I’ve spent a lot of my life wanting and trying to have the ultimate spiritual experience. You know, that mountain top experience where you become one with everything and everything makes perfect sense. A glimpse at the bliss of Seventh Heaven or the special touch of an angel; an experience that would forever alter my existence. It still eludes me.

I know I am not alone. Most of us would like this type of experience that we sometimes read about or have recounted to us. Some gurus tell us that if only we would go to this place,  sit this way and chant this ancient saying, it will magically happen to us. If it were true we would all be in a floating bliss. I think the only thing that would help me achieve it would probably give me the munchies, so I’m not going to try that.  The thing about those “mountain top experiences” is we don’t live on the mountain top. We have to come down and continue our lives. Gradually the electric current that lit up our minds begins to fade and we long for another ‘fix’ to connect with the Universe.

What I have experienced however, is the spiritual awakening of the educational variety. It’s one that gradually pervades my body, mind and spirit. Through working the twelve steps of recovery I have had a spiritual awakening that we hear about in Step Twelve. It started with the realization that it’s not all about me and continues through living the steps. I am constantly growing in contact with Consciousness, or whatever you wish to call your Higher Power. For me, the steady growth in awareness doesn’t carry with it the need for a regular fill up. The steady drip by drip of awareness allows me to take in what I need in smaller increments so that I can understand and internalize the whole process better.

I’ve learned that the slower I learn things, the deeper it can penetrate and the easier I can incorporate it into my day to day life. It’s like those times when folks make a whole pile of New Year’s Resolutions. Once one goes by the wayside, it’s very easy for the others to slip off as well. But if we make just one that we are truly committed to, then there’s a far better chance that we will create a new habit that will last a lifetime. Slow and steady she goes.

pexels-photo-312839.jpegWorking drip by drip to increase my awareness I become more aware as well of those around me. What I have learned has to be shared. And in the sharing, my own knowledge deepens further. This is our program, not mine alone.  I seek, learn, grow, share with others and then repeat the process.

I’m not saying that I would not welcome being struck by lightening and having a celestial experience. I think it would be pretty neat. But I am not going to feel incomplete if I never have one. If it requires sitting in the lotus position for several months under a bodhi tree in quiet meditation, it definitely won’t ever happen. But the same teachings about body, mind and spirit can still be learned one step at a time. With patience, I believe we can all get to our Nirvana.

I Don’t Got This

I’ve learned a few things over the years by going to recovery meetings. And I have heard a lot of ‘suggestions’ as well. I’m going to add one more ‘suggestion’ to the pile: never say ‘I got this’, or ‘I didn’t before  but now I get it,’ or ‘I know what I’m doing now,’ or anything similar. It’s usually shared by folks with less than a year in recovery and, unfortunately, they usually stop coming to meetings and go back out.

What we have is a disease that is chronic and will never go away. I’ve learned in the rooms that I can never let down my guard. I must always be vigilant against the urge. I have heard too many people say that everything was going well and suddenly they  were slugging directly out of a bottle or sucking on a pipe and couldn’t understand what had happened; the disease happened.

Cunning, baffling, powerful. That is what we hear and it is so true. The disease of addiction is sly in its progress. It says that everything is good and you’re doing fine and that you ‘deserve’ or are ‘entitled’ to a bit of relaxation. Or it tells you that you are doing so well in the program because you’re really not an alcoholic or addict.  And down comes the cleaver: back into it again. I have learned that I can’t listen to my thoughts without the filter of my program. The second I say I’ve got this it’s like my mind opens up again to the disease.

“Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 89

Step Twelve of our program asks us to work with others ‘intensively’. That is more than saying hi or sharing at a meeting. It is working with a sponsor or with a sponsee. It’s sitting down one on one with another in your recovery program and working the steps, deepening your knowledge and how to apply it to your own life. Working with others rewards by showing us what we need to do and by reminding us of where we came from. It keeps things fresh. And by keeping it fresh in our minds, we are reminded just how cunning, baffling and powerful this disease of addiction really is.

There is so much depth to the program. I am constantly amazed by people who have 10, 20 or 30 years in their program say at a meeting after reading some program literature that they don’t remember hearing this before. I am amazed at the comment of an old timer who had just over 50 years in recovery state at a meeting that he was still ‘just scratching the surface’ of the program.

So if I get a bit cocky at a meeting and say ‘I got this’ remind me of this blog post. I need to be constantly vigilant and living and sharing my program. Without it I am without defense against that first drug or drink. I am grateful for my program every day and I still have a lot to learn.

” Service will keep you Sober!”

I heard this phrase over and over in my first month or so of recovery. My recovery group was hosting its annual convention and I was recruited by the chairperson to be the one to make announcements and provide local information. “Service will keep you sober Tim,” she said over and over to me. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by this, of course, I wasn’t quite sure about a lot of what was being said at that convention weekend. Everything was so new to me. In reality, I was just glad to be out of the house and have something to do, something to keep me busy and keep my mind off of my problems.

In the years since, I have washed a lot of coffee cups, set up chairs and tables, chaired meetings, and sponsored other men in the program. And I have worked on the annual convention every year since. This year I had the honour of chairing the convention committee. With each commitment, I gain more understanding more of what it means to be of service.

When I am doing service work I am stepping outside of myself and my difficulties, problems and challenges. Doing something, keeping busy, whether its sweeping the floor, setting out books, making coffee, chairing a meeting, reading, sharing, all of these activities are not only vital to the life of the group, they are vital to my own recovery, reminding me that I am not alone and that I can’t do this by myself. Service reminds me that I am part of something and that everything I do has importance in maintaining my recovery.

That phrase that I was told at the beginning, became embedded in my  recovery. It taught me that I need to pitch in because we sink or swim together. It taught me that my personal recovery is very dependent on my group and making sure that my group functions. It taught me that I am not alone and that I can’t recovery alone either.

When I first came into recovery, I came from a point where my world had shrunk to a very small circle of people and activities. Coming into the program and jumping right into service work got me involved. Forced me to meet new people. Allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and experience a new way of living. Service is not the only part of recovery, but it is one of the key elements: I can’t keep my recovery to myself, I have to give it away.

The service work of this past weekend took me way out of my comfort zone. But as my recovery has grown, so has my ability to take on new responsibilities and challenges. My Higher Power is by my always. And with the enormous amount of service work by the other committee members and volunteers, I participated in an incredible event that will carry me forward in my recovery.

Jennifer R., I thank you for your guidance in my recovery. Service is still keeping me sober. I am grateful.