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

who’s your Daddy?

Who or what is the god of our lives? What do we hold closest to our hearts? Where do we turn in troubling times of the soul?

Of course the answers matter. Troubling times for humanity are not just a 21st century happening. History tells us that, as a species, we have encountered hardships, heartbreak, devastation, genocide, world war, political unrest and plague throughout each generation of mankind. So, let’s not think that we are unfairly oppressed by the inhumanity of the world or the wrath of a vengeful God.

I often refer to my grandpappy, a wise and thoughtful man, in my assessment of life. One of the most profound and profane summaries of his world was shared in these words: “Shit happens.”

My faith, still immature, says that I have no control over most of the events in my life. A simple prayer learned in the rooms of AA says:

“God grant me the serenity to accept that which I cannot change; courage to change that which I should, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

That prayer poses questions to be answered: 1) what can I not change? Most obviously, I cannot change other people. I cannot change my past. 2) What should I change? That is easy….I made a mess of my life in drunkenness. I need to change myself and thus my future.

In a nutshell, that philosophy guides us to a successful recovery from addiction and a serene path through life. The ‘Serenity Prayer’ is a life-changer for millions of alcoholics. Most of our challenges (call them failures, if you must) were the result of our attempts to play God. When we recognized that the higher power directing and controlling our lives was a substance such as alcohol/drugs or a behavioral addiction, we then searched for a replacement, an entity worthy to be our Higher Power.

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Step 2, Alcoholics Anonymous

Knowing a higher power was nothing new to us – it had been alcohol and drugs. Finding a sane alternative was the challenge we faced.

From Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions we read:

“Therefore, Step Two is the rallying point for all of us. Whether agnostic, atheist, or former believer, we can stand together on this Step. True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every A.A. meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.”

Will I relate myself “rightly”, who’s my daddy going to be? Where is my heart’s treasure? With whom do I share the depths of my heart, the concerns and fears, the joy and love?

Like grandpappy always said, life happens regardless of what we think it should be. But, with a commitment to sober-living, life can be a stroll through serenity, or under the ravages of addiction, a trip through hell. It’s our choice.

the promises of AA

OK. It is official. Immanuel (God with us) has arrived into a world filled with heartache, hatred, poverty, fear and, oh yes-don’t forget the pandemic. Welcome, Jesus. Sorry, I could not clean up our mess for you.

Lord, sometimes it is just too much to process. That’s why we have you. Our Father gave you to us to set the standard, to show us how we are supposed to live in a loving humanity of brothers and sisters. Guide us in your ways. AMEN

We are blessed every day with breath, with heartbeat, with functioning bodies. We awaken each morning to the glorious beauty of Your creation. For those of us saved from the ravages of alcoholism and associated addictions, we remember what we did last night, where we were, whom we slept with and where we parked our truck when we came home. We awaken unashamed of last night’s activity and sure that our coming day will be filled with continuing peace and understanding. And we look forward to another day basking in the light of Jesus.

We anticipate fulfilment of the promises we have read in our recovery literature. The truth of sobriety is synonymous with the commitment to sober-living. It’s not only about “not drinking and using”. It’s about changing who we are, how we think, what we do and how we relate to the world. No longer are we individually the center of our universes. No longer do we fear social situations or financial difficulties. Sober-living leads us to an understanding which was impossible for us as drunks and addicts.

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to realize a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret our past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic adversity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, pgs 83-84

Are these extravagant promises? Absolutely not! Millions of recovering alcoholics living successfully and productively will testify to the results. Those results will always materialize if we work for them.

Living sober is not about the ‘right’ God or the ‘right’ theology. I choose the God of my youth, my religious tradition, to guide me through a world that assaults and profanes my innate sense of moral compass. Jesus is the North Star of that compass. Celebrating the birth renews and revitalizes a life-long faith tradition. But, each of us must find the “God of our understanding.”

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” STEP 3, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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.

amazing grace

“MY CHAINS ARE GONE – I’VE BEEN SET FREE”

Many of us in recovery from addiction tearfully and prayerfully remember our brothers and sisters who have died or are still suffering and we quietly say, “But, for the grace of God, there go I.”

We believe it was grace, not luck nor will power, that brought us to our knees in humility seeking a better way, a return to sanity, a reason to continue on our journeys as participants in life. It was grace that set us free from the hell of alcoholism and drug addiction. It is still today that amazing grace which keeps us clean and serene. We praise the power whom we address as Lord and Savior as we thankfully remember the many others along the way who have knelt with us, cried with us and prayed with us.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

John 8:36

not just another day, is it?

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.  

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….as near as the destination may be, it’s still the journey that matters….

