If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. 1) We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
2) We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. 3) We will comprehend the word serenity and 4) we will know peace. 5) No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. 6) That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. 7) We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. 8) Self-seeking will slip away. 9) Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. 10) Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. 11) We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. 12) We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Too often, people take the 9th step promises out of context, calling them the “AA promises” and ignoring the condition that precedes them. The “phase of our development” that requires we be “painstaking” is amends — Steps 8 and 9. As I’ve written elsewhere, sloppy amends are worse than no amends at all. By sloppy I mean done too soon, before we’ve really had a psychic change, which can lead to all sorts of blunders, including revealing harms unknown to the victim: “I slept with your partner; I never really liked you; I told so-and-so you were a liar.” No, no, no! That’s why we go through Step 8 with a sponsor, to figure out what will set things right for the recipient rather than cause new pain.
Anyway, the reason the Big Book authors placed the promises after Steps 8 & 9 is that to seek out the sheer awkwardness, humble pie, and admission of wrong-doing entailed in these two steps is something no ego-driven person would do — especially not hardcore bridge-burners like active and dry alcoholics. “Did I wrong that person? Fuck that, they wronged me!” This was the pre-steps attitude that produced more and more people to avoid and more thoughts to shove to the back in our minds, with drinking needed to mute them.
By contrast, after a psychic change, we’re trying to live by what’s right and good or, in other words, to show up as god and our own spirits would have us be. I remember several instances of sitting in my car cramming from my 8th step notes before I stepped off what felt like the roof of a skyscraper to meet people I’d wronged. I did so because I trusted god. And in each case, I walked on air: I calmly spoke the truth, and recipients warmly forgave me.
Many years have passed since I completed my amends, but I continue to live in the frame of mind that supported them. As a result, I get to live IN the 9th step promises! Freedom and happiness, for starters, characterize my sober life. Sick voices still sound off in my head, but they project poorly, and I’ve learned to roll my eyes at them. I focus instead on what I want to do with my life — with this one-time amazing journey of living in the world.
For example, I love climbing mountains. In July, friends and I made a bid for the summit of 14,411′ Mount Rainier – the most prominent peak in the contiguous US and 5th highest. We started too late (midnight) and had to wait repeatedly for the teams ahead of us to pass through areas where they’d trigger rockfall on us, then wait again when a ladder laid over a crevasse partially collapsed, so a number of my teammates got hypothermic and we had to turn back. Even so, it was a huge, gorgeous, thrilling experience — the kind of adventure I used to fantasize about while drinking.
Despite having lost some of my left lung to radiation for breast cancer, I power-breathed to 13, 200′; and despite acrophobia and balance issues, I walked over boards laid on a ladder across a deep crevasse — not to mention daring this stuff at 59. We will try again next year, having learned from our mistakes.
And yet… and yet… during the exhaustion that overtook me on the long descent to base camp, a voice started up in my head: “No one likes you. You’re an annoyance to everyone. Everything you say is trite and boring so everyone wishes you’d just shut the hell up.” Freedom was the insight that my alcoholism, which survives in my mind, was taking advantage of my fatigue to get some good punches in. Freedom was replying to that voice, “You’ve been saying that since middle school. Fuck off.” Then I deliberately bellowed some dumb jokes most people couldn’t even hear (because we were still on ropes and too far apart), just to piss off the voice.
Last week, I hiked 82 miles with my friend Sally, retracing only the best parts of the 127-mile hike I soloed last year. This experience outshone any fantasy joy, because love for god’s beauty in the mountains absolutely saturated my consciousness for days.
And yet… and yet… addiction was with me. I’d needed a tooth extraction the day before we were to leave for this trip and, at the oral surgeon’s insistence, delayed a day for healing, then brought along antibiotics in case of infection and 12 Vicodin in case the socket clot came out or some other intense pain developed. As it turned out, the socket felt fine, healing gradually. But my knee did not. One night I couldn’t sleep for the knee pain, and sharing my tent was the Vicodin. “Take it!” said my addict. “You have pain — a perfect justification — so cross Go and collect $200!” I responded, “That Vicodin is for unendurable nerve pain, not some nagging knee pain that keeps me awake.” “Whatever!” said my addict. “It’s for pain! It’s right there – no more pain! Much-needed sleep! Just take it!”
