Posts tagged "Grace in Addiction"

“My Fall My Stay”: Addiction and Low Anthropology

Some more highlights from John Z.’s remarkable Grace in Addiction:

“The only person lacking desperation is the one who does not know herself very well. Usually a few examples of typical, universal human difficulty are enough to ‘raise the bottom’ to the point where the idea of powerlessness will connect with any layperson. Let’s explore some of these…

Like Swiss cheese, people are full of holes. The Twelve Step approach is quick to draw attention to those holes, rather than try to dodge, cover, or counterbalance them. So which weaknesses tend to be present universally? The Big Book provides its own list:

“We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view. We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people…” (52)

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I have yet to meet the person who cannot identify with a least one of the items on that list. Who, for example, is a stranger to fear? Jesus offered a similar list in his famous Sermon on the Mount, but his list also included anger, lust, and anxiety. These are the “classics”, and they account for much of the content of the day-to-day experience of being human.

Using similar logic, AA would liken sin to sickness. R. C. Sproul voiced this sentiment when he wrote, “We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.” We would happily extrapolate along those same lines: “we are not alcoholics because we drink uncontrollably; we drink uncontrollably because we are alcoholics.” Have you ever thought of misdoing as a kind of illness? Like an allergy or a virus, self-centeredness cannot easily be mastered or controlled. The good news is that our negative attributes can become a bedrock upon which effective spirituality can be built. Without them, there is no hope for spiritual rejuvenation; in the place of health, there is apparently no need for recovery.

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The realization of our own weakness is so counterintuitive to human nature that the revelation can be rightly ascribed to the divine. A Christian would ascribe this work to the Holy Spirit. The old-fashioned word for it is repentance.

And so it is with the entire progression of AA’s Twelve Steps. As the ego is deflated and self-confidence is discouraged at every turn, something called “faith”, or “God-confidence” miraculously begins to take its place – although it doesn’t appear that way to the subject at first. In Step 12, AA refers to the fruit of this faith as “a spiritual awakening.”

We close this section on Step 1 with an incisive quote from the sixteenth-century English theologian Richard Hooker:

My eager protestations, made in the glory of my ghostly strength, I am ashamed of; but those crystal tears, wherewith my sin and weakness was bewailed, have procured my endless joy; my strength hath been my ruin, and my fall my stay.

Another Week Ends: Capitalist Christians, Parents Teaching Achievement (Not Empathy), Post-Penitent Pantene, Sedaris’s Journey to the Ends of the Law (and Back), Antinomian Aucklanders,  and Crooked-Timber Anthropology

Another Week Ends: Capitalist Christians, Parents Teaching Achievement (Not Empathy), Post-Penitent Pantene, Sedaris’s Journey to the Ends of the Law (and Back), Antinomian Aucklanders, and Crooked-Timber Anthropology

1. The New York Times hosted a debate asking the question of whether capitalism has become incompatible with Christianity. It’s a pretty interesting forum, and some highlights with commentary are below:

[Gary Dorrien, Union:] The field I teach, social ethics, was founded in the late 19th century as a protest against capitalist ideology. American social gospel theologian Walter Rauschenbusch put it poignantly: “Capitalism has overdeveloped the selfish instincts in all of us and left the capacity of devotion to larger ends shrunken and atrophied.” Pope Leo XIII described capitalism as a system defined by the callousness of employers and the greed of unrestrained competition, including its…

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Finding Myself at The Ontario Symposium; or Self-Forgetfulness

Finding Myself at The Ontario Symposium; or Self-Forgetfulness

Back in 1988, a bunch of social psychologists met in a sunny Canadian province to run through new experiments, theories, and approaches in social psych research. The theme was self-inference processes, or the ways we make judgments – accurate or inaccurate, constructive or merely descriptive – about, you know, who we are. The result is a mostly mundane, dry, and technical body of psych literature, littered with revolutionary insights into who we are (which, nonetheless, Luther had arguably discovered or personally reified centuries before), leavened with some real, concrete, original insight.

