Today the Church marks the Conversion of St Paul. Today also marks my 25th anniversary of sobriety. I certainly didn’t plan to be converted on January 25, or any other day, for that matter. But there are some interesting similarities when one sets aside the old way of life and picks up the mantle of a new one.
I doubt I ever would have awakened one day to decide I’d call anyone or anything to ask for help. Yet people who knew me began to hear of my deteriorating life, and they were wise enough to know that an intervention was mandatory if my life was to be spared.
I don’t know how much Saul might have been looking for a conversion on the Road to Damascus. For us today, perhaps it doesn’t matter that much. Something was working inside him, and he was open to a sudden or radical conversion.
For someone who drank every day for 20 years, the idea of staying sober for a day was about as radical as can be. To me, the idea of becoming a non-drinker was more than a conversion, it was an impossibility.
But our God is a God of surprises and there is no question He was working on a big surprise that day. My first night in treatment, a kind, older, wizened woman told me I didn’t have to drink tonight. And it was obvious I wouldn’t find a drink anywhere in a treatment center. She also told me I didn’t have to give up drinking forever, just for today was enough.
I find sometimes the smallest thing can start the conversion. It might be a burning bush, but more likely God messes around with things much more subtly. Living with the questions and recalling that we do not hope for that which we can see. Once we see it, there’s no need to continue to hope.
My Church was newly meaningful to me in the midst of this conversion and it was a safe haven, a refuge from my storm, and a place of hope. I am glad I had spent 40 years attending church every week and serving in a multitude of other ways.
Church was significant in my recovery as it welcomed me back in so many new ways. In 25 years, I see how this is the experience that many have after they begin recovery. Not all, but some. This alcoholic is grateful for all that God has done for me, and for all He has spared me.
What Paul received, he passed on. Conversion and hope is what I can pass on to others in recovery. I hope you can do so, too.