I was blessed with a sponsor who came into my life at a time when I was at my absolute spiritual low. She began working the steps with me immediately, never shying from the subject and need for a higher power from the very beginning. When I have a question about my spiritual progress, she is the one person who knows where I’ve been and helps me to figure out if I’m taking steps forward or backward or standing still. She has also taught me to enlarge and expand upon my spiritual connection with others, reminding me that reliance upon another human being, fallible as we are, can amount to putting conditions on recovery. We are social creatures, drawn to each other, but the nature of life is such that people often pass through our lives. I have to be comfortable in seeking out the company of others when my circumstances and the social make-up around me change. With her guidance, I’ve been able to do that.
Though it didn’t seem so at the time, I was blessed with very austere surroundings in early recovery. For reasons beyond my control, I was confined to those surroundings for my entire twenty-eight day stay in rehab, allowed to leave for meetings within the building, but not once going outside. I craved the outdoors and fresh air almost as if it they were a drug. As much as I feel a heightened connection with my higher power when I am in the open, I was forced to learn, if I wanted to recover, to make that connection anywhere, regardless of place, regardless of physical comfort. With my physical challenges, the ability to pray and to meditate anywhere and in any state of health is critical.
There have been a number of events that I consider spiritual turning points in my life, and many of them, I think, might be viewed as negative or unfortunate happenings by others around me. Granted, I wouldn’t ask for them, wouldn’t try to draw them to me, but in believing that no experience in god’s world need be wasted, I’ve embraced the lessons they’ve taught me.
A good example was my lesson in self-will. Entering recovery wheel-chair bound, I prayed for the strength to complete physical therapy. I believed that I trusted in god to get me upright again, and I ignored the cautions of my physical therapist who said I wasn’t quite ready to put the chair behind me. What began as a triumphant trip out of my house on a cold February day, upright with the aid of a walker, ended in nearly losing part of a leg in a fall that crushed my brittle bones. I learned that my faith was not necessarily placed in god, but arrogantly, in my own will to do that which I was not physically capable of doing. That lesson has come back to me again and again, as I’m not delivered of self-will. I have a concrete event in my life to remind me of its consequences. Which brings me to my next treasure.
I can think of no prayer more valuable to folks like me than the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the Serenity to Accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage to Change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to Know the difference.
So many character defects can be sorted and seen with right application of the Serenity Prayer. I can check my motives, as my sponsor always tells me to do, using it. Sometimes, I’m a bit lacking in that “wisdom to know the difference,” and I wish I could say that I have never made a mistake, never tried to change those things that are not mine to mess with or sat on my laurels while opportunities to act passed me by, but I can say that the application of the prayer in any situation where right action isn’t clear greatly decreases those instances.
That being said, there’s another prayer that, at first, caused a little stitch inside me when I would repeat it at the end of meetings. The meetings in my area close with the Lord’s Prayer, and not really understanding it or knowing if I would embrace it if I did, I considered using the time for silent reflection. Then, someone gave me a copy of Emmet Fox’s Sermon on the Mount, a book I’d recommend to anyone looking for spiritual expansion. At the end of the book, there was an exposition on the Lord’s Prayer, and once I saw the beauty of it, how well it drove home the importance of living in the moment, the amends process, the delivery from earthly yearning and insane craving, I embraced it and never again had a problem in saying it.
Of course, my Big Book will always be my primary text, and I haven’t yet failed to turn to it and not find the answer to any difficulty I might experience. Knowing that fallible human beings, such as the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, could open themselves and channel the divine, delivering in that way a program for living that could save me and so many others from the bonds of alcohol, reminds me that there is a reason for my continued existence and I can’t ever, ever take that for granted.
In relating these spiritual landmarks and oases on my journey, I have, with the exception of some books, tried to keep my reliance on those things that are always with me, if I choose to hold them. I could tell you about my favorite place to meditate in the summer months, or the candles I light in prayer, or even the view from my window and the way the trees look in different seasons. But those are all transient things, and as valuable as they are to me, my spiritual growth cannot depend upon them. I might move from here or become allergic to candle wax. I’ve already had a favorite one-of-a-kind medallion break, and I almost broke along with it! Though I become attached to favorite sweaters and boots, a favorite blanket and my old (now gone) pickup truck, I have to remember that anything I depend upon that aids in my connection to my higher power must be always, as my higher power is always. It must be everywhere, as my higher power is everywhere. It must include everything, all I have to offer that is of any value, as my higher power is everything. So, my greatest treasure? That would be my Experience, Strength and Hope.
Thank you for letting me share.