Addiction is a physical, psychological, and spiritual disease that is as deadly as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Addictions create devastating emotional, spiritual, and physical traumas that can lead to intense suffering and death. Yet, until we are willing to admit that we, as a nation, are addicted to power, greed, and control, our democratic way of life and our children will continue to be threatened. Step One could move us toward recovery if we could just admit that our current ways of approaching things are making life unmanageable. With elections fast approaching, I am hearing some rhetoric about invading Mexico to stop the drug cartels. Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to address such problems as poverty, racism, gun violence, and climate change so that our kids would not feel the need to escape by using drugs? After all, as long as there is demand, someone will move in to supply the product. And we all know the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
I wonder if it will ever be possible for us as a nation to do the hard work involved in healing our ills. Given our human lust for power and our addiction to easy answers, dishonesty, and the growing gap between rich and poor, reasoned suggestions seem impossible. Yet, I feel glimmers of hope. I see evidence that the very ones whom we have written off, held down, and persecuted are the ones with the greatest hope and viable options. That blacks and browns have not given up on America is amazing, considering how we have treated them.
I am a naturally optimistic person. Years of practicing gratitude have taught me to seek out signs of hope rather than focusing on doom and gloom. I have learned how to find the hidden gift in hardship even while facing reality head-on. The years our family spent struggling with drug and alcohol addiction were hellish years, yet I would not give them up for all the money in the world. Through heartache and suffering, we were forced to make radical changes in the way we approached life, power, faith, and functioned as a family. Those years taught us that when one door closes, another one opens.
As Charles Dicken wrote: “These are the best of times. These are the worst of times.” This is very true. While these are troubling times, they are also times filled with promise and potential. For years we have hidden from our dark side. President Trump has torn the lid off of Pandora’s Box, and we now are forced to see ourselves as we really are. We have pretended to be more open-minded and accepting of others than we really are. We have rewritten history to avoid seeing ourselves as greedy, selfish, and abusive. We delight in seeing America as the great melting pot, but we don’t want newcomers to move into our neighborhood or make any changes. We want to be protected from the negative consequences of our poor choices and don’t want any rules or regulations to stop us from doing what we want, when we want, or to whom we want. But we also want clean air, clean water, higher wages, an end to gun violence, etc.
We have been taught America was founded on the idea of freedom and sacrifice. But, the problem with sacrifice is that when making a sacrifice, we have to give up something we value if we are to achieve something of even greater value. Unfortunately, we are finding that the more out of control things seem to become, the harder we cling to our past mistakes, If we truly want to maintain the privileges we’ve experienced as whites, we must be willing to make more room at the table for others. Otherwise, we all lose.
Years in the 12-step program have taught me that step one in any problem-solving is admitting that we not only have a problem but what we are currently doing doesn’t work. We have to let go of the past if we are to embrace the future. We may have to give up our right to own so many guns if we don’t want gun violence to keep occurring, for instance. Granted, it is much easier to close our eyes and pretend everything, such as white privilege, is perfectly OK than do the work of dismantling our prejudices and providing room at the table for others. It is as Jesus observed; we have eyes but refuse to see, and ears that refuse to hear. As long as we choose to be blind and deaf, we will be unable to discover the many possibilities that are open to us.
God grant me the serenity to accept the people and situations I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know any positive change begins with me.