When I bottomed out on booze, I was heavily involved with a New Age group studying and practicing the Law of Mentalism — I was taught and held true that we were powerful beyond our wildest dreams, and created our own reality. A few days without drinking, shaking, mocus, and scared out of my wits, I wondered why I’d created my alcoholism. That set off the “neet-neets.” I called the voices in my head the “neet-neets,” and I’ve had them forever. My New Age teacher said I was creating the “neet-neets,” and that they were creating my reality. I needed to affirm myself, say positive statements of my being. That way I could rebuild my self-esteem and get out from under the control of my ego. Positive statements of my being only made the “neet-neets,” louder and made me feel crazy. Drinking shut the “neet-neets,” up and made me okay. There isn’t an alcoholic alive who doesn’t know the horror of when the booze stops working. Demons fly free.
My sponsor suggested I put aside New Age thinking for a while. Her exact words were, “Put it on the shelf. You can take it down and look at it later.” I took the suggestion, gratefully; fell to my knees in prayer, and turned my life and my will over to the Christian God of my childhood. There is no question A.A. is a spiritual program. The rooms are quite clear; it’s a God of your understanding, God as you understand God, but in my experience most people perceive God through the lens of a Judeo-Christian perspective. God is ALL, the Omnipotent Father, and He knows best. You are the powerless child and whatever happens is for your own good. Though we are blessed with free will, very bad things happen when you take your will back. Good things happen when you give it over to God. Sometimes bad things happen even when you give your will over, but that’s okay because God knows best. His ways are mysterious. This was the Christian God of my childhood. This was the God I ran into in the rooms and to whom I gave over my life and my will. What I was told by well-intentioned people, who’d been sober a lot longer than me, was that if kept taking my will back, I was going to drink again.
The longer I was sober the less I could tolerate this God. I couldn’t stomach what I saw as a culturally programmed, understanding of God and the diminishing and extraordinarily invalidating judgments of self, according to the rules and ways of that God. The reasons for things happening (good and bad and indifferent) were rooted in this understanding of God. That I had to be powerless to this God in order not to drink made no sense to me. I was in counseling with a minister recommended by my sponsor. He said I was resisting. Defiant. And defiance is an outstanding quality of alcoholics. I did not agree. He smiled, refusing to engage. I knew that smile. It meant I once felt as you did, it meant you’ll come around. But I knew I wouldn’t, even though I wished I could. Someone once told me I was purposely difficult, that I needed to learn acceptance. I have no issues with acceptance, but without fail I have questions about what I'm supposed to accept. To me that is evidence of sanity and a working mind.
Before my bottom, I’d studied comparative religions for over 15 years. I’d had my chart done, my cards read, my numbers figured, been channeled for, and channeled. I met with a group once a week for channeled messages from the other side, and together we visualized the downfall of apartheid. I’d done Nichiren Buddhism, Course of Miracles, and Silva Mind Control. I’d read all the Seth Books, the Kybalion, Blavatsky, and Huxley’s perennial philosophy. I’d gone on retreat, studied 7 rays, esoteric astrology, led guided meditations, and popped my kundalini chanting, scaring myself half to death. The great mystery is that we are all connected. The mystical experience was as much a part of me as the nose on my face and I could no more deny my experience of the shimmering divine, indelibly imprinted on my soul, then I could deny the existence of gravity. This was the God, the One, of my New Age studies, the God that said, “You are powerful beyond your wildest dreams and can create anything you want.”
At the same time I couldn’t deny what I called the God of the Powerless, the God I experienced in the rooms. Giving my life and my will over to that God in early sobriety genuinely saved my life and I loved Him. But, the clear opposition of my God experiences and the resulting fog further deepened an already severe depression. I saw rats jumping out of my heart chakra, went on medication, and lost most of my A.A. running buddies, who told me I was no longer sober. This was in the late 80’s. Today most everyone I know in the rooms is on medication but back then, in the fascist big book group that I ran with, by choice, it was still regarded with tremendous suspicion.
