A World of Miracles

The more I investigate, the more I realize that what we know is only a scratch on the surface of truth, of what Einstein called the “persistent illusion” of reality. When I open myself up to even just the ‘possibility’ of there being something out there greater than myself, I also open myself up to perceiving the wonders that surround us always but that we don’t always notice as we make our busy way through life.

A friend at a meeting this morning talked about going for a hike with his brother to a water fall. The trek was much more arduous than they had expected. When they finally arrived, it because a mystical experience for one of them. As they drew closer they heard the sound becoming more and more intense until the cascade slowly revealed itself through the undergrowth of the trees.  My buddy saw how the sun was beaming light down through the trees and the mist rising from the water as it hit the rocks on the way down to a blue pool below. He felt the spray, watched the butterflies and took the whole thing in as a Higher Power moment. For his brother, it was a nice waterfall, but it held nothing of the spiritual aspect. Two people, two points of view of the same experience.

Our experience of anything depends upon our perspective and past experiences. Perhaps it’s my bias, but I believe that those of us who have been through difficult times and are making our way through recovery have to, perhaps, work harder than others to see the beauty of things and the wonders of the people and the world around us. Perhaps it’s because we were so wrapped up in ourselves, our ego and our disease that we couldn’t see it before. Perhaps we’re no different than anyone else. But it is important to take the time to look outside of ourselves to stand in awe and appreciate what is happening around us at any particular time. And even if you don’t wish to attribute what you see or what happened to you to your Higher Power, you can still appreciate the ‘miracle’ of it all.

During this time of year, we tend to see more positive things happening around us because our perspective has changed around the holidays and we expect to see the miracle of Christmas. I believe that these things are always happening around us. Every day there are wonders and sights to behold that will cause us to pause if we look for them. If you want to take the magic of Christmas with you through the whole year, then take this attitude with you. Miracles don’t only happen one day a year, or on 42nd Street in NYC or in Bedford Falls with Jimmy Stewart realizing that he’s the ‘richest man in town’. They around around us all the time. But we have to look for them.

From a sunny and hot Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, (don’t be too jealous), I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! ¡Feliz Navidad!

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

– Shakespeare, Hamlet


Living the Program

I am an addict.  It doesn’t matter what substance I used, how often or how long I used it, or how long it’s been since I’ve used it.  I am and always will be an addict. I am grateful that I have some time in my program, but I must always be aware that I am just a couple of bad decisions away from a crash and burn.  I know from hearing others in meeting rooms how easy it is to slip up and what can happen if I do go out again, and it won’t be pretty.  I have never heard of someone who came back to their program talk about how wonderful it was while out there using or drinking again.  “The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker.”(Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 30) This idea must be crushed and obliterated from my mind.  My ego tells me I can be different from everyone else.  Experience, my own and others, warns me that I am not.

It’s not sobriety that has brought about the changes in my life. It’s the spiritual awakening that is the result of working and living the 12 steps. Not drinking and not using may mean that I am sober and clean.  But they don’t give me sobriety. In my early thirties I stopped on my own once for about five years. But I wasn’t really sober: I was fighting against my desires to escape life.  I really wanted to have a beer with friends, a glass of wine with dinner or share a joint, but I knew I shouldn’t.  And I wasn’t the nicest person to be around because I still had all of the ego charged character traits that I always did, only now they weren’t being softened by that gentility of the first pipeful or shot. My recovery was missing something.

That something, I believe, was the spiritual experience, or awakening.  A psychological shift in thinking that has allowed me to surrender, stop trying to control everything, and realize that I was the greatest threat to my existence.  I was drowning in the river of life and still trying to swim upstream.  If I wanted to really live, I had to understand that when it came to certain things, I was completely powerless.  If I just stopped thrashing about, I could at least float with the current.

