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Through the Red Door Blog

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.

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  • 06/26/2019 8:06 PM | Anonymous
    • Step Seven – Seek comfort from your Higher Power

    Ofttimes we have talked to our sponsor, attended more meetings … all the familiar and usually effective steps. But sometimes, it is going to take more to successfully manage your anxiety of the impact of the problem on your serenity. In that case (or before) consult your Higher Power through prayer and meditation. What is that Power saying, what is the next right thing to do. 

    • Step Eight – Identify persons involved and decide if an amend from you will aid the anxiety.

    Often, there are a number of people involved and it may be a situation where through no fault of your own, they view you a cause of all or part of the problem. Make a list and ask, “What if anything can I do to lessen their antagonism toward me?” … or to bring relief to those involved?… and be willing to undertake that action.

    • Step Nine – But plan what the amend will be or what is said and review it with your sponsor.

    Perhaps above all, you don’t want to make an amend or correct a situation if your action will hurt them or other innocent persons. …. Don’t make an amend which merely seeks to shift responsibility but be frank and assume responsibility for your actions. Honesty is always the best policy.

    • Step ten – Review your plan.

    Sometimes it will take time to relieve your anxiety or to solve the problem that has been haunting you. This is not a seldom occurrence for you are dealing with really difficult situations. So, review its status and effectiveness of your plan with your sponsor. Watch out for surprise reactions to what you are undertaking and make the adjustment if needed … and watch out for those awkward unintended consequences.

    • Step Eleven – Stay in touch with your Higher Power and exercise your spiritual life.

    We need to be aware of the health of our spiritual life, that “constant contact.” Remember that you are searching for the right answer, the Will of your Higher Power in the matter, and the power to carry it out. New facts emerge or become more important than what you anticipated.

    • Step Twelve – Keep a journal and share it with discretion.

    Others may be struggling. Share your process.  Be grateful for the Program and its Steps.

    *Once again, with humble apologies to Bill W. and Dr. Bob and to the millions who use the Steps to recovery from their addiction.
    -Jim A. Covington, Kentucky

  • 06/20/2019 9:40 PM | Anonymous

    “Only the lonely, know the way I feel tonight.”1

    Not word in nearly three years; then his text bloomed on my screen: “Hi, it’s me. How are you doing?”  “Very, well, full plate. How are you?”  “I’ve been better. I’ve been drinking for a little over a year. I’m fed up and need help. …”   For two years, she’s been recycling through rehabs and detoxes. Near death on a gurney in the local ER, to a 42-day stint in a posh rehab, she retired with her husband to the upper reaches of coastal New England (his call, not hers). “It’s awful here. I have no one. These are not my people.” She has no people; never has. Bystanders, cast members, leading actors, but no costars… the price of intimacy is transparency and she lacks the currency.

    Alcoholics die of loneliness. Clinically, booze is fatal, but our addiction is fermented in loneliness, the heaven-sent antidote to “I’m not enough.”, to “I don’t fit in.”, to “I’m a failure, a loser.”, to “Nobody cares about me anyway.” Alcohol fuels “Look at me now!”, and “I’ll show them.”, and “I’m fine.”

    Late Sunday morning, a group of forty or so fans adorned in home-team swag shuffle toward the bus door, chattering, smiling, happy. A few fidget, glancing warily around, but others draw them into the banter. Their big-league home team is on a roll and a trip to a ball game is what sober people do. Together they are safe, together they are happy, learning, perhaps for the first time, ordinary social life, to be just a face in the crowd. For these few hours, they’re all fans rooting for their slugging heroes. This is what “not lonely” feels like.

    Two recent articles in the nation’s newspaper of record touted the crucial importance of casual relationships.2, 3 They assert that engaging the people around us, connecting in the simplest of ways with colleagues, family, neighbors, clerks, mechanics, passers-by grounds us. These low-stakes drumrolls give us the beat for high-note, big-stakes relationships. Like crowd-sourcing love. In classic Hebrew, the biblical “neighbor” is contextual, a linguistic shape-shifter: our “neighbor” extends beyond the family next door; he or she is the person at hand, and importantly, the person who invests in others’ presence, their dignity, their humanity, just like the Good Samaritan. In our intense, desensitized world, we are surrounded by neighbors who are beaten and left for dead, acutely and metaphorically. Sometimes, a nod their way can work a miracle.

