from the April 1996 San Diego A.A. Coordinator Newsletter

One of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves is open mindedness. It was easy for me to appear to have an open mind in the beginning of my sobriety. So desperate for relief, from myself and my disease, I eagerly accepted what others told me to do and, not judging too harshly who they were or what they said. This attitude began to change after the obsession to drink had been lifted and my life had become more stable. It was then I began to stagnate.

I won’t say it was a downward spiral because it would be untrue, and I’d be selling myself and this program short. But I would be lying if I told you I’ve always given people and ideas the benefit of the doubt they deserve. I’m human and have as many or more character defects as the next person. Yet the beauty of being a human being is that we can change the parts of ourselves that have caused us, and others pain in the past. I knew it was time for an overhaul of the stagnant ideas and limiting attitudes which had crept back into my life.

It was with this in mind I woke up one Sunday morning a few months ago and decided to go to a Buddhist Temple. I don’t believe the decision was mine. I feel it was God’s way of kickin’ me in the arse. Raised in an Irish Catholic family, my parents didn’t exactly shove eastern philosophy down our throats. One can only guess or assume where my attraction to eastern thought came from. But, if there is one thing I’ve learned in sobriety, it’s to listen to that little voice inside me known as ‘intuition’.

I looked up the number of one of the local temples and called. The woman at the other end of the line confirmed that yes indeed they were having a meditation service that day. When I asked more questions, she told me to “just show up.” It kind of reminded me of talking to my sponsor. So as any good sponsee would do, I showed up.

Filled with fear and apprehension, I pulled up to the building. Being alcoholic, I’m used to dealing with that. The word scaring me the most wasn’t “Buddhist” or “temple.” It was “meditation.” This was the one thing I’d been avoiding since I sobered up. I don’t know if it’s because my brain and body never seen to want to sit still, or because I used to meditate all the time in my room when I was younger. (Of course, my version of meditation involved burning incense, a bottle of Absolut and a bowl or two of hashish.) I knew I was going to have to be still with myself for an extended period, and that was something I knew was going to be tough. I wanted the outcome, but I wasn’t too thrilled about doing the work to get it.

As it turned out, part of the Buddhist service was a half hour of sitting meditation. Let me repeat that. A half hour of sitting meditation! My nose itched, my back muscles spasmed and my right leg fell asleep about ten minutes in. But I made it through without freaking out, or disrupting anyone else. I actually enjoyed the time alone with myself. The realization hit me hard that my fear of who I am, who I’ve been and who I can become was one of the main reasons I hid in alcohol and drugs. I’d actually gotten calm enough during the meditation time to have an insight into my own makeup. It’s not really something that hasn’t crossed my mind before. Yet this time it was on a different level. It struck my soul. As I left the temple, I found a sense of peace I can’t recall having since admitting that I am powerless over alcohol.

I return to temple often. I’m not a Buddhist. I’m not Catholic. I’m an alcoholic who is searching out a spiritual life anywhere I’m led. I find — when I don’t get in my own way with fears, doubts and prejudices — I’m shown the most amazing things in the most amazing places. Be true to yourself, be true to your higher power and keep an open mind.

– John G, San Diego