Are you having a good day today?  You came home at a decent hour last night or, in this covid-19 environment, you stayed at home with family and enjoyed a movie and quality time with loved ones.  You remember whom you were with, what you did, where your vehicle is this morning, don’t you?

Wasn’t always like that, was it?  The hangover, the nausea, the headache, the self-loathing, the empty wallet on the bedside table, the questioning – “why did I do that again?”

The BIG BOOK shares wisdom about the insanity of our alcoholism – doing the same thing again and again expecting different results.  Addiction does not change.  It is cunning, baffling and powerful.  It wants to see us dead, but will settle for an institution and insanity.

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

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May our lives be deeply blessed today.  It’s not just another day.

“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”  NUMBERS 6:24-26

poverty or simplicity ?

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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.  

LIVE FREE OR DIE

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It is not surprising that many of my daily inspirational readings focus on Matthew  11:29 –

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

For my generation, these are probably the most difficult times Americans have ever experienced.  Our nation has been cut in two by opposing political forces and we are struggling with an unfathomed health crisis.

We have been bamboozled by a capitalistic economy which places unmerited value on materialism, property and assets leaving the majority of us in the lower echelon of a prosperous society.  We are seen not as symbols of simplicity, but as statistics of poverty.  We have been victimized by a social culture which tells Americans that we are better than the rest of the world.  We have been deceived about the earth’s resources – that there is not enough for all mankind; therefore, we should horde and accumulate.  We are continually bombarded with our deficiencies rather than our blessings.  The cup is always half empty rather than half full.  But, Matthew 11:29 says that we don’t have to carry those burdens.

The Gospels are often called ‘the Good News’.  Contemporary theologians tend to emphasize the salvific promise of this ‘Good News’ as the salient message.  However, the ancients who wrote the scriptures in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were also carrying a message to the disenfranchised, the poor, the oppressed, the underprivileged, the down-trodden not so much about eternity in heaven but about joyous survival on earth.

This message is one that proclaims a freedom from the problems and cares of a materialistic world.  That freedom happens when priorities change.  Today’s America is just a blip on history’s radar screen.  Yes, it is important and we need to pay attention, but it is not important enough to throw our lives into continual depression, fear and defeat.

What can I change about today, what can I not change about today?  Pray about it,  surrender it and then get on with life.  Let Jesus handle it.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light.  In Psalms we are told to “be still and know God.”  The Jewish tradition renders this as “cease striving and know God.”  The wisdom of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “let go and let God.”

I will trust in those who have “been there and done that.” smiley face 2

 

the PROMISES

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“….faith has done for us what we could not do for ourselves.”  BIG BOOK, chapter 5

we will know a new freedom and a new happiness
we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it
we will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace
we will see how our experience can benefit others
that feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear
we will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in others
self-seeking will slip away
our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change
fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us
we will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us
we will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves

PROMISES OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, BIG BOOK, chapter 6

Are these extravagant promises?  We think not!  If you are sober today, givesober emoji yourself and your Higher Power a hand.

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.

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it’s been 39 years

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

Talk the walk, then walk the talk

After 39 years of continued sobriety celebrated today, I reflect on the secrets of sober-livng.  There are no secrets.  It is hard work, commitment to a better way of living and the support of sober friends.  However, talking the walk at the tables of Alcoholics Anonymous and then walking that talk in everyday life will guarantee a fighting chance to overcome those addictions that have become personal demons.

The fellowship of AA is ancient wisdom set to contemporary times.  Even before the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as set forth in “The Way”, Lao Tzu and the Buddha realized a life dedicated to victorious living through abandonment of self.  The writings of Bill W. and Dr. Bob describe this dedication to selfishness and self-centeredness as “self-will run riot.”  AA BIG BOOK  The I, I, I and me, me, me  controlled all aspects of our lives, did it not?

Within my sobriety today, I cannot judge nor control other people’s talk or walk.  They obviously live with perceptions of life that differ from mine.  Therefore, when elected leaders of our government speak justice and fairness yet legislate in opposition to those pronouncements, and when preachers from the pulpit preach righteousness and morality yet conduct their personal lives in opposition to what is right and moral, I can only wonder what experiences have formed their perceptions.  Must one of us be wrong in order for the other to be right, or do we simply operate from different realms?  Returning the focus to my talk and my walk enthusiastically,  I become ever more grateful for the teachers who save us from the hells of addiction.

Abba Isidore of Pelusia
“To live without speaking is better than to speak without living.  For the former who lives rightly does good by his silence but the latter does no good even when he speaks. When words and life correspond to one another they are together the whole of philosophy.” CAC.ORG

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