Monday, March 30, 2009

Welcome to the new blog for A Spirituality for Brokenness

With this posting I launch my new blog.

It will be dedicated to A Spirituality for Brokenness, helping people mend from their sense of being shattered, physically, emotionally or spiritually. This blog will offer spiritual tools taken from the full spectrum of the world’s religions that can help us all cope and move on with our lives.

For me, today, March 30, 2009, is a particularly propitious day to launch such a blog since it is the fifth anniversary of the day I began my journey to sobriety. I want to begin with talking about the fact that sometimes the best help comes to us as an unexpected gift. (At the end of this posting is a link that will serve as a gift to you!)

I remember the day and time very well.

My then wife Phyllis burst through my bedroom door, screaming. It was about 10 p.m. I had just settled in on the couch at the foot of my bed with a glass of wine and the TV to try to numb myself from the anguish I felt over what I had gone through the previous week.

My wife, Phyllis, had come down with the stomach flu. Normally, someone coming down with the flu isn’t a major problem, but Phyllis has a chronic medical condition that makes even the most common everyday illnesses potentially life threatening.

Her bout of flu led to a trip to the hospital and her stay there for the better part of a week. During that time, I tried to do my job, spend as much time as I could with her at the hospital, and take care of things at the house.

On the evening of March 30, I brought Phyllis home from the hospital. She was well enough to be out of the hands of medical professionals, but still needed some time in bed to regain her strength.

I fed her, walked her up the stairs to her bedroom at the opposite end of the hallway from my room, and I tucked her in. It was then that I returned to my room and took up my numbing position in front of the TV with a glass of wine in my hand.

I thought Phyllis was asleep so I literally jumped when my bedroom door burst open and Phyllis rushed into the room screaming at me. What she was screaming about was the fact that I was drinking again.

I had stopped drinking for the first time on the previous Memorial Day weekend when I took a date to a party and found myself consuming glass after glass of red wine even though I wasn’t enjoying it. I don’t think that would have made me stop in itself, but when my date and I left the party, I drove her home even though I was in no shape to drive. That scared me. It was my first realization that I had a problem with alcohol.

I stayed dry until December when I began drinking again during the festivities surrounding my marriage to Phyllis. She and I had had an on-again off-again romantic relationship that spanned nearly a quarter century.

I had talked with her about my perception that I had a drinking problem. She seemed to understand. When I resumed drinking in December, nothing much was said. We even celebrated the wedding with a bottle of champagne. In the months that followed I did drink. Never to excess…but I did drink. My drinking became that elephant in the living room that no one talks about. Phyllis didn’t talk to me about it until that fateful night in March.

In retrospect I guess I wish that Phyllis had knocked on my door, asked to come in, sat down on the couch beside me, put her arm around me, and said, “I know you have been through a lot lately, with caring for me during my illness, but I have noticed that you’ve started drinking again; is there anything I can do to help?”

Well, that didn’t happen. Phyllis screamed at me (something she did frequently) and for whatever reason, it made me stop drinking. At 10 p.m. tonight it will have been 1,826 days since I took my last drink.

By leading me to the path of sobriety, her screams helped me mend a bit the part of my brokenness that presented itself as my drinking problem. Her screaming was an unexpected gift. I am eternally grateful to Phyllis for that, no matter why she did it.

And here is a gift to help you deal with your own brokenness:

It’s a Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice called “Tonglen.” As the Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, points out, Tonglen works in a counter intuitive way by asking you to take on the pain of others who are suffering like you are, while at the same time you send them all the goodness, health and joy in your own life.

As you practice Tonglen, you may just find that using this technique eases your pain!

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