Love and Service

The journey to wholeness

"A religious awakening which does not waken the sleeper to love, has roused him (sic) in vain." — author Jessamyn West

There is a moment that most addicts share and that few see as an awakening to love, to compassion, to simple human kindness. That is the very moment of surrender to the reality of our dis-ease. At that axial moment, where suffering and spirit meet, our estrangement from spiritual experience has ended.

This initial spiritual experience shows us that at the root of recovery there is happiness, while the root of addiction is suffering. 

There is a clear choice.

Using the Twelve Steps as our guide, we can then follow a path of compassionate love that heals these roots of suffering and allows us to live without suffering, even in its midst.

We are then called to become that person in whom others can see that the happiness they seek is real.

Using the ongoing, dedicated practice of prayer, with still and silent meditation, we learn to see the flashes of spiritual awakening that surround us at every moment. We awaken to God, Allah, the Buddha, whatever name we have for Ultimate Reality, which is Love.

Service, or altruism, is the path and love is the power that sustains us on that path.

Simply stated, we uncover the simple human kindness that has been with us all along. And we begin to see the saintliness in everyone. The Dalai Lama said to "be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." If I see the saintliness in everyone, how can I not be kind? And if I love God, how can I now love all of my fellows?

Famed psychiatrist Carl Jung told Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson that the craving for alcohol was a low-level equivalent of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness. Expressed in medieval language: the union with God.

We find as we continue on the path of service through compassion and love, as outlined in the Steps, that this "wholeness" is simply to be in conscious contact with God—and with all beings.

We cannot awaken to love selectively. To be "in love" is to dwell usefully in the company of all beings. Otherwise, in the words of Allen Ginsberg, it is all just "drunken dumbshow."

Bill Alexander is the author of the recovery classic Ordinary Recovery, originally published under the title Cool Water. He also wrote the book Still Waters, in which he recounts his story of living sober, as well as the Hazelden Publishing e-book, Hi, I'm Bill and I'm Old: Reinventing My Sobriety for the Long Haul. Since entering recovery in 1984, Bill has been working to move from what he refers to as a "deeply self-centered" life to an "other-centered" life. He is an Episcopalian with a Buddhist spiritual practice that informs much of his work.

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