EGO – it’s a killer

Have we ever considered what it is about others than disturbs us the most?  Is it their conceit, their crass behavior, their selfishness?  Or is it their love of possessions, their old codgerdisregard for society’s moral conduct, their dishonesty?  Of course, the next question would require us to look into our own selves wondering what it is about them that trips our  trigger.

In my early recovery years, as I was complaining to my sponsor about  a group member who embodied everything which I despised, he responded this way,

All that you hate in others are elements of your own personality that you are afraid to look at.”

“Hell no, that’s not true,”  I replied defensively.  “I am not like that.”

And I truly believed that.  But, the seed had been planted and would not allow me to rest until I took it to my  quiet space within and considered my sponsor’s words.  Jerry could be shallow and selfish – yeah, me too, we are, after all, alcoholics.  Jerry could seem arrogant – yeah, me too, but that was due to my insecurity with others.  Jerry seemed disinterested in his group members – yeah, me too, but again I was shy and felt awkward with people.  Jerry didn’t seem to grasp the humility in recovery, his concept of a Higher Power was weird – really?  What did I profess as a Higher Power?  A vengeful, old, gray bearded, eyes on fire, lightning-spitting man sitting somewhere in the universe on his throne of judgement?  How weird is that?

In due time I learned a lot about myself from Jerry.  He mirrored my own ego which at that time totally controlled who I was.  Eckhart Tolle in his book, A NEW EARTH -AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE, writes:

“The particular egoic pattern that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself.  In that sense, you have much to learn from your enemies.  What is it in them that you find most upsetting, most disturbing?  Their selfishness?  Their greed?  Their need for power and control?  Their insincerity, dishonesty, propensity to violence, or whatever it may be?  Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”

The initial response is probably, “no way, not true.” But, as with any planted seed, this will not disappear until it is either choked with weeds and dies or nourished and brought to fulfillment.  The question becomes whether we will wither in our denial or respond and grow.  That, essentially, is what recovery is about.  It is much more than living without alcohol and drugs or whatever our addictions entertain.  It is a continual recognition of the external forces and internal thoughts that attempt to control our true identity, that state of Being which the Buddha called anata – no self.   Words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in the 8th chapter of Mark, verse 34, “whoever wants to be my disciple (follow my Truth) must deny self…..” which, in other words, is  to deny ego control of our response to the world in which we live.  Peace or drama?  How will we choose to live?

Our world has become one of us versus them.  Nationalism, tribalism, religious intolerance – they all try to convince us that we are superior to them.  The them are always wrong while us are always right.  Eons ago this mindset meant only that the caveman with the best clubs and biggest stones would win and the others would need to move on to find another cave in which to live.

We are not cave dwellers.  We have missiles and nuclear weapons instead of clubs and stones.  Our separateness cannot be resolved by conflict and violence.  There will be, in a World War 3, no winners.  Our species and probably earth as we know it will be eradicated.

The next time I watch on media screens a national leader or world power whom I despise, the next time I see a religious leader lead his flock astray, the next time I look at my neighbor with disgust, I must remember the lessons which Jerry taught me in early sobriety.  Despite the outward appearances of polarizing differences, we are the same.  What we do, how we think will determine whether this species of ours sees a 22nd or 23rd century.  It’s our responsibility to grow our planted seed into selfless maturity.

GARDEN OF EDEN

 

“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.

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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.”


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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – yes, I can

Whether I say I can or say I can’t, either way I will probably be right.

cropped-curve-dark-dawn-327316.jpgThink about those words.  They are saying to us that the choice is ours.  Yes, I can; no, I can’t.  What is your choice going to be?  

Too often we give that decision-making to others.  As children, we heard parents say numerous times, “you can’t do that.”

Usually that instruction was in our best interests, a warning about pending danger or a word of advice garnered from experience.  We knew our parents loved us and would not betray our trust.  Then, as we matured, the natural response was any action which opposed authority.  Dad can’t tell me what to do, my teacher can’t make me do it, my preacher can’t tell me what’s right or what’s wrong.  It was a healthy, self-discovery process which wet our feet in the world of hard knocks and errors.  And we survived, did we not?

Parents no longer direct your life.  Educators and preachers have given you a means of earning a living and a moral compass by which to live.  So, you are well equipped to face life on life’s terms, right?  You are confident in your decisions, right?  You do not doubt your own intuition and rational thinking, right?  You know that who you are today is as perfect as you can be today, you are worthy, right?  You can do anything which you set your mind to doing, right?

