I have lived by myself for over five years.  I can close my blinds, eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Ice Cream, and watch reality television for hours — and no one will know.  My house is always clean.  I control the temperature in my home, volume on the television, and foods in the refrigerator.  Things are certainly not perfect — there are light bulbs burned out (I can find my way in the dark), appliances that don’t work (I just stop using them!), and times of loneliness that threaten to swallow me completely.

Well my house as my island changed drastically three weeks ago.  Two fellow-recovering addicts showed up on my doorstep, destitute and desperate for a place to continue recovery.  We decided that we would try living in community for a month — we would support one another in our recoveries, my new roommates would work and contribute to the household as they could, and I would let go of being In Complete Control.  I think things are working out well for my roommates.  Friends have helped them find jobs, we have attended several 12-step meetings together, and it seems like we have fallen into a rhythm that supports recovery.  Initially I thought their staying here was all about them — their destitution, faltering sobriety, and obvious need for food and shelter.  I am discovering, however, that this experiment in community is probably more about me.  I have often taught that emotional recovery only takes place in community, and God in His grace and inimitable sense of humor, knew the places in my heart where recovery is still necessary and brought along the perfect companions.  He has reminded me that living authentically, letting go of control, and allowing myself to be cared for are realities that must continually be challenged in my heart and there is no better way to do this than within the walls of my home.

First, I have discovered that living in this community means it’s almost impossible to hide.  My idiosyncracies of keeping the thermostat low or of going to the grocery store everyday to get my “daily bread” were observed by and impacted my roommates immediately.  Sometimes they wear their winter coats in the house in the morning, and they have learned to stock up for their own grocery needs.  I have discovered that the single force that keeps most people isolated is hiding.  God’s first story about human beings describes this energy in Genesis 3:7-8, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.  And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.”  They tried to hide from God — but they could not hide from each other.  Maybe that’s why God proclaims, “It’s not good for man to be alone.”  He knew that we would try to hide and miss out on the one thing we want most — to be completely known and unconditionally loved.  Most of us spend so much energy hiding our true selves — guaranteeing we won’t get the thing we want most.   We believe the lie that if anyone really knew us, they would walk away at best or at worst, be completely disgusted.  As I sit at the kitchen table with my roommates and we eat takeout again (because I don’t cook), I marvel at the thought that they are willing to wear their North Face coats to eat with me in my house.  This human reality puts skin on a Divine perspective — that the only reality that allows us to risk trusting others are good is knowing that there is a Greater Good that we can return to in the midst of all our human foibles and failures and be warmly welcomed, “If anyone will come to me, I will sit down and eat with them” (Revelation 3:20).

Second, my new community is reminding me that I am not in control.  I think I believed that my house was a haven because it was one place where I was in control.  Now there are crumbs on the counters, the heating element on my dryer went out, and my schedule is not my own.  I am awakened by noises that are unfamiliar to me and see food in my refrigerator that I would have never purchased.  What is the value of letting go?  I discover that I no longer have to live only for myself and that the only true haven is found in surrendering to a life that is not my own.   Everytime I let go of dirt on the carpet, expenditures that I didn’t plan on, or my “right” to sleep without noises that go bump in the night — all things that seem real and nag me to keep to myself, hoard my house, time, and money, and take control of all that I can — I become open to experience what is most real.  It is only when we let go of controlling all that can be seen, that we begin to experience the Unseen.

Finally, the combination of authenticity and surrender become the perfect context to be cared for.  Without these I get caught in an impasse between high arrogance and low self-esteem.  High arrogance makes me believe that I can handle things, that others can’t be trusted, and even that I can do a better job of managing my life than God does.  Low self-esteem leads me to believe that I must handle things, because I’d be a burden to others if I revealed all of my needs, and that even God eventually gets tired of my constant neediness.  Living in this new community has compelled me to express my needs — “I need you to take out the trash on Thursdays,” or “I need you to save a cup of coffee for me.”  These may sound simple, but I am discovering that I have created a life where I don’t need anything.  I take care of myself.  There is no more inhumane way to live.   When I say, “I need . . .” I am trusting you with my humanness, and perhaps trust and love are the same thing.   

My home has become a haven for two recovering drug addicts with completely dysfunctional lives and for me — a recovering addict who thought her functional life proved something.  My roommates have faced some pretty desperate life and death struggles and ended up homeless and helpless.  As I have adjusted to sharing my space with others and faced my tendencies to hide, control, and take care of myself, I am reminded that these are the root of all life and death struggles and can leave us just as ungrounded, helpless to save ourselves.  So I think that we are rescuing each other. 

My friend Xan Hood (www.trainingground.com) described my new living situation best, “It sounds like you’re living in The Last Addiction House — it’s either a good Halloween horror fright night, or one of the most beautiful mansions of the kingdom.”  I think it’s a bit of both.

“Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life.  We didnt’ fence you in.  The smallness you feel comes from within you.  Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way.  I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection.  Open up your lives.  Live openly and expansively!”  (2 Corinthians 6).