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“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.

“Who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15

Such a question I pose to myself after reflecting upon Jesus’s humble ride upon the colt of an ass into Jerusalem that hot Passover morning—A stunning question that lays open my heart. It seems like he’s always been with me.

True, meditation, scripture studies, retreats, recovery meetings, and conversation with others have fanned my response for decades, but it’s the experience of Jesus of Nazareth that lasts: one that speaks wordless love and mercy, not without scrambling my words. He just is.

When absent, loneliness sets in like bats flitting through vaulted caves. Yet, with Jesus’s return, longing burns anew.

It wasn’t always like this, often sidetracked by instinctual demands for easier and softer ways of doing life, despite its inherent hardships. Such waywardness produced even more misery that worsened my chronic illness and joint pain. Recognizing gospel teachings within the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has made all the difference, grounding me, afresh, within Jesus for another twenty-four hours.

And living with terminal illness has deepened this focus. With months slipping into years, it can’t be much longer. Then we shall see face to face. I Cor. 13:12.

At 3:30 A.M., three glimpses into my psyche woke me: Christmas, Jane Schaberg, and ghettos. I had no recall of the dream story associated with these images, but chose to work with them.

Christmas, not in the sense of holidays with parties, gifts, and family gatherings, has always evoked rich associations with the Sacred, recognized and revered as a child. The Son-of-God-made-Man has companioned my efforts to incarnate in this existence, given my reluctance, from the womb, to do so. Gospel teachings, hidden within Twelve Step living, have opened me further to my humanness and still contributes to “the joy of living,” the result of practicing Step Twelve. When my end time comes, I will have substantive gifts to surrender to the Sacred. Today’s Christmas heartens me deeply.

My surprise in seeing Jane Schaberg (1938 – 2012) in my psyche also stirred me. I still remember her astounding insight of loving God with her whole mind, a passion that led her to advanced theological studies and worldwide attention for her biblical articles and books, all the while teaching at Detroit-Mercy University. I still hear the roar of her laughter as I write these lines. Another companion to help me along …

And ghettos, the third image that visited me in my dream—For decades, my work with home care elderly patients exposed me with ghetto living in New Orleans, Houston, and St. Louis where I had lived. From these spirits seasoned by poverty, poor health, backbreaking work, and other hardships, I leaned about acceptance, humility, and faith in God. Yet, my learning is far from finished as my impoverishment still rankles. This is working out …

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