Reflection: Finding Grace in a Community of Recovery
Sister Mary Ellen Lacy, DC
July 25, 2016
I was so moved by our stop at Integrity House in Newark, New Jersey.
According to their website, Integrity House is committed to helping individuals and families through an effective and measurable system of comprehensive therapeutic community addictions treatment and recovery support in a way that brings about positive, long-term lifestyle change. What we saw was a group of flawed human beings, much like ourselves on the bus, who came together and were advancing forward because they had formed a caring community. It was of particular significance for me because I had worked with addicts for several years. Addicts in recovery can be so tenderly raw, boldly honest, and remarkably challenging.
We can learn so much from those who accept the humble reality that “my way” does not work. Darnell told us of the need to have access to a listening ear when things mount up. Darnell did not sugar coat things – addicts rarely do. He said recovery was hard but he had hope and had begun to see what a sober life might look like for him. He had learned the value of letting go of baggage that would hurt you. Darnell found salvation in interdependence with co-community members and counselors at Integrity House.
Michael C reminded me of many of the guys I worked with when I worked at an addiction service facility. He was full of sparkle, had a little mischievousness and had the impulsivity of St Peter. He reminded me that we need joy in the tough times too. Seeing many of my own qualities in him, we immediately hit it off. Mo reminded all of us of faith and patience. He said we should remain in a place until the miracle happens. How many times have I wanted to run because things were uncomfortable, only to be rewarded beyond my dreams because something kept me in place?
All spoke of the importance of timing and lack of appropriate response available. Frequently, the residents found that when they were ready to make a change, help was hard to find. They were told to call back in six weeks or to bring several thousand dollars for admittance. Many had to get arrested to get into treatment. That is messed up. We have to find a way to meet folks when they are ready or society will pay an excessive price. The lifestyle will not allow that moment to last very long so we have to be ready to respond. Seizing the moment is important.
I recalled the story that Congressman Higgins told us about John Lewis. Apparently, Congressman Lewis had travelled to Buffalo when he was 11 years old. On his way, he saw black men and white men working in the steel mills and at GE Mills, side by side. It was in that moment that he realized that desegregation could happen in the South. Providence reveals itself in just a moment … but we have to respond to the grace. Readiness for recovery is a grace and we have to respond to it.
Integrity house does that. But their resources are limited too. We need more beds so we can react in the moment. It was suggested that we could remove the beds from prison and put them in treatment centers and we would save money. Hmmmm.
All had owned the negative impact of their prior behaviors and were committed to becoming whole. The self-loathing and guilt had done a number on them and they were working to see themselves as God and others see them. When that day comes, they will be happy with what they see. Their community relied upon each other to make it through the day. They were just like our community of bus riders: full of hope, relying upon each other to make it to the next day and hoping to be a contributing member of our community. One day we shall all be, as Bill W prayed, willing to have God remove from us every single defect of character which stands in the way of our usefulness to you and my fellows.