When I am walking the dual path, the Buddha on one side of me and Bill W. (the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) on the other, the fruition is something greater.
Nirvana can be described as the absence of craving. Therefore without the first drink I am free of the dependent co-arising of addiction and craving. While the drinking life was that living hell of darkness and futility, where you no longer struggle as your addiction pushes you closer and closer to the edge.
Friends, family, finances all falling to waste side. A desolate wasteland of life where my next drink was the only thing of importance. I lost years to this. Huge portions of my life and my children’s childhoods were lost into this barren wasteland of only one thought, “Yes, this is all life has to offer.”
By default then, today I live in a state of Nirvana. It is not the utopian heaven of fantasy, a world without troubles, but Nirvana nonetheless. There is always a tiger above me and cliff below me, but in this moment there are strawberries to be savored.
There are wonderfully simple moments to be savored and experienced. With mindfulness I can recall the mornings where I could not stand up to hold my daughter or was unable to smile watching my wife dress. Recalling those days, where those simple pleasures where alien notions only Hollywood could create, allows me to experience these moments today with greater joy.
Having tasted this fruit, I must let it go, realizing that they are but moments, but with sobriety the chances of these simple joyous moments arising again are infinitely greater.
While actively drinking, the concept of a joyous, meaningful and lasting sobriety seemed far beyond my reach—a very precious “fictional” jewel whose cost was beyond what I was willing to give. Then I reached that point where the inner cost of even another day of drinking was beyond what I had left in my spiritual bank.
Of course when I finally gave up my struggle, my resistance, my delusional and false beliefs, the jewel of sobriety appeared far off in the distance. I began to clearly see in meetings that others around me had taken refuge in this jewel, as they were the ones with the sparkle in their eyes.
Sobriety was very real.
So little by little I came to believe and understand that sobriety was the easier, softer way. If I had negotiated the terms of my surrender to alcohol, it would have been for a few pebbles, to be able to wake up and not want to die, not for what the Jewel of Sobriety really is.
To reach the understanding of sobriety I had to search three corners of the country (geographic cures). I had to destroy marriages and loves, cars, jobs, credit, opportunities, friendships and I was even ready to give up my children near the end. I had been paying for that jewel on the installment plan since I was 13 and I had paid for it in full long ago.
In sobriety, the first steps where shaky ones. Small steps, like learning to open my mail and how to go get a haircut without being drunk. Small trials, weekend trips and the overwhelming urges that struck like Mara out of nowhere, all began to build confidence in this thing called sobriety.
Phone calls, meetings, my sponsor, the Steps and spiritual seeking all created that solid foundation. Larger trials came with greater challenges, but my foundation was solid; my sobriety could weather the storms I once thought were impossible to survive without a drink. “Woe is me,” the great alcoholic cry was no more.
I was coming to believe in the power of my own sobriety.
Today, by taking refuge each day in the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, there continues to develop the Fourth Jewel of Sobriety. This jewel is to be savored, protected and honored each day, as precious as the other three.
Without it I will lose my fellowship with humanity, withdrawing back into my dark lonesome world. Without it I will lose sight of the Truth of life—that life is not a solid unchanging permanent block of misery and woe. I will lose sight of the beauty and magic that is inherent in every moment that I am present to. Without it I will lose the belief that I have the radiance, beauty, power and peace that I have begun to see within myself. I am inherently good and so are you.
Today let me,
Take Refuge in the Buddha
Take Refuge in the Dharma
Take Refuge in the Sangha
Take Refuge in my own Sobriety.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Eric Rainbeau