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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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  • 10/18/2018 8:52 PM | Anonymous

    The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote that “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” 

    “We dare not get rid of our pain before we find out what it has to teach us.” - Fr. Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest and mystic

    I served for two years as a chaplain in a community hospital. I recall one homeless patient in the ICU who was struggling with addiction. He was in the hospital because he had downed a half a bottle of rubbing alcohol. The physicians were frankly surprised it hadn’t killed him. I saw him just an hour before he was to be transferred to a local psychiatric hospital for observation. My guess is that his physician did this because he assumed that anyone who would do such an extreme thing must be a danger to himself. But, speaking as a recovering addict, I completely understand how a person can become totally, utterly desperate – desperate for anything, ANYTHING, to numb the pain of existence, even briefly. I vividly remember counting the minutes until the liquor store opened each morning; I could hardly bear to wait. Alcohol was my escape from the horrible reality my life had become. I found myself wondering, too, about this particular patient. What private hells was he going through? What had driven him to such a desperate act? He didn’t have much to say; only stared straight ahead and kept saying over and over, “I gotta get somebody to help me…I gotta get somebody to help me…”  

    You don’t have to be a homeless end-stage alcoholic to experience suffering like that. Life is irony. And suffering, I think, may be the ultimate irony. We tell ourselves: I’ve done all the right things, I’ve been good. I’ve gone to church, believed all the right stuff, eaten lots of green vegetables and whole grains, got good grades, and now…I have cancer. Or, now I’ve become an alcoholic or addict. Why? And what of the irony that there are those who live for themselves and scoff at those who have faith, yet experience long and full lives? Irony in its most basic definition is “when things turn out contrary to what one expects.” Irony is paradox, and it is a paradox people of faith must continually hold in tension. Perhaps another important question we must struggle with is this one: “What does it mean for us that we serve a God who suffered?”

    For many years the Christians I hung out with worked very hard to banish irony from their lives; they lived in what I jokingly call an “irony-free zone,” sort of like Disneyland, or perhaps Branson, Missouri. A place where all turns out as is expected, where there are no unpleasant surprises. A universe where cause and effect rule the day. A place where bad people get punished, and get what they ultimately deserve: Judgment, Pain, and Suffering. And God’s faithful people in turn get what THEY deserve; the good life. Proverbs 3:1-2 was often quoted to me:

    “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.”

    But that’s not the way life is - right? So how to resolve this? We can’t, period. We’re unfortunately stuck with living in this tension, between “the now and the not yet.” We must somehow find ways to balance this paradox and allow our suffering to redeem us. Perhaps in the midst of doing so we will get a glimpse of the kingdom of God.

    Some may say we suffer because of our sin. There may be some truth there, I think. And I am well aware that there are significant passages in the scriptures that speak of God’s holiness and righteousness, that God hates sin and the terrible effects it has, and that we will all someday stand before God and give account for our lives. I acknowledge these truths. But I am grateful this is not the ONLY, or even the PRIMARY message of the Bible. For every verse that talks about God’s judgment there are ten more that remind us of his mercy, compassion and grace. May my life and ministry consistently reflect what I would call this ‘bias’ on the part of God toward mercy and grace! I have experienced this divine mercy many times in my life. As an addict, I felt, in the words of the prophet Jonah, like “the cords of hell had entangled me” and that, as the psalmist commented, “darkness was my only companion.” But God, in his mercy, rescued me, he saved me. I like that word, “saved.” Some Christians these days shy away from that word “SAVED”  because it has negative connotations and has been used as a doctrinal ‘hammer’ in some instances to determine who is in and who is out. But I do feel like I was saved  from a shipwreck. The shipwreck of my addicted life. In fact, recovering Catholic priest Father Richard Rohr refers to us addicts as “the community of the shipwrecked.” Indeed. I’m thankful to be a part of that community. May I never forget. 

    Fr. Richard +

  • 10/10/2018 9:56 PM | Anonymous

    People. This word meant a lot to me the first time it was discussed in a meeting. It seemed to encompass all the reasons I started my “alcoholic habit” when I was 18 years old in the back room of a popular crowded and typically dirty college barlots of hilarity and pushing and shoving at the bar itself“Hey, Mable, “Black label,” please, 3.2hurryneed to get back on time.”  I wanted to be one of “the in-crowd”.

