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Take a Couple of Big Steps

A magicianís slight of hand works because heíll get you distracted looking at one hand, while the ďtrickĒ happens in the other. You zig while he zags and you never see the trick and so voila, it feels like magic.

            In our day-to-day lives, we can also look the wrong direction and miss the real issue while dealing with another. You get busy trying to solve the symptom and leave the real problem to fester and worsen.

For example, the symptom can be that you are working late more and more often. But the problem isnít your job. Itís your marriage and you know it. But instead of working on your marriage, you stay late at work. Or perhaps you arrange to do something with friends, but not your spouse. Or you stop in at a bar on the way home. Whatever it is, when your spouse complains, you mention the job, or the need to be around others and not just your husband or wife. And you do need the job and you need time with others. But you know the real problem and you avoid it.

This type of avoidance is what can lead to illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, gambling problems, a pornography or video game addiction, and much more. Itís easier to deal with the problem by avoiding the problem, numbing your mind and getting through another day. Donít deal with the part that comes before the drug or alcohol use, or flicking on the video game for the six or eight hours until you crash for the night. Just avoid it.

The not so funny thing is that this technique does work. Ignore your marriage and it will go away. Ignore problems on your job and it can go away too. In fact, there is a lot you can lose by ignoring the problem that comes before the addictive behavior. It matters less which addiction follows the problem and more what came first. The stress in your marriage, family or job. Your own feelings of self worth or lack of it. These are the issues. Issues so strong that a lot of people havenít read this far into the article. Itís easier to just flip to the next article than to admit that you have a problem.

If you are still reading, itís probably time to stop looking at the symptom of problems between you and your parents, or children, or wherever the stress is coming from. Seek out someone you talk through the problem with whether a pastor, or therapist or trusted friend who you think will listen. Because working on the real issues, the loneliness, or anger, or sense of powerlessness that comes before the thing you do to avoid the problem is probably not as bad as you fear. Facing and working on those issues in your life isnít easy, but it is far easier than dealing with the problems youíll get in by avoiding them. You can bring God into the midst of the problems with job, or children, or spouse, but He can only help once you acknowledge the problem and begin to pray and work toward a real solution.

Of course, sometimes it has gone too far. You can no longer just deal with the stress in a healthy way because youíve gotten addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling or whatever it is for you and you need to deal with that before you can get to the root causes that led to those problems. In that case, the solution is so well known that it is now ingrained into our culture. The short version, ďTrust God, clean house, help othersĒ was created by Dr. Bob, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. That six word version of the Twelve Step ideal captures it pretty well.

There are also the first two steps: Admit that you are powerless over your addiction and turn the problem over to God (or a higher power in the words of recovery groups). These two steps can create the first real and lasting change for the better in your life.

Until you admit that the problem you have is bigger than you, youíll just be kidding yourself and the cost to your family, friends and workplace will just keep building. After you take these steps and admit that you do need help, then you can find the recovery group to help you clean house and then through that group you can go on to help others.

In this paper, you will find listings in the community calendar for recovery groups. We started a Narcotics Anonymous group in our congregation to meet the need in both our church and Camden County as a whole. Our Monday and Friday meetings at 8 p.m. were not enough for the need and the group is also meeting at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church. There are also Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and more is available. The most important thing is that these groups offer support from others who have been down this road and know that as they couldnít walk it alone, neither can you.

Youíve made it to the end of the article. Now is the time to set down the paper and ask God what your next step needs to be.

(The Rev. Frank Logue is pastor of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland.)

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