A.A., alcohol, alcoholism, believe, church, clean and sober, disease, existential, Faith, Free Will, God, Grace, grief, Holy Spirit, love, mental-health, pain, possessed, prayer, sober, spirituality, withdrawal
(It was five years ago though, that I finally began to get sober)
Near the end of my thirty day probationary period, I was in our weekly required church meeting. My mind was clearer than it ever was — no exaggeration. It was less than two weeks since my 50th birthday, and my mind was clearer than it had ever been in my life. It couldn’t have been just sobriety. I had two periods previously of sobriety of up to a year. Or, perhaps I was never truly “sober.” My mind felt fresh and clean. I felt that if I had ever thought with reason, then this was a return to that which I could not remember. My body, though damaged, felt strong and refreshed. There was however something horribly wrong.
All physical withdrawal from alcohol was gone. Cravings and desires to run out and get drunk were gone. I was standing in a church full of men, wearing my “Sunday Best,” we were singing hymns, and the air practically thrummed with the love of the Holy Spirit. But, there was a spiritual disconnect. My spirit felt no connection to the greater Spirit. And, it HURT! My “being” was cut off from THE Being of the Universe. I knew it was there. I could feel it all around and pressing in on me, but my spirit felt dead and unreceptive.
That, for which I had prayed, had happened. I was dead. It was not physical. It was spiritual. It was not God who did it or even directly allowed it. I did it, by my own damned Free Will.
By my own conscious design, I poured so much alcohol in my body and became so debauched that the alcohol ceased being a mere chemical with which I poisoned myself. It became a power unto itself let loose first to pleasure me, then to torment me, and finally to destroy me. It became a demon in my body and when I removed it physical influence, it still remained entwined with my spirit.
There, standing and singing in that church, I was overcome with pain and grief. The pain was existential. The grief was for the loss of the Spirit of Love. I stopped singing and silently began to pray.
“Dear Lord, I can’t take it. I can’t do this anymore. This is killing me. I can’t do it by myself.” I started to cry. “My God, please remember me! Please dear God, take this thing away from me.”
In that very instant, he did. It wasn’t a weight being lifted. It was a blackness — squirming, greasy, and polluted — that was forcefully ejected from my chest and abdomen. I felt it go.
Here is a lesson: take it well and make it personal. It is possible to be Clean and Sober and still be spiritually possessed with the sickness of addiction. In the truest sense this is not so. But in the sense of the world and counselors and doctors, and A.A., you may live your entire life and never pick up again, and they may pat you on the back and wish you sobriety anniversary greetings. And you may still very very sick in your soul.
Until you let love drive out the sickness you will never be truly free. Call it a “demon” if you wish. It will deaden your spirit whatever you call it. A turd by any other name still smells like shit.
From that moment on, I began to listen for that small voice of the Spirit speaking to my spirit. some people pray all the time. I came to learn that it is every bit as important, if not more so, to listen as it is to talk. I learned how to have a conversation with the Spirit. I did NOT learn to believe. I came to believe stronger than ever at the moment I was cured of my disease, by the power of a love greater than any physical force.
My faith though never completely extinguished was rekindled into a bright flame that grew stronger, brighter, and hotter the more I relied on the voice of Spirit and moved on its instruction. That instruction was and is,
Love. I’ll take care of the rest.
My struggles with following that voice, I’ll get into later. For now, it should be said, that my life from that point on became immensely fuller, more satisfying and joyful. I had no greater purpose at that time than to continue at the Salvation Army and continue to grow in Faith and Grace.
There was a time coming though that I had to leave the Salvation Army and begin a more purposeful and personal walk with the Spirit. Nine months later (human gestation?) I was reminded that the maximum length of tenure was approaching and that I needed to prepare for departure.
Where would I go? What would I do? For the answers to those questions, I consulted the ultimate authority: Love.