Strong in the Broken: Living While Recovering
Today’s Strong in the Broken post is by the talented and prolific Daniel Maurer. Check out his books and website (links in the bio below). Dan is the only person who has ever played a bagpipe for me, in my yard. It was awesome. Enjoy!
My Broken Doesn’t Define Me, But Without It, I’m Missing a Great Gift
Don’t worry—I’m not going to take you to rehab.
I know how tiresome reading another account of addiction-and-depression-to-recovery can be, because I share them all the time on my blog. In fact, recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol has become my non-fiction brand as a freelance writer, whether I like it or not. Some days it feels like I eat, sleep, do jumping jacks, play Scrabble, and poop recovery.
My real passions dwell in my family, my faith, reading, walking or jogging with my wife and our dog, writing science-fiction, planting my garden, and exploring the vastly more interesting realms of topics that pique my curiosity. For example, one book I’m currently reading on the history and fascinating development of the periodic table has me enchanted like a beaker bubbling along, perched in a science lab filled with flaming Bunsen burners.
Being a pro writer is amazing too. What’s great is I have connected with other writers all over the world, like Rachel. Visiting her blog and reading her work is—technically—part of my weekly agenda. How cool is that?! I love my life and I wouldn’t trade being a writer for anything. I feel more whole today than I ever have in my life.
But I gotta be honest . . . I wouldn’t truly be whole without first being broken.
The thirty-second version of my little tale is that I served as an ELCA (progressive Lutheran) minister in western North Dakota for eleven years. I was a good pastor. I enjoyed studying scripture and proclaiming the Word. I loved my people. But I was also depressed. I was frequently bored. To combat the gnawing worms of ennui and melancholy eroding the foundations of my soul, I drank and I took pills, mostly painkillers. Of course, this only made things worse in the long run.
One of the reasons I get tired of reading and hearing other addiction-recovery stories is that they all end the same way. There’s never a magical twist in the plot. The details might be different, but yup—all of them don’t end well.
Just over six years ago, I was arrested for felony trespassing while I was in a blackout.
Then I finally got sober (I’d already done several “rodeos” in rehab prior to my decisive arrest). I moved from the country to a large city. I developed my new vocation as a writer and reconnected with my family, myself, and God. I strive to never seem “in your face” with my spirituality, but the fact is it’s extremely important to me. The big surprise for me came when I was standing in the basement jail cell wearing an anti-suicide smock.
I asked myself, “How the hell did I get here? Where is God now?”
I didn’t immediately receive a reply to those questions, but they came soon enough. I think an appropriate one-word summary to the answer I got was . . . submit.
A longer answer I discovered in Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (12:10):
Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
One of the best real-world allegories for this concept of strength-within-weakness you can see in the Japanese art of kintsugi. The artists who create such works first begin with the broken pieces of pottery or ceramic.
Whereas most potters or ceramic workers would likely curse their rotten luck of having dropped their work—then undoubtedly had to haul out the broom, pan, and garbage bin to dispose of any evidence of their clumsiness—some ingenious Japanese craftsman in about the 15th century got an idea:
Why not put the pieces back together and create something beautiful?
The gorgeous creation that first bloomed from the once-destroyed piece of lacquerware most likely came as a delightful shock for that brave medieval craftsman who first experimented. Today, instead of striving to hide the cracks and breaks, kintsugi artists accentuate and aggrandize the damage with gold, platinum or silver lacquer.
The result stuns and dazzles, just as much as it shows us that the brokenness can be more than simply useful, but also elegant and transcendent.
“Living while recovering” is a daily process for me. I need to apply continued effort to stay sober because addiction is a brain illness. I don’t dwell on the past, but I never shut the door on it. I regularly attend Twelve Step meetings. God has taken my cracks and my shattered past to make a difference for others, not just with the work I do, but also simply being there for others who are hurting. With a problem as serious as addiction has become in this country (worldwide really), it’s a gift to let my broken past be a gift for others.
I am strong, because I am first broken and weak.
Daniel D. Maurer is an author, a freelance writer, a public speaker and a blogger. He has four published books: Sobriety: A Graphic Novel (Hazelden Publishing, 2014), Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking (Two Harbors Press, 2015), Papa Luther (Augsburg Fortress, 2016), and Endure: The Power of Spiritual Assets for Resilience to Trauma & Stress (Mount Curve Press, forthcoming—fall 2017). He lives with his family in Saint Paul, Minnesota. For more info, please visit his blog at Transformation is Real.