I was asked a very good question this week that has been a well debated topic in the brotherhood of recovery for many years. It went something like this "Do you still consider yourself an addict after 30 years of sobriety?" They asked because people still haven't figured out why we identify ourselves as "recovering addicts/alcoholics".
Not sure we can answer it all here, nor do I have every answer, but I will give it a shot from my personal perspective. But first, I ask this question, "Is a saved sinner still a sinner?". Paul (surely saved) said, I am the worst of sinners....., referring mostly to his past, as we do in our meetings. Is he still saved? Does he still sin? Was he cleansed and forgiven, and we know without a doubt he was.
But he still identified himself as a sinner because it kept him humble and he was not ashamed because of who he had become through the mercy and grace of our Lord. His example of transparency surely drew others toward him and the message of salvation. Now other apostles may not have been this bold, I don't recall Peter re-telling his story of denying Christ. I am not sure Matthew went around saying he was a recovering tax collector.
So my point is that we do what we feel is right for us in identifying who we are, wherever we are. It is our personal choice. However, if our main purpose is to stay humble and attract others to the program of recovery, they must know who we were, and how far we've come. It is way wrong to think identifying ourselves this way make us feel less than others.
Why do we feel this way? To Be Or Not To Be - identifying that way does not define who we are. Usually it is who we were. But we still maintain that addictive personality that takes years of work to channel in the right direction. Paul also said he had a thorn in his side. Maybe that was the story of who he was before, a murdering scumbag (no reason to tread lightly.) Maybe our identification as "recovering addict/alcoholic" remains a thorn to us but a blessing to others when they hear our story.
And when they know we are real, that we care, and that we are not afraid to let it out, they respond. And then their question becomes, do I want To Be Or Not To Be like them, always an open book and full of humility, which our Lord so aptly demonstrated for us?
And then we don't have to worry about how we identify ourselves, as long as our identity is in Christ!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.