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”.

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My wish for you

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.

 

 

 

 

COMPASSION

com·pas·sion

[kəmˈpaSHən]

 NOUN
  1. sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others:
    “the victims should be treated with compassion”

    synonyms: pity · sympathy · empathy · fellow feeling · care · concern · solicitude-sensitivity · warmth · love · tenderness · mercy · leniency · tolerance · kindness ·humanity · charity

     
    antonyms: indifference · cruelty
     

“Lord, compassion, it’s really tough sometimes.  I just don’t feel it when looking at the world we have today.  Terrorists killing people.  Criminals killing people.  White hating black. Black hating white.  Christians hating Muslims.  Do you really expect me to have warm, fuzzy, compassionate feelings for people?”

“My son, let me put it this way.  Have you ever heard about walking a mile in another man’s shoes?”

“Of course.”

“That’s compassion.  Being willing to share his burden and see the world through his eyes.  Has nothing to do with warm, fuzzy feelings.  Has nothing to do with feelings at all.  It’s all about living in peace and understanding with my other children.  You must be willing.”

“Oh, willing?  I don’t know.  Lord, I’m running on low with my willingness supply.”

“That was not a suggestion for your consideration, my son.  Let me rephrase it.  YOU SHALL BE WILLING.  AMEN?”

“Got it.  I’m willing, I’m willing.  Amen. Now, Lord, about that new Corvette I’d like for Christmas…….”

“Grrrrrrr. (are these humans truly my creation?)”

IT’S AN INSIDE JOB

“World peace must develop from inner peace.  Peace is not just mere absence of violence.  Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.”

DALAI LAMA XIV

Recovery from alcoholism is often referred to around our meeting tables as an “inside job”.  Every time I hear this my mind immediately goes to the questioning of self, “how is my inside world?”

It would be absolutely hypocritical to allow others to think that my inner being is always peaceful.  It would be fatal to my sobriety to convince myself that all is well inside at all times.  I am human, the world is flawed, God is within and the three are involved in a battle for my soul.  It’s truly that simple.  I no longer have the idealism of a younger man who is on a crusade to change the world.  The crusade now is for soul to emerge victorious over ego and the world.

Escaping the ravages of alcoholism and living in the beauty of recovery has allowed my Higher Power whom I call Lord and Savior to work the miracle of saving grace, a grace that is unmerited and undeserved.  The anger is gone, the self-loathing is gone, the fear of life is gone.  That has been replaced by introspection, meditation, and reflection.  Through these disciplines, I believe, compassion is initiated.  When I experience the peace through soul searching and self forgiveness, as my HP has forgiven me, then I am more able to regard my brothers and sisters with active compassion.

It’s an inside job.  World peace starts with me.

PEACE WITHIN

Are you a battler?  Do you argue at every turn with the ones you already know to be right?  We simply have a need to be scrappy.  No one can counsel us, no one knows better than us, and certainly no one shall tell us how to run our lives.  This is not a just a denominational problem or a cultural problem or a societal problem.  It is a human problem and it creates an enormous load of unnecessary baggage and heartache.

Psalm 46:10New International Version (NIV)

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.

Exploring great verses of Scriptures and studying the possible meanings often brings renewed comfort for the soul and deeper understanding of the human condition.  So it is with this verse found in the book of Psalms.  David, the assumed author, is one of the most studied and dichotomous characters of Jewish literature.  A great warrior and king, his lineage to the person of Jesus Christ is presented in the New Testament’s Gospels.  But, King David was also a man of exquisite writing skills expressing elements of peace and calm in his society’s volatile environment.  The Jewish rendering of “be still” is often “cease striving”.  Relax, accept, understand that I am God.  In this context the required action is passive.  “Just stop and shut up for a minute, listen to me.”

But another response which requires initiative on the reader’s part is to view this with more emphasis on “know that I am God”.  The God of the Jews is telling us in no uncertain terms who He is and that He indeed is Lord of the universe, of all nations and of all peoples.  He is saying, “Relax, I’ve got this under control because I am God, not just your God but everybody’s God.”  The act of accepting and knowing has to be accomplished in the stillness of God’s presence.  This is not just a Jewish or Christian obedience; it is part of any faith’s supplication to the entity called God.

And therein we can find peace within.  The inherent human need to challenge, to argue, to dispute spiritual matters can readily be appeased and need not be a part of our inner sanctum.  First, be still.  But then, know the truth of your God.

Very often we have said, “I am going to let God control my life.”  Truly, does God need us to give control to him?  Maybe we need to kick back and understand that He is in control.  Matters not if we give him control.  He’s already got us covered.  The peace within happens when we accept that.

 

 

36 YEARS AGO

 

door-not-takenOn 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.”

January 22nd of 2017 is my 36th sobriety anniversary.  I can 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.

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