blessings – great & small

 

For breath and clean air to breathe,
for heartbeat and healthy flowing blood…
I am thankful.
For arms and legs that move,
for toes that wiggle…
I am thankful.

gratitude changes everything

For sobriety and the willingness to live soberly,
for a clear head and commitment to sane, rational thinking…
I am thankful.
For waking up knowing where I was last night,
for knowing what I did last night and where I parked my truck…
I am thankful.

Sober today?  Give yourself and your Higher Power a hand.sober emoji

this too shall pass

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.

I was brought up in a broad-minded community of church people.  The Lutheranism of my church family was a faith of tolerance and compassion for fellow mankind.  We had a39 few quirks, but most of them could be dismissed with a smile and a touch of humor.  We learned not to take ourselves too seriously.

Subsequent addictions severely tested that innocent faith leaving a young man rudderless and questioning.  The questioning was probably a good thing; however, being rudderless was not.  Not until completely shattered and disillusioned did I reach out from my alcoholic depths to the foundations of my youthful convictions where goodness and mercy still dwelled.  There is where a physical, emotional, and spiritual road to recovery began.

That recovery was a long, arduous journey filled with heartbreak and joy.  Today, having been reconciled with who I was and what I did in the grasp of addictions, I hold on to elements of the faith walk that nourished and encouraged me as a young teen-aged boy.  The 23rd Psalm was a favorite passage which has comforted and stayed with me.

“…yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”

When my world rocked with fear, when my mind went haywire with depression, when staying sober another day seemed impossible, I repeated Psalm 23 because it ends with these words:

“…surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

In that valley which I sometimes walk even today, the path can be tortuous and difficult walled by mountain peaks of disillusion, pain and suffering.  But, there is always a gap in the high walls just ahead.  There is always a beautiful sunrise over the far mountain peak.  Today I know I will not be in this valley forever.  This too shall pass.  My challenge is to learn the intended lessons from the current sadness or despair and hold true to the person the Creator intended me to be.  My heart can then rejoice and sing….“surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

backlit-dawn-fog-585759

I   AM   LARRY – worthy, unique, loved

unshackled 3

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

What is it that most people desire, few people give, and the world lacks?  Answer respectcropped-c6fe7102aaf9242136b451907b02957d1.jpg and you win the prize.  Respect as a noun means admiration, regard, appreciation, courtesy.  Used as a verb it can mean avoid interfering with or causing harm, treat with consideration, admire, value, look up to, revere, heed, obey, attend to, defer to.

Unfortunately, a dictionary full of words is meaningless if the heart of mankind does not hold reverence for the divine nature of each creature on earth and the divine nature of the earth itself, i.e., respect.

How about self-respect?  Do you and I wrap ourselves with arms of abundant self-esteem and self-love?  Why not?  Are you not lovable?  Are you not a creature of earth designed with a loving divine nature?  Oh, I see.  You don’t consider yourself worthy.  You are saying that the Creator did not know what he/she/it was doing when your body and soul were on the printing press.  Wow, how arrogant is that?

1967 Aretha Franklin written by Otis Redding

Higher Power

If you are sober today, give yourself and your Higher Power a hand.

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity – STEP 2 sober emoji
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. – STEP 3

This is the miracle of restoration.  It is not dependent on anything you or I could do to alleviate the addictions which controlled our lives.  Yes, we had to talk the walk and then walk the talk, but ultimately the grace of a power greater than us brought us back to sanity, restored us to meaningful lives within families and communities – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

God as we understood God is, for many of us, the premise which carries us over the hurdles of previous negative god experiences.  No longer do we feel obligated to profess this faith or that in our daily faith walk.  Surely, each religious philosophy of the world whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. has nuggets of truth and wisdom; however,  life changes when the God we follow is personal, loving and compassionate not corralled by any particular philosophy.  As is human nature, we attempt to describe and define, but usually discover that our minds cannot comprehend the greatness or fathom the depths of that which we call Higher Power.

Whether your God or mine is a who, a what, a where, a when, male, female, genderless, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or simply the fellowship which supports our sobriety, give this Higher Power a round of applause today for keeping us clean and serene.

copyright unshackled

Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble😎

UNSHACKLED 2

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.  STEP 10, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Humility is defined on page 58 of TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS as “a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become who we could be.”

Sobriety is serious business, but most often we alcoholics take ourselves too seriously.  The steps are suggestions that can never be practiced perfectly, but can always be pursued in daily activity.  With practice and time, step 10 becomes as routine as brushing teeth in the morning.  Along with a gratitude list it’s a great way to start the day.  But unfortunately, humility can’t be attained, it can’t be practiced, it can’t be prayed into existence.  It just happens.  When I think I’ve got it, I don’t.

“Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
Cause I get better looking each day
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man
Oh Lord It’s hard to be humble,
But I’m doing the best that I can”

MAC DAVIS

  sober emoji

 

SOBER TODAY?  GIVE YOURSELF AND YOUR HIGHER POWER A HAND

 

joy or misery – it’s a choice

4k-wallpaper-beautiful-flowers-clouds-1266810

Let me repeat that.  In this new day we can choose to be joyful or we can choose to be miserable.  Within each of us is the power to wallow in this world’s drudgery or soar on wings of joy – and it is possible without the use of pharmaceuticals, alcohol, or any mind-altering substances.

