self-will run riot

When all the arguments are vented, when all the opinions are expressed, when all the chatter is expended, then is when I look at myself questioningly wondering what all that hullabaloo was about.  Why was so much energy necessary attempting to prove that my version of all things holy is more accurate than yours?  God needs my defense.  I have more insight than you do.  I am more level-headed, more sincere, more open-minded, more knowledgable,  more socially aware than you.  I, I, I,….me, me, me.  It’s like a broken record from the golden oldies.  Only difference today is that the old me does not control my life.  It merely stops by to visit sometimes like a recurring bad dream.

The old me shone brilliantly in the delusions of self-importance relating to religion, politics, society, and philosophy.  The old me sat high atop that bar stool explaining to whomever was unfortunately sitting nearby the theories of a drunk man trying to make himself feel like he truly mattered in the worldly realm.  The old me convinced himself that all the personal problems, the brokenness, the failed relationships, the financial chaos, the self-loathing were the results of friends and family who did not understand me or appreciate me.  The old me drank alcoholically because he was a weary and broken vessel in need of a spiritual fix.  The old me was ‘self-will run riot’.  Then, by the grace of a loving and compassionate Higher Power, the old me found the humility to surrender to a better way, a new way of living.

“Made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood God.”  Alcoholics Anonymous – step 3CANDLE

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  John 3:3

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Jesus went to his cross a broken and weary man having surrendered to the will of his Father.  The ultimate reality of his sacrifice is that I also must sacrifice, have the willingness to be crucified to the ways of this world in order to realize  a new existence resting in the truth of the One who assumed my weariness and my burdens.  My life today is not measured by worldly victories.  I don’t need to win the arguments anymore because I know that I am a simple messenger carrying the greatest, most important message to mankind.smiley 3

 

 

the critic

Marianne Williamson

 

Dear Lord, please lift me up and heal me.

Cast out of my mind all thoughts that are not of You.

Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature.

Cast out of me all violence and anger.

Cast out of me all demons from my past,

for I would be made new.

Amen

CANDLEMarianne Williamson’s work has been a part of my inspirational readings for many years.  Like me, she grew up in the turbulent decades of “drugs, sex, rock and roll.”  She also caved to the demons of her times.  ILLUMINATA  The above excerpt from a prayer for healing reminds me everyday that my “harsh and critical nature” is not totally resolved within me.  It is one of the major character defects which can turn my daily interactions into completely chaotic fiascos.  Just one word from my quick, unthinking tongue can erase tireless efforts to be the man whom I believe my HP wants me to be.  A biting comment, an insult, an unwanted opinion in the morning has the power to shadow me for the entire day.  Today, I am aware of my defects and at least now I have the tools to prevent the unkind thoughts and words from ever escaping out of my mouth….most of the time.

We don’t claim spiritual perfection, just progress.  Thank God for this disclaimer.  Without it I would be eternally lost in the seas of self-loathing and despair believing that I am the least worthy and most despicable of God’s creation.  But, my HP delivers to me each new day the strength and resolve to become a better version of the old drunk, to become a vessel carrying his word to a suffering and distraught fellowship of other drunks, and to become a recovering voice in the darkness of addiction.  And because he says I am a work in progress, I need not do this perfectly.  I merely need the willingness to try.

That same harsh and critical nature is frequently turned inward.  I am undoubtedly my own worst critic.  If I truly believe that God’s saving grace has covered me with unmerited and undeserved mercy then how dare I dispute the work he has done in my life and the plan he has for me?  How dare I criticize the miracle working within me?  It is not up to me to judge others or myself.  The indwelling Spirit allows me to be the observer of life, allows thoughts to enter and depart without passing judgement on them, allows others to travel this path alongside me without passing judgement on them, and allows me to be nothing more…or less…than a simple messenger.smiley 3

be careful little eyes

CANDLEA friend invited me to sit with him to watch one of the popular offerings on prime time television.  My viewing over the years has diminished to baseball, news, and college football.  Sometimes an old movie will grab my attention and I will settle down to watch and reminisce.  But, today’s 1258 channels on cable don’t get me too excited.

The show we watched was not alarmingly violent, had little sexual content, kept cussing to that which 8 year-olds now use at school.  But, it was bizarre in the images presented and the script.  Actually, bizarre is not strong enough.  It was chilling, ominous, and dark.  It creeped me out.  The computer generated visual effects were graphically disturbing, not something I wanted to put into my memory banks and certainly not something I would want a 10 year-old to process in his/her developing psyche.

