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Beside Restful Waters

“To refuse the dark side of one’s nature is to store up or accumulate the darkness;”

Robert Johnson as quoted by Fr. Richard Rohr

Recovery is a step by step process of illuminating the dark side. This illumination process has a starting point. I have my illumination story. I have heard hundreds of illumination stories. Some of our stories are imposed by arresting officers when our ‘dark side’ has broken the law. Some stories are exposed when we get ‘caught’ in the act(s) of addiction. Some of our stories are triggered by innocent, but terrifying connections to our traumatic past. My story of illumination was from the inside out. My inside turmoil was a state of near insanity – a broken man who was crumbling to pieces.

Up to this point of illumination, I thought I was able to keep my trauma managed and controlled by hiding it, repressing it, medicating it. These practices kept the source of my addiction, my trauma, in the dark. Yet the Source of life is not a life of darkness. The Source, the Higher Power, is a place of light. While the light will cast a shadow, this shadow is cannot be hidden in darkness. There comes a point…….

There comes a point of illumination.

Then what?

Then what?

What is next?

What is the next step?

My experience of illumination was an experience of connection. I “unintentionally” shared a bit of my dark side with a man who heard my scream. Well, my voice wasn’t loud but obviously my message was explosive. This man was my connection to the transformation of recovery. This man was the connection to a universe of suffering, death and resurrection. No matter where I was in this ’12 Step’ transformation, I was connected to the story of another person.

My Higher Power was illuminated in the faces, fears, tears, scarred stories, heavy crosses …….. and people willing to share all of these for my sobriety.

We all were traumatized. We all had/have dark sides to be illuminated. We all shed light on our own and each other’s shadows. We made the pains tolerable with each other. We made courage an act of faith in the face of our fears. We all experienced the unknown – the void of – a loss of trust in – the sense of hopelessness of wondering “what’s next”.

None of us was able to give an answer. All of us were willing to support each other in this darkness, this hell. We make it through.


In our shadows, in our darkness, we find a ray of light that can only shine on my shadow. Deep inside my shadow, someone’s ray of light illuminates the next step of my path. I am the only one who can see my next step. I am the only one who can take my next step. So, in this insecurity and fear, I inch a foot forward.

An what to my wandering eyes should appear? You have a hand of support, you reach out to support – not fix – not enable – but to support, maybe guide, always love.

Many of us have shared the struggle, and the insanity, of believing that our darkness is a familiar and safe place to be. We find a sick security there. It is this sickness that moves us to ask for help. It is this sickness that leads us to each other. We find that we, together, are the physicians, we are the sources of light.

We connect.

We support.

We express the peace beyond all understanding.

We rest in serenity.

We step out in courage.

We thrive in wisdom.

Together, we are the next step.

In gratitude.


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