A friend in the program texted me the other day, depressed about the news. “It just seems to get worse and worse,” he wrote, “I feel like the more sober I get, the more I pay attention. The more I pay attention, the more depressed I get.”
I was in a rehab center when the Tiananmen Square Massacre happened in 1989. We had a TV in the rec room, and I watched coverage of the violence for hours. I was deeply shaken, not because I had any particular personal connection to this tragedy, but because my addiction had numbed me to the outside world for so long.
Tiananmen Square was the first global event that hit me hard and left me shaken. Many addicts in recovery report something similar; when you stop using and start paying attention to the world, there are all sorts of horrific things to start to notice.
Drugs and alcohol turn the focus inward, on our own pain; in sobriety, we begin to see a hurting world.
In a meeting many years ago, I heard a speaker say, “any Higher Power, any spiritual force, that’s strong enough to keep an alcoholic sober has to be strong enough to solve any other problem, no matter how great.”
I think about that often. Though our problems rightly pale in comparison to the tremendous suffering going on in the world, the reality is that our sobriety is an astonishing miracle. The fact that so many get and stay sober together is, as the Twelve Steps teach, directly connected to some greater spiritual force.
It is important, as part of our recovery, to act locally and to give freely of ourselves in service in ways that are meaningful. That may not immediately impact what’s going on in a war-ravaged country far away. But as we do our service work, as we give back, it’s helpful to ask our Higher Power or spiritual path for inspiration on how we might help the places in the world where the suffering is immense.
If nothing else, making a daily practice of asking for our Higher Power’s will to be done for others—wherever they are—can make a real difference. Either miracles are real or they’re not. If they are—and our lives are a testament to the reality that they are—we would do well to ask for miracles even for the worst and most painful situations across the globe.