I have someone very close to me who has recently had the self-awareness to admit they have an addiction to prescription pain medication; specifically, hydrocodone. Apparently this person has been functioning at a full-time job even while taking as many as 6 pills a day. I'm not sure how many mgs. that constitutes, but I know it's a lot and I know I'd be a zombie after taking that many of those. As a former junkie, I do not understand the attraction of this drug at all. They do not make me feel better when I've taken them; but that's beside the point. The point is this: This person has recently come to terms with the unsustainability of this habit and checked herself into a 30-day rehab program. She's been out now for a month and seems to be doing fine. She's going to N.A. Meetings and has a sponsor she likes a lot. I have hope that she's over this phase and can stay sober for the rest of her life.

I have another good friend who lost a lucrative broadcast journalism gig due to alcoholism 25 years ago. He's very active in A.A. And he has not had a drink for those 25 years.

Both of these folks are atheists, so I've tried to get an understanding of how an atheist deals with the “higher power” aspect of 12-step programs. What it's boiled down to with both ongoing conversations is that “god=love.” The love of waking up each day sober and fresh, the love of nature and the cosmos that gave you life, the love of your friends, relatives, neighbors, etc., and the love of others facing the same demons seems to be a replacement for God with both these folks.

I was listening to Joe Henry's Tiny Voices CD yesterday and all of this gave me a fresh outlook on one of the songs, “Loves You Madly.”

The ground wants you back,
The ground wants you badly,
The ground wants you still
Like some lover, so madly.

The sun wants you deep
The sun has a need
To take you in then
Spit you out like a seed.
The sun has a plan
You know nothing about,
In the dark when the light
Of your heart has gone out,
Loves you madly.

We look at deep field pictures from the Hubble telescope and marvel at the mysteries of the cosmos. Yet we know down deep that we are “stardust / billion year old carbon / We are golden.” So how does the universe feel about us? Does she miss our essence when she gave up those atoms in order for us to live this temporary existence, walking around on a planet in the middle of a void we know hardly anything about? Does the universe crave our essence back? I think Mr. Henry is quite prescient when he suggests that “the ground wants us back.” That “the sun has a plan we know nothing about.” I have always though the best answer when a child asks, "Where do we go when we die?" is, "The same place we were before we were born."

There is another song of his from a CD called “Civilians” which gives me the same chillbumps and which I think encompasses the same theme. In this case, the “restitution” is the universe getting back what she's offered us so selflessly.

And here comes everybody
The closet renegades,
The weary, hungry soldiers
From the children's lost crusade.
Here comes the restitution
We'd all but given up,
This evening we’re content believing
That love will be enough.

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