As I contemplated what to write for this blog, I wrestled with a number of different ideas. Something that kept coming back to me was this one recurring question: What is it that we all want? Recently, I started reading a book by Eckhart Tolle, entitled The Power of Now. I found myself full of questions, contemplating what this experience of “being” even means. Going back to my childhood, and particularly once I got clean and sober, questions like this have always been of interest to me. As a child, I had often felt like a stranger, an outsider looking in, even when with friends or family. There was always a feeling of being different, of somehow missing something or feeling like everybody knew something I didn’t.
Growing up in a strict, fundamentalist, religious tradition, we were taught that our purpose was to serve God, but we were strongly discouraged from asking questions or pointing out inconsistencies in doctrine or behaviors of those doing the teaching. A “good person” doesn’t think about or ask those questions, but of course, even if only in my head, I was. Clearly, I thought that there had to be something wrong with me. Due to the dysfunction in my own family, we were not able to talk about what we felt with each other – no one knew how to do that. As a result, I was left on my own to try and figure out what it all meant and find some way to deal with it.
All of this left me with a deep longing for connectedness, for a sense of belonging. It left me with the desire to feel like I was a part of something, like I had a place where I was known, welcomed and valued. However, at the time, I didn’t recognize, let alone understand these desires. You can begin to see how this vulnerability and pain left me wide open to alcohol and drugs. From finding friends who I wanted to be with, or at least feel like I was a part of, who began to experiment with substances, ultimately encouraging and challenging me to do the same, to being subjected to social pressures and cultural values that placed an emphasis on and even glorified drinking or other drug use as being cool, all left me open to unhealthy choices, and once I tried them it was a foregone conclusion.
From the first time I drank as a teenager, I immediately felt in control of who I was and what I felt. What I felt was a sense of belonging, a connection to everyone, a bond with the whole world. I can still vividly recall the feeling of that first drink. Something deep inside of me immediately decided that this would now be an important part of my life. Sadly, I would spend the next twelve years desperately chasing that original feeling and never truly finding it again…until recovery.
How did I find recovery? My wife was preparing to leave me and take our nine month old daughter, our only child at the time. For the first time in my life, I truly feared losing a connection with another human being: my little girl. However unfairly, I could blame and be angry with my wife but I could not do the same for my daughter. As a result, I ended up entering a treatment center. It was there that I began to actually feel a real sense of connection with others. We shared a common problem and a common solution. As I gradually surrendered my life and will to the 12-Step Program and Fellowship of AA, for the first time in my life, I began to actually feel like I belonged somewhere, like I mattered in a meaningful and, more importantly, lasting way!
Since getting clean and sober, my spiritual journey has convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that we, all humanity, regardless of race, culture, age, gender, etc., desire the exact same things and that when all is said and done nothing else matters. We desire to need and be needed, to want and be wantedand to love and be loved. Anything that blocks or separates me from those things is unhealthy and damaging to me. This becomes the measuring stick against which I place whatever I’m thinking about doing or allowing into my life.
Long ago, Chuck C. wrote a book titled A New Pair of Glasses. In it, he describes a philosophy that changed his life, and also mine. Paraphrased, it’s something like this: “Your business is none of my business, my business is not even any of my business, my business is God’s business and God’s business is only one thing, and that’s loving His kids.” What this philosophy drove home for me is that I’m called to live my life in finding ways to give to others what I long for myself: to need and be needed, to want and be wanted and to love and be loved. The only way that I’ve found myself able to come even close to that ideal has been solely through the principles and practices found in the 12-Step Program and Fellowship. By myself, I proved incapable of receiving, much less giving, to others what I longed for myself. But, when living in the way recovery has taught me, I find I have a chance.
My wish for you is that you too will choose to open yourself to the same principles and practices, and find the kind of peace and serenity that is available to you there.
Crossroads Centre Antigua