“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 in The New Yorker (9/29/1988), 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—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 the person’s life, caring for that soul; and we keep praying that through those moments he or she will know God’s leading to the world of Spirit.
There is a recovery theme or principle that a person caught in addiction must reach some kind of “bottom” before he or she will have a moment of clarity leading to a desire to change. We look for that bottom and hope to bring to awareness what the person can learn from that devastating event or events.
Raymond Carver was a brilliant poet, short story writer—and an alcoholic. When he reached his bottom in June of 1977, he went into recovery for ten years. This is his famous poem about his last ten years in recovery, written at age fifty before he died 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 to someone I am talking with.
Olivia Laing has written an insightful book, The Trip to Echo Spring (Picador, 2013), about the association between creativity and alcohol in the lives of six writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver. Carver is the only one of these six who found significant recovery.
Book Signing Wordsworth Books
Saturday, November 2, 2019 1 to 3 pm
Just in time for the holidays
A Spiritual Rx for Advent Christmas, and Epiphany
The Sequel to A Spiritual Rx for Lent and Easter
Both are $18. Money from sale of the books goes to Camp Mitchel Camp and Conference Center in Arkansas or Hurricane Relief in
The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast