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Through the Red Door

Red Door

In the early days of the Church, when the front door of the parish was painted red it was said to signify sanctuary – that the ground beyond these doors was holy, and anyone who entered through them was safe from harm.

In the lives of many recovering people, it is through these same red doors that sanctuary is found on a daily basis. Initially that sanctuary may not have started in the rooms with high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, but in the basements and back rooms of churches where 12-step meetings are held.

This blog was created for recovering people to share the experiences they found walking through those doors of safety, refuge and peace.

 
To submit a entry to the blog, please click here for the details or contact us at info@episcopalrecovery.org.

  • 06/16/2016 3:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    (Note: The name of the priest mentioned in this personal reflection is not the individual's real name.)

    Nervously I sat in the nave, waiting for something they were calling a "12-Step Eucharist" to begin. This was not my home parish, but it was a real Episcopal church with the dark wood and stained glass and old-fashioned red door to prove it.

    I scanned the room a bit furtively, taking in the group of maybe 30 people as we gathered. I was a mid-forties female suburban corporate executive with less than six months under my belt, and being open about my alcoholism, even among others in recovery, was still scary. But here, in God's house? It was what I knew my healing required, and it was terrifying.

    I engaged in some chitchat that quickly turned into deep sharing with the attendees seated around me—a motley assortment of prodigals who, like me, were making their way back to God.

    I gazed at the altar. The flyer had said that Communion would be served. This was a Eucharist, right, so Communion would be served? Somehow the idea of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, surrounded by these people I'd never met before, but who knew something profound about who I was, what I was, what I had become... I felt so vulnerable.

    The service got started. There were well-known lines from the Big Book to listen to and recite, woven among the more familiar components of the Episcopal Eucharist. I began to relax. These two worlds that were both so life-giving to me—Alcoholics Anonymous and The Episcopal Church—were harmoniously merging in a way that was incredibly powerful. I was not the only one feeling this. The energy in the room was palpable.

    And then a middle-aged man dressed in clerical vestments approached the lectern to deliver the sermon. Now I worried anew. I wondered whether this priest had any idea what I had been through to get here. I wondered whether this man of the cloth knew how ashamed I was before God. I wondered if he could help me find God again.

    He opened his mouth to speak. “My name is Brent, and I’m an alcoholic.”

    Tears began flowing down my cheeks. He was one of us.

    A 20-something, heavily tattooed man sitting next to me, an urban artist in recovery from heroin addiction as I had learned in my conversation with him before the Mass started, reached for my hand. I looked at him and smiled through my tears. He understood what I was experiencing.

    “We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition, page 17)

    “…for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7)

    I was completely safe here. No part needed to hide. I experienced fully who I am—a recovering alcoholic Christian and a Christian recovering alcoholic—in a way never before possible for me in an AA meeting room or in the Church.

    I was deeply known by God and by the other beautiful human beings gathered here. At one time, in one place. And I was invited to meet them all at the Lord's Table.

    The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. Given for us.

    The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. Shed for us and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Sins. Indeed. And it was grape juice. Yes, shed for us.

    This was the first sip of the sacrament I had taken since, half a year earlier in the wee hours of a Monday morning, I had gotten on my knees in my bedroom closet and cried out to God that I was sick and that I needed God's strength to heal. That I needed salvation—the cup of salvation.

    This is what I received that day—among my people, in my Church. Welcome, understanding, safety, wholeness, community, salvation. Thanks be to God.

    Katherine G.

  • 06/02/2016 12:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hell is defined as a state of separation from God; exclusion from God's presence. For those of us consumed by the grips of an addiction, it certainly is. Addiction, whether it be from a substance like alcohol, drugs, or food, to a behavior such as sex, viewing pornography, technology/ gaming, or shopping, the behaviors certainly do separate us from a "power greater than ourselves." These behaviors bring relief for the user. A separation from what haunts them, whatever that may be.

    In our western culture there seems to be a "quick fix" for any type of discomfort. We don't like to sit in any feelings, or situations that disturb us. Whether it is from a present relationship or a past memory. This release soon becomes a self-imposed prison. A dark place where there doesn't seem to be a way out. A sick cycle. 

    Society in general sees it as a weakness. What many do not understand is that the addict has lost the power to choose, once the addiction has taken over. The relief is constantly on their minds. This relief soon turns into an obsession, and a destructive prison that they feel they cannot get out of.

    Addiction takes with it the addict, the family, and friends leaving destruction in its path. As one alcoholic put it, "I drank from the bottle until the bottle drank form me." I like to think of addiction as a "Dementor," from Harry Potter. It is a non being that is considered one of the foulest in the world. It feeds upon human happiness, and causes depression and despair to anyone near them. Abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costly to our Nation, exacting more than $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity, and health care.* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excessive Drinking Costs U.S. $223.5 Billion. More young adults use prescription drugs non-medically than any other age group. Many souls are dying every day from addiction. 

