In my first year of 12 Step, I couldn’t get through one single day without calling multiple people in program for support. Grappling with the task of being a normal(ish) person on the outside, while feeling deeply unfit for life on the inside, required so much of me that I could barely breathe. Sometimes it was right in the morning, sometimes later on in the day, but at some point I would hit such a wall of pain, such a sideswipe, such an inability to move forward, that I would need to call someone and give voice to what was happening to me.
What was happening to me ranged from long bouts of intense crying, to paralyzing, nameless grief, to explosive fits of rage, to vicious panic attacks, to the longing to die, to urges to return to addictive behavior.
The person on the other end of the line mostly listened. Sometimes he or she offered soothing, nonjudgmental affirmations, like “That’s all right, sweetie”. Occasionally she helped me correct my thinking, by temporarily lending me hers, interrupting the momentum of my vortex of psychological agony to say something like, “That thing you can’t forgive yourself for – all of us have been there before. It’s human. It’s not your fault. It doesn’t define you. You are lovable and good.”
People in program gave me my first taste of unconditional love, spiritual perspective and hope of transformation: “This is a normal part of early recovery. It will get better. You will come out the other side. I can’t wait to see who you become.”
Program people had the ability to deeply understand, from their own personal experience, what I was thinking and feeling. Owing to the priceless wisdom that usually only arises from time spent personally suffering, they had the rare ability to let me be exactly where I was in my process, without any need to hurry me along.
At the same time, they were able to hold a higher perspective, the perspective of my potential. They could look at the wretched caterpillar version of me and calmly see the likelihood that I would become a butterfly (as long as I stuck with the process, which they also encouraged me to do). They were not afraid, like I was, that the caterpillar stage would last forever and that was all I’d ever be. They understood metamorphosis – that the process of spiritual transformation, if sincerely sought, is real, inevitable, natural; something we can trust in.
The combination of compassionate witnessing, allowing me to be exactly how I was, while at the same time believing in how I would be, guided me along, slowly but surely, to relief, recovery, and a life of magnitude and meaning far beyond what I could have imagined at that time in my life. My spirituality, my authenticity, my ability to be a good friend, my instincts for healing, my capacity to love deeply and yet hang onto my sense of self, even my calling in life, are all gifts which ripened in the warm “sunlight of the spirit” that circulates throughout the network of recovering people.
After a good long while of being lovingly heard, accepted, cheered on and validated by this group of truly unconditional others, I discovered I could also be the carrier of healing, loving thoughts. Program is a complete lifecycle, with the elders caring for the new ones, and the new ones relying on the experiences of elders. What activated me in my capacity as healer and channel for the voice of love were the desperate, raw needs of the newly recovering. Even though I was just hardly stable myself, when newcomers reached out to me with their enervating pains, with their oceanic needs, I found to my surprise that a healing, loving force spoke through me to them, with the same types of words that had been spoken to me: “It’s human to suffer, it’s not your fault, it doesn’t define you. You are lovable and good”.
With the spirit of kindness moving in me, I felt such tenderness, such a desire to relieve these new ones of their burdens, such a longing to soothe, comfort, and protect them. In fact with that love speaking through me, I said the things out loud that I had always longed to believe. The wounded parts of me heard the authority of the love in me, and began to feel safe for the first time in my life.
The voice of love is shared around the group, and does not belong to anyone in particular. No single person is the keeper of recovery or insanity – we take turns in the needy wounded role, and we also take turns speaking in the voice of love. Inspired by the aches of others, we channel a loving spirit whose words come to our lips when we see suffering.
The power of the recovery community entrained me to a vibration which I can still feel into, to this day. This vibration spirals upwards and outwards, towards more and more life. It reaches for more and more love, joy, and connection, for acceptance, for more claiming of all of us, more allowing of it all, more valuing of all people.
I will always be indebted to my disorders for leading me to get into recovery, where I discovered how love flows in a group consciousness that is tuned to the right station, and how I can be a channel for love too. I learned the value of our wounds: wounds are holes in our ego fortresses, places we can see through to each other. When we peek through those holes, when we see the real, magnificent, injured Self of the other in front of us, crying out for love, then we become the voice of love that that hurt Self needs.
May the voice of love visit you today. Thanks for reading!