“If we were incapable of humility we would be incapable of joy, because humility alone can destroy the self-centeredness that makes joy impossible.”
Thomas Merton “New Seeds of Contemplation.”
“Take me down to the infirmary
Lay me down on cotton sheets
Put a damp cloth on my forehead
Lay me down
Let me sleep
I know the whiskey won’t soothe my soul
And the morphine won’t heal my heart.”
David Lowry and Cracker
There is an aggregate critical mass of adversity reached by the alcoholic in his search for spirituality. While alcohol remains his higher power, this leads him to a misguided morass of despair as addiction redoubles it cunning powers and a self-centered fear rules his way of thinking. Unless humility can peak above the serrated waves one lands in an asylum where the end result of self centeredness is one step away from death.
This asylum can feel powered by good intentions. The surrounding selfishness is so deceptively integrated into every daily belief that the addict cannot find his way out of it. It feels like being a soldier hemmed in by a dense circle of bayonets paralyzing mind and body. The end result is a blind alley bereft of empathy, humility, and acceptance. Despair descends as a twin to loss of hope and with this manner of thinking suicide feels like the only choice.
There may be moments of happiness. Happiness being the instant gratification the mind drums up at the expense of deeper feelings of the heart. Manufactured moments of transient elation quickly disband into the next search party on the lookout for more superficial pleasure.
Before long the mind has created many subsidiary addictions in search of the dopamine charge in its many forms. The alcoholic shifts obsession from one setting, one framework to another with the same clandestine energy dressed up in myriad guises. A secret shell game with the world that harnesses and unleashes self-centered fear again and again and I know this because as long as thinking marches along like this to the beat of unreformed character defects the same thunderous karma scowls down from the sky and I continue to wonder what happened.
And so I enclose myself inside an asylum of my own design like a hunter believing he is tracking a skillful prey, when in truth, I am locked onto a carousel of fear chasing the tail of my own obsession. This obsession leads to a dead-end of instant pleasure that once used up cascades into destruction of all that is precious to me.
There is just a little more pain to be described here for emphasis because this is potentially my fatal flaw. Like many alcoholics I have a blind spot so precisely vacant that produces a rapid process of forgetting the events which tarnish my recollection of the pleasurable effects of alcohol. My experience is biased in the most deviously dangerous ways by my disease which leads me to believe with the deepest of my heart’s energies that alcohol is as necessary for me as food and water and the clean air around me taken into my hungry lungs with each life affirming breath.
This locked-in state of belief that alcohol imprints on my mind keeps me revolving around this gyroscope and joy remains ever elusive. Until I think of myself less, and get out of my own obsession and focus on other people’s needs and desires I cannot see or feel God’s grace and my heart cannot grasp joy. This gift of joy which spans a wide spectrum of emotions high and low, fulfilling and sad, beautiful and bruising; all shapes and descriptions of feelings exist as I am guided and taught by the currents of life’s swirling pressure and elegance real and authentic; a world of poetry and music that grabs me and forces me to wring my hands to the sky as I learn to love all souls and all forms of feeling and I kiss a new serenity and the embrace of my heart by God comes at the most surprising moments like an unexpected gift.
This all turns into an array of gifts that replicate and keep coming and that place me into a connected culture of loving compatriots who derive joy from giving and before long the depth of my heart’s growth embodies and lives in a new, let’s call it infirmary, a place to heal, with loving men and women living selflessly and free.