“Write what you know.” I attributed that statement to Flannery O’Connor, but my Googling suggests that Mark Twain or possibly Hemingway wrote the advice. Regardless, I was thinking about that line and how it relates to what I post in this blog. I know about recovery from alcohol addiction. Yesterday was my natal birthday – I am now 66 years old. I have been sober since August 4, 1984 – or a bit over half of the years I have spent on earth.
The physical manifestations of being drunk are a distant memory. Today, my imperfect driving skills, forgetfulness, stumbling, and less than ideal health result from my age and not what I drank last night.
The mental and spiritual manifestations of being drunk are a different story. I can very quickly get into pointing fingers at others as the cause of a problem – elected public officials regularly receive letters expressing my righteous indignation at what I perceive as their callous disregard for basic human decency. I can get into self-will run riot – my wife Emma has well-documented this fact. Too, I am wholly capable of getting into the “poor me” mindset when I perceive my offerings are under-appreciated. The list goes on.
For the mental and spiritual manifestations of recovery I have the AA Promises:.
We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
To me, the AA Promises are where the action is in recovery. None of the Promises address the physical manifestations of addiction. Rather, the Promises focus on mental and spiritual recovery. I have found that mental and spiritual recovery is truly a process and not an event. To the extent I continue walking a path of recovery “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly” all the promises “materialize” in my life today.
Today Emma and I worked in our backyard, planting a couple of avocado trees, weeding the vegetable and herb gardens, making some rosemary smudge sticks, tending to our new bed of okra. Afterwards, Emma went to take a nap and I planned to sit on the back porch, read, drink some ice tea, and gaze out on what I call our “kingdom” of gardens. Instead, I thought to drag a chair into the middle of my kingdom and be at one with and surrounded by our gardens. Recovery is like that. I can either observe it from afar, or get into the middle of it. The latter is better and where the Promises are found.