It’s what I have to do

Second only to politicians, we alcoholics are probably the most selfish people I have ever known. Not that I know many politicians (thankfully), but I have met and loved a number of alcoholics in my lifetime.

They, and I include myself, seem to be lacking the gene that turns off the “I” button and concentrates more on the “you” default. Was it environment, upbringing, mental deficiency or truly a physical and emotional condition that laid waste to so many of our years while maturing?

Please note I said maturing and did not say while growing up because many of us just never grew up. We stayed in that age group when we first began our careers in alcoholism, that age group when our peers were educating themselves, raising families, focusing on relationships, starting careers…….yeah, getting responsible for themselves. Some of us missed out on those milestones in life and, unfortunately, never caught up to the rest of our siblings and friends.

So, is it too late now? Oh, hell no. We just have to try harder, put in more effort, appreciate sober-living more than most because sobriety is not a lifestyle for wimps. It takes great courage to turn it over to a Higher Power every day thus giving up control of our lives. It takes great courage to surrender it all to an entity which most of us cannot or will not define in the terms of this world.

What are your stumbling blocks? What were mine? We discovered them in our 4th Step inventory and, shared them with another person and with God as we understood God. And we did not stop there. Sober time convinced us that more inventories, more thoroughly exhaustive were necessary, more honest maybe.

It didn’t all happen in one day, it was not a ‘once and done’ effort. Meeting after meeting, night after night with a sponsor, sharing when sharing was difficult and uncomfortable, thinking of others when that was still unnatural – it all finally led to a moment of epiphany, that breakthrough when we could say with heartfelt thanks, “there but for the grace of God go I.”

No, it was not an easy path. But, we had no choice, did we? The alternatives were jail, a mental institution or death. It’s been years since Day One for me, but I must reaffirm my decision to follow sober-living everyday. I have no choice, do you?

If you’re sober today, give yourself and your HigherPower a hand.

stinking thinking

“We would rather be ruined than changed, We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die.” W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

Sound familiar? We alcoholics are specialists in ‘stinking thinking’, are we not? How often in my career of alcoholism did I sit on that bar stool with my buddies believing (not just thinking) that I could drink like they drank and drive home safely, maintain a home life with a spouse happy to see me pull in the driveway, wake up the next morning refreshed and ready for work, and remembering everything I did during the drinking session and owing nobody (especially my spouse) an apology? How often did I believe that I would not be ashamed the next morning of inappropriate behavior while drinking on the barstool with my buddies?

Of course the answer was always. I sincerely believed I could drink like they drank and the outcome would be different than last night or the many nights before. I believed that I could control my addiction. It was stinking thinking that fed my illusions for nearly 20 years.

Not until, “we admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and could not manage our own lives,” did the light break through. My way of thinking was flawed, it stank and it wanted to kill me. I then invited the True Manager into my life, called it Higher Power until I could fathom the depth of a “spiritual experience” as described in the AA Big Book.

If you are sober today, rejoice in the miracle of saving grace.

birthdays and death

Birthdays come and go;
if we'll have another, we do not know.
But here is advice of which I'm sure:
for getting older, there is no cure.

So, we should eat, drink and be merry.
Eat that triple dip sundae topped with nuts and a cherry?
For on this, our birthday month, I'm happy to tell
I kicked the grim reaper back to hell.

"Old man," said I, "you find yourself other souls,
cause today it won't be us for whom the bell tolls.
It's our birthday and I'm proud to say,
We're gonna see another day."

A GREAT BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY COUSINS, GORDY AND JOYCE, AND MY FRIEND CAROL IN PENNSYLVANIA.

Happy Trails, Rocky…..part 2

The one on the left, the handsome one…..that’s me, Rocky.

There is a part two, the rest of the story that needs to be told. It’s the ugly side of humans; it’s the abuse our beloved pets suffer.

