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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.

  • 06/03/2015 9:26 PM | Anonymous

    My life was a train wreck, and I was searching for an answer to my dilemma. I remembered a retreat I had attended in high school many years ago. I was sitting under a tree talking to God, and feeling completely comfortable in my own skin, for what I thought, was the first time ever. I was a practicing Roman Catholic, not a good Roman, but one that sat just outside the circle of the righteous. I called the local priest and asked him if there was a retreat that he knew of that I might attend? He knew of a place in Houston, and suggested that if I found a suitable place to let him know, he would like to start an annual men's retreat.

    I found the place, called him back and he suggested I put it together for the parish. This fed a very major part of me, my ego, so I was glad to take on the responsibility. I did so with much vigor and along with about a dozen other men we headed to the retreat house. I took my last drink for that day in the retreat house parking lot. This was 1983.

    At the opening session, with about 75 men in attendances (other churches were there also), one of the clergy introduced himself as an alcoholic. I was shocked that someone would do that. He added that if anyone in the audience felt like they might have a problem, please come and talk to him sometime during the weekend. I made an appointment, went into see him, and carefully described my drinking patterns. He knew nothing about how my life was spiraling out of control, nor did I fill him in on those details. I just stuck with the drinking story. The room grew quite for a few million seconds and I asked him what he thought? He answered me in the only way he could of and gotten my attention. “It makes no difference what I think Bob, it is what you think that counts”. I immediately started to weep, and he took me to my first AA meeting the next evening.

    The problem that jumped on me as soon as I arrived home was the old craving. I did not require a drink for the whole time I was at the retreat, but as soon as I arrived home I drank. It would be another year and a trip back to the retreat house before I finally gave up the ship. This time all the Brother had to say to me was “Have things gotten any better?” Again through tears I asked for help, and in chapel that night, I asked God to teach me how to love him with my whole heart, my whole soul and my whole mind. I knew nothing about love. I then asked him to allow me to love myself, so I could, in turn, love my neighbor. That was 28 years ago and he has been answering that prayer, one day a time ever since.

    Bob L.

  • 05/28/2015 6:39 PM | Anonymous

    Just over 11 years ago, I found myself in deep despair. I cowered alone in my apartment afraid to open my mail. I wondered when life was going to start and feared that it never would. Instead, I clutched my bottle and hid from the world – but I could not hide from myself. I had always considered myself to be religious and I attended church regularly, singing in the choir. Yet, my disease was one part of myself that I tried to ignore, deny and repress. Of course I regularly gave up alcohol for Lent. I had conversations with God where I would say things like “I promise I will never drink again if…” and “please help me manage my drinking.” I just didn’t get it – and my religion didn’t seem to help at all with my drinking problem. Driven by desperation and the growing sense of impending doom, I finally sought help in the rooms of twelve step groups. I knew in my bones that I needed to change my life, and I became willing to try another way. I had no idea when I walked into the doors eleven years ago that I would receive the gift of sobriety and recovery, as well as an amazingly rich new relationship with my higher power and my faith community. Through working the twelve steps and close contact with my sponsor and other people in the program, I began to take actions that opened up a new world for me. By connecting with my higher power, the nameless One of a Thousand Names that sometimes I call God, I learned I could walk through anything. My sobriety is the most important part of my life today, and because I am sober, I can choose to keep the channels of my soul open to where my higher power would lead me today to be of love and service.  In my outside world, I enjoy a sense of freedom and responsibility in my work that I was unable to experience when I was hiding out in my disease. I have learned how to cultivate relationships with other people. Through the tender love of my sponsor and my sponsees, I begin to sense the magnitude of love and compassion for myself and others.  I often sing “the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.”