Midnight, 1:00 a.m., 2:00 a.m. passed by. I don’t remember praying, but what came to me were the words of my dear friend Rob: “Yah know, if I’d of known what I would become after a few Vicodin, I’d a shoved them up my doctor’s ass!!” Rob, originally a purebred alcoholic, got hooked on opiates as a result of a prescription and died from overdose in 2016. He seemed to remind me that my own sobriety, despite its 24.5 year length, was equally fragile. With the help of Rob’s memory and several more ibuprofen, I eventually fell asleep. The next night, I asked Sally to keep the pills in her tent.
Really, the principles that free me to live the life I love are the same ones that carried me through my amends: love, humility, and faith. That’s why realizing the promises is contingent on a “painstaking” completion of those steps.
I made this video of our hike. If this ain’t living happy, joyous, and free, I don’t know what is!
Tag Archives: Alcoholism
Hi guys –
A new-to-sobriety friend suggested I try making a vlog (video blog) – so I recorded this. Don’t worry, I won’t stop writing regular blogs! This video is intended for people who are shy of attending an AA meeting, to demystify what happens and what is spoken of there.
Let me know what you think!
The book I read from is Alcoholics Anonymous. https://www.aa.org/pages/en_us/alcoholics-anonymous
A directory of AA meetings can be found here:
Online meetings can (I think?) be accessed here – though I do believe they are a make-do substitute for (i.e. not as good as) F2F meetings.
Each year as my AA birthday approaches, I like to take a look back to see how far I’ve come. I’ll be turning 24 years sober this January, and I would not trade my beautiful life for anything.
Twenty-four years ago, I believed life without drinking would be horrifically boring, like eating only brussel sprouts forever. Relaxation would be gone, so I’d feel anxious and stressed out nonstop. Socializing sober would be such an ordeal, I’d probably just isolate. How could I play without ease and comfort?
I secretly longed to drink like other people — people who bantered in fashionable hangouts, hogging all the fun and glamour. I felt I had a disability, this inability to stop drinking once I got started.
In those days, I was literally incapable of imagining how it now feels to be me. Today the space in my mind and heart is soooo cozy, I feel like at any point in my day, I could pull into it like a tortoise and maybe take a nap — just me and that warm inner sunlight of my god. I almost feel tempted sometimes when I’m riding my bike to work and waiting for a traffic light to change. There’s my outer body dressed in rain gear, there’s the incredibly complicated world going on around me, and then there’s this flawlessly inviting inner sunporch to recline in, just closing my eyes and saying, “Yo, god. Thanks for everything. I can’t tell you how much I love you.”
I don’t cause I’d get run over. I also don’t want to piss off people around me, not cause I fear them but because I want to radiate kindness in all things I do. I love strangers — even the rude ones. Life is a gorgeous jigsaw puzzle we’re all piecing together with earnest effort, frustrated at times, all wishing we had the dang puzzle box illustration to help us know what goes where.
The space for my inner sunporch was originally cleared by working AA’s 12 steps. Before that it was packed with garbage — false mental and emotional beliefs I clung to like some kind of packrat. Psychotic hoarders can’t throw away a used Kleenex; I couldn’t throw away my resentments, the countless personality variations I’d hoped would make you like me, or the dusty gilt trophies — academic, professional, and romantic — I’d won over the years that I thought comprised my worth.
“Cleaning house” by working steps with a sponsor is the closest thing I know to hiring a spiritual declutter expert: “God, what should I keep? What should I throw out?” If you have an insightful sponsor and an open heart, you’ll end up with only a few key insights.
It’s true, for instance, that most people don’t base their decisions on what would be best for you. And that is okay. What?! It is?! This was earth-shattering news when my sponsor first put it to me.
It is also true that people we’ve held in resentment were doing the best they could with the level of insight they had. If they could have shown up as a good parent, partner, or companion — that is, if they’d understood that love matters most — they would have. We can’t expect them to live by wisdom they just don’t have, just as we can’t shop at the hardware store for bread.
Space opens up when you LET OTHER PEOPLE GO: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” That whole tangle of shoulds and owes me and needs to learn gets carted off to Goodwill.
Now you can shift the focus to YOU, not as a successful manipulator or foiled victim of others, but as the only person on this planet responsible for making a beautiful thing of your life.
Not what your parents thought would be beautiful. Not what media and marketing pretend is beautiful. Beautiful to you.
Lucky you — you’ve already been assigned an amazing, ingenious collaborator, one who works for nothing, who believes in you with a love beyond anything you can imagine, and who has the power to fuel whatever you’re courageous enough to pursue: god.