“Trash in, trash out”.  We seem to have lost as a supposedly advanced society the wisdom that what we ingest mentally is who we become as a person.  Those images and that music which I allow into my brain will affect who I become as a person.  I can fill that space in my head with soul-nurturing entertainment or gut-wrenching graphics.  I can honor the presence of Jesus within or I can dump trash on his salvific glory. It’s a choice I have to make every minute of every day.  And, being the broken piece of humanity which I am, I sometimes fall short.  There are times when the best I can accomplish is damage control.

Our entertainment industry has replaced a God of joy and peaceful coexistence with its god of sex, immorality, and violence.  We should not wonder why mass shootings are becoming commonplace in America.  The children are learning from the movies, music, media, and politicians that the best solution to a problem involves a gun and standing up for “rights”.  Even some of our churches are preaching a theology of exclusion.  “You are not like me, you do not think like me, you do not look like me; therefore, you need to be eliminated.”  The less violent of these misguided religionists are content with the thought that the elimination will be an eternity in hell for those who do not fit their narrow viewpoint.  But, increasingly in America we see an active pursuit of legislating hatred in the name of God.

I am a child of God, I need to be careful what I see, hear, say, think, and feel.

 

 

the angry tongue

CANDLEWorking with a new guy in the fellowship is a privilege never to be taken lightly.  I have been blessed many times with this challenge sometimes successfully, other times not so successfully.  Having pulled back in recent years from a rigorous association with Alcoholics Anonymous and focusing on a church affiliation, I was somewhat cautious about once again extending myself to a young, homeless man who chose me to help him.  In retrospect I know that it was God leading this broken man to me.  In all the times of reaching out to another alcoholic, it was I who received the blessing and it was I who stayed sober regardless of what my newbie did.

I am not a young man full of energy these days.  My afternoon naps are important to me and bedtime seems to crawl upon me earlier in the evening.  Habits and routine have made life more manageable.  Therefore, adjusting my schedule to meet the needs of someone who believes I can guide him through the craziness of early sobriety does not come easy.  I still remember the powerful healing days of early AA fellowship, meeting new friends, giving up old friends, doing 90 meetings in 90 days, and forging a life which before was unimaginable.  But then that voice from within said, “Larry, it’s time to refresh yourself in Alcoholics Anonymous, to recommit to the program.  Do 90 in 90.”

“Oh no,” was my first response.  ” I don’t have the time.”

“Really?  I gave your life back to you when you were a basket case.  I sat up with you when you spent nights in sheer terror afraid you were going crazy.  I brought you through the valley of the shadows.  And you don’t have time?”

My Higher Power settled that argument without further dispute.  Now, you all need to understand that although patience is a virtue, it is not always readily available.  Sometimes, especially for an old man, it is in short supply.  My new protégé is someone I have known for several years who recently suffered reversals in life which, hopefully, brought him to his ‘bottom’.  And because we have been friends, the conversation is usually free-flowing and lively.  Sometimes it gets out of hand.  As most of you know, I am still a broken vessel needing a lot of healing and mending.  My mouth still opens before the brain is engaged and, as happened a few days ago, words which were not of a spiritual nature flowed freely.  Ouch!

After a few solitary hours in my private attitude adjusting cubicle, I offered a sincere apology, a hug, and a promise to count to 10 before offering my lame – brain diatribes.  It is once again “well with my soul” and peaceful in my household.  But, that’s the beauty of sober living.  We can be honest, we can argue, we can disagree, we can yell and then promptly make amends.

It’s the yelling part that concerns me because that was a strong feature of my active alcoholism.  Just flying off the handle over stupid stuff, being irrational and abrasive is not who the sober Larry wants to be.  Wisdom gleaned from the literature of AA and Christian scriptures warns me of the consequences of a mouth which spews indiscriminately.  I believe during the next few months of readjusting my life to the needs of someone who is reaching out, I will need these readings more often.

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”  James 3:10-12

“He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”  Proverbs 13:3

“A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating.”  Proverbs 18:6  

“If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.  The grouch and the sudden rage were not for us.  Anger is the dubious luxury of normal men, but not for us alcoholics.  It is poison.”  Bill Wilson  AS BILL SEES IT pg 5

embarassed

Atheist & Agnostic

CANDLE

I have many friends in real life and in the blogosphere who follow the path of atheism and agnosticism.  I respect their choices and refuse to view my given path in life as “better than” or more spiritual.  What I have discovered is that the common thread in these friendships is mutual acceptance of the other person’s ideas.  No, a pursuit of evangelism and proselytism is not my cup of tea.  The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous clearly states that it follows the concept of “attraction rather than promotion”.  That works for me.  If you like what you see in me and want to know more, than I will fill your ears for hours with the truth which has discovered me in some of the darkest corners of my life.

