A really strange thing keeps happening to me. I keep feeling “lucky” to be here. Not in the usual “I’m lucky to be alive” or “lucky to be clean” gratitude way. It’s more that I feel lucky that I’m getting to have this experience of being on earth. It keeps washing over me in an exciting positive way – but I have to admit it’s weird to think about. It makes me feel like a visitor.

I’ll never forget when it first happened. I came face to face with a black panther on a deserted farm Ontario.  It was a totally unexplainable situation because panthers aren’t indigenous to Canada, never mind one hour from the largest city in the country. I’d stopped my bicycle on an isolated farm road when it stepped out of the woods, made eye contact with me then assumed a crouched attack position from twenty or thirty feet. I wrote about it here:


During that split-second when I averted my gaze to take what I assumed was my final look at the blue sky and the green landscape, the beauty of it all, my only thought was how lucky I’ve been able to be here to have experienced this beautiful planet.  Even while I was thinking this I knew it was a weird response to the situation.panther_field

Another time I was watching the Mars Rover landing when the camera turned and captured our planet. This time when I was swept with this feeling it was accompanied by gratitude that brought me to tears. Lately it’s been occurring on a regular basis wherever I am – minus the tears.  I can’t really explain it any better than I feel lucky. For me, this feeling isn’t connected to any particular God. I suppose it’s possible I’ve finally acquired enough inner peace that I’m more conscious of where I am and appreciative of the small (or big) things.  It’s not a voice in my head that says, “Look how beautiful this planet is” It says, “I’m so lucky I get to be here.” It’s a joyful feeling that co-mingles with a deep sense that there’s absolutely no point in sweating the small shit.

In program terms, my second step has been a continuous process of coming to believe. I haven’t really found a belief shingle to hang up yet – just my own bag of quirky spiritual experiences. Sometimes they’re so bizarre I have to roll my eyes at myself. Usually I’m embarrassed to admit them to anyone. In fact, I was planning to write this article about how alienating it is for people who have accumulated a lot of clean time to have the arrogance to tell any other member of their fellowship what they can or cannot say when sharing at a meeting. Instead I’m writing about my most private spiritual moments.

A few years ago  I was continually having discussions with myself on life and it’s meaning to me. I’d gone as far as to ask myself if I would be okay if my last living breath extinguished me for eternity – no reincarnation, no eternal universal energy. And – I was.  I figured if this was all there was I’d better pay attention.

A week after this conversation with myself I was in Miami with a friend searching for a Haitian psychic to read her cards. (Yes – this was how I spent the leisure time on my vacation!) We ended up in sort of voodoo/wiccan/spiritual/new age bookstore being told that for twenty bucks we could attend a past life regression group hypnosis.  It sounded like a kooky enough way to end my vacation.

Two-dozen people gathered in the backroom of the bookstore. One by one, we went around the room disclosing why we were there. While everyone was trying to get clarity on a current relationship, I was simply there for the ride. I’m like that kid in the commercial who’ll eat anything. I’ll try anything.

The hypnotist began counting backward. This was my experience.

It was dark and there was a  light muted in fog in the distance. I was trying to make sense of where I was. It reminded me of a dock on a lake and the light was coming from the far end of the dock. As I got closer I was engulfed in the fog and white light and was filled by a sense of excitement and playfulness. This permeated the entire experience. Next I was pulled into a bright white light. There was nagging sensation of weight somewhere although my joy kept propelling me through the light and into the darkness of outer space. Suddenly I was passing stars. My consciousness realized what was happening and I was filled with questions but understood they didn’t matter. In the distance were two pulsating blue lights and I knew that’s where I was heading. The whole thing was like a crazy sci-fi movie but I felt so happy I didn’t hesitate to speed forward. When I arrived at the blue lights I became blue light, like a firefly among fireflies dancing on a star. Again, there was a peculiar sense of weight somewhere. I wanted to ask questions and understand there was no need.

When the hypnotist’s voice announced he would begin counting backwards I looked down and saw a hole I could jump through to get back.  I jumped and passed though a wall of gas and fire, back through space passing stars, through the white light, the fog and the darkness until I was back in my body on the bookstore floor in North Miami.  I experienced my weight subjectively in a way that’s impossible to describe. I was unable to move for a good 30 seconds.

The experience was like déjà vu of an acid trip I’d had when I was twelve or thirteen although this had been different because of the complete and utter joy I’d felt. This has clung to me. When my worries pop up I remind myself that my pure essence is joy and playfulness and that I shouldn’t sweat the small shit.  Again, I’m filled by a profound sense that I am okay. There is no need to worry about anything.

I’m always up for any sort of adventure and have a very creative mind so I have questioned whether or not I made this all up. I know the panther was real because there were seven more sightings of it that summer but the rest – who knows? Was I blue light dancing on a star? Does it matter? Am I am visitor? Are we all just visitors?   I don’t even care if there are answers to these questions. Maybe my experiences were a self-induced hallucination or maybe they are my version of spiritual experience – something that has been transformative, lessened my fear and helped to make me more present in this life. I’m happy I had them – whatever they were

I’ve always been the sort of person who gets bored easily. In the 24 years I’ve been clean, it’s never gotten boring. In fact, the really good stuff seems to have started happening after twenty years clean. I’m talking about the good stuff on the inside. It’s like I’ve been opening new doors that are making me a happier person. If this is what it’s like at 24 years, I can’t even imagine what it might be like at 30.  My inner life keeps getting more fun and the benefits aren’t fleeting. I’m sure it’s different for everyone but if you ask around I can pretty much guarantee that old-timers will tell you that all the work you’re doing is well worth it for what you are going to get back.


Patty is a nationally recognized certified recovery coach and writer. She lives in New York City.

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