“We’re all recovering from something,” --Dave Brisbin. And that something is the same thing.
Walt Whitman wrote:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
The interpretation of this eloquent prose is that we all experience a dream from which we must awake. The alternative is a never-ending state of disappointment and pain.
This dream state is filled with illusions that stem from fear. Fear manifests as worry, anxiety, anger, self- deprecation, depression and the list goes on. We treat or numb these fears by reaching out for alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, relationships, pornography, and other outside things to quell the fear. And for co-dependents it is a never ending search for control of outcomes. And it’s never enough.
Our human condition is all that is required for recovery. Our human condition is the thing. Part of the illusionary dream looks outside of ourselves and compares. This comparison leads us to feelings of sorrow for those dealt the hand of alcoholism or drug addiction. The irony is that our own denial of our need for recovery keeps us in the same illusion that imprisons those we would pity. Or there are some that deplore the human condition and seek to rid themselves of their own or rid themselves of others. We only need look to yesterday or last week to be reminded of those who have dreamed hatred and superiority and sought to erase others from the human experience.
Whitman further states, “Heaven lies about us in our infancy! Shades of the prison-house begin to close, upon growing Boy.”
I have witnessed the prison-house closing in on the growing boy within myself and within my family. My husband, Mark, and I married on June 27, 2003 and adopted my 12 year old nephew, Shawn, on July 16, 2003. Shawn was the all American, blond hair, blue eyes, charming boy. He walked into the room and his eyes would dance as he embraced each person he met with his love and charisma.
Here’s the thing. As the dark of night would settle in, so would Shawn’s internal hell. Each night as he would try to sleep, he would be awakened by night terrors from his past.
The first months would find him sleeping next to our bed where he would try to work through the dreams that plagued him. We sought multiple counseling solutions. His nightmares began to follow him into the daylight. He soon returned to his deviant behavior, including drug and alcohol abuse.
The next 6 years were spent trying to find solace for all of us.
To add to this chaos I experienced, my husband Mark admitted that he was an alcoholic 3 years into our journey with Shawn. I vacillated between anger and desperation most days.
On my best days I was desperate to help them find a solution and on most days I was angry that they lacked the willpower to get it together and contribute. My own addiction of attracting and saving the wounded was in full play. And I was either pitied or applauded for holding it all together.
Our other 9 children were in various stages of life and all caught in the vortex of light and darkness simultaneously. At times the black hole we lived in did create stars that were flung out only to return to the abyss.
The growing child in all of us was imprisoned. In recovery circles it is often spoken that addicts experience moments of clarity and if enough moments are put together over a period of time then recovery is possible. We all clung to the moments of sanity as a fearful child clutches a parent in a thunderstorm. However, the moments were allusive and illusory. It was easy to blame and judge Mark and Shawn for the chaos and imprisonment I felt.
On April 1, 2008 I went to my first al-anon meeting and I heard people verbalizing the thoughts that kept racing inside of my head. After 7 years of daily self-exploration, I started to believe that while I may not have created the entire play, I signed up for the cast. And the prison I was living in was due to my forgetting. And that is my recovery journey. As I showed up for my meetings 3 and 4 times weekly, I began to recover from my sleeping. As Whitman says,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
I was 3 or 4 years old when I woke up and was confused to my surroundings. I have since witnessed other children whom I believe are having similar experiences. A waking up to the illusions they will create. The further we journey from where we came, we have a tendency to forget our soul’s state and replace it with illusions of earthly distractions and attachments. When we look back we have given meaning to things that don’t matter and minimized that which would more nourish our spirit. This is the condition from which we all have an opportunity to recover.
As we travel, we are attended by earthly and spiritual beings who gently offer our awakening, our return, our recovery. As sun bathes and caresses on the first day of summer, so the light enfolds us when we begin to experience the return of our vision to our soul’s purpose. Through daily remembering and the collection of moments of clarity, the illusions “fade into the light of day.” Although our path is never linear, our earthly journey continues and eventually leads us back to our “east”. Along the way, we slowly recover, we slowly remember.
In June, 2008 I spent a week at the Betty Ford Clinic. I was privileged to sit among some of the most brilliant, compassionate, and well educated minds who had given their professional lives to the work of recovery. In their week long programs, family members are taught about addiction and given suggestions for healing. Mark had just returned from a 60 day treatment program for alcoholism. Shawn had returned home in February after another year long stay in a treatment program. While I was at Betty Ford one of my daughters called because Shawn was having a rave in our home.
On Father’s Day 2008, I met with Shawn and Mark and extended apologies for my lack of understanding around addiction and asked if we could begin a new journey as a recovery family. Mark agreed, but Shawn stated that he wasn’t ready. Shawn moved out the following day. I saw him 3 more times and spoke with him for the last time on July 31, 2008. On August 1, 2008 he became one of the statistics of those who lose their lives to addiction. The circumstances are not important. What is important is that despite the sorrow, we know that Shawn has reconnected to more light and is working through his soul’s unifying, redemptive process.
Shawn’s life, not his death is the reason I have chosen to make recovery and remembering the light and love that we are my life’s work. I often say that Shawn and Mark had the tougher road. Their physical addictions showed me my spiritual amnesia. They reminded me to embrace the journey of remembering where I came from. That is all I need to do. I simply need to keep remembering where I came from to lead a fulfilled, enriched life.
One of the other blessings that came out of our family’s recovery journey is meeting Sooz Adamson. She was a veteran with a strong spiritual program. She loved recovery. She was confused by those who would not embrace their spiritual birthright. We became dear friends and would discuss our dreams and awakenings. She helped my husband and me through multiple relapses and recoveries.
I had dedicated my studies to 12 step work, Dave Brisbin, Merton, Brother Lawrence, the Bible, Brennan Manning, to name a few. Over time, I began to receive messages around love and light. I met with my mentor to see how I could incorporate spirit into my business consulting in a more overt way and was discouraged to do so.
His advice did not feel good so I developed a spirit based business consulting model around “What’s your next light move?” Sooz was intrigued and told me to look into A Course in Miracles. She said that I talked the same way as the authors and she thought I would like to know other light travelers.
Around June 2013 I was leaving a client’s office and noticed 3 blue, hard cover books, in his book exchange area. They were the text, workbook and teacher’s manual for A Course in Miracles. My husband and I began to read them. Although much of the language was hard to understand we decided to incorporate the exercises in our lives.
I meet executives of small and large corporations. I meet husbands and wives who have dedicated their lives to creating safe havens for their growing children. I meet students of all ages who want to make sure they make the “right” choice for their future. So much anxiety. So much desperation. So much fear. The message is simple. We are all the same. We have all fallen asleep in this dream called earth life. The opportunity for recovery is simple. We can commit ourselves daily, moment by moment to remembering our soul’s true journey. We simply need to remember.
* I dedicate this blog to Dave Brisbin, author of the Fifth Way, who coined this phrase that has become an important tenet of our beliefs.