Almost everyone I know talks about “rock bottom.” The idea that a person needs to hit some kind of extreme low to get better is extremely overrated.
For most people, the deeper driver of their insanity is insecurity. The solution for insecurity is for a person to trust someone who will sow a sense of value into him. Rock bottom can cause a person to reach out for help and if the right person(s) is there, it can lead to a turn around. But the solution is not the crash but the connection.
The most instinctive reaction of man ever since the fall has been “I will be like God.” Our answer to everything is performance. We try to force ourselves to do better and to be better. Much of our Christian culture affirms that approach, when Christianity itself actually denies that approach. Basic Christian doctrine tells us that apart from God, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Everything good that we do as a believer is done through partnership with God. Everything bad originates when we try to handle life on our own.
Addicts especially try to make up for lost time. The insecurity level is typically higher than it is in the non-addict because of the continual failure. So, they try harder. And they fail harder. The insecurity multiplies. The sense of failure strengthens. They fire off in a renewed effort. They fail all over again. Performance apart from God.
Healing starts when we recognize that God loves us for who we are where we are. Safe. There has to be the kind of pause where we can receive something. Until we receive from God, there is no partnership. Any effort will be “I will be like God.” It will fail. Until there is trust, there can be no partnership with others. To get better, the addict needs not just a God connection, but a people connection. He needs to receive love from people. Partnership. With people.
Partnership cannot or will not happen until there is a safe environment. Rock bottom does lower the standard for “safe.” A truly broken person will listen more easily to more people. He has a better chance of responding in a way that we would call trust. Trusting leads to partnership and if what the person is receiving is good, he can and will get better. However, if his environment is not safe—if the person he is connecting to violates him all over again, the partnership will crash and the addiction will return.
Safe is complex. It does not mean that we indulge a person no matter what. It may mean that we are much more highly confrontational than people usually are. Safe starts with being for others. For an environment to be safe, those involved must truly be “for one another,” always working to help others take the next step forward. Selfishness destroys safe.
Safe recognizes that “if it don’t show up, you won’t grow up.” The key to changing behavior is seeing our bad side, owning it as our own, and being transparent with God and others. The Bible tells us that we are pretty much helpless in our sin. Without the help of God and others, we are slaves, trapped in our sin (John 8:34, Rom. 6:17). What activates our ability to overcome is when we understand our need for partnership. Anytime we fall short, it should cause us to run to God and others. Instead, the instinctive reaction is to hide.
A safe environment recognizes that people might need to do something foolish to get to the point of seeing and owning the ugliness of their own heart. When something bad “shows up,” it is not necessarily a bad thing. It might be the starting point toward victory. If the person feels safe enough to be transparent, failure can be the beginning of trusting and partnership. If the person primarily feels condemned, there will be no trust. There will just be some form of effort depending on self that is doomed to fail.
A poor decision is just a poor decision unless it becomes the starting point for something better. Rock bottom is just rock bottom unless it results in trust. From what I have seen, there is no such thing as rock bottom. People can always go lower. One rock bottom just leads to the next—unless or until there is a change to a trust lifestyle. That won’t happen unless there is a safe environment.
To have a safe environment requires a level of wisdom. We need to learn how to communicate with one another in a way that expresses that we are for one another. Most of us do care. We just don’t know how to show it—especially when we are around those who are being extra foolish, extra destructive like addicts.
I want others to know that I will do or say whatever I think is needed to help them get better. That may not be nice. In fact, it might even be harsh at times—though harshness needs to be expressed in as loving a way as possible. But if others absolutely know that I have their best interests at heart, and that I won’t shrink back simply because something is uncomfortable, it goes a long ways toward a person feeling safe.
We have made safe about constructing a marsh mellow soft environment where no one offends anyone. That is not love. That is willfully allowing others to stay in a place of sickness. That is not partnership, but actually a form of self indulgence. Babying others generally comes out of a desire to avoid the anger or disapproval of another person. To help people get better, you will have to be willing to face anger, disapproval, and maybe even a vicious attack. And through all of that, you will have to maintain an attitude of being for the other person.
That is a safe environment. It starts with one person being for others. Once a second person receives the partnership offered, there is team. If a third person joins the effort, the strength multiplies. Unfortunately, a little success generally causes us to turn away from team and back to personal effort—back to “I will be like God.” The insecurity is that strong. Everyone has the tendency of wanting to do it “by myself.” We want to prove ourselves—thinking that will make us feel better about ourselves.
The only way to feel better about ourselves is to step into the role God has made for us. That is team. Partnership. Being for others. Whether that is unbelievably forgiving even to the point of absorbing the blows, or highly confrontational.
When we are truly part of a team that we know is for one another, it feels safe. We feel secure. Good things happen. Rock bottom is overrated. The better way to
break through is safe.