When the Question is “Do you want to get well?” and the Answer is “No”


If you’re trying to figure out if you’re an alcoholic, well, I personally think you are. I don’t really know any non-alcoholics who ask themselves if they might be alcoholics. – Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott had the crowd laughing one minute and on the verge of tears the next, and this quote from her (which is especially poignant considering her former life as an alcoholic) really resonated with me. Not because I’m an alcoholic, but because I have my own addictions, and I think that whenever we take the time to ask ourselves whether or not we’re addicted to something, we probably are. Am I addicted to my phone? Facebook? Jealousy? Candy? Feeling sorry for myself?

How then will we heal ourselves of these addictions?

It reminds me of something Jesus said.

A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?”

What a stupid question, right? I know a man who is in his 60s and he suffers from so many maladies – strokes, cancer, alcoholism. Can you imagine if I walked into his trailer park home and asked him if he wanted to get well? If he wanted to be restored fully to health?

What kind of a question is that?

Yet I think there are still many areas of my life where I don’t want to get well. Seemingly petty sicknesses I have like that bad attitude towards certain people or those small stabs of jealousy that I think I’ll hang on to for now, thank you very much, Jesus. And then maybe things that aren’t so petty, things that my anger uncovers, things that trigger my white-knuckled grasping on to unforgiveness, things that discharge my cynicism and underlying (but very well hid) prejudices.

I’m all good. Thanks, J. That healing thing? I’m not ready yet.

* * * * *

I had a long lunch with a good friend recently who has been asking himself very good questions about his own addiction. And I think he will get there, in time. He will know.

But I left that lunch with that same question resonating in my mind.

Do we want to get well? Does my friend want to get well? Do I?

And I think many times the answer is no. Maybe we find identity in the sickness. Maybe we can’t imagine the life we would lead if we were well. Maybe we’ve lost hope; I think that’s it most of the time – I don’t want to be well because I don’t think it’s even possible, so why would I put myself in the position to be so sorely disappointed when it all crumbles down around me?

Which brings me full circle, back to Anne Lamott, because if you know her story you know that she finally reached the point where she said, Yes, I want to be well, and with the help of a wonderful community she clawed her way up through the murky waters of drug and alcohol addiction and now she gives us such beauty, such hope, and I guess that’s the one thing that makes me want to answer yes, when I see those who have gone before. Those who have stood up and walked away from the Ground Zero of their pain. Those who can point to their own uncomfortable journey of transformation and say, It’s worth it. Get well.

Do you want to get well?

3 Replies to “When the Question is “Do you want to get well?” and the Answer is “No””

  1. That journey of healing, for me, keeps leading me back to “ground zero” again and again, each time discovering something new, something worth saving, redeeming, from the rubble.

    This has been the growing edge for me these past few months – do I really want what God wants, especially considering what it may take to get there, or am I just really looking for something more comfortable? The answer, for me, varies from day to day, but, God’s pretty used to putting up with me :).

  2. I *literally* asked myself this exact question today about an issue I’m facing, and frankly I think I’m a little scared of what “well” might look like. Thanks for these thoughts.

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