We’ve covered less psychology of late on the site, partly because it feels the field…

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Another Week Ends: Negatively Positive Thinking, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Love and Friendship, Fun Families, Facebook Sociology and Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories

Another Week Ends: Negatively Positive Thinking, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Love and Friendship, Fun Families, Facebook Sociology and Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories

1. Think positive! The New Yorker this week pushes back against the “think I can” trend, famously espoused by Thomas the Train – and even in adult media, too. While it’s certain that confidence often sometimes helps (Seahawks defensiveback Richard Sherman self-imputed the title “best cornerback in the league” and subsequently grew into it), it tends to break down in the long run, ht TB:

According to a great deal of research, positive fantasies may lessen your chances of succeeding. In one experiment, the social psychologists Gabriele Oettingen and Doris Mayer asked eighty-three German students to rate the extent to which they “experienced positive thoughts, images,…

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Another Week Ends: Reciprocal Favors, Atheism’s Biggest Challenge, The New Yorker Profiles Francis I, Declining WASPs, Social Media Christmas Cards, Ascendant Meritocracies, and Simon Pegg

Another Week Ends: Reciprocal Favors, Atheism’s Biggest Challenge, The New Yorker Profiles Francis I, Declining WASPs, Social Media Christmas Cards, Ascendant Meritocracies, and Simon Pegg

1. New Year’s Resolutions: we’ve said about all we’re going to say concerning a yearly ritual of personal bootstrapping, but some great articles this year from Tullian Tchividjian (on the spiritual side of things), from Woody Guthrie’s Sermon-on-the-Mount-standard life guide (pictured below), and finally, a wonderful Quartz article about how to make resolutions you can keep. After long study, they basically reverse-engineered the historically Christian approach to behavior change, from one perspective:

Losing weight, drinking less alcohol, and spending more time with family tend to top New Year’s resolution lists—but they are also among the most commonly broken resolutions. Although about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% of us manage to achieve these goals…

I have…

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If Someone Steps on Your Toe, Say, “Excuse Me”: Resentment and Everyday Life

If Someone Steps on Your Toe, Say, “Excuse Me”: Resentment and Everyday Life

Our weekly Breaking Bad post will be up tomorrow morning, but for now – addiction just can’t be put on hold. A story of resentments, forgiveness, meat-cleavers and self-reflection, from John Z.’s Grace in Addiction:

“Imagine a guy named Gary and another guy named Levar. Gary and Levar are not great friends, but they are – or rather used to be – acquaintances. Now they hate each other.

Here’s what happened. Both Gary and Levar are smokers. One day Gary found himself sitting next to Levar in the library at their college. Gary noticed that Levar had a fresh pack of cigarettes sticking…

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Bebopping, Scatting, and Step Nine Apologies (to Costanza)

Bebopping, Scatting, and Step Nine Apologies (to Costanza)

Some angel of the Lord put together the Costanza-12 Steps storyline from “The Apology” episode of Seinfeld and who would we be if we didn’t post it here. So rich and hilarious, featuring a great cameo from James Spader and touching on a gazillion of our favorite themes, from scorekeeping to repentance and forgiveness, recovery, motivation, self-sabotage, etc, and ending with a scene of public condemnation of “law-breaking” that backfires to an almost New Testament degree:

Perfect opportunity to plug the Step 9 section of John Z’s Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody:

Amends are…

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It Came From The (Church) Basement: Addiction, Grace, and Alcoholics Anonymous

Here comes another video from our NYC conference, this time from John Zahl. In addition to some deep wisdom, it features what was hands-down the best joke of the conference.

You may download the recording of this talk by clicking here. And you may order a copy of the book that the talk is based on by clicking here.

Grace in Addiction: Stanley Runs Into Barbed Wire

Grace in Addiction: Stanley Runs Into Barbed Wire

Continuing with our series of previews of our recent publication Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody, here’s a section from the chapter having to do with Step 7, i.e. “Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.”