    Move many years forward. After my dark days and lost weekends, and after I had surrendered, I knew that if I hung around my friendsthe ones that spent much too much time, money and energy drinkingI’d fail once again. If I was going to have any chance with the Program, I’d have to fire my old friends and find new ones. Not an easy choice. I’d known them for years. Together, we’d moved into our 30s and 40s and shared experiences with life’s bumps and grinds. Took vacations with several.

    Places. Early on in my sobriety, I recognized that the bars themselves presented a challenge to my sobriety. Again, in college, the “Bigs” touted certain places. “Antlers” when doing laundry next door, “Dugway” for that case of Black Label to take back to our abodes, the hotel on the square if you wished a “high-end” saloon. Later, usually we had a regular spotone for those “on the way home from work” places, or when out and about with Saturday’s errand-runs, and usually a fancy-dancy place we found for those special times. 

    But, we alcoholics have to remember that not every one of our friends and families are allergic to alcohol as are we. So, occasionally we have to provide alcohol to guests. I can’t hang around liquor storesor wineriesit all looks too good, so why spend any more time than absolutely necessary to accommodate our families and friends.

    “The “places” issue represented another adjustment for this new-comer. Bar food, “best burgers” in town, or “best pizza,” the quietest and darkest for seemingly our “serious” maybe secret rendezvous.

    So, bars, liquor stores and wineries also became off-limits. No more church wine tasting gatherings with everyone in their Harris Tweed jackets and standing around muttering: “Its bite is too harsh, too sweet, dry, sharp, dull, smooth.” Gone, off-limits. The bars were particularly obviously sothe smells, well-aged boiled eggs in some sort of green water, a friendly bar-keep, lots of atmosphere i.e., peanut shells, popcorn, other unidentified scum on the floor and in the “johns.” I just don’t go into them, and if asked, I usually say, “Isn’t there a better place or are we simply pretending to be  back in college?”

    ThingsYou knowlike holidays, family July 4th keg parties, country clubs, the 19th hole, hunting, fishing, New Year’s Eve parties, college reunionsjust the whole social scene we had carefully constructed to make the best convenient use of alcohol. And no more expensive and “rare” scotch, bourbon, wine, sherry, expensive vodka in the ice box, bar accessories, cute bottle openers, imported gin...

    Part # 2 to follow soon

    Jim A. Covington, Kentucky

  • 10/04/2018 9:12 PM | Anonymous

    Elizabeth Kemp, Bradley Cooper’s inspiring teacher at the Actor’s Studio, told him that “All that stuff you’ve always been ashamed of, you’re now going to turn that into your art, and it’s going to heal you, and also make it meaningful, and a productive thing.’”1

    Cooper is an auteur – a filmmaker distinguished by an uncompromising artistic vision and style. Without using the word, Taffy Brodesser-Akner framed her NY Time s profile interview of Cooper on the vision and the craft behind “A Star Is Born”2 around his refusal to discuss his choices, and thus allow her to interpret them or to “speak for” and about him, since the film itself is his statement. He was not ungenerous, or unkind, not at all a jerk, but Cooper’s personal and professional boundaries, his discipline and principles are a way of life.

    Cooper is a sober 12-stepper. We too know about making all that “stuff”, all that shame meaningful. The Time’s writer’s narrative describes a man living in a state of grace: gifted, diligent and discerning. Cooper may be a control freak, but his controlling behavior derives from a sense of duty toward the vision, the work and his collaborators. Early on, he reminded his mentor Kemp of Elia Kazan who only wanted to work with people who make their work the most important thing in their lives. Same goes for people who do the work of recovery.

    “If you want what we have and are willing to go to any lengths to get it…”3 I’m a fan of Bradley Cooper. I want to be like him. I want to take myself seriously, because as a child of God, I’ve been given life in birth, in baptism, in recovery. Family, friends, colleagues, and fellow recoverers all enrich my life, widen my range and raise my game.

    Pedro Arrupe, S.J. famously wrote that “nothing is more important than finding God, that is, falling in love… so, fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”4

    Bradley Cooper is sober and in love. Of course he’s a mega-star, shining in graced sobriety. Yeah.

