The Red Balloon

I like the metaphor about humility I heard on a Joe and Charley tape when I was new. One of the guys said to imagine that my being is like a big red balloon. If the balloon is inflated to bursting with ego, there’s no room for Spirit to work in my life. The continuous action of the 12-steps deflates ego and creates empty space in my balloon. Since nature abhors a vacuum, Spirit rushes in to fill the void. I’m coming to believe humility is the empty space created when ego is deflated -- when I've let go of all my old ideas (absolutely!), even my ideas about God.

But here’s where it gets tricky for me... Ego wants no part of God or the 12 steps. So it comes up with some suggestions about how to get itself empty. (This even sounds silly!). My ego tells me to “take a meditation course, go to an ashram, read more spiritual books." I feel better when I do these things, but I’m learning that feeling better does not mean I have gained one iota of humility.

I’m learning that humility is a quality of "being", not doing. It’s living life completely on life’s terms. It's complete harmony with what is. There’s nothing I can do to consciously create humility. Certainly the steps and service help to right size me, but there’s no formula to God consciousness. It's all a gift from God on God's time, not mine.

I can’t try to be humble. Even talking or writing about humility fills the space with ego. Humility is so anonymous that the right hand doesn’t even know what the left hand is doing. I'm not there yet.

Moment of Clarity

My recovery is nothing I did and everything God did. Certainly, I did nothing to cause the moment when delusion receded just enough for me to get a fleeting glimpse of truth. This was grace, pure and simple.

My ego was my amigo for many years. I achieved success in the world of money power and prestige. But here I was age 47, unemployed and broke, seemingly paralyzed to take any action to look for work. I had no energy for much of anything besides drinking cheap wine, smoking expensive marijuana and watching stupid TV programs for hours on end. Looking back, I can see that ego had finally run out of gas.

Even though my drinking had progressed, I never thought alcohol was a problem. After all, my last drunk driving arrest was more than 19 years earlier. I had been through divorce, bankruptcy and recent job loss, but in my mind these things happen to most people. Don’t they? As my checking account dwindled I awoke every morning with an ache of fear in my gut. I read many self-help books, but nothing changed. I know today that I was beyond human help.

I went to a therapist to find out why I was such a wreck. After I finished whining about my life for 30 minutes she said she couldn’t help me. Her exact words were, “from what I know about you Jeff you don’t have an ounce of humility in your whole body; your brain is so cloudy from your daily drinking that you can’t hope to get any clarity on your life and, by the way, I think you have the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old.” The voices in my head were screaming "you can't let this bitch talk to you like this" but somehow I was able to keep my mouth shut. Then she looked me in the eyes like she was looking at my soul and said, “you’re in trouble aren’t you Jeff?” I looked down at my feet afraid to answer. Finally, I whispered, “maybe.” For the first time in my life I admitted there was something I couldn’t handle. Without knowing it I had just taken the first step.