An important part of parenting comes when the parent makes a mistake. Perhaps tempers flare in a regrettable way. Or maybe a crucial decision turns out to have been a misstep. Maybe the parents move their child into a new school that proves to be a poor match, and the child has to switch back later. God’s grace is…

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Lighting Sixteen Candles at Lehman Brothers: When the Worst Thing Is the Best Thing

Lighting Sixteen Candles at Lehman Brothers: When the Worst Thing Is the Best Thing

I’ve noticed a thread that runs through a few of my favorite (relatively) recent films. Win Win and City Island and Ruby Sparks and Secrets and Lies and even last year’s Flight–all highly recommended–tell stories where the thing that everyone is dreading, the outcome that the characters are working tirelessly to avoid, turns out to be the key to their personal happy ending. Films, in other words, where the worst thing that could happen turns out to be the best thing and vice versa. This is what John Z talks about so beautifully in the opening to Grace in…

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Grace in Addiction: Getting Worse Is Getting Better?

Grace in Addiction: Getting Worse Is Getting Better?

Continuing with our series of previews of our recent publication Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody, we move to a section from the chapter having to do with Step 7, i.e. “Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.”

“Although people do sometimes have a sense of peace with God… nevertheless, in a given situation it is not so much peace with God that is the true mark of the Holy Spirit at work, but birth pangs.” -Christoph Blumhardt

Another image of God’s work in a person’s life comes from John’s Gospel: “The wind blows wherever it…

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Grace in Addiction: Cracked Actors, Self-Propulsion, and the Will of God

Grace in Addiction: Cracked Actors, Self-Propulsion, and the Will of God

A second preview from our brand new publication Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody. We’ve heard that it makes a terrific Christmas present (not unlike giving someone a stick of deodorant, but hey…). This one comes from the chapter on Step 3 (“made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him”), pgs 64-69:

“Let me give you a truth that can make all the difference in the world: almost everything you think about doing to make something better is wrong and will only make…

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Grace in Addiction: Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

Grace in Addiction: Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

Our last post before taking a break for the holiday and the first in a series of previews of our brand new publication, Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics for Everybody by John Z, this section comes from pages 23-25:

An important issue for Alcoholics Anonymous is the problem of agency: in other words, is the emphasis placed on the individual’s initiative or on God’s work upon the individual?

For starters, it should be understood that the “work-related” terminology of the Twelve Steps can just as easily be interpreted as a descriptive tool, rather than a prescriptive one. In other…

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Another Week Ends: Erratic Anxiety, Lucrative Law, Backwards Self-Help, More Grace in Addiction, State of Lin-dependence, and the  Flight  from Control

Another Week Ends: Erratic Anxiety, Lucrative Law, Backwards Self-Help, More Grace in Addiction, State of Lin-dependence, and the Flight from Control

1. A brilliant article by Eve Tushnet at The American Conservative examines narratives of moral progress in American culture – “Hedonist, Disciple, or Bourgeois?” She critiques the dichotomy between hedonism/moral license, on the one hand, and discipleship/moral progress, on the other, claiming that it misses a crucial third option: the bourgeois ethos that permeates much of American culture. I’ll let it speak for itself, and it’s well worth a full read (it’s mercifully short):

…of course there’s a third option, the life of bourgeois stability. The life of building up a reasonable income, getting married to somebody your parents approve of, doing well and…

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Now Available! Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody

We are beyond excited to announce the release of our new publication, Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody by John Z! Years in the making, this book is the most substantial–and dare I say practical–project that Mockingbird has ever done. The official blurb goes like this:

Church basements are curious places. Playing host to the vibrant world of Twelve Step Recovery, they witness the sort of healing and redemption that would make those on the ground floor proud, and maybe even envious. Yet despite the Church and Alcoholics Anonymous both being in the business of bringing “hope to the hopeless”, the two worlds seldom seem to interact. Packed with vivid illustrations, good humor, and practical wisdom, Grace in Addiction attempts to bridge this divide and carry the unexpected good news of AA out of the basement and into the pews–and beyond! Highly recommended for anyone who has struggled with addiction, knows someone who has struggled with addiction, or spent any time living and/or breathing.

*Not to be confused with the Grace in Addiction pamphlet that Mockingbird published in 2010. That one provided some of the basis and inspiration for this one, but it was 30 pages, as opposed to 285! To read an excerpt of the introduction, go here. There are also some preview pages available on Amazon–where the book is available for purchase–though please note: Mbird receives quite a bit more revenue if you order directly from CreateSpace.

ORDER GRACE IN ADDICTION TODAY

As a bonus, here’s the author himself (whoever he may be), giving a presentation about the material at our recent conference in Charlottesville: