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.
Marianne 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.
On a very cold, wintry, January night of 1981 a 34-year-old man entered the parking lot of the Episcopal church in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The lot was empty of vehicles as it was a Thursday night and the man, although early for his appointed meeting, sat for a few minutes in his vehicle contemplating the events of the past few weeks and what he anticipated to happen that evening. Not normally timid or shy, he was shaking, not from the weather but from anxiety over his decision to take a life-changing direction that would be so vastly different from any other of his life’s experiences. It was an extremely difficult choice to make but, he knew he had come to a dead-end. More often than he cared to admit, suicide had become an increasingly favorable option and he was absolutely terrified of where his mind had been taking him.
Psychoanalysis had helped, counseling had helped, well-meaning family members had tried to help but, the feelings of despair, self-loathing, and worthlessness continued to haunt him. In the darkness of that church parking lot he battled the urge to run, to wage the struggle alone just as he had faced so many other hurdles in life, or to maybe, finally, find the courage to end it all.
Why were no other people here? Was he too early or was the meeting cancelled? Did they not know how desperate be had become? He already believed he was not worthy of anyone’s concern and now it was being proven to him. Nobody was showing up for his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Yeah, the world really sucked and he was the world’s biggest fool for believing anyone cared.
It was 7:30 o’clock, time for the meeting to start and the church was dark, the parking lot was still empty. From his car he could see just one doorway to the social hall where they were supposed to meet. A light hanging over the doorway barely illuminated the walkway up to the door. It was cold, dark and desolate. Shivering, he shifted into gear and decided to leave, maybe stop for a beer at a nearby pub. It was a stupid idea anyway. How could a bunch of whining ex-drunks sitting around a table commiserating over not being able to drink anymore…how could they help him?
Ready to pull back onto the street, he looked back one more time to the lighted doorway. Standing there under the light, shoulders huddled, pouring an icy mist from his nostrils was a man beckoning him to return.
“Lord, where did he come from? He wasn’t there just a second ago.”
“Hey, my name is Tom,” the voice said as the angel walked toward my car. “I think you’re probably at the right place. The meeting’s at 8:00 o’clock. C’mon in, I’ve got the key.”
Lord willing, January 22nd of 2017 will be my 36th sobriety anniversary. I can even today see Tom standing in that doorway and I remember the details of my first meeting, the people who were there, and most of all, the immediate realization that, just as Tom had said, I was at the right place, and indeed he and AA had the key to personal liberation and a life victorious over the demon alcohol.
My name is Larry and I am an alcoholic. On that cold night nearly 36 years ago I had two doors before me. In one door stood my angel beckoning me to be bold and courageous in pursuit of recovery from alcoholism. The other door questioned by whose power did I believe a drunken wretch like me could survive even one day without alcohol. The darkness in that door told me I was unworthy of anything other than the hell of addiction.
Do I believe in God’s amazing grace? You betcha.
I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars. Og Mandino
A man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. Desmond Tutu
Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself. Desiderius Erasmus
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Eleanor Roosevelt
The world which we see on broadcast media and in newsprint is a world based on fear. From this fear the news stories evolve depicting terrorism, murder, abuse, desolation, and human depravity. We read, we process, and usually we respond shaking a fist at and cursing the perpetrators. Anger is our most readily available response and we allow it to overwhelm us, to defeat us, to negate our innate spiritual bearing.
Our anger only encourages the darkness. Our anger allows that darkness to trespass upon our natural, God-ordained state of serenity and peace. It colors every thought we harbor until we get on bended knee and return to the inner peace which is our true and natural state of being.
We believe that love is compassion in action. We believe that the opposite of love is fear and indifference. We believe that, although the arising emotion appears to be anger, when we question ourselves about what is driving that emotion the response could be:
“I am sad, very sad, and frightened. Sad over what this world is and frightened about where this world is going, what it holds for the children and grandchildren.”
