Saturday, May 21, 2016

Connecting Spirituality And “Hitting Bottom”

There are two tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous that have proven to be very true for me: 1) No one can declare me to be addicted to alcohol but me; 2) There is no definitive description of what “hitting bottom” means; that, too, is up to me to define.
However, for someone to define these two tenets for themselves is the singular starting point for anyone wanting to recover from.….whatever. It is what is summed up in the first of AA’s Twelve Steps: Admitting to powerlessness to alter an addiction and owning up to a current life that is unmanageable. In short, honestly saying to oneself: “I can’t….
·      Stop drinking,
·      Stop my focus on anything but the dark and negative,
·      Stop gambling,
·      Stop my addiction to the rush and thrill of sexual escapades,
·      Stop my cravings for sugar/sweets,
·      Stop waking up each morning full of dread and self-loathing,
·      Stop living each day, regardless of what has happened or not happened, scared and worried or feeling exasperated, frustrated and disappointed,
·      Stop needing to “escape” my life via the emotional highs I reach as I immerse myself in my congregation’s orchestrated weekly performances,
·      Stop my insane gossiping about everyone I meet – knowing that to focus on them is simply my way of not focusing on myself, which just might be why my life is out of control. 
I believe it takes some form of “hitting bottom” for us to say in desperation “I can’t….” and really wanting to live life differently; to say “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired and I can’t continue anymore. But, I don’t really know what to do”
I have been reading Richard Rohr’s book “Falling Upward – Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” [Jossey-Bass, 2011]. He doesn’t use the specific words, “hitting bottom,” but often that’s what he is talking about. The first half of life is largely concerned about surviving successfully. We all try to establish an identity, a home, relationships, friends, community and security. As he puts it: “…building a proper platform for our only life.” [p. xiv].
Rohr defines the second half of life as “the task within the task.” He also calls it “what we are really doing when we are doing what we are doing.” [p. xiv] The second half is when we begin to pay attention, and seek integrity precisely in that task within the task that we begin to move from the first to the second half of our own lives. Integrity largely has to do with … a growing honesty about our actual motives. … Most often we don’t pay attention to that inner task until we have had some kind of fall or failure in our outer tasks. This pattern is invariably true for reasons I have yet to fathom…. Those failings and fallings must be there for a purpose, a purpose that neither culture nor church has fully understood.” [p. xv]
We in AA call this “hitting our bottom.” I have not heard this term in the New Testament or in A Course in Miracles (ACIM), but I would like to think that Jesus would call this pattern of falling/failing an unmistakable collapse of our egoic thinking, which leaves us – even if only temporarily – open to the whispers of the Holy Spirit suggesting to us a different way of perceiving and living life.
Did God, as I understand God, cause me to stumble and fall, just so He could pick me up? No! I caused my fall all by myself, and I no longer know how or where to stand up. By honestly admitting “I cannot do this anymore” I have opened myself up to a dimension – which had always been there, but remained unseen by me – that changed my life.
Just like the young man, who went off to college and then the military, and returned home amazed at how his father had matured during his absence. It was not his father who had changed. His 8+ years away from home had slowly altered his perception of life and he was “seeing” his father in a new light.
#4 May 2016

Copyright 2016

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