The Spirit of Intimacy is the type of book that you spy on your bookshelf and can’t remember how it got there. A moment that makes you want to believe that the universe put it there just for you.
A magical moment.
The books author, Sobonfu Some, was born and raised in Burkino Faso, and is an initiated member of the Dagara tribe of West Africa. In this remarkable little book Some attempts, very successfully, to describe the ancient African teachings in the ways of relationships, and how we can take some of these lessons into our own home to improve relationships throughout the world.
So what has a book on relationships have to do with a life of sobriety?
This old broken record keeps on spinning and I make no apologies for that. It’s important that people really dig down to the root cause of their issues when working on their alcohol addiction. This is where your problems will be found and solved.
Relationships are very often at the core of people’s problems with alcohol. Not only the root cause of a developing alcoholic addiction, but also problems that can spread like a disease once you have achieved sobriety.
I am sure my wife won’t begrudge me if I tell you that I have some problems in my relationship. No doubt you are the same. The reasons behind our problems vary, but one recurring theme is my inability to harness the power of a alcohol free life. I very often feel like a young kid in charge of a battleship. I have pressed a few buttons, shit is being fired everywhere, destruction is apparent and I can’t seem to find the off switch.
So that’s why I picked this book up. I was searching for answers to some of my relationship issues. Not because I am worried that I will relapse. Thankfully, I am well past such thoughts – but because I want us both to be happy. That’s all that really matters to me.
The book consists of 14 bite-sized chunks and is a tiny little book that can be devoured in a relatively short time. It starts slow, but I urge you to stick with it and there are some amazingly wonderful principles that you can adopt.
Here are two that struck a chord with me.
The Embrace of Community
“And without the community, the individual is left without a place where he can contribute.” Sobonfu Some.
My wife is from Los Angeles and has moved to Cardiff, South Wales, UK because I am the father of a 13-year old son. It’s tough for her. It rains incessantly, the clouds are always grey and it often seems like the world is trying to push your head down towards the floor.
It’s also tough because she doesn’t know anybody, and she often talks to me about community. For a long while I struggled to empathise with her position. I am a bugger for thinking about how I feel and then expecting the rest of the world to do the same.
I thought about how I would feel if I was in Los Angeles, and son apart, I wouldn’t really miss anybody. I took this to mean that I didn’t need a community, and that I would be happy as long as I had my wife and my son.
I was so wrong.
This chapter helped me realise that since I achieved sobriety I have withdrawn from my community. I have moved into my own little room and thrown away the key.
The central focus of my community is alcohol. Fortunately, I have never craved a drink since I quit, so I was never worried about spending time in a social sense from that regard, but I really didn’t want to be surrounded by people who drink.
Sorry family and friends. I love you all dearly, but you drink to get drunk and that’s not for me.
So I made a choice.
I locked myself away.
What I have learned is that community is an extremely important part of your life and one that is vital for some people when trying to get sober. Instead of shutting myself away from community I just needed to go out into the world and find a new one.
There are over 7 billion people on this planet and I am slowly starting to find like-minded people amongst them. Now it’s important to stress I do not think I am better than the people who exist in my previous community. I love them all dearly, but I am just making different choices and I am ok with that, and if they aren’t then I guess that’s just tough shit.
“When you don’t have community, you are not listened to; you don’t have a place to go and feel like you really belong. You don’t have people to affirm who you are and to support you in bringing forward gifts, This disempowers the psyche, making you vulnerable to consumerism and all the things that come along with it.” Sobonfu Some.
If you find it difficult to find community because you have a quiet, withdrawn type of personality then reach out and seek help. I get my inspiration from my wife. I watch as she tries so hard to integrate herself into the community of Cardiff, and more importantly, retain the right frame of mind and ask the universe for assistance.
“It’s very strange to regard two people as a community…where is everyone else?” Sobonfu Some.
Ritual: The Call to Spirit
Sobonfu Some means ‘Keeper of Ritual’ and her teaching in this chapter were life changing for me.
Close your eyes and think about the word ritual and what do you see?
I used to see a knife, blood, goats, sex, nakedness, voodoo and black magic. I know…my mind is not a pretty place to visit sometimes.
Now I see structure, intimacy, expression, love, spirit, listening and sharing.
We all have rituals in our lives, especially those that involve our loved ones. Most couples will eat at least one meal together, there will be certain television programs that you share, you may go to the pub every Sunday, darts on a Wednesday night, visit Grandma on Saturday, food shopping every Thursday, church on Sunday and you may even say grace before every meal.
This chapter goes into great detail about the importance of spirit, ritual and intimacy in the West African tribe and I learned so much.
“If people understood the connection between intimacy and spirit, there would be a different approach to how they deal with the whole idea of relationships. And they would begin to understand that ritual can help heal the anger and frustration that can raise between partners.” Sobonfu Some
Here are some examples of ritual that I have introduced into my life since I have achieved sobriety:
A very quick moment between my wife and I where we declare our intentions for the day.
The Morning Note
I always make my wife a fresh juice every morning and leave her a not to tell her how grateful I am that she is in my life.
Before we eat we will bless our food and show gratitude for what we have.
We meditate together in the evenings.
We tap together in the evenings.
We exercise together in the evenings.
We attend yoga classes together.
The check-in process is vital because it allows a forum for emotion to move wherever it wants to. My wife will tell me how her day has been and how she is feeling emotionally, and my role is to just listen. Then the roles change and she becomes the listener.
I also carry out a nightly check-in with my son where we go through the same process.
When you practise rituals there really is nowhere for anger and frustration to hide. Issues have to be dealt with in the moment and it clears the way for more love and intimacy.
Imagine for a moment how critical this is when trying to get sober. I recently wrote a blog post 10 Reasons Your Marriage Fails After You Quit Drinking Alcohol and if you don’t want some of these 10 reasons to affect your sobriety then I strongly suggest ritual as an aid.
Community and Ritual were just two of the important areas of relationships where I gained a greater insight after reading this book.
There were many more.
I not only recommend this book for people who are trying to achieve sobriety, but for everyone in the world. We all need relationships in order for us to grow; there is no getting away from it, so why not learn from a West African tribe?
It’s doing me no harm at all.
Photo courtesy of Erik (HASH) Hersman cc @ flickr.com
Now it’s your turn…do you have a book recommendation that you think will help people on their journey through sobriety?