I remember when my first grandson learned to walk. His little feet wobbled, his knees shook, and then he would collapse. “Yay!” We all yelled, hardly containing our excitement. We called our closest friends, who celebrated with us. “Oh my gosh,” they’d gush, “I can’t believe he’s walking already! Look out world, here he comes!”
But he wasn’t really walking yet, just more like falling. He was entering a season of falling often. All babies do. We cheer them on, pick them up, kiss their booboos. But at no point do we say, “He’s a failure. He tried to walk once, but he just kept falling. He’ll likely be in a stroller his whole life.” That would be ridiculous. Of course, as his muscles develop, and he matures, we assume that he will learn to walk smoothly.
What if we look at falling (and failing) differently?
I had the pleasure of being a guest on a podcast called Pivotal People, hosted by Stephanie Nelson. We met at, you guessed it, the Bob Goff retreat. She had a chance to read my book, Sober Cycle, and we started chatting about the time I started my first bike trip.
For a few days before the start of the bike tour, I had been binging harder than I ever had before. Then, I managed to bike 100 miles with the worst hangover of my life. I should have been hospitalized, not cycling. The fact that I survived (however painful it was) had to have been God. I thought, “This is it. I’m never going to drink again.” I couldn’t drink while I was on that bike tour (nor did I want to), and it was starting to feel good!
But, after it was all over, and life settled in again, my old addiction crept back up on me. Me quitting and failing was like an endless cycle. I just kept falling.
It happened so many times, I’d lost count.
I beat myself up over and over. The cycle got worse and as each time I fell, I became more and more isolated. I kept pretending to be sober and lying to those around me till I felt I had no one left. Like the lady in the commercial (anyone over 35 will know what I’m talking about) – on the inside I was screaming, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”
Remember Sisyphus from Greek mythology? He is cursed with the mind-numbing torture of rolling a rock uphill, when somehow it rolls back down to where it started every time. He has to do this over and over again forever, never making any progress. That’s how I felt.
But what if every time we try to break out of addiction (or any sinful cycle/bad habit), we are building new emotional/spiritual muscles? What if we just need to find our balance, like any small child first learning how to walk? What if God is not judging us, but cheering us on? I can just see Him now, eyes fixed on me, turning His head slightly to address an angel, “That’s my Sherry. She just took a step! Look out world!” Then after I fell yet again, “Good try! I’m so proud of you! Now, let’s try again.” Just like I would have said to my precious grandson.
Have you ever tried to get sober? Way to go! If you’ve failed a few times, that doesn’t mean you are a failure; you just have more to learn (don’t we all?). Building strength is hard work, but you’re not alone. Don’t give up. Before you know it, you’ll be walking, then running (then cycling) free!