When we take ourselves from the fist-shaking, cussing realm of anger into the deeply honest and soul-searching realm of concern for others and the world they are inheriting, we transcend the ego of self to the eternity of love and compassion. When we turn it over to God and ask blessing on those who make us angry, we are putting the world into the hands of the only Power who can transform and enlighten. As people in recovery state so perfectly:
“Let go and let God.”
No, we should never give up or not be concerned about the world’s hatred and bigotry. We should always uphold the worthiness of all people and endorse their right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. But, when we do it prayerfully in obedience to a Higher Power we are connecting to the powerful stream of light which no darkness can conquer.
from EVERYDAY GRACE by Marianne Williamson
“We cannot give what we do not have. We cannot bring peace to the world if we ourselves are not peaceful. We cannot bring love to the world if we ourselves are not loving.”
LORD, it all starts with me, doesn’t it? Challenge me to acknowledge your power, live your power, share your power. It is the only reason for existence in your world. Transform me, bring light to the dark places, reveal love where I believe there is none.
It’s an inside job that only you are qualified to do. AMEN
from ST. FRANCIS
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where injury, pardon; where doubt, faith; where despair, hope; where darkness, light; where sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
If you are one of millions who see the Christmas season as a time of extreme emotional turmoil and you are one who somehow misses the joy and excitement everyone around you is celebrating, then may you find peace in knowing you are not alone. Turn to the comforts of your AA groups who understand; lean upon each other for the support necessary to survive another holiday episode. We, as a family in recovery, find within the fellowship others who have walked this tightrope many times. We have experienced the fine line associated with sociable interaction with “normal” holiday celebrants and the challenges of not stepping over that fine line into relapse. The booze is flowing, caution is often thrown to the wind, we are tempted to have “just one”. It need not happen.
Know your program, know your limits, be on firm ground with your HP, and finally, always have your contact numbers with you if you are anticipating a holiday social affair or work party including booze. Don’t push it. If you find yourself out of your comfort zones, don’t be afraid to run for the hills and the safety of an alcohol-free atmosphere. It’s your sobriety and your life. Nobody at that party will care as much about your sobriety as you do.
Well meaning friends and family have in the past chided me, “Aw, c’mon, you’ve been sober over 30 years, a glass of wine won’t hurt. You’re not an alcoholic anymore.”
And that’s OK. They don’t understand the nature of the beast. But, I do. I pray to never forget the heartbreak, the lying, the cheating, the self-loathing, the stealing, the pain and agony of the bottle. Even 36 years later, all that is just one drink away. I am as close to a relapse as any one of you. Whether we are celebrating 24 hours, 30 days, 1 year, or many years of sobriety, all of us are just one drink away from the misery we knew in our active addictions.
One of the demons of the Christmas season is the loneliness. Don’t feed it. Go against your feelings to isolate. Avoid depression like the plague. We all have different ways to cope with negativity. Indulge yourself and a sober friend in a luxurious, expensive meal. How about a winter cruise? Shop for a new outfit for yourself. One of my favorite head-cleaners is a hike in the forests nearby. And, of course, meetings, meetings, meetings. Helping and reaching out to other alcoholics is a sure cure for the holiday blues.
As we progress, we learn what to avoid. One of my undeniable downers is the mall at Christmas. The decorations, the laughing children, and Santa Claus invariably bring back memories which should stay buried. Christmas music is another. I limit myself to listening just a few days towards the end of the season. We are all different in how we handle the rampant emotions. You will find your remedy and you can stay sober.
In closing, this is my Christmas wish for you. God bless you for finding the courage and desire to maintain sobriety in a crazy, screwed-up world. We are not alone because we know there are millions just like us worldwide. We are a brotherhood of God’s children who once lived broken lives. We have been redeemed. We have been made alive. We are not perfect but, God knows, we are better than we used to be. Your HP and mine loves us more than anything in the world. That gift of love is the true magic of Christmas. It was created to be shared. Share your love, share your life. Value and protect your sobriety for it is indeed a treasure from God. Merry Christmas.