There is a Solution

I finished reading a short book last week called: Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality. It’s by a Jesuit priest, Anthony De Mello who died in 1987 at the age of 56. The book, published posthumously, is really a compilation of talks he gave at various retreats throughout North America and his native India. If you get a chance, it is worth a read. The chapters are short and concise, and full of incredible wisdom and insight.

One of the things he discusses is his belief that people are not looking for a cure for their illness or their problems. Rather, they are looking for relief. How often do I look for relief from the pain and discomfort of an illness? If I suffer from knee pain, I would rather take a Tylenol, because the cure, losing the extra 30 plus pounds I’m carrying, would be work in the form of exercise and diet. It’s easier to get relief in pill form than curing the problem. I am unhappy in my relationship, so I seek some sort of an outlet to make it more bearable because to find a solution implies a lot of effort. Relief is faster, easier to attain, and, most notable, does not require me to make the changes that the cure requires.

What if I hate the job I working at? What might the cure be? I could quit, discover my passion and work at it. But that would mean moving out of my comfort zone and living in uncertainty. So, I seek methods of relief. Maybe it’s recreational drugs or booze. Perhaps I go for high risk activities or adrenaline rushes. There are many routes to find relief and avoid the cure.

Finding a cure to my challenges means finding the root cause to my woes. And few people are willing to look that deep. It may mean some self-reflection. It may mean some outside assistance with a psychiatrist or other therapist. It may mean admitting to past mistakes in life choices. And for most of us, our Egos won’t allow us to go that deep. So, we stay stuck, looking for momentary relief rather than trying to cure our ills.

Finding a cure means making changes to our lives. Many people tell me that I live their ideal life. I tell them that they can do the same thing if they want it. But few are willing to make the changes in their lives necessary to live this life. Few are willing to take the risk. Living in Costa Rica does imply an incredibly special lifestyle that I love. But it also means that I live far from my family. It means adapting to a new culture and a new language. It’s not all butterflies and bananas all the time. We are all free to do whatever we want in life if we are willing to accept the consequences. The cost of the cure, of making life changes, is much higher than the cost of relief.

So many of us seek relief from the suffering rather than a cure from whatever ails us. We try to avoid the challenges in life by putting on blinders. It’s easier, often a faster but it offers only momentary relief, and then we must seek that relief once again. Over time, we begin to identify with our pain and make it part of our being. We forget that it there is a cure. And we forget that if we are willing to do what it takes, there is a solution.

The “Care” of My Higher Power

Many folks do very well in recovery until they come to working Step Three. Here we are asked to make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the ‘care of’ a Higher Power, as we understood him. And many balk at this step. Their past experience has not been positive when dealing with things around God and religion. I understand. The God I grew up with wasn’t easily understandable: at one moment, kind and loving and at another throwing my soul to the bowels of hell for all eternity.

As much as I tried to work within the religion I grew up with, I couldn’t. So I left it, took a fork in the road to another idea, that of spirituality. My addiction did a great deal to slow down my progress along this road but with recovery, I found myself moving forward again. I didn’t believe in some old guy with a white beard in some celestial space surrounded by throngs of angels. And while I appreciate Christianity and it was how I was raised, I no longer believed in that either. The truth is, I couldn’t have told you exactly what or how my Higher Power was, but I knew that there was something more than what my five senses could interpret from the world.

And that’s one of the miracles of this program. It doesn’t force me to believe anything. It’s a Higher Power of my understanding. I don’t expect you to understand my relationship to my that Power, and I respect your relationship to yours. As I have grown in recovery I have received greater understanding. I expect that I will continue to grow in that understanding. But what about those who are diligently working the Steps and are finding it difficult?

I’ve learned that you’re making a decision. It need not be all cut and dried and finalized. I know my understand of my H.P. certainly wasn’t then nor is it now defined. In fact, I don’t want to define that power because that will put limitations on it. I use the word ‘god’ in meetings, because it’s convenient, but it certainly isn’t ‘god’ in the traditional sense.

scenic view of night sky

Photo by Hristo Fidanov on Pexels.com

A regular at my home group who has been in the program for many, many years once shared with me that if a new person in the program is finding that they are living in less fear than they were before, then they have a Higher Power. If they are living a life that is more manageable, then they have a Higher Power. And if they are thinking about what they are doing before they do it rather than following their egos, then they have a Higher Power. They may not ever be able to define it, but they know that there is something that is helping them; something or someone with a greater knowledge that is nudging them along this path. If they want to call it God, or Christ or a G.roup  O.f  D.runks, it doesn’t matter. They’ve figured out that they’re better off with whatever Higher Power is ‘caring for’ them than when they were still out there and the person in their mirror was the one in charge of decisions!

Trust the process of the Twelve Steps: all of them. As you go along you will find that you are ‘cared for’ in so many ways. Open-mindedness and willingness go a long way in recovery to help us all to see that we are connected, which for me, is what spirituality is all about.

Pruning and Rejuvenation

When I was in school, yes many moons ago, young Grasshopper, I learned that the cells of our body could regenerate.  That was why when I got a cut it would heal over. I learned that all cells could do this, except neurons. We were born with a certain number and there wouldn’t be any more coming to us. We even joked about it; when we had a night where we had gotten particularly blitzed, we´d say we had burned out a few more brain cells. However, it’s not true. Neurologists tell us now that we do generate new brain cells and continue to do so for all of lives. So, you can teach an old dog a new trick after all.

Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to reorganize and regenerate itself allows me to make changes to my life. It means that I am not condemned to the same thinking pathways, the same personality or the same Tim as I was when I was born. Change my neurons and I can change my thinking. I don’t have to be the same person I used to be. However, when the new comes in, the old has to move out to make room for it. There’s the rub!

If I have a Higher Power and I have put my will and my life into its care, then I have to allow it to make those changes to me. I have to give up the old Tim and welcome in the new Tim.  Of course, letting go of the old me is easier said than done.

I can see how I have changed since I came into recovery. I am not the same guy that first walked into my first meeting. By working and living the Twelve Steps, I have made major changes in my life and done my best to clean up the damage of my past. I feel I am a better person than before. However, I also feel that my Higher Power isn’t done with me yet. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life just maintaining the status quo. I want to continue to grow. So I have to let go.

I do that, or more honestly, I am trying to do that regularly. In the third step I ask that my Ego be lessened and that I be open to the plethora of possibilities before me. I ask for guidance which I receive via my sponsor and sponsees, through meditation, and by being aware of those serendipitous things which happen around me. I believe that it is important for me to continue to change and grow.

Image result for shrub pruningI am reminded of a particularly pretty flowering shrub I had on a property once. Over the years it had grown fairly wild. It wasn’t very thick, there was a lot of dead wood and it produced few flowers. After a bit of research on it, I follow the advice for a radical pruning and fertilizing schedule. It took a few years but the scrub grew new branches, thickened up and gave an incredible spring show of flowers. Still the same plant, but a completely different result.

So, I ask my Higher Power, in its care of my will and life to do the necessary pruning and fertilization in order to allow me to grow and change. I want new neurons and pathways to grow and create a new and evolving Tim. And it will happen as long as I have open-mindedness and willingness.Image result for rhododendron shrub