The ARM of St. Michael
St. Thomas Aquinas distinguished the sins that arise from negligence or weakness, from the sins of frailty. Lust addiction is the sin of negligence and weakness carried out chronically to the point of frailty - no longer having even the power of choice, marked by contortion of human physiognomy and perilous vulnerability to diabolical influence. Addiction is sin 'multiplied', sin become deadly.
Moving out of addiction can unfold from survival, and grow to sobriety, to recovery, and through all of these to salvation. In a miracle grace, all four could be bestowed at once.
Scripture speaks of The Refiner sitting, refining silver seven times in the fire. St Paul preaches many [purifying] hardships endured to enter the Kingdom of God. These images do not portend a 'spontaneous total remission' from susceptibility to sin and addiction, but a merciful gradual, maybe even gentle deliverance. Prayer, learning, and grace, bring the charism of purity, through patience. Yeshu'ah is Hebrew for 'salvation': Jesus through Whom we pray, from Whom we learn, for Whom we wait and Who is source of all grace.
A member community is an important change of environment for an addict often used to isolation and too-easy access to the 'intoxicant'. Lust has numerous deleterious consequences on the way to terminal status, from risk of venereal disease, lost potency and virility, to weakened hearts and immune systems, and death. For those in extremely advanced stages of addiction, survival itself is sometimes the beginning and a support community the critical refuge from witting or unwitting suicide.
"Still alive somehow", the first step in traditional 12-step process is to come to admit ones life has been unmanageable, that one is in fact powerless over a recurrent experience. The addict searching for sobriety asks, "what has been my intoxicant of choice?" It is the fundamental step of surrendering the problem, perhaps for the first time, to God. Meetings help end denial about being an addict and the uniqueness of being an addict, through personal experience accounts. Above all, Twelve Step groups celebrate the explicit stated goal of achieved and sustained sobriety.
"After some amount of sobriety, the question of recovery or, "what do I truly need?" comes into view. Toward this, meetings help expose the emotional, physical and spiritual causes of being a lust drunk as well as character faults and fixations. Reception of the Sacraments, addictions counseling, therapy, spiritual direction, healing retreats, reading, can also minister to 'the laundry' that addicted life creates, that sobriety now in part exposes through clearer retrospection.
Recovery is to reach some kind of baseline, by a thorough examination of one's life, chosen and unchosen burdens, acknowledgement of all wounds healed and unhealed, and to know with all one's desire that health in mind, body and soul, so to be fit to serve God and others, is the only destiny. Recovery is a clearing away of the dead past, to make room for a true future.
To do all parts of the job right is beyond human engineering. Again and again we are humbled that God alone, in His time, heals us. Gradually, mercifully, and critically with our cooperative effort, God patiently and kindly undoes the many knots. To be a witness of this baptism of fire is to know the thoroughness of His essential intervention, His sacred refinement.
It has been suggested that recovery and salvation are similar if not closely identified. Recovery must at times, of itself, move in reverse, to conduct the fearless biographical and moral inventories, to touch the wounded past, to release the old and the fault. Recovery is scouring away all that an addiction was founded on to begin with. Unburderned by a past that becomes consumed in the flames of divine healing light, Salvation is new life, always and only moving forward.
There comes one day the realization that giving God the lust problem is the easier surrender of two. The second deeper response is surrendering all of me, to God. For a recovering addict, coming into selflessness, begins to resemble the Israelite crossing of the desert out of Egypt. [From central Maryland The promised land appears only as far away as New Jersey, but takes forty years to reach!]
Salvation is living in an indestructible peace, of knowing, regardless of ones constant changes, that God alone securely holds all things and all moments.
Salvation [on earth] is 'that knowing' that God cares for us so much that he allows the foreknowledge that we will never be lost again or come to final harm if there is only a constant and worked-for awareness and trust of His perpetual providence, grace and forgiveness.
Salvation asks only "What gives life?" As Jesus showed us that he is the Way and the Life, by His passion death and resurrection, we as followers await our own 'passion, death and resurrection'. Through this greatest of all surrenders, which extinguishes all remaining traces of "banking on any part of myself", comes the revelation that all is from God, all is gift. In the light of salvation, sobriety, recovery and Life are glimpsed in hindsight as they are actually granted: not achievement or accomplishment, but total gift from God.
As catholics, we know that this full journey is called conversion. "Jesus Christ has saved me, Jesus is saving me and Jesus shall save me." For the faithful, Jesus always is the guarantor of life, sobriety, recovery and salvation. For every arriving part we kneel in thanksgiving before the Cross of the Savior.
We who possess a citizenship at the table of the Divine Lamb live in the mystery of a past present and future salvation, expressed as one moment called faith. For us, there is no ambiguity about Who higher power is. The Higher Power is the Christ, who has overcome the Tempter and creator of lust. Christ is the insurer of survival, the grantor of sobriety, the revealer of recovery, the underwriter of salvation. Christ alone has loosed the power over death and paid for it with His most precious blood.
Turning 'the problem' over to God is obvious first order of business. The bigger and perhaps longer task is turning over self. Through the gift of sobriety and recovery we make our way toward the greatest gift of all, truly turned around, the gift of my self, to God and others; as the Son showed us, Who is Life, Salvation; our Jesus.
Lord I give all of myself to you today, do with me as You will. Amen.