    A dozen or more years ago, I was overcome by the many relationships, parents, siblings, marriages, children, friendships, colleagues I had failed to a degree my occasional heroics could not offset.  I failed them because… no clue. Not that I didn’t understand why/how I failed. I literally had no grasp on relationships – what they are, how they work, how to behave – what responsibilities one has and what one can reasonably expect from a relationship.

    December 12, 2006, I emailed my friend who was struggling to get sober that I had no answers for his travail, but our talk that afternoon spurred me “to build relationships with family and friends that provide an infrastructure of love to sustain me in any intimate relationship that might unfold.” I had finally wearied of I searching for a “someone” and began to clearly see, be with and respond to the people around me, hour by hour, day by day. Slowly the arc of my life rose and even now, accelerates.  

    Jesus, it turns out, was a connector.  He saw people, saw into and through them. He was present, listening and conversing. We devote great attention to his extravagant miracles and to his rich parables, but I often wonder if there are unrevealed lessons from the “certain ruler” who went away sad. Did he return?  Did the nine lepers who departed Jesus without expressing their gratitude rush to rejoice with their families and friends? Was that thanks enough?  The folks Christ touched had backstories and futures. Presumably, all Jesus’s followers, devotees and disciples connected with each other to share their experience, strength and hope. Love compounds. That’s a lesson for us.

    My brother died a couple of months ago. He succeeded in everything – marriage, family, career. A mobbed funeral, but the few testimonials were spare. All anybody came up with was that he was “there for them”. Made them feel… less lonely.

    So, if you’re new or just coming back, or feeling stale and stuck in “the program”, AA practices fellowship first. We listen and learn about each other’s loneliness, then shed it together. The stories are pathetic, the advice isn’t always sage, the jokes often are not funny, the snacks are stale and forgettable, but the love is real. So, if you are lonely, you know where to go.

     

    1 Only the Lonely by Joe Melson / Roy Orbison © Barbara Orbison Music Company, Roy Orbison Music Company, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., BMG Rights Management

    2 “Why You Need a Network of Low-Stakes, Casual Friendships” Allie Volpe, New York Times, Smarter Living, May 6, 2019

    3 Invest in Relationships, The Payoff Is Immense”, Tim Herrera, New York Times, Smarter Living Newsletter, May 12, 2019

  • 06/13/2019 10:27 PM | Anonymous

    “I am clay and I am water
    Falling forward in this order
    While the world spins 'round so fast
    Slowly I'm becoming who I am”
    Margaret Becker, Clay and Water

    I recently I had a series of very emotional conversations that generated disappointment and a short bout of depression. In my recovery journey, it often seems that two steps forward is followed by not by just three steps back, but a kick in the gut, a blow to the nether regions and a crowbar to the cranium. I found myself struggling to believe that my efforts in recovery and my sense of calling were not worth my effort.

    The danger of such thinking is that when I focus on one or two events, I fail to see the overall trajectory of my life. I mistakenly believe that one set back is a black mark on any progress I may have made. I realize that much of this is because I have expectations in my life, recovery and work that can both be appropriate and naive. Unmet expectations are the playgrounds from where my addictive thinking refuses to come in for dinner when mom calls.

    Perspective on these things comes from pausing long enough to get in touch with my feelings and motives. This is what is referred to in my program as a tenth step. While my feelings do not determine my reality, they do indicate what is really going on - inside me. Never a fun journey but always a necessary one. I discovered I had to own some of my personality traits which often come across in a way I do not intend. I also had to be open to push back from my spiritual mentor, my coach, and a few trusted fellows who love me enough to speak the truth, even if it hurts.

    The more I work my recovery, the more I am convinced that I have to be honest with myself that on any given day, my motives are mixed. Much of my tension exists in that space where the mix occurs. In recovery circles it seems that we often strive for transparency, humility and surrender yet value discretion, mistake confidence for ego and ignore that recovery (and life) requires effort. I am convinced that there needs to be a new movement in recovery circles where we talk honestly about such things and stop pretending that we must live under a burden of defeatism. We must also be willing to see the joy others have as they recover and not become killers of God’s new work of grace.

