by Jason A. (Sullivan)
When everything else is gone, all that remains is God.
In the end, I was a slave to my craving to drink. I had lost all choice in the matter. I had to drink or I would surely die. No part of my day had any higher purpose than the acquisition and consumption of alcohol. Now that I am recovered, how do I train myself to fight the resentments that will surely keep me just as enslaved as the drink – a prisoner in my own mind?
As a younger man, the accumulation of material wealth was a major driving force in my life. If only I had an unlimited supply of cash for my booze, and a house and car to impress the in-laws and the neighbours, everything would be alright. So what is my goal, my purpose in life, now that the material things that used to define me no longer hold any meaning?
As I grow in sobriety, I realize that the only wisdom I can learn is the wisdom of humility. To be able to say, “I don’t know” and ask a power greater than myself for help. In my experience, the mantra of a spiritual warrior is “Success Through Surrender.”
When we stop fighting everything, because we have to, we find an inner peace that as active alcoholics and addicts we could never experience. The last thing I ever thought of doing as a practicing alcoholic was letting God handle my affairs, and I certainly wasn’t in any shape Sunday mornings to attend a church! But I have found that there are as many variations on the spiritual experience, and as many forms of God, as there are people in the world.
A power greater than ourselves certainly does not have to be the God of any organized religion. But it can be. I do know that whatever conception I happen to formulate about a Higher Power is still not complete. We’re limited to human experience, human perception, and human language to try to explain something much vaster than can even be imagined.
So how do I, an insane, shattered man, hope to attain any kind of connection, a conscious contact, with God? The 12 Steps are a good way to start.
In the early days, when the obsession to drink was lifted, I was elated, on top of the world. Experiencing the world through clear eyes, seeing and feeling the love of my children, gaining friends and fellowship all around – what an exhilarating feeling!
But behind those clear eyes, an alcoholic mind still lurked. Complacency and procrastination rapidly brought forth more insanity than I ever felt when drinking. Without the alcohol to dull the tongue and slow the mind, my insensitive words and actions came out in full force, and a true love I would gladly give up my life for slipped away.
Life still goes on and every day cannot be a bowl of cherries. When I get up in the morning and ask God for another day of sobriety, sometimes that’s all I get. And in the past, there couldn’t be a better reason to drink. But because of the steps, I am able to reach out to God in new and deeper ways when everything else is chaos.
An added benefit is that by working the steps continually, and becoming a better person because of that work, I can learn to avoid chaos before it happens. Every step taken with purpose on the pathway of life uncovers another level of awareness and understanding of my Higher Power and his will for me.
The Prayer of St. Francis, commonly called the 11th Step prayer in recovery, is a powerful tool for getting out of myself, giving more of me, and accepting people, places, and things for what they are – other creations of God, just like me.
God is in the details. Taking the time to notice a flower in bloom, a child at play, waves rolling onto the beach or an act of kindness towards another person reminds me that the beauty of God is all around me.
There are many words of wisdom written that reflect similar spiritual journeys to the one I’m taking in recovery, and I find comfort in seeing that others have traveled this way before me. The Art Of Peace (or Aikido) is a Japanese writing that I’ve often found reflects the way I think of my ongoing spiritual awakening. The Art of Peace has no form – it is the study of the spirit. Likewise, everyone’s personal spiritual journey in recovery is different.
The way of the spiritual warrior is not always easy. Fighting through personal demons and wreckage from the past to allow love to enter my heart was the first challenge. There continue to be internal struggles to justify my actions or shirk any responsibility for the chaos around me. Then there is the cutting away at defects of character that block my Higher Power and my ability to love myself and others.
The reward is the ability to behave according to God’s will for me, with honesty and integrity. Even when the path seems impossible, it’s the anticipation of learning what God’s plans are for me, and developing a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me, that keep me moving forward.