Rocky suffered seizures which began about 10 years ago after a visiting family member, in a fit of anger threw him head first into the living room wall. About 3 or 4 weeks later, Rocky had his first seizure. Traumatic for us, his humans, we cannot imagine what our cat endured. His doctor confirmed the injury-related condition and placed him on a medication, Levetiracetam. Only Jim and I, Rocky’s doctor and the perpetrator know what happened to our cat. Initially, the vet suspected us of abuse. My anger is yet to subside when I think about this dark episode.

Rocky was not a wuss. He endured several more seizures, a few in the arms of his protectors, became unsteady on his feet, fell a lot more than cats should, lost weight and finally in recent weeks became incontinent. But, we adjusted to our cherished family member’s needs. Even the puddles of Rocky pee in which we stepped inadvertently on our nighttime nature calls became accepted routine. Last Friday, however, a decision had to be made. Rocky’s front paw was just dangling from his knee joint. Apparently, he had broken it in a fall.

The image of him trying to walk on that broken paw is heart-breaking. He did not yowl or complain, just wanted us to hold him and scratch his ears.

This post is all about me. A favorite saying runs through my head today….”dogs have owners to take care of them; however, cats have staff to wait on them.” Rocky is at peace, no more seizures, no more falling. He knows he has served us well as a ‘pet’.

I, however, am not at peace. The anger, the inability to forgive Rocky’s tormentor for the abuse that happened 10 years ago is festering in my day.

Please, Lord, let me forgive and also be at peace.

LUKE 15

Having been reared in the Lutheran Church, 1st cousin to the Catholic Church, the faith walk of President Joe and Dr. Jill as devout Catholics has greatly enhanced my trust in and respect for them as the First Family. You might ask, “Larry, why is that?”

The disappointing performance of their predecessors who tied their star to the Evangelical movement has brought down upon believers and non-believers alike a distrust of anything which reeks of religion. Of all major faiths, the Catholic Church has suffered tremendous harm over the past years for numerous reasons, most onerous of which has been sexual abuse.

Not to excuse this travesty, but to reflect upon and uphold the life-changing endeavors of many who have walked in the shoes of Jesus, St. Francis, Pope Francis, etc., it becomes necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is easy (and human) to fall into judgement of the Church, Lutheran or Catholic, while disregarding the great treasures bestowed upon society in terms of art, music, writing, and philosophy. Social justice is today the centerpiece of both faiths, the driving force in commendable ministries, personal and congregational.

Before charging all believers as pharisaical or, as I have often been labeled, a follower of an ‘imaginary’ friend, we should evaluate the path taken and the life lived as a believer. The Bible speaks of the fruits of faith. What are the fruits of the Spirit?

CHARITY, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, LONG-SUFFERING, GENTLENESS, FAITH, MODESTY, SELF-CONTROL, CHASTITY

GALATIANS: 5:22-23

It’s not difficult to determine, when viewing our national leaders, where they have been and what fruits they have produced. An apple tree does not produce lemons, a grape vine does not produce poisonous fruit. What lies in the wake of one’s earthly journey speaks volumes of his/her inner life. Mine was tumultuous and tortured. My moral compass was surrendered to a life of addiction. My North Star sat next to me on a bar stool.

That’s why I am forever grateful to my parents for dragging me to the local Lutheran Church, to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School when I was a child. Although my story became that of the Prodigal written in the Book of Luke, chapter 15, my recovery and subsequent renewal of conscience were directly the work of a loving God, the commitment of people living sober lives and, of course the dedication of parents trying to raise a decent young man.

That’s why I trust President Joe and Dr. Jill. I know personally the moral compass which they profess and the North Star which they follow.


“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. For this, my son, was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry” LUKE 15: 20-22, 24

It’s my story

January, 1981, my story was changed. On that cold night in the social hall of a local church, I wasn’t looking for sobriety, I wasn’t searching for a savior to guide my life forever thereafter, I wasn’t willing to take the steps necessary to become a new man. I just wanted to stop hurting, stop the pain that defined my life. What those men and women sitting at the table of my first AA meeting shared was a familiar story because I knew it well. After 17 years living the insanity of alcoholism, I was ready for a new chapter in my story, but, “Good Lord,” I cried. ‘What a tall order, I can’t do it. Living without alcohol forever. I can’t.”