    The spiritual life of recovery, for me, acknowledges my shortcomings while remaining focused on the journey of becoming. I have benefited from the gift of honesty with myself about who I am, how I think, my selfish desires, and mixed motives. Being honest about these things does not mean I have to exercise them. Rather, it means that I can only address them as I recognize them. I cannot heal from something I cannot name.

    As I examine my motives and feelings I have to take care of what is on my side of the street, and if necessary offer an amends to those offended. I also have to choose to not pick up any item on someone else’s side of the street in an effort change their perceptions of my character. Basically I cannot enable them nor be the victim of their projections. I am, at best, imperfect in my efforts. I am reminded of the promise in the lyric above that I am a created being who is prone to mistakes and falling short. But I can rest in the promise that as I recognize that and cooperate with God, I can become who I was meant to be.

    That will break the back of depression every day.

  • 06/05/2019 10:13 PM | Anonymous

    How great is our God who gives us peace, grace, and recovery?  How large is our God?

    I have always felt that God, being omnipotent, can reveal himself to different people and cultures in different ways. Our Higher Power may not look like someone else’s and in the 12 steps we speak of God as we understand God.

    Like many of us, I am eternally grateful for the Twelve Steps and the various programs into which they have been incorporated.  I have however, discovered over the years, that there are cultures for whom the steps do not work as well as they do for other cultures, but that there is always a spiritual path to recovery. God speaks to us all in a way we can comprehend, and it may not be in the language of the 12 steps.

    As a Deacon in Recovery I am frequently the “go to” person for those who are struggling, and for those whose loved one is struggling.  I must walk a fine line between guiding them spiritually and becoming a “cheerleader” for the 12 steps, although I always say that the 12 steps were my path to recovery.

    We, the church, need to acknowledge, I think, that God is big enough to give healing to those who seek it, through whatever channel works best.  God is big enough to meet us where we are, in a language we understand, and in the cultural context in which we live. Just how big is our God?

    I remember the moment when my Higher Power and the God I knew in church merged.  I was lying on a gurney about to go into surgery.  My priest and my sponsor were present and the three of us held hands and said the Lord’s Prayer. That merger may not happen for everyone, in that way, but in a different way and with a different prayer.

    And may we always remember that 12 step programs are not allied with any sect, (originally the word “faith” was used) denomination, politics or institution, and that includes the Church.  12 step groups that meet in the church are part of the church’s outreach, but not part of the church.

    May we always be ready to spread the word of God’s loving mercy, forgiveness and healing power, and help those who are seeking a way to recovery to find the path to God that works for them.

    -Lisa K

  • 05/30/2019 11:32 AM | Anonymous

    Step One – Powerlessness and unmanageability.

    The First Step calls us to ask if the problem is one we are powerless to solve and if its manageability is causing us anxiety, uneasiness, fear, or if it is of such a nature that it has prompted you to “solve” it by returning to your drug of choice …at least to bury it.

    Step Two – You’ve fussed with it and found various ways to solve it, but decided you needed help.

    We’ve all had serious problems. We’ve tried to work them out. A good start with solving any problem. But a good and right thing to do doesn’t emerge. Our ego may stand in the way of seeking help. You tried to work it out but failed … suddenly it sounds like your self-help reaction to your addiction: “I’ve tried everything but I need help.”

    Step Three – You turned to your Higher Power and sought His counsel and courage to carry out His Will.

    Let’s be honest. Some problems are beyond us. Others know more about the issue than you. We need to suppress our ego at this point for it’s like our drug of choice … the old “cunning, baffling and powerful” wearing a different set of clothes. It seems to want to break us down and bring us back to the old ways.

    Step Four – At this point we need to take a “fearless” inventory of the problem.

    Some questions you’ll have: Who did what to whom. What third parties might be involved in any solution? What are the various positions of those involved? What are the possible solutions? Are these possible to bring about? Can some but not all of the facts and issues be resolved? Do you fear surprises? What’s the worst that can happen?  

    Step Five – Who is morally, ethical or legally responsible for creating, aggravating the mess?

    Depending on the depth of your involvement, did you create this mess, or did you aggravate it? Did you see an improper motive in the involvement of others?  Do you understand what people’s motives are at this point? Can you identify what folks want out of this mess?

    Step Six – Keep looking for your Higher Power’s Will for you in the connection with the mess.

