One of the major tenants of Alcoholics Anonymous is that addicts must hit "rock bottom" to recover. This is based on the belief that hitting “rock bottom" causes them to admit that they are powerless over a substance or behavior in their life and subsequently, their life has become unmanageable. This is certainly the first step in recovery, but it's not enough. There are two more steps on the road to recovery. Addicts need a plan and help in developing skills for successful recovery. When you have a plan and the skills to execute it, you have HOPE.
The story of the Prodigal Son in the Bible is a great example of this recovery process. The son hits “rock bottom." He is broke, homeless and hungry enough to eat hog food. At this moment, there's two voices in his head. One is a negative voice telling him he'll never be more than his worst day. The other positive voice sounds like that of his loving, forgiving, overly generous father telling him, "Come Home!" He decides to listen to the positive voice and "comes to his senses." He decides to go home and begins practicing what he will say to his father. The Prodigal Son has HOPE.
Most Boys Town kids know what "rock bottom" looks and feels like. They've spent weeks locked up in juvenile detention, despaired as they failed another grade or suffered a recurring bulimic episode trying to be thin. They've suffered as they recovered from yet another assault, bullying or self-harm incident, or have woken up freezing in ditch after running away.
At these moments, just like the Prodigal Son, they hear two voices in their head. One is the negative voice who says to them, "You'll always be a juvenile delinquent, fat, stupid, an addict, unwanted and a fraud. You'll forever be hungry, tired and alone, a loser, a lunatic, and probably dead by age 18." The other is the positive voice of their loving, forgiving and generous Higher Power who many call, “God." This voice reminds them that they're loved and they're more than their worst day. If they can just listen to this latter voice, they can "come to their senses," develop a plan and practice the skills to make that plan work. They have HOPE.
That's what happened to a girl named Audrey. Her Mom was a meth addict, and she was in and out of seven foster care homes, where she was always running away. One day on the run, she met some sex traffickers who got her addicted her to meth and sold her for sex. Even worse, they made her carry the meth when they went on deals, which meant that she would get the federal drug charges for possession if they ever encountered the police. Audrey said she heard this positive, little voice in her head telling her to develop a plan to avoid the charges and escape from her traffickers.
Audrey made the decision that if she was pulled over by the police, she would tell them that she was underage and being sexually trafficked. She also decided that she would testify against her traffickers to avoid the drug charges. She prepared and practiced what she would say to authorities and when the day came, her plan worked. Eventually, Audrey came to live at Boys Town, where she thrived and went on to graduate from high school. She's now living in a city far away from those traffickers. She's sober, married with two children and has a great job. Her story is a story of HOPE!
We live in a world desperately in need of hope. For many of us our “rock bottom" won't be as low or dramatic, but we will certainly face times of significant sadness, failure, anxiety, depression or remorse. At these times we will probably hear those two voices in our head. The negative voice tells us that we'll never be more than our worst day. The other will be the voice of our Higher Power who whispers to us, "Come Home." If we can listen to this second voice, we can craft a plan, practice life skills and find our way to recovery. I pray that, like the Prodigal Son and our own Boys Town graduate, Audrey, you will listen to your Higher Power's voice and make your life's story a story of HOPE.