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.

If you’ve enjoyed the site, please follow and share it. Here’s to 10,000 more views….

 The Miracle of the Mundane (2)

14 Responses to “Spirits

  • Your comment “Alcoholics and addicts are just seekers of God in disguise.” reminds me of this post by Fr. Richard Rohr, in which he writes:

    "In spiritual direction, addicts will often admit to early youthful moments of 'unitive consciousness.' ... When this incipient spiritual yearning was frustrated; when communion, connection, and compassion didn’t happen; when we were instead met with religions’ legalism, exclusivity, and ritualism—there was a great disappointment. Some then try to maintain an experience of communion through substance abuse"
    • Dude! Congratulations on your sobriety today, my friend. Look forward to catching up more tomorrow. I write on feel, and I’ve had that feeling for a while. I love this link. And I’ll read the rest of it sometime today. But it’s always cool to see something a little more clinical back up what I know in my heart to be true. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  • Fabulous piece, Mark. One of your best, methinks. Thanks for sharing this. Your accolades are well deserved. You have a special gift and voice. Keep shining.


  • Great as usual my friend. That freedom we sought from ourselves was inside our self all along. Kind of a paradox maybe but hey I am not an English teacher. LOL

  • Oh Mark….this is so beautiful, so accurate. It made me think of my mom, my dad, my girl, my brothers, myself……all of those so afflicted in various ways, JUST TRYING TO FEEL BETTER.
    “Alcoholics and addicts are just seekers of God in disguise.”
    This made me cry….so simple, so true. I’m sharing this one today. Thank you for being here!!! Please don’t ever stop being here….even when your a famous author! ? (I totally believe that day is coming)

    • Well, thank you Annette. I don’t know about all that, but thank you.
      I also love the phrase that people are constantly “doing the best with what they’re given.” We’re just given different things. Like I was given the gift of desperation, so that I could enjoy life and a brand-new way. That’s a gift that I want to give to everybody else. Especially people who might be struggling. Thank you for sharing that Annette! I said it before and I’ll say it again, you got me started. My first visitor and supporter out here.

  • Hi Mark!
    I so appreciate your comments on my blog as well!!
    This post is exactly what I needed to read today.
    I am sitting on my deck in Minnesota and have tears in my eyes as I read your words.
    I long for the spirit of which you speak, and know it is there.
    I just need to reach out a little further, or listen a little more.
    I was always disappointed in who I am, and it’s only now, after being sober, am I coming to accept myself.
    I wish you a wonderful day!

    • I’m a believer that you already have it, you already are that person. Drinking just took you away from that “other” her. I heard somewhere that a miracle can be just returning us to our natural state. Which I think is what we do getting sober.

  • Stephen
    2 years ago

    Thank you Mark. This is an incredible piece of writing. I appreciate your sharing so much of yourself here.

  • You gave me something to think about. Though alcohol is not my vice I have another. Food. With my seemingly unending battle with depression and anxiety food is always there. It is there when I am happy, sad, lonely, tired. anxious, angry, and bored. I go to a weight loss support group and they all battle the same demon. But you are right. I am seeking something greater than myself.

    • I think you are. I think we all are. It’s just food, or booze, or pills is something immediate and definite–and that spiritual stuff can be prolonged and ambiguous. So we take the first route. It’s not easy. I struggle still. But I have experienced what it fees like to be connected with that greater power. And that connection has allowed me to do all the good stuff I’m doing with my life. I don’t question that for a second.

  • You cast a big “alcoholics and addicts” net but I think you missed some of us. 😉

    • Yeah been meaning to put a disclaimer somewhere that these opinions are only mine. And I suppose the word God will limit the reach of the idea driving this post. Maybe if I changed it to “the power of comraderie” it would be more encompassing. And I would be writing about something that has more similarities than it does differences in its application (another opinion of course). Above all, it’s nice to see you made the visit Chris!

      • I’m not suggesting you change anything but I will point out that on it’s surface, “Alcoholics and addicts are just seekers of God in disguise.” comes closer than I’m comfortable with to equating substance use disorders with moral failing. To reduce addiction to a penitent’s disguise doesn’t do any favors to those still suffering.

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