“We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people” — Big Book, page 52
An Old timer with 55 years of sobriety writes about his experience with a very important and much too often misunderstood major part of everyone’s recovery;
The “Spiritual Transformation Cycle – the Dark Night of the Soul and how to make it through those times when you’re unable to call on your previous Spiritual awakening or growth and become negative, angry, depressed, self-centered and destructive and want to give up and drift away from the Program:
My Alcoholics Anonymous birth date, February 6, 1957, my naked birth date, August 15, 1930, so it is safe to say I am in the twilight of life. Before it is too late I need, I want to pass on an important experience not often shared. We know countless reasons alcoholics never make it to the doors of Alcoholic Anonymous or stay if they do. A subject masterfully covered in a wide range of writing and speaking. Here we address an important area of sobriety too often misunderstood;
The Dark Night of the Soul is a major part of the Spiritual Transformation Cycle. Our Higher Power causes this life changing experience, not our personal effort or lack of effort, or changing events. Only our Higher Power can transform us to a higher consciousness. We want to offer enough information to spot this important part of the human condition, the Dark Night of the Soul.
If at the first sign of the Dark Night we choose to surrender everything, letting the natural Spiritual Trans-formation Cycle run its course, we could save ourselves pain and frustration. With a completed cycle we often experience a fulfillment beyond our expectation, overflowing with awe, love and gratitude. Before we reach that wonderful state of bliss we have a serendipity journey to travel out of the darkness into a new light, guided and directed by the tender mercy and grace of our Higher Power. In this article we focus on the Dark Night.
Learning how to live a new way of life is grounds for problems. Doing what we should not or not doing what we should or resisting change produce problems. To correct these apply the Program tools at our present level. Our Higher Power governs the Dark Night not our efforts contrary to problems we make up.
Our Higher Power transforms the Dark Night into an asset as the cycle runs its course. At the end of this article is a set of useful suggestions for a Dark Night caused by the many problems our selfish self centerness set into motion.
My first Spiritual Transformation experience was when alcohol stopped working, with everything else. Of course I had no idea what was happening I just knew I was in trouble. I found myself at Alcoholics Anonymous’ door; bankrupt every way a human can be except one, spiritually. I didn’t have an active Spiritual account at the time.
Alcoholics Anonymous showed me the way to open an active Spiritual ac-count that worked. I now make daily deposits and withdrawals. If alcohol continued to work I wouldn’t have found this wonderful way of life I now enjoy.
The Dark Night of a Spiritual Transformation Cycle caused me to hit my bottom, revealing my weakness and my powerlessness. “There comes a time when no human power can keep us from drinking” [or can keep us from going insane]. Without a conscious contact with a Higher Power I could not avoid going through the hell that followed.
Let’s take a look at a common time line for the beginning of a Dark Night of the Soul. Life ranges from great to just getting by for years. We begin to experience a growing discontentment; at first we were not unhappy but not happy. When current levels of important areas stop working altogether or lack satisfaction indeed it is a dark night.
Fighting and resisting this natural Spiritual cycle causes problems of fear, anger, depression, acting out against others or turning on one’s self, sometimes it proves fatal.
Trying to make old tools work as they did before the Dark Night availed us nothing, the harder we pushed the greater the darkness. Revealing our inability to understand, manage or control this dangerous experience. We cannot afford to live on yesterday’s bread – experience because it is fruitless but we keep trying.
Like the caterpillar trapped in its cocoon it somehow created, unable to free its self, alone and unaided, it turns to mush, without an identifiable form. Out of that mush, a beautiful butterfly joins us. Yes, we experience labor pains that come with birth, expansion and growth. Unnecessary pain comes from our resistance.
Like all universal transformations we pass through a journey beyond our understanding, deeper than words. Accepting the Spiritual Transformation Cycle by allowing it to run its course is the easier and softer way, taking us to a higher Spiritual level and a deeper union with our Higher Power.
The following is a later personal experience of the Dark Night of the Soul.
As a long-term member of Alcoholics Anonymous, actively living this way of life, I found myself radically changing. My experience this time was more intense than my first Dark Night.
