Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God.”
Let's start with the hard part. "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God." I had certainly never meditated, and all of my prayers when I was using were of the most desperate variety. "Dear God, I know we haven't spoken for years but I am alone in a car with three Dominican drug dealers. It’s 3:30 a.m., we’re driving around New York City and I have no idea where we’re going. Please don't let them kill me." They didn’t kill me. In fact no harm was done at all except that they sold me crap cocaine - the bastards.
I loved my “foxhole prayers” and had no experience with any other kind. Thankfully, Alcoholics Anonymous had some prayers to lend me. The Serenity Prayer, the 3rd and 7th step Prayers, the Acceptance Prayer and quite a few others. So at least I had something to hang my hat on in the prayer department. Meditation was another deal entirely. I can barely sit still for a minute and that's while doing something - reading, watching Netflix, or even eating. I'm about as twitchy as they come. I have never been able to sit still, so the concept of sitting down with my own mind and going within - checking out what is going on in there - was, and still is, terrifying. I'm afraid of my mind. I don't trust it entirely. It has taken me to some very dark places indeed. It reminds me of the pit bull rescue videos that I sometimes watch before bed. I got to A.A. feeling internally like those poor pit bulls. Dogs that come to the rescues straight from the fighting pits, all battered and bloody, chunks of their faces and ears scarred or missing entirely. And profoundly traumatized. So rescuers take these dogs and they clean them up and they treat them with love and patience and most importantly they teach them how to be with other dogs and people. The majority of these stories have a happy ending. But not all of them. Sometimes I read about a rescue pit bull that has been adopted into a loving home. All goes well until one day, for whatever reason, he loses it and viciously chomps the family dachshund in half. “How did that happen? We thought the dog was all better?” But there is still a maniac lurking somewhere in that dog - and when triggered enough, that maniac will escape and attack. I sometimes feel like that dog. Like at any minute I could snap and drive my car into a tree - or chuck myself out of a high window - or throw scalding hot coffee in your face. Never fear, I have had these thoughts since I was 6 years old and I have never acted on them. I'll blame my disastrous childhood and the resulting PTSD but whatever the reason that's how I roll. There is a dark and dangerous part of my mind - even sober - that is still there. The voice that told me to binge and purge, the voice that told me to fill my Poland Spring water bottles with vodka, the voice that told me it was ok to get into a car alone with drug dealers - in a miniskirt, mind you - at 3:30 am in NYC. What kind of a mind is that? One that is reckless, one that is selfish, one that has a death wish.
So meditation was a huge hurdle, but in A.A. it is highly recommended. It's all over the program literature. Going within, being honest with ourselves, maybe for the first time ever. But did I really want to uncover what was still hiding out in the unexamined recesses of my mind? Just waiting to detonate? I've heard it described as "cleaning out the attic”. No! I did not want to do that. But after a scary slip out of sobriety I finally came to realize why it's an important part of recovery. And what I have learned through meditation - sitting still and going within - is that maybe my mind doesn't really want me dead after all. Maybe all that binging and purging and drinking and drugging was just my mind not knowing any other way to soothe itself. My mind was just trying to help me feel okay and it didn't necessarily have the best tools. And now through meditation I'm making friends with my mind. I’m getting to know and appreciate it. Even the scary parts. The growling, snarling, straight from the fighting pits parts of my mind. They are still there - but they don't want to kill me anymore. They would just like to be understood - and that, I think, is what my meditation practice is about. I am getting in touch with the witness within. The witness who really doesn’t care if I drink or drug or binge or purge or lie or cheat. The witness who is completely objective, but knows that I will be a better person, a happier person, a more generous person without acting out on my self-destructive urges. I've learned that my dark thoughts are harmless, even the darkest. And if I don't touch them they will leave me alone. In his lecture series on The Untethered Soul Michael A. Singer says "An ignored guest soon leaves" regarding negative and distracting thoughts - and he is right. So when my raging pit bull thoughts come I don't suppress them and I no longer act on them. I let them come and go like clouds - and I try not to let them run me ragged like they used to. I am learning to ignore them. I heard in a meeting something that has stuck with me for years. "The mind is like a naughty puppy. Left to its own devices it will destroy your house and shit everywhere."
So now I'm trying to gently train my mind through meditation - because I finally understand that without proper training that puppy of mine can cause some serious and deadly mischief.