Clinging to the Self-Destructive

Clinging to the Self-Destructive

As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered. Genesis 19:15-16

I’ll not go into the reasons, but historically, smoking has been welcome in many recovery settings. I’ve been to Narcotic Anonymous meetings where the group takes a break halfway through to go smoke. It’s not at all unusual for inpatient treatment facilities to allow smoking, despite the ban on all other addictive chemicals. I’ve always found this odd. Smoking after all, is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US. Ten times more people die every year from smoking than from opioid overdose. – 10 times. Yet, smoking is often embraced in the very environment that should be helping people quit. Frankly, it seems absurd to me.

I know my strong feelings are biased by my own experience – I once not only used opioids, but also chewing tobacco. The first couple times I attempted to quit opioids, I refused to give up my tobacco. If I just allow myself this one little bad habit, it will help keep me from relapse. It had the opposite effect of course. As long as I kept that one addiction, I was always going to return to my others. It turns out that there’s evidence to back up my experience. Studies have shown that those who continue to use tobacco have a much higher incidence of relapse than those who quit.

None of us are made perfect when we get sober. We all cling to some old thought patterns or behaviors. Hanging on to the past though, is self-destructive. That’s the message of today’s passage, in which God sent two angels to destroy the evil city of Sodom. In the story, the angels warned Lot of the coming destruction, commanding him to flee. But he lingered. In the end, the angels dragged Lot and his family out of the city. Lot’s wife though, looked back as the city was destroyed, disobeying a direct command from the angels. For dragging her feet and clinging to the past, she was immediately struck dead.

But looking back was no big deal. Why did God strike Lot’s wife dead? To me, that sounds an awful lot like my chewing tobacco question and justification. It’s no big deal. Why can’t I keep just this one little thing? Clinging to the old life prevents us from experiencing the new one. No, I wasn’t made perfect when I got sober – Even now, I’ve got little pieces of the old life to which I still cling. So, if I want to experience the new life, then daily I must work on letting go of those things. This may take me the rest of my life, but letting go of the past, even if it requires painful sacrifice, is far better than being destroyed by it.

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