Saturday, July 13, 2013

Relief and Recovery: If It’s 30-Miles In, It’s 30-Miles Out

Why am I still fighting personal attitudes and issues I thought I had already dealt with? I know the answer to that question and I don’t like to hear it. Let me explain.
While I was still drinking, and whenever I was full of a generalized dread or simply felt uptight, nervous, worried, insecure or ill-at-ease, I relied on the almost instant feeling of relief that came from my first couple of drinks. Although I never used pot or drugs, it was the same for drugs as it was for alcohol – at least those in Narcotics Anonymous have told me.
I convinced myself the “hit” from alcohol allowed me to “live in the Now.” It was almost magical.. It didn’t matter what was causing my nervousness – my drinking could put everything else out of my mind for a while. Many times the “Now” I thought I was entering was to focus on a mindless sitcom on TV. Sometimes it was fixing dinner. Sometimes it was running an errand. Sometimes it was to allow me to fall to sleep. It was a horrible mental ruse.
Well, what was causing my nervousness or my dread? Sometimes it was my children’s emotional needs or their homework. Sometimes it was paying my bills or reviewing my (generally bleak) financial situation. Sometimes it was feeling lonely for female companionship. Sometimes it was my work. Many times it was nothing in particular. In short, sometimes the reality behind my nervousness or dread was truly important to deal with, sometimes it wasn’t.
However, the reality behind my sense of dread wasn’t the issue for me. It didn’t matter what the cause was – the singular important issue was to eliminate it. That was what was important. Dealing with that was what took precedent – over virtually everything: the needs of my kids, my health, my bills, and my life.
Of course, after some 15-18 years of using booze to eliminate any of these feelings of discomfort, the alcohol itself suddenly became the issue. The normalcy of my drinking didn’t work. I could drink just a little and almost pass out. Sometimes I could drink a whole lot with virtually no physical effect. It was erratic. It had become unreliable. In fact, it prolonged my nervousness by complicating my drinking. [Of course, now I understand I was dealing with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in addition to my general angst. I didn’t know that when it was happening.]
There is a reality in the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous that understands what I’ve tried to describe: “There is a difference between ‘relief’ and ‘recovery.’ Coming to a meeting will provide short-term temporary relief from the desire to take a drink. Recovery, however, comes when we work the Program – i.e., refusing to drink, working the Twelve Steps, sharing honestly with our sponsors and at meetings, following suggestions, doing service work, and keeping ourselves involved with other recovering alcoholics.” Much the same concept can be said for codependency or overall spiritual growth.
This reality is often summarized: “If you got lost walking 30 miles into the wilderness, it’s probably going to take you 30 miles to walk out.”
But, I say: “Forget the 30 years. I want out now! I want the dread […or control issues, or life-complications, or constant bad relationships, or …] to stop now!”
But it doesn’t work that way in AA. It doesn’t work that way in life. It doesn’t work that way in growing along a spiritual path.
My spiritual path, ignited by the acceptance I found in the Program, has taken on a twisting, winding course. I actually began to experience the reality that lay behind Christian dogma, not just intellectually understanding it. I was never enamored with the dogma, itself, but I always wished I had the confidence and certainty that those folks who could spout the dogma seemed to have. But I had never experienced feeling accepted by them. So, I looked in alternative places for this spirituality. I went to Unity churches. I went to spiritualist groups. I went to holistic healers. I went to Church of Religious Science (not to be confused with Scientology) congregations. At each step of the way I learned, wrestled, grew, and out-grew.  I wrote my book, How the Bible became the Bible [ISBN: 978-0-7414-2993-3]. I wanted to try to synthesize my intellectual knowledge of dogma and theology with the transforming experience of the Power of Love and Acceptance I had known in AA. From that beginning, and with the encouragement of friends, my initial focus shifted simply to tell the story of how the Bible came to be and present the humanness of its writers.
As I wrote, I continued to explore and experience spirituality in all its “flavors,” including Kabbalah and Sufi writings. Finally I ended up with a small study group of A Course in Miracles (ACIM). That has really hit the spot for me. All the pieces I’ve toyed with have come to roost in the message of ACIM. It simply makes sense – viscerally – to me. Its focus is on the real problem I’ve always had spiritually: ME!
But it shows me how I can get out of me – beyond me. It shows me the faulty nature of my perceptions. It tells me how to alter my erroneous view of the world – by telling me that correction of my perception is not my job. It’s the job of the Holy Spirit. All I need to do is ask for a different way of looking at things. It tells me I’m not a human who has an eternal soul that Jesus can save if I let Him. Rather, it tells me I’m an already-loved spirit currently having a temporary human experience.
Isn’t that a “badda-boom badda-bing kind of thing. Then you’re done?” Nope. It’s a lifetime of learning, practicing, growing. But my ego wants to grab on to these simple truths and take over. It says to me constantly: “Okay. I get it. I understand. I’ll take it from here. ”
So, once again I’m faced with my reality – a 30-mile walk out of the wilderness.
Just as the Program of AA has provided me guidance in my journey to sobriety as well as a taste of spirituality, I now have, albeit on a different level, a Guide to gently lead me forward in an inward sort of way. I could not have allowed this Guide in my life had it not been for the positive effect of AA.  I could not have allowed this Guide in my life had it not been for Unity, Religious Science, holistic teachers, and alternative spiritual traditions.
Where alcohol provided me a temporary quick fix for nervousness and dread, my spiritual journey, including AA, has provided – slowly – the peace of mind and serenity that I’ve always wanted. I’m a very lucky guy.
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 July, 2013
Copyright, 2013

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