    1 “Bradley Cooper Is Not Really Into This Profile”, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, New York Times, 9/27/2018
    2 “A Star Is Born” 2018, Warner Bros. and MGM Bradley Cooper Producer/Director/Screenwriter/Actor
    3 Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book), p 58, AA World Services, Fourth Edition, 2002
    4 Pedro Arrupe Finding God, Finding God in All Things: A Marquette Prayer Book © 2009 Marquette University Press.

    Finding God

    Nothing is more practical than finding God,

    that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.

    What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination

    will affect everything.

    It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,

    what you do with your evenings,

    how you spend your weekends,

    what you read,

    whom you know,

    what breaks your heart,

    what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

    Fall in love, stay in love

    and it will

    decide everything.

    Pedro Arrupe, SJ

  • 09/26/2018 9:11 PM | Anonymous

    You may remember a few weeks ago we left me standing on the top step of a ladder, chain saw in hand roaring its little heart out as only a chain saw can do, when, out of the fog of my brain, a voice broke through, and, well, I don’t want to say it had a sharp edge, but let’s just leave it as a voice intended to communicate a certain disapproval for my standing on that ladder’s top step, a roaring chain saw in hand.

    The voice clearly conveying the harsh judgement that whatever I was about to do was about the dumbest, stupidest, most unsafe action a person could undertake.

    Yet, it made all the sense in the world to me. For, you see, my friends, while the chain saw was powered by gasoline, I was fueled and powered by several cans of my own special fuel.

    I mention this absolutely stupid action on my part because it was near the end of my days of regularly refueling with my intake of alcohol-powered soft-drinks during yard-work chores.  It was just before I realized I was an alcoholic … one prone to stupid life-threatening actions but which I and many of us survived only by the Grace of God. I guess I like to think this episode prompted me to, well, at least consider dealing with my problem drinking.

    Actually, that’s not the timing of the issue I remember. I knew I was an alcoholic much before this awakening moment. I just didn’t have the courage to surrender and do something about my addiction, and besides, I admit now I hadn’t had enough as yet of my drug of choice. This little episode caused me to rethink what I was doing with my life and my addiction - to begin taking measure of my conduct, life style, and alcoholic pattern drinking.

    What I’m trying to say is that sometimes it takes a life-threatening action to bring us to that point of the real surrender-- that moment when we admit we have lost control and have tried everything except giving up our addiction.  I had no more available options.

    Oh, sure, I did. I could continue my erratic out-of-control conduct and take the chance my family and employer wouldn’t abandon me.

    I knew about the Program. I had a close friend who’d been involved for several years. I called him and we soon talked.  He didn’t ask me to sign anything or promise I wouldn’t drink forever. All he said was that he had also felt helpless about the nature of his use of alcohol to manage his life and its ups-and-downs. He told me about the Program of Alcoholic Anonymous and how it had provided a way for him to get ahold of his life and to seek and find a better way of living.  He kept saying that AA wants all of us to come to believe that use of the Program will provide us “happiness, joy and freedom” from our addiction.

    It seemed to me that he was on to something and I decided to do something about my addiction and go with him to a meeting and check it out.                               

    Jim A., Covington, KY


  • 09/20/2018 12:27 PM | Anonymous

    John 15:14-16
    14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

    Throughout my 12-step journey, God has had to use strange moments to “wake me up to His presence.”  I entered drug rehab while I was in seminary.  And with that, I was thoroughly convinced that I knew all there was to know about God and that this “rehab experience” was not going to enlighten me in any way.  So, I entered with a huge egoso large it had its own zip code.  I remember my counselors and fellow residence talking endlessly about this “God of our own understanding.”  It fell on deaf ears.

    One day, when I was feeling quite self-assured, I decided to take a walk on the hospital grounds.  Seems innocent enough … right?  Well, it was November, the ground was thick with ice and snow and the rule wasno venturing out without permission.  Being unique and beyond “the rules,”  I took a walk.  Got to the lake and it was frozen, so I decided I was going to do the “Jesus thing” and walk on water.  Got about 10 feet out when ice began to break and went I straight down into freezing water.  I made my way back to the hospital and was, to say the least, busted.   Because of this, I was given the privilege of cleaning bathrooms for three days. 

