Quiet Space in Bright Sunshine


The title phrase is one attributed to Bill W, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. His word picture makes me think of sitting by the embers of a driftwood fire on the beach, turning the pages of a novel and anticipating nothing but the eventual sunset.

Not so. Quiet space in the bright sunshine actually refers to a heart and soul condition.

Who wouldn’t want to feel like that? Is it even possible? In the past when I heard people describe such an existence, I discounted it, mocked it, even sneered a little.

He called the experience Emotional Sobriety.

I think that many oldsters who have put our AA “booze cure” to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA—the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God… How to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result, and so into easy, happy, and good living—well, that’s not only the neurotic’s problem, it’s the problem of life itself for all of us who have got to the point of real willingness to hew to right principles in all our affairs. ~ Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety, Bill Wilson, AA Grapevine, Inc., 1958

Even the tiniest taste of this experience makes me crave more. Of course, I’m given to addictive responses, so why wouldn’t I? But I wonder, why wouldn’t anyone? Don’t most of us want to experience an easy, happy and good life? I want to live in the light above the mucky, crappy stuff of life. He speaks of real maturity and balance, too. That would be something I could use more of, and again, couldn’t most people?

What I find challenging and thought-provoking is, how to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result. Here’s the problem. I often have not been able to experience appropriate emotional responses that line up with my intellectual convictions, or spiritual beliefs, to be more specific.

In plain words, I do that which I do not wish to do. Is this sounding familiar? As a Christian, I’ve been aware of this dichotomy of body, mind and soul for decades. In fact, my lack of emotional sobriety happened long before the first taste of alcohol — way before the first episode of drunkenness in a college dorm.

The question prompted by Bill is, have I got to the point of real willingness to hew to right principles in all my affairs? More simply, are my thoughts, words and actions consistent with my convictions or beliefs? In each instance where they don’t match up, I have an example of an emotional sobriety issue.

These are the motivations for focusing on emotional sobriety. Do I have the real willingness he mentions? I think so. I want to be a woman of integrity and have my actions and thoughts line up with my beliefs. This, alone, is enough to make me want more of the quiet space in bright sunshine. Yes it is.