Spiritual Life Is Not A Theory – Grapevine Web Exclusive By Christy O

Viewing herself through a brand new lens brought her spirituality into sharp focus

Recovery from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body requires we apply the principles learned in Alcoholics Anonymous in every area of our lives. The program has the unprecedented ability to quickly relieve our obsession to drink, should we be willing. In many cases, we are able to get some time under our belts with meetings and service. Life gets pretty darn good. Unfortunately, for many of us the effort we put into our spiritual growth is directly proportional to the amount of pain we are experiencing. When it stops hurting, we stop working. This was my experience and subsequently I relapsed after seven years. Next month, I will have two years back in the rooms. This time everything is different, and it has to be. If I didn’t want to drink again, I had figure out what didn’t work the first time.

Not long ago, I struggled through a bout of crippling depression and subsequent weight gain that have left me quite uncomfortable. Without even realizing it, I turned to all my favorite escapes: shopping, gambling, sleep and food. I was sponsoring women, working with my sponsor and going to meetings, yet my heart felt empty and broken once again. Physically, I was sober. Emotionally, I hit rock bottom.

For the first time in my life, none of my “escapes” brought me any relief or peace. Of course, I’m aware on some level they won’t help me anyway, but I always turn to them, in spite of that knowledge. Unfortunately, even in sobriety, pain is my biggest motivator. I am also incapable of learning from someone else’s mistakes. I’m different, remember? Once again, self-knowledge has proved insufficient.

So, two years sober, I was once again faced with an all to familiar proposal; live a spiritual life or die an alcoholic death? And I wondered: how long are you going to run, Christy? Why not really waive that white flag of surrender? You did “humbly ask” to have all defects of character removed, right? Why would you hold on to anything that takes away the small amount of peace you have and separates you from the beautiful, loving God you created?

Armed with this humbling prospect, I awoke with a new perspective. Why not try getting right spiritually and then see what problems I have left? Those around me tell me frequently how beautiful and blessed I am and I can’t disagree with them. They can’t all be wrong. The great reality of my life is the inability to see things as they really are. Instead, I see them through this broken, fearful and cloudy lens that was created from old ideas I have about myself. As a child, I received the message that I was worthless, ugly and unlovable. This message fundamentally changed how I see the entire world, resulting in all of my decisions being made out of fear and the avoidance of pain. You can’t put a price tag on awareness and when it’s provoked by pain, the result is spiritual growth.

For the first time and with nothing any different, I felt peace—and the only thing that changed was my mind. I had been given the greatest gift I’ve ever received; ironically, I gave it to myself. I discovered that spirituality is all about changing our attitude towards pain. That means we start looking through the pain and choosing to find the beauty that will result from it.

Peace is just on the other side of the willingness to let go and no longer run the show. The truth is that as soon as we allow ourselves to be present and walk through what scares us, we realize it wasn’t even that difficult. Our minds only made it so. The only thing I have control over is how I choose to react to this crazy life. It has been inside me the entire time; I was just never armed with the willingness to look for it. The more we practice, the less painful things become—and that is fantastic news for this relief-seeking missile.

I think I’ll keep coming back.

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