When I was looking for my first house I ‘knew’ which house it was from the time I saw it. It was a small cottage looking over the lake and it was ‘perfect’. I was in the village to look at a house with an agent. He mentioned another place that wasn’t listed on the market but whose owner was looking to sell ‘if the price was right’. I ‘knew’ that this was the house when he drove into the driveway. There’s a spot just below the sternum where I ‘felt’ it, and I ‘knew’. Two months later I was sitting on the deck of that house looking out over Lake Erie, a view that I would relish for the next nine years.
I got the same feeling one morning about seven years ago when I woke up one morning and I ‘knew’ that something had to give. My world was crumbling before me. I was losing the battle. I could feel it in that same place, just below the sternum. My guts were telling me that the show was over. I needed to make changes or I would be heading down a path I ‘knew’ I did not wish to tread.
I have no idea if everyone has that place in their body where they ‘know’. It’s hard to describe. It’s almost as if knowledge becomes a physical sensation in the body. I’ve had this sensation various times in my life and I know now that it is one of the ways my Higher Power speaks to me. I suppose it had to be this way for me to pay attention. I wasn’t the most intuitive and sensing person.
Learning to listen, to follow one’s intuition is not easy, especially at first. When I began my journey in recovery, my thinking wasn’t my greatest asset: a good reason for me to work with my sponsor, go to meetings and listen. Going through the process of the steps I began to fathom the depths of what it really meant to ‘turn my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power, a ‘God of my understanding’. And, if I’ve really done this, it only makes sense that he would communicate with me, right? How else will I know what my next step is to be? Slowly my trust of those feelings began to grow. I’ve learned that the more connected I am with myself and my Higher Power, the more aware I am of my intuition. I’m learning to pay attention to what’s happening around me.
It’s not always that physical sensation; it doesn’t have to be now. Most days I start off with a prayer. Most days I write. Most days I go to a meeting. These are the things that maintain my spiritual condition that keeps me in recovery. I’m able to see the patterns in my life and the mosaic of this world and I marvel. My life continues to evolve and morph into new experiences because I am open to them, I take the time to listen. I truly am grateful for my life today.
There are no shortcuts in recovery. It’s not a buffet of items I can pick and choose. Rather it’s a recipe that I need to follow on a daily basis in order to get the results of happiness, joy and freedom. Initially I may not like doing a step or part of the step but leaving it out is an open invitation to return to the life I had before. Leaving out the sugar or substituting salt is going to alter the results of your mother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, regardless of how much love and care you put into their making. The same is true of a recovery program: “If you want what we have, then you do what we did.”
Is it always easy? No. There are times when I want to skip an apology to someone I had an argument with. I don’t always feel like praying. What if the meetings are boring? Why should I do it all? I’ve been in recovery a month, or a year or ten years. I’m doing fine. Right? How do you think the cookies taste without the sugar?
“Do it anyway: do it any way!”
Larry was a friend of mine in recovery who often said this. A recovery program requires trust. Even if I don’t understand what is happening, even if I don’t believe it is going to work, even when I don’t have any desire, I need to do ‘it’. And I need to find a way to do ‘it’. ‘It’ has to get done. ‘It’ is part of my recovery work.
What is ‘it’? Perhaps it’s working the next step. Perhaps it’s making amends for the argument I was in yesterday or last year. It might be sitting down to pray or meditate. It could be looking into the real reason why I’m depressed or why I avoid social situations. It’s that which gnaws and knots our stomach. We all have an ‘it’. And if we’ve been in recovery even a short time, we won’t have to dig very long to know what that ‘it’ is: the next right thing I need to do.
If you ask anyone who returns to the program after a relapse if they were ‘thoroughly following their program the answer is always ‘no’. They left something out of their program that was vital to their success in it. In going to meetings you will run into members whose recovery is much less than happy, joyous and free. They too are living without some of the ingredients of a healthy recovery program. They aren’t doing ‘it’.
I’ve learned to trust the Twelve Steps as my guide. I learn to go over and review them regularly because I don’t want to go back to where and how I was living before. I can’t guarantee that I’ll still be in recovery ten years from now, but I don’t need to. If I keep doing the next right thing, if I live my recovery today then I will be okay today. Tomorrow is another day.
Today I’ll do it anyway/any way because I want recovery. I am grateful that Larry was a part of my recovery. RIP big fellow!
As I journey down my own path of happy destiny I am discovering that one of the greatest gifts of my recovery is an open mind. I endeavour to keep my judgements of others to a minimum. I look to dig deeper into life and develop a greater understanding of it. I keep asking questions and seek answers. I look to others the help me on this quest because I know that alone I’m not all that great finding those solutions. After all, my best thinking landed me at the doors of a recovery program.
Having an open mind frees me from judging what others people do. If I don’t judge something as right or wrong then there little chance it’s going to irritate me, cause me to feel anger or develop a fear or a resentment. Having an open mind allows me to see that I have a very limited perspective on things. Good or bad, I see now, are relative. What is good for the lion isn’t so great for the gazelle and visa versa. I have plenty of work understanding my own reasonings sometimes; I’m really not up to judging someone else’s rational. I really didn’t know what was good or bad for me so how could I judge it for another?
Having an open mind allow me to really ‘live and let live’. In the same way that I’ve discovered that yesterday’s answers may not be the answer I need today, I realize that my answers may not work for someone else. I can see that everyone of us is on our own path of discovery and we all take that path at our own pace. Why is it that someone comes into recovery at 25 and it took me another 25 years for me to get to it? I am on different path and moving at a different speed.
Having an open mind allows me to look at different religions, spiritualities, concepts of a Higher Power and how it all works together. I am fascinated by the beliefs and rituals of people around the world. I enjoy talking to people and reading of people’s experiences. I find that the more I do that, the more I grow in understand my own Higher Power and the less likely that I will judge others or their actions.
Finally, having an open mind gives me peace of mind. I don’t have to constantly be defending my position and beliefs. I don’t see other’s actions as purposely done against me. I need not point out that I’m right and you’re wrong. I can accept things as they are, not how I think they should be. If I’m not occupied by what should be done or could have been done I have more free time to continue my exploration of this path and enjoy life. And that, I think, is the whole point. Indeed, what a gift is an open mind.
I am grateful.