Twelve-Step Spirituality: Part Two
Friday, December 20, 2019
I have known and cared deeply for people in recovery for most of my professional life. In my experience, it is as if they live inside a much bigger world full of endurance, meaning, hope, self-esteem, true desire, and, most especially, a bottomless pool of love for themselves and the world. I invite you to read the words of our generous and sincere CAC staff member, Ron H., and see for yourself.
My own earliest experiences of God were in a small Catholic church in the rural Upper Midwest. I still remember the feeling that sometimes came in those devout childhood moments: head bowed, earnestly praying inside of a child’s understanding, and experiencing that mysterious and familiar contact right down to my core. I think of those experiences now as the implanting of a homing beacon that has pulsated within me ever since.
When I was still in junior high, I discovered drinking, and as I continued through high school, other drugs. As addiction took root and progressed over the next decade, that divine pulse became faint, obscured by the rush of the many synthetic substitutes. . . . I will spare you the details of this journey to alienation and despair. Suffice it to say, borrowing Richard’s words, that it was a precipitous decline from the “order” of a child’s pure experience and belief to the “disorder” of a young man’s unraveling life. When my fiancé finally moved on with our year-old son in my early twenties, the inner cacophony of self-loathing and the deeper lapse into drugs drowned out the divine pulse or homing beacon until I was sure it was lost to me.
“Reorder,” in my case, came in the form of the paint-by-numbers approach to mystical awakening called the Twelve-Step program. But that’s such a tidy description of a messy process that started when I voluntarily removed what everyone saw as my problem but I knew as my solution: the drugs. An addict who has stopped using is not an addict without a problem but an addict without a buffer. The early going in recovery occurs amid deep disorder and a void aching to be filled. The road to reorder from there is not for the faint of heart.
I look back now—forty years and a number of cycles of order, disorder, and reorder later—even without the drugs, and it is clearer than ever that the antidote to the soul sickness of addiction in all its forms is the awakened spirit.
This fact is there in plain sight in the steps. The second step holds out the hope for a restoration to sanity. From the addict’s point of view, it is hope for the same thing that the drugs provided in their own way: a shift in how life looks and feels. After the cleaning up of the first three steps, the growing up of the fourth through the tenth, there is the waking up, the eleventh step’s prescription of seeking to improve conscious contact with God. We go full circle back home. In my case, when the twelfth step looks back and observes that the result of this journey has been an awakening of spirit, it is referring to my restoration to the sanity of that little boy, head bowed, earnestly seeking and sometimes experiencing the contact that progressively awakens. And having had that awakening, the step says, now show up for the next one who needs a roadmap and a companion on that journey from disorder to reorder.
With sincere thanks to Ron H. for again sharing his insights with our Daily Meditation readers.