Dass right! That same energy in the growing grass, the pounding waves, and the mating chipmunks. That force behind your heart going live, live, live and the busyness in your every cell to make it happen. God is living you; god is wanting you to generate more you-ness, more love, more good. Your smile is beautiful. Your sincerity is a jewel. Your kindness is a spark of the divine.
Sober, I feel my feelings instead of numbing them. I remember the last time (of many) when life pulled the rug out from under me so I fell flat on my face. Three and a half years ago, my heart was broken by an intimate betrayal — a betrayal so outrageous I felt like an idiot for having been suckered. Hurt and ashamed, I felt too stupid to ever trust my heart again. About halfway through a 70-mile hike in the mountains, somehow the full pain of it hit me; I set up my tent at noon, lay down in it, and just cried for three hours. Three more hours I alternated between semi-comatosely watching the foiled skeeters on my tent’s netting and spurts of crying. Then I wrote in my journal.
By the next morning, I’d founded a new enterprise with god. We called it “Louisa’s Little Life” because alliteration rocks. We — that is, god and I — had the basics nailed down. We’d go for nothing grandiose. The plan was to notice and love; notice and love — just that and put one foot in front of the other. I promised to listen, and god promised to lead. I promised to trust and try, and god promised to help me grow. In fact, god promised me peace and joy and a deeper knowledge of who I am — all the flowers that now brighten my inviting secret sunporch, because god and I grew them.
If any of these ideas help you, by all means steal them, but remember: thinking about the steps is not the same thing as working them! It’s an inside job, but we can’t do it alone.
Dying was particularly difficult for my dad. He’d lived a wonderful outward life — excelling in his career, mentoring others, and serving his family — yet he was tortured by one huge regret: He’d never been deep-down honest with himself. For over 50 years, he’d believed his own lies around how much he drank — although, strictly speaking, they weren’t his lies. They were the lies alcoholism tells every alcoholic.
I’m an Near Death Experiencer, and as an aftereffect, I occasionally read minds without trying. For two days and one night while my father lay dying, I “heard” his thoughts and dreamed his struggles. He couldn’t speak, but, sensing he was on his deathbed, he saw the truth: “Deep down I knew! Every day I thought, tomorrow I’ll drink less, but every tomorrow I drank away again. Life was so vivid and precious, but I muffled mine under a shroud of alcohol. And now it’s over!”
Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease [that]… is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.
Note that this definition says nothing about joblessness or homelessness, the form of alcohol used (Cabernet, Colt 45, everclear), or being a white male. Alcoholics are everywhere. Note also that the definition calls out the most important of many distortions in thinking: denial.
Why? Because denial is the superpower that lets alcoholism kick our asses! If it lacked this power, no one would need a spiritual solution to overcome it. We’d just say, “Shit! I’ve got alcoholism!” and go seek treatment as for any other illness. But addiction in many ways resembles a parasite concealing itself from the host; it makes us say: “I’m not an alcoholic; I just [fill in the blank].”
I said it. You’ve said it. We all say it.
Below are some of alcoholism’s favorite variations on “not an alcoholic!” BTW, I thought about making nice in my responses, but I’m writing this to save some lives, not to make friends.
1. I drink a lot because I’m daring
Bullshit. You drink because you’re scared. Life in its full intensity overwhelms the shit out of you, so you impair your brain. Wow! Ain’t you awesome, swallowing and shit! I’m so impressed! The truth is that deep down you have no clue how to live or what the hell you’re doing, but you pretend to have it all down until you just can’t stand the façade any more. Getting fucked up is way less scary than looking inward.
2. Drinking helps me live life to the fullest
Totally! No way do you do the same 3 predictable things every frickin’ time you’re bombed: Talk sloppier, emote with a toddler’s self-insight, and decide stupid shit is a great idea. This is crap any dipshit can do. Living life to the fullest takes love — enough love to dedicate yourself to something bigger than you.
3. I’m more fun when I drink
Those with good humor and a zest for life are fun clear-headed. Those who lack both imagine they’re fun drunk. Fun for others? Ask ’em. The sad thing is, if you’ve got to grease your brain with dopamine to lower your inhibitions, chances you’re battling an inner voice that constantly announces you suck. Until you find the courage to get vulnerable, to risk exposing your fears and weaknesses to trusted others, you’ll never know what it’s like to feel loved for your real self.