One of my blogger friends posts daily about his spiritual walk.  From the first time I read his writing I felt drawn to what he was saying and wanted to hear more.  Mike’s NEW HOPE FOR DRY BONES approach is somewhat different from mine, but his message rings clearly about his faith and love for Jesus.  I like that.  Recently, I’ve come to realize that the most salient thing about Mike’s stuff is that he never preaches.  It is always about his experience, strength, and hope.  I trust folks who share themselves rather than preach morality and righteousness.  Jesus did not preach. He was accorded the title of teacher, not preacher. According to the scriptures of Christianity, he walked with the common people, he shared their sorrows and joys, he hurt when they hurt, he partied with them, but he also shared the joy, wisdom, and freedom of a spiritual kingdom.  He was extraordinarily honest and self-less in the world of hypocrisy followed by the Jewish hierarchy.

I suppose this is why I love recovery programs.  They attract real people with real problems.  I cry with them and I grieve with them.  We console and instruct.  But, we also live joyously a new life with a renewed spirit.  Then, if we choose to do so, we can navigate the waters of spirituality, commune with people of varying understandings, and receive the blessings of a loving and compassionate Higher Power in a colorful array of worship and celebration.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10smiley 3

 

 

humbled

“a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become who we could be.”  Bill W. 12 AND 12 pg 58cropped-brilliance.png

Bill Wilson’s definition of humility can be extremely difficult if I try to cover it with my old ideas about being humble.  I don’t want to be weak.  I don’t want to be submissive.  I don’t want to turn the other cheek.  Humility is not the American way.  We are proud, strong, and invincible.  Then I take a look at my flawed condition and my brokenness.  “Yeah, and look where your pride has taken you,” a voice inside says to me.

That inventory which we are guided to do early in recovery can be a very excruciating experience when we go into it honestly with courage.  I shuddered at the list of transgressions and defects which had to be shared later with God and another person.  I did not want anyone to know my deepest, darkest secrets.  Exposing myself like that would shatter the self-image I presented to the world.  “Yeah, and look where that image has taken you.”  Damn that voice inside.

“His admission is the beginning of humility – at least the newcomer is willing to disclaim that he himself is God.”  Bill W. AS BILL SEES IT pg 191, from a letter of 1966

“a clear recognition of what and who we really are….”  Like most newcomers to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I had lived a life apart from the concept of God.  Some of us never knew God, some of us refuted the God which we knew.  When my new sober friends advised that initially the group itself could be the greater power necessary to begin me on the road to recovery, I cautiously accepted that idea.  I had no choice.  My way was described as ‘self-will run riot’ and I had to reluctantly agree.

I love Bill Wilson’s connection between Higher Power and humility.  It tells me that I am not in charge, that I am not in control, that I am not God.  And Bill goes on to say “this is the beginning of humility.”  In my active alcoholism, I had never given credence to the thought of not being the master of my life.  It was an alien idea and totally un-American.

I am not God.  When the miracle of Alcoholics Anonymous is undertaken with this understanding, the 12 steps are not a daunting, unpleasant experience, especially steps 4 and 5.  I am humbled in a fellowship which advocates honesty and courage.  Sober living becomes second nature because I am no longer forced by ethic or tradition to be the man in charge.  No, I don’t control the miracle happening.  I am still a work in progress.  I am still flawed and broken.  But today I know a Higher Power who can heal and fix me.

“Humble yourselves therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”  1 Peter 5:6

namaste rainbow

 

 

powerless?

cropped-cropped-powerless.png

We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.  Really?  I had heard my well-meaning friends who told me to practice controlled drinking just on weekends, I had promised to do better when all in my family said I owed it to them to live soberly, I feared for my job when my boss told me to straighten up or get out. Indeed, I plotted and planned on how to extricate myself from the mess that I called life.  I had the gumption to do it by myself.  Self-help books, jogging, new diet regimen would all be a part of the new Larry.  And now the first thing I hear when I walk into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is that I am powerless.  Really?

