Confessions of Smallness

I have a confession to make, one that is quite important and that I have Dr. Brené Brown to thank for making it (if you don’t know who she then click here).

The wording of my confession comes from her, but I stand in the fucking raw truth of it and claim it as my own. I claim this truthful confession with the same despair and hope I felt when I finally looked in the mirror and realized I was dying from the disease of addiction.

My confession goes something like this: I have spent far too long of my life engineering smallness.

I engineer smallness everywhere and in so many ways.  I engineer smallness to feel the security of being a big fish in a small pond, to not feel fear, to say I am taking the spiritual high road and seeking humility (as if humility and smallness were synonymous).

I engineer smallness to make myself feel good, to make my light seems to shine brighter. I engineer smallness because I’m just fucking afraid of failure and even more afraid of ‘big’ successes.

Even as I rail against those petty-minded people who let fear rule and ruin their lives – I stand in the shadow of my fears hoping no one will see my light.

I have feared greatness and being large for far too long, claiming the spiritual high road of humility and smallness, as I would judge those who seek “greatness”.   I am not talking about a greatness based on ego, stardom or popularity.

I am talking about the greatness of a large heart, of living through the fear, of not letting shame win, of not being afraid of money, wealth, giving, serving, striving and creating!  All of that is the greatness I have feared and the tool I have used to hide my fear has been my intelligence, my wit and wisdom, and all the things I have learned in both my active addiction and active sobriety.

I have cloaked my engineering of smallness behind the spiritual and the sacred as much as I have the mundane and the mindless. 

I fear sharing this truth of my being with others, and not the truth of my vulnerabilities and weaknesses and pains; no that pain is rather easy for me to share in the rooms of recovery and the stages I have shared with others these last few months talking about “my story of addiction and recovery.”

No, the truth of my being that I have not shared, the ones that lie just beneath gentile vulnerabilities, is the truth that I desire to do great and wondrous things, not for my own glory, but rather to have influence, to do good, to create entrepreneurial ways merge social enterprise, healing, and community renewal. 

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Musings on Resurrection & Recovery

Note from Niles: I know this blog is about Soulfulness and Sobriety, but my own recovery story (and life story) includes being enamored with and trying to follow the example of Jesus of Nazareth.  So, if historical Christian terms are not your thing or bother you, I suggest you stop reading; if they do not, then read on.  This is taken from a previously written blog on Easter that I have re-written and revisioned from the standpoint of Recovery and Resurrection.

Happy Resurrection Day (as I like to call Easter Sunday).

A few years ago, on what liturgical churches call Holy Saturday, I attended ‘Easter Vigil’ services at the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia.  Never having attended Lenten services at a monastery, I was not sure what the experience would bring.  My initial thoughts were that I felt I had stepped back in time, in a wonderful way: the historical richness and the ever-present reality providing sacred collusion.   The pews were hard, thick dark wood made by local friends, there was darkness, candles, prayers, chanting and singing in Latin and English, kneeling, bowing, and of course, the Eucharist.   It a delightful, albeit long, experience – over two hours.

What I have learned in my life of studying and even knowing a few, Catholic monks do almost nothing quickly.

And in this world of immediate gratification, I was afforded the ‘time’ to slow down, breathe, and attune my being to God’s all-pervading and loving Presence permeating the place.

All this pausing got me to thinking about the reality of Easter; about resurrection and the relationship between the concept of “Resurrection” to recovery from addiction in general and my recovery specifically.

To many people of faith, the shadowy, yet hopeful day in between – in between the crucifixion of Friday and the empty tomb of Sunday – reminded me that for people in recovery (as with people of faith) we are truly a people on the Way…in transition and on a journey.

Like believers who live between the tension of the crucifixion and the resurrection, people in recovery are those who must live between two tensions as well: that of being an addict (bound in some ways to the past and our pain) and that of being people in recovery (set free from the bondage of active addiction to live lives of love and service).

People who believe, are often called a “Good Friday People”; all we need to do is look around at all the pain and suffering in our world and in our hearts.  Those of us who have been bound by the chains of addiction, death and despair are too in some ways a “Good Friday People” – we have crucified and been crucified repeatedly.

But the glorious news for believers is also glorious news for addicts and alcoholics: death does not have to have the final say.

There is hope; there is another way; there is a different ending to the story of addiction.

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Musings on God: Experience or Understanding

“God is the glue that hooks everything together…” Tom Rapsas

I love the 12 Steps – the actual steps not just the movement. I believe them to be one of the greatest tools for spiritual growth and development ever given to humanity (and yes, I believe them to be given for ALL people not just alcoholics, addicts and their family members.)

Whether or not one considers oneself an alcoholic or addict working the 12 Steps – no matter how perfect or shitty they are worked – will have some modicum of positive effects upon the one practicing them.  If you don’t agree with me, then go out and spend 30 days practicing them and if you have not changed in the least, I will shut the fuck up about how great the 12 Steps are.  But if I’m on point here, well, your life will never be the same again (so it’s a win-win).

BUT…and this is a medium-sized but (we’re not talking a J-Lo but here), if I could I would change one thing about the 12 Steps. I know, I know, I have committed the unpardonable sin for 12 Steppers, but since this is my blog, I can write whatever I want, and you can choose not to read it.

The one thing I would change would be one word; I would change the word “understand” to the word “experience”. It is one thing I suggest to people I work with and walk with along the path of Sobriety to try – to change the phrase “God as we understand God” to “God as we experience God.”

Why? Quite simply because I will never understand God.  In truth, it has been my experience of God, in the rooms, in other people, in service, and in prayer that has transformed my experience and reality of sobriety and all of life.

The word “experience” is defined as having to do with ‘practical contact’ or to encounter or undergo something (or Someone, in this case).  And it is precisely this practical contact and encounter with God that transform a garden variety drunk and drug addict like me into a person in long-term recovery who has become a ragamuffin mystic seeking to see and taste this ‘experiential’ God in all of life.

It is this very experience of God which transcends my so-called understanding of God.  For in truth, God makes no fucking sense to me. None.  And if God did make sense to me, as in rational understanding, then you best hope I am locked up in an institution somewhere because that hubristic delusion would make me a dangerous menace to society.

But, when I say that I have experienced God, then it becomes something that is limited to my own personal experience.  It is not arrogant, for it only my personal experience – small, little old me.  Which is a far cry different from saying I UNDERSTAND God; for if I think I understand God then I am drowning in all my magnanimous and arrogant megalomania – a royal fucking narcissistic douche is what I become.

But I digress…

All I am trying to say, all I want to say, is that it has been far more powerful, healing and transformative for me to EXPERIENCE God than it has been to try and understand God in my recovery journey.

So maybe we can all stop trying to understand God, and just try and have an experience of God.  Because when I understand God I might then begin to try and force others to understand God the exact same way I do (can you say religion boys and girls).  But let’s say we all go and have an experience of God then all of sudden there’s a chance for there to be 7.6 billion (world population) experiences of God rather than a dozen or so world religions controlling the human spiritual experience.

Not a sermon, just some musings…