Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Things I have said but not written

Last night I saw a post on Facebook from a friend from college who is apparently working through some deep depression.  Having lost a couple of people dear to me over the last year in ways that were clearly contributed to if not outright caused by alcoholism and mental illness, and with another friend floating out there somewhere, having disconnected his cell phone and evincing increasingly erratic behavior, I feel I should write some things that I have said many times, but have never written.

When I quit drinking 22 years ago -- and I hope to make it through till midnight tonight without a drink -- I was seized by a profound sense of gratitude.  Having drank and smoked pot for years and having sporadically but with no success tried to manage or cut it back, I felt that my situation was hopeless, that I would never be able to stop.  So, when I found that, with the help of AA, I could, I was overwhelmingly grateful.  At a profound, cellular level.

And, after experiencing this gratitude for a while, I realized that it didn't make sense for me to be grateful to nothing.  Which is to say, that the very fact of my gratitude presupposed something on the other side of it.  There had to be something that I was grateful to. This is what I called my "Higher Power", in 12-step terms.  But it only makes sense when I really take it to heart, it can't be a box-checking exercise for me to fit within the framework of the 12-step paradigm.

For much of my life I have realized I was fortunate.  To have been born into a family that values education in a place that values education, relatively wealthy within a historically wealthy society during a time of great technological progress, the list goes on and on. Honestly, I have to include on the list being white and male. So many attributes have conspired to make my life easier* than those of others. And also to have realized I needed help at a young age, and that I was willing to accept that. But, as I've thought about it, idea of "fortune" or "being fortunate" implies that these attributes have attached to me randomly, within a vision of the world that views things as just happening.

It makes better sense for me to conceive myself as being blessed.  This is a more challenging rhetoric to swallow, because the idea of "blessing" is so wrapped up in the Christian worldview where God is (at least here in the US of A) another while male with a very nice white beard.  But I don't have a better term for it just now, and my days flow better when I basically view myself as being blessed, and try to roll with it.  And if I can communicate that, and try to bear it in mind in my behavior, so much the better.

*And, to be clear, the issue here is the ease conferred on me by being a member of these groups, not that these attributes make us or me in any way intrinsically better

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