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One hour after retiring, I awoke with this dream:

It is the beginning of summer. I join a large mixed group of college students on an outdoor stage in the park. We’ve been invited to rehearse a musical, to be presented before returning to our classes. Weeks pass. Although everyone works to the max, enthusiasm buoys our spirits as we enflesh the musical. The wardrobe mistress creates stunning outfits that enhance our youthfulness. My reflection in the long mirror astonishes me: brunette, tall, willowy, perfectly proportioned: as I dance, my white fitted coat flares open revealing a pink silk dress.

In my psyche, all is well.

Before I describe my recovery in CPA’s worldwide spiritual fellowship, let me review its textbook, Recipe for Recovery – A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous (2015). It has also become the manual for my terminal illness, Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

With years of recovery in AA, I sensed I’d have some inkling of what I would find upon its pages, or so I thought. Thanks to daily study with my sponsor, its differences began to flower pinkness: there was recovery within my end time and I would have it. My practice of CPA’s 12 Steps gentled changes within my motives, thinking, and actions, slowly replacing ineffective ones that had kept me miserable in my diseases. It was about finding a new Higher Power.

To simplify this process, the anonymous authors of our text, also disabled, adopted a cookbook format, its words spare and succinct; only the essentials presented for its members, with low-to-no- energy. Like a succulent dish, each Step is presented with the following components: Ingredients list psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects that best go into working that Step; Description speaks of what that Step teaches; Directions reflect members’ spirited language with that Step; Working the Step contains questions pertinent to deepening the process; and What It Looks Like includes members’ stories related to working that Step. Like rungs on a ladder, each Step builds on preceding ones.

Since last November, Recipe for Recovery – A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous has supported my one-day-at-a-time-living with terminal illness. Despite occasional setbacks—grist for more spiritual growth—I continue learning and I am content.




“If you love the truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sun will illuminate you in God.”—a trenchant saying attributed to Isaac the Syrian, the seventh-century Bishop, theologian, and monk who the Eastern Orthodox Church regards as a saint.

Simple words, if pondered, reveal the unseen caught in the flux of time. Key to this process is passion, whose firelight, like the sun, ignites inner worlds. But who cares to go there? To discipline unruly instincts clamoring for expression? That would be like dying. Such flies in the face of our cultural mores, engulfed in denial and rationalization. The predictable is more comfortable, yet soulless.

It does not take much to see who is truly alive among us: their quickening gaze, their resonant voices, their authority, of whatever age and background.

That’s what happens when you sit in the fire. It works…

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