We were sitting in a restaurant in Lisbon last night and a Canadian prarie woman asked us where in Canada we were from. A brief exchange and we engage in a conversation about recovery. Her mother was an alcoholic that had been to treatment. She was sceptical about 12-step recovery and asked whether it might be more correctly labelled a “new addiction”. She did acknowledge her own faith journey and that denominations no longer played a significant role but that she had found a supportive faith community that she worshiped with every Sunday. She shared goals and ideals with these people.
The steps seemed like a lot of work… an escape. She was hopping there was a permanent-cure for her mother. She had no faith in medication. Her mom had tried everything for anxiety, depression and alcohol and continued returning to drinking. Doctors repeatedly offered pill-solutions. Finally her mom went for residential treatment and aside from her new “addiction ” to 12-step meetings, was doing very well. What ensued was a long discussion on the nature of addiction and the urgency of getting reconnected to community. The need to be of service to others as an antidote to the self-centered thinking.
The overhead walkway is connected to an elevator that seems to go nowhere. The walkway, a bit like prayer, seems to be going nowhere. People were paying real money to ride the elevator to an endless walk.. In the background the next morning on the Avenue de Republica an airplane photo-bombed the selfie. Living and enjoying life in Portugal is possible because the walkway goes nowhere, because the airplane appeared to be going nowhere, because we appear to be going further. This whole business of 12-step programs and their rightful place is best summed up with that Road to Emaus story where the wounded servant appears to be going further. What are the features that mark true prophets, says Nouwen. The answer is so wonderfully cryptic. These features will never be perfectly evident in any individual person. The community again! 12-step programs empower persons to, in the words of Henri Nouwen, stand above immediate needs and the most pressing necessities. The other begins to really matter. The walkway goes toward the other. The plane carries the next visitor. We are ready to go further.