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“When we accept our powerlessness, we become teachable and willing.”

This sentence from Recipe for Recovery – A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous again opens my psychic depths to new freshness, despite frequent highlights and marginal notes from past insights. This is, indeed, a graced paperback composed by its anonymous members and published in 2015. To these authors slanted with chronic pain and illness I am indebted, their having found a way to live fully through the daily practice of the Twelve Steps.

Powerlessness, the central reality of my humanness, wakens me each morning to the challenge of another twenty-four hours—Foremost are my symptoms with their limits: the shrinkage of air sacs in my lungs causing shortness of breath, my deformed hands complicating simple tasks, my low energy diminishing speech, my weight loss despite good nutrition, and unsteady gait, with dependence upon cane-walking lest I fall. And the need for sleep that consumes my former free time.

With acceptance of each minuscule loss, in light of Steps I, II, and III, I’m empowered to pause, get my bearings, and reinvent my new reality. In retrospect, it’s been this way ever since joining CPA four years ago.

In these diminishments, I’m never alone: Higher Power’s presence within my CPA buddies, within daily telephone meetings, and within CPA literature continually open me to another culture with its amazing discoveries of joy and support. Such crimps the psychic space that negative thoughts used to occupy but they’re still there, and there’s always work to do.

Although the sentence, “When we accept our powerlessness, we become teachable and willing,” applies to CPA, its practice by the healthy can only ease the inevitable setbacks that come with our humanness. I wish I had known this wisdom, decades ago.

At 6:35 A.M., I awoke with this disconcerting dream:

After a long absence, I discover that my doctor has moved his office to a high-tech clinic in the city. As I follow a nurse to an examining room, I see a former friend sitting on the floor of another examining room, looking disgruntled, her shapely legs stretched before her upon the hardwood floor. My heart sank. I hoped she had not seen me.

This glimpse into my psyche reveals more of my shadow. My need to see my doctor suggests regaining control of my health rather than allow the continuing diminishment of my body under hospice supervision. I’m determined to fix myself—And only the best will do: a high-tech clinic in the city.

The former friend mirrors my stinginess of heart, resentments, whining and demanding and sulking behaviors, deeply entrenched in my psyche, still rooted within the recesses of my shadow, despite decades of Twelve Step work.

And my former way of handling conflict— I hoped she had not seen me. —was to flee the scene or ignore what had occurred. Such pretense had thwarted development.

The dream reminds me of the critical practice of emotional honesty, with God, myself, and others. I still have a terminal illness.

Do You Want To Get Well Again? – John 5:7

Yet another question I pose to myself as I continue reflecting upon Jesus of Nazareth this Holy Week.

Those who received his healing touch or word or presence in first century Palestine remembered, his story committed to oral tradition that fired hearts—especially true of the man, afflicted thirty-eight years with crippling pain and inability to walk as narrated in John’s Gospel. Not only did he roll up his mat and walk, he was challenged to let go of his crankiness and serve others.

So what about this centuries-old invitation to wellness still offered by Jesus? What could have been his intent? Many with chronic pain and illness plea for respite, their drugs only dulling symptoms and educing brain fog. Hopelessness besmirches attitudes and outlooks. Suicide claims lives.

Like that peasant slouching near the pool at the Sheep Gate waiting for the water to move, I had prayed for joint healing, there being no effective medical or surgical treatment by rheumatologists and surgeons—and I was seen by the best wherever I lived. 

Somehow, I slogged on, until discovering AA meetings that jimmied open my psychic heart-crust, tasteless as burnt toast: within, maggots disguised as the seven deadly sins wiggled and tangled for space. Such disorder was and is amenable of removal through daily application of the Twelve Steps. Jesus says, as much, in his Sermon on the Mount. In my perception, that’s the deeper wellness Jesus intended for the cripple, and for me as I continue healing in my transition, one day at a time.

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