    Shortly after I got sober I met the man who became my husband, the love of my life. Under the full scrutiny of my home group of sober women, we fell in love and married the following year. With great joy, we welcomed two young children into the world. Throughout all of this, the hearts and hands of the 12-step fellowship helped me broaden and deepen my relationships with my church community. When my beloved husband was diagnosed with cancer shortly after our son’s first birthday, I knew I had to work my 12-step program more than ever. Hand in hand with the fellows in my program, I was able to walk through my husband’s extensive medical treatments, and his death. Because of my sobriety, I was able to care for our children, cultivate an extensive network of support, and provide my dear one with a faithful witness through the end of his life. Because of my sobriety I am able to care for myself, to nourish my relationship with my higher power, to bring a spirit of Love and Service to my life. Because of my sobriety, I am able to show up for myself and others in ways I could never imagine when I was sequestered in my small prison of disease and fear. Even today, as I give thanks for the miracle of sobriety and recovery, I am able to hang out in a hospital waiting room with a dear friend undergoing cancer surgery. I am able to tease her about her lovely scrubs and fancy IV, and we can laugh and laugh about silly things. I have a choice today – to walk the way of fear and death or to walk the way of light and love. And for today, I think I’ll choose to savor these moments of joy.

    -Kirsten H

  • 05/21/2015 5:27 PM | Anonymous

    “I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees … At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, The Message

    God willing, on this coming Saturday, May 23, I will give thanks for 18 years of recovering living. It certainly has been by God’s grace alone WITH my working the program of recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous. It certainly did not seem to be ANYTHING of God’s grace on that Friday morning in my office at the parish where I then served.

    I had been a “professional” drinker since the age of 19. I had successfully navigated a business career for almost 20 years. Then in the Infinite’s sense of humor, I was called to follow into the life of ordained ministry in 1992. It was not like my drinking had not been noticed and mentioned in concern over those years by co-workers, bosses, my wife and friends. I knew what I was doing, always showed up and did what needed to be done on time and successfully. I deserved a drink or two for all that I did every day for all those other people, until … The last years of drinking I noticed a shift of needing a drink or two earlier in the day to get me going, then during the day to keep me going, and then to end the day because I deserved it so much. On the evening of May 22, 1997, after another argument with my wife about having yet another beer, I stormed outside the house in another fit of rage. I sat on the back porch steps, the last beer in hand. I looked over to the recycling bin filled to overflowing with my empties finished just in that day, and I knew something was not right any longer … something needed to change … but I had no idea what that was or how I could do anything about it. So I looked into the warm evening sky, the stars just emerging in vast array, and simply said “God help me … Jesus help me …”

    I am living proof that one must be careful for what one prays for! At 8 o’clock the next morning, my Bishop and six others walked into my office. They needed to talk to me about my drinking … they wanted me to get the help I needed … one by one they told me MY story. After each one had spoken their peace, the Bishop offered that I could go with them immediately to a rehabilitation facility in a city 70 miles from where I live and served, or I could choose not to go. In either choice, there were consequences to my decision. The addictive voice that desperately needed feeding screamed “Tell them to go to hell! I’ll take care of you … I always have!” The voice I heard speak from within me and outwardly responded, “Yes, please help me, thank you.” This day began a journey of life that at that moment I expected would not have continued as it has to this day.

    While certain I would lose wife and family, be deposed as a priest, and be outcast from all I knew and loved, including God’s love, this was not the case. My wife and family have walked with me in truth and love these almost 18 years. I found the parish, or at least one-third of the parish, wanted me to return as their priest, which I did 46 days into my new life of recovery. To say it was a welcome with open arms would not be faithful to “this is an honest program” we seek to live! It was hard, very hard at times, to redeem and regain trust of the people who called me to serve. When I thought there was no reason to continue, I would hear God’s word spoken directly to me by someone else’s story shared in the many AA rooms I frequented for solace and strength, pardon and renewal. As day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year pass, I continue to find God using these “thorns” I bear to God’s glory in helping others living a life free from those things addictive that bind us away from God’s love – and those bindings are not just addictive substances alone!

    I find that when I live deeply and intentionally into the words of St. Paul, day by day, I am living proof that ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ And for this gift, I am grateful.

    With grateful heart,

    Paul G.+

  • 05/13/2015 4:22 PM | Anonymous

    Many of my early memories are set in the Episcopal Church: Easter’s flowering of the cross, Vacation Bible School and children’s choir. When I was nine my mother began working in the church office. In summer my sister and I accompanied her. One day someone brought pretty pens to the office. Mom let me have one. Praying hands were on the clip and the Serenity Prayer on the barrel. I thought it was a nice prayer and memorized it.

    Although I was quite happy, I also struggled with insecurity – never feeling pretty, smart or popular. I didn’t know how to talk to people outside my circle of friends. I was terribly shy.

