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Step Seven of Chronic Pain Anonymous – Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

In Recipe for Recovery I found the description for Humility, central to Step Seven and CPA recovery: “…we accept and love ourselves exactly as we are.” That meant my sins, flaws, or shortcomings, whatever you want to call them. Clearly, my willfulness had created these emotional, mental, and spiritual glitches that felt like knotted ropes garroting my breathing and exacerbating decades of chronic illness and pain. Clearly, as well, I was powerless over their removal.

To prepare for this meeting with Higher Power, I returned to Prayer, another Step Seven Ingredient. For days, I sat in silence in my wingback chair and listened for the nudge to ask for help. Only when beckoned, did I begin.

It mattered not that my shortcomings appeared like an overgrown lot filled with scrap metal, their jagged edges glistening in the sun. It mattered not that guilt and shame slithered along mud-packed roads to the quarry. It mattered not that masks of entitlement lined the walls of my study. There I was, surrounded by fits and starts that had lost steam and collapsed—the caricature of my birthright.

Then, change occurred: I felt held, then smiled and stretched my back against the wingback chair. I was forgiven—not that my shortcomings had been removed; they were still around but had less influence over my motives, thoughts, and behaviors, now that I was aware of them. Only with daily practice of Step Seven would my shortcomings be entirely removed. That would be Higher Power’s design for my continuing purification.

Step Eight would deal with the harms I had caused others.



“By all means, we’ve got to stay happy! Whatever we can do to keep it going …” she gushed as another chimed in with a joke about hand washing. This morning’s talk show hosts chuckled as they described neighborhoods putting up Christmas lights and chalking driveways and sidewalks with pastel hearts and flowers.

In my perception, such attitudes miss the mark. Many experts also tout keeping busy with on-line work from home, home schooling, home-improvement projects, and keeping track of the pandemic’s swath of global mayhem. In between times, social media assuages social loneliness and fills empty time. Netflix and television dull the urgency of the questions: When will we return to normal, however construed? Will things be different? Will I lose out? How will I manage?

Such busyness frays the fabric of the global community, already dangerously thin with violence and addictive behaviors.

Glaringly absent from this scenario are silence and prayer, and the fact of death, ours included—just relegated to numbers of the stricken on graft charts in states, distant from our own. Such shudders get lodged within stress.

So how quell this inner turmoil and enter the silence of prayer? How let it speak to the grievous circumstances in which we find ourselves? It’s only important to want it, deeply, and to begin. Within our depths, a dear Friend wants our hearts, however scarred.

Psalm 56:11, 13 speaks to such a relationship: …in God I put my trust, fearing nothing…for you have rescued me from Death to walk in the presence of God in the light of the living.




It was taking so long, I fumed, as I stood over a flat pan filled with pieces of burning palm, from last year’s celebration of Palm Sunday. Only straggly bits of ash broke free from the snapping flames, not nearly enough for tomorrow’s Ash Wednesday Mass in the convent chapel. It was 1968, New Orleans. Little did I grasp the significance of what I was doing—just one more responsibility as sacristan.

Only as years of ashen life experiences frittered into insubstantiality did I begin to wake up to my flawed humanness—a humanness I denied, disguised, expunged from awareness. I trusted no one with my inner world, not even God to whom I paid lip service as a nun, and later as a single woman.

But my spiritless world began to lift with my 1991 admission that I was an alcoholic, in need of the 12 Steps and daily meetings in the brownstone across the street. There, others interfaced their foibles with 12 Steps practice, often drawing guffaws from around the tables. Such stories chipped away my denial until I could identify with them. No longer was my humanness to be deplored, but I had amends to make, especially to myself.

12 Steps still burn the dross from the ongoing exploration of my humanness, crippled by decades of ill-placed thoughts and behaviors. Although I appreciate the ritual of ashes that opens the forty days of Lent, I’ve learned to live among my own ashes, in union with Higher Power. In Him alone do I find wholeness.

How I resonate with Joel, the prophet of penance: Return to me with your whole heart. Joel 2:12.


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