I was devastated. Though principles over personality is a key teaching of A.A. I didn’t have the strength, trust, or faith to go to another room for help. I continued to force myself to meetings but I was afraid to share. I knew the stock answers; they played on a continuous loop in my head. “You’re on the pity pot.” “You have self-centered fear.” “You’re not putting enough energy into step work.” “You’re not praying enough.” “More meetings.” “Get over it, you’re not drinking and that’s all that matters.” Years later, when I shared this experience at a meeting, someone collared me afterwards and told me I needed to quit blaming A.A. for what happened. I very calmly explained I was not blaming A.A. on any level, for what happened. Where there are groups of people, no matter what the frame, there are going to be dramas, dust-ups, and arguments. Maybe even battles. The point is I don’t believe in terminal uniqueness. If I had this experience, others have had an experience in A.A. that is exactly and/or thematically the same. Alcoholics are such isolated people to begin with; it is the stories with which we can identify that break through the isolation and allow for healing.
I detoured out of the rooms and yes, I would eventually go out. Not for long. It was very short-lived and no, I didn’t descend into the hell that brought me into the rooms of A.A. Instead, I hated myself for going against what I knew to be true; namely, I loved not drinking. I’d been sober for seven years. None of the people in my life at that point even knew me as a drinker, much less a woman of questionable behavior. They knew me as a writer, a devoted single mom, a Reiki master and healer. I went to a meeting, tried to listen, but I couldn’t, the sense of you-don’t-belong-here was too overwhelming. Walking home on Henry Street, I begged the Universe with every fiber of my being, “Help me, please.”
When I got home I phoned a woman — let’s call her Bev — I’d shown an apartment to a few months back. Like a lot of single moms, I’d been seduced into real estate by the promise of big money and the schedule of working when my son was in school. Bev didn’t rent the apartment, but we ended up going for coffee and talking about the cellular change that comes with affirmations and meditation. She said, “You’re so spiritual.” I wanted to say, “and miserable and broke and I hate real estate,” but instead I said, “I’m not sure what to do with it.” “I have someone you need to see,” she said. “She’s a psychic but she’s so much more.”
The psychic-who-was-more-than-a-psychic was elegant, formidable, and I was a sobbing, snot dripping, walking bundle of low self-esteem and self-loathing.
What was to become of me?! What was I going to do? What kind of work? I had no money! I had a child to raise! Real estate didn’t work! Nothing was working! A.A. didn’t work either! I was a dry drunk! Would I ever have a man again?! Would I ever have sex again?! I have no money! Oh my God, I have no money!! What was to become of me?! I’m the old Eskimo woman on the ice flow, floating out to sea to die!”
The psychic listened dispassionately. Not one understanding, “hmmmm.” When the worst of the storm had passed, she handed me a box of Kleenex.
“You’re a daughter of the Dark Goddess,” she said. “You’re not here to be good. You’re not here to be bad either. You’re here to evolve.”
I felt like I’d been struck by lightning. I’d dedicated my life to being a good person and that wasn’t my job? The words “Dark Goddess” hung in my chest, reverberating so strongly, I felt like a chew toy for a giant dog. The overall of self-loathing and low self-esteem cracked, and I emerged out of that crack like Aphrodite rising from the sea. I was on a beach in Atlantis, a vision in turquoise chiffon and gold jewelry. I don’t even like turquoise chiffon.
“You’re not going back to active alcoholism,” the psychic-who-was-more-than-a- psychic said. “You slipped, it’s done. Now, you can begin the work of re-claiming.”
“You bring the pieces of self that have been splintered off by life back into body. You might think about starting a Mystery School. And hang a shingle out for psychic readings; counseling, guidance, healing, whatever you want to call it. You’re the real deal.”