    As I got older I looked for a solution to those uncomfortable feelings. Did I turn to God for help? I tried but found a more tangible solution, alcohol. I drank a little in high school but it was college where I experienced alcohol’s power to help me shed my shy, good girl image for one comfortable with dancing and flirting.

    Alcohol was effective for a long while. Then I noticed my friends getting married and I couldn’t maintain a relationship. Others were climbing the career ladder while, in spite of an advanced degree in education, my insecurities caused me to give up my teaching career.

    I became more withdrawn in middle age, preferring to drink at home where I pondered over all I didn’t have. Ultimately, I determined the problem was God. He wasn’t attending to his part of what I currently call “The Santa Claus Contract.” I attended church regularly, gave money sporadically and helped others when it suited me. I was a good person for Heaven’s sake! It was God’s fault! Certainly, I had no part in how my life was unfolding.

    Alcohol silenced those voices. Alcohol seemed to medicate my growing depression and help me unwind. Alcohol confirmed my suspicions that God was a sham or He just didn’t give a fig for me. I turned into a C&E Christian, Christmas and Easter.

    Eventually, I began to suspect that I was an alcoholic. I drank throughout the day and awakened at night to drink. I determined that if I was an alcoholic, I’d be the finest one I could be.

    My body had other ideas. The morning nausea was worrisome. In business meetings my hands were clasped tightly under the table to control my shaking. I couldn’t participate in discussions because my voice trembled. Apparently, living as an alcoholic wasn’t going to be easy.

    One cold, rainy night I knew I couldn’t continue to live as I was living. I left work and went to AA. A man full of the enthusiasm that only a newly sober alcoholic can be led the meeting. He greeted me warmly and seated me near him.

    As the meeting started, I listened hopefully. They were talking about God. That’s all it took for the tears to flow. How could this work when God ignores me? Yet, the people were nice and the meeting began with the Serenity Prayer I learned in childhood.

    I continued meetings and found a sponsor. I said the Serenity Prayer dutifully but with little faith.  I began the Steps and at Step Two “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” found a modicum of willingness to believe again in God’s love.

    In AA I learned about “The Santa Claus God”. Instead of asking God what His will was for me, I tried to make deals. “If you will get me out of this jam, I’ll change.”

    My sponsor listened to my history and suggested I try church again. I relented and returned to the Episcopal Church. I was awestruck when the sermon ended with the Serenity Prayer.

    I heard similar lessons in AA and church. At my Third Step, I gave my will and life to the care of God. My sponsor emphasized the word “care”. God wasn’t going to control my life or will but He would care for them. That was a turning point for me.

    When I got to Step Twelve, my spirit truly was awakened. The awakening continues daily. When afraid or unsure of myself, the Serenity Prayer and the assurance of God’s love dissolve the fear. If I can quickly find someone to help, I’m relieved of worry as I turn my thoughts away from me. Finally, I have a community of sober alcoholics and parish family to support me as I hope I support them.

    I believe that God had a long-range plan I couldn’t have known when I received the pen with the Serenity Prayer. The pen was lost long ago but its prayer and my God bless me daily.

    -Julie W.

  • 05/07/2015 12:45 PM | Anonymous

    It was New Year’s Eve 1997 and I woke up – or came to – being beaten-up in the back of a van. The one throwing the punches was Noah, a low-level drug dealer whom I had known for the previous seven years since my arrival in Los Angeles. We had been up for days partying with a small band of sorted characters, flying high with cocaine and the obligatory bottle of vodka just to smooth things out a bit. At some point the dope ran out, as it always does, and everyone crashes. For me, that meant the back of a van, which wasn’t all that bad considering the options. Choices are limited when you’ve run your life to the bottom.

    The punches jolt me from my sleep. Noah’s yelling about something – who knows what – and I’m fending off as many blows as I can for someone who has just been jarred from a drug and alcohol induced stupor, groggy and defenseless. Any good street fighter knows the value of the element of surprise and on this chilly December morning I was caught cold. I was so busy fending off the assault that I don’t think I even threw a punch.

    I’ve never been much of a fighter. It’s just not who I am. I got into a fist fight once when I was in junior high school. I got my ass kicked. Other than that day behind the gymnasium, I honestly cannot remember ever throwing a punch at anyone again in my entire life. So that morning in the van I was an easy target. And who knows, maybe I deserved it.

