The Altar of Recovery

red rubyThe one consistent action that alcoholics in recovery (not to be confused with in abstinence) perform is putting all their troubles on the ‘table’. This is a physical or metaphysical place depending on the individual. If I continually overlook this process, I will inevitably find myself in pain: physical and/or emotional.  

Today I know I need to go to the altar because I am burdened. Consciously I do not always know what I have been carrying around with me, but it is there, and it is gaining momentum. In early sobriety these were the moments I had to remind myself to breathe. I hated them. I hated that I was so ill at ease in the simplest of situations. I hated that I was an alcoholic. How was I supposed to recover with so much constant discomfort, so much relentless questioning living in me? It felt like a lose-lose more often than not.

In hindsight, I felt my traditional God had failed me. I had pleaded and prayed for release from my addiction. And still, I drank my bottle of wine on Sunday night. Maybe church would yield a different result next week. Maybe I didn’t need to quit after all. It wasn’t so bad.

It was bad. Or rather, it was as a bad as I ever wanted it to get.

I wasn’t surrendered when I quit drinking. I was exhausted when I quit drinking, but I was far from flying the white flag. I secretly hoped for the day I could drink with immunity. I capitulated upon realizing it was never coming.

Somewhere around month nine of no alcohol I was sadly, silently torn. How could I still be wavering? Why did sober feel so inflexible? And then it started to sprinkle in. It wasn’t that sober was stiff, it’s that life, being life, required flexibility. Not a quality I possessed.

And here … I found my altar.

It wasn’t in a building. It was in me.

It was that place where my Creator and I met—just the two of us (no matter who else was in the room).

It had been there all along I just didn’t recognize it. I had been too busy talking and telling. I had always shown up with a load of troubles, questions, agendas, issues of others, and the like. If I didn’t get the answer in my time frame, if I didn’t get the answer I wanted, I left the table—weight still in tow.

Come to the altar silent, was one of my first moments of sane thinking. Of conscious thinking.

And if I can’t come silent (as is most often the case with me) then I bring my consignment and set it down with the intention of releasing it. I allow it to be removed from the space between the two of us and then I can listen.

If love could speak to me what would it say?

This … this is what I listen for.

I am human, I don’t always leave the altar elated, but I always leave with more sanity.

And for today, that is a high, a drink could never possibly produce.



12 Responses to “The Altar of Recovery

  • “It was as bad as I ever wanted it to get.” “I was far from flying the white flag…” I could go on with parts of this that jump out at me. I ALWAYS get something from your posts. Thank you.


    • I feel blessed to have this community of friends and teachers. I feel the same way when I read other blog posts. I feel I have received far more than I have given AND that’s a nice motivator to keep posting. Love you

  • I will never be into organized religion– 8 yrs of catholic school cured me of that. spirituality is different and I like the mental image of bringing my troubles to the altar and laying them out to examine. Sobriety makes you very reflective and it is so helpful. I am only on day 17 and feel so much better

    • Day 17 … this is wonderful. And these are the hard days to get. I have often said that the first month was harder than the first year. You’ll build momentum and strength as the days progress.

      I, too, grew up with parochial schooling, so the altar for me has had a renewed meaning in my sobriety. I like it because the image of an altar moves me toward my inner sanctuary. And from this place I feel tender and receptive to thoughts that are beyond the scope of my day to day thinking. I am glad this image was beneficial. And I am more glad that you had the kindness to say so.

  • 9 months in – yes that was the point where I stopped thinking about the “inevitable slip” and stopped obsessing all the time about drink. I’d started like you “tell me how to drink normally” – I quickly got that that probably wasn’t an option but then it was in my head it seemed like every minute of every hour. But slowly it did clear

    • Yes, when I look back at some of these realizations it is often hard to pin point the date. But I think 9 months was big for me (and then I had some other stuff at 1 year and 2.5 years. Big Stuff too). I often feel jealous (ouch) of other blog writers’ ability to articulate their early sobriety. I feel drawn to these blogs. I often do not comment, but I marvel at the words. It brings me back to the tenderness of the early days. I didn’t even know how fragile I was. Reading blogs has healed me in an indescribable way. Just realized I didn’t have you on my blog list. Fixed that however. 🙂

  • I love this, Lisa. I read this last night and needed a bit of time away from it to process it all. Very deep and yet simple to come to. The inner sanctum, the intimate portion, the altar…where the Creator meets us. I was listening to a recording this morning from an Orthodox Priest, Archimandrite Meletios Webber, and he comes to discussing the mind through Orthodoxy and the 12 steps of AA (he is a recovered alcoholic). It’s fascinating, and he talks about the Creator meeting us where we are *right now*. We come to Him without ego and in our brokenness. And that is where He loves us. It is through trust and faith (and not belief, as that is more mental than heartful) that we approach that altar where we find peace.

    “And if I can’t come silent (as is most often the case with me) then I bring my consignment and set it down with the intention of releasing it. I allow it to be removed from the space between the two of us and then I can listen.” This is the meat and potatoes here for me. What blocks me from the sunlight of the spirit? I can’t handle it all on my own. I tried my best, and all it got me was drunk and angry and fearful. Just this morning I had to go to my altar and give up some thinking that I couldn’t relieve myself of. I gave it to Him. He’s got bigger shoulders than I 🙂

    Thank you for this Lisa…my recovery broadens every single time I come here and read your words.


    • Paul, Do you ever wonder if we all knew each other in one of the “other” lives? Maybe we’ve all been a family learning from each other for eternity? Maybe we are just reconnecting now on the internet? Geez, I sound loaded (I am not) … just letting my mind wander as I blog-read today. Seeing the connection we have. The support I receive for living sober is just incredible.

  • I was exhausted, not surrendered … yes, me too. I had the biggest problem admitting that I was powerless. And why? Really? My ego was not serving me, my pride wasn’t keeping me sober. I think that’s what really made the difference for me. I finally let go and asked my HP for help, that I couldn’t do it alone.

    And I haven’t had a drink since.

    (awww ruby slippers… love that pic!)

    love ya, Christy

    • Asking for help. Always the best thing I can do when I am learning (embarking) on something new. It’s so under-rated as a tool. I like the sense of trust we all have with one another. (blog friends) I feel there is nothing you all won’t help me walk through.

      Ruby red, because we could always go home, we just didn’t know it.

      love ya 2 lisa

  • I really enjoyed this and want so much to believe that it is all inside of me. Im embarking on the journey of developing (or remembering) self love, and it is totally unknown territory! But nothing else works to make me feel better. So im reading a lot, being quiet a lot. So funny….I have absolutely no idea how to love myself , how to start.

    • Yes I remember that feeling, “totally unknown territory.” The good news is we need only remember a little at a time to (begin to) make the effective shift. It is a falseness (in my opinion) that it comes quickly or fully at the wanting of it. For me that was the longing of my addictive person (mind). But I looked for love, a little—everyday. I asked it to show me, that I loved me. It did begin to grow and it will for you too. Promise. Never stop asking or looking. You are teaching yourself anew way, be patient and kind with yourself. All my love, Lisa

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.