4. I choose to drink — it’s not a compulsion
Of course you do! Just, uh… kind of always and, um… soon after deciding NOT to. But, shit, you just changed your mind — right? Wank on, my friend. As Gabor Maté has explained, addiction bypasses the decision-making part of the brain (frontal lobe) by exploiting the “pre-approved idea” feature that governs reflexes. As sure as you’ll put up your hands to deflect a ball, you’ll “decide” a drink is — hey, y’know what? — a great idea! Your brain is alcoholism’s bitch!
5. Drinking doesn’t fuck up my brain/body
Bad news! Alcohol is a neurotoxin, poison to every system in the body, and causes cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon, and pooper. Anything it touches, baby, directly or through your blood! Please see How Alcoholism Fucks Up Your Brain and How Alcohol Fucks Up Your Body for specifics.
6. Most people drink a few times a week
Sorry, Boo-boo. Turns out 30% of Americans have zero drinks ever. The next 30% have fewer than one per week. The next 30% cap off “healthy drinking” at 1-15 per week. But I’m betting you relate more to that 10% of Americans who guzzle 73.85 drinks per week — in other words, to the 1 in 10 of us addicted to alcohol who will likely die sooner because of it.
7. My drinking harms no one
If you’re connected to anyone in any way, your drinking hurts them. Driving, you risk others’ lives and the happiness of all their loved ones; hungover at work, you’re less effective and/or risk your coworkers’ safety; to anyone who loves you, you’re emotionally dulled; and to your maker, you say, “This amazing brain and body that let me be conscious in the physical world –? I’m gonna shit all over ’em — again! ”
8. I’m not an alcoholic because I haven’t lost ____
Just keep drinking and watch. And meanwhile, does it not matter that you’re losing your self respect, the respect of others, and the chance to be fully awake in your own life? (Parallels “I’m not as bad as [name].”)
9. People who don’t drink are uptight
I don’t know about lifelong teetotalers, but I do know recovering alcoholic/addicts who really work their program are the most genuine, honest, funny, beautiful human beings I’ve ever had the privilege to call my posse. We’ve all been to hell and back. We came to AA because we realized we wanted to love life, not trash it; the 12 steps — a design for living — taught us how.
10. Anyway, in my deepest heart of hearts, I carry no lurking suspicion that I am totally full of shit
Great! I’m sure nobody else does, either! I mean, nobody has noticed the pattern of you poisoning yourself regularly, whether sullenly in front of the TV or “partying” as if you were 17. And if they have, fuck them, right? It’s your life to waste wasted.
Addiction kills us by getting us to live from our ego rather than our spirit, or higher self. Ego is about getting what we think we want as soon as possible, even if it means violating every life lesson that pain has ever tried to teach us and trampling dogshit on the hearts of our loved ones.
For years I believed I’d rather die than go to AA. Turns out I was already dying. Working the 12 steps from Alcoholics Anonymous with an inspiring sponsor taught me how to live — authentically and with a joy that endures. Today, I know my dad’s spirit is proud of me. His love helped me go where he couldn’t.
And if I could do it, you can, too.
* “Alcohol Use Disorder” is the term appearing in the DSM-V.
a archaic: a scar left by a hot iron : brand
b: a mark of shame or discredit : stain ex: bore the stigma of cowardice
c: an identifying mark or characteristic; specifically : a diagnostic sign of a disease
I remember the fear in my throat when I first spoke the words, “I’m Louisa, and I’m an alcoholic.” Sitting in my third AA meeting, I felt like I’d been fleeing those words all my life, and now they rang out in the room like the gates of hell clanging shut behind me.
Twenty-three years later, I’m happy to tell the world, “Yeh-yah, baybee! I’m a full-on alcoholic — and thank god! Cause otherwise, I’d have missed out on the whole point of life!”
Do I sound looney? Maybe a tad. But I’m joyfully looney, and that’s a mighty bright candle to try and shit on.
My sober life is rich with AA friends who have each, through touching life’s deepest and loneliest pain, struck the bedrock of their own will to live, so that we can now meet each other’s gaze without pretense.
Mind you, I foresaw none of this when I first spoke those dreaded words. Nobody wants to join AA. Nobody identifies with that bunch of self-blaming, drink-obsessed sots who fart around in church basements. Obviously, AA as Hollywood and society at large envision it is about as cheery as a medieval dungeon.
But that’s far from the truth of AA as I’ve come to know and love it. Below are a few photos from some of the AA meetings/gatherings I’ve been part of in the past three years.
In a sense, all of these images are sacred to me, because I remember how we were all sober together at these meetings despite a disease that wants to kill us — or at least ruin our lives. At times we share tears. Most often, they’re tears of gratitude for having been blessed in ways we can’t believe we deserve. We still lag on our fourth steps or slip into familiar character defects, but each in her or his own way is pursuing is an ever-stronger connection to the Good.
