My brother, who is a recovering alcoholic, came to visit recently. It was a great visit. He has seven years of sobriety, and it makes me feel really good to see how much he’s changed his life. We read some passages in AA’s Big Book that had been very meaningful for him, and I found them very valuable for the work I’ve currently been doing in therapy. I got three big learnings.
It’s OK that I’m progressing incrementally, with new knowings coming occasionally. These new knowings are replacements of old beliefs through the operation of some hidden process that brings them back to me, fully formed, and true without a doubt. I see now, after Jack’s visit, that that process is “God as I understand God.”
I realized, through our readings in the Big Book, that my idea of God was corrupted by the image of the patriarchal father, up on his throne, capricious, malicious and willful. Though I “know” better than that, my old knowing was much stronger than any intellectual idea that I tried to replace it by. I realize that the idea that my inner voice could be “God” speaking, was thrown out “prior to investigation”, because it was part of me and therefore “junk.” When I consult that inner voice, it’s kind, compassionate and wise. But I see that I’m still struggling with this. If God is “out there” he is capricious, malicious and willful. If God is “in here” then God is limited to what I know.
The third thing was to be persistent with my praying. I used to give up after a while because it didn’t seem to be working. There are lots of things I have started on and given up when they didn’t bring results. There are also things that I have relentlessly pursued through storm and earthquake. The most important thing is the search for truth. That has forced me to see where I’m wrong. It’s easy for outer knowledge, but harder if it’s about myself. Generally, when someone tells me something good about myself I react with “that can’t possibly be true.” I don’t say those words, but that’s what happens inside. In 2005 I got a letter from my friend Elizabeth. She talked about “your boundless generosity, the breadth of your vision, and depth of your commitment.” I went on to write in my journal “Those are strong, powerful words. Could she really be talking about me? …… There’s a warmth under my heart at the idea that what Elizabeth said might be true. I think I’m still feeling too shaky to be able to claim it.” After almost 11 years of dedicated investigation of this astounding idea, I am truly starting to see that it is true. That took persistence. When Jack first came to tell me about AA, and told me about the prayer about fear — I couldn’t find it in the book, and I remember it as “Please, God, take away my fear and replace it with knowing what your will for me is.” I did use that prayer for quite a while. It didn’t help much and I stopped. Now I see that I need to keep asking that inner wisdom voice to help me with my fear. I’ve been doing that continuously this morning.
The first thing each morning, my brother consults a book of daily readings, and meditates and writes on spiritual matters. When I sat down to write in my journal this morning, I found I was doing the same thing. I just checked in with inner wisdom: You keep telling me I’m doing fine and I’m disappointed because you aren’t giving me a bigger assignment. Inner Wisdom said “You want a bigger assignment than PTSD?” What can I do but laugh.
Another really comforting thing that happened with Jack’s visit was my realization that I really, truly, do want to do the will of god and I’m entirely willing to be directed.
Footnote: the quote “prior to investigation” is from a quote by Herbert Spencer in Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book.” The full quote, which I find very important from my training as a scientist:
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”