    It was on the third day and I was “elbow deep” in toilets and was frustrated with the stupidity of this whole “rehab thing.”  I had decided to pack my bags and leave and then three fellow residence walked into the bathroom and began cleaning.  Couldn’t understand what was going on … so I asked, “why are you doing this and what’s in it for you?”  They said, “nothing, we just wanted to work a good program today and help those in need isn’t that what God would have us do?”  I was unable to respond (which was unusual for me).  And then it dawned on me that they were right.  This is what God would have us do.  These three guys were the God model for me.  I don’t remember their names and I’ve forgotten what they look like; but I will never forget the lesson they taught me.  I will forever remember the day I found God as I cleaned toilets with three fellow 12-steppers.


  • 09/12/2018 8:38 PM | Anonymous

    I was talking with my partner, who is also in recovery, about what we love about Alcoholics Anonymous. We agree that the three things are the Program, the Fellowship and Service. That is our Three-Legged Stool of Recovery.

    The Program gives structure to our lives. One of my favorite AA slogans is “No matter how far into the woods you find yourself, it is only Twelve Steps out!” At one of the first meetings I ever went to, a brilliant guy named Joe said, “My dishwasher came with an instruction manual, but I didn’t…and then I found the Big Book and the 12 & 12.”

    When I call my sponsor in distress about anything (from an unexpected illness…to worrying about a child…to running out of money...to relationship troubles) she will say to me, “Which Step do you have to work on now?”

    At first telling me to look to the steps drove me nuts and I wanted to scream, “I’m not like everyone else. There is no simple cookie-cutter solution to MY problem! Nowhere in the steps does it say anything about…(fill in the blank.)”  But then I started to do what she said and review the steps. They seem to work in any and every situation.

    What am I powerless over that I am trying to control? Who has more knowledge or expertise than I in this situation? Should I ask for help? What have I done to make the situation what it is? What habit or behavior of mine is playing into this? Can I let it go? Do I owe someone an apology or do I have to amend a counterproductive habit of my own? Am I taking time to stop, breathe, and ask HP for help? Am I practicing an attitude of gratitude and service?

    Then I go to a meeting and discover in The Fellowship that I am not alone. Others have faced and handled situations just like the one I find myself in. I listen to their stories in speaker meetings and comments in discussion or literature meetings. I learn from those who know what works and what doesn’t. I do not have to solve problems that others have already solved if I am open and willing enough to listen. I can choose to be happy rather than right. I can relax and enjoy myself, not taking myself so seriously but instead enjoying this walk along the path of happy destiny.

    And then we come to the best part: Service. By staying sober through the Program and staying centered through the Fellowship, I can be present for others. I can be a gift instead of a problem in the lives of others. John and I were practically shedding tears of gratitude when we were talking about this a couple of nights ago: Is there anything more wonderful than being there for someone else? For having relationships that are filled with trust and respect instead of rancor and tumult? Isn’t it an honor to be approached by a newcomer who, nervously and in fear of rejection, asks you to be their sponsor? Isn’t it fun to share your hobby with someone else, realizing that you do have expertise?

    Not drinking or using is the foundation. And upon that, thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous, we build lives of meaning, fellowship and service.

  • 09/06/2018 12:41 PM | Anonymous

    We are at Camp Allen in Texas for the first time at a Community of Hope International with Mary Earle as the keynote speaker. As I look over her books I find this newly published 20th anniversary edition of An Altar in Your Heart, Meditations on the Jesus Prayer by Bishop Robert Hibbs with a Foreword by Mary Earle. The Jesus Prayer has been my mantra in the early morning and at evening as I go to sleep and during any time of anxiety or fear or temptation during the day or night especially during medical tests for me and my family. It is my feeble attempt at praying without ceasing.  

    I have known Bishop Hibbs for years through work with the Episcopal Recovery Community, but never knew about his work on the Jesus Prayer.  As I share with Mary my connections with Bishop Hibbs, I find out he died a year ago in April, and Mary preached the homily at his service. I want to thank and honor him for the support he gave me and so many others in recovery by sharing this book with you. Also included is an audio CD of his lectures at a retreat producing the book, which the Cajuns would call a lagniappe, a little something extra. For years Bob Hibbs was the major voice for recovery in the Episcopal House of Bishops.

    Saying the Jesus Prayer is like using a prayer rope or beads in our heads. Bishop Hibbs relates the story of Cardinal Mindzenty and Father Eschmann, who survived torture and solitary imprisonment by staying connected to God with the Jesus Prayer.

