Remember what I said about living joyfully? That it was like jumping off a cliff and building your parachute on the way down? Well, as always, I have been taking things to extreme.
Having come to the realisation that “God’s Will” is what’s in front of me at any given moment, and that it is the acceptance or non-acceptance of it that makes life either effortlessly smooth or an uphill struggle, I have been experimenting with self-will.
When I say “experimenting”, I mean allowing my defects to run rampant; I mean riding roughshod over people’s feelings; I mean indulging myself in lust, selfishness and dishonesty, and justifying it by telling myself that no matter what my actions, the result must be “God’s Will”, because things are as they are, therefore they are as they should be.
At some point in my excursions into non-dualism I abdicated responsibility. My thinking went something like this:
“If you and I and the whole manifested Universe is God experiencing Himself then God – by the very nature of God – is in not just the flower but the rotting cadaver; is in not just the murdered but the murderer; is in not just the guy who’s getting hit across the head with a bat, but the guy who’s doing the batting. In fact, all of these things and every single possible scenario must necessarily be played out to allow God to experience Himself in His totality. Therefore, is it even feasible that “self –will” is at odds with the Will of God? For sure, any actions I take are going to throw up a bunch of consequences: but if I am prepared to take responsibility for these consequences, and accept them as being what is (God’s Will), then everything should be ok, right? There is no good, there is no evil; there is no right or wrong; there only is, right?”
Shortly afterwards I cheated on my girlfriend. I deeply hurt her, and the girl with whom I had done the cheating. My life became – almost instantly – unbearable. I started to suffer. I couldn’t make a decision. I was in fear of people’s judgement. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I didn’t want to wake up in the morning. I couldn’t find my arse with both hands. I became useless. I regressed to the emotional level of a baby. I was physically and mentally ill. I was full of guilt and shame.
There was a clue in this.
My sponsor tells me that the Tibetans don’t have a concept of guilt. They simply learn from the outcome of their actions and either do the same thing again, or not, as is appropriate.
It must be a great thing to have no concept of guilt, but rightly or wrongly, I do. So I must settle for the next best thing, which is to be free of it.
Unpleasant as it is, guilt – for me - can act as a signpost.
I may or I may not have done something wrong, but if I am feeling guilt then deep down I believe I have done something wrong. It is not the actions I take or the people I harm that are going to drive me back to drink – God is not our Punisher - but how those things sit with me.
And I have to say: these things weren’t sitting with me very well. In fact, I was at the point where I was in fear of saying or doing anything, lest I should cause even more harm by doing so; I had ceased to trust myself; I felt like a liability; a danger to society. Walking through Bournemouth one afternoon I was suddenly struck by a thought, and it was this: “How the fuck am I still sober?”
The answer can only be: by God’s Grace. By wilful rebellion and disobedience I have commenced to estrange myself from Him. As my selfishness, dishonesty and fear have become monsters, little by little have I lost contact with God and slipped backwards into powerlessness. Thank God that He has given me the time and space to come to my senses and repent.
At times like this my concept of God adapts. I knew I’d done wrong, ergo I needed forgiveness. It is hard to ask forgiveness of a God to whom everything is acceptable. Therefore I prayed to the God of my childhood. You know Him. God the Father. The One with the Beard. I went to Him like the prodigal son (or as Emilie would have it, the prodigal boyfriend). I admitted my faults as I saw them, and humbly asked His forgiveness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, His answer was this:
“Go, and sin no more.”
Repentance is not about being sorry. It is about positive action. It means to turn from sin* and amend your life, and I know of only one way to do that: to revisit steps 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.
It was time to get the inventory sheets out.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a great one for written inventory. In fact I hate it. I will put it off as long as I possibly can, and to be fair, most of the time I am aware enough of my own thought processes and motives that I can do it in my head as I go along. But I’m sure I could prevent myself a lot of pain and discomfort by doing written inventory a little more regularly: like when I first start feeling agitation or irritability, rather than leaving it till I’m practically sucking up piss from discarded cans of Omega cider and sleeping in a hedgerow.
However, once I’ve made up my mind to do it, there’s only one course of action left, and that’s to put my head down and get on with it. In my experience inventory is tedious at best, but if left hanging around for days or weeks it becomes a nightmare. I’ve heard people justifying taking months over a step 4 by saying that they want it to be “fearless and thorough”. Of course it must be fearless and thorough, but it won’t be any more fearless and thorough if you take a year over it than if you just crash it out in a few hours. The truth is the truth, whether you write it now or later.
Well of course, before I was even halfway through the truth was glaring. I’d have had to be blind or stupid to miss it. And by this time I was no longer blind or stupid. The scales had fallen from my eyes. I knew where I’d gone wrong and what I needed to do.
I had fear of what other people thought. Why? Because I had been acting in ways that I myself find unacceptable.
My self-esteem had suffered. Why? Because I had failed to act in an estimable way.
My resentments were out of control. Why? Because I had been trying to play God, to arrange people and things to suit myself, and had – to put it bluntly – fucked up.
There’s nothing quite like the bloody obvious when it’s staring you in the face. Once again I could see that my problems were all of my own making. Everything that had happened was as a direct result of my own selfishness, dishonesty and fear. I was amazed at how insane I’d been; how unable to see the truth. But I could see it now.
It was time to phone a friend.
*The word "sin", incidentally, implies "a state in which a person has chosen to separate himself from God. Since breaking moral or religious rules is believed to be a sign of such separation, sin has come to refer more generally to the action rather than the spiritual state." - Dr Mel Thompson