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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.

  • 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.


  • 03/25/2015 1:32 PM | Anonymous
    I knew that my life was steeped in shame. I was under a doctor’s care for Hepatitis B, injecting myself with interferon every day, which left me feeling perpetually achy and sick. I developed an eye infection, and was under the care of a retinologist, who could not figure out what was wrong. I was deeply ashamed and couldn’t tell anybody what was going on. This shame made my physical suffering even worse. Finally the retinologist ordered extensive blood work to determine what was causing the deteriorating vision. The wait for test results seemed interminable. Finally, everything came back negative except for one test – syphilis. My heart and self-esteem sank even farther than before. The next day I got the dreaded call – from the health department demanding that I come in for further testing.

    I took off early from work to keep my mandated appointment at the health department. I was in a complete fog, so demoralized and despondent that I could barely walk or drive. As I entered the health department, the receptionist asked where I was going. Could things get any worse? Now, as I mentioned the STD Clinic, even the receptionist knew how filthy and contaminated I felt. Checking in at the clinic, I was given a number and told to wait. I no longer even had my name. Not only did the wait seem interminable, it was. I had an hour to study the faces of the other people there. Most of them seemed rather unconcerned with being there, like they had been there many times before. I was dressed in business casual clothes since I had come straight from work. My clothes and my race made me stand out so that others were looking at me too. Finally my number was called.
    I first saw a nurse who took a blood sample and told me to see the social worker down the hall while they ran tests on my blood. The social worker was not new to this scene, but the questions were new to me and I was mortified. She asked about sexual partners, and I could not name most of them since we never exchanged names. When I had learned names, they were only first names and often pseudonyms. The only name of a sexual partner that I knew was the name of the man I was dating, who lived out of town. I gave his name and immediately regretted having done so, knowing that this man would be contacted by the local health department. Finally I was summoned back to see the nurse, who confirmed the positive results for syphilis. In fact, she said, it was one of the worst cases she had ever seen. She immediately started me on penicillin shots. I would have to return weekly for at least eight weeks for additional shots and blood work.

    In some ways, this was the beginning of an extended cycle of shame. Each week I would be reduced to a number and have to wait in that dreadful waiting room. However, in other ways, redemption had begun. Now the secret was out of the bag. Once it had been aired and discussed in clinical terms, it could no longer be contained – at least not at the health center. One form of shame – secrecy – had lost its power. I began slowly to understand that my actions had led to my infection. I had reached a bottom and was able to recognize the resurrection that I felt as the readings got better. With a decrease in shame, I was able to begin to rebuild a shadow of self-esteem through prayer and meditation. Slowly I was able to feel God’s hands cradling me and freeing me from the self-abasement that had wracked my entire being. This led me to a new appreciation of the power of God’s grace and healing. There was still much work to do in my efforts to rebuild my life, but I now knew that my Higher Power was walking the road with me. Although it still took me awhile to come to grips with my addiction and join SLAA, this experience initiated my sense of renewal and care has remained with me since this period of healing.

    -Martin J.

  • 03/18/2015 6:27 PM | Anonymous
    I started my recovery oversees in the end of 1990s. My country of biological origin had just been opened to the West.

    AA was started in few big cities, so that people addicted to alcohol and other drugs didn't have to die.

    There were no detoxes and no treatment centers, but suffering alcoholics and addicts had new hope, the message of recovery from God.

    God loved us so much that He was able to remove the political walls and offer peace and serenity for all of us.

    I was in a hurry doing the Steps, just thinking that if I could do them fast, I could use drugs and drink safely without killing myself anymore. Therefore, I ignored many suggestions that AA offered. I wasn't willing to get a sponsor, I wasn't willing to do the Steps in order with my sponsor. I just went to the Orthodox church with my Fifth Step and wanted to hear from the priest "All your sins are forgiven, you can drink 'socially' now." But, thanks to God, it didn't happen my way. After listening to all my testimony, the priest said: "You, addicts, are very complicated people, with complicated matters. As a human being who does not have these issues, I can't fully grasp them. Each time you confess, you go back and keep killing yourself. I would strongly recommend that you, my daughter, go back to YOUR people in recovery and do what your program suggests you to do. Do the STEPS." I was shocked. I didn't expect that he had read the Alcoholics Anonymous book before seeing me. He was well prepared with the answer.

    Twenty some recovery years later, I live in the Diocese of Southeast Flordia where I'm a member of the Episcopal Church. I love my congregation, I love my pastor, and I love reading the Word of God in the Bible.

    And, I have a vision of the Recovery Ministry in our Church: That the pastor can say to any people who suffer from the disease of addiction and alcoholism that our parish has educational programs; that the people in our parish are not in denial about this problem among it's parishioners and clergy; that we have a recovery mass for those who hesitate to admit their problem; and that we are open to any change.

