Your Search for Meaning by Jonathan Marsh

Because values are the foundation of emotional stability, we will examine one of the most powerful ones in terms of its ability to provide you with a solid foundation for your life: meaning. The goal here is not to recruit you to adopt a particular way of thinking, only to present you with an understanding of the depth that is needed in developing not only this value, but all values that have importance in your life.

The development of meaning in your life begins with the question of why you are here. Why, of all the planets, in all of the solar systems, in a virtually endless universe did you end up here on Earth (assuming you are indeed here on Earth) at this very moment? How, of all the races, in all the species, throughout the history of the entire world, did you end up right here, right now?

Developing your own understanding of "why you are here" can be a tremendous source of strength, guidance, energy and stability in your life. From a strictly "recovery" standpoint, it is not important what you believe, only that you do believe. In something. Even if that is to believe in nothing at all--to come to the realization that your life is basically meaningless, and that your only true purpose on this earth is to assist in the oxygen/carbon dioxide filtering process. Why? Because when you believe in something (or in "nothingness"), you have begun to develop one of the most important values a human can experience: a reason for being. A purpose. And when we, as humans, have a purpose--we have the foundation for our identity.

Presented today will not be a persuasive argument geared towards your need to convert from your current belief system…instead, the focus will be on the need to, whatever your belief system, fully understand and develop it. To learn how to use it to help manage your everyday life. To develop it to the point where it can help you in making decisions. Develop it to the point where it will provide you with a more healthy perspective on whether or not your life is now devastated because you masturbated twice in one day, or spent an hour looking at porn on a computer. Having a clear understanding of the reason for your existence allows you to not take yourself so seriously. It allows you to keep your perceptions in perspective. The goal though, is to develop the value of meaning to be used as an everyday type of value, rather than an "only when needed" value--which takes some practice for most.

There are a few major aspects of Meaning that apply universally. Let's explore these briefly.

Spirituality, the belief in a greater collective source of energy, or in a Supreme Being, or in a God (or Gods) can have the single greatest impact on not only your recovery, but your life. Frequently, such belief systems are accompanied by religions that provide moral guidance, social acceptance and behavioral boundaries. They provide direction and a set of organized rules that many people find comforting. "If I follow these rules, I will be rewarded with an everlasting life." That is powerful motivation. Of course, should these rules go against basic human nature, it can also set up the potential for extreme guilt and shame.

Spirituality provides people with a sense of belonging, a sense of connection. What objectively may have no meaning whatsoever, can be transformed through spirituality to be perceived with reverence, wonder and awe. A belief in a higher power, or in an ultimate energy source allows people to experience strength and healing in a way that is rarely available to those without a sense of spirituality. Whether or not this "power" already existed within them is irrelevant. It is their spiritual beliefs that allowed them to harness it, to identify it, and to use it in productive ways.

Being agnostic for many years, I searched for answers my entire life. I studied anthropology, world religions…talked endlessly to stout Christians, Muslims…I wanted desperately to "feel" God in my life. When I was truly honest with myself, I knew that that feeling had never come. In reading the Bible, I just couldn't get past the thoughts that it was man's word I was reading, not God's. And knowing how manipulative, controlling, selfish and domineering man has been throughout the ages…I was not too receptive to the Bible's messages. Was I sincere about wanting to feel Him? If you have completed the Recovery Workshop, you should have no more doubts as to how deep my sincerity runs. I prayed…and prayed…and prayed…alone, when it was just me and God. I would spend hours sitting alone in my house…my car…in the middle of a forest…anywhere where I could to finally feel His presence. It never came. Then, after many years of searching, logic finally got the better of me. I had always considered myself a logical person, and realized that, logically, I had only two choices: I could go on believing that there is no God, and that my life is essentially meaningless (existentially); or I could have faith that God does exist and in return, be rewarded with a purpose and "meaning" that will last for the rest of my life. If I was wrong? Then it wouldn't matter anyway.

Logically, there was no down side to developing my spirituality. Of course, it had to be one that I believed in, and one that made sense to me…I couldn't openly lie to myself…that would destroy the value of spirituality altogether. And after many, many years of intense searching… I developed my own understanding of God and Heaven and the role it plays in my life. I won't go in to what those beliefs are; though if you, as an individual struggling with similar issues would like to know…I would be more than happy to share them with you individually. There will be no conversion attempts, only God as I see Him. Or, more accurately, as He has guided me towards seeing Him. All I know is, after feeling certain that God did not exist for the majority of my life, the spiritual relationship that I now have with God has truly taken my life to an entirely new level. And this was a life that was already pretty good before I began my relationship with Him, as my addiction was already some eight years removed by the time I started to develop this value.

Being that there are thousands of books having been written on the soul, I will share only the most basic thoughts as they apply to recovery and health. The soul is a metaphysical concept that many believe to be the true self. Beyond your senses, beyond your muscles and bones and skin, beyond your emotions lies your energy source--your soul. Others will argue that a soul could not exist without emotions, and without senses. What is the truth? Nobody knows. Logically, it makes sense that if our life is perceived through our senses, and our senses elicit the emotional responses that make up our "soul", then our soul's could not exist without our senses. This is one of the more frustrating points for me to understand about most people's perception of Heaven…because it contradicts their perception of the soul as an energy force, separate from the body. "It is your soul that goes to Heaven." Why then, is it assumed that our soul will continue to experience thought, emotion and other such traits once it has left the very body that produced them? Not really looking for an answer, just emphasizing the point that nobody really knows what the "soul" is. For me, it is when I close my eyes. All of the feelings, emotions, sensations, thoughts…that is what makes up my soul. When I communicate with people, that is what I am trying to communicate with. Not whether they are young or old…fat or thin…tall of short…black or white…I close my eyes and try to get in touch with their soul. Or at least what I believe to be their soul. If I'm wrong, and that isn't actually their soul, so what. It works for me, it works for my value system, and it promotes healthy relationships with others. That is all that matters. The truth is relative.

When considering your soul, like spirituality, it doesn't matter what you believe, only that you develop a thorough understanding of this belief and that you use it to promote your life. In recovery, once you have a clearly defined "soul", the process of separating your emotions from your behavior becomes that much easier.

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