Yep. Higher power, flow of the universe, life, love, god:the word doesn’t matter. What matters is that we’ve all nearly killed ourselves solo, and now we’re all intent on seeking help from [god] and each other to experience real life to the fullest.
Nevertheless, AA stigma persists. Despite the millions of lives transformed through AA, many people still dismiss it as contemptible. For instance, I recently came across a video from a lifecoach offering a program for “people who just want to stop overdrinking.” These are “good people,” as opposed to those who “claim that they have a disease or that they’re an alcoholic or that they want to go to meetings.” Having lost her father and brother to addiction despite the fact that each attended meetings, this coach seems to loathe AA. She recalls her “overdrinking… waking me up in the middle of the night [and] affecting how foggy I was feeling during the day and… creating a lot of cravings… to drink earlier and earlier in the day.” Yet, she affirms, “I had no interest in becoming an alcoholic or calling myself an alcoholic. I had no interest in recovery…. I did not see that as the solution to my very mild struggle.”
“Very mild struggle”~!
I’m sorry, but that’s friggin’ hilarious! What a coincidence! I, too, had a “very mild struggle” — for about 14 years!
Ego’s Game: the Stigma of Recovery
There’s a good reason why this lifecoach, Hollywood, and most people indoctrinated with popular culture regard AA with such distaste.
When Bill and Bob, AA’s founders, first met in 1935 and, talking for hours and days, hammered out the fundamentals of the 12 steps, they hit upon two little ideas that engendered the defeat of this previously invincible disease.
1) A god-connection blocks alcoholism.
2) Ego blocks god-connection.
That’s all there is to AA, really.
Here’s the whole damn program. SEEK GOD; DEFLATE EGO; SEEK GOD some more; DEFLATE EGO some more…
We need these processes broken down into 12 Steps and shared in a community because A) connection to god can be so elusive at the start, and B) ego is a wily, cunning, and stealthy tyrant that does not want to be deflated.
Of course it doesn’t! It’s fucking EGO.
The problem for most people, including our “very mildly struggling” lifecoach, is a lack of distinction between ego and self-worth. Ego is mistaken for self-worth by the vast majority of Americans (as epitomized by our arrogant Cheeto in Chief). In fact, however, the two are diametrically opposed.
Ego separates us from others, relegating them to an onlooker/competitor role at best. We believe our full experience of consciousness to be unique. Our thoughts and experiences — whether positive, negative, or just weird — are somehow more intense and complex than those of “ordinary people.” Ego tells me…
I’m doing it right.
and yet I know that in reality I bumble, get confused, hurt, and lost. Sometimes I fuck up. So… ego sweeps all that under the rug. It insists…
If I’m vulnerable, I’m weak.
If I’m humble, I’m less than.
If I’m only human, I’m nobody.
Self-worth, on the other hand, grows from connection and compassion. I understand that my human experience is little different from yours. I get that we’re in this together. I feel for you, and I trust that you feel for me. Trust emboldens me to tear off my mask and be vulnerable, honest, and fully human — flaws and all. I’m just me, but maybe I can help you.
Today, everything I love about myself, I hold to be a gift from god — not a feat of my own making. God is generating my mind, my body, my love, my courage, these words — every second I live. I am god — its flower, its child.
AA stigma is imposed out of fear. It’s a defense mounted by those fiercely loyal to the tyrant who imprisons their spirit. Let’s pray for them — for all sentient beings — to be free.
True loneliness as a state of mind entails a lot more than just wanting company. It’s a feeling of emptiness, a soul ache with its roots in lack, in longing. Loneliness casts a dissatisfied pallor over solitude, punches a gaping hole in tranquility, sucking all subtle beauties and gratitude from the moment because none of it is as it should be. Loneliness makes us victims.
When I gaze directly into my own loneliness, I find it to be a soup of emotions. As with any soup, the flavor can vary from batch to batch, episode to episode, but the same basic ingredients are almost always present. [Caution: all these ingredients are downers 😥 ]
- Self pity — poor me that I am alone
- Jealousy — unfair that others aren’t alone
- Rejection — fun people don’t like me
- Self-loathing — because I pretty much suck
- Ambition — I could be/have a ton of fun if I had a chance
- Frustration — life’s not supposed to be like this
- Pain — I am unloved
- Hopelessness — I will never be loved
- Despair — I’m unworthy
Did I just nail that shit, or what?
