We have a spiritual experience in knowing and being touched by something much larger than us, something beyond what we understand, something of mysterious dimensions. It can happen as we stand on the banks of an ageless river, listen to beautiful music, read scripture, or say a prayer with a friend. When we set aside defiance, willfulness, and our demands to subdue whatever we meet, we become receptive to a larger reality. The experience of awe brings out the best in a man because it instills a spirit of respect and gratitude. It inspires humility and expands our minds into realms we can’t express in words
The longer we stay clean, the less surely we “know” what our Higher Power’s will for us is – and the less it matters. Knowledge of our Higher Power’s will becomes less a “knowing” thing and more a “feeling” thing. We still practice the Eleventh Step faithfully. But rather than look for “signs” from our Higher Power, we begin to rely more on our intuition, trusting our feelings about what will make us comfortable. After staying clean a few years, what we do seem to know is when we are acting against God’s will for us. When we are going against God’s will, we get that old uncomfortable feeling in our gut. That queasiness is a warning that, if we continue in this direction, ahead lie many sleepless nights. We need to pay attention to such feelings, for they are often signals that we are acting contrary to our Higher Power’s will for us. We know God’s will most clearly by how it feels, not by “signs” or words – and it feels right.
There are days when some of us wallow in self-pity. It’s easy to do. We may have expectations about how our lives should be in recovery, expectations that aren’t always met. Maybe we’ve tried unsuccessfully to control someone, or we think our circumstances should be different. Perhaps we’ve compared ourselves with other recovering addicts and found ourselves lacking. The more we try to make our life conform to our expectations, the more uncomfortable we feel. Self-pity can arise from living in our expectations instead of in the world as it actually is. When the world doesn’t measure up to our expectations, it’s often our expectations that need adjusting, not the world. We can start by comparing our lives today with the way they used to be, developing gratitude for our recovery. We can extend this exercise in gratitude by counting the good things in our lives, becoming thankful that the world does not conform to our expectations but exceeds them. And if we continue working the Twelve Steps, further cultivating gratitude and acceptance, what we can expect in the future is more growth, more happiness, and more peace of mind
Knowing our loneliness and admitting it to us is the beginning of a spiritual path for many of us. Today we are on a spiritual journey. We already have the means to translate the pain of our loneliness into a deeper spiritual dimension. Most of us in this program came in deeply aware of their feelings of isolation. Now, with the companionship of our Higher Power, we can spend time alone and use it for spiritual growth. As we develop a relationship with ourselves and deepen our knowledge of our Higher Power, our loneliness transforms into solitude. In this quiet moment today, we can be more accepting of ourselves than we were in the past. We admit loneliness has caused us pain, but now we can see that it also can lead us to our deeper self where we find serene solitude. This change is a movement into the spiritual world
At some point in our recovery, we come to the awkward realization that the way we see ourselves is not necessarily the way others do. We are probably neither as bad, as good, as beautiful, or as ugly as we think we are – but we are too close to ourselves to really tell for sure. That’s where our friends in the program come in, caring enough to share with us what they see when they look in our direction. They tell us the good things about ourselves we might not know – and they tell us the hard things, too, that we might not be able to see. We may react defensively to such “help” and, in some cases, justly so. However, even malicious remarks about our supposed shortcomings can shed light on aspects of our recovery that we cannot see ourselves. Wherever a useful insight comes from, for whatever reason it is offered, we cannot afford to discount it. We don’t need to wait for others to spontaneously offer their insight. When we spend time with our sponsor or others we trust, we can make the first move and ask them to tell us what they see about particular areas of our lives to which we are blind. We want a broader vision of our life than just our own; we can have that vision by seeing ourselves through the eyes of others
We are not offered a painless existence, but we are offered opportunities for gathering perspective from the painful moments. And our perspectives are cushioned by the principles of the program. The rough edges of life, the storms that whip our very being, are gifts in disguise. We see life anew, when the storm has subsided. We can enjoy the calm, if that surrounds us today. We deserve the resting periods. They give us a chance to contemplate and make fully our own that which the recent storm brought so forcefully to our attention. We are powerless over the storm’s onslaught. But we can gain from it and be assured that the storm gives all the meaning there is in the calm
Attaching value judgments to our emotional reactions ties us to our old ways of thinking. We can change the way we think about the incidents of everyday life, viewing them as opportunities for growth, not as good or bad. We can search for lessons rather than assigning value. When we do this, we learn something from each day. Our daily Tenth Step is an excellent tool for evaluating the day’s events and learning from both success and failure