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From the distance, they watched a bloodied pulp, two-inch thorns squashed into his head, lugging a crossbeam over his shoulder, its end zigzagging a dusty trail up a steep hill. Hecklers, spitters, and garbage throwers, exacerbated the mayhem. Spiteful crows cawed, circling above the coming feast.

There were women watching, a handful as far as we know, their veiled heads shielding the noon sun, their dark eyes stinging with dry pain, their revulsion provoking gags. Perhaps men stood further away and gripped their guts.

Today, others are also watching—not just a handful but the planet Earth: you and me, our neighbors, everyone feels the atrocities meted upon the Ukrainians, people like ourselves wanting a peaceful, productive life. Such watching bores deep trenches of psychic powerlessness, of frenzy toward the Evil threats lobed upon us, in the fourth week of conflict.

Like those watching the Man of Sorrows on that barren hillside—He has been there—prayer permeated their angst. So not to lose heart …  

“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.

Step Two of Chronic Pain Anonymous – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Initially, I found that help in the stories of those sharing experiences during daily phone conferences. Even though symptoms edged the tone of their voices, their joy in living sparkled. They laughed. If others could learn this new way of living through the practice of the Twelve Steps, then I would too, but I’d have to change.

Step Two hinged upon belief, a practice that necessitated exertion. Mustering such, given my chronic exhaustion, was a learning curve until relating it to another Ingredient: willingness to believe that there is a Power greater than ourselves. Again, it was about willingness, filling my becalmed sails and moving me forward. No longer could I continue crippling myself with nasty judgments, nor blame others for inept remedies for my chronic illnesses. Clearly, I was not in control. I had to stop playing God and concede to this other Power.

That’s when the simplicity of CPA’s belief became unwieldy, given my penchant for more content, as if such could control my sense of God. Step Two asked me to surrender my arrogance and obey: in its wake followed the beginnings of humility and this Power’s lifting the emotional, mental, and spiritual turmoil of living with terminal illness, provided that I worked the Twelve Steps, one day at a time.

Restoration followed.

Another Ingredient critical to this process was Accepting life on life’s terms. Dying was integral to living—no exceptions. More to surrender…

But I needed more help from this newly discovered Power. That came in Step Three.




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