Money, money, money…

I must confess that I started my work at the Recovery Cafe (see 12.5 blog entry) with some misgivings about the cliches that seem to me to emanate from 12 Step environments and all the Saturday Night Live-type routines that have grown out of them. Maybe the program is a bit simplistic and ritualized? Maybe as a Quaker I have a bit of a bias against “programs”? Anyway, since my job was to lead an exploration of Ignatian prayer practices, I figured the 12 steps would be at a bit of a distance and it would be fine.

However, this committed Quaker, who has come to love and use the tools of Ignatian spirituality and discernment, has now discovered – experientially – some core spiritual practices at the center of the recovery movement that she thinks might speak to our spiritual condition. This discovery ties in with my month-long blog exploration of how hard it is for comfortable middle class people like me to experience and trust in God’s abundance.

Here are the gems I have found and wish to share with you:

People in recovery are supposed to focus on the good things in life and not dwell on things that are painful or unfair. The idea being that if addicts get to feeling sorry for themselves, that puts them in danger of using that old coping strategy of drinking or using. So the recovering addict focuses on looking for things in life for which to be grateful. Also, s/he is encouraged to take for granted that life will bring many disappointments, injustices, and pain. No big deal. Certainly no excuse for “needing a drink” to feel better. And the third component of avoiding self-pity is to exercise the compassion muscle by focusing on helping and supporting other people in their times of trouble. 

Gentle reader, I wonder if my focus on needing a new computer, my fear that choosing a path of greater simplicity might harm my marriage or my daughters’ well-being, my need to set money aside for my retirement or my daughters’ college fund are sometimes just an unhealthy coping skill in response to self-pity? Don’t miss the word “sometimes” in the preceding sentence.

The greatest gift of the recovery process to my spiritual life is the way I think it helps me discernment between the things I truly need and the things I only imagine I need. If I steep myself in gratitude, compassion, and acceptance that life does indeed bring disappointment/injustice/pain, I believe I can be more trusting of the next impulse to, say … put money in my daughters’ college fund? I’ll know it’s less likely to be the old unhealthy coping skill of relying on money to fix things, and more likely to be a genuine response to the calling God has given me by entrusting my daughters to my care.

The women and men of Recovery Cafe have shown me the perfect antidote to our society’s addictive reliance on money as the tool with which to address the injustices, disappointments, and fears that life inevitably will bring: compassion, gratitude, and acceptance.      

Query for prayerful reflection:

God, I admit that I am powerless over money – my life has become unmanageable.

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