The 4 Cups of Recovery

Sunday, 31 May, 2020 - 4:05 am

Dear Velly,

Pesach time last year, I had 9 months, 1 week and 2 days of strong recovery under my belt. I relapsed at my Pesach Seder and it almost costed me my life! I want you to know how cunning my disease of addiction is. I am not a religious Jews in any way. I didn’t keep any of the Mitzvot or customs of Pesach. Yet, when it came to the 4 cups at the Seder, I went all out “Chareidi” and convinced myself that I was obligated to drink wine and only wine, and that drinking anything else would not be considered a proper Seder.

After a year of difficult work, I am back in recovery and with Pesach quickly approaching, what advice do you have for me on how I should go about my Seders this year?

Dear …

The rabbinic instruction to drink four cups of wine at the Seder correspond to the four expression of freedom that G‑d used when promising the Jews that they would be rescued from Egypt: “I will remove you” “I will rescue you,” I will redeem you,” and “I will take you as a nation.”

I know our sages would never encourage life threatening activity and because your situation would be classified as Pikuach Nefesh (life threatening), this instruction must only be fulfilled with grape juice and not wine.

In Chassidic teachings the four cups during the Seder actually serve as a framework for achieving personal freedom.

Here is my personal interpretation of these four expressions, how they could enhance and inspire your recovery journey. This year, you participate in the Seder sober and serene. You are free to listen to each cup and to meditate on its corresponding expression and its unique guidance for sobriety. In this way you can experience true personal redemption where not only do the cups not cause relapse, but in fact they are the impetus to strengthen and deepen recovery.

1. “I will remove you”
A Changed Perspective

In terms of recovery, being “taken out” does not only mean being physically removed, rather it also refers to letting go of previous beliefs. Sobriety demands us to see things differently. Primarily, by lifting the blindfold of self-reliance and admitting our powerlessness. However, this admission and changed perspective do not break me, but they make me and are the firm bedrock upon which a happy and purposeful life is built.

With cup #1

Am I able to actually listen to others? Can I cease to see myself, people, places and things through the egotistical prism of self? Am I prepared to change by humbly admitting that my life is unmanageable on my own? Am I ready to discover an inner strength that, when actively using or drinking, I could not have imagined I possessed?

2. “I will rescue you”
A New Rescuer

To everybody else, the addict’s alcohol consumption or drug use of (no) choice is destructive, irrational and inexplicable behavior. But for addict, it’s the only source of reprieve from the pain they are experiencing. It’s their rescuer in shining armor. The only way to escape the discomfort.

It takes faith to believe that a Higher Power makes recovery possible. For the addict, faith is a complete about-face, a turnaround from irrational substance dependence to suprarational dependence on G-d.

Faith is not about knowledge, reason or sense. It is about abandoning self-reliance and placing trust in a greater power. As the saying in the rooms go: “I can’t. He can. Let Him.”

With cup #2

It may be troubling that I don’t know or understand how this faith thing works. But still I ask for willingness to invite Him in, hand myself over to Him and trust Him. I prefer the illogical faith that leads to sobriety than the irrationality of self-reliance which leads to addiction. For now, this is all I need to know and understand.

3. “I will redeem you”
Recovery is Redemption

By nature, Recovery isn’t about fleeing the addiction, rather, Recovery penetrates the whole addiction experience and finds the healing capacity within addiction itself. Addiction forces us into the deepest recesses of self. Into the darkest pockets within. And despite all that, it creates opportunity for the deepest connections with faith, G-d and the people around us.

So, when looking to recover from addiction, we take the intense sense of urgency and dependence on the substance and re-direct it to recovery.

Instead of our energy being focused on numbing our human experience, we’re now focused on hyper-living and experiencing being human. In this case – miraculously – the cure comes from the disease itself.

With cup #3

I treat my recovery almost like I treated my addiction. By taking the steps, living according to spiritual principles, going to meetings, being of service, taking time for prayer and mindful meditation, seeing my therapist etc., I refocus the inherent energy that powered my addiction, to now inspire my recovery.

I experience ultimate redemption, by transforming the energy of my addiction and using it as a catalyst to elevate myself to a place I could never have reached without my addiction in the first place. We emerge from the darkness with a light that is not simply a light, but a light that overcomes, consumes and transforms the darkness.

As we say in AA: “There is no magic in recovery, just miracles.”

4. “I will take you as a nation.”

A doctor of recovery medicine, with 20 years of recovery himself and has helped hundreds of addicts, once told me “There is no one thing that can guarantee recovery, but if there was it would be service.”

It is Integral in our recovery to "carry this message to other alcoholics." We don’t mistake this as some way we pay back the program, rather, it’s a crucial step in our own sobriety, one of the best ways to strengthen our recovery. Addiction is a disease of self-obsession. Service is the golden key out. Essentially, we are purposeful, not needy, beings. We are at our best when we focus on what we are needed for, as opposed to what we need. Self-absorption is counterproductive and only gets us into this mess in the first place. We find true genuine happiness and life becomes more manageable when we become purpose driven.

With cup #4

Through service I become a channel for something greater than myself. I can choose to be a giver. I focus on turning outwards, positively influencing and inspiring others. I weaken the dominance of my ego. My story, with its ups and downs, can help others move in the right direction. Be it the newcomer that needs a welcoming face and some direction, or the old timer that can use some words of encouragement and reassurance. I have a unique message for other addicts. I may not always be able to help, but when I do, I might be saving a fellow addicts life!

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