    The first words of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,” remind us of both Jesus’ divinity and his humanity which Hibbs believes is an important constant message in keeping us in relationship with Jesus. These first words of the prayer with Jesus’ name express Easter, the Alleluia part of the prayer. The last phrase about mercy expresses Good Friday. Sister Carol Perry at this same conference reminds us that in this request for mercy, we are making the choice to ask for God’s mercy in our lives rather than God’s justice for how we have lived our lives.  Hibbs believes we always live in the tension between being in Easter and always connected to Good Friday.

    Bishop Hibbs reminds us that this is an oral prayer to be said out loud as much as possible especially as we begin to make the Jesus Prayer a part of our being. He cautions us not to be discouraged as we become distracted while we say it. We are gently to return to the prayer without judgment on ourselves. We might consider treating distractions similar to those we encounter them in centering prayer. We might see them as barges moving down the Mississippi or any favorite river. We are to let them pass on down without interacting with them.

    Eventually the prayer develops a rhythm in our lives and becomes a gift from God closely related to the beating of our heart, a constant, habitual recollection or awareness of God’s presence. Hibbs also reminds us that when we pray the Jesus prayer, we are attempting to connect to Jesus, God, the Trinity above and beyond us but also to the Christ, the God of our understanding, in our neighbor and in ourselves.

    For people in 12 step recovery this is where the steps intersect with the Jesus Prayer as we “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God.” (Step 11, Chapter 5, “How it Works,” Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, 2016, p. 85)

    Sometimes I modify the prayer to be similar to what is called Agnus Dei, the fraction anthem said or sung after breaking the bread in the Eucharist. “Lord God, Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.”

    While we meet with people in 12 step recovery, especially when we tell our story or listen to theirs, or when we talk to our sponsor or those we sponsor, we give them our utmost attention, but having the Jesus Prayer running through our mind and body is a way for us to stay connected to the Spirit speaking to the God of our understanding in both of us.

    Joanna  joannaseibert.com

  • 08/27/2018 7:50 PM | Anonymous

    I wrote recently about the early days of sobriety—the feelings of comfort we were beginning to feel from our working the Steps, attending meetings, and so forth. For many of us, these were feelings that we were blessed to have found through the Program and embraced them before we really sank to the lower depths of the disease.

    Gradually, you became aware of the need to strengthen your spiritual life. You concluded that you needed to undertake some Eleven Step work: “…to improve [your] conscious contact with God as (you) understood him…”

    One of the best teachings of the Program is its call to action—now. “Into action,” we say.

    That happened to me one Fall. I was wrestling with a problem. I saw it as one carrying possible uncomfortable outcomes. I struggled to find a solution, but couldn’t pull it off. That old demeaning feeling of anxiety moved into my mind and was starting to become an obsession.

    I realized I needed to turn my will over to God, again. I’d done that in the early Steps, but I now realized the Eleventh Step reminds me to keep working on that—to sharpen my conscious contact with God and make him more of a part of my everyday life. The Step says pretty clearly, “Sought through prayer and meditation…” to do so.

    So, the first thing I did was to re-read and study all the Big Book’s references to prayer and to put these into practice.. Of course, I felt that since this was a complex matter, I foolishly felt that God may not be able to put the pieces together to point me in the right direction. So, in my prayers, I needed to direct God as I was asking for his help.

    But, fortunately, I realized that by doing so, I was falling back into my same old desires to control life and all of its twists and turns—actually the same fault which got me in so much trouble in the first place with my disease.

    I’d forgotten one of those sayings—let go and let god—which by the way is frequently posted on the wall of perhaps every Alcoholics Anonymous clubhouse. How to find this comfortable relationship and be guided by it was all set out in the Big Book. It was all there all along.

    I started praying with a difference: “your will, not mine” but give me the grace and courage to follow that will. I didn’t need to explain the problem to him—how naïve of me to even suggest that. I had to learn to “be quiet,” to be silent through meditations. Let him speak. You sure can’t hear him when you’re talking. I started attending a church prayer group which was seeking ways to ask for and follow the will of god for them. I started to study books which spoke of ways to do this. I’m not certain that our surrender of First, Second and Third Steps is one event. I now believe that it is a process, over time, through contemplative quiet meditation on our part … “Be silent and know that I am God.”