    Even if you can’t solve the problem completely, look for guidance from your Higher Power, attendance at meetings, discussions with your sponsor. If appropriate, make certain you consult with “outside” experts and square their counsel with what you are hearing within the Program.

    *With humble apologies to Bill W. and Dr. Bob and to the millions who use the Steps to recover from their addiction.

    To be continued  to June 26th

    Jim A. Covington, Kentucky  

  • 05/24/2019 6:19 AM | Anonymous

    "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule." —Matthew 5:3, The Message

    In recovery, it is common to focus on the consequences of our addiction. If we are in a 12 Step program, we do this during our steps one, two and three as we identify how our lives had become unmanageable and we were powerless to stop our acting out. We look at the fallout of our addiction when we go to people we have harmed and offer amends, taking responsibility for our choices and the impact they have had on others’ lives. Some of us have legal consequences that may limit our opportunities and restrict our freedoms. Addiction has consequences.

    So does recovery.

    I am always excited to attend a speaker meeting where the majority of the share is about life in recovery and the blessings (consequences) that follow. The sad truth is that the behaviors that lead us to recovery are seemingly much more dramatic than the blessings of a recovered life. But oh, how we need to focus on the promises that have been delivered! Recently I have had the opportunity to consider the consequences of my own recovery journey and three things stood out.

    1.    Recovery restores relationships - My recovery has given me the chance to be a part of the lives of people I love. In the past, while I was in my addiction, even when I was physically present, I was quite often mentally, emotionally, and spiritually absent. I felt this blessing recently when I was able to be present for the birth of my third grandchild. Addiction prevented me from being present for the birth of my first two grandchildren. However, working my program of recovery allowed me to be fully present - emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was able to celebrate this joyful arrival and invest in my son and daughter-in-law, making life long memories.

    2.    Recovery brings unexpected opportunities - I was recently asked by the pastoral staff of the church I attend to present a sermon during our holy week services. After my moral failure, I surrendered the hope to ever fill the pulpit again. Instead, God gave me the chance to share a message about the need for death before resurrection, a message that is at its very heart about recovery. As I presented the message, I was aware of the blessing of recovery, being able to be who I really am for the first time in the pulpit of a church. What an amazing blessing.

    3.    Recovery grounds us in gratitude - Recovery has given me the gift of accurately seeing my world. Regardless of the negative consequences of my addictive behavior, living, in reality, stems from the gratitude I have as a result of the healing recovery has introduced into my life. Life can be difficult, but on its worst day, I have more to be grateful about as a sober person than I ever had in my addiction.

    Page 83 and 84 of The Big Book of AA tells us that the consequences of recovery are measurable! Here are a few promises: A new freedom; new happiness; lack of regret; possession of serenity and peace; a realization that our shortcomings are the key to helping others; we become of use to God and our fellow man; we see others as important; we become increasingly selfless; we gain a better outlook on life; we lose our focus on material wealth; and we gain the ability to make decisions easily even in the most confusing situations. Most of all, we have a sense that a higher power is at work in all of these transformations! That passage concludes like this…

    "Are these extravagant promises (consequences)? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them."

    Those are consequences for which I can be grateful!

    Affirmation: I am grateful that recovery is restoring my sanity, helping me live again and teaching me what it truly means to be happy.

    Submitted gratefully by Shane M. from Conway, AR

  • 05/19/2019 1:42 PM | Anonymous

    In the April 10th piece, I asked how we were to deal with life’s problems without relapsing back to our addiction and I wondered how the Steps would look rewritten and outlining a way to solve real perhaps life-changing problems. So, you are confronted with a problem, maybe a big one. It’s causing an uncomfortable anxiousness that escaped what the usual remedies failed to solve. So, for what it’s worth, maybe this will help us work through a solution for the really tough ones … here goes …

    1. Ask yourself if you are powerless over the problem, the solution is beyond you, maybe your life is in a paralyzing spot.

    2. Remember that help is available: get to a meeting and see if that helps.

    3. If that is of minimal help and we can’t solve it, and its outcome is in someone else’s hands, consult with your Higher Power seeking His way, not yours.

    4. Make sure you have all the facts and confirm what facts have to be changed to solve it.

    5. Identify any part of the problem you can assist with solving in whole or in part.

    6. After seeking counsel from your sponsor or at meetings, meditate – don’t tell Him how to solve it and get His OK.

    7. After making contact with your sponsor, a meeting and meditation, and find you have obsessed about the problem too much and created an anxiety in your day-to-day life, seek comfort from your Higher Power and increase your “meeting schedule.”