    Noah finally ran out of punches and left. I stumbled out of the van and looked around. It was early morning. The air was crisp and cool. I just stood there…in silence. In that moment I knew it. What I knew was this – that if something didn’t change, nothing was going to change and I would end up dead. Maybe it would be from an overdose or from my body just giving up and collapsing under the weight of the past twenty-seven years of alcoholism and drug addiction. Or maybe it would happen like it did for Kenny – a bullet in the head. Either way it was only a matter of time and circumstance. In the end, drugs and alcohol always win.

    I knew I had to make a choice. I could continue on this road that was leading to death or I could choose to live. After all the years of slavery to the bottle and the bindle; all the jails and institutions; all the broken promises and disappointments; all the people I’d hurt, on this New Year’s Eve Day it was all caving in. My soul was trembling. I was desperate as only the dying can be. It was a moment of truth – indeed a moment of clarity. I chose to live.

    And so I started walking.

    I ended up at a meeting that I was aware from a few years before during one of my countless vain attempts at sobriety. Clearly, I wasn’t sober, and in fact it would be another few weeks before I could remove the claws of addiction, get an honest foothold and begin my sobriety. But this was the day that things indeed changed, and I was able to make a move in the right direction.

    I have asked myself what made that morning so different than all of the others that had come before it. The answer is that there was nothing different. It was the same desperation, wrapped in the chains of addiction, the same sense of hopelessness and aimless wandering; the same awareness of impending doom…and death. That’s why I knew that unless I made a move in a different direction I was a dead man. I was painfully aware that I had already begun to die spiritually. If I didn’t make the move, there would just be more of the same and worse, until one day I would cross that line of no return. I had seen it happen to others. Why should I be any different? I knew I wasn’t. It was, as they say, a sobering moment.

    Dirty, trembling, sweating, and dazed with the terror of the nightmare I had just somehow simply walked out of, I walked in and sat down in the meeting. Everything in me wanted to bolt, but I didn’t. Somehow I stayed. That was over seventeen years ago and I’m still here.

    So the day that changed my life started out with me being beat up in a van.

    God’s grace can be like that.

  • 04/29/2015 7:48 PM | Anonymous

    Remember you have been in the ditch.
    (Principle 17, The Women of Magdalene)

    In their book Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart, the women of the Magdalene community, led by founder Becca Stevens, share some of their joy and pain. These are women who have survived lives of trafficking, prostitution, violence, abuse, and addiction. Inspired by the ancient Rule of St. Benedict, they have written down 24 principles to live by. Magdalene women support each other in many ways, including their shared work at Thistle Farms, a non-profit business run by them and other recovering women.

    After my twenty-plus-years of recovery from alcoholism, these women's stories - their experience, strength and hope - have inspired me anew. Some have come to speak at churches I've served as a priest. Others have simply "loved up" on me when they see me. They are my sisters in recovery. (I've learned I can't have too many sisters or brothers in recovery - and in life.) Their meditation on Principle 17 begins, We do not share the same experiences, but we all have been in need sometime in our lives. We stay grateful for when someone lifted us out of the ditch and offered us food, clothing, or shelter. A Magdalene woman writes:

    "My sister was rescued from a ditch. Her bus crashed while crossing over a bridge in Cameroon, Africa. She was going there to help teach and ended up being pulled from death by a kind stranger who happened to be traveling behind the bus. (I hope) I will never forget how quickly she went from being there as a helper to desperately needing the help of others. If I let myself have the luxury of contemplation, the image of my sister being pulled from the ditch leaves me forever grateful" (pp. 79-80).

    I remember how my first sponsor saw me in an ecclesiastical ditch, pouring too much wine into the chalice for Communion. He knew about ditches, so he symbolically climbed down beside me and asked, "Do you have a drinking problem?" Over the years my sponsors, spiritual advisors and companions have, from time to time, seen me in a ditch, stopping to join me and to help me understand what kind of help I need.

    Recently, I came to see how I need help, one more time. It happened after I retired from full-time ministry to my home town, living again near my father and other family members. Six months after I came home, Dad died. I realized soon afterward that I was angry for all kinds of reasons and with all kinds of people, places, and things. I asked my recovering friends which meetings they attended. But I didn't just get up and go to one. I was in a ditch, and I guess I felt fine, staying there for awhile.