    I recently celebrated my freedom from alcohol, five years of a life worth living and loving. Even during the most difficult times. Through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I came from a life of struggling to be free, to a life in which I am free to struggle. In my opinion, the world could use the 12 Steps to help everyone live a more peaceful and full life. 

    It is my hope to help others. To pass on the Good News! 

    Peace and Presence. 

    -Patty K.
  • 05/28/2016 7:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Collect of the Day: Proper 3
    Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Twelve years ago this week I felt abandoned, isolated and trapped in a continuous loop of despair. This week I celebrated twelve years of continuous sobriety. How did that ever happen? Sometimes I shake my head in gratitude and astonishment, continually amazed by the grace and love of my Higher Power, whom I call God. Over the past few years in particular, in addition to regular 12-step meetings, I’ve been praying the daily office using an app on my phone. I find that setting aside some time in the morning or in the evening helps me quiet my mind and increase my conscious contact with God. Today, for example, I smiled as I read the words “joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity.” Twelve years ago I certainly did not feel much joy, confidence or serenity, and I wasn’t interested in serving anything or anyone. On this warm sunny day, with a sleeping dog at my feet, I feel so much gratitude for the gift of sobriety, life, love and joy. In my 12-step group we talk about the goals of love and service, which aligns beautifully with the desire to serve God joyfully. When I speak with a newcomer, I feel so much compassion, love and welcome as I share my own experience, strength and hope. In helping newcomers, I feel more peaceful and at ease within myself, and I feel joy, confidence and serenity. Today a woman in my daily meeting had a lot of pain and suffering, and I was able to listen to her struggle. I do not know everything about recovery but I do feel confident in my ability to share my own experience in the spirit of being helpful, thus I can “serve (God) in confidence.” Listening to another deepens my own well of joy and compassion for myself and others, thus I can “serve God joyfully.” Praying the serenity prayer daily helps me ask God to grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. With these new tools, from my church community as well as my 12-step community, I know that today I can embrace this challenge to serve God with confidence, serenity and joy.

    -Kirsten RH

  • 05/18/2016 8:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Growing up in an alcoholic home I had a strange sense of what was normal.  I thought all grown-ups had drinks in the middle of the day, in the evening and at bed time.  One really did have three martini lunches. I thought all 5 year olds drank from their parents’ champagne glasses on holidays.  When I was out of college and looking for work, I drank at lunchtime because that’s what grownups do. I did it in graduate school too, even if I had afternoon classes. Every Sunday a group of my parents’ friends gathered at our house for after church drinks.  All very normal, right?

    The one place I did notice that things were not normal was in the things I was not allowed to do which others my age could do.  I think primarily because many of them involved my being driven somewhere or inconveniencing may parents in some way.  Additionally they were so out of touch that I was always sent to school in jeans or overalls—everyone else wore dresses.  I was sent to the pool in swim trunks because at 8 or 9 I didn’t have noticeable breasts.

    I did not know that what I was experiencing had a name---shame.  I not only made mistakes, I was a mistake, an inconvenience, who fit in nowhere. 

    I truly think that I drank against the shame, drank to not be shy, drank to finally fit in. Unfortunately I over shot.  I drank more than anyone else and it became a source for more shame.  I managed to get tranquilizers but was careful to not mix them with booze.  I always waited 30 minutes between stopping my drinks for the day before I took a tranq. or a sleeping pill. At some point I realized that might not be normal.

    I drank because I couldn’t not drink.  Sometimes I stopped after 2 or 3 but once I put the first one in my mouth I could no longer predict how much I would consume.  I swore off alcohol many nights as I fought the “twirlies” in bed and had to keep one foot on the floor. The next day it was “well, I won’t drink anything tomorrow”.

    A side benefit of getting sober was that I could buy a high four poster bed because I no longer had to be able to get my foot on the floor to keep the room from spinning. But the greatest benefit was that at age 40 I found a program that not only got me off booze, it gave me a road map that got me to the goal I had always chased.  My skin fit.  I was comfortable in my own skin and didn’t grimace when I looked in the mirror.

    I still make mistakes, we all do, but today I know I am NOT a mistake.  The shame is gone, and I belong somewhere.  Not just in AA but in the wider community.  I have been given the opportunity to be of service to God and my fellow man. As they say, if I’d said 30 years ago where I wanted to be at age 70 I would have short changed myself. As a friend who died 52 years sober always said, “I don’t drink, and I’m not mad about it”. I’m thrilled about it!  Sober is the new normal. Thanks be to God.

