Up until now, I have studiously avoided Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” It was too much of a sensation. So, like most things that are wildly popular, I viewed it with suspicion. But my stepdaughter insisted, and finally gave me the book. Not to appear rude, I read it. Or I should say, I’m reading it.
Being a blog that chronicles one person's recovery in Al-Anon, I should say upfront that “Eat, Pray, Love” is not Al-Anon conference approved literature. But I found recovery on nearly every page.
That’s one of the blessings of the program, I think. You start to recognize recovery everywhere, even when it goes by another name.
Anyway, I wondered if my stepdaughter knew how well I’d relate to the tale. I don’t think I’m giving too much away. But if you are the last person in America who hasn’t read the book besides me and don’t want to know anything that might possibly spoil it for you, stop reading.
To recap: Woman in her 30s goes through a devastating divorce followed immediately by a passionate, doomed relationship, finds herself in her bathroom on her knees for the first time begging for God’s help. Until this moment, she doesn’t believe in God. She admits to control issues. The word “detachment” leaves her cold. Yet, completely broken, she embarks on a yearlong spiritual journey that includes an ashram in India.
It all sounded eerily familiar.
Except I was in my 40s. Relationship #1 wasn’t a marriage, but close. But there was a tumultuous, doomed rebound relationship, utter brokenness, the desire for answers, and new and sudden belief in God that surprised no one more than me.
Also, while there wasn’t an Ashram in India, there was a fitness spa in Mexico, which, like Gilbert’s journey was financed by a writing assignment. And that’s where my nascent spiritual journey grew legs.
Interestingly, I was attending Al-Anon meetings at the suggestion of a friend. I loved Al-Anon, but I didn’t have an active alcoholic in my life at the time and I hadn’t yet realized that that my problems in relationships had everything to do with the disease of alcoholism.
So I didn’t get a sponsor or work the steps, and I ultimately quit going.
But at this fitness spa, I found beautiful gardens a la “Eat, Pray, Love.” I ate a healthful diet, took daily classes in Yoga and meditation. Participated in a writing workshop. In the evenings, I sat on my casita’s beautiful patio and pondered my life.
It lasted only three days, but I took those new practices home with me. I took more classes in Yoga and meditation. Began to pray regularly, on my knees. Though I wasn’t yet working a program, I read a book about relationships and took the suggestions.
I was willing to try a new way.
Looking back on it now, I see that book as being filled with Al-Anon principles. Listen without interrupting. Don’t jump in to help unless you’re asked. If you are asked for your opinion, give it honestly. If not, keep your mouth shut.
It was the beginning.
And, yes. Like Gilbert, at the end of my nearly yearlong journey I met the man with whom I've been happily married for nearly eight years.
It took another crisis a few years later to bring me to Al-Anon, this time with my daughter. And this time it was obvious that my problem concerned substance abuse. I finally knew I was in the right place.
But before Al-Anon, there were all these other things. The world is full of recovery, when we look.
For all I know, “Eat, Pray, Love” may have inspired a whole movement of spiritual journeys. You never know how seeds get planted, where they will lead, or how they grow.
Sometimes, they even lead into the rooms of Al-Anon.
Blessed Titus Brandsma – July 27
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