Book Review: Tao of Recovery

A quiet path in recovery

by Carla H.

Read this book in a morning and you may feel better. The Tao of Recovery–A Quiet Path to Wellness by the late Jim McGregor has lovely, short pieces on each page, with Asian-style illustrations on the facing page that echo and reframe language we use in the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s altogether calm, poetic, kind and positive.

“Recovering is also uncovering—uncovering that which was hidden by alcohol, drugs, abuse, or loss.” This aligns nicely with our aphorism “peeling the onion.” The idea that we are “saturated already with wholeness, wisdom and grace” is kind and compassionate to ourselves.

Peeling the onion

Since we alcoholics can be so comfortable with suffering, I like the gentle tone of this book. The book’s foreword by Wayne Muller, minister and therapist, “If we stop pushing so hard, stop trying to remake ourselves into someone we are not, if we can meet ourselves with quiet acceptance and mercy, only then can we settle deeply into our true nature. The Tao—the kingdom of God, the Buddha Nature, the still, small voice—is gentle, yielding and eternal.”

Repetition of ideas and concepts is an essential part of the Tao and of recovery work

Former WWII pilot Jim McGregor writes, “The Tao suggests a universal order that is ever present, reliable and mystical in that it is beyond explanation. It calls for acceptance beyond understanding.” Here’s Jim’s take on hearing and reading the same things over and over from meetings, sponsors, and our literature: “Repetition of ideas and concepts is an essential part of the Tao and 12-Step programs … Repetition is helpful in grasping the deeper meanings, the profound and simple essence of the Tao and of the twelve steps.”

Universal order—ever present, reliable and mystical

He continues, “This leads me to my most heartfelt message. I am not attempting to teach you anything, nor to present a self-help program … I give you my humble effort with no expectations. Please read it when you want to and in whatever order you wish.”

Letting go is the answer

For me, Jim’s thoughts mean freedom from statements like “the steps are in order for a reason” and “the program is in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous,” which often feel oppressive and constricting to me. Anyone in recovery who occasionally chafes at order or dictates may welcome these writings as much as I have, including: “Unfair | Life is unfair … Why? Who knows? Even the wisest of the wise and all of the scientific resources have not given us an answer to this. In the universal order, it seems that regardless of the species, some are protected and some lead difficult and short lives. The randomness in the universal order is unexplainable. I will accept my place in the universe and embrace the mother of all things, and all of my needs with be provided. There is a universal plan. I just don’t understand it.”

Recovering is also uncovering—uncovering that which was hidden by alcohol, drugs, abuse, or loss. …

“Chaos Attracts Experts | The world is full of sick people who get their self-worth from advising other sick people. I will be eternally grateful for those wise souls who loved themselves enough to love me enough to let me find my own way … No one else can solve my problems. They can only share their experiences, strength and hope. Letting go is the answer. I will love those who offered advice, since they were doing the best they could. I will revere those who let me get my answers from that place beyond, where there is order, balance, and harmony.”

Images from Unsplash + The Tao of Recovery: A Quiet Path to Wellness, Paperback – 2014

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