    Eventually, two of my biological sisters asked me to join them and our brother at an open AA meeting. (The four of us had never been to a meeting together.) I decided to get up out of my ditch. At that meeting I heard ditch stories. I heard people talk about times they had been in the ditch.  I knew it was time for me, once again, to take

    Step 3: to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, who gets into the ditch with me, if and when I ask - and sometimes, even when I don't.

    Two other recovering women, in their devotional booklet Depending on the Grace of God, speak of Step 3 this way: "Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, we...become stranded beside the road, hoping and waiting for help to come along. Now we must ask God for roadside assistance" (p. 6).

    To be honest, it's time for me, a professional helper, to ask for some roadside assistance. Again. And when I'm in a ditch so deep I can't seem to see my way out, hoping and waiting for help to come, I thank the God of my understanding for my sisters and brothers who give me help, even when I don't want it or think I really don't need it. I thank God, who helps me remember, again and again, how important ditches can be.


  • 04/22/2015 6:52 PM | Anonymous

    It was a Monday night and I was sitting on the edge of the bed in my guest room at a Franciscan monastery where I was on retreat. I was antsy and trying with every ounce of my will to resist getting in my rental car and driving to an adult book store. I desperately wanted to obtain pornography. I was experiencing my first signs of withdrawal.

    I was on the west coast for the wedding of my nephew, at whose marriage I would be officiating the following Saturday. I had just run a marathon the day before with him and three other members of the wedding party. I was going to spend the few days in between on retreat at a local monastery.

    But I knew weeks earlier while I was making my plane reservations that I needed help. I was excited about running the marathon with my nephew and looking forward to officiating at my first family wedding. But more than anything, I wanted the freedom to go visit adult book stores and feed my addiction to pornography.

    When I realized, as the weeks closed in toward the weeklong trip, that I was looking forward to the pornography more than the marathon or the wedding or the retreat, I admitted to myself that it had overtaken me. I had to do something. This compulsion sure didn't align with my values as a priest. I had the foresight to look up some 12-step programs and find a meeting near the retreat center. I went to my first one that Monday evening.

    I knew the dangers of addiction early in my life. My father died of alcoholism just shy of his 66th birthday. I swore I would never let that happen to me, so I chose not to drink myself. Problem solved, or so I thought.

    But I was a dry drunk. The addictive personality was lurking below the surface looking for the weakest spot to infiltrate. That came through pornography.

    I was exposed to a significant amount of pornography at a relative's house beginning when I was 13 years old. It didn't become a problem until the Internet provided unlimited access to a large and mostly free volume of graphic images and videos. At first it was curiosity-driven. But the visits became more frequent.

    My wife caught me a few times and I promised to stop, but I simply couldn't do it on my own. It was in control of me, so I finally mustered the courage to seek help.

    The Monday evening of my first meeting was one of the longest of my life. I remember the enormous shame and embarrassment I felt walking into that room, but at the end of that hour, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. It all made sense, the stories that I heard. Those were my stories. These were people just like me. One person there was even a pastor. I wasn't the only one.

    But returning to the monastery was so hard. I was so conscious of wanting to find a book store instead. The desire was stronger than I had ever felt it. It was the addict in me fighting for control. I had many times seen my father attempt to dry himself out and I remember when he would get the DTs of withdrawal and how scary that was for me to watch as a teenager. What I felt that night was my own version of it. I spent most of the night awake praying for the power to stay put and get through the night. I did--with the grace of God. And I found another meeting the next night.

    That's how my recovery began.


  • 04/15/2015 2:17 PM | Anonymous

    “As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”   —The resurrection account in the Gospel of Mark

    I attended an Easter vigil for the first time in the mid-1990s, in Minneapolis. It was at a Lutheran church that did everything very well, and very “high”—incense, robust choral tradition, chasuble on the pastor, the works. I found that vigil nothing less than thrilling. The entrance of the ministers in perfect darkness, the growing light of the candles while the cantor sang the Exsultet, the salvation stories read expertly by skilled lectors, and finally the proclamation (with alleluias) of the resurrection, bells ringing, lights flashing on, the organ sounding, the congregation on its feet singing lustily. I wept. The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.

