggling to know how to help an addicted loved one.
I suppose it depends on how you view the “prefixes.” If one views them as nouns, which say all there is to say about a person, then they can foster separation and magnify difference. If one views them as adjectives, then they are descriptions of at least a part of a person’s history and experience, reminding us of the rich diversity of our nation, to which people of richly varied backgrounds contribute. My view is the latter, so the prefixes don’t trouble me.