Then they continued by saying that my life was unmanageable.  Powerless and unmanageable!  Never!  But, I stayed in the room to hear more from those people, we read from their “Big Book”, we listened to the reading of the 12 steps, and then, listening to their stories of how it was, what happened and how it is now, I finally admitted that just maybe my life was a wee bit unmanageable, but I was not going to admit that I was powerless.

I didn’t trust them.  In my world the people who did not drink were fringe losers.  They were religious fanatics, goody-two-shoes folks who believed themselves better than me.  They stood on the street corner handing out tracts or knocked on my door wanting to save my soul from hell and damnation.  They went to church on Sundays and Wednesday evening prayer services.  They were always clean-shaven, dressed well and mannerly.  Gaaawd, who wants to be like that?

But, these AAers were different.  They sported beards, ragged blue jeans, long hair, ratty sneakers and they looked at me with an intensity that made me uncomfortable because I knew they could see deep into the ravaged soul that tormented me so badly.  They knew all about me and I had just met them.  I wanted to run.

And they did not drink.  Or at least that is what they told me.  I was sure that probably after the  AA meeting they all got together at the local pub to celebrate sobriety.  In my little world everybody drank.  It was unnatural not to partake of alcohol.  But then they talked about the typical alcoholic.  Do you drink alone?  Do you sneak a drink at work?  Do you spend your family’s grocery money on booze?  Do you do things when drunk that you are ashamed of doing?  Do you have blackouts?  Do you think about suicide?  Does your money never stretch far enough to cover your monthly bills?

Yes, yes, yes……but doesn’t everyone have those same problems?  The smiles on their faces collectively said “no, there is a better way.  But first you must admit that you are powerless over alcohol.”

Me, powerless?  I could admit that possibly my life was somewhat unmanageable.  But I control my destiny, I run the show, I am in charge.  They responded,  “and how are you doing with that?”

“Ouch.  Nailed me.  Maybe I’m not doing such a great job.  Ok, I’ll come back tomorrow night and hear some more of your sobriety talk.”

Then they gave me a list of their phone numbers and invited me to go down with them to the local coffee-house for coffee and donuts.  “Who are these people?” I thought, “Why are they so nice to me?”

That is a brief synopsis of my first contact with Alcoholics Anonymous nearly 37 years ago.  It has been, as a lady confided last night at a meeting, one helluva ride.  Just because I quit drinking does not mean I immediately got fixed.  I am still broken in many areas of my life and I continue to look for healing.  But, I find comfort in knowing that there is a Power that will cover me with understanding and compassion, that there is a Power in presence at the tables of my AA meeting, and today I am perfectly content knowing that “I AM POWERLESS”.smiley 3

 

surveys

CANDLEBill W. in AS BILL SEES IT urges me to “survey the past”.  Step 4 is an integral part of my recovery program which then guides me in subsequent steps to release those deep transgressions, which have darkened my soul, to the Higher Power of my understanding and to another human being.  It is a fundamental process which leads to clearing the past that exists in my mind as a monumental impediment to a joyful and fulfilling future.  This release enables my Higher Power to then use me in the work of recovery and discovery of my divine purpose.

However, it is not a ‘one and done’ deal.  Step 10 then urges me to continue this inventory-taking and promptly clear the slate of any further hindering thoughts, words, and deeds.  It is also means that I should continue surveying my past for those things which had been forgotten or deeply buried within my soul.  This soul-searching is an ongoing endeavor which enhances a “joyful” recovery and frees me of self-loathing and doubt.

What also needs to be realized is that quite often those transgressions, which can be catastrophic in my mind, are usually a mere blip on the screens of victims of my selfishness.  If I were to ask one of them, “Do you remember….”, they would probably reply in the negative or they would have processed that happening and moved onward with life.  Rarely has my indiscretion devastated his/her life.  Even if I have caused extreme hardship or harm to another and their forgiveness is not offered, I have a merciful, steadfast Higher Power which has the amazing capacity to forgive and restore.

It is not a selfish undertaking to view the damage I heaped upon myself physically and emotionally as the ultimate, most important target of my inventories, self-assessment and amends.  Making amends to others is, of course, significant.  However, I am the brokenness that needs to be fixed.  As an alcoholic, I suffered a deep hatred of myself.  It colored every day of my life and every relationship in which I participated.  As a recovering alcoholic, I must see myself as deserving of a loving and compassionate God.  When that happens I can get on with the work of serving in a meaningful way the humanity to which I belong.rainbow-solidarity

 

as “BILL SEES IT”, pg 111