I guess I have a soul. We’re told that everyone has one. You must have a soul, too. But I don’t know what one looks like, do you? I wonder if anyone does.
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations lists almost 400 quotes wherein great thinkers, writers, and poets discuss the human soul. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and the Bible take up the matter of the human soul at great length in an effort to describe it, define it, or save it. But none of them ever helped me find mine.
I finally decided my soul was where that empty place was deep within me, that hollow spot that was always craving something to fill it. But nothing could satisfy it. It was a lingering hunger, but for what I never knew. So I decided that if I did indeed have a soul it had a huge hole in it. A hole as big as a hula hoop, I decided. More hole than soul. It was a wounded soul aching to be healed.
I tried to treat my psyche with a psychiatrist. I tried assuaging the spirit in church. But the hole in the soul was always there nagging to be satisfied. Now people try lots of things to fill their empty, wounded souls. I relied on alcohol. And lo and behold! for a fleeting few minutes I felt “filled up.” I enjoyed an acute attack of spiritual comfort, but, alas, it was to endure but briefly. So I poured more alcohol into it. After all, if a little is good, more is better, right? Nothing succeeds like excess for an alcoholic. It seemed reasonable to me. But my soul didn’t like it and the next day the hole in my soul was larger and more anguished than ever as the hangover and floods of guilt set in.
Yes, alcohol has great curative powers–for a moment. It creates the closest thing to a spiritual experience that isn’t. It spins a temporary, elusive, ersatz kind of spirituality for which the ultimate price is despair.
Now this little essay isn’t going to win any Nobel Prize for blazing new trails in theological, philosophical, or psychological theory. It’s just a simple man’s feelings about his own suffering soul and how he found a way to relieve the pain.
Man has been concerned about the condition of his soul since he huddled in a cave. Sacred scribblings on cave walls, masks of witch doctors and medicine men, marble statues, dazzling canvases, mummified deities, and soaring cathedrals are all tangible testimony to man’s eternal search for his soul and for the purpose and direction a well-nourished and healthy soul can provide.
So I decided long ago that we ignore the condition of our soul at great peril to our sanity and our serenity. And the very thing I used to treat my empty, riddled soul was in fact abusing it and making the aching hole larger. Where did I go wrong?
I don’t know the answer to that but I did learn later where I went right. That was to Alcoholics Anonymous. I don’t really know or understand what happened when I got here, but I do know the hole in my soul slowly began to grow smaller. Now it feels like there may be more soul than hole, like a donut rather than a hula hoop.
As sobriety grew and improved in quality, my soul began to feel less empty and more satisfied. And as I saw many wonders being worked in my life by forces other than of my own making, I knew there was something glorious to be said for a well-nourished soul. What nourishes a soul and fills in the hole and heals the jagged wounds? I didn’t get a clue by reading what all those great thinkers, writers, and poets wrote; but I did get a clue in Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s love. Love for oneself that comes with sobriety; love for others; and love for the world as a whole, if you’ll pardon the expression. Love is what the soul thrives on and I began to find it in Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m still finding more and more of it and I try to put it to work in my everyday life. And the more of it I use, the more of it there is.
I don’t expect the hole in my soul to ever be filled completely and permanently, because I can’t achieve that kind of perfection. But love as I am learning it and witnessing it in Alcoholics Anonymous seems to be the only thing that is coming close to making my soul whole.