As we felt a new power flow in, as we enjoyed the peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow, or the hereafter. We were reborn.
The Big Book. page 63
It's springtime in the Northeast. And springtime in the Northeast is a glorious thing to behold. Last week I was driving to Manhattan, headed south down the Henry Hudson Parkway. It was around 7 a.m. and the light just beginning to dust the trees from the east was magnificent. There was a soft dewy mist on the ground, sparkling like a carpet of diamonds, which made the entire scene even more magical. It dawned on me that although the Northeast is known for its spectacular fall foliage I have never once heard a peep about “spring foliage.” Where are the busloads of tourists, clogging the parkways on weekends, from NYC to Vermont, gazing adoringly at this absolute gorgeousness? It's just not right. And I got a little resentment. “What's the matter with everyone that they haven't noticed this yet” I wondered, suddenly irritated. Mind you, I'm no spring chicken, and this is the first time ever when I feel as though I have been bewitched by a season. “Cretins” I ranted to myself. “Noses in their phones 24/7. All this beauty and no one cares! No one is paying attention!” I was really working myself up into a self-righteous tizzy. “This place is amazing!!! Look around people. Wake up! Look at the glory of the spring. Gaze upon the spectacle of the wispy early hues ripening into the voluptuous heady tones they will soon be.” And ripening they are. Every single day they offer something more incredible than the last. I was spellbound by the beauty. So ethereal, fragile, vulnerable. If I imagine the northeast fall foliage as a movie star it is Sophia Loren in Marriage Italian Style in all her hot red-orange-purple Italian lustiness (with just a hint of a chill lurking below the heat). The spring I see as a young Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Delicate, trembling, translucent yet stunning. Something you want to marvel at, to hold and protect.
But there is something spooky in those early spring blossoms too. The black skeletal trunks and branches reaching up from the earth, grasping for the sky, like something from hell itself. And clinging to those slim haunted branches is this astonishing soft aura-like halo of pale pink and peach and lilac and chartreuse and yellow and even flaming magenta and violet. Death and rebirth, it's a confusing visual for sure.
I am finally waking up to the beauty all around me. Something is happening and it's freaking me out. Is this the spiritual experience that is mentioned in the 12 promises of A.A.? “We will know a new freedom and a new happiness.” Maybe it is. But I sort of feel like I'm high and that makes me nervous. I mean I like that feeling and all but what if it goes away? I have a hard time just being in the moment and enjoying things. I certainly should be feeling “Wow, amazing. I feel sort of high naturally and that’s incredible” but no sir, that is not the way this addict's mind operates. I feel this natural high and then immediately start worrying that…
Unbeknownst to me someone slipped some drugs into my drink and I'm high as a kite. A high I can't even enjoy because I'm sober. Or…
I'm having a spiritual experience and I know that it’s not going to last. That it's all going to come crashing down, and then I'll be screwed.
Today, my friend Neil and I were talking about the magic we both find in the rooms of A.A. The experience of connecting with others on a very deep level. The newfound connection with something greater than ourselves. We also discussed the gift of sobriety and the amazing lives we have been blessed with in recovery. I'm sure anyone walking by would have thought we were cult members with our giggles and glassy eyes and dopey smiles. Neil told me that lately he’s been walking around just MARVELING at things. I mentioned my experience with the spring trees and how I had never fully appreciated their exquisite fleeting beauty before. Neil laughed and told me he has been doing the same thing. Opening his eyes and ears to the absolute and almost inconceivable majesty of the world around us. He told me that some of his friends, who for years called him “Oscar the grouch” have noticed the recent change in his demeanor. Even jokingly saying “Neil? What’s up with you man? You sound like you’re on ‘shrooms all the time.”
Then, in unison, we both burst out excitedly “But it's NOT ‘shrooms...it's God!!!”
So what is “not ‘shrooms but God”? This feeling of being connected. To others and to our Higher Power. This appreciation and gratitude for the world around us. For nature. For this human experience. For all creatures big and small.
And here is the best part. When I first entered A.A. I heard the saying “don't quit before the miracle happens” and I had no idea what that meant. I never had the “pink cloud” experience in early recovery that many newcomers describe. That always sort of made me feel like an A.A. loser. A failure. I wasn't doing the required “work” correctly or something. The fact is that I was not being rigorously honest. And without rigorous honesty about myself I'm afraid that a pink cloud is a hard thing to find. But guess what? I'm finally being honest and I’m finally getting my promised pink cloud. That elusive spiritual experience. And it’s all happening decades after entering the rooms of A.A. It's mind boggling to me. But I'm not going to over-think it. I'm going to relax, release expectations and enjoy it all. And I'm going to thank God, or the spirit of the universe, or the power of now, or the creative force of existence, or the rooms of A.A. or whatever you like that I didn't quit before the miracle happened.
My eyes and ears are finally opening to the wonder all around me. But more importantly, so is my heart.