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Since its 2004 inception in Baltimore, Maryland, Chronic Pain Anonymous has offered a heartening response to sufferers around the world who embrace the gentle discipline of 12-Step recovery. Social media and word of mouth spread this spiritual approach to the afflicted, often shunted from one doctor or health care practitioner to another. Experience subsequently led to the inclusion of chronic illness as it, too, exacerbates mental, emotional, and spiritual disorders that worsen physical pain.

Fifteen years have passed, with anonymous members reflecting upon their cumulative knowledge; from these efforts emerged Recipe for Recovery – A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous. Its founder Dale L. articulated its premise to read: “…based upon faith, humility, and the ability to turn over problems of our life to a greater power, without trying to control or direct the outcome.”

This guidebook is necessarily slim to accommodate the limited energies of its readers. The recipe motif works well: a list of Ingredients (virtues) critical to working each Step opens each chapter, followed by the Description (photo of the desired product), the Directions (the work involved) followed by Questions (to be written), and What It Looks Like (members’ practice of the Step). Of necessity, the words are sparse, though not without affording a spiritual wallop.

Daily meetings, via phone, Skype, and Zoom continue forging this spiritual fellowship through which Higher Power transforms psyches: Life is still full, despite physical affliction.

A member since September 2017, I depend upon this gentle discipline, underscored by daily phone contact with my sponsor. Within each twenty-four hours, I remain largely content as I wait out my time.

 

 

Hardscrabble beginnings imprinted violence upon his psyche. He learned to fight on city streets for his needs. Never was there enough. Short, stocky, brash in speech and action, a knockabout character, he set fires and ran.

How he transmuted these behaviors and became a city fireman is unknown. Dangerous, messy, he loved his work, the camaraderie with his brothers in the firehouse, enhanced with cold beers.* Eighteen times he was revived. What are also unknown are the lives he saved and the blanketed remains he carried to waiting ambulances. The same is true of pets.

He was also a husband, a father of one daughter and three sons, a grandfather.

How he made it to the tables of Alcoholic Anonymous is also unknown. There, he retooled his firefighting skills to help others mired in alcohol and drug hell-fires for twenty-four years. A chance meeting, a chance remark changed my life in 2001. To the end, he retained his brusque manner.

His battered heart finally gave way on January 22, 2015.

We will miss his spirited blue eyes, filmed by cataracts.

His name was Earl.

*It was only in 2000 that Mayor Alfonzo Cervantes mandated drug and alcohol screening for all emergency personnel in the city of St. Louis.

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