Chasing the Light


by Melody Hanson | @melodyhhanson

Melody_LightI’m celebrating that I’ve been sober for five years.

Sometimes I describe my sobriety as chasing the light because more often than I like to admit, I’m heavy with an awareness of the wreckage in my dark heart.

Usually the weight of addiction drapes over me like the thick, humid air of our Wisconsin summers. As I ran today, I felt each breath heavy inside me, cloying and bogging me down. I recognized its gloomy encumbrance. (Lest you think I’m an athlete, let me assure you, I’m quite feeble. Exercise is one of my spiritual disciplines.)

But that’s how addiction feels, even with five years of sobriety–like an unwieldy liability I cannot shake. Many days I am kicking and screaming, resenting it, deep inside, where I am still a spiritual child. Oh, I pray to be wise, resilient and strong and seek disciplines to grow into a spiritually authentic person. But honestly, this is often stirred by a longing to live without so much disbelief, depression and ache.

Today as I sit with pride in “my” accomplishment, I’d rather have proof that a benevolent God helped me to stay sober or have a promise that God will one day heal me of depression, anxiety and alcoholism. I lack assurance that my recovery isn’t simply due to my self-control and inner strength. I want to be healed. I am learning to live with this tension.


I suppose I have never grown out of questioning and searching, living with large doses of doubt, forever asking:

Why is there pain and suffering?

Why is there so much ignorance?

Why are people born into privilege?

Why are people born in garbage dumps?

Why is skin color, race, class, sexuality or gender used to hurt, exclude and punish or to build up and empower?

Why are poverty, sexism, homophobia, and racism found in the Church? 

Why is the WORD of God so mysterious and perplexing to grasp, problematic, even incomprehensible? 

Why are some people angry while others seem to be full of joy? 

Why am I an alcoholic?

When I look past the power and pretense, I find the profound mystery of grace, hope and transformation, of order and light; it is there I comprehend that Jesus is the Light of the world, penetrating all my questions and doubts. Jesus’ death and sacrifice help make sense of the chaos and randomness for me. The answer is found inexplicably in the hope of a triune God, who always was, and is and is to come.

I’m engulfed in God’s dazzling light.

I cannot defend intellectually the relief or restoration that I have found in discovering this grace and love, but I hope others notice that I am being altered, mended a little more every day. I sense down deep in my marrow, where I was once a shattered person, that I am being remade. Not cured, but made well. I feel God’s grace surround me like a caring mother Eagle, whose wings cover and protect, as mentioned in the Psalms. My alcoholism teaches me about God’s grace as I forgive myself. I know addiction is an illness, but I was a falling down drunk once and this awareness takes a toll on the soul.


The child, now woman, who more days than not wakes up afraid, awash with dread that she’s unworthy (beyond all logic, unworthy)–that person is everywhere. She is Humanity. She may be you. She is certainly me.

I am immersed in the hope of Jesus by choosing to look for that light every day.

Once I was brainwashed by bitterness, soiled by abuse, unable in my own strength to feel human or even capable of loving others. Today, I pray for grace upon grace. I pray to see the dazzling and mysterious light.

And through the effort of therapy and spiritual disciplines, and God’s mysterious love, I am somehow being restored, slowly. I am becoming a strong and empathetic person, who believes loving God and loving others to be the highest aspirations one can have. And most significantly, I am learning that I am capable of giving and receiving this love.

I am an addict. I will always be an alcoholic recovering. Still, God has remade me–not me in my own strength, but me through God’s power finally able to express Mother-love even while feeling unlovable. God has helped me to stay sober for five years, slowly working the 12-steps in my own way. It wasn’t quick, this reshaping, change and healing, and it isn’t finished. Jesus is still transforming and redeeming all the dark places within me.

In all this and more, Jesus weeps for me, whispering words of truth in my ear. You are my beloved.

In her recent book, Help.Thanks.Wow., Anne Lamott, a fellow addict, reminds me: “Sometimes pain can be searing and it is usually what does us in … It unfolds and you experience it, and it is so horrible and endless that you almost give up … But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.”

And so, the cycle of life unfurls full of heartache and anguish.

We must cling to spiritual strength–for friends get sick and die, people are self-destructive or addicted, kids suffer mental illness, and desperate people kill themselves. These are people we love and pray for.

We must live with all the questions we cannot answer, with the sting of life’s frequent heartache.


Most days I’m not “celebrating” my sobriety. Most days are ordinary. I sit brooding in the early morning darkness, still anxious about the unknowns, riddled with old fears which threaten. But then I remember, and it is a holy remembering, that I can choose each day to look for God’s mysterious and dazzling light casting the shadows that surround me. I’m sustained, even for a moment serene. This gives me the desire to love and be loved, again today.

One day at a time.


About Melody:

Melody Hanson pic

Hi, I’m Melody, a compassionate over thinker, an indebted contemplative, an incessant seeker. I’m grateful that God’s grace changes me continuously. I collect and disperse words and images at