On Addictions and Grace

Well, it’s that time again. You know, the one where we all rehash everything that happened this past year, ruminate on the triumphs and tragedies, and set a buttload of goals that we will inevitably never meet. Ah yes, New Year’s Eve. AKA, “Unattainable-to-do-list Eve”. What the heck is wrong with us? At the risk of losing you in the miry waters of philosophy, I would speculate that the “New Year’s Resolution” phenomenon is partly just a product of our relentlessly driven society. As a culture, we are oriented around productivity. There is always more to do, attain, and achieve, and if we swim with the current, it never ends. We will never be satisfied with what we have, what we accomplish, and, ultimately, who we are. This always improving, always innovating environment will crush us under the weight of impossible expectations if we’re not careful.

In the interest of complete honesty, I am the worst of the worst in this area. I set impossible goals for myself every day and fall into despair when I don’t meet them. (My husband will be thrilled that I’m admitting this, though probably slightly infuriated. Sort of like when I tell my daughters to be kind 9,078,385 times with no effect, but then Daniel Tiger says it once, and they finally get it. Lawd, give me strength. If I hear “Mom! On Daniel Tiger….*insert crucial life lesson here*….so I think I’m going to…*apply said life lesson*” one more time. So help me. Kid, I’m so glad you’re having this epiphany. Jesus, give me patience.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, me and my compulsive, astronomically high self-standards. I am the world’s worst at this. Ironically, last year around New Year’s I decided I was putting a stop to it. So I wrote “put a stop to setting impossible goals and crushing myself with the weight of crazy to-do lists” on my resolution list. Just kidding, although that might as well be true because I fell off the wagon sometime in March, just like we all do with our “going to the gym and not eating 17 servings of ice cream in a night.”

Last night my husband gave me the same talk he’s given me 9,078,385 times. “You need to give yourself some grace. And not as in here is another thing you need to do: GIVE YOURSELF SOME GRACE, DANGIT! Just simply, allow yourself grace. Don’t hold yourself to such high standards.” The poor man is probably reading these words saying “Lawd, give me strength.”

The truth is, I’ve had this epiphany time after time after time. I’m a slow one, but I’m realizing the epiphanies don’t magically fix the problem. In fact, at the beginning of this week, I was furiously writing in my planner, cleaning ALL THE ROOMS, putting away all the Christmas decorations, and doing loads of unnecessary school prep. All the while I was becoming increasingly stressed, my body was crashing, and life seemed to be closing in on me.

Clearly I'm not cured. I’m in the messy middle of life, where I’m experiencing God’s healing of my brokenness “wave upon wave”. I have a layer of it pulled back, only to expose a new layer underneath. The good news is that there is grace in the middle. Grace when I think I’m on top of the world and that I’ve found all the freedom and wholeness I’ll ever need. Grace when I realize I’ve fallen into the trap again and I need help clawing my way to freedom again. Grace when I do emerge from the trap, if only to fall back again tomorrow.

Grace in all spaces.

We all need grace, and most of us are comfortable admitting it, most of the time…as long as we’re not in need of it at that particular moment. That’s part of my story: it’s when I’m in the height of “perfectly-perform-achieve-accomplish-mode” that I will carelessly agree, “oh yes, of course, we all need grace.” But the moment I’ve dropped some sort of ball and actually need that grace in reality, I fight and scream and throw an internal tantrum.

And the truest truth is that I need the grace just as much or maybe more when I have all the balls in the air and I’m proud of it. “Pride goes before the fall,” is a gracious caution and a loving plea to me, asking me to stop carrying my burden so I can discover the freedom of humility.

Someone who’s been through AA will always and forever refers to themselves as “a recovering alcoholic,” no matter if their last drink was the last decade or last night. The point is that the addiction is still a factor, and being aware of the sickness is a crucial step and a safeguard against the pride that goes before a slip-up.

I need to publicly admit that I’m a recovering achieve-aholic. I’ve been achievement free for about 24 hours.

This is not mockery, this is earnest confession. It's not a humble brag, either, slyly asserting that "I'm awesome at getting stuff done" while at the same time pretending to self-deprecate and say that I take it "just a little too far." It’s truly a sickness, but unfortunately it’s one our society praises instead of treats. We addicts need recovery, not accolades. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’ll appear to thrive on the affirmation, and in fact that’s part of the addiction. But what we need is so much harder: the kind of love that says “enough is enough, honey.” My word of the year for 2015 (because, if you’ll remember, I was trying so very hard to kick this habit last year, too) was ENOUGH. The irony is not lost on me.

I’ve stopped making resolutions, and I have not chosen my word for 2016, and it may take some time. I need some time in recovery.

As a gesture of accountability, I feel obliged to inform you that this is what my house currently looks like, and I’ve spent zero minutes doing anything about it:


Also, my kids are downstairs watching TV, and that’s what they’ve been doing pretty much all day. I’m forcefully resisting the urge to give you all the disclaimers and justifications I have in my arsenal about this. *Resist. Resist.* So I will NOT tell you that they have colds and need rest, that what they’re watching is educational, and that my husband begged me for all of our sanity to let them have a veg out day over Christmas break. I just won’t. Aren’t you amazed at my self-control?! Ok, so maybe I need to call my sponsor.

May 2016 be the year we are all a little more honest about struggles, a little more humble, and a little kinder to each other in light of it all. Happy New Years.