Finding myself unable to call on my Spiritual awakening and growth, I became negative, angry, depressed, self-centered and destructive. I soon wanted to give up and drift away from the Program, but I did not.
When I first came into the Program my sponsor convinced me of the importance of the basics,(see daily survival kit) no matter what, keep on keeping on.
Naively I told myself I could avoid by understanding what we did wrong or did not do right. I sought Alcoholics Anonymous members with similar experience. I asked them questions like; “Why did you give up a way of life that has endless possibilities?” They replied in one voice. “Everything important stopped working as I knew it.
Meetings I had loved turned me off.
I lost my conscious contact with my Higher Power. I tried to pray and meditate but it felt unreal and insincere.
The Big Book and my other favorite books no longer held my interest.
I had nothing of value to offer others but I continued service work.
I felt my sponsor talked “bumper sticker” language.
I worked the Steps the best I could but nothing new opened.
I tried to talk to other Program people, what I heard was the basics (see the Survival Kit), which I thought I was doing.
In other words I lost all faith in Alcoholics Anonymous. I felt hope-less.”
I now believe we were experiencing the Dark Night of a Spiritual Transformation Cycle.
At the first sign of the Dark Night of the soul, part of a Spiritual Transformation Cycle, let everything go.
Yesterday’s bread no longer nourishes our deeper hunger and thirst. Our personal “reality” challenged at every level, falls short.
“We have to stop fighting everyone and everything.” (Alcoholics Anonymous) Yesterday’s tools fail. The Spiritual Transformation’s natural flow will integrate the lower into higher levels of consciousness if we can get out of the way.
Our Higher Power is inviting us through the Spiritual Transformation to a higher level. Our Higher Power will guide us if we are willing to surrender to His Will. Pain comes from resistance – the shortcut on this journey, let go and let our Higher Power do for us what we cannot.
The God within us deals with our Spiritual immaturity and also deals with the rest of my defects just by our following a few simple actions.
Applying the Daily Survival Kit.
When everything stops working, ask the following two questions:
1. Am I doing something I should not be doing? .. If your answer is no, move on. .. If your answer is yes, see if knocking it off helps.
2. Am I not doing something I should be doing?.. If your answer is no, move on… If the answer is yes, take whatever action you need, see if that helps.
If no measurable change, you may be entering a Spiritual Transformation Cycle. Incorporate the following into your daily program.
The Alcoholics Anonymous Program is Spiritual principles that expand with use. We feel it fails us in the Dark Night of the Soul.
That does not mean the Program isn’t working. It means our past understanding of the Program no longer works or needs a major upgrade.
Spiritual Transformations come and go. Keep practicing the basics:
.. Don’t use one of your addictions to fix the program
.. Keep going to meetings (set a minimum)
.. Keep looking for service work (get out of self)
.. Keep turning to your Higher Power (no matter how useless it feels)
.. Keep reading Program books (one line at a time)
.. Don’t withdraw (Spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, socially)
.. Tell Program people your experiences
In Alcoholics Anonymous we can share in a way that can make a useful difference, 24/7. For this I am deeply grateful.
Do we just fade away?
Do we return to our primary addiction?
Do we switch addiction?
Do we settle for a “dry-polar” life?
Do we find a new way that works?
Do we practice the basics (Survival Kit) until the Spiritual light shines away the darkness?
Do we wait for the miracle?
Do we chip away the useless and harmful, as we currently understand it?
Do we leave the results to our Higher Power? The choice is ours.
Doctors clear away obstacles and create an environment where the natural healing takes place. That’s a great metaphor for the Program and for a Spiritual Transformation Cycle.
(anonymous guy with 55 years, sometimes sober, sometimes dry, but always found his way back through the doors of recovery).
See you on the radio
2 responses to “It’s a dark night of the soul, when recovery starts to grow cold”
I really liked this article. It caught my attention early on whilst in one of these periods, or Dark Knights. I took note of the Spiritual Survival Kit, got down to the basics (say a prayer, get to a meeting, do something for someone else, get out of self, say a prayer again) and low and behold, the butterfly has emerged ! Thanks for sharing, Joseph !
What a great way to start the day! I needed this. There seems to be a complacency angle to this! This article gave me a breath of fresh hope!