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                       In the shadow of your wings, I will sing your praises, O Lord. Psalm 63:7

 

 

Step Twelve of Chronic Pain Anonymous – Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others with chronic pain and chronic illness, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

 Step Twelve’s spiritual awakening evidenced Higher Power’s unconditional love for me; it seized my awareness and often buoyed me above the worsening symptoms of my terminal illness. As a lodestone, His presence steadied the subtle erosion of my energy, until again surrendering and living within new limits. The only way out of total exhaustion would be my death, but that did not seem imminent.

More opportunities to study the Twelve Steps with my sponsor and to practice the Twelve Steps filled the in-between moments of each day, even pre-dawn hours. Sharing the fruits of this endeavor during conference calls also attested to Higher Power’s healing presence in our midst. And Sunday Skype meetings with a co-sponsor from Australia also deepened the spiritual awakening we shared, our hearts warming with enthusiasm.

The rub of Step Twelve came in practicing these principles in all our affairs. That required consciousness and the willingness to change, and to change often. Given decades of robot-like behaviors, I’d find myself in disassociation or idealization or some other defense mechanism—much easier to deal with than the unknown of my diminishing body. Again, I’d scrape off the muck with Higher Power’s help in Step Two and surrender in Step Three to its serenity in the present moment.

So the ultimate goal of CPA recovery is to so live in accord with Higher Power’s will that I become a co-creator with Him: New life abounds with joy, all the more reason to let go and let God.

 

 

Step Nine in Chronic Pain Anonymous – Made direct amends to such people, wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step Nine, the last of the action Steps, speaks of making amends, not apologies, to those we have harmed. Apologies only bandage egregious wounds that continue gnawing on illusions until the next blow-up and the next apology.

Amends are different. Only conscious riddance of toxic attitudes and behaviors toward those I have harmed can repair relationships. Amends are not about feeling good afterwards; that may or may not happen. Nor is it about taking others’ inventories, but desire for their well-being is critical.

Here, guidance from my sponsor was helpful: whether I owed an amend in the first place, when and how to phrase the amends, and how to surrender the outcome to Higher Power. Ninth Step work in Alcoholics Anonymous had already resolved many such problems, but in view of my terminal illness I hoped for a cleaner heart.

Prayer accompanied this scrutiny. Again, my character defects brought me to Higher Power’s mercy and the commitment to change, even during my end time.

Amends to my deceased brother Mark flooded my awareness. It was time. In silence, I sat in my wing-back chair and invited him to join me. His sweetness prompted my beginning. The clarity of my words scored pride and anger and jealousy upon tablets of stone crumbing at my feet. It was over. Peace reigned.

A later amends to myself followed. Again, in prayer, I reviewed the caricature of my eight-four years of life. Aware of chronic pain and illness, aware of disordered instincts, aware of my pride’s rigidity and resulting ignorance, I made amends, and my birthright took shape in my imagination—it was lovely, but I was not finished.

The need to continue growing spiritually would be addressed in the three remaining maintenance Steps.

 

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