Most people would agree that spirituality is the foundation of recovery. Even those who initially struggle with the idea of a Higher Power usually discover a spiritual hunger within themselves. Fortunately, twelve-step programs urge us to find our own definition of God. I believe the primary reason New Thought harmonizes with Alcoholic Anonymous so beautifully is that neither approach attempts to tell us what to think; rather, each offers an effective model for how to think. For those of us who adhere to both philosophies, this is a match made in heaven.
So much symbolism in this holiday, and at this time of year for those of us in recovery. Long days to live life to the fullest… Independence Day for our country – it’s a birthday – take a chip, USA. Some of the freedoms we hold dear in recovery are ideals, concepts, and things we strive for – which is also true for us as a country… progress not perfection. But today and this month, let’s honor the freedoms we have created for ourselves – and that is MUCH to celebrate!
Today is my sobriety birthday! On June 29, 1988, I enjoyed an early, three-martini lunch just before checking into a treatment center for a 30-day inpatient program. To be clear, I did not enter treatment for alcoholism, as I was not one of those awful people with a drinking problem. I knew people like that, and I certainly was not one of them. At the time, I had been abstinent in OA for a year. After months and months of abstaining from starving and bingeing and purging, I was an emotional wreck. I was working a strong program, but I need serious help, so I opted for treatment.
As I peer into the sizzling and dazzlingly beautiful month of July, the month that honors freedom and the ideals that define who we are, I sense new ideas, new opportunities, and new situations lighting up my consciousness like fireworks bursting in air. I am grateful to know that I am freer from the bondage of self than ever before. I celebrate my independence from the need for alcohol, drugs, and behaviors that no longer serve me. I know the ideals I strive for guide me as I travel my path, and I celebrate my progress, free from any expectation of perfection.
I went to comical lengths to hide my drinking. I guess it’s part shame. And for me it was also related to the basic fact that I drank to try to achieve privacy. Some weird not-grounded-in-reality need for privacy, because I drank even when I was as alone as humanly possible. Like, in a tent in a state park in Maine where the nearest person who knew me was hundreds of miles away. I drank then. In an idyllic place on an idyllic vacation. A topic for another post.
I was rereading the Big Book recently looking for some references, and noticed there are a few points along the 12 step way where the action we are asked to take is done mentally or internally. Things like making or reaffirming a decision, and reconnecting with the higher power nature of the infinite, and with the higher power nature in ourselves. That’s interesting – I guess alcoholics need that extra reminder to stop and be clear about what we are doing by re-minding ourselves to pause – even when not agitated – but pause and think, reflect, stay tuned in. That’s a big one for me – it’s helpful to slow down and take a breath now and then.
I’m not sure exactly what it is that I’m looking for, but I know what it is not. I am not looking for a fix that will merely mask the pain. I want to be free from the madness whirling around in my head, and I want to help spark the revolution that saves the world. I suppose what I’m really searching for is truth. I’m trying to understand truth with a sense of awe–– the way I sometimes feel when staring up at the sun and thinking about how long humans have turned to the sky and stood in amazement.
I don’t like the words “flaws” and “failure.” In New Thought there is the admonition about the “spiritual bypass;” about claiming “nothing wrong here; see only the good.” Both may be extremes. Somewhere in the middle is the truth – or at least my truth that I can take in for my personal spiritual growth. I understand this work has to be done. It’s important to recognize, identify, and admit the things in me which stand in my way. This is an ongoing process – new ones continue to be show up, old ones enter into my new awareness.