I am a recovered Drug addict and alcoholic, who has used, amongst other tools, the 12 Step Programme of Recovery to maintain a new and completely drug and alcohol free life since March 16th 2001. But my life and my emotional sobriety has also been heavily rewarded by some of the many different positive lifestyle experiences and choices I’ve discovered for myself and been introduced to by those around me as I’ve grown in my own personal development ever since.
The following is an edited extract from my forthcoming book “It’s Not About Me!” regarding what I call Bubble-Gum Spirituality, which is alternatively phrased as ‘tools for living for the layperson’ and this extract explains how I came to begin to understand it.
During the tail end of 2005 and throughout 2006 I watched as my father slowly lost his life to a brain tumour. I watched him die slowly and painfully. He successfully completed two operations where his skull was cut open and the tumour cut out, but sadly it was too aggressive and, after the third operation, he never recovered. The path downhill post that third operation was fairly rapid – a couple of months. He died 1 January 2007 around 3pm. It was desperately sad and depressing watching him lose his aura those last few months, and it affected me (as it did all of my family) considerably more than I cared to let on. Certainly, until writing this passage, I realised I’d never truly expressed just how difficult it was for me to say a permanent goodbye to my dad. He and I had become very close during my sober years and I considered him a business and life mentor, as well as my father.
When I was making my ninth-step amends, where I go about making right the wrongs I had caused people during my addiction and rebalancing my karma, I had approached my Dad to offer my apologies for being an absent son and so unavailable to him during my 13 solid years of madness. I asked him how I could make it right, and he requested that I join him by his side in supporting the Saracens – the Rugby team that he had been following for many years. He bought us both season tickets and I almost never missed a home game alongside him for the last five seasons of his life. We both wore the Saracens colours and our Sundays together were certainly the best times I ever spent with Dad.
So losing Dad was tough. Losing a parent is always one of the toughest challenges in our lives and, now that I was sober, I literally felt my way through the difficult last 13 months and into his passing. A huge wave of responsibility hit me as I realised I was now the oldest male member of my family, and I slipped into a new position of family protector. I’m the oldest of all my cousins on my father’s side and, with that knowledge, most organically, fell a certain maturity upon me.
At his funeral, there were more than 200 people in attendance. The room it was held in overflowed as more and more people arrived. I could see just how loved and respected my father was. It was for his eulogy that I first wrote the words that went on to constitute my Bubble-Gum Spirituality passage. My father had taught me the way to treat people and he taught me the importance of bringing value to other peoples’ lives. I also caught his optimism and jolly demeanour. In fact, my default emotion is jolly. Some days I’m jollier than other days and some days I’m slightly less jolly, but by and large, I’m somewhere around the jolly zone on a daily basis. I got this emotional state genetically transferred by my father. But as I was delivering the eulogy, I began crying. It really was
the first time in my life I ever began crying out of genuine grief and sorrow. I’ve cried during many an emotional film, where I’m taken on an imaginative journey and through empathy I cry with the characters, but here I was crying from profound grief and sorrow, overwhelmed by the absolute loss I was feeling.
And I cried shamelessly. I was conscious that there was an audience of well over 200 people there, yet I let go of any stigma associated with crying and just let myself go. It was an experience I shall carry with me forever. Crying in public for the first, and thus far only occasion, was a profound experience for me, as I truly felt my loss and pictured Dad looking down on me, as I was speaking to his audience of friends, delivering his words about how to be the best person he could possibly have taught me to be. But it took my addiction and my recovery to get to that place, right there, right then.
I knew Dad was proud of me and I knew, at that moment, he knew just how much I loved him.
Never someone to shy away from the teachings of any experience life can throw at me, I took the loss of my dad and learned how to help others going through their own grieving process. I had been given a gift as my life suddenly began filling up with friends and acquaintances revealing to me that they, too, had close relatives who were losing their battles with cancer. It was almost as if God put people in my path who were dealing with something I had just dealt with so I could use my own experience to help them.
Well, actually that’s exactly what God was doing and I knew Her too well to think any different. My Dad had already taught me that while I’m helping someone else with his or her difficulties, I am improving the quality of my own life. The 12-step recovery programmes revealed that to me, too.
Bubble-gum Spirituality – It is a circle of giving and receiving and it’s what I committed myself to as I made my deal for my sobriety with God, back in 2001 – God, keep me happy, joyous and free, and I’ll be a servant of your will and desire. Since your will and desire is to bring more happiness, joyfulness and freedom to your subjects, allow me to deliver on your behalf. And thank you for giving me the gift of being jolly on a daily basis. Amen.
Bubble-gum spirituality is my own version of spirituality, put very simply, for anyone to understand. It’s not complicated. In fact, keeping it simple is the whole point here. You don’t have to commit to following any particular religious dogma; you just need to have a willingness to do the right thing.
It’s a simple spiritual understanding of the world and suggests appropriate ways to behave. The main message from this sort of spirituality is that a life lived along spiritual lines will offer you far more internal happiness than anything material ever could. Happiness comes from a sense of global human connection and participating in humanity on Earth today. This is best practice ‘Spirituality for the Masses’.
Its key messages are twofold:
1) “Always do the right thing.”
This is about no longer being quite so selfish and self-centred, instead thinking about how best to serve your community, family, fellowship, society, humanity, and the planet. What is the right way to behave? What’s the right thing to do here? Put yourself to one side and decide to do the right thing for the majority and not for yourself. I am part of a movement called the Pay It Forward movement. It’s based upon the film “Pay It Forward” with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment. The kid (Haley) prompted by his teacher (Kevin) designs a social action, which if followed through is designed to make the world a better place. It’s simple in its design – simply, when someone does a good turn for you, don’t pay them back, but pay it forward to three other people. Please watch this film if you’re not already familiar with it. Well, the Pay It Forward Foundation aims to carry this message into practice. By taking responsibility and doing the right thing as often as possible, asking only that the recipients of our kindness or generosity pay it forward to the next group of people, we aim to make the world a nicer place to live.
This is Bubble-gum Spirituality.
2) “Contribute to others without expecting anything in return.”
This is about serving others without asking to be paid, expecting recognition, or demanding they do the same for you. In fact, the best way to do this is to contribute anonymously. Every 23rdof December, I participate in something called “Basket Brigade”. We fund raise throughout the year and come together on 23 December to make Christmas hampers that we assemble ourselves and decorate with a card, signed anonymously. About 200 of us come together and find our roles in this massive production, which creates around 600 family-sized holiday hampers within four or five hours. That afternoon we distribute these hampers all over London, delivering to people whose details have been collected from various charities (dealing with poverty, or victims of domestic violence, etc.) across London. As we deliver them, we simply announce ourselves as the delivery driver and insist that we have no knowledge of the origin of the basket, aside from the card inside which says “from a friend.” To see the eyes well up with tears of gratitude in the recipients – nearly always with children who would otherwise have had a very difficult Christmas, often going hungry and lacking many resources – is the real gift. To know you’ve helped someone else without expecting anything in return.
This is Bubble-gum Spirituality.
These are the two corner stones of Bubble-Gum Spirituality. Embrace these principles into your lives and see the change in how you feel. I’ve highlighted just two of the ways I’ bring Bubble0Gum Spirituality alive and kicking into my own life. But imagine living your own life along these principles. Now you can begin to see just how magnificently your own life can improve, just by doing the right thing without seeking any rewards.
Bubble-gum Spirituality can be accurately summarised in two sentences: “Always do unto others as you would have done to yourself.” And, “Do for others what they cannot do for themselves.”
1st September 2012