Bill Wilson in his writings often discussed the periods of depression he suffered long after he claimed sobriety:
“When I was tired and couldn’t concentrate, I used to fall back on an affirmation toward life that took the form of simple walking and deep breathing. I sometimes told myself that I couldn’t even do this – that I was too weak. But I learned that this was the point at which I could not give in without becoming still more depressed.” Bill Wilson “AS BILL SEES IT”
It sometimes seems that those of us who face our alcoholism have battles with depression that defy the serenity and joy we ought to have as recovering addicts. Those bouts support one of the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous which says that “the drinking is just a symptom of deeper, underlying illness”. Treating our character defects with the prescribed 12 step program is one pillar of our recovery, but, addressing the emotional baggage we carried with us into sobriety often requires professional counseling and guidance.
As a younger man, jogging was a huge part of my life. On the trail in my Nikes the pitfalls of life became secondary to my breathing and the cadence of my footsteps. I was able to center on the inner journey coinciding with my external activity. The experience of runner’s euphoria was the carrot on the stick, a reason to get my head out of my butt and do something about the lurking depression just waiting to immobilize me.
Physical limitations have retired my running shoes, but I know today, many years into continued sobriety, that the walking/hiking routine is essential to a happy, contented Larry. The pace has slowed considerably, but the focus on breathing and the “clop, clop” of stepping still carries me to another world. It is a world of victory over depression.
Much of the AA program seems akin to the “Path” of Buddhism and also the “Way” of Jesus and his followers. Meditation is advocated by both. Meditative walking is a new endeavor for me. It is also an activity focused on breathing and stepping. The intent is to empty the head of worldly concerns and replace that circus with the beauty of the inner self, the soul. Repetitive chanting enhances the exercise. This is a much slower, deliberate type of walking very suitable to a much slower, deliberate Larry.
With entry into the “golden years” (whoever coined that phrase was undoubtedly drunk or high) the clutches of depression can increase. Our bodies fail us, our friends leave us through relocation or death, our family ties become weaker. We feel lost in the loneliness of retirement and many younger folks see us as burdens which they would sooner ignore. Financial security is a joke; one uncovered medical emergency will wipe us out and scammers are lurking on every website to relieve us of our monetary resources.
I need my walking to stay balanced emotionally and fit physically. I need my faith to approach the “final stretch” of this QUEST with confidence and joy. Scripture, the words attributed to Jesus and the Buddha, feed that faith. In John 16:33 Jesus tells me:
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”