Getting Right: Working towards Intimacy with God, Self and Others
\ ˈin-tə-mə-sē \
1: the state of having a close, personal relationship with someone.
2: a feeling of belonging together.
synonyms: closeness, togetherness, attachment, familiarity, confidentiality, companionship, affections, warmth, understanding, mutual affection
We all need meaningful relationships.
It seems obvious, but if you have ever wondered how important relationships actually are, just read the very first words of the Bible, which say we are made first for relationship with God (Genesis 1) then for relationship with each other (Genesis 2).
Everything about No Longer Bound’s Regeneration Process is intended just for this—equipping men for lasting intimacy with God, self, and others.
You have probably heard us say, “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, but rather, the opposite of addiction is connection.”
Earlier this year, we asked some of our residents what they wanted most at the time of their application. Surprisingly, they didn’t say sobriety. Most said some version of, “I wanted to be accepted.”
When men tell their life story at No Longer Bound, a common refrain is, I always felt different. Some use the word disconnected.
Research shows that when individuals experience some form of rejection in their formative years, they develop the expectation that people will keep rejecting them.
Contrary to what many think about addiction, most addicts don’t continue abusing drugs and alcohol as a source of pleasure, but rather as a means of coping with pain.
Searching for Intimacy
If the opposite of addiction is connection, then sustained recovery is dependent on one’s ability to develop healthy, interpersonal connections with God, self, and others. Unfortunately, the idea of loving God, self, and others is a foreign concept to most men when they arrive at No Longer Bound.
“When they get here, they’re pretty closed off,” said Bill Eubanks, an NLB counselor who takes men through their first 60 days of the Regeneration Curriculum. “Usually, their only recent relationship is with a substance. They remind me of someone who’s grieving. They don’t want to be in relationships. They’re just shut down.”
In addiction or not, opening ourselves to intimate relationship requires vulnerability. Feelings of guilt and shame can keep us living in emotional isolation.
Expressing how we really feel, sharing what we need, admitting our flaws, asking for forgiveness leaves us exposed. Bill believes the first step to introducing the idea of intimacy is identifying what an intimate relationship actually is, then teaching the men to build new relationships based on this concept.
“The thing about vulnerability,” said Bill, “is it leaves you open to being judged or rejected, open to folks using things against you (and sometimes they do). It’s tough to convince men that the outcome of being vulnerable outweighs the risk. Not only does being vulnerable go against what we’re taught as men, but at No Longer Bound, we’re a group of men, so we can get that mob mentality, sitting around and beating our chests. It’s hard to get men to be vulnerable with other men.”
Bill went on to say that sometimes that mob mentality works to his advantage. “Recently, a guy stood up and just poured out his heart. He was totally, brutally honest. It was really messy and really emotional, but once he did it, everyone fell in line and followed suit. He made it okay to feel.”
One way No Longer Bound fosters the process of intimacy is the Get Right. The Get Right involves taking personal ownership for our actions (like admitting when we’ve done something wrong), but Getting Right also means being honest with others about personal resentments, fears, and attitudes that hinder intimacy, creating an environment in which feelings are more often expressed rather than suppressed.
We all have resentments—those negative reactions that bubble up when we feel we’ve been wronged. Feelings of rejection, envy, jealousy, even unmet expectations can begin a cycle of negative emotions that replay in our thoughts and magnify. The problem with resentment is it increases when we can’t let it go.
NLB graduate, Ryan Flanagan said it this way: “If I hold judgments against someone, my initial reaction is to not speak to them. At No Longer Bound, I’ve learned not do that, because the more I bottle things up, the more it creates headspace. Then I don’t sleep.”
“The Get Right is for the person who is Getting Right,” explained Bill. “The reaction of the person you’re Getting Right with is irrelevant. Rarely does it happen that a Get Right is perfectly accepted and received. If the other person receives it, all the better. If they don’t, there is still freedom in getting things off your chest.”
New habits take practice. Unnatural at first, expressing one’s feelings becomes easier over time. “In the beginning, it’s hard for the men to understand that Getting Right isn’t about pointing a finger,” said Bill. “It’s not about saying, ‘I need to Get Right with you because you did this!’ The point is, ‘I need to Get Right with you because I have been holding resentments. I’ve been murdering you in my heart. A Get Right is about asking for forgiveness.”
“The last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matt. 20:16)
“It is more blessed to give than receive.” (Acts 20:35)
“Give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Matt. 19:21)
Like the paradoxical teachings of Jesus, asking for forgiveness for holding resentments can bring unexpected surprises as we discover the weight of our own contribution.
“Get Rights introduced me to self-accountability,” said Pat Marchman, who graduated last month, “because I had to start acknowledging my part. I’ve learned to express how I feel then listen, which has taught me humility. I can be wrong and just own it instead of being too prideful to admit being wrong.”
Injustices big and small trigger negative emotions in us all. Pain turns to anger and anger to resentment. Imagine a world in which we all had the courage to express how we feel, cancelling debts (forgiving) and owning our part (Getting Right).
Jacob Gottlieb, another recent graduate said, “Main stream culture sees vulnerability as weakness, especially in men. Watching some of my role models (in the program) be vulnerable has showed me it’s okay to express myself. In practicing the Get Right, I have learned how much courage it takes to be completely honest with others and myself. Sometimes it’s really messy, but I have a whole new perspective. To put pain I feel into words, share it with others, and be completely accepted—it’s freeing.”
We are built for relationship, so the Get Right is for us all. Give it a try.
Psychology Today, “Addiction as a Disease of Isolation.” Nov 18, 2014, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201411/addiction-disease-isolation.