Any ‘no’ answers to the above dialog are wrong.  ‘I can’t’ is unacceptable because today, in this moment, I have the tools within to accomplish anything I attempt.  No, we’re not talking about physical feats, performing miracles, climbing Mt. Everest, or entering a marathon.  My body, not my mind, tells me ‘no’ to those endeavors.

Recently, after years of jogging and hiking, my knees and hip said, “No more.”   X-rays indicated that age, wear and tear had deteriorated those joints to a painful reminder with every movement.  “I can’t,” was my mantra for about 6 months accompanied by serious depression and stress.  At age 71, I was ready for the transition to the next phase.  That, however, was not what happened.

In a motivation video on YouTube, the voice speaking said, “Don’t lament what you can no longer do; rather, focus on what you can do.”

Really?  That was the jumpstart necessary to regroup and redefine who Larry is.  Not a jogger, not a hiker, not even a brisk walker.  Instead, this body discovered yoga, isometric exercises, low impact aerobic workouts that it could do.  Our minds can carry us over any hurdles when we allow the ‘can do’ attitude to direct us.  I can do this, you can too.  What will your answer be today?  “Yes, I can,” or “No, I can’t.”  It’s your choice.

When we say, “I can,” inner strength will provide the means to fulfill those determined words.  You and I were designed magnificently in the same image as all of creation.  We were intended to be survivors in a sometimes heartless world.  When we say, “I can’t”, we are admitting defeat without a battle and we are denying the divine strength within us.  The Lord of my life, the force which you trust as a greater power whether you name it God, Allah, the One, Brahman or Higher Power will honor the words, “Yes, I can.”

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IT’S A GREAT DAY!- don’t argue

Silence the noise of others; listen to your own voice.

old codger

Did you hear that?  Should I repeat it?  Don’t give more credence to the thoughts and rhetoric of other people than you give to your own.  “To thine own self be true.”  Polonius speaking to his son Laertes in Hamlet has been interpreted by many to mean many things.  But, let’s just keep it simple.  You and I have each an internal dialog that speaks from a place of experience, of guidance, of direction, of inspiration which often is amazingly ‘other-directed’ arising from the wisdom of the cosmos dwelling in our inner sanctum.  Call it soul, call it God, call it Spirit, call it a higher power.  It is ours and it is unique to each one of us according to the gifts blessing our lives.

So, why would anyone not listen to his or her inner voice?  Have you ever said any of the following?  “That man is better educated than I am, therefore he is more intelligent.  She is a psychiatrist, therefore she has deeper insight.  He is a preacher with a Doctor of Divinity behind his name, therefore he is more spiritual.  He’s my father, he knows better.  She’s my mother, she wouldn’t misguide me.  They are high school counselors, they know what is my best course of education.”

Just stop!  Stop it!  They all may be wonderful people, but only you know what speaks from your heart.  Some of them are not wonderful people, they are playing the control game for  selfish reasons.  Don’t allow others to call your shots.  This is your life and it’s your choice what you will do with that life.  Choice is life’s golden ticket.  Don’t give that ticket to someone else.

When you wake up in the morning, after you have said ‘thank-you’ for this day and this opportunity to breathe air into your lungs and pump blood through your body, after you have stretched your legs and arms, after you have smiled at your spouse or cat or dog lying beside you, get up and rejoice.  Rejoice over the opportunities ahead of you to be fully involved in an active and productive day plan with household projects or with your job.  Or rejoice exceedingly as you anticipate with zeal the coming day of rest and relaxation.  Maybe it will be a day at the beach, or a hike in the woods, or a shopping trip with the grandkids, or a special lunch with a dear friend.  Embrace it!  Cherish it!  You are a miraculous treasure brimming with options.

I can hear some of you saying, “Oh, zip it , Larry.  Life sucks.”

Maybe it does.  Loss of loved ones, physical ailments, poverty, social injustice, hatred, intolerance, prejudice, divorce, injuries remind us every day that this is not a Pollyanna world.  Stuff happens.  But, all that turmoil is processed by the same mind which also says that you are special and you are worthy of goodness and mercy.  You can walk the path of life with an overflowing cup.  You can rest in green pastures by still waters.  Or you can wallow in the mire with creepy, crawly things.  Again, it’s your choice which scenario you decide to internalize.  Don’t sell out to negative circumstances which are predominantly beyond your control while diminishing the spectacular essence within. Listen to this internal voice which  you have proven as truth through experience and reasoning that tells you, “Wow, I am going to have a great day.”