    8. List those persons you have to work with to solve it.

    9.  Plan to contact those persons and review your plan to do so with your sponsor.

    10. Re-read your plan regularly to make certain it is still “the next right step.”

    11. Stay in touch with your Higher Power and exercise your spiritual life.

    12. Report appropriate pieces of your steps to those who encounter similar anxiety-producing problems and add this to your regular gratitude list.

    Well, maybe this version of the Steps isn’t as helpful as it might be, but who knows? What I had been doing wasn’t working so let’s try a new idea to get to the bottom of this.  

    …to be continued to May 29th

    -Jim A/ Covington,

    * With humble apologies to Bill W. and Dr. Bob and the millions who have worked the Steps to recover from their addiction.

  • 05/06/2019 10:05 AM | Anonymous

    It was suggested to me to write a break-up letter to alcohol and lay out my feelings, thoughts and memories on my relationship with alcohol. As putting pen to paper makes things a lot more real in deeply personal work like this I sat on it for a long time. The next step after writing it was to read it out loud and share it with someone else. In our episode entitled "Why is for It's so hard to say goodbye to alcohol" we did just that. What follows are those letters.

    Dear Alcohol,

    I am writing this letter to you because, I do a podcast with John about our experiences coping with breaking up with you, and trying to live life without relying on you… The other reason I’m writing this letter is because John is really into making this podcast seem “professional” and we should probably “plan them out beforehand” and also John loves homework (this is just one of the passive aggressive portions of this letter).

    You were like most relationships I had in the past. You started like a grease fire in the kitchen and quickly grew out of control. Once it started going badly, I knew it in the very core of me, but chose to deny the obvious. (it was like ten elephants in the room, and I acted like it was just Wednesday). I would trudge through it completely miserable and in pain. But it was routine and ritual. This is who I am and this is what I do. This defines me and shapes me.

    But, unlike every relationship I’ve had, I ghosted you. I cut off contact and caspered my way out this, and I haven’t reached out for you since. But true to form, I obsessed over you and came up with countless scenarios in which we could work it out, maybe something bad would happen and I could turn to you and we could move back into that coffin we shared. That would be rad (insert dripping Gen-X sarcasm here).

    I came to the conclusion (one of many, just like the passive aggressive parts of this letter) that pursuing any relationship with you would be actively seeking my own death.

    I also concluded that although you were the around for and caused many of my hardships, you were only a catalyst and not the true root of my disease. I believe this infirmity has existed in me before i met you. You just amplified the symptoms (you crazy little minx). Just like a physical debility, you must be treated in order for me regain health. So I sought a remedy.

    I found my remedy in church basements around other people who dumped you -- people who got used up, chewed up, and spit out by you. We drink rough coffee, we tell stories about you, and we laugh. We share the turbulent parts of our lives with you and we cope. I COPE, because you’re always there, lingering around like a vampire expecting and invitation in. The wild part is that you’re an element of me. You live in me. I hate that. I resent that. But you’re there, so I have to accept it or be damned. Damned to be walking wounded and back in my disease without taking a drink.

    All that being said (or written as it were), EVERYTHING IS SO MUCH BETTER WITHOUT YOU! None of my problems went away, some even got harder for a while (hear me out though); they finally became manageable. The unsolvable became easily solved. What was insurmountable became surmounted effortlessly (is surmounted a word?), contentment was achievable, my sense of entitlement has started to dissipate, and gratitude has become a genuine feeling. Not just something I would say in the rooms to other drunks to make it seem like I had it together. I still don’t have it together, but I believe I can achieve it! Trip out, right?

    In all honesty I’m glad I rode with you, and I’m glad I got messed over by you. Because if I didn’t, I would have never realized that life is a good thing. That it doesn’t have to be chaotic and unmanageable. So in a way, thanks for that. I owe you my gratitude.

    Now, if you could kindly get lost on this good night, that would be great.

    Jerry

    *****************************************************************************

    Dear Alcohol,

    In the beginning there seemed to be so much promise with you and I. I was lost and hurt and young. I had already endured so much trauma at such a young age. Pain, anxiety, and fear were daily. Raised with mistrust and abuse, always being on guard was just a way of life.

