Feelings are within us for a reason. They are the barometers of our spiritual condition. They let us know what our next course of action can be. It took me a long time, a very long time, probably many, many lifetimes to figure this out. Since I was having so much trouble and repeating similar patterns over these many lifetimes, I guess I decided that this time was the time to be done with that particular issue. So I came back as an out of control alcoholic.
In my recovery program we have many sayings, petit bon mot, that help us remember what we are trying to do. Stay sober. The one that I’m thinking about today is H.A.L.T. Never get too hungry, too angry, too lonely, too tired. I’m thinking of it because a family member asked me if I had any advice for them regarding the recent relapse of a mutual loved one. That was what I had.
I’m also thinking of it because I’ve been mulling over this post for a little while now. And when I typed lonely in my email to them, it struck me how I want to write this.
When I got sober I discovered a few things: I let my feelings run me and I had very few that I was accessing. Anger, frustration, sadness, and occasionally happiness or love. But mostly I lived in a cauldron of confusion that would burst out into rage or, occasionally, love. I pretty much had to be drunk to experience love and joy and then best not get too drunk or that would change quickly.
Holy Smokes! That sure is leaving out a lot of the emotions available to us. Yes, they gave us this little emotion face map.
Over the years I have done a lot of work on my Self. I’ve found my full range of emotions. Most of the time I use them appropriately. That map, while slightly trite, stayed with me. I discovered that there are more feelings than are on that map. That they don’t always look like the map. And that all of them are okay.
There was a time when I put feelings into one of two colums. Good Feelings and Bad Feelings. Joy, love, compassion were good feelings. Anger, sadness, depression were baaaaaad feelings. And to be avoided. I spent some of my time in recovery feeling guilty for having bad feelings. Intellectually I knew that there is no such thing as a good or bad emotion but it took awhile for that to travel to my inner most knowing Self.
I don’t remember what day it was but I remember distinctly when I discovered that I had had probably 20 feelings, all different, all in one day. And that none of them took over the day. In the old days, all it took was one frustrating thing to ruin the entire day no matter how good it had been up to that moment. Broken shoelace? Disaster. Missed the bus? Catastrophe. Boyfriend left me? End of the world (well that can still feel like the end of the world for a few days).
It’s just not like that now. I spoke the other day of being a beholder in my own life. A witness, an observer. Most of the time that is how it is for me. I notice that I’m having a feeling. I take a look at it. I decide if any action needs to be taken and either take the action or move on so that the next feeling can come in.
So, when I say, “I’m lonely,” or “I’m angry,” it doesn’t mean that this is my overriding emotion for the day or the week or the year. It doesn’t mean it is the only thing going on with me. It means that right now, in this space in time, I’m having feelings of loneliness. That will change, very rapidly most of the time. What it does NOT mean is that I shouldn’t have it or that I must change it. NOW. It also does NOT mean that I haven’t done the work or that I’m not over a relationship. It just means that, right now, during the lusty month of May, I’m feeling a bit single. And it’s not really what I’m looking for. It does NOT mean that I think I need a man to be happy. (Although I do know that I want a deep and meaningful sexual relationship with a man.) It just means that I’m human and some close intimate companionship right about now would be most awesome. And strange as this may seem, I’m overjoyed that I can feel an emotion such as loneliness, acknowledge it and what it means, allow myself to feel it fully, and then move on.
Alcoholics drink over their emotions when they are not in recovery. It’s what we do. We really don’t need a good reason, the sun setting will do just fine. But it was our feelings that many times sent us running to the nearest liquor store or bar. A quote:
It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic , whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die. If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.
I can’t afford to live in the spiritual wasteland. I refuse to buy property there. I don’t pitch the tent. I see a feeling that might tip me and say, “Thanks for the information,” and keep on walking.
This feels great to me. It feels like a major accomplishment.
When I say I’m lonely or angry or hungry or joyful it’s just information. It isn’t my address. I get the impression from things said to me that most folks expect that if I say it that I’ve moved in, 20 boxes and a mattress. They feel compelled to give advice. To make it better. To say there there now. Really, it isn’t necessary. At any given moment, no matter what the feeling of the moment is, I’m fundamentally A-okay and exactly where I’m supposed to be. My emotions and my interpretation of their purpose and my next task is totally appropriate. Overall? I’m happy. Joyous. And FREE. No matter what else is going on.
And just in case you wondering, YES, I think this is magic. This is the epitome of magic. To know, to will, to dare, to keep silent. Well, maybe not that last one so much. But to change your world through concentrated intent. To live oneself into a new way of thinking rather than think oneself into a new way of living. That is magic.