It’s not easy staying out of the pits.  Visit a grumpy neighbor, watch the national headlines on TV, look at your overdue electric bill. I understand because I have been there, I sometimes visit there even today.  Life has to be a daily, if not hourly, surrender to that inner voice telling me that, contrary to my negative thoughts, I can enjoy a perfect day because for this moment at this time I am a perfect version of me.  I hope to evolve and enlighten with each tomorrow, but for this moment in life I have everything I need within me to live a day far beyond my greatest expectations.  Believe it absolutely with heart, mind, and soul.  It will happen.  Guaranteed! Today’s another great day.

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – ‘individuated’

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“The second half of life presents a rich possibility for spiritual enlargement, for we are never going to have greater powers of choice, never have more lessons of history from which to learn, and never possess more emotional resilience, more insight into what works for us and what does not, or a deeper, sometimes more desperate, conviction of the importance of getting our life back….” (1)

richard rohrRichard Rohr nails it, my friends.  We now have experience on our side, emotional maturity, insight and conviction.  Taking our life back from the clutches of family, friends, clergy, co-workers, tribe, and ego is the end result of becoming what the supreme universal energy has intended for us from the beginning.  It is a concept presented by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung as individuation – not self-indulgence or individualism, rather surrender of our ego’s agenda of security and emotional reinforcement in favor of humbling service to the soul’s intent.

Do you know what the soul’s intent is?  Do I?  Some could say, “Yes, of course.  My faith, my theology, my religion has taught me everything I need to know about soul.”

Really?  Then you would also know that your soul’s intent is for you to have a meaningful experience today and every day for the rest of your life.  Yes, the dark valleys will appear, the depression will knock, the sorrows will challenge, but any day in which you have awakened to the miracle of life and expressed appreciation to the God named according to your faith walk, is a great day.  Even darkness must give way to light, life’s uncertain vagaries will be overcome by understanding, and inconceivable circumstances will bow to positive action. “This too shall pass” is not just a cliche.  It is truth.  Claim it as yours.

Take control each morning of the day’s mindset before engaging in whatever activity you need to accomplish.  Don’t just roll the dice taking chances with the day’s outcome; instead, direct your mind upon arising to positive thoughts and a realization that what occurs in the first moments of wakefulness will set the tone for the entire day.  Envision yourself as being victorious over all difficulties and celebratory in all accomplishments.  See yourself handling confrontation with family and co-workers effectively and it will happen.  Picture yourself enjoying your day on the beach and it will happen.  Feel the satisfaction of finishing the household project awaiting and it will happen.  What you project onto the day’s activity will prevail.

Meditation, motivational videos, yoga, light exercise, inspirational reading are all great ways to start a great day.  Those few minutes or hours are an investment in successful living as a joyful, contented child of that eternal, universal force flowing throughout the entirety of creation.  Grab onto this power by creating your day rather than enduring it.  Believe unabashedly that the choice is yours.  You and I can make it the day we want.  We can also make it the day we don’t want.  What a realization!  We are powerful and dynamic forces in our worlds.  Have a great day!

(1) CAC.ORG

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – just don’t

You are not the product of your circumstances.  You are the product of your decisions.  Steven Covey

old codger

 

Today’s words are especially for the senior crowd shared by one who is duly qualified to pontificate.  Following are five DON’Ts that will create harmony and bliss in our final season of life.

DON’T – believe any of the hullabaloo about the ‘golden years’ because the only golden element of these years is increased incontinence and dribble.

DON’T – believe that your social security check will increase your sense of security.  There is no security in the senior years.  We can have contentment and peace, but nothing will guarantee security.

DON’T – believe that the younger generation will venerate your wisdom and experience.  That’s a lie from hell designed to cast scales over our eyes as the young-uns put us in nursing homes.

Okay, okay, okay.  Perhaps a wee bit too much cynicism and sarcasm?  But, here are words you can take to the bank.

DON’T – allow your life to reach its final earthly transition believing this existence has defeated you.

DON’T – forget in whose image you have been created, that the trials and tribulations were mere learning lessons, that what others point out as failures in you were actually steps to a higher realization of your innate perfection.  That force of nature which knew and understood you before you were conceived has not deserted you.  It would never allow you to be defeated.  No! Never!