    I remember the first time you shared yourself with me. You spilled your secrets and poured your promises in my glass. We ditched class together and went to a friend's house. We sang the Beatles, "Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life. You were only waiting for this moment to arise."

    Your first taste was foreign and jarring but your feeling was sweet and warming. You calmed my mind and relaxed my body in a way nothing else ever did. From that day on I knew it was meant to be.

    Those promises and feelings stayed true for a while. But little by little things started falling apart.

    Some mornings you would leave me feeling battered and bruised always coming back to say, "I'm sorry, baby, I didn't mean it. Take me back, I promise it'll be different this time." This cliche went on and on and on. I kept thinking things would change. You kept on being you and doing the same damn thing every single time. Things got worse. You hurt me more and more. You took my money. You yelled at my friends. You hurt people I cared deeply about and led me into situations where I was nearly arrested. Some, where I certainly should have been killed.

    And still the:
    "I'm sorry baby. It'll be different this time."

    Which turned into

    "You need me.

    "You won't leave me."

    "You are nothing without me.

    "You disgust me."

    "You disgust yourself.

    "I'm the only thing that will make you feel better." And that was true for a while or at least I believed it.

    And on and on it went for so many years. Broken promises lead to failed attempts to make it work. So many people were hurt by our toxic relationship. So much time wasted and money spent chasing a dream, a high, an ideal state of being that, with you, was never going to exist, ever. I tried to make room for you in my life but you wanted every part of it. All my mornings spent cursing you in sickening physical, mental, and emotional pain. All my nights in foggy vagaries of distraction leading to numbness and always ending in darkness. Both literal and figurative.

    The level of destruction overshadows the fun, good, and memorable times we had. And there were some and I will cherish those memories

    I have changed. Three years on since we last spoke. that last night after our last fling even I was unsure if it was our final kiss but I knew that I couldn't trust you ever again and that, in fact, it was me, not you. Truly. You were always the same. Never changing. I heard what I wanted to hear and lied to myself time and time again.

    In the first months after our break up I still wanted you back. Thought about you constantly. Had vivid dreams about you. It was so hard to let you go. We had been together for decades but it wasn't hard to remember how much I hated myself when I was with you.

    In the years since we split I have discovered other things that have made me happy. Helping others, connection and relationships based on self-esteem, exercise, eating better, and creating art. All the things you used to tell me we didn't need as long as we were together. More lies.

    Now when I think about you the moments of missing are overshadowed by the lessons learned, memories of the pain and loss and hurt I caused and endured because of you. So today I stand in the truth, experience and knowledge I have gained by letting you go and say emphatically...

    Goodbye.
    John

  • 04/24/2019 6:38 PM | Anonymous

    The contemptuous passer-by, the priests, elders, rulers jeered: “…come down from the cross and save yourself!” Mark 15: 30 ; and bellowed: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” Matthew 27: 42 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” Even “…one of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” Luke 23:38-39


    Jesus, as “God made man” doesn’t merely feel for us; he is not simply among us, he is one of us. Repeatedly, Jesus says he does all things by the authority, the grace, the power, the love of the Father. He does not trade on his own divinity; his power is derived. If he has the power to save himself, were he actually to do so, he negates his humanity and then, Jesus most definitely would not be one of us. Jesus’s death on the cross is the apex of God’s complete union with us… like us, he is damaged goods, and he is mortal.

    “God [through Jesus] has entered into our suffering through his own suffering… What God offers… the promise that he is with us in our suffering; that he can bring good out of it (life out of death, forgiveness out of sin); and that one day he will put a stop to it and redeem it.1

    “I am Jesus, I am an alcoholic.” Preposterous? Being human, injustice, pain, resentment, addiction, disease are all within his sway – yet his communion with the Father never falters, never fails him, even in his despair at the moment of death. But Jesus could not save himself. It wasn’t a choice… Jesus powerless on the cross. One of us. Yet his faith prevails.

    When we idealize Jesus (or for that matter, solons with long-term sobriety) we purge him of his humanity, the very core of God’s presence as one of us. That includes wrestling with character defects along with graces and gifts. He engages us – talking, listening, questioning, learning in relationship with us, his brothers and sisters. All those conversations with Nicodemus in the night; with Mary, while Martha seethed; with John, the beloved; and what are the bonds that tie him to Lazarus, for whom he wept? Living in real time as one of us.