    Lisa K

  • 05/04/2016 7:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I did not get sober on purpose. I was so naïve to recovery, getting sober, addiction, disease  – all of it.  I knew nothing.  And I certainly did not have a problem, I enjoyed using and was not about to stop.  Of course I was defensive because no one was going to tell me what to do.  Besides,  I wasn’t hurting anyone.  Except everyone!!!   At this juncture in my life I was falling apart – mentally, emotionally and physically.  I needed a Band-Aid quickly. In my first few weeks I was  angry, tired, irritated and annoyed. I started to realize the more sober I got that I had a problem, a big problem!! I had a disease of all things. I soon realized however that it wasn’t anyone else’s responsibility but my own. I was feeling as overwhelmed as I had ever felt in my life.  Was there really something to this 12- step stuff I keep hearing?  Was it going to make me normal if I followed them? Here is where you get courageous…..

    As my mind started to become more clear every day and I started to see the bigger picture…..wow, my thinking really started to change.  I was ready to take a real plunge into this recovery thing and try those steps.  I found an incredible sponsor who started to guide me through the spiritual 12 steps and I loved how I was changing.  By step 4, Yes my feelings and thoughts were as raw as hamburger meat but I knew that meant I was working on some deep things inside of me.  This is where I had to decide if I was going to run from those feelings or work through them.  So I prayed to my Higher Power and I asked for guidance.  It was then that steps 1-3 came flooding back.  Then I had that “Ah ha” moment, “wow this is actually working”.  I have since worked my 4th step and through some individual counseling and an amazing recovery program I am learning about self-acceptance, self-love and self-worth.  I have mended broken relationships and I have also learned how important it is to my recovery that I keep healthy boundaries.  One of my greatest assets are friendships; those true and honest friendships that have helped me through this process.  They are always there for me and are never concerned with my past.  No longer do I have to live in misery and uncertainty. I just celebrated 18 months clean.  Today it feels good to be me. That is the ultimate gift of my recovery.  God Bless and remember……one day at a time! J

    Shona S.
    Dalton, GA.
    Clean Since: 11/1/2014

  • 05/01/2016 7:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I walk into the 9 o’clock Saturday closed AA meeting through the handicap entrance with my cup of Starbucks decaf Americana with two Splenda and light whip and find a seat next to the door as I set my cane down beside my leather chair. I now remember that all of the leather chairs with arms were given to the Cosmos group when a dear friend in AA, Betty, died. Thank you, Betty, for making it so easy, so comfortable to sit for an hour each week. I wonder if I am the only one still remembering who bequeathed the money for the chairs in her will.  For the first ten years of sobriety I went to this meeting every day except on Sunday. Now I only come once a week to this Saturday morning meeting. I look around. I can count on my hands the people who were here when I came to my first meetings. What has happened to them all? Are they dead, like Betty? Did they die sober or did they drink again? I know many who left and drank. I am afraid that is the norm. I hear that only 10% of people who are alcoholics come to AA and that only 10% who come to AA stay. Is this true? It is sobering and scary. I look to my left where all the young women sit together in a line. They are beautiful. Only one was here when I came. I look to my right around a table at the back of the room where many of the older men sit. Two were here when I came.  I have had five sponsors. All have relapsed. Two have come back.  I hear a man speak who is celebrating 45 years in AA. He admits he rarely comes to meetings. His wisdom is less that the young man who speaks before him celebrating two years. Time in the program does not mean wisdom.   Earlier in the week I do remember talking with a woman with great wisdom whose son had relapsed after many years of recovery. Her words to her son: “It does not matter if you fall down. The problem is if you do not get up.”  This is wisdom. This disease is cunning and baffling, destroying lives by a slow painful death like a cancer that makes you think you do not have the disease. The meeting is almost over. I have heard wisdom. I have remembered wisdom. I have seen wisdom. As we stand and pray the Lord’s prayers, I also pray that God will help me to remember this wisdom for one more week, one more day.

    -Joanna


  • 04/20/2016 9:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The promise of being able to live life happy, joyous and free is one of the greatest treasures I’ve found in sobriety.  Sometimes though I have to admit that freedom, joy and happiness are a bit daunting, especially when I have recurring bouts of alcoholic thinking.

    Remembering that alcohol is but a symptom of my problems means that I have to continue to work my program continually. I have an old timer friend that says he has to practice Steps 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 on a daily basis to keep his joy, freedom and happiness. I think he’s right. I would also add Steps 10, 11 and 12 to that list for me.

    Once I’ve done the work that allows me to ‘keep the plug in the jug’ I’ve just begun the ongoing work of changing the person that I brought into the halls a few 24 hours ago. That jug plugging happens in 1, 2, 3 for me. Simple as 1, 2, 3. I also have to be reminded that simple does not equal easy. This puts me on the road where true happiness is possible.

