Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I love a good song. As a matter of fact, I am “thankful” for music. It expresses what words can’t say. But sometimes the lyrics to a song can move you too. Take, for example, Sly & the Family Stone’s 1970 funk hit “Thank You Fa-Lettin-Me Be Mice Elf Agin” (yes, the title is purposely misspelled). The song speaks of the social struggles of the 1960’s & 70’s which included a whole lot of drugs and alcohol. Check out the lyrics to the first verse:

Lookin' at the devil, grinnin' at his gun; Fingers start shakin', I begin to run; Bullets start chasin’, I begin to stop; We begin to wrestle, I was on the top”

If we take these lyrics and apply them to addiction recovery, it is striking what they can tell us. When people are out using, the drug is like a “devil” which means “accuser”. The drugs accuse the addict of being worthless, needy, imperfect, unlovable, and powerless. They call the addict to use. “Fingers start shakin’” is akin to getting the rush or “jonsing” for the drug. The body starts shaking and the mind starts racing. And the struggle not to use begins much like a “bullet chasin’” you because you know if you use it’s like getting shot in the back with a shotgun, painful and messy. At this point, the verse is pretty grim just like the lives of those stuck in active addiction to drugs and alcohol. But wait, the story’s not over yet.

Stone sings, “I begin to stop”. The protagonist stops running. He/she is tired of the bullets, tired of the pain, and tired of the suffering and decides to do something about it and stops. Do you remember the day you decided to stop? Do you remember how good it felt to make that decision? Do you remember what it felt like to turn around and look the “accuser” (i.e. heroin, pot, alcohol, etc.) straight in the eye as it called you names? It was the beginning of the struggle back to life. It became the wrestling match of your life.

The word “wrestle” means, “to combat an opposing tendency or force” and that’s exactly what happens in the song as Stone belts out the line, “we begin to wrestle.” Just like the song, the addict who stops, turns, and faces the accuser, begins that crucial wrestling match for sobriety and recovery. Wrestling is not for the weak of heart. It causes bumps and bruises. But, we see at the end of the verse that the devil is getting it handed back as Stone confidently sings, “I was on the top.”

Any addict who faces their addiction can be on top too. And when you’re on top, life begins to change. Your perspective shifts. Gratitude starts to sweep in and take over. And that’s what recovery is about: a process of changing into who we really are in the first place; ourselves, and adopting an attitude of gratitude for all the goodness in our lives! As this process continues, we become more and more thankful. We are filled with gratitude for the blessings of sobriety and recovery. We are thankful not to be a slave to the drug any longer one day at a time.

Gratitude is a gift that feels very good. It’s crucial to staying sober. So, this Thanksgiving as you gather with family and friends to celebrate all the blessings in your life, I encourage you to be grateful for your progress in recovery. And when you do that, why not pause and say, “Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself Again”!

P.S. We never hear whether or not the protagonist wins the wrestling match but I have a feeling he did. So can you!

- Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

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