According to Dr. Jung, the psychiatrist whose reference to alcoholics being “frustrated mystics” inspired this blog, alcoholics recover when they have spiritual experiences. Page 27 of the Big Book reads, “To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.”
Spiritual experience. Spiritual awakening. Emotional displacement. Are these required for sobriety?
For as long as I can remember, the undercurrent of my life has been this feeling that I AM NOT OKAY. At times, my dis-ease is a whisper in my ear to be on guard, a slight buzzing in my body to stay vigilant against the terrible things that might happen if I don’t pay attention. At other times, my dis-ease is an earth trembling roar that cannot be ignored. Fear inhabits my chest and as the blood courses through my body, it seems to take on a voice that pulsates, “I AM NOT OKAY.” Living with a constant perceived threat is exhausting. No amount of self-knowledge or meditation or yoga or rest ever relieved me of my fear. There was one thing that worked – alcohol. If I drank enough, I got to this place of oblivion where I didn’t feel much of anything. The problem with alcohol is that the effect wears off and life awaits you in the morning where you find yourself sober and petrified. Alcohol was like a giant pause button on fear. Unfortunately, it was also a giant pause button on life, growth, relationships, development. I am so grateful to no longer be in that place.
I believe that I had a difficult time with fear because I didn’t know what the opposite of fear, something I call Peace, felt like. I was so accustomed to being uncomfortable in my own life that I had no concept of what I was striving for. What did change feel like? What was I trying to get to? This is where my spiritual experience comes into play. I feel self-conscious sharing for fear (there it is again) that my story will sound hokey or lame. This 100% happened just the way I describe it and I believe it has been a touchstone for me to keep returning to Peace – a Peace I did not know before this occurred.
Before I got sober in 2006, my lovely Mom took me on a wellness retreat of sorts to help me get straightened out. On this retreat, I had the opportunity to get a Reiki massage.
I walk into a warm room, dimly lit, and introduce myself to the masseuse. She is a strong woman, rather homely, and she instructs me to lie down on the table. I was immediately confused because I was used to taking off my clothes for massages. I remember thinking, “Oh God, this is going to suck. I should have opted for the sports massage – I have so many knots in my neck.” Next, the woman asks my permission to invite spirits that would like to be present to enter the space. Huh? What the f#@k did I sign up for? Not wanting to offend, I give my permission and mentally prepare myself for an hour of bullshit.
What happened in the next hour is something I cannot explain intellectually. The masseuse went around my body, gently placing her hands on me. I felt myself relax. I felt myself let go. I felt feelings bubble up in my chest and move through my throat and out with my breath. Tears pooled in my eyes. I had a brief moment of panic. “What the hell is happening,” I thought. “This is so embarrassing… what if she sees that I’m going to start crying.” Something in the time and space of that moment allowed those thoughts to leave and made room for me to just go with it. I dropped the judgment and let myself be.
I felt myself open up. A light radiated from the place that always feels empty in my chest. From the void, it was like a swirling up of little stars, twinkling and floating within the gentle cyclone shape of a tornado. Peace radiated from a place I had never known peace – my body was usually just a battleground for instincts.
A memory entered my conscious mind. I am a young girl, probably seven years old, and I am swirling around in the front yard in a dress I loved. It was a hand-me-down from my cousins and it had pretty flowers all over it. Lost in the experience of twirling, I hear a buzzing and realize that there is a large bee in my vicinity. I panic. The dress has flowers on it and the bee is going to sting me. Fear vibrates through my body and I run for the safety of my front door. The bee pursues me. I feel it all around me, trying to sting me. I get to the door and in my panicked state I fumble with the screen door and then the front door. I am sure I will be stung. I am sure I will die. I finally get through the door and crumble on the floor in tears.
The me watching this memory understands the child’s fear but doesn’t take it on emotionally. This is where it gets a bit more out there so please bare with me! I have a sense that there are a host of benevolent beings in the space with me and they are communicating with me. Not communicating with me like I am hearing them talk – it’s more of a psychic understanding. They are laughing kindly. They tell me that I am still the child afraid of the bee. They tell me that I do not have to be afraid. They both sent the bee to get me worked up and they are always there to protect me from the bee. Almost like it’s a game or they are teaching me but again, in a very kind manner. I get the overwhelming sense that there is never anything to fear – no matter how scary life appears – because it is all okay. It has always been okay and always will be okay. I am okay. I am always exactly as I am supposed to be at all times in all places and in all conditions. I am love and light and peace. I am complete. I do not feel empty.
And then it is gone. The entire experience was a mere five minutes in the -982895320 minutes I have been alive as I type this. My calculator wouldn’t even calculate what percent of my life that is because it is so close to zero. Yet in that brief occurrence, I had a huge emotional displacement. I experienced a glimmer of something different, a new way to be in the world, a new way to relate to myself. I experienced God. I experienced a Peace that transcends all understanding.
I know that my path toward experiencing this Peace is a path I must walk sober. I still experience fear on a daily basis but I have a counterpoint in Peace. I can turn toward peace. I can bring myself back to peace. I can find relief from obsessing about myself and my fears by bringing myself to the present moment countless times a day and understanding in a profound way that I am okay. All of life’s troubles are merely bees and I am always that perfect creature twirling in life’s light.