You have always been one with the One.  Call it Higher Power, call it God, name it Allah or Krishna, or refer to it as the Supreme Being.  You are now and always have been a product of divine intervention.  Your life has not been a failure doomed to defeat.  If you think that is true, then you are also calling the God of your life a miserable failure.  Just don’t go there because

we are not products of our circumstances, we are products of our decisions

You, senior citizen, get up out of bed today and smile with a ‘thank you’ on your lips for another day to excel in living life.  Tell yourself how wonderful you are and that you are very special in the eyes of the force which makes the earth rotate, the sun shine, and the stars twinkle.  Accept that perhaps today you cannot do the things that your younger self did, but you can do amazing new and exciting things.  The world is open to your ingenuity and experience and wisdom.  Don’t sell yourself short on your amazing, innate ability to not only survive, but thrive.

Defeat is for wimps.  Surviving the senior years with physical pains and financial insecurities is just another stepping stone to becoming the perfection intended for us.  Look up, lift those hands to the sky and receive another day to be functional, grateful, and integral in your world.  Old age is not for wimps and we were not created to go down in defeat.

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – violence & hatred

Open your hearts and minds to the spectacular day which has been designed just for you.  Stretch, breathe, smile, say, “Thank you.”

cropped-p10100031.jpgDon’t check the phone for messages.  Don’t turn on the noise from the multiple media sources.  Don’t read the front page headlines.  Don’t do any of those things until you have spent the beginning hours of this new day processing the beauty of life, the wonder of  earth, the amazing complexity of mankind’s mind, the indescribable energy behind every function, every organism, and every creature of earth.  Just don’t!  Stop the monkey brain thoughts that clutter up this morning’s spectacular appearance over the horizon.  Look at that sun creeping into the eastern sky.  Be fascinated by its timely routine each and every day of this existence.  Soak it in!

If that sun could talk, what would it say about mankind?  What would it tell about the recent violence in New Zealand?  Would it take sides, find blame?  No, of course not.  The sun cannot do that because it is merely the sun.  Powerful and brilliant, yet unable to alter its course or its purpose.  It shines upon and warms all of humanity regardless of race and creed.  The sun has no choice but to do what it was put in the heavens to do.

You are more powerful than the sun, the stars, the oceans because you can choose what you will do today, where you will go, when you will eat, whom you will speak to.  On this day, in this moment, you can choose thoughts that nourish your inner strength or thoughts that defeat your indwelling peace.  You can align with rhetoric which speaks your kindness through truth or rhetoric which exposes your inner demons.  You can choose actions which honor a Higher Presence or actions which debase the soul.  You can do all this because you have the power of choice.

When you accept your one-way ticket into eternity, life will change.  The love and compassion you accept for yourself will also be freely available to others through you.  There will be no room for hatred and intolerance because a freed heart cannot harbor bigotry.  The demons which drove the mass murderers in New Zealand, Pittsburgh, Orlando, Paris or London will be unable to exist in the presence of a heart filled with understanding and love.  It is your choice today to be whom you want to be.

This power of choice is life’s golden ticket.  Today, in this moment, whom you will be is one of your choices.  Look at that reflection in the mirror, gaze into those beautiful eyes and tell yourself, “You are worthy.  You are loved.  You are a child of immense significance with infinite potential.  I love you.”

Decide today to love yourself more than any other creature can possibly love you.  You will not be disappointed or betrayed.  Greet the morning sky with outstretched hands facing upward to receive the blessings of a new day.  It will be a great day!

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – a gift for you

and it’s yours for the taking
Picture40Nobody else can have your day.  Only you can embrace it.  Look today’s you in the face and say, “You are wonderful,  I love you.”

So, what will you do with your day?  Welcome it?  Cherish it?  Live it minute by minute?  Enjoy it?  Love it?  Make it the 1st day of the rest of your life?  Or maybe you will make today the best day ever.

The options are breath-taking.  Wake up and greet the sun or sit on your porch and watch the raindrops dancing in the backyard puddles.  Pull on those sneakers and sweats for a jog around the neighborhood or savor a cup of coffee as you read a few verses of poetry.  Greet your spouse with a hug and smile or pull the cat onto your lap and listen to the serenade of purring?  It’s your day – what are you going to do with it?

The choices are yours!  Not everybody has a choice.  The ability to choose is life’s golden ticket.  It is the passport to enduring contentment and joy.  There was a time, for many of us, picking up a drug or a drink was not optional.  We had to do it.  That substance controlled every moment of the day.  Planning for it, anticipating it, relishing the 1st one of the day was routine behavior.  Many “normals” considered us morally weak and socially depraved, usually we agreed.  Drinking and drugging was not a choice we enjoyed.  It was a disease which opened each day with regret and led us into thoughts and behaviors which disgusted us.  But, we had no choice.  Finally a reprieve was offered.

