My name is John and I am a recovering alcoholic living in France. A little bit about my background is useful in understanding why nature awareness has been so important to my recovery. I was brought up in an upper middle-class home. My parents were quite normal and neither was an abuser of alcohol or drugs. My upbringing was not void of contact with religion. We went to church as a family and I was taught the keys to living a Christian life. The one important point I want to make is that, while certain noble principals for living were passed along to me, I never really connected spiritually with God. I have absolutely no doubt that the lack of spirituality in my life has been the major contributor to my alcoholic behaviours and the trouble those behaviours have caused in my own life as well as the lives of others close to me.
My first experience with nature awareness was in rehab by way of the “game” of finding my tree. I was blindfolded and a friend led me to a tree. I examined the tree and its immediate surroundings very carefully – touching, smelling, and walking around it. I was taken back to the original starting place, the blindfold was removed and I was asked to go find my tree. I was amazed that I actually found my tree. By the way, my friend went through the same experience and found his tree as well.
Following the first experience, I participated in several more adventures over the next weeks. All of my experiences were not as successful in the sense that I found a person, place or thing - blindfolded, but each time I participated I became increasingly aware of how my other senses guided me and enhanced my awareness of the nature surrounding me. I also had the experience of building trust in my friends who served as my guides and self-confidence as I became increasingly aware that I was able to use my sensory experiences (other than sight) and heartfelt awareness of my surroundings to survive.
Of all my nature awareness activities, the one that rests at the top of my memories involved me sitting under a tree with a guitar, again blindfolded. I was asked to play music which I thought told my story. I was not allowed to play “covers” or other artist’s music, or anything I ever wrote myself. The latter was easy – I’m not that good! My sincere apologies to those that suffered through my “concert”, but it was amazing that once I got going I felt I was able to set my story out for others, but not verbally as I would share in an AA meeting, rather through the music. After a period of time I heard my counsellor tell me that I had played enough and could stop whenever I wished to stop.
My blindfold was removed. Members of the group shared what they sensed I was trying to do (besides playing the guitar), and I was genuinely amazed at how many people felt that I was trying to tell my story and related their interpretation of that story back to me. The communication between me and the group was way beyond anything I could have imagined before the experience. But here’s the really spiritual experience of all – at the end of the session I told the group that I stopped shortly after my counsellor told me I could stop. My counsellor told me that he never said an audible word to me in front of the group and every member of the group confirmed what he said. I have no doubt that I heard my counsellor speak to me very, very clearly. This was truly a spiritual experience for me.
This brings me back to the beginning of my short story. I am still a person who struggles with spirituality. I have worked many of the steps in the twelve-step framework of AA. By far the hardest step for me is the third – “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Having a belief in a Power greater than me is one thing, but turning my will and my l life over to a higher power is quite difficult for me. A major influence in getting me into contact with my higher Power and progressing to the point where I “turn it over” on a regular, daily basis has been nature awareness. Okay, maybe there’s not a bearded old man in the sky guiding me every minute, but I can see and feel nature around me. I can walk through a nearby forest and appreciate the trees, the grass, and the animals around me with a renewed sense of spirit and a feeling that there is a divine guidance in my life. Regrettably, I haven’t seen my nature awareness counsellor for many months now, and I have continued reading up on nature awareness.
I am very fortunate to have been introduced to nature awareness and having had guidance in putting nature awareness into my spiritual “toolbox”. I have been taught how I can draw on the spirit of nature and awareness to get me over the bumps or the rough times in life.
For this I am forever grateful.