FIND YOUR PEW

Among my friends are three very dear people who come to “Uncle” Larry for a listening ear and a shoulder upon which to cry.  For hours we sit, share coffee, chat about their troubles.  One deals with an alcohol problem, one suffers depression, and the other harbors a worsening paranoia laced with hallucinations.  Yes, for hours I offer my perspective, my attention, and sparingly my advice.  I’ve come to realize that advice is not what is being sought.

When I’ve reached the end of my patience, I offer a last bit of hope.  It is the activity which keeps me sane, content and somewhat normal.  It refills me with more of the same patience which has just been exhausted.  It comforts my soul, connects me with inner peace, prepares me for the next round of coffee and chatting.

“Wanna go to church with me?”

I ask this question very broadly.  Most of our AA meetings are sponsored by the local churches; therefore, when I extend the invitation to come with me to church, I am covering all my bases.  Whether a table surrounded by recovering drunks or a sanctuary filled with recovering sinners, it just seems to be a good place to find a program of spiritual living.

Ouch! The stares from my friends are borderline hostile.  The remarks are equally inappropriate.  And finally it hits me.  These friends somehow gain a morbid sense of fulfillment from wallowing in their case histories.  They don’t want resolution.  They don’t want to recognize a world beyond their fragile egos.  They don’t want to forgive, be forgiven, and move on.

One of my favorite expressions is “been there, done that”.  So it goes with alcoholism and mental illness.  We can all relate to the times when a moral inventory and turning it over were crazy as…well…. getting sober or giving control to God.  Unthinkable! ….until the day when we were face down in the gutters of despair and hopelessness….until the day when the only way to go was up.  Some of us made it, some did not.  I was willing to do anything at that time to escape the cesspool that I called life.  How about you?  What are you, my three dear friends, willing to do?

“Wanna go to church?”

 

THE HAPPY MYSTIC

Have you ever momentarily experienced in your meditation a time of absolute serenity and peace?  All trains of thought have stopped.  The world around you is non-existent.  It is tranquil and quiet within.  All is well with your soul.

You try to hang on to it as long as possible but, the phone rings, the kids scream, and the dog barks. Poof! It’s gone.  That brief, unearthly respite was a God moment.  For a mere second you and the God within were in communion.  This mysterious indwelling essence became the Lord of your life on the day you made sobriety the top priority of your life.

We alcoholics are not unique in this discovery.  Many before us, many who are not addicted to any behavior or substance have also known the God within and have fully experienced the pure joy and peace of inner communion.  Buddha and his followers, Jesus and his followers, Muhammad and his followers all exercised the mysticism of an inner experience of meditation and contemplation.  The Kabbalist Jew in his esoteric practice also embraces mysticism.

This has nothing to do with his God, her God, the church’s God.  This is your very own, very personal Higher Power which has no need to be translated by religionists or theologians.  You don’t need dogma or faith creeds or a list of “thou shalt and thou shalt not”  because it is within the deepest recesses of your soul’s being that the God of your understanding can be found.

Faith in this inner God experience of the mystics does not negate or diminish the presence of spirituality that is enjoyed by worshipping with others corporately in the church, the mosque or the synagogue.  This time of singing, prayer, and teaching only enhances that which we know within.  However, we can experience an exhilarating freedom when we understand how and where to find a personal God of our understanding.  Scriptures which we have learned and known for a lifetime come alive with new and deeper meaning.  Our journey is no longer hindered by questions concerning the right pew in the right church with the right congregation worshipping on the right day of the week preaching the right gospel with the right Bible, Torah or Koran in hand.  That spiritual experience which is deep within is always right.

“To thine own self be true.”

Picture10

 

 

A MOST DIFFICULT MILE

Picture41

Perhaps one of our greatest challenges in life is walking that mile.  We have endured painful obstacles in promoting a healthy family atmosphere.  We have worked in jobs that were nothing more than a weekly paycheck.  We have served our country to the best of our abilities only to be spat upon and denigrated.  We have given beyond expectations and then been told “that’s not enough.”  We have sacrificed personal comfort and security in vain attempts to be the people we thought we ought to be.