Surrender on this existential level wasn’t that hard. There really wasn’t much left to give up. I had lost my dignity and self respect.  I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.  My liver was enlarged and who knows what other physical problems I was on the verge of encountering. I had alienated most of the people around me and was finding comfort in gloomy establishments with people who were living much like I was. My life was circling the bottom of the toilet bowl. Somehow I still had enough sense to see that I was on the path of losing myself. So in spite of my misgivings and preconceptions of what recovery was all about, I showed up at a local meeting and took my place at the table.

I understand that I was ready to surrender, to try something else because my way wasn’t working.  A friend of mine calls it his Gift Of Desperation.  I was powerless and I couldn’t manage my own life.  That was my first baby step into the program.  The eleven remaining steps helped me to recover and slowly brought me about to a more awakened state of being and opened me to a relationship to a Higher Power.

My life today is changed from what it was before.  My sobriety today is of a different quality than I had when I quit solo for five years. It is different because I work at living a twelve step program. I know that this is a lifelong process, and it is one I do willingly because I like the changes in my life and my being.  Today I like who I am and I can look at my reflection in the mirror without cringing.  The changes in my life are not because I am put down the bottle or the pipe. They are a result of working all twelve steps of the program and awakening to the spirit.   I am finally enjoying the trip down the river.

♥  ♥  ♥

Please like and share this blog, not to stroke my ego, but for those who need the courage, strength and hope to start and continue their journey down Recovery River. I would appreciate it if you would sign up and follow the blog as well.  My intention is to post Mondays and Thursdays.   Please comment.  I’d love to hear from you.



The End of the World! …not really

When we speak of humility, that elusive quality of character, we often speak of accepting ourselves as we are.  We speak of downplaying ego and of selflessness.  Humility also has something to do with how we react to what is happening around us. It isn’t just a quality on how we see ourselves, but also how we respond to our world.  It is keeping things in proportion.

Humility is keeping things in proper perspective.  It’s not exaggerating about what is happening in our lives, not bragging about how great we are, nor is it commiserating about how bad things are.  How we love to exaggerate. To quote Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” For most of us, before we got into our twelve step program, there were high highs and low lows.  Seldom did we find ourselves balanced anywhere near the center. And we loved to tell everyone just how good it is, how much money we made, where we lived, who we were married to.  Or, we droned on about how life had done us wrong, how bad things were going at work, how that SOB was going to get what’s coming to him. It was either the best or the worst but rarely a happy medium.  How do we get to that balance?  We give ourselves over to humility.

Humility is that quality that reminds us that we can deal with anything; those things we like and those which challenge us.  It reminds us that we are not alone in life, that we have a Higher Power guiding us and friends around us we can count upon. We learn that we can make it through everything. We can ask ourselves: was it really a bad day, or was it 15 minutes that I milked for the rest of the day?

I remember when I first started teaching.  Managing a full classroom of ten year olds, trying to prepare and present lessons, keeping the principle and parents happy were way beyond my limited experience at the job.  If one thing happened that I wasn’t expecting, say a half an hour before the final bell, suddenly the whole day was a fiasco.  It was the worst day ever. It would be better if I quit now and worked at KFC.  Well, that was my scenario, more or less.  But no, it wasn’t the worst day ever, it was a small thing that I let colour my perspective on the whole day.  I can see now I was operating with plenty of egocentric pride and hardly a speck of humility. Ego and humility cannot exist together. When I claim I’m a humble person, I’ve just let my ego take over.

How grateful I am to learn that I can make it through everything.  I am quite fond of saying that it’s not the end of the world until it’s the end of the world!  I have a Higher Power and I will always get through whatever comes my way, until I don’t make it. And then it won’t matter. Meanwhile I choose to live while I am alive and not wallow in hiding for fear that things might not go the way I want them to go. Besides, in spite of my desire to have it so, it isn’t all about me.  I’m not the only one involved here in this game of life. The world happens.  The world happened before I arrived and will probably keep on long after I’m gone. Humility reminds me that I’m not that important in the big picture.

Someday, I hope to become the guy my dogs think I am. Until that time, I keep working away at changing for the better: remembering that I am just another of the creatures on this earth doing the best I can with what I am given each day.