Learning From a Hedgehog

Learning From a Hedgehog

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During the Covid pandemic, I returned to Ireland after many years teaching in Asia.  I spent two weeks living in quarantine in a remote cottage in the countryside. I used to join the daily mid-day Irish SA phone meetings which helped me to stay sober one day at a time.

One morning, while on an early jog around the grounds on a small country road, I came across a large hedgehog with a beaker jammed onto its snout. The animal was running around in almost perfect circles in the middle of the road. I felt sorry for the hedgehog as I realized that sooner or later, a car would arrive to crush the life out of it. I reached out to try to remove the beaker from its snout, but the hedgehog resisted my efforts valiantly. I gave up and continued my run around the grounds.

When I came around for the second lap, the hedgehog was still running around in circles. I said to myself “If I don’t risk getting badly pricked by this hedgehog, it will eventually be killed on the road by a car,” so I reached out both hands to grab the beaker and pulled the hedgehog up into the air. It was heavy and it fell out from the beaker back down onto the road. I was afraid that I had pulled its head off but when I looked into the beaker in my hands, there was nothing inside. The animal had curled up into a ball on the road and was no longer moving.

“Probably in shock,” I thought. I left it there and continued on my run. As I approached that spot on the road for a third time, I saw a car driving in the opposite direction.  “It’s all over,” I thought to myself, “the car will surely have run over the hedgehog on the road. If I see blood and guts on the road that will be proof.” As I ran past the spot, there was no blood and guts and no hedgehog. It had survived. I had saved it. I felt very happy after that run.

On the SA phone meeting that day, I shared the story with my interpretation.  I am like the hedgehog with a beaker over my head running around in circles. My lust addiction traps me into a narrow and false vision of reality that I cannot escape from.  As I run around in circles, I am gradually running myself to death. Only an outside intervention can help remove the beaker of my blinkered vision and allow me to see reality as it is and become truly myself again. God does that through SA even though I still resist God’s grace. The hedgehog was powerless to save itself as I am powerless to save myself.  

Every time I travel, I remember that hedgehog. In the early morning, I get out into the fresh air. At midday I get onto the phone with SA members. In the evening, I disconnect from the internet and get on my knees to thank God for one more day of sobriety. 

Peter E., Dublin, Ireland

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