    Jim A.
    Covington, Kentucky


  • 08/21/2018 5:29 PM | Anonymous

    By my purely personal estimation, the seven verses of John Bell’s modern classic, “Take, O Take Me As I Am”1, lack the intimacy, the hope, the power of the refrain:

    “Take, O take me as I am, summon out what I shall be, set your seal upon my heart, and live in me.” 

    The hymn conveys Christian faith in a conventional, arguably flaccid recitation of sacramental devotion that marks the redemption of a flawed and failed people by a loving God.  It is lovely and, quibbles aside, a devotional favorite.

    Yet, my friend died of brain cancer two days shy of his 31st sobriety anniversary. For him, the vaunted AA promises fell short and his quest for a robust faith, an animating, energizing “Higher Power” was unrewarded. His attempts at prayer brought him only to a place of “spiritual aridity”, as my mother would say.  Take, O take me as I am… summon out what I shall be… was your seal upon my heart?... could you have lived in me?

    My Alanon sponsee just called to say his spouse is in detox again, six months after the six-week rehab last winter, the stint that followed the six-week rehab last summer. He is frustrated and angry; she is sick and resentful. Take, O take me as I am… summon out what I shall be… is your seal upon my heart?... will you live in me?

    This morning, lingering in bed, unable to doze and unready to fully waken, I longed for my children, who were born in the flush of my early sobriety, and from whom I am long estranged, even as I advance in my fourth decade of recovery, praying for release from selfish resentments, theirs and mine.  Take, O take me as I am… summon out what I shall be… set your seal upon my heart… please, dwell in me, O Lord, I beg of you. 

    As we grudgingly, imperfectly, even futilely “work” the steps and “practice” our faith, Christ’s promise that eclipses all others is that he already takes us as we are. It’s why he came. However, even he can only summon what we shall be when we, like Magdalen, like Peter, and unlike that “certain young ruler” surrender our stuff, our status, our selves. Only then, do we have the desire and the capacity to receive all that redeeming Love, to meet I Am, to be in communion with the Source of Unconditional Love.

    O Lord, awaken me, anoint me, animate me, abide in me… for

    We, the broken and ashamed,

    we in chaos live untamed,

    we can hardly speak your name,

    But, you, O Lord:

                   Take, O take us as we are

                   By your grace we come alive

                   Mark us as your saints to thrive

                   Within your love.

    -Martin McE.

    1 John L. Bell, Copyright, 1995 Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community GIA Publications, Inc. agent.


  • 08/15/2018 7:00 PM | Anonymous

    At an A.A. meeting awhile back, Andy, a young man with a handsome handle-bar moustache, was speaking.  The general topic for the evening was how we can stay clean and sober, avoiding relapse.

    Trying to keep his hands quiet, Andy said, “I wake up every morning and I am excited.  I am clean and sober and excited.  Next week my son will celebrate his seventh birthday.   For the first time I will be sober and remember the gift I got for him and won’t be afraid of what I might do to make Timmy ashamed of me.  That gets me excited.  I can’t wait.”  Andy’s voice was smiling.

    I sat back in my chair and thought, he’s right.  I need a little of that.  I need to get the wonder back: that same childlike wonder to look at something—a puppy, a bubble, rainbows, clouds— and laugh aloud, “Wow!”

    Too many of us can’t say that.  I’m sober, but I don’t appreciate the winning.  I am not alone.  I am one in eight American adults who is an alcoholic.  One study shows that roughly 90% of people with alcoholic disease relapse within four years of completing treatment.  I was one of the 90%.

    Now, sometimes when I wash dishes I remember my drinking days when I took whatever plate was on top of the heap, maybe rinse it off, eat, and put it back on top.  And laundry.  If the shirt or pants in the dirty clothes basket didn’t smell too bad, I put them on.  One autumn I didn’t rake the leaves, and in the spring wondered why the grass was dead.

    Today, as ridiculous as it is, sometimes I take a moment and pat myself on the back and say what a big boy I am with clean dishes and clean clothes and green grass and a sober day ahead of me. 

    It’s time for us to stand in front of a mirror, tall and proud and grinning, shouting, “Damn, I’m good!  And Happy Birthday, Timmy.  People like you help me stay sober.”


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