Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Five Years Sober

It’s been five years since I used any alcohol. I still see quitting as one of my greatest life “accomplishments.” As I wrote in my journal in March of 2001, “It’s just incredible how alcohol can destroy dreams, or at least bury them so deeply it feels as though they never were….”

And it’s important to me to own that I had a ton of help. No, I didn’t go through AA. I had seen Ram Dass and Krishna Das here in Ukiah just 10 days before I stopped. They were, as always, thoroughly delightful and most inspiring. I made a conscious choice to ask the universe for help. I told my Beloved JoAnn about it, but kept right on drinking.

Then, after a night where I consumed a couple of strong margaritas (damn, I made really, really good margaritas!) a couple of micro brews (Boont Amber, I believe) and two excellent bottles of chardonnay (and no, I don’t remember what brand) I woke up early the next morning, with extreme pain in my gut. I mean, I felt as though I’d been gut shot. Few moments in my life had been scarier, at least up to that point. I couldn’t believe how much I hurt.

After a few hours, and medications such as Zantac and Maalox, the pain subsided. Ever since I was a teenager, I’d spent a lot of time dealing with varying levels of intestinal distress. (Shooting speed hadn’t helped.) But this pain was something else entirely. By that afternoon, I got it that this was my “gift” from Spirit, the help I’d been asking for. The intensity of the pain really got my attention, and gave me a level of motivation to say, “OK! All right already… I’ll quit drinking!

As if it was that easy. Even though I quite drinking alcohol that day, the pain in my gut kept returning. After three days, I got so scared I wound up in the emergency room at the local hospital. Diagnosed with a severe case of gastritis, I started taking Prilosec. My doctor helped by telling me that as long as I kept drinking, or if I ever started again, the pain would only get worse.

Well, I was drinking not to feel pain, especially emotional pain. But I never have been into pain that much, you know? So when it became abundantly clear that drinking would only exacerbate the situation, I realized with a sense of great finality that I was done. What a relief!

Now, JoAnn helped enormously. She had continued to love me unconditionally all through my drinking (at least during the time after we got together in 1995 – I’d been having issues with alcohol at least since the 70s). Almost every night for weeks after I quit drinking she’d rub my feet with Young Living essential oils, and then use an auricular probe on my ears as well. This was invaluable to me, as there were many times when I felt overwhelmed with anxiety, and JoAnn’s loving ministrations made all the difference. JoAnn, my Beloved, thank you! My gratitude know no bounds….

As it turned out, I’d been using alcohol to self-medicate. Once I stopped using, all the pain I’d been assiduously avoiding for, well, pretty much my entire life, showed up wanting (demanding, really) to be felt. That’s the journey I’ve been on the past five years, learning on a much deeper level to feel my feelings without fear, shame or guilt. To ride the roller coaster of life with joy, free from alcohol. I’ve never felt happier, or more proud, than today, five years after I made one of the wisest decisions of my life. Happy anniversary to me!

(For those taking notes, my new book Drunk with Wonder, chronicles much of what I’ve learned about emotions, science and spirituality. If you’re interested in a deeper understanding of these issues, please take a look. You can read the entire Introduction on our Rock Creek Press website, and listen to Chapter 8 as well. We hope to have the actual book in our hands by the first part of May, and audio as well as E-book versions are on their way.)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

My Favorite Season

Another reliable source of inspiration is the exquisite natural beauty of where I am Blessed to live, as well as anywhere I feel Nature's presence. All I need to do is become wholly present to the glorious natural world that surrounds me, and away I go. The following poem came to me a year ago:

My Favorite Season

Spring is my favorite season

And sometimes I hate it

For going by so fast

Like cherry blossom petals

Drifting away against

A burnished blue sky

So clean you could

Dream off it –

Spring makes me

So sad sometimes

When it rushes in

Bursting with

Balmy breezes

And new butterflies

And more flowers

Than there are stars –

I love spring…

And sometimes

I wish it

Wasn’t here yet –



Thursday, February 23, 2006

What is it that inspires you to write?

Many people have asked me, “What is it that inspires you to write?”

