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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.

  • 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.

  • 03/23/2016 8:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I’ve agreed to conduct a workshop for our parish on Laudato ‘Si – On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis’s encyclical.  Reputedly a treatise on climate change, its driving themes are social justice derived from an intimate relationship with our Creator and all of creation:* 

    “… Disinterested concern for others, and the rejection of every form of self-centeredness and self-absorption are essential if we truly wish to care for our brothers and sisters and for the mutual environment.Pope Francis, Encyclical, Laudato ‘Si – On Care for our Common Home, May 24, 2015 Paragraph 203

    “Sobriety and humility were not favorably regarded in the last century. … It is not easy to promote … healthy humility or happy sobriety when we consider ourselves autonomous, when we exclude God from our lives or replace him with our own ego, and think that our subjective feelings can define what is right and what is wrong.  Ibid, paragraph 222

    “On the other hand, no one can cultivate a sober and satisfying life without being at peace with him or herself.” Ibid, paragraph 222

    Curious, isn’t it, how recovery themes recur in our religious and spiritual practices and even in our business, civic, social and family routines.  Throughout the Lenten season and approaching Holy Week, craving God’s inextinguishable love, seeking the forgiveness that Christ bought, imploring the assistance of the Spirit, we prepare for the resurrection. Our addictions brought us near to death “excluding God from our lives”; our recovery restores us to grace and to life “at peace ourselves”.  As never before, we share in Christ’s resurrection.  

    The message of the cross, the message of Easter is more than forgiveness.  It’s an invitation, as people who are forgiven and loved, to elect a life of “sobriety and humility”.  What came of the prodigal son the next day and the days after?  Did he reconcile with his brother and strive to rebuild trust within the family?   Did Dad’s compassionate embrace lull him into a smug backslide, lapsing into prodigal ways?  Did he rejoice in the renewal of his heritage?  Did he celebrate his sonship and his brotherhood?

    For five years prior to my last drink, I’d been on the outs with my brother – banished from his home.  He’s a man of few words, and as I neared my first sober anniversary, I asked Mom’s advice about making amends.  From her vantage point of sixteen years in recovery, she said,   “Be patient and alert.  God will provide you with the ideal chance and you’ll know what to do.”   Several weeks later, my brother’s family celebrated his youngest son’s high school graduation with a lawn party.  I bought a card, adding ten bucks, showed up, warmly greeted my brother, his wife and kids, munched a burger and left amiably.  We’ve been right ‘n’ tight ever since.

     “… gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift, and that we are called quietly to imitate his generosity in self-sacrifice and good works…. living…a life of virtue…” Ibid, paragraph 217

    Loved, forgiven and restored to – “a life of virtue”.  Resurrected in recovery.

    * Dropbox Link to a compilation of highlights from the encyclical https://www.dropbox.com/s/nv5utwyovz00mw1/Laudato%20Si_Highlights_030616.pdf?dl=0


  • 03/16/2016 9:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    My belly button birthday is Sunday. I’ll be 52. Which is a miracle because when I turned 30 I wept, not believing that I would make to 30. I did, and it was a hop, skip, fall, skid, 2 divorces, 2 relapses, one kid to treatment, another depressed, falling in love, and ordination process in the Episcopal Church to 52. 

    When I got sober the first time at 25 in 1988 I was so emotionally and spiritually immature that I really believed God should give me what I wanted because I was good now. I was going to work, I wasn’t sleeping around, as much, I was going to meetings, and seeking a relationship with my Higher Power. I picked a sponsor who wasn’t as helpful as I probably needed and I had no tools or understanding of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and consequently didn’t stay sober.

    I got sober again in September 1992 in Chicago, and that was my white light, struck by a thunder bolt, spiritual experience.  I walked into the Lincoln Park Alano Club and within in a few months I understood that alcohol and drugs were but a symptom of what really ailed me: fear, loneliness, insecurity, a feeling of never, ever being good enough, and a hole in my soul that was so deep and expansive that it seemed like nothing would ever fill it or make me feel better.  And then I read the steps on the wall and the first 164 pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and knew that I knew that I knew that God was the answer. The only answer. And so I sought a relationship with God with the hunger and voraciousness of an infant gone all night with no milk.

