By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
Today is the 25th anniversary of my departure from the California Institution for Men in Chino, California to go to a Re-Entry facility to finish the last 4.5 months of my prison sentence from 1987. It is a milestone for me and I was reading the paper about Tom White, the Mayoral Candidate in Boston this year who has 25 years in Recovery from Alcoholism and the story in today’s New York Times about the six recovering people who are running the New York Marathon from a treatment center in Italy. What strikes me about all of this is that all of these accomplishments seem so noteworthy.
All of us who are in recovery are just normal folks, I believe. Many of my colleagues in Recovery will and do disagree with this belief of mine. Yet, in looking at what happens in Recovery, I think that what is heroic is not that we are not drinking or using. Rather, I believe that what is heroic is that we are trying our best to live lives of integrity, transparency and Redemption.
Tom White is not saying he is a perfect person now or before his recovery. The runners are not saying they are perfect people now or before. I certainly know my own imperfections. What all of us have in common is that we are striving to be one grain of sand better each day. What we all have in common with everyone else is that we have dreams, aspirations, victories and defeats. We have the same feelings and emotional state as anyone else. Before recovery, we escaped through our addictive ways; in recovery, we meet ourselves, our feelings, other people and each situation head on and the best we can. We know that our best is good enough because when we can do better, we do. We know that our best changes each day, each moment. Just as Rabbi Heschel teaches, no two minutes are the same, so too no two situations are the same so too our best is never the same.
In these ways, we are normal folk, just trying to live life well through being decent, loving, truthful, compassion and just. Aren’t these qualities that all normal folk possess and live/strive for? I ask again, What makes us recovering people so special?
I believe there is an answer. Most people are embarrassed to speak about their “failures and errors” out loud. Most people feel shame about making mistakes and try to talk around them. It seems monumental for people to say “Oops, I made a mistake”! People are willing to pay fines and plead no contest. Companies are allowed to pay fines and admit no guilt.
Tom White, the people running the marathon, others in Recovery and myself all know that secrets kill. We all celebrate our success and see our errors as opportunities to fail forward and learn. We know that being imperfect is normal and human. As Samuel Becket put it: "no matter : try again; fail again; fail better." That we are unafraid to talk about our failures and our success is what is so noteworthy.
If we all become “Addicted to Redemption” then all of us will feel and be noteworthy!