How I Know I’m Not Spiritual… (Yet?)

Posted: October 2, 2010 in Early sobriety
Tags: , , , , ,

Picture it:  a soft, very early October morning (the precise opposite of the “soft October evening” described by T.S. Eliot in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”), a candle burning in a cozy room, fresh coffee mellowing beside a hopeful woman, who sits with toes lightly touching the dense, expensive wool of the Persian rug beneath her socked feet.  She is meditating on the following thirteen mantras, written by Jean Kirkpatrick, the founder of Women for Sobriety:

1. I have a life-threatening problem that once had me.

2. Negative thoughts destroy only myself.

3. Happiness is a habit I will develop.

4. Problems bother me only to the degree I permit them to.

5. I am what I think.

6. Life can be ordinary or it can be great.

7. Love can change the course of my world.

8. The fundamental object of life is emotional and spiritual growth.

9. The past is gone forever.

10. All love given returns.

11. Enthusiasm is my daily exercise.

12. I am a competent woman and have much to give life.

13. I am responsible for myself and for my actions.

I made it to No. 10, and had been considering all the ways I cut myself off from others while drinking and even while sober, thinking of the positive changes I needed to make and was responsible for making in my life, and thinking too of the benefits I would reap if I made these changes…  I was deep in the spiritual, loving place–feeling strong and serene, surfeited with a kind of plenitude…

Thump, crash, scrape, thump, thump thump thump.

What the f**k!?  What is the damned kid doing up at $%^&**£ 7:15 a.m. on a $%”**& Saturday for?!  Damnit!  I can’t even freakin’ meditate for 15 damned minutes!

Annnnd… this is when I realized that I have not reached the calm, serene, loving place–that, in short, I am not (yet) a spiritual person.

Chagrined, I went upstairs and made the 10 year old one of her favorite breakfasts–just a fancy toast PB&J with bananas in it and milk.  For kicks, I used my D&D 12-sided die (and yes, I play D&D–don’t judge!) to see which meditation I was to think about and “put into practice” throughout the day.  (And yes, I know:  there are 13 meditations, not 12.  But if you can make/find me a 13-sided die, I’ll use it!).  Lucky number 3:  “Happiness is a habit I will develop.”  Ha!  Wasn’t too happy when interrupted in my spiritual exercises, now, was I?

But I appreciate the phrasing here, because it suits a heretic like myself.  Call it what you will:  serenity, happiness, a relaxed/positive state of mind, a feeling of openness and acceptance about the people and things around me…  It just doesn’t come “naturally” to me.  It’s not like I fight it, but I’ve always operated under the assumption that happiness was something that “just comes” to you.  After all, isn’t manufactured happiness a sort of artificial substitute for the real thing? –and wouldn’t there always be a part of you that KNEW if was manufactured?  –a painful, hypocritical awareness of one’s own pathetic self-delusion?

“Not so,” saith Jean Kirkpatrick, founder of Women for Sobriety–who was not so much a PhD-carrying alcoholic crusader for addicted women, but a freakin’ SAINT.  “Happiness is created, not waited for,” says St. Jean.  Part of the modern pathology of addiction, I think, is the consequence of seeing the addict as Other, as a fundamentally “broken” human who does not share the “natural” tendencies and experiences of the unaddicted.  Add to this the undeniable medical research which has proven that addicts (particularly alcoholics) are almost always genetically/biologically predisposed to their disease, and you wind up with the image of a very shattered Humpty Dumpty whose horses and king’s men won’t ever quite plaster Humpty back together.  Oh, we’ll do a good simulacrum, but we all see the cracks.

But St. Jean’s unadulterated, unqualified statement, “Happiness is created, not waited for,” deconstructs the binary between the addict and the unaddicted person.  She doesn’t say, “For the alcoholic woman, happiness is created;” she just says it.  I can’t express how freeing that it is.  After all, if alcoholism “runs in the family,” if I’m just a broken version of a “real” person, then maybe my access to happiness is equally flawed and broken.  Maybe I’ll never have the unconscious joy of just “experiencing” happiness–something that, because I’m so damaged, I will always have to work for, rather than just HAVE.  “No, no,” says St. Jean.  “You are not Eve atoning for sins.   EVERYONE has to toil the earth for happiness, not just you, kiddo!  So get over yourself and do your darn meditations.”

Okay, so I’m not so good at meditating… yet.  Maybe I never will be.  But I feel better for having tried.  Thank you, St. Jean.  For now, sister, you can be my Higher Power!

  1. Hayley says:

    I just found your blog & I love this entry. ‘Happiness is created not waited for’ is going to become a daily affirmation for me, I think it’s one that’ll work. Thanks for sharing & I hope to read more of your work, also thanks for the nod towards Jean Kirkpatrick I will check her out.

  2. soberfornow says:

    Do check out St. Jean. And thanks for reading and help keeping me sober!

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