    I’m 52 on Sunday and 15 years sober, because I didn’t stay sober the second time around in ’93. I had a baby, married his alcoholic father, had another baby, and had an affair, drank for 9 months to hold the marriage together and finally separated from my children’s father and got sober again, November 3, 2000. 

    In the last 15 years my primary purpose has been to stay sober, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and to help another alcoholic achieve sobriety.  I have been active in Alcoholics Anonymous through another marriage and another divorce, through falling in love which was probably one of the most painful and fulfilling experiences of my life because I now know what it means to be truly and wholly yourself and be completely vulnerable with another human being. Through seminary, the ordination process which has tested every ounce of faith, courage, and acceptance I have, through making the gut wrenching decision of sending my daughter away to treatment, to watching my son traverse the pain and joy and fulfillment of growing up, through the successes and failures of his life on his path, and so much more.  Through it all, every so often, I have “stood in the Presence of Infinite Power and Love.” I have stepped from bridge to shore and every so often, by grace through faith, I have lived in conscious companionship with my Creator. (p56. Big Book) 

  • 03/09/2016 7:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last Sunday we read the Parable of the Lost Son or the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). As I listened to the reading which I have heard hundreds of times, I started remembering when I became aware of something that I had never identified with in the story before. Having been in recovery for the last 7 1/2 years opened my ears up to hear old things in a new way. As we were hearing about the younger son taking his inheritance from his father and squandering the money, I remembered that like me, the son suddenly comes to his senses. He WAKES UP to the fact that his life is a mess. I can remember the day I woke up and realized how unmanageable my life was. I too had an answer to my dilemma when my epiphany came, and like the younger son I ran home to the rooms of AA. I knew that AA was there shining like a beacon in the darkness because I had grown up in Alateen and Al-Anon. God had always had a plan! I knew that there was love and hope if I just asked for it. What a miracle to WAKE UP and know there is a solution to my problem. Like the younger son I knew I was wrong and I also knew I would find love and forgiveness on the other end. However, I had another surprise.

    Not only was I like the younger son. I had also been like the older son. I too had stewed in my own resentment for years. Some of those resentments were for my family members who were alcoholics and couldn't understand why they were drinking. I did not understand it until I saw my own resentments and began to identify with them and see that the drinking had all been about pain and doing anything to make it stop. AA gave me the solution to the pain by giving me the 12 steps to work. Little by little the fog of resentment and fear began to lift. I began to rejoice like the Father in the story when a newcomer came in and had the same life changing experience I had. How easy it becomes to love and forgive when you know how much you are loved and forgiven. You want to share God's redeeming Grace with everyone. I love going back and rereading the Prodigal Son because I find myself over and over again in the story. It is a good reminder to know where I came from, what I was like and what I am like now, and that my Higher Power has my best interest at heart no matter what I may be thinking or feeling today. May you find that same Grace as you walk through the steps of AA and continue your journey of recovery!

    -Margaret D.

  • 03/02/2016 10:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” –Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent

    What a powerful collect for this addict! Powerlessness. My most frequent response when a sponsee is struggling is: Have you asked God to help you?” Throughout my recovery and even before I found recovery (or it found me) I prayed for help. The prayers changed over time. When I was younger and my dad died, my prayer was “God, please bring my daddy back.” When I was first getting into drugs my prayers were “God, please don’t let me die from using this scary new drug. Please don’t let me get stopped and go to jail. Please don’t let the house catch on fire with my young son home alone. Please don’t let me OD and my son wake up and find me dead.” When I got clean, my prayers were: “Please, God, help me be willing to do whatever it takes to stay clean. Help me not get so upset every time I talk to my mother ‘cause she just thinks I’m using when I do. Help me to stay out of relationships ‘til you think I’m ready.” (Boy did I regret that one – it was YEARS before I had a romantic relationship after that prayer!) Today my prayers are more like: “Please help me not think these evil thoughts. Help me to be more compassionate, more loving, more forgiving”. And sometimes just, “please help.”

    Does God wave a magic wand and help me? I don’t know. But I do know that my prayers are answered. Usually just a change of heart, a change of attitude, a change from negative to positive, from feeling overwhelmed and helpless to I can do this with God’s help.

    So, sometimes I think my pat answer of “Ask God to help you” is taking the easy way out. Shouldn’t I have a more intellectual response to offer others after all these years in recovery? Maybe, but as long as I know “Ask God for help” works, that will continue to be my most frequent go-to solution for life’s problems. Maybe God won’t wave a magic wand, but somehow I (and hopefully others) will get the strength and courage and knowledge and willingness and acceptance, and faith and hope to make it through one more of life’s challenges.