Reeling, I was reeling when I left there and shocked the world still looked exactly the same, and people were still doing what people generally did. The next day I began to research the Dark Goddess. For three years I read nothing but non-fiction: myths, Women Who Run With Wolves, all the works of Merlin Stone, Carol Christ, Jean Bolen Shin, Rosalyn Bruyeye, and Robert Graves. I re-read Alice Miller, Bradshaw, Melanie Beatty’s Co-Dependent no more, and John and Linda Friel’s Adult Children: Secrets of Dysfunctional Families. My reading, my research, was intuitive. There was no rhyme or reason to how, or why. Books, containing what I needed to know, showed up when I was open to hearing what the author had to say. The reality that I was an alcoholic never left me. It was a spoke though, rather than the hub of me, which it had been when I was in the rooms. The desire to drink had been completely lifted.
Why people are the way they are, why I am the way I am, is the gravitational force, the living question, in my life. It always has been. I knew I was on the right path but a decidedly uncomfortable split between my everyday life and the spiritual lived inside me. You know the one. You go away for retreat, touch God, come home and three days later it’s like you never left. I was either in Heaven or Hell; either-or, no in-between. I flashed on the opposition of my God experiences, and lay down on my bed to mediate. I’d already had two strange meditations that week. In the first, a pink lotus grew out the top of my head. For the rest of the day, I was walking around with this pink lotus on top of my head, kind of like an Easter bonnet. Clearly, I was losing my mind, but it made me laugh.
In the second meditation, my forehead caved in, like it’d been scooped out with a giant ice cream scooper. When I came out of the meditation, I laid my hand on my forehead and fed in the Reiki. My forehead was fine, same as it’d ever been, but the sensation would remain and intensify when I went to bed. It felt like the wisdom of the Universe was downloading into my brain and I was watching it happen on the movie screen in my third eye. Bizarre. Escheresque. Etruscan knights, and languages I’d never heard before. Ladies and Lords. Cave Men and Women. Space ships, beings of light. Someone whispering Leumuria. Someone whispering Atlantis. An ancient medicine woman making fire with her granddaughter. The earth splitting open. The seas rising. Hieroglyphics. Something that looked like hieroglyphics but wasn’t. All I could think was, “I have to go to work tomorrow, I can’t do this right now.”
Tossing and turning I tried to wiggle free from the download, and get some desperately needed sleep, but it wasn’t happening. I sat up, clapping on the light on my bedside table. Gazing round my room, grateful for solid walls, I thought about the hill in Ireland. If you spent the night on the top of that hill you’d either come down mad or a poet. I’d already been mad, I’d had the rats jumping out my heart chakra, so I figured I’d end up poet. I started to laugh and finally went to sleep.
All of the above flashed through my mind before I lay down for the third meditation, I wondered what the Universe had in store for me today. I was exhausted and financial insecurity was wearing me down to a nub. I don’t know why but the feel of a thick, ancient root shooting out the base of my spine shocked me more than the pink lotus, the collapsed forehead, and the downloading wisdom of the Universe, but it did. The next day I took the subway to West 72nd street and walked uptown to the Barnes and Noble. I’ve no idea why I had to go that Barnes and Nobel, but I wasn’t going to question what I knew with certainty I had to do, even though I didn’t know why, or what for. I went directly to the New Age section, pulled out a book called “The Spiral Dance,” and opened it. There on the page was the tree of life exercise. Drop a root from the base of your spine.
That was the beginning of my witch studies. More books. I don’t think you can ever have enough books. A year and a day of study later, I committed myself to Lady and Lord and became a solitary, sober witch. This is where I want to write, “and I lived happily ever after,” but that would be a big, fat lie. The “neet-neets,” came back after the success of a spell I did for a couch and matching love seat. I followed a magical recipe by Scott Cunningham, and the very next day, as I was walking out the front door of the brownstone, the woman next door was moving a couch out of the ground floor of her building.
