Hear my interview about working at your passions : http://www.beckypapp.libsyn.com/
During a recent interview I was questioned about my writing process and sources of inspiration. The following article demonstrates how an image takes root and grows. I wrote the article for an alcohol/drug treatment center publication.
A Single Candle Of Recovery
“Better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness,” is a Chinese proverb that has remained in my mind since the 1950s. As a child I recall viewing the words on a small, stark, black and white television screen. The Christopher Society sponsored the TV program; from their current web site: “The mission of The Christophers is to encourage people of all ages, and from all walks of life, to use their God-given talents to make a positive difference in the world.” In recent years I have applied the proverb during Twelve Step lectures as well as in individual patient sessions.
A virulent sense of guilt and shame can rapidly spread over the soul of the alcoholic and addict as they struggle in early sobriety. In our despair we curse the darkness of our addictive past. Hopelessness can consume faith. We may find ourselves cursing the darkness of our self-resentment. During such challenging times I believe the proverb can speak directly to our recovery. The guilt, shame and resentment of past alcoholic and addictive behavior often do not find the light of our understanding until sobriety. A battered spirit can be overwhelmed for many as we struggle to remain clean and sober.
A key element in Twelve Step work “one day at a time” is the celebration of today’s sobriety. The disease wants no part of recovery and celebration. Like a malicious child tormenting a caged animal, the addiction often pokes at the wounded soul with the stick of guilt. The sharpened lance of resentment can be employed by our affliction with wanton effectiveness. Our common disease is proficient using these weapons of destruction against us. The self inside replays the painful memories and guilt of our disreputable behavior. If we dwell, we rearm the disease. The proverb can offer hope.
We need to focus upon lighting just one candle of recovery and sobriety today. We take responsibility for our past and make appropriate amends. But we need to guard against falling into the familiar cycle of guilt and shame, followed by old ways of self-medication against the pain. Then under the influence, we repeat addictive acting out followed by the resumption of guilt, shame and self-loathing. Thus the cycle spins in an endless spiral.
What can one single candle do in the vastness of our emotional and spiritual abyss? How is the cycle broken? The small light of one single candle is a beginning. Imagine entering an expansive auditorium with no illumination, the night nearly absolute. Then visualize igniting one candle, a candle possessing a lifelong supply of wax and wick, a candle that will go on burning unless we extinguish the flame. Long-lived though the candle may be, the lone and humble flame is but one. Nevertheless a small bit of illumination fans out to the very corners. From the farthest reaches of the space another person can receive the lone candlelight. That is if the seer chooses to have an unobstructed view. If however, an object blocks the candle’s light or the observer chooses to place an obstruction between themselves and the source of illumination, the candle cannot be directly viewed. The humble glow is there for our benefit if we chose to eliminate barriers. We have a daily choice.
Subsequently on the second day, one additional candle is ignited for a total of two. Additional glow illuminates the great space. Then on the third day another is added and so on until thousands of candles burn within the auditorium. Modest alone but powerful in numbers, the growing number of candle flames steadily replace the void. Eventually there will be no darkness. Total illumination displaces the hopeless gloom.
Recovery can be similar. The prospect of remaining clean and sober for the rest of one’s life can be overwhelming, dark with fear. Just one day at a time is sufficient. For today is all we really have. Indeed tomorrow is promised to no one. If tomorrow comes, set just one more twenty-four hour period of sobriety as the goal. On the following day, the same goal, and so on. Eventually we shall see one day of sobriety as a gift not merely necessity. The light of a single day of freedom adds to a progressively brightening future. Steadily with one day totaled to another and another and another, until finally our life is complete and sobriety is ours on the very day we leave this life. In our impatience however, we want the darkness gone now. We want the devastation of the past cleared immediately. We want relationships magically healed, trust fully restored by day’s end. When all is not repaired instantly within the moment, we can easily slip back into the darkness. If we chose, we have the ability to snuff out all the candles. Or we can seek the support of others like us and use their experience, strength and hope to light yet another day of sobriety.
Others in recovery, our counselors and chaplains in treatment, no one can predict how quickly an individual’s darkness will be gone. Yet most who have preceded us in AA or NA attest that the remaining darkness will be less hopeless and less destructive with each passing day of sobriety. Life will eventually get better if we simply do not use today. We accept the fact that if we drink or drug again, the chaos will return with devastating vengeance.
There will be life’s bumps on the recovery road. The world will not change just for us. How we respond to the world however, must change. With help we disallow our disease and human impatience to keep us from the appointed rounds of our daily work, lighting just one candle of recovery.
This is my first blog entry. I am new to this technology. I still draft in fountain pen or pencil, depending upon my mood. I was advised to read a blog or two by my favorite authors. That would indeed be difficult as they are deceased for a good while now.
What does one write without presenting a very dull resume? I cannot answer that question. All I can do is follow the advise of my writing mentor, editor and dear friend. Ralph would simply say, “Begin.”
I have been blessed in life working at my passions. Immediately following college graduation I entered US Air Force officer training. Upon commissioning, a year of flight school followed. With Air Force wings I flew military aircraft over a twenty-year career. My first passion realized. The Air Force has been quite good to me and I am grateful for the joy of flight and honor of service. Airplanes and flying have been a passion ever since a wide-eyed and excited little boy first climbed around in a twin engine, tail-wheel aircraft in the 1950s. The lonely, inoperative Beechcraft 18 was parked behind a hangar at Mitchell Field near Lombard, Illinois.
The passion for writing saw birth while I was in college. I found myself writing a one-act play for credit as part of my last collegiate work before entering Air Force officer training. Upon college graduation, I wrote not another word of fiction for nearly twenty years. The bug may have been dormant, but never dead. An outbreak of writing overcame me with swift consumption. A series of short stories emerged and was published under the title The Sins & Redemption of Janice ‘T’ , a selection of short stories. Many more stories await my pen.
I am fortunate in that another passion is also my current day job. I work at an alcohol and drug treatment center as a staff chaplain. Theological studies and ordination came in middle age.
I’ve heard said that all we really need for happiness is:
Someone to Love,
Something to Do, and
Something for which to Hope.
I have all these beautiful things. I am truly grateful.
This is my new blog please check back for an update soon.