    -Anonymous


  • 02/16/2016 7:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    My sleep habits are irregular, which means I suppose, that they’re no longer habits: a sign of ageing? Asleep by 10:30, awake at one am, maybe at two, and again at 4:30.  Once awakened, I may fall right back to sleep or lie quietly. On occasion, I’m disturbed about this or that, or dogged by a random ache. Mostly, I’m just awake with my thoughts, which some time ago, I began to shape into prayer, searching for a way to speak of God and to God and call His name. From there the words wound themselves against my pain and around my joy. Now, in the dim light of night with my wife asleep or lying still beside me, I lull my soul with this anthem of healing and redemption. 

    An Addict’s Trinity

    To the God of a Thousand Names and No Face, to the Christ, to the Spirit

    I.  Infinite Being, Infinite Love, Innate Stillness,

    The Source, the Essence, the Creator of Creation and my Maker, by whom all that is, is:
    I invoke You, I exalt You, I revere You.
      I revel in your breath within me, as I awaken to Your perfect care.
    To you, I entrust my terrors, turmoil, trials and triumphs;
    Dismiss my despair, distress and dismay, my devices, designs, desires and delights;
    Shed my secret shame and sadness.
    In you I reconcile all the seething resentments I cannot erase;
    Release all the nameless anxiety I cannot escape;
    Relinquish all the loneliness and longing I cannot endure.
    In You, I rejoice in all the love I cannot express.  
    All this, all that I am, is Yours.

    II. Transforming “Yes”, the Master,

    by Whom I am settled within myself, compassionate toward others, and intimate with the Holy:

    I abandon myself to You,
    Bind my “yes” to Yours, to be with You, mirror You, echo You
    in every manner of thing, under any condition and at all times. 
    I am Yours entirely.

    III. Extravagant Grace, the Presence

    by Whom all hope, forgiveness, courage, honesty, wisdom, peace and love reside in me:

    I invest all my hope and trust and confidence in You.

    IV. My Petition

    Embrace me, calm me, heal me – wounded, frightened, resentful, running, scheming, ridiculous.
    Let me be settled, careful, astute, deliberate, brave, kind and happy.

    Ignite my love. Infuse me with your grace. Invade my fortress self. Inspire me to your service.

    O Holy,
    grant us quiet hearts, wise choices, deliberate speed, contagious joy.  Amen


    -Martin C. P. McElroy, 2015, from  Shattered, Anthems of Healing and Rejoicing

  • 01/22/2016 5:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Before I entered recovery, I spent a lot of time feeling alone and cold. Even surrounded by my family and friends I could still feel isolated and unloved. I had no connection with God and when I drove by churches in early recovery I had a feeling like I should be there, but just couldn't get through the doors.

    The first time I attempted to go to a face to face meeting, I was an anxious wreck. I showed up at the church, wandered through the corridors and could not find the group. I knew I was in the right place but I was too scared to wander any further. I left through the doors crying and did not have the courage to come back for another six months.

    One cold December night, I walked through those same doors where I ran into two women. They welcomed me with smiles and invited me to where they were meeting- in the warmth and light of the basement. My stomach was sick but I felt lighter having felt that I was in the right place. The women around me were just like me and that basement had a feeling about it that I can't describe. It was God's presence.

    I hadn't been to church in years but it's as though the church was enveloping me into its arms to comfort me. I was welcome no matter what state I was in. God was waiting for me there even though I had felt so separate from him for so long it was a reunion that felt natural.

    I would falter still. Over the next year I would attend on and off for some months and then fall off the map, struggling with an addiction to anxiety medication and then attempting suicide. I felt cold, alone, hopeless, and crying in my heart to be held again.

    Back through the doors I came—those open arms—and I was embraced with a warmth that was so desperately needed during a very dark and difficult time.

    It was because of those times in the basement that I reconnected with God after years of being estranged. I would soon after begin walking through the red doors of our local church on Sundays with my children.

    Whether the doors are bright red or dingy white, opening to the high ceilings or crowded tables and chairs, to me, walking through them means walking into God's arms. Where I need to be and where I belong.

    -Mindy

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