    Over the years I’ve enjoyed the vigil, along with many other festivals of the liturgical year, but I’ve noticed that as I move into my mid-forties, I rarely feel thrilled. This year was no exception. I’m a deacon assigned to a parish that (like my former church in Minnesota) not only enjoys a fine liturgical tradition, but truly empowers people to live out their faith in their daily lives. And yet, when the resurrection is proclaimed, I typically feel a little deflated, a little sad.

    Over the years I’ve attributed my mixed feelings to my mother’s untimely death in 1996. But in recent years—and particularly in the last two years, since I got sober—I have sensed that something else is going on. I see many of my friends rejoicing the way I think most church folk do: “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” the priest sings, and they joyfully sing back, “The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!” and most everyone looks to be having a grand time. But I struggle with it all.

    I have a theory about why.

    It’s easy to see my sobriety as a kind of resurrection. Don’t worry, I don’t have a messiah complex, but I do hold to the idea that the Resurrection is meant to be something that happens to all of us who die and are raised with Christ in baptism. My sobriety gives me health and strength, and feels like a new life. I am dead to drinking, and alive to a responsible, happier life with better relationships, a new sense of purpose, and even—on a good day—serenity. Nobody gets sober unless there’s an upside. Genuine recovery can’t be tedious or humorless. Mine is full of color, activity, love, and laughter. Like Jesus, who was not raised to return to his old life but instead appeared to his friends in a new way, we also are raised into something new, something better.

    But it’s not all songs and flowers and ‘alleluias.’ I recall my first day of sobriety as a painful, wrenching day with many tears, and fear (terror, even) of a kind I had never experienced. I ended the day feeling much calmer, having attended a 12-step meeting and found new friends who welcomed me exactly as I was. But it was a hard day. Like the women in Mark’s Gospel, I was very afraid, and I did not know what would happen next.

    One way to understand Mark’s strange, unsatisfying ending is to see ourselves as the people who must write the ending to the Gospel—with our lives. Jesus’ friends were supposed to return to the other disciples and tell them he was raised, but they said nothing, and ran away, afraid. And so it is up to us.

    But sober life isn’t always a joyful romp through the Easter garden. I still feel fear from time to time, and still have days when, even though I’m not drinking, I’m doing old behaviors and nursing resentments just like I did before my ‘resurrection.’ I’m told that in recovery we have only a daily reprieve from our illness, which implies that I must be resurrected every day. I feel much better, but it’s rare that I feel the unadulterated joy that swept over me at that long-ago vigil.

    And that will have to be okay. Like the first witnesses of the Resurrection, I don’t have all the answers. But I have been raised.

  • 04/08/2015 7:15 PM | Anonymous

    I write this on Holy Saturday where it is all about waiting. I am not good at waiting, never have been.

    In the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have learned that one common trait of alcoholics is, “I want what I want when I want it!” The first several hundred times I heard that I was convicted. After a while I learned to chuckle nervously. Now I know that truth as a comfort and a way of building a defense against the first drink.

    Yesterday I helped lead a Way of the Cross Procession through the second largest city in New England. We wound our way through places where the homeless seek services, where there have been incidents of violence, sites of tragic accidents and places where hope that patience can pay off lives and moves and has its being. This is a city in the grips of a major heroin crisis. Some 35 or more people died from overdoses in the city in 2014. This year does not look much more hopeful.

    As we walked between the homeless advocacy program and the site of an automobile accident involving a well-known panhandler in our city, we passed the building that used to house one of the largest pluming supply houses in Central Massachusetts. That business has since moved out of the center of the city, but that is another story.

    The moving vans were lined up behind the chain link fence topped with razor wire that protected the business from the neighborhood it inhabits. As I passed by with the procession, behind the cross, I tried to count the empty nip, half-pint and pint bottles that had been blown, swept or plowed up against that fence. I lost count at over one hundred.

    It is a stark reminder that the drug of choice is still mainly alcohol in my town. It was my drug of choice. In days past I would have been one of those contributing to the pile of small vodka bottles, empty of liquor but still capped, that lined one of the major streets of my city.

