From the Introduction to The Beautiful Letdown
“It felt like everything was gone. All of my efforts to save myself had failed. Those walls of lies which I had built to prop myself up had come down. My delicately constructed defenses crumbled around me and as I fell with them, I felt that I may never land. It felt like I may fall forever. At the same time, that falling began to feel like being ever so softly, ever so gently, held. The falling was in itself a holding. The crumbling was itself a recreation. The death was itself life. When everything was gone – my image, my security, my certainty – the only thing left was the simple fact that I still existed. The object of my addiction, the thing I thought was the most important thing in the world, had let me down. It had dropped me into the bottomless depth of myself: a depth that I never would have known if it weren’t for my fall, a fall that I never would have experienced without being addicted. My addiction was an invitation to something more, to something unfinished and yet whole, to something eternal and always becoming, to something true and still developing. It was an invitation from God, one that I had carried with me for so long, but had never opened – until it opened me.
What if, instead of thinking about addiction as a disease that needs treatment, an epidemic that needs eradication, or a moral failing that implies weakness, we saw it as a hand-written invitation from God? How would we operate differently if we saw addiction as an invitation to union with the transcendent, to knowledge of our true selves, and to spiritual depth and wholeness? How would we respond differently to those we know and love who are addicted? How would we treat ourselves differently in the face of our own addictions? Do you see how this way of thinking can change the way we understand and respond to our own suffering and the suffering of others?
Addiction is not something to hate, to run from, or to disown. We can no more label the experience of addiction a simple human tragedy than we can label the crucifixion one. There is something more to it than meets the eye. There is a “joy set before” us (Heb 12:2 NRSV), a promise present in this excruciating experience. In all its pain and fear it is something to grasp, to run toward. If we do, it will lead us to vibrant life, to our true selves, and to peace. Each one of us has received this hand-written invitation and now is our chance to examine how we will respond. It is an invitation that we do not discover in our happy times, in our religious devotion, or in our own moral purity. No, it is one that finds us through the very parts of ourselves that we wish didn’t exist, that we tried with every ounce of energy to hide. If our addictions – our sins – are our invitation, how much longer can we afford to throw them away?
This is the question of our lives.”