Yes, we are good people; no, we are GREAT people.  None on earth can dispute America’s generosity and charity as shown through numerous relief agencies and private funding of world need.  Good will is synonymous with the United States of America.

Yet, individually, many of us are unwilling or spiritually unable to walk a most difficult mile.  We are quick to point out another’s deficiencies, to make judgements, to take inventories and absolve ourselves from personal responsibility for that person’s well-being.  We no longer value our role as the keepers of brothers.  Ego and self promotion are the founding principles in our lives.  Perhaps we have always been this way and only now in our condensed, sardine can society it is more obvious.

How much more effort and sacrifice would be required of us to take that most difficult mile, the one walked in another man’s shoes?  We have all heard this bit of wisdom; some say it’s American Native folklore.  But what would happen when, instead of condemning a man for his behavior, we could change places with him, envision our behavior in his situation, consider what we would do given his circumstances?

Even then, when we have walked that mile with him and our attitude remains harsh, our HP takes us to another principle of his Kingdom.  Forgiveness, for most of us, is just as difficult but, equally necessary.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others” is a fundamental tenet of our fellowship and for anyone who seeks a ‘clean and serene’ life.  As recovering brothers and sisters we believe our HP has forgiven our lifetime mess and continues to forgive our human nature while we continue in His service.  To deny forgiveness to others is akin to denying that God has forgiven us, that our sins were too great to be forgiven even by the most awesome and omnipotent power in the universe, and that his example of forgiveness is not applicable in our lives.  When we don’t forgive, we are rejecting the power of HP to transform our lives.

We do not aspire to perfection.  Growth is our objective.  Let’s be willing to walk that difficult mile with our brothers and sisters and then extend the forgiveness which our HP has accorded to us.  For most of us this is the most difficult mile we will ever walk.  But, it can also be the most beautiful, enlightening experience of a lifetime.

“Father, we honor in holiness your name;  we seek your kingdom as we yearn for your will in our lives.  Let it be here within us that you dwell.  Give us spiritual food for this day.  Forgive our trespasses and guide us to forgive our brothers and sisters just as you have forgiven us.  May our fellowship with others in sober living and our love for You keep the temptations of alcohol at bay; protect us from our demons.  We recognize and revere your omnipotence and power which is everlasting.  Amen.”

Picture1.pngconfession

CELEBRATE

 

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.

unshackled-2

STAR POWER

 

stars

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

smiley-face-2

LET GO, LET GOD

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.

 

 

JOHN LENNON

“I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind.”

Lennon/McCartney 1968

 

OK, so the Beatles were not the poster boys for sober living.  But, unlike many of their contemporaries, they did survive the drugging and drinking and left us with numerous memorable lyrics.  Lennon, the peacenik, the rebel, the political activist who found himself on the FBI’s “watch list” for subversive activity wrote “IMAGINE”, the lyrics of which could be a blueprint for world peace.

Ironically, Lennon’s  life ended prematurely in 1980 when an assassin gunned him down in front of his apartment building.  A man dedicated to compassion, love, and peace was taken from us by a gun-wielding madman.  Today, 50 years after the Beatles and 37 years after Lennon’s death, the music and the words continue to remind us that there is a better way to live this life which our HP has given us.

“I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind”  resonates with the comfort and good will which has always been intended to be God’s gift to us.  For a man of immense wealth and talent to write those words offering everything he’s got for a little peace of mind should reveal to us that what is important in life is not riches nor fame.

Peace of mind is especially difficult to capture in today’s violent, unstable world.  We will not find it in church, religion, or philosophy.  It will not suddenly appear through the right ritual or prayer.  It is an inside job which only our connection with a higher power can accomplish.  When we realize and accept that nothing of this worldly existence is greater or more important than the God connection, then we will know the beginnings of “peace of mind”.

cropped-picture15.png