    Tortured, humiliated, scorned and slaughtered, his sheep scattered, his ministry in tatters, dying, Jesus: one of us. Powerless, he turns his will and his life over to care of the Father: one of us. Triumphant, alive: one with the Father, one of us.

    -Martin McE

    1 Peter Wehner What It Means to Worship a Man Crucified as a Criminal
    NYT 4/19/19, quoting Scott Dudley, Sr. Pastor, Bellevue Presbyterian Church, Bellevue WA
    “Jesus, as “God made man” doesn’t merely feel for us; he is not simply among us, he is one of us.”

  • 04/17/2019 8:11 PM | Anonymous

    15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

    21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

    So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:15-25, NRSV)

    In today’s passage from Twenty-four Hours a Day (April 6), the author asks, “Was my personality problem ever solved by going on the wagon or taking the pledge?”

    My addictions served to hide me from myself. I practice sobriety in order to be authentic and to live a liberated life of love of self and others.

    When I first sought sobriety, I began with Celebrate Recovery (CR), and I quickly realized that alcohol and drugs were not the only addictions over which I was powerless. In CR, each of the 12 steps is paired with a Biblical principle (Scripture). Step 1 is important to us all, but, in these many years, the CR paired Bible passage for Step 1 has had a more profound influence on me than so many other parts of my spiritual recovery journey.

    In CR, Step 1 and its Biblical comparison read as follows:

    1.   We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
    I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:18)

    I must be bold, now, and share with you that I am not a fan of St. Paul, and I am quite sure that were he and I to meet on the road today, sit together in prayer and conversation, spend time studying the Law, we would have very different interpretations of what sin is and how God through Christ responds to me missing the mark in my journey toward a fuller life with Christ.

    Nonetheless, the words of Romans 7:18 meant much more to me, all those years ago when I first set out to get clean, than the words of step 1. And this was at a time when I was not yet baptized or proclaiming faith. I was, as it were, Saul. I recognized in myself this sense that I very much wanted to stop drinking and drugging, stop lashing out in anger, stop lying, stop spending into debt, stop hurting myself, stop promiscuous living. But the desire didn’t seem to be enough. I had a hole in my heart. I had a gap in my knowledge. I had no impulse control. And these words of Paul were saying that it was ok, that I was not alone, that people from all times and places and walks of life struggled in these ways, too.

    Over the years, I learned about myself and my God-ness. I grew in faith and recovery. My doctrine changed, and I moved from one denomination to another. I am an Episcopalian now, and I am proud to be part of Integrity and TransEpiscopal. I have left my days with CR behind, but I still meditate on those Biblical principles CR compared to their adaptation of the 12 steps. I especially meditate on that passage from Romans. And not just Romans 7:18 – Romans 7:15-25. After getting sober, opening up to Christ and Christians, accepting Christ as my life guide, coming out as queer and trans, realizing that queer trans Christians DO exist and are LOVED, I found that I needed recovery more than I ever had because I still wasn’t doing what I wanted but was doing what I hate.

    I was judgmental. I was a gossip. I was angry. I was controlling. I was afraid. I wanted to run away. I sought love through approval and praise for perfection, and I expected perfection from others.

    I was hospitalized for decompensating into a psychotic state. What else does one do when one demands perfection and control of themselves and others and continually falls short but has no was to forgive themselves or others and also judges/condemns themselves because this thought/behavior pattern is incompatible with their worldview/faith/rule of life?

    How closely I felt a connection to Paul.

    Coming out of the hospital, I let go and let God. I put Christ first, myself second, and my family and church third. I turned taking my medication and attending therapy and letting people know when I needed help and accountability into daily offices (Rev. Mary Earle). I made a rule of life that included daily work and prayer and service related to mental health and recovery.

    As I continue to learn and change, I know that Christ was there in the beginning, is here now, and will be with me always. In the valleys, on the mountains, and all the elevations in between. So, my personality problem wasn’t solved by going on the wagon or taking the pledge, but I’m glad that it wasn’t. Those defects of character challenge me every day to seek Christ more, and they have driven me to listen to others carefully and critically in order to discern who I am in Christ and what paths I might take to get closer.

    Brandon B.

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