    I could not wait to get home from the ‘packy’ to get started. One or two ‘nips’ on the way home was ‘just a start’. I could not wait to get home. I wanted what I wanted and I wanted it now.

    Thank God for the Fellowship, the program, the Steps and the power of the God of my understanding that expresses in this world as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier I can not only wait a little bit now, I value patience and continue to grow in trust that the promises of the ninth step (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 83-84) are mine if I give myself over to a few simple suggestions.

    If the promises are not signs of the resurrection, I do not know what is. May God grant us all the patience and honesty to grow into the fullness of the people God has created us to be. In God’s time and not our own.

    Blessed Easter season to all!!!

    --Warren H.

    The AA Promises

    1. If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.

    2. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.

    3. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.

    4. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.

    5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

    6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.

    7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.

    8. Self-seeking will slip away.

    9. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.

    10. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.

    11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.

    12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves

    Are these extravagant promises?

    We think not.

    They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them. Alcoholics Anonymous p. 83-84

  • 04/02/2015 12:29 PM | Anonymous
    My recovery began with a blast of cold hard water one Sunday morning while in church. I was serving a large congregation in a suburban community known for its wealth. A high pressure position with high expectations were cast on all clergy in the parish, mirroring the expectations of those sitting in the pews by their superiors. Pressure begets pressure. I struggled with my sexual behavior for decades with no ability to find release from the pain and anger I felt simmering right below my skin. I thought I had achieved it all: a seminary degree and a prestigious position at a prestigious congregation. I was living the high life. What no one outside my private world knew was the pain of sexually destructive behavior. And most of the time, even I could not acknowledge the same truth. Until that Sunday, I could not face the reality that I was a sex addict.

    Unbeknownst to me, a person with whom I had acted out sexually was in church on that Sunday morning with his family. While meeting eyes at the altar rail, I could hardly keep my composure. What if people found out? What if he makes a scene? What if my inappropriate sexual behavior became public knowledge? HELP!

    Not long after that Sunday, I addend my first 12-step meeting for sex addicts. I knew that I was home. The other men sitting around the circle spoke my language and knew the shame, pain and self-loathing that surrounded my soul. The motto of the fellowship I attended that day reminds us, “from shame to grace.” The imbedded metaphor has since become a daily touchstone in my life.

    Just a few short months after that first, eye-opening meeting, I checked myself into a treatment center focused on the twelve steps for people suffering from all addictions: alcohol, drugs, internet, gambling, food, shopping, and sex. I finally was able to face the realities of years facing pain, joy, sadness, hope and lost dreams through sexual behavior. I spent over four months in treatment, examining my life, motives, history and faith in relationship to my addiction. It was one of the most painful experiences of life telling a room full of strangers what brought me to my knees. But I was welcomed with open arms from people of all walks of life, suffering from all sundry and forms of addiction. I was in a safe place for the first time in my life, and I could begin to heal.

    While in treatment, my faith in Christ was honored and I was invited to find peace and be reconciled with God. The years of shame and fear in believing in a punitive God, started to melt away, but like any glacier, it has been and continues to be, a long process. Twenty-plus years of active sex addiction could hardly be overcome in a day, let alone six months, or even a decade. It will take a life time to see and know the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. The chaplain at the treatment center offered me another metaphor for the journey I had started: Holy Week.

    In the decade since that chaplain invited me to see my journey of recovery as the walk from the Palm Sunday to Easter Day, my faith, my addiction and my recovery have been interwoven and a strength beyond anything I could ever have known before that man looked me in the eyes. I know a trauma that was repeated every time I acted out. I knew the pain and suffering on a daily basis that kept me from knowing and loving the God I preached week after week and sought to know day after day. I know the invitation to faith through the Eucharistic celebration on Maundy Thursday. I know pain, loss, and the death of my soul with every passing day. I know Good Friday. But it is the middle day that hurts the most. I know a living hell, the absence of God, the realm of the dead. That is my active addiction and a place I lived for over two decades. Not with the brass trumpets or tympani of a grand Easter morning have I come to find the celebration of recovery. But it has been through the veiled sight in the shadow of the Pascal candle in the Easter Vigil where I have found the burning light of recovery held out to me in the darkness, during the darkest moments of life. I could only come to new life of recovery through death of my addiction.

    Today, I live in Easter.


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