Today, as you swing your legs out of bed, thank your Higher Power that this morning is different.  This new day has infinite possibilities.  Look at yourself in your mirror, gaze into your eyes and bathe in the realization that you are a wonderful creation with unlimited potential.  You are perfect and worthy just as you are.  That universal energy, which some call Higher Power, God, Allah, the One, would not have it any other way.  Bathe in the reflection of a man/woman who is loved by an indescribable and undefinable, omnipotent and compassionate essence which surges through every creature and every organism of this earth.  Take it in, stop for a minute and think about this moment.  You are loved beyond human comprehension.

Today is yours.  Don’t waste it dragging in baggage from yesterday’s mistakes.  Don’t squander today’s precious hours worrying about tomorrow’s problems.  If you are here, now, reading these words, then you have been given another chance to do more than just survive.  It is your destiny to thrive.  Smile at the sunrise, embrace the fresh morning air, raise your hands up to welcome the limitless universe into your day.  It’s a great day and it belongs to you.
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breathe, just breathe

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

Breathe!  Inhale.  Pay attention to that breath as it filters into your lungs expanding the chest and replenishing the body with life-giving oxygen.  Exhale.  With that exhalation release the spent air along with emotional baggage, stress,  and fear.  Focus on that moment of nothingness between each breath.  Thought-less, care-free; this is you, whom God meant you to be.  Don’t go back, don’t go forward, just be now.

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. Amen

Do I appreciate how sacred is the life which has been given in me?  The marvel of my body, the functions of my organs, the amazing coordination of all the parts, the depths of understanding, the inherent ability for compassion are all components of this gift which I inhabit.  Life is a gift.  Do I appreciate this unique blessing flowing from an indescribable, indefinable Oneness, the energy which I call God?  Breathe, just breathe.

This is the Christian season of Lent.  Slow down, contemplate, meditate, ponder, sacrifice and prepare for receiving the greatest gift given to mankind – life.  Not just a functioning physical presence, but a realization that there is more, much more than just enduring each day with resignation.  Life!  Appreciating the sounds of nature, the beauty of a sunset, the laughter of children, the voice of a lover, the greatness of Bach and Beethoven, the thrill of each new day, the light at the end of a dark tunnel, the rain which refreshes and soothes…..all of it, Life.  The stumbles, the pain, the heartache of loss, the dark days of depression, the joyless times of loneliness, the fears, the journey through the valleys….all of it, Life.  It is ours to behold and cherish.  Breathe, just breathe.

Divine energy, cosmic Presence, the Giver, the Restorer, Higher Power, Comforter, Oneness, God.  With every breath accept the gift of life.  Receive that which is available to every creature, every man and woman, every butterfly.  Life. Just breathe!

QUIET !!!

SILENCE THE NOISE OF OTHERS; LISTEN TO YOUR OWN VOICE.

old codger

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, ought to – words that always preceded advice from folks who felt they knew better than we did concerning subjects ranging from career choices to marriage prospects to church affiliations.  They always knew better, did they not?

How long did you tolerate this type of badgering and bullying?  I turned a deaf ear early in life, but unfortunately, I had no better options than those offered to me by others.  Before me lay a long road of self-abuse during which I would have done well to listen to family and friends.  In those years I was the epitome of  ‘self-will run riot’ and I know today as an old man that Larry Brown, the young man, had serious emotional deficits and character defects.  Some people will say, “yeah, Larry, when are you going to get better, you’re still whacko?”

“I can’t hear you.  That’s right, I won’t be listening anymore to your should have, could have, would have and ought to and I am not accepting your inventory of me.”

I began to heal when I trusted the inner voice more than the outside noise.  People, especially friends and family, learned that I no longer put their theories and perspectives before my own gut and conscience because I had learned to validate myself and the Higher Power of my understanding.  We have been an awesome team facing life on life’s terms.  It’s a love affair unlike any other realized on my journey’s path.

I humbly accept the available mercy and grace quietly with gratitude.  I speak, not with braggadocio, but under an awe which transcends human words and understanding.  Millions of fellow sufferers have traveled this same road knowing that it is not an earned reward for sober-living, but a gift freely given.  It is the essence of amazing grace unleashed on a wretch like me.

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