The Definition of Insanity

As the saying goes:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result each time.

When we battle addiction  we can sometimes feel like the proverbial lunatic.  We pray and strive to avoid temptation, but over and over again we find ourselves back in the same place.   There’s an interesting secular poem on this exercise of repeated failure called “The Hole in the Sidewalk.”  You can view it here.

The Prodigal Son by Palma (1595)
The Prodigal Son by Palma (1595)

Although it is not Christian, in origin, it shines a light on the nature of the disease of addiction.  The key word here is disease.  When we want to do what is right and good, but find ourselves unable to avoid falling into the same trap, we are suffering from a disease.  We are not moral failures.  We are suffering from a sickness.  And God, ultimately, is the only cure.

To bring us to a point of recovery and long-term, meaningful sobriety, God wants to transform us.  And that requires a lot of changes and effort on our part.  And a great deal of patience.  We may not feel capable of changing.  We may hold onto our current way of life and way of doing things with a death grip.  We may surrender completely to God in some areas, and hold fast to our own ways in other areas.

As they say in the twelve-step programs:  “Half measures avail us  nothing.”  Half-surrendering to God will only get you halfway there.  To walk fully in the light, we must fully give ourselves over to Him.

How does this relate to the Definition of Insanity, and the proverbial hole in the sidewalk we continually walk into?  Change.  God knows how weak we are, and so he does not expect us to become saints overnight.  He only asks of us one thing:  one step each day.

I was in the confessional last week, seeking absolution for falling into that sidewalk again, and feeling the weight of my addiction.  I was looking for guidance, but, foolishly, was not expecting much.  Then the priest said something profound, yet exceedingly simple (Truth usually is simple).  He said:  “Do something a little different each time you fall.  Try one new, tiny little thing each time.  Take one minuscule step for God and yourself.”

How wise!  All addicts know how common falls can be.  But if we transform each fall into a tiny step toward transformation in our lives, surely all those steps will accumulate into complete and radical transformation of our lives for the better.

So,  next time you fall, ask yourself if you can make one new, very small adjustment in your life to become more Christ-like in any of innumerable areas of your life.  Here are a few questions to help us find one area where we can find a small opportunity for new change:

  • Is there some way I can improve my prayer life?  Am I making time to pray in the very first moments of waking up, or before I go to bed?
  • Is there some way I can improve my sacramental life, by more regularly receiving reconciliation or the Eucharist at mass?
  • Am I taking good care of my physical health?  Eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising?  (Mind, body, and spirit are all interconnected parts of ourselves.  If one suffers the others suffer.)
  • Am I utilizing software to filter and provide accountability reports to my sponsor or friend?  If my sponsorship/accountability or software programs are not working to their full potential, is there some small adjustment I can make to maximize their effectiveness?
  • Am I connecting socially with healthy people?  Reaching out via phone/text/email?
  • Am I attending meetings regularly so that I can encounter God in other people?
  • Am I getting out of my head (where my disease lives) and into my heart (where God lives) by praying during the day and deisolating?
  • Am I giving back to God by serving the poor with my time, talent, or money in some small way?

May God bless you, and guide you on your path to recovery.

-Ad maiorem Dei gloriam

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