The antithesis of loneliness is love and belonging. When I’m surrounded by friends I love, I see in each person (or animal) a unique spirit in action — the tone or frequency of that person’s way. I can glimpse their goodness, their core beauty, their irreplaceableness in this world.
And I have faith that they see me to some degree
in that same light, so I don’t hide. I may get a little over-the-top with excitement, sometimes at my homegroup, or when I have people over, or if we’re climbing some insanely tough mountain. I kinda cop a high on love, on sharing life. But when I do, I know my friends will love me for being so Louisaish, just as I love them.
That trust — the exchange of love — sparks a joy that’s among the truest gems of being alive.
I drank to vanquish loneliness. So did you, so do millions. For me, if I was lonesome, alcohol worked on several levels. One was by buffing up my who-gives-a-shit? tough guy. Another was by swelling my ego, which I used to consider the ultimate Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. I could slosh myself into feeling I was hella cool to hang out with and maybe just a tad too cool for anyone else to fully get.
Other people living normal, wholesome lives — fuck ’em! I was an artist. I was a writer. All the cool ones lived tortured lives, right? Lookit Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway. Lookit Van Gogh, who shot himself in the stomach but then could’t find the gun in the damn wheat field where he’d been painting. What did they all have the balls to see? That life sucks and then you die, bitches! I, too, had the balls to face that and to live… (let me just light up, here) … with a rebel spark.
Then I’d swig some more booze and crank up my music, hating on all those healthy, normal, Friends-type people, and think about some depressing story I wanted to write or brilliant painting I was gonna start pretty soon, but do neither, until I blacked out.
Other options include eating compulsively, binge-watching TV/movies, fixating on social media, working, cleaning, or wanking obsessively, online shopping/gambling yourself broke, or just sucking the life out of whatever loyal victim you can secure.
So what’s different now that I’m almost 23 years sober? Everything. Sober, I’ve lived through just about every feeling to come down the pike. And in meeting them repeatedly, I’ve come to befriend some and recognize others as grifters. I’m not so easily taken in as I once was: “Hey, self-pity! How you been? No, I’m sorry, you can’t stay here…”
When loneliness visits today, I move toward humanity instead of away from it. I remind myself that I’m human, that no experience is mine alone; it’s yours, too. Deep loneliness is well-known to that nondescript person walking down the sidewalk, and to the people up in that plane crossing the sky.
On a physical level, we’re made the same way, our inner experiences resulting from the same incredibly intricate systems. Our brains associate stimuli with memories, and the neurotransmitters so activated release showers of peptides that “swim” throughout the entire body, interacting with every cell to produce profound changes in cell structure and behavior. Feelings flavor our perception, and we all share the same spice rack.
On a spiritual level, we are all one. This fundamental truth is brought back time and time again by Near Death Experiencers who make contact with divine wisdom. We are made of life-stuff, an energy that flows through all living things, whose purest form is love, constantly circulating within and among us. None are unique or separate — neither in our specific feelings nor in our consciousness in general.
For example, take my specific feeling of last night. As I drove home alone from Mom’s house Christmas Eve, snow swirled in streetlights’ illumination while The Nutcracker played on KING FM, short pieces to which I used to prance about as a little girl excited to become someone. The familiar flow of those notes, the car’s gliding on fresh snow, the night’s open space swimming with motion — all of these suffused me with intense feeling.
And I thought, we feel this! That’s why we’ve held onto The Nutcracker all these years, why we love these melodies of Arabia, Russia, and others woven through. It’s why we make a big deal of fresh snow, why we paint and sing about this stuff — because we love life, and we love it in these trappings! Every culture is like a huge family that has passed down to its children what it most prizes. This is mine.
Loneliness is, ironically, our Humanity ID card, because it’s downright difficult to exist as a tiny shard of god sealed off in a physical body, separated from our source, from love’s unity. Loneliness develops when the flow of life/love energy through and among us is stymied, whether by fear, ego, or resentment.
All the world’s ills stem from this illusion of separation — the stuff I used to believe in. Connecting despite the god-phobic shells individuating each of us can be difficult, but connect we must.
Whatever it is you’re longing for, think of someone to whom you could give it. Then take steps to make it so. Loneliness is never about you. You’re just a leaf losing touch with the tree. Reconnect.
Remember what this guy said, because he was right on.
…Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted,
To understand, than to be understood,
To love, than to be loved…
St. Francis Prayer . . .