    When I practice Steps 6 and 7 on a daily basis I work on extending my 4th and 5th Step work by making sure I don’t pick up new baggage that will limit my service to other people. Becoming entirely ready and humbly asking God to remove my shortcomings as I become aware of them is what makes freedom possible for me. The freedom I’m talking of here is not the freedom to do whatever I want, but rather to be free to do the next right thing in the pursuit of my sobriety that is marked by real metanoia, or the new mind and heart that dependence on and trust in God brings within my grasp.

    It’s only when I’ve worked here on the front end that I find myself ready for the peace and joy that comes with the authentic expression of Steps 10, 11 and 12 in my daily life.

    To promptly identify and admit my shortcomings is something that would have been nearly impossible before I committed myself to the working of all of the steps. Once I get in the practice of doing my turnarounds in as close to real time as possible I notice that I can go through the day with a certain buoyancy that leads me organically to conscious contact with the God of my understanding. When that happens, when I allow that to happen through the grace of God, I find 12th Step work in almost everything I do because I have allowed God to change who I am.  Knowing that God is at work in me is the source of my joy. I count myself so very fortunate to recognize it sometimes when it happens and when it doesn’t happen as well.

    Now I know that I have tools that I can use to put me in a place “where grace is possible” to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, makes Happiness, Joy and Freedom possible in all circumstances if I have the courage and humility to give myself over to the care of God. That’s Gospel for me.

    -Warren H.


  • 04/13/2016 9:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month I celebrated 29 years of continuous sobriety. The years have produced some times of both deep joy and sorrow, success and failure. Life has been lifey, but the one thing I can share with you that kept me sober was I never lost my trust or love of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

    I lost my oldest son to this disease, I went bankrupt, I lost a business that was thriving because someone else made a bad decision. All the time I still remember the one small voice that would speak to me “trust Me Bob.”

    I also have had some wonderful happenings in my life. People pay me when I need money. I have 5 other healthy, clean children, 16 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. I have a wife that has been at my side for 61 years, and will celebrate 27 years in Alanon this June. When I retired from my business, I went to seminary and became a Deacon in the Episcopal Church. I have worked as a chaplain for an Episcopal Hospital, and I handle the Bereavement for a major Hospice.

    If I had settled for what I would have listed as my hopes during the first retreat I attended, when sober, I would have cheated myself. I remember my prayer “Father I don’t care if I ever have another dime, if I ever own anything again, I just want to be sober. I want to know how to love You with my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole soul, and my neighbor as myself.”  

    If you’re new, make no plans for your future, trust God, love God, love your neighbor, and hang on. Get ready for a “yellow brick road” that isn’t leading to Kansas.

    -Bob L.

  • 04/06/2016 10:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In 2001, I was confronted for my increasing alcoholic behavior—drinking at work, which happens to be a church—and a visible lack of ability to function.

    As a result, I went to Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut. The gifts I received there gave me the foundation of recovery that continues today.

    After four years I was able to return to Silver Hill as the onsite chaplain. The many gifts of recovery and the opportunity to work with those in recovery and their families are amazing.

    Much of my work as a priest reflects what I have learned from meetings, sponsors, reading, and study. The wisdom I have discovered, as I see my Higher Power working through others, continues to be awesome.

    The acknowledgement that spirituality plays a major role in recovery by clinicians encourages my own ministry.

    As chair of two diocesan committees on substance abuse, I have discovered that education of clergy is critical to helping so many who are in harm's way. I continue as a parish priest in transition ministry where I can have a role in change.

    I try to follow the example of the many in recovery before me, while the support group to which I belong and all who attend remain anonymous. I am open about my continuing recovery so I can teach, counsel, and write.

    I encourage public awareness and clergy understanding, and I am an advocate for legislative support for equality in insurance coverage for addiction recovery and mental illness.

    –The Rev’d Hugh Tudor-Foley


  • 03/30/2016 8:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As I was walking along the beach yesterday, I saw at a distance a beautiful seashell. Upon reaching the shell, I saw that it was only half of a shell, the side I could see was perfect, but the other side was missing. Oh, I thought, it could have been a dish it was so big, so I walked on by, leaving it behind. Instantly, I turned around and went back to pick it up. I realized that there had been a storm the day before, and I am sure fragments were broken and lost at sea. That, I realized is a lot like my life. I have had a lot of storms, and pieces of me have fragmented and broken off, lost somewhere, never to be found again. God gave me inspiration at that moment, as long as there is a piece of my heart and soul, no matter how small, it is enough for God to mold me a new and make me strong. I am worth picking up and saving. I can be used as an instrument in God's love, even if I am missing a few pieces.

    -Renee L.

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