Then that voice which has become so very familiar answered, “Yes, together, we can. It’s not forever, it’s one day at a time, let go and let me.”

Forty years ago my story was changed. Not by my will power nor luck, rather by loving, sober people who cared and a God who could and would make a new man out of me. That’s my story. Chris, Jack, Jo, Cindy, Tom, Danny, Father Bond are just a few of the characters from my recovery…..Jesus is the author.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” JOHN 8:36

“I love to tell the story! ‘Twill be my theme in glory to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” Catherine Hankey

Come & See

For Lutherans and numerous other Christian denominations, Christmas is not just Christmas Eve, December 24th, and Christmas Day, December 25th. It is an extended season often called Christmastide celebrated from Christmas Eve until January 5th – the twelve days of Christmas. During this time we continue to observe the birth of Jesus. Many of us leave decorations in place until January 5th, the Twelfth Night, or until February 2nd, Candlemas, as we continue with our Christmas. In Lutheran and Episcopalian tradition , Candlemas is a time when congregants bring their candles to church for blessing. These candles are then used the rest of the year. They are symbolic of Jesus, the Christ, who referred to Himself as the Light of the World.

It is a time of communal celebration as well as personal reflection upon the meaning of this Holy season. It is a time to come and see what God has done.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” JOHN 3:16 KJV

Now what?

Probably most of the Christian world has whispered a hushed ‘phewww’ now that the pace of the season is over. Time to kick back, watch some football on TV and run to WalMart to exchange those unwanted gifts.

But, what shall we do with Jesus, the greatest gift of all? We could put him on the fireplace mantel until next year, pack him away with the rest of the Christmas decororations, or shove him into the closet with the other unwanted gifts.

What will I do with Jesus? Several years ago, a renown comedian referred to Jesus as our imaginary friend. Amidst his profanity, the tasteless attempts at comedy, his crude sexual referrals, this one comment offended my senses more than any.

But, it caused me to contemplate. Is this just a product of my imagination? Have I been bamboozled by opportunistic theologians? Am I searching fruitlessly for answers in an unknown realm of belief?

The truth is that I don’t know. What I perceive is a belief in something unknown and unproven in our physical world. Some would define this as faith and for me faith is good enough to call Jesus real – as real as anything I can see, hear or touch.

I do know as factual the functioning body with which I have been blessed, the beautiful Creation in which I live, the wondrous unfolding amazement of a friend’s love, the purring cat lying beside me. My recovery and redemption from a life of alcoholic addiction is certainly proof of an intervention by an unseen and unproven God.

It is my choice what I do with this gift that renews every Christmas. I can receive everlasting love, peace and comfort or I can set it aside for another year to collect dust.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him ye creatures here below; praise Him above ye heavenly Host; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN

A well-remembered adage flowing freely around the tables of Alcoholics Anonymous was this:

“You have got to give it away to keep it.”

Sobriety, the clean and serene, the return of sanity, the restoration of family and community was a gift of a Higher Power whom we trusted and revered. It was freely given through the grace of a loving, magnanimous God. Many of us, needing definition to this God, rely on the Christian concept of Jesus, the Christ. I have to give Him away to keep Him.

Celebrating the birth is part of this Jesus story that has given meaning to life as well as understanding to death. A boyhood verse learned in Sunday School said, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Alcoholism kidnapped my relationship with Jesus and set me in the darkness of the deep valleys. My story is found in the New Testament book of Luke, chapter 15, the parable of the prodigal son. Through Jesus, my Father and I have claimed victory over alcoholism and spiritual death.

Yes, yes, yes, I will go tell it on the mountain, in the valley, on the streets and wherever anyone will listen. Tonight I celebrate the birth of the Son who saved me from insanity or jail or death. Tonight is all about God’s gift to humanity. This little light of mine – I’m gonna let it shine.

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