“…..we are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness….we will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace…”  from the promises, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

The promises listed are not just fancy ideals written by a successful recovering alcoholic.  They are reality for millions of alcoholics who choose to follow a program of sober-living earnestly and honestly….“are these extravagant promises?  We think not!”  That, in a nutshell, is the beauty of our lifestyle.  Today, we have choices which were dismally not available before.  Joy or misery is one of those choices.

Alcoholism is a disease of the mind, of the body and of the soul.  It is cunning, baffling and powerful.  It wants to see you and I either in a mental institution or in the grave and it will not rest until it destroys us.  But, we have resources available that can conquer our disease.  For some it is Alcoholics Anonymous, for others it is Celebrate Recovery, still others discover sobriety through numerous spiritual programs.  They all present to us a way of changing our lives and living victoriously as new men and women.  They rebuke the power of alcohol in our lives and replace that demon with the power of choice.

The joy of living soberly is directly linked to an attitude of gratitude.  What is on this morning’s gratitude list?  Nothing?  Let’s think again.  Did we sleep in a warm, comfortable bed last night?  Do we remember this morning where we were last night, what we did?  Do we suffer from blackouts?  Are we filled with self-loathing because of what we did last night?  Were we unfaithful to our spouses?  Did we spend the family’s grocery money on booze?  Are we calling the boss and lying about why we will not be at work?  Yeah, we have much about which to be grateful, don’t we?

I suffer varying degrees of arthritis pain on a daily basis.  Many of us endure medical and physical conditions that limit activity.  Are we going to allow these maladies to diminish joyful living?  Absolutely not.  The pain I feel this morning is a reminder that my body is still alive and functioning.  When the day arrives that this body is not responsive to stimuli, good or bad, then I shall likely be dead.  And although that is neither good nor bad, I am not yet ready to be dead.

So let’s make our choices.  Will that choice be a joyful interaction with all that has been restored to us through the grace of recovery or will it be a miserable day of drudgery wallowing in the pit of negative thoughts and behavior?  Which will we choose?

UNSHACKLED 2

 

specks and logs

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
step 4 – ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Picture1.pnginventory

Don’t know about you, but I hate turning the critical eye inward.  Presumably you will ask, “Why is that, Larry?”

Up until I had several years sobriety behind me, LarryPaulBrown was the world’s foremost expert at condemning himself.  “You never do anything right, you are a failure,” were my life’s defining words.  “Why can’t you be more like Joe, the school sports jock, or Mary, the class valedictorian, or Pastor Jones, the community rock?  Why, why, why?”

Doing an honest 4th step, a searching and fearless assessment of me was a daunting task until my spiritual advisor set before me on paper two columns – one for the negatives and one for the positives.

“But,” I protested, “I can’t think of any positives.”  Thank God for the patience and insight of our sponsors who guide us through these growing pains.

Even today it is infinitely more comforting to look at you and take your inventory.  Yes, old habits die hard.  The ego loves this – ‘I’ and ‘me’ become bigger and superior – it creates separation and otherness.  My defects are not as severe or humiliating as yours.  “Well, I never did that. Tsk, tsk.”

Ultimately an overly active ego, a continual subversion of one’s inner truth to ‘I, I, I and me, me, me’ creates violence between individuals and warfare between nations.

Verse 41 in the 6th chapter of Luke says, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

What’s in my eye today?  What’s in yours?

UNSHACKLED 2

 

control freak – who, me?

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, wisdom to know the difference.”

44

Most of us in recovery are failed control freaks.  Read those words again.  You and I have been miserable failures at controlling our lives. Lord knows we did our damnedest to cajole, manipulate, wheedle, urge or threaten loved ones, family and friends to think and do the ‘right way’ which, of course, was always our way.  I see some of you out there denying it, but let us just take a moment of truthful inventorying our past behavior before claiming innocence.  Yeah, just as I thought.  Guilty as charged!

Sometimes our game of controlling others actually worked and we felt victorious.  But our success came at the expense of ruffled feathers, resentments, anger from our victims.  The end result was that we distanced ourselves from those around us who loved us the most.  Ultimately, through the progression of our disease, we reached a point where, in the depths of our self-imposed exile from reality, we could not even control ourselves.  In those depths, alcohol was the victor controlling every aspect of our being.

Enter sobriety and the grace of a Higher Power.  We repeated in the recovery rooms of AA the Serenity Prayer.  Sometimes our discussions centered on the words of the prayer analyzing each word and each part of the three statements.  What do they mean?  What do I control?  What can I not control?  And when does the wisdom appear in my life?

Sobriety is not a commodity to be purchased at the recovery store.  It does not happen miraculously on the first day of not drinking.  We hang out with others like us, we listen to the wisdom spoken in the rooms, we take our thoughts to the quiet space within and begin to process what sober-living means.  Contrary to the previous drinking before which carried us to the depths of our personal hells, sobriety becomes our beacon of hope, our lifestyle resurrecting us to a purposeful place in society.

