The empty chair in the middle of our circle awaits the return of those members who are currently suffering the consequences of their addiction …
Part of the script the facilitator reads for each of our 12 step meetings discusses the empty chair in the center of the circle we set up in the middle of the room. I am sure many of us have been in groups, Bible studies, discussions and meetings that are in a circle. Our circle in our groups is different. We put a chair in the middle. As a reminder.
Its a reminder to me. To where I was just a few months ago. Or more accurately where I wasn’t. I wasn’t in recovery. I wasn’t in a place where I gave God my life and my will. I wasn’t rigorously honest. I wasn’t in community or anywhere else but deep in shame. I was seeking to fill my abandonment and need for fulfillment in any way I could find. Just not in the one way that could stand a chance of meeting my needs.
The empty chair awaits the return of those in prison. I could have been that person. I don’t know how I wasn’t. The times I lied, stole, sought out fulfillment illegally. The near misses. The multiple times I could have been that member.
The empty chair awaits the return of those who are still in search of their rock bottom. I came to these meetings after thinking I was at my rock bottom. Only I wasn’t willing to be completely honest. I hadn’t gotten to that place of desperation where I was willing to turn all of my life and will over to God. Where I knew that death was the only other option. So I was the one. I was still searching for my bottom.
I didn’t know that there were people (specifically my brother and his wife) who were praying for me to be exposed. They knew I wasn’t being honest. They knew I hadn’t bottomed out. My brother is in recovery. He knows what bottom is. He knew I hadn’t gotten there yet. So he continued to do what he knew would work. He prayed for God to expose my lies and my secrets. And that is what happened.
The empty chair is there to remind all present the loss of those whose disease drove them to take their own lives. I could have been that person. And honestly I know that is what awaits me outside of recovery. Whether it is through the overt act of taking my own life or that I separate myself from God, my wife, my kids, and community. Separation and isolation for me leads to death.
Being on the other side of the circle, not being the empty chair, is much different than I thought. I don’t think I know more than people outside of recovery. I don’t think I am a Pharisee and they are a tax collector or thief or adulterer. I just know they are still seeking their bottom. I have found mine. I pray for the people I know that aren’t in recovery that are struggling with all forms of addiction and brokenness and compulsions. I pray they find their bottom. And that when they do, they find what I found. Grace and mercy.