The Recovery Room: An Awkward Instagram Grace

I’ve been writing a series on recovery. My particular bag of choice was liquor, but yours might be different. Perhaps you’re into pills, or eating, or not eating, or materialism. No matter; we’re all in recovery from something. Welcome to the Recovery Room. (And while you’re here, please consider liking my Facebook page to receive Recovery Room updates.)

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On an average Monday evening, my Instagram feed is composed of the following: three selfies of women in various department stores modeling dresses; five children with spaghetti-smear warpaint; six plates of slimy, grey, meatish substances tagged #foodporn; and, fifty-two adult beverages, most of which are red wine, some of which read "wine-thirty," or "it's 5:00 somewhere."

My social media feeds are a veritable booze blitz, a virtual bar without the tacky smooth jazz. All my favorite lovers are there--wine, beer, whiskey, and the occasional gin cocktail from the more discriminating drinker (I follow a few classy instagrammers). Yes; I called the booze my lovers. What of it? I've said it before: I have an unhealthy relationship with the bottle.

In a truthful moment, I might tell you that the Instagram photos set the butterflies in the stomach to fluttering. The sides of my tongue tighten and draw inward in a pavlovian response to the thought of supple tannins. I can smell the rosemary drifting from the gimlet, the caramel rising from the bourbon. The fire of desire rises and my breathing quickens. This is the mild anxiety of desire.

Perhaps you are, at this particular juncture, accusing me of hyperbolic overstatement; allow me to assure you--it ain't.

The truth is, the social media universe has never contextualized well, and oft fails to consider that one man's freedom might be another man's bondage. Photos of everything from liquor, to food, to quippy fundamentalist church signs might bear the hashtag #trigger, and so long as you participate in the medium, there's no hiding. Perhaps that's okay, though.

Okay?

Yes.

Perhaps it's okay because it teaches the dependent a curious thing.

Grace.

We often associate grace with forgiveness and acceptance of the one with The Problem. It extends from the place of power, from the place of health. The healthy extend grace to the ragamuffin on the down side of self-control.  That being said, in this particular space, through flash-fire desire,  I'm learning that grace flows upstream, too; the sick can extend grace to the healthy.

Certainly grace gives space for my own desire, allows anxiety to trigger simple prayers, like "have mercy on me." In these moments, too, grace extends to those who do not understand the way the dominoes fall when they post a photo of a mega-rita. (After all, it is for freedom that the imbiber has been made free; right?) Grace holds the tension in check, asks me to examine my own problem more than the wielding of their freedom. Yes, grace asks me to let them have their drink, and post about it, too.

It's true; you wouldn't ask an alcoholic to the bar, but the rules of the internet are a bit different. We're living in a brave new world here in this age of instant communication, and the ethos of digital sharing is an ever-developing thing. That being so, those of us who struggle with dependency--with food, or drink, or materialism, or any other socially acceptable vice--must develop a thick-skinned grace, one that extends both to the self, and also upstream to the healthy.

Yes, this is an other-side-of-the-coin type of grace. But, as old Pete once said, "we give out grace in its various forms." I suppose I count my self lucky to be learning this form of grace.

Photo by by André Banyai, Creative Commons via Flickr.