In John’s Gospel, Jesus says this to your disciples:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you (John 14:15-18).
I have always found great comfort in your promise of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to remain with us until the end of our days. And I’m beginning to recognize Her in my friendships that feed and sustain my spirit.
I want to keep your commandments, God. Really, I do. So why do I keep on messing up? Why, despite my efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle do I periodically grab for any one of my addictions, and clutch it with a death grip, believing that it alone holds the key to my sanity and peace of mind.
Lord, you know how many times I have been there—grabbing for the thing, giving it up, grabbing it again, letting it go, then taking it back. When I let it go, I feel that brief sense of relief—that I am okay on my own—that I don’t need it to be me. But then the panic, the withdrawal, sets in, and with it the false belief that I will never be whole without it.
I’m weary of the cat and mouse game. I want to be free. Of all my addictions. For good.
I need your Advocate, and I know where to find Her.
She is there, where two or three are gathered in Your name (Matt 18:20). Or, as Martin Buber put it, She is there “when two people relate to each other authentically and humanly.” She is that “electricity that surges between them.”
I felt the peace of Your advocate yesterday, when I had lunch with a good friend who shares the same struggle of my addiction. At one point, as I held her hand, I started to cry, explaining the misguided thoughts going through my brain.
She didn’t judge.
She just squeezed my hand harder. And said, “Therese, it’s not about the object. It never is about the object. It’s about the hole in the soul. Grow the tree—your sense of self, your spirit—and, trust me, the craving will wither. Later, she wrote me an e-mail that ended with this:
Remember, it’s about growing a self. And you do that by discovering what you need, getting those needs met in a way that makes you like yourself, makes intimacy possible with people you trust and love. Bottom line, you are safe, sane, loved, cherished, smart. You just have some work to do. Like everyone else.
As I looked into her beautiful face, and felt the sincerity of her compassion, I knew I was in the presence of your Advocate, God. Just like I have in so many support-group meetings, where I entered the room dying to drink and left an hour later free of craving. Because I filled up my spirit in those rooms.
Why do I always forget that recovery isn’t just about not drinking, or not smoking, or not bingeing, or not taking my own life? It’s about each and every one of those 12 spiritual steps—about admitting the powerlessness of my obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors, about spending time with the Word of God in scripture and prayer, about helping others who struggle to break free of their addictions, and about finding the self-worth in myself, and believing that I am just fine without the object I think I need.
Moreover, you don’t call yourself “sober” when you’ve managed to walk away from the bottle. You’re sober when you no longer fantasize about what a martini would feel like going down. You’re not sober until you’re in the presence of the Advocate, the voices of truth, just as Jesus explain in the Gospel of John. Until that Spirit of truth remains in you even after your lunch is over, and your support group meeting is over. When you She is in you and guiding you always toward health.
The Advocate is first found in communion, in people coming together to seek the Truth. Because just as Jesus said, the world can’t see or know Her. No way. Not in this culture of addiction.
The Advocate reveals herself only to those open hearts wanting to hear the Truth.
I want the Truth, God.