I had just climbed round and round up 129 steps of the lighthouse to a height of ten stories. For a guy who has issues climbing a six-foot ladder, I thought I was pretty hot stuff. And then, I even went outside on the observation deck to not only have this picture taken, but to also gaze at all the beautiful scenery without diving back inside the door.
I took the picture of the lifeboat just because I thought it looked kind of cool and sooo small. I read that lifeboats like the one pictured are 32 feet long. It sure did not look that long from on top of the lighthouse.
I looked over the other side of the lighthouse and saw our van so tiny waiting for our return. And I thought, “Wow, this is really brave of me. Took me 63 years but I can really do this! I just have to take a picture of this to show to the kids so they can see what I have just done.” It is pretty widely known that Dad has real issues with heights. I think our youngest feels I have an irrational fear of ever leaving the ground. Actually, it is the return to the ground with which I have issues.
Back at our campground, I went through the pictures I took to decide which I should send to the kids to impress them with my accomplishment of climbing to the top of the lighthouse without fainting. Unfortunately, or actually fortunately as it turned out, our tent was pitched in a place where my phone kept giving me an out of range message or no connection. So, there were no messages sent that day.
As I look at my “lighthouse experience” I shake my head. After all these years of recovery from alcoholism, I had crossed one of the initial boundaries I established for myself. Back then, I kept telling myself to avoid at all costs patting myself on the back because I could not see what was back there. I may be reaching for another bottle.
But there I was, way up there at the lighthouse in the midst of a serious glory-grab. Now in the world of accomplishments, climbing a lighthouse is not the most impressive. But there was a difference that allowed me to do something I avoided for years. I did not know what changed but I was very quick to take credit for it! I was ready to brag to my kids about it. Not a big deal maybe, but after all these years of supposed quality recovery, I am rather disappointed to find myself there.
My belief about alcoholism, or any other dependency for that matter, is the sustaining power comes from two sources: focus on self and isolation. Yes, there are the biological factors that are present. However, I would never have become an alcoholic without at one point, my willing participation. I know that the dependency made it almost impossible to stop drinking once I took the first drink. Notice, I took the first drink. Not once did anyone hold me down and pour alcohol into me.
I have known for years that my self focus and the ability to isolate myself from the people who could and would help me kept my alcoholism active for a good period of time. Were these character defects back? And if so, what now?
Well, as he always does, God stepped in. I find that when I have sins in my life or I am just not living as I need to be to be a witness for him he puts things in my life to wake me up. Boy, he is really good at doing that! And he loves me so much that if I do not get it the first time, he is willing to send another and another wake up call until I get it.
In this case there was the successful climb, the lifeboat and finally the inability of my phone to connect. God allowed me to make it to the top of the lighthouse which was a big change. So I was thankful – right? Nope, I took credit. God had obviously given me the courage to make the climb, but I chose to ignore that fact. I was focused on myself.
Then there was the lifeboat. The 32 foot boat looked tiny and so far way from where I stood. What good is a lifeboat a person who is danger of drowning if it is so far away? Was I in trouble? 1 Corinthians 10:12 states So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! With my ego starting to grow, I know I was in trouble – and the greatest danger was not falling from the lighthouse. Of course, with the inflated view of myself, I could not see God’s warning.
Then my phone could not connect so I could lay claim to bragging rights about what I had done. The real problem was I had lost connection to what some call my higher power, but who I know is my Savior Jesus. Sure, I read the Bible and prayed and studied the Bible. But I lost sight of a basic tenet of recovery. I took back my life into my own hands and could only see what I could accomplish. I was living in my own world of accomplishments and ignoring what God, the author of not only my salvation but also my recovery, was trying to tell me.
“All that from a little bragging?” someone may say. Relapse does not begin with the addictive action. It begins with an ever-increasing evidence of dysfunctional thinking and behaviors. Like all sin, it starts small and if not caught, picks up steam until a life goes out of control. Thank you Lord, for loving me so much that you did not give up on me!
Just coincidences some may say. I believe that God does not work through coincidences but direct, purposeful actions. When my relationship with God is strong, constant contact some say, his Spirit opens my ears and eyes to what he is telling me.
So I will use his Word to grow my relationship with him. He has blessed me with many talents. He has also allowed other lighthouses in my life. Lord, keep from falling.
I will keep you up on that journey. Come on back – I will wait you.