During my career as a dual diagnosis clinician, within the community mental health system, I witnessed numerous clients with behavioral health concerns and addiction issues, cycle through the “behavioral health system”. Some clients asked for or were prescribed psychotropic medication to quell their anxiety, depression and/or to regulate their mood. Still, many continued to experience depression, isolation and at times deep despair. Many bravely navigate their lives, hope their life will change, desperately long for an external source, a clinician, a medication, even inpatient treatment to find relief somewhere, out there. Of course, in the field of mental health, clinicians and doctors recognize many treatment options important, helpful and yet, many agree, the client’s desire for wellness and engagement in their own care is primary for treatment to be effective.
Within the human services systems, whether community mental health, domestic abuse programs, the court system, and hospital emergency rooms; untreated substance use disorders is often linked to those seeking mental health assistance. Often those affected by addiction are unable to admit their inner turmoil, the daily struggle to keep their secret life from falling apart. Often unable to admit to their family, friends, or themselves the problem of their intolerable situation which inevitably leads to increased isolation and fear.
Then, for reasons unknown an often mysterious opening appears. In the midst of addiction or alcoholism, a person with addiction will begin the process of “surrender”, a willingness appears, an opening, perhaps one might call this grace, This unexpected readiness often happens during a major crisis, i.e. an important relationship is ended or loss of employment, sometimes a serious illness, or a criminal arrest and within these human upheavals, a portal opens, and a certain willingness previously unknown, suddenly appears.
As a recovered alcoholic, with twenty-eight years of experience, I understand alcoholism and addiction as symptomatic of inner maladjustment, as a spiritual malady not a disease although there are physical repercussions for the disorder. My untreated alcoholism manifested as deep selfishness, self-centeredness, and dishonesty by a deep fear and spiritual disassociation. I was blocked, cutoff from my humanity having long before alcohol to not care brought about by years of trauma (some of which I took an active role). And in this world of fear, my humanness was too much for me. Instead I cultivated habits to not feel anything. I signed off on my humanity. Before recovery, I moved through my days, full of resentment and deep sadness, I was, as stated in the Big Book of AA, “restless, irritable, and discontent.” My life was fueled by willfulness. My depression finally drove me to therapy and thankfully, my therapist suggested and with some half-hearted readiness I gave Alcoholics Anonymous a try. Slowly, willingness appeared. Next I accepted the Twelve Steps of Recovery. I learned within the twelve codified proposals; a personal self-appraisal was necessary to uncover the root cause of my problem. Little by little, I understood my problem to be spiritual in nature and my alcoholism as symptomatic of a deeper spiritual malady. With the generous guidance of my sponsor a “recovered” alcoholic, who had completed the first nine steps and lived and grew in steps ten, eleven and twelve, as presented in the first 164 pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I invited a Divine Presence into my life and everything changed. Together, with the help of a Something I did not and still do not understand, along with my loving sponsor, a process took place and the deep resentment and fear was healed. The anger faded, replaced by human acceptance, understanding, (most of the time), and true forgiveness for myself and others. A miracle began on November 17th, 1991 and continues until this day.
And life has taken on new meaning….in 2011, upon completion of the Contemplative Clinical Practice Certification Program at Smith College, I began to consider how to bring contemplative guidance to my clinical practice and slowly I envisioned offering this inner work to my clients.
In 2015, having left the mental health system, I opened a small private offering, Inward Grace. Interestingly most who seek my service, are ready to consider their answers lie within. They sense there is Something Greater than themselves needed as they seek to heal.
In November of 2018, through several synchronistic events, I sought additional spiritual study. This past November, 2019, I completed the Contemplative Spiritual Director Program at the Alcyon Center in Seal Cove, Maine. The Alcyon Center offers an amazing contemplative program a deeper spiritual connection. My experience provided a wider lens of the Divine Creator, opened in my heart, a universal, a non-dual, sense of all of life as a holy manifestation.
Now, as I move into later life, with support from caring friends, my loving family, and ongoing connection with spiritual advisors; the path continues, sometimes it’s dark, sometimes it’s full of bright light moving onward into Inward Grace; a contemplative resource for seekers beginning to sense the Silent Beckoning, woven throughout the universe and beyond…It is, as I now understand, the inward call of Love.
*The word ‘spiritual’ does not refer to religious matters. All activity which drives the human being forward towards some form of development-physical, emotional, mental, intuitional, social-if it is in advance of her/his present state, is essentially spiritual in nature and is indicative of the livingness of an inner divine entity.