As the seven children in our family began growing up, we searched for activities that would be fun and interesting to our wide range of ages. Somehow, whitewater rafting sounded like a good enough idea that we bought and outfitted a raft and prepared for whitewater. After several floats on our local river that did have water but not much white, we went looking for some real adventure. We found ourselves launching onto the Deschutes River in Central Oregon, a whitewater haven by any standard. Boxcar, Oak Springs, Little Wapinita, were rapids that drew crowds of rafters and provided plenty of whitewater excitement. The guidebook I obtained to prepare for the trip also warned of Shearers Falls, a life threatening Class VI waterfall that lay just after the takeout point.
I wanted no part of that waterfall. I made up my mind we would be getting out of the water before the pull of the falls could overtake my young, inexperienced crew. It was very difficult for me to judge where we actually were in relation to the falls, even though I had practically memorized the guidebook. My instincts or fear, landed us on the shore nearly a quarter mile above the standard takeout point. I didn't mind the extra walking to get to our ride, we were safe and survived.
There were places along our float where I didn’t fear the falls. Just below Class IV Oak Springs rapid, we found ourselves in a huge eddy. That was the signal for the start of a rather intense game of king of the raft. We all ultimately found ourselves out the boat, swimming in the river. Even though I was still worried about the upcoming falls, I felt no danger in these waters. Here the river was still, or moving upstream, the pull of the falls could have no claim on us here. This was a safe place.
The area near the precipice of any waterfalls is not a safe place. The river is constricting, gaining speed and power. No individual could stand at the top of Shearers Falls without being pulled over into the life threatening torrent below. Only by moving upstream can we be beyond the reach of danger. Upstream, beyond the pull of the falls, inside the waters of the eddies, is where we find our safety.
So it is with addiction. We cannot stand at the precipice of acting out, where our compulsion has its greatest power and strength, and expect our sobriety to survive. We will be pulled into the abyss, losing control, yet again, to our addictive behaviors. We must move upstream to safety. We must move our thoughts and behaviors upstream to safe waters, away from the power and pull of our addiction.
Some try to focus recovery work on how to survive while standing at the precipice of the falls (the art of whiteknuckling.) They should be concerned with how to keep themselves upstream, in safe waters. The White Book, published by Sexaholics Anonymous, recounts the statement of a long time addict, "I don’t need help quitting, I have quit a thousand times! I need help STAYING QUIT!"
Moving our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors upstream helps us stay quit and protects us from our addiction waterfalls. These are the Waters of Recovery. The Savior and His healing touch is found in the midst of them. Finding them, and learning to stay in them, is healing from addiction.
In the beginnings of recovery we make the awful realization that we are, in fact, an addict. Even in that realization, healing only begins when we understand the devastating truth about what that truly means.
This is harder than it should be. Our addict and his denial likes to get in the way. Addiction changes how we assimilate and process life’s experiences. As addicts we become very good at rationalization, justification, and denying that there is a problem.
It takes a while for us to come out of this fog of denial, to stop being blind to our addiction. The antidote of clarity comes in sobriety. We must establish and maintain sobriety, it is the gateway to reality, helping us to understand who we have become, and what we are.
This is where we also meet our partner in recovery. We may have already known or been aware of Him or we may be coming to Him for the first time, either way He will shepherd us on this walk and we must establish conscious contact with Him, the Savior of us all. Coming to Christ is an essential part of recovery. We may feel unqualified, unworthy to be His follower. We may lack faith. Many have lost hope. But He is there when we open the door. And as we humbly move forward, He will bring us home to the safe waters.