And eventually we discover the truths of control.  I accept that I control no other human being on earth, I control no other entity on earth, I control no political undertaking, no politician, no corporate CEO.  I do not control my spouse, family nor friends.  I don’t even control Max, the cat.  Lastly, I do not control the recovering friend who decides to go back out and do some more ‘field research’ on drinking.

“Pheeeew!  What a relief,” we exclaim, “I am not responsible for anything.”

Whoa, not so fast.  Yes, we are responsible.  “Whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to be there.  For that I am responsible.”

“Courage to change the things I can.”

In order to be a helping hand, I must change the only thing I can…and that is me.  I must change my thinking, my attitudes, my responses to others, my behavior, my prejudices, my lifestyle.  I must change myself to reflect the grace freely given on that first day of recovery when I walked into my first AA meeting a scared, hopeless drunk.  And therein is the wisdom to know the difference.  Today, I know how and when to surrender Larry, the control freak.  Not always easy, not always first choice, but always the path to serenity.

UNSHACKLED 2

“you said come just as you are”

 

photos by LARRY PAUL BROWN

There’s a place I go where the eagles fly high, the rivers run deep, the grass is lush.  In that place it is peaceful and kind, no violence nor intolerance.  Wildflowers wave in the gentle breezes as the freshness of nearby pine forests fills the air with breath after breath of luxurious serenity.  I sit in the grass, admire the beauty of the flowers and  marvel that truly there is a heaven on earth.

And then, when that which is called reality reins in this escape to a quiet place, I return reluctantly and sadly.  But, I know that someday this kind and peaceful place will be a permanent home where I also shall soar with the eagles breathing in the freshness of eternity.  Come with me, won’t you?  We can go there just as we are.

backlit-clouds-dawn-415380

Every one of us has a story to tell.  It usually reflects on the brokenness of a past life which carried us to places that were more like a living hell than heaven.  Sometimes it involves drug addiction or alcoholism. Often it is a story of abuse and deprivation at the hands of someone whom we trusted.  Or we may return to the horrors of sex abuse and physical assault when telling our story.  The common thread with each one of our stories is the final surrender of the pain and suffering to an unseen, unfamiliar power.  We somehow, miraculously, discovered healing and acceptance.  We recognized and embraced our inner beauty and greatness.  We became willing to believe that our past lives, though never to be forgotten, should no longer be baggage to slow down our journey through sobriety.  And with each passing clean and serene day we discovered a special place where eagles soar, water runs deep, and grass is green, a place where peace and kindness greet our morning sun.

Drunk and reeking of alcohol, I met my unseen, unfamiliar Higher Power in a bar room as I staggered past a man who grabbed hold of me and said, “Son, do you want to be free?”  My blurred vision couldn’t really focus on the man and upon finally making my way to the door, turning around to see who had spoken to me, he was gone.  I demanded of the bartender,

“Who was that man that just grabbed me by the shoulders?”

“Sir, it’s just you and me in this bar room.  Nobody else has been here in the past hour.”

Do you want to be free?  Free of substance addiction, free of behavior addictions, free of self-imposed hell?  Lean into the Master and receive your miracle.   Matters not whether we name it Higher Power, the Source, God, or Spirit, the salvation we seek will welcome us with open arms and a hearty,

“Welcome home, son.  I have been waiting for you.  Now, come just as you are; sit with me for a while.  We have some catching up to do.”


copyright 3

IT’S A GREAT DAY! – success

“To leave the world a bit better, whether by healthy child, a garden patch, or redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you live – that is to have succeeded.” RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Do you compare to others?  Car?  House?  Money?  Designer clothes?  Do you base your personal success on that comparison?

STOP!  Just stop.  Our Western culture has fed all of us a pack of lies regarding success.  As a result you probably work more than you need in order to buy things you don’t really need.  And whom are you impressing?  The Joneses most likely don’t give a hoot about that shiny new car or your spouse’s wardrobe.  In the end when one makes an accounting of one’s life, all of us, yes every single one, will go wherever we believe we are going without a stitch of designer jeans, no fancy ride, and not one of those gleaming diamonds purchased with hard work and sacrifice.  Nada, zilch, nothing!

Then what will we take across into the next phase?  Perhaps integrity, compassion, stewardship, honesty, conscience?  How about selflessness?  What good have we done for this creation?  The preservation of natural habitats, the protection of wildlife, the concern for the homeless, the compassion for immigrants, the love for the arts,  the kind word to a lonely man, the dedication to peace, the restrictions on personal consumption are all ways to view our lives as astonishing successes no matter how small or how grand.

Don’t fall for the world’s allure.  It is fleeting and destructive.  It will not satisfy your need to feel successful.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  It’s a great day whether spent in an elegant mansion or a modest apartment, whether the ride to town is a limo or a bicycle, whether the jeans are Jordache or WalMart.  Stuff does not matter.  Repeat that a dozen times as you compose today’s gratitude list.

stuff does not matter!