Pain is the touchstone

The tenth step for me is about paying attention to what’s going on inside of me. It’s a good step to take when things are going good, but it is absolutely necessary anytime I feel uncomfortable. Selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear are the very things that block my connection to God, the One who has all power. I’ve learned through painful experience that without God’s power flowing through me there’s no way I can really enjoy my life.

I lived in a state of chronic suffering before I was graced with a moment of clarity that led me to Alcoholics Anonymous. I had no idea the cause, so I concluded this was just the way life is. If you sat next to me at the bar and told me about your problems, I’d say, “What do you expect? Life is a shit sandwich and it’s always lunchtime.” I said this to be cute, but part of me really believed this to be true.

I drank against the pain until, finally, the alcohol stopped working. Oh, I still got drunk all right, but the booze didn’t kill the termites of fear that gnawed night and day on the foundation of my life. We walked through hell together you and I. Today I feel deep compassion for myself and all alcoholics everywhere for the psychic pain we endured to earn out seats.

Before AA I numbed myself to the pain with drugs and alcohol. I didn’t realize I was also numbing myself to happiness and joy. Back then the only feeling I felt was anger, outrage. I’ve grown in awareness through the years. Today I am much more  sensitive to pain and suffering. I refuse to go very long with any discomfort before I take a look at it. The tenth step is a perfect way to discover what’s going on.

The tenth step reminds us that pain is the touchstone for all spiritual progress. I’m grateful for the ocean of painful experiences I swam through during my life before AA and afterward. I needed every single painful experience to arrive where I am today. I could not have done with one less.