It’s not about booze.
This book isn’t about an addict’s journey to get well. It’s not about a drunk getting dry. It’s not about alcohol at all. At best, gin, wine, and their kin become background players in this drama. This is a book about pain. This is a book about hurt. This is a book about unbelief. This is a book about the things I know – we all know – far too well.
Seth Haines writes with a poetic drawl. He easily invites you into his story. Coming Clean is a walk through the journals from Seth’s first 90 days sober after admitting to a drinking problem. Booze may start the story (you can smell the gin on his breath at the beginning), but the book isn’t about Seth’s relationship with the drink.
Coming Clean is about Seth’s relationship with the thing under the addiction, under the sin. It’s all about Seth’s relationship to his pain, his wounds, his deep, dark, terrifying hurts.
“My alcoholism is not the thing, see. Neither is your eating disorder, your greed disorder, or your sex addiction. Your sin is not the thing. The thing is under the sin. The thing is the pain. Sin management without redemption of life’s pain is a losing proposition.”
The thing about this book is that I found myself going with Seth into his hurts, facing those fears, finding the beginning of healing for the pain. I can’t think of another book recently that has drawn me into it the way Coming Clean has. I relate to Seth’s story. I say, “me too” to so much in this book. It’s odd because I see where Seth’s story is his own, yet I keep reading my own pain, my own hurt, my own fears into this book. I keep getting drawn in to face my pain in these pages.
That’s why I hate this book.
Ok, I really don’t hate it, completely. More accurately there is a part of me that hates this book because it makes me face my pain. I have a cynical heart these days. Cynicism is how I mask my anger at God, my hurt, my pain. Throughout the book, Seth talks about being a fake Christian, about putting up a façade. I relate to this because this is how I feel now. I’ve grown comfortable in my cynicism, in my unbelief. I’ve grown normalized to some shitty things in my life. My heart doesn’t want to face my pain. My soul doesn’t want to grow courageous and look at my fears. I don’t want to do the work of healing because it starts with hurt.
Then this book comes along and stabs me in the heart.
This book has left a bloody mess in its wake. It’s like a surgeon cutting open a patient and messing around with their insides. It’s all blood and gore for a while. Well, God has used Coming Clean like a scalpel to begin some operation in me that I have fought and fought. God has started in with the blood and gore through these pages, in these words.
It makes me uncomfortable to say the least.
Coming Clean is a story of finding faith again, of sinking into the divine mystery, and of doing the sweaty, bloody work of healing. It’s a great read. This is one of those books I’m going to be recommending to people for a long time. This is a book everyone can find themselves in. It’s a book that invites you to participate in something important (your own facing of the pain) rather than simply consume more words. It is a book that will probably make you very uncomfortable too.
But then again, that’s why you should read it.
Maybe uncomfortable is where God wants us. Maybe uncomfortable is where that hard work of healing starts. Maybe uncomfortable is really just waking up and seeing things as they really are.
Don’t be misled: this book doesn’t wrap everything up in a nice package for you. At the end, things are still messy, still hurting, still bloody. This book very much leaves the story unresolved. It’s not a cute Christian ending. Rather Seth ends with the reality of healing: it is ongoing.
It’s gonna take some courage, but I think you should read this book. You should let this book do its work in you. Let it show you how to expose your pain like a nerve and how to begin to find a healing that you long for. I know you do because I long for healing. We all do. We all share the reality of hurts, fears, and pain. That’s what makes Seth’s story of getting off the bottle so relatable. It’s not about the booze. It’s about the pain.