The simple answer is that my very soul compels me to write. I have known that I was a writer since I was six years old, some 50 years ago. Over the years I have written about many things. For example, I've been a poet since the age of 15, and have self-published several books of my poetry. Love, nature, feelings, family and friends have been particular inspirations for most of my poetry. I wrote the following poem, Desperation, just over three years ago. It describes some of my feelings about watching my father slide inexorably towards death (he passed away January 25, 2006).


My father knows desperation,

Has seen it welcoming him with open arms

As his family tearfully leaves him

At the warehouse of the useless & dying

He would die, too, if he could,

Drop his body like old clothes

And enter the beckoning doorway

Of light just around the corner –

I, too, know desperation,

That helpless feeling of doom,

Of nothing ever being right again,

Of impending death –

There is nothing for it,

For in the end we all

Go out the way

We came in… alone –

I am desperate for my father’s release,

Desperate for my own surcease,

Stumbling through the abandoned fields

Of a place I once called home –

Steve Ryals



Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What is Discernment?

Discernment is a tool. You don’t remember learning how to use discernment because you were born with it. You use it to distinguish light from dark, resonance from discord, balance from imbalance, that point where your knowledge and instincts intersect. You take all the information you have about a given topic, add to that everything you can learn from available sources, then filter it through your logical mind, doing your best to avoid bias or judgment. While you may not always be aware of this process, you use it on a daily basis to create every moment of your experience.

What we are suggesting here is that as you become fully conscious of this process of discernment, you can then use this awareness to more deeply appreciate your magnificence. We assure you that making choices based on your sacred essence will lead to more loving behavior.

Discernment is not only your birthright, it is an inextricable part of your Divinity. You were born with a finely tuned sense of natural knowing, or instinctual awareness, honed over millions of years of evolution. Instincts allowed you to suckle, to swallow, and to cry for help. Your instincts served you well then, or you wouldn’t be here now.

However, your natural knowing, what we call discernment, soon bumps up against your experiences of living in the world. One example would be, when you were an infant, feeling hungry at an inconvenient time for your caregiver to feed you. Under such circumstances, it wouldn’t take long to begin discounting your discernment and creating stories to explain, justify or rationalize this discontinuity.

Of course, the complete focus of your world at that point was to make sure your needs were met. It was all about you. You were the center of your universe. As you grew, you developed certain expectations, such as whether you would be fed when you were hungry, based on experience. These expectations became the stories you told yourself about how the world worked, and were often easier to accept than your discernment.

Relying on your stories instead of your consciousness became a habit, a de facto auto-pilot approach to life. For example, if you were hungry and no food was readily available, you probably soon discovered ways to distract yourself from your hunger. Instead of trusting your intuition, or discernment, you became a master at avoiding it altogether. In this light, drugs and alcohol can be seen as reliable ways to numb out.

These early experiences initiate your feeling of separation from your higher self. When you really look into a newborn’s eyes, you will see its soul shining with great clarity. This pure awareness is the nature of the higher self. Its light sparkles unquenchably from the body’s first breath to its last. Your higher self is unchanging, unceasing, immortal and drenched in unconditional love. It is your essence, who you really are.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


I don’t claim to have any answers for you. Once you’ve learned how to access your higher self, you’ll discover that all the answers you will ever need have always been available to you. When you come to fully appreciate this, you will find all your questions answered from within. Please trust that you will recognize when your inner voice is offering guidance for your highest good. Now, let’s begin by creating some context.

To put it as simply as possible, we are a manifestation of All-That-Is, the animating spark of consciousness that you might think of as your soul, or higher self. We are a Divine expression of All-That-Is, and so are you.

Every single human being is a deeply cherished manifestation of All-That-Is. Like all people, and all of creation for that matter, Divinity is your birthright. Every thing (by which we mean all facets of the universe), whether or not you consider it alive, is also an expression of the infinitely loving heart of All-That-Is. For thousands of years, numerous spiritual traditions have taught that there is really no separation between us. In Drunk with Wonder, we heartily affirm that teaching.