Recovery by grace




This article is one of a series on the faces and forms of
addiction. It is a collaboration among Alden Brindle,
intensive outpatient director at Hope House; his wife
Marie, Hope House counselor; and writer Nancy Jackson.

As we have discovered control is core to addiction: (1) addiction control (trying to control moods and throughts) and (2) guilt control (trying to control addiction by shaming ourselves).

If and when we become ready to ease the iron grip of BOTH control compulsions, we then are free to leave our illusionary imaginings – how we think things should be – and move out into the sunshine – into reality.

Acceptance and forgiveness

This bold departure from illusion requires acceptance of what IS and trust that meaning and purpose are in even the painful elements of our existence – an open-hearted embrace of this mysterious life.


Albert Einstein, touching the transcendent, said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” If we feel dead, as Einstein described, then there is a great urge to use the consolation of drugs as a substitute for awe.

Prison of the mind

I teach classes in prison where there are many limits. I tell the men there, who desperately want out of these limitations, that the most severe prisons by far are those inside our own minds. Escape from mental prison requires a transformation from the law (rigid rules and judgments) into the good news of forgiveness and grace. The prison doors of self-delusion and addiction open. Frozen hearts thaw out, becoming warm and open. We come out into the light of an awesome mysterious reality.

Countless brilliant people with grand aspirations have been foiled by one simple thing … ego. Ego, our sense of self and separation from others, imagines itself the director of the universe’s play.

It takes great energy to be at odds with reality. Freed of the spiritbreaking weight of expecting existence to bow to our demands, we enter into playing our role of the present moment with fearlessness and no selfpity.

The Biblical commandment “Thou shall not judge” is really an invitation to let go of delusional assumptions of how situations, our own self, and other people should be. We then are free to dance with what is: the essense of being in a state of grace.

If your or a loved one’s life is clouded by addiction, then believe that recovery is possible. Set your heart on learning to open up with trust to the responsibility, pain, and beauty of this moment. And ask for help if you need a hand. Agencies such as the Hope House, AA/NA meetings, churches, and mental health providers exist for this purpose.

In the end, each person is fundamentally responsible for learning to really live, responsible for becoming an expert in living in the present moment. What a beautiful experience to see a sad face light up as a person opens his or her heart to embrace what is.