My recovering addict friend says that she loves the image of a lighthouse.
During one of our frequent telephone meetings, she shared her wish to envision
herself as a lighthouse. Her home is full of photos and paintings of
lighthouses. I didn't relate at first. But the very next day, my nine-year old
son came home from art class with his lighthouse drawing. Coincidence? It made
A lighthouse is steady and immovable. It is a tower that projects light,
enabling ships to navigate the dark seas. The lighthouse is unaffected by
powerful winds or strong waves - impervious to rain, snow or hail. Standing
alone, proud and firm, the lighthouse calls out: Fear not the dark! My steady
light illuminates the way.
We in recovery have certainly sailed some dark, stormy nights, groping
blindly for direction and clarity. Sometimes we drifted, frightened or
unconscious, not even aware of how we eventually washed up ashore. Today, we
know that wherever we find ourselves, we can discover a source of guiding light.
For some, it might be a meeting; for others, a program phone call, a reading or
a prayer. Each one of us, however, burns with an inner light that we access when
we turn to G‑d. He is the One Who created that light within us when He breathed
life into us. Our job is to plug in, and to ask Him to help us generate the
infinite light within us. Our own light is capable of radiating beams of hope,
penetrating the darkness around us, helping fellow souls find their way.
My friend wants to see herself as a lighthouse because she wants to be strong
and bright in the face of life's inevitable storms. For me, however, the
lighthouse arouses feelings of loneliness and isolation. Seas are scary and
vast. The lighthouse radiates an illuminating beam, yet it stands completely alone.
My metaphor for recovery is a tree. It, too, weathers storms, winds and
temperatures. A well-anchored tree does not budge. Its branches may sway, its
bark may peel, but the tree itself stands strong and grounded, an impartial
witness to life. It receives its nourishment from both below and above, like a
Jew connecting Heaven and Earth through his/her very existence. The tree takes
in what it needs, and gives back what it can offer - be it shade, fruit or
shelter. It adapts to the seasons, proudly bearing itself in winter, as if to
invite snow onto its firm branches. It awakens all to the miracle of rebirth with
its buds in spring. It transmits the splendor of its lush green abundance in
summer. And it proclaims G‑d's majestic palette in fall. The tree is vibrant,
connected with its source and with its environment. It is firm yet not rigid.
But it needs to be healthy, or it, too, becomes vulnerable to disease and to the
What keeps the lighthouse standing? What keeps the tree healthy? The
lighthouse is anchored by cement, the tree by its roots. Each represents a
different connection with G‑d. The individual in recovery who has identified
his/her source of strength has been working hard, one small drop of cement at a
time, laying the foundation for what eventually becomes a tower of light. Every
time one admits his powerlessness and surrenders to G‑d, he adds cement to the
base of his lighthouse. Each call for Divine Assistance, each abstention from an
addictive substance or behavior, each return to program after a slip, each hand
extended to help another - each of these add bricks to its tower.
Tu B’Shevat is the holiday that celebrates the New Year for trees. The Torah
compares a person to a tree, offering us insight into our own lives. Roots,
trunks, branches and fruits of a tree are paralleled in the life of a human
being. Faith is the roots of the tree that is a person. A tree with vibrant,
strong roots is not easily felled - neither is a person with strong faith. What
are our roots? Many of us come from dysfunctional families. We need to dig
deeper to access our healthy, life sustaining roots. We are all children of
Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebeccah, Jacob, Rachel and Leah. We come from
seeds that are pure and holy; our source is G‑dly. We can rely on our spiritual
genetics. We can deepen, widen and strengthen our root systems by accessing the
faith that is our Jewish inheritance. We can produce sweet, delicious fruit.
When we work our programs, we build lighthouses. When we nurture our faith,
we build orchards. We are privileged to shine from within and without; we
generously share our fruits. As Jewish people committed to recovery, we stand
proud, strong and solid. We are lighthouses and we are trees.