Excerpt from the author of the "Physician, Heal Thyself!", interview with the Grapevine (GV), the journal of Alcoholics Anonymous. October 1995 edition.
GV: Have you had periods in sobriety that were Emotionally difficult?
Dr. Earle: Oh my, yes. So did Bill-you know that Bill W had a long depression.
Let me tell you how I got at some emotional rest. Years ago, a medical college in the South asked me to go to Saigon to help the Vietnamese set up a new department.
Before I left, I went back to see Bill and Lois and Marty M. and some others, and I spent about eight or nine days back in New York before I went to Asia. Bill took me to the airport and on the way there he said, "You know, Earle, I’ve been sober longer than anyone else in our organization. But," he said, "I don’t have too much peace of mind." He said, "I feel down in the dumps a hell of a lot." So I said, "So do I, Bill. I don’t have much serenity either." I was sober by this time maybe sixteen, seventeen years.
He said, "Do me a favor. When you get over to Asia, see if you can investigate firsthand, the various religions in Asia. That means Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, and Confucianism and ancestral worship and the whole shebang." And I said, "All right, I’ll do it." And he said, "Stay in contact with me and maybe we can find something in those religions. After all, we’ve taken from William James, we’ve taken from all the Christian religions. Let’s see what these others have."
So I hugged Bill and got on the plane and went to Asia. I had three or four rest and relaxation periods a year but I didn’t rest and relax. I was determined to find something that would bring peace and serenity to me. I spent a lot of time in Nepal and in Indonesia. I spent time in India. I went into these places looking, looking, looking for serenity. I spent two or three years just driving to find out something. I tried meditation, I read the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas-everything. I went to an ashram on the southeast coast of India, run by a very famous guru and saint. There were about a hundred and fifty East Indians there. I was the only Westerner and they welcomed me. I wore a dhoti-that’s a white skirt that men wear-and I wore one like the rest of them did. We all ate on the ground on great big banana leaves over a yard long. There would be food on the banana leaves and you’d make it into a ball with your right hand and throw it into your mouth. There were no knives or forks at all, so I did what they did. I didn’t like the taste very much but I did it.
I happened to be there at the time of the Feast of dewali. Dewali is like our time of Easter; It’s the time of renewal. We were awakened on the early morning of Dewali around two o’clock. This ashram was located at the base of a mountain known as Arunachal. Now Arunachal in Hindi means sun, and the myth goes that one of the gods, Rama, lives inside of this mountain. We were told we had to walk around the base of this mountain-which was a ten mile walk-and as we walked, we were yelling to Rama. If you do it in a very firm and believing way, it’s said that Rama will come up and wave at you and bless you. I was there, and I did it. We walked around and we were yelling "Rama, Rama, Rama" hoping that Rama would come up and bless us all. They all
walked in their bare feet. I didn’t, I wore my shoes. Gosh, I was tired. But I walked all night long, the whole distance.
After that event, I came back to my little apartment in Saigon, ready to return to my work. I was so beaten because I’d been driving and searching and clenching my fists for almost three years(and I kept writing to Bill about all this, you know). And I came into my apartment and I suddenly collapsed down onto the floor. I lay there breathing kind of heavily and I said to myself, "Oh to hell with serenity, I don’t care if it ever comes."
And I meant it. And do you know what happened?
All of a sudden the craving to find serenity utterly evaporated-and there it was. Serenity. The trouble was the search . . . looking out there for what was right here.
You know, we only have this given second. There’s always now. Once I realized that, serenity became mine. Now-I’m speaking about emotions-I haven’t sought one single thing since that day because it’s all right here. I often say to people at meetings. "You’re trying to find peace of mind out there. I don’t blame you, but it isn’t out there. It’s here. Right here."
Now do I think there is a supreme being, a God? Sure I do. Of course. But do I have any religious beliefs? No. Religion demands that you do certain things and my life in AA isn’t like that. AA is a very loose-Jointed organization. People say there is only one way to work the program. That’s
crazy. We talk about the "suggested" Steps, which are guides to recovery, not absolutes. Chapter five of the Big Book says "no one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles." If we had all the members of AA standing here, everyone would have a different idea what AA is all about. Bill’s idea was different from Dr. Bob’s, yours will be
different from mine. And yet they’re all based on one thing and that is: don’t drink, and use the Twelve Steps in your own way.