    Regretfully, for myself and for others in my Episcopal Church that need to hear the message of recovery, what is happening is that the recovery masses are being discontinued.


  • 03/04/2015 10:30 AM | Anonymous
    Have you not known?

    I always knew, but I didn’t want to believe that I deserved God’s love.

    I left Salt Lake City in October of 2001 and moved back to a small town in Idaho where I had two sisters. I arrived full of despair, self-loathing and shame. I had lived almost three decades in active addiction. My mother asked one thing of me when I arrived, that was to attend St. Francis of the Tetons Episcopal Church where she had played the piano and lead contemplative prayer prior to moving to Washington state. I went, but every time I walked through the doors my heart would start to hurt, literally, as if someone had a grip on it. I realized later that it was God trying to love me, because I had no idea how to love myself.

    On February 11th, 2002, I got into my car, drunk. It wasn't long before my car was flying through the air, upside down. In that moment, I asked God to take me; I saw it as the perfect opportunity for my life to be over. I was a failure at life and relationships. I was a disappointing daughter, sister, friend, and employee, I felt completely worthless. I then heard a voice, he said, “I’m not going to let you do what I did” It was my brother, Clair, who died September 10, 1996, He, too, shared this disease. God had sent me the only person he knew I would hear. The car landed, I was perfectly fine, not a bump, a scratch or bruise, nothing. My call was answered, the woman who wanted to die in that car, perished, I stand before you today a woman reborn, given the gift of life.

    Have you not heard?

    I heard, but I didn't want to listen, because I refused to believe I deserved God’s grace.

    Easter Sunday 2002, St. Francis was full; everyone dressed in their finest, with the view of the Tetons’ crisp and clear through the three narrow windows behind the pulpit. I was sitting and singing with the choir, when after the sermon, the presiding priest asked, “Does anyone want to be baptized?” A friend sitting next to me said it was as if I had been pulled up by a string, I stood up and walked to the front and was baptized. There was no plan, the priest told me later she had no idea why she asked that question; it was the second most powerful moment in my life. From that moment my life has been God driven.

    In Paul’s first letter to the people of Corinth, he was compelled to spread the Good News without payment, because he believed he had been chosen to do so. In my recovery, I am also compelled to share God’s forgiveness with those who share my disease, to listen with a compassionate heart. We are all connected by our heart strings, said my first sponsor. We share a commonality regardless of race, gender, social standing, or job description; we are all children of God. We share common ground and from that common ground we build a foundation of love and service. I must give away the blessing that I have been given; I will never recover, but will always be in recovery.

    Today my life is amazing! I have become a loving daughter, a true friend, a devoted sister and a good employee. To be honest with you, I don’t think I would have written my life plan the way it was, but I also wouldn't change one minute of it, because God’s plan for me has brought me here, today, to tell you, “He gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless.” I have been empowered with both the love and grace of my God and I choose a better life for me.

    My sobriety date is 2-13-02

    I am a child of God, and I am loved.

    Shu D.
  • 02/25/2015 6:16 PM | Anonymous

    In recovery myself for several years, I am reminded of the often slippery paths trod by those "working the Program."  Our addiction is truly "cunning, baffling, powerful" for it tells me I don’t have a disease… and, yes, I’m reminded…

    …of its progressive nature for I personally felt its progression following a period of sobriety in a matter of days to even lower levels of self-hatred. Contrary to my expectations, I wasn't a recovered alcoholic; now I know that the strength of my recovery itself is also a matter of progression coming about only by my daily conscious contact with my Higher Power.

    …that as a youth in the 1950s on the South Side of Chicago, I first read about the heroin addictions of many of the premier players of the modern jazz culture, never suspecting that alcohol, like heroin, was addictive.

    …that many of us really enjoyed playing the game of "chicken" …seeing how far we could go before we plunged over that cliff. We also seem to enjoy manipulating family, friends, even the social workers, psychologists and clergy... all of whom were probably somewhat baffled by the continuation of our conduct.

    …I am reminded of the aid provided by family and others, aid given out of loving concern for our well-being, often excusing my conduct as an unfortunate result of a stressful profession.

     …it breaks my heart to watch someone trod addiction’s path… continuing onward in spite of addiction’s unavoidable consequences… when all the time, help was available… Grace was always there for us… a Grace supporting our working the Program and giving us a  life truly "happy, joyous and free."

    …finally, I am reminded of the Twelfth Step’s call to action of "carrying this message to alcoholics." We've seen progress but work is still needed.

    Again, say that “help is available” to the suffering alcoholic. There’s an easier softer way to respond to life’s difficulties …that help was there for me and is also available to those who seek it today. I must continue to humbly carry that message, for truly, "There, but for the Grace of God, go I."

    Jim A.

    Covington Kentucky

  • 02/19