Some call alcohol “spirits.”
The nickname held true for me. There is a reason people flock to churches or bars when stricken with calamity—they both contain spirits.
The prestigious psychologist William James wrote
The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says No. Drunkenness expands, unites, and says Yes. It is in fact the greater exciter of the Yes function in man. It makes him for the moment one with truth. Not through mere perversity do men run after it.” (from The Varieties of Religious Experience)
He may have something there. Alcohol has an unmistakable effect—the thrill, the rush, the numb, the ease and the courage to act without thinking of consequence. It is certainly difficult to say no.
If heaven means a bliss of being without mental impediments, a case can be made for the drunkard’s heaven on earth.
If booze is a spirit conductor, then its engine is forgetting self. Saint Francis knew that by self-forgetting we find. I developed an insatiable greed to expand and prolong the effects of drugs and alcohol that made me lose the shackles of self-awareness.
I held a persistent fascination with being anyone but me. As I grew more aware of self, I grew more disappointed that I will be me for a lifetime.
The first buzz was unforgettable. I could let go of the wheel, let cruise control kick in. I could act outside of a mind riddled with pitfalls and booby traps of shame and loathing. I encountered the “other” in me, the one unafraid to walk and talk and act. But in the morning I was stuck with my stinking self again. I was insufficient without the aid of intoxicants. The alcoholic’s cycle begins.
A part of my brain told me I could tweak the experience and improve on the effect. But by fifteen I was drinking with a silent resignation that it could never be like that first departure from reality. After fourteen years of drinking, each drunk was a bout of confusion and agony.
Marijuana became a new tool to relax the strain of space between myself and the world. After ten years of smoking weed, I grew paranoid and anxious each time I smoked.
My first cocaine highs made me feel I was the best at everything I did, as if everything I saw was the view from the mountain top. Three years later and I was lost in the foothills; all I could see was the next trip to the bathroom stall. When substances stopped working for me, I couldn’t let them go, in fact I needed to use them more in the vain hope that they could make tomorrow’s sun rise. I knew no other way to feel whole. (click this for the Miracle of the Mundane’s complete series of “firsts”)
Alcoholics and addicts are just seekers of God in disguise.
Each high is a short-term solution for their spiritual longing, something to treat the symptom, but not the disease. If we put down the drinks and the drugs, the insatiable yearning remains. We ache to experience the world outside of ourselves, to know the “other.” God fills the void. There is an indwelling other in us, a divine source, a tributary at the foot of the heavenly river. It is the genuine “other,” our avenue to make the everyday extraordinary. Experiencing it satisfies all craving.
God accepts me for who I am; God created me this way, after all. This great realization takes my concern away from the world around me. Not needing approval from people is a great gift, a strength stronger than the forces of temptation, anger, and pride. Once your existence has been stripped to this essential affiliation of person and creator, you need nothing more. To live without spirits I need my spirit. It means freedom.
And freedom allows the wild probability of all things possible.
On an unrelated note, I’d like to thank everyone for visiting. This is a week of milestones. “Spirits” is the Miracle of the Mundane’s 50th post. Also this week, the website received its 10,000th view. I am grateful that you are here, as I am grateful that I am here. I am grateful that we can be here together.
I created a collage of your generous comments. Thank you for changing my life.