“No other word will do. For that’s what it was.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.”
~Raymond Carver, The New Yorker, August 29, 1988 p. 28.
It is not unusual that people coming for spiritual direction are seeking some relief from an addiction. They are under the influence of another “spirit” and have “seen through a glass darkly” that the answer may be a spiritual one with a relationship with what those in recovery call “a higher power.” They may just come for a brief time. As a spiritual friend, we are there to care for their soul that has been anesthetized, put to sleep, by drugs, alcohol, work, shopping, etc. We keep looking to see where God has been working in their life, caring for that soul and keep praying that through those moments they will see that God is leading them to his Spirit. There is a recovery theme or principle that a person caught in addiction must reach some kind of “bottom” before they will have a moment of clarity that leads them to want to change. We look for that bottom and hope to bring to awareness what they can learn from that devastating event or events.
Raymond Carver was a brilliant poet, short story writer, and an alcoholic. When he reaches his bottom in June of 1977, he goes into recovery for 10 years. This is his famous poem about his last ten years in recovery that he writes at age 50 before he dies of lung cancer. It is also inscribed on his tombstone in Port Angeles, Washington. I sometimes share this poem when that moment of clarity comes.
Olivia Laing has written an insightful book. The Trip to Echo Springs, about the association between creativity and alcohol in the lives of six writers, Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver.
Carver is the only one who finds recovery.