Saturday, June 22, 2013

Living in the Landscape of Grace

“Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the façade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.” Anonymous [Sent to me from a subscriber, who got this from a friend.]
 “Before recovery, my life was a living hell. Driven by an obsessive mind and a disease that wanted me dead (and settled for drunk), I was driven by a hundred forms of self-centered fear, and I felt alone and defenseless. I had no tools, no hope, and darkness filled my thoughts and painted my days. Finally, I hit bottom.
“When I entered the rooms of recovery, I felt as if I had been lifted out of a sinking life raft, and dropped into a great big, safe ship. Meetings gave (and still give me) support, comfort, hope and help. The program provided me with the owner's manual to the life I had always wanted, and the greatest gift of all was a relationship with a loving and nurturing Higher Power.
Today I begin my days by turning my will and my life over to my Higher Power…. By surrendering my will, asking for His guidance, and then seeking to do His work, I experience a freedom, a sense of purpose, and a state of serenity that is beautiful. It is Grace. Today I get to choose to live in this landscape of Grace….”  [From Michael Z, The Wisdom of the Rooms. Contact]
As virtually everyone in AA tells their stories, they are telling mine, as well. This is certainly true of Michael’s account of his earliest days. As I discuss my transformation in my book, my experiences were completely different than Michael’s yet totally the same.
“I still relish, most mornings, the simple fact of waking up, rather than coming to. I still feel overjoyed sipping my first cup of coffee and remembering last night’s conversation, rather than staring into a black void in my memory, forcing down some coffee laced with vodka, and hoping I wouldn’t gag.
“It’s hell to be dead inside and thinking all the while, “This is life!” It’s hell trying to time your drunk so that you can just make it to bed before you pass out or fall over comatose on the couch and embarrassing your daughter and her friends. It’s hell to dread answering the phone because it’ll be another bill collector. Or to let mail stack up, unopened, for weeks because it’s bills you can’t pay, or ‘deadbeat’ letters, or some other form of bad news.
“Bad news. ... Bad news. ... For me, plain and simple, that’s what reality had become—bad news. So I drank my vodka to avoid it, and I avoided it well. I avoided people. I avoided my children. I avoided bad news. I avoided all news. I avoided life. I avoided reality. I avoided everything except my vodka.
“During the last year, I was drinking about a fifth a day and a half-gallon over the weekend. I had to have alcohol in my blood at all times, twenty-four hours a day, just to feel normal. That meant I had to have a drink every four hours or so—even in the middle of the night. And during that whole time it never dawned on me that this was abnormal.” (D. O’Dell, How the Bible became the Bible, pp. 176-7)
Getting sober through the help, understanding and acceptance of Alcoholics Anonymous was just the beginning, however. Just as most alcoholics did, I went to AA to learn how to stop drinking. What I found was an acceptance I had never encountered before. That acceptance – that freed me from trying constantly to be someone I wasn’t – touched my soul in a way that nothing ever had. The relief I felt was visceral. It altered the trajectory of my life. It saved my life.
What I found in AA were the tools to live life – the “owner’s manual” to life that I never had received.  As the biological effects of alcohol were drained from my body, I began feeling better. But what now? How do I live without the crutch that had come to dominate my living?  By using the tools of AA’s program, I started learning how to live life – not on my terms, but on life’s terms. As a responsible adult.
So, what are the tools of the Program? Don’t drink; Go to meetings; Get a sponsor; Share honestly at meetings; Work the Twelve Steps; Pray for your Higher Power’s will for you today and pray for the power to carry that out.
It worked for me. I am still recovering, but I have been sober for over 26 years now. I am still learning what it means to be a responsible adult. I am still learning what it means to be a playful Child of God. But most importantly, this journey of mine, which began in church basements in Northern Virginia, has allowed me to begin a deeper spiritual journey. And it has allowed me to use the same essential tools as I used in AA: Do the work my spiritual program suggests; Accept others as I was accepted; Share of myself as honestly as I can; Do a reality check with trusted friends before making a decision.
Living within this landscape of Grace, as Michael Z calls it, requires ... well … living. Purposeful living. Studying, Contemplating, Erring-Learning-Growing, Doing.
Living in the landscape of Grace is not simply relishing the intellectual comprehension of a spiritual program. It is LIVING the program. When I do that, I am reasonably happy, content, and truly helpful to others. When I do that my perspective changes – and so does my universe. It’s amazing.
What more is there to living life?
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#2 June, 2013
Copyright, 2013

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