Monday, August 06, 2012

Confession of an Addict

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate. ... Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? - Romans 7:15, 24

I am addicted to fossil fuels. I am a slave to them, and I cannot break free. I have tried cutting back; for a period of years I avoided air travel, and I consider carefully how to get from one place to another. But carbon is always lurking, waiting for an opportune time.

It sneaks up on me. I make commitments, promises that I can only keep by drinking deeply from offshore oil rigs. I travel across the country - and occasionally beyond it - in the service of a calling that I believe comes from God. What sense does it make that my addiction should be fueled by what I believe is faithfulness to Christ?

I have often beaten myself up over my carbon abuse. Even as I watch the seas rise, the ice caps melt and droughts afflict whole continents, I continue to burn the very toxins that cause this destruction. What kind of person am I, who cannot break his habit when he sees the pain and suffering he is causing to those around him? I have often hated myself for the ways that my addiction affects the people and other living things that I love.

I have tried to quit so many times. It has become a familiar cycle: I swear off fossil fuels for a while, but soon I succumb to a binge. There is always some trip I need to take that seems so important. And then another, and another. The worst of it is the feeling that I should be able to beat this thing. If I only had more will power! If I were just more spiritual, I would not be in bondage like this. If I were a better person, I would not hurt those around me through my craven use of carbon.

This morning, however, I no longer feel guilty. I am done with beating myself up. I am ready to take the first step out of denial and confess: I am powerless over my addiction, and my life has become unmanageable. I see that I am incapable of overcoming this addiction on my own, that no amount of personal effort on my part will be able to release me from it.

As those familiar with the 12 Step program will know, there is a next step. Now that I recognize that I am out of control and powerless in the face of my addiction to fossil fuels, I am invited to "believe that a Power greater than myself can restore me to sanity." And I do believe this. In other areas of my life, Jesus Christ has liberated me from bondage, such as the eating disorder and deep depression that I suffered from as a teenager. I do believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

But if I am brutally honest with myself, I have to confess that I am not sure whether I am ready to let God heal me. This addiction feels bigger than most other challenges I have faced in my life. Being released from other forms of darkness have actually had the effect of making me a more successful, better integrated person. I get along better in society because I am not depressed, for example. But breaking my addiction to carbon would almost certainly diminish my ability to fit in. How can I seek sobriety when our entire civilization is founded on intoxication?

I know what needs to be done. I know that my lifestyle is unsustainable. Yet I cannot bring myself to break with it. I simply do not know how to live any other way. This is where I am stuck: aware of my brokenness and need for divine intervention, but unable to take the next step. Lord Jesus, help me take the next step.


Chris S. said...

I think this post is begging the great question of activism, which is to say how to deal with collective action problems.

Not just carbon consumption, but lack of health care, gun violence, poverty, and many other earthly evils that we might call "social ills" are all things that can be conquered by an individual only if it is an individual of tremendous statute - a Saint.

Knowing this, I often use it as an excuse for laziness, for waiting for a politician or a leader or someone else to fix it.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Thanks for posting.

Linda Jenkins said...

Micah, you started out with the 12 step process but then appear to have abandoned it after the first 2 steps. Doesn't it make sense to go on with the next steps? AA and the derivative 12-step groups are the only way I'm aware of that addicts of whatever kind are able to overcome their addictions. Maybe we need to start groups for petroleum addicts. I'm not kidding. The 12 step meetings I've attended for various reasons have been the most egalitarian and non-hypocritical communities of faith that I have ever seen. These folks really do walk the talk of making a decision to turn one's will and life over to God as we understood Him.

There's the beautiful 3rd step prayer: "God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!"

Susan J. said...

the "addicted to fossil fuel" discourse bothers me on so many levels...

as does the popular shorthand that makes the word "carbon" sound pejorative.

God made life on our planet carbon-based. And put fossil fuels under our feet, long before we arrived here. Like other gifts from God, it's incumbent on us humans to use and steward appropriately...

But I just don't see the "addiction" image as helpful. Perhaps if you work through the remaining Steps, some good will come of it... I always profit from your posts, even when they bug me :-)

Grace and peace of the Lord to you!

Riva Danzig said...

And then there's the problem of recognizing the calling to serve in a Global community. We have come to a time of Global consciousness. I may be repeating what others are saying, but we as consumers have many tools at our disposal to demand sustainable energy from the system that continues to thwart efforts toward sustainable, a system that has us at its mercy.

Your certain conclusion that your use of fossil fuel is addictive in nature does beg a much bigger question. And it does the work of the system that wants you to continue to use: you've made it be your fault and something about which only you have the answer. Again, I remind of your Calling. It's just more complicated than this.

As I read this post, I did try on, for myself: what if I insisted, as a matter of my recovery, that my ministry is only within walking or biking distance from my home. And what I know is that it would not allow to do the work I believe I've been put here to do. I do what I can. And I will amp up the ways I vote with voice, my ability to influence others, my vote, my wallet. And I will pray that my actions serve the highest good.

Best Blessings and thanks for you posts.

James Breiling said...

Your analysis seems right on:
"Being released from other forms of darkness have actually had the effect of making me a more successful, better integrated person. I get along better in society because I am not depressed, for example. But breaking my addiction to carbon would almost certainly diminish my ability to fit in."
And it points to the directions to pursue in order to provide a basis for enabling change: revising the definition of success, integrated/fitting in to match with low carbon consumption.