“Stoop sale? I asked.
“Yes, “ she said.
“How much for the couch?”
“You can have it. but you have to take it today. There’s a matching love seat do you want that too?”
I’d love to tell you I was ecstatic my spell worked, but I was more shook up than anything else, and a little freaked out. By dinner I had the “neet-neets.” A part of me believed God was punishing me for doing a spell. I needed to get on my knees immediately and take his son to be my savior, before my head spun and I spewed green, split pea soup. Another part of me knew that the God and the Goddess I was consciously experiencing, on a daily basis, lived within and around me. They loved me unconditionally, just the way I was, and wanted me standing tall alongside them, not groveling on my knees. I was not going back to “neet-neet,” hell. I’d worked entirely too hard to get to where I was, to go back to “neet-neet,” hell, and what if I drank? Even though the desire to drink had been lifted, what if it came back? What if I ended up like the man with the carpet slippers in the Big Book? When I closed my eyes, I’d a recurring image of me in full witch regalia hitting my head against a concrete wall. Paradise was on the other side but I couldn’t get to it.
“I’ve gone as far as I can go on my own,” I told the psychic-who-was-more-than-a-psychic. “I’ve hit a wall.” I’d seen her on and off over the past year but only when I really, really needed information. She was so damn expensive and we weren’t fond of each other, she didn’t like witches, but I respected her abilities and always got the exact information I needed. She ran down a list of possible solutions and when she landed on — let’s call him Dr. M — I had a response similar to the one I’d had when she told me I was a daughter of the Dark Goddess. By then, because of constant studying, I knew the Dark Goddess was the Crone. I knew She was about transformation and I knew that the first step in transforming was re-claiming. I’d know idea how to re-claim, but when I went on power walks to the promenade, I’d tell the Lady I was willing and if She could just show me how, I’d be very appreciative.
“Dr. M. is a therapist,” the psychic-who-was-more-than-a-psychic told me. “An Aries.”
“My ex-husband was an Aries and he almost killed me,” I said
“Dr. M. is nice man,” she said. “You’ve never known a nice man. You can do your reclaiming work with him.”
“Is that what the “neet-neets” are about?”
“Symptoms. You’re becoming conscious.” She gave me the dismissive wave that told me our time was up.
My detour out of the rooms landed me in the kind of recovery work that you can’t get it in A.A. That recovery would lead me back to the rooms in 2001 and the dance of happy, joyous, and free. One fed the other; the re-claiming/recovery work I did with Dr. M. made the recovery work I did in the rooms even stronger, and vice versa. When I think of recovery, I think of a being dropped into a giant pile of puzzle pieces; different shapes, different sizes, and different colors. My task is to sift through the pieces, examine them, find what fits where, and toss what’s no longer of benefit. There’s an eternity of pieces, so where do I begin? I have no idea what the final shape will be, or even what it’s supposed to look like. That’s where trust enters — my faith in my higher power, that I will be led and guided. I am framed, contained, and held by faith; the connection to the sacred lives in my cellular make-up. My faith is a working faith, meaning I grapple, I question, I resist. I have known unconditional love and the depths of hell and I refuse to deny that both exist. So yes, there are days I am without faith, but I’ve been around long enough to know that when my faith is shattered, it will return in a different form. Being without faith inevitably leads me into a deeper understanding and reliance on the sacred.
This is not a story about drinking, though it contains drinking stories. This is a story about recovery, becoming conscious, and an ever-evolving faith directly rooted in the ups, downs, and in-betweens of living sober. I am not the be all and end all of sobriety, recovery, re-claiming, consciousness, and witchcraft and don’t want to be. I am content and delighted to be one among many in this world, a conscious woman and sober witch, whose written a book I wished I’d had when I seven years sober.
Of love, by love, for love, Katherine Manaan
writings for the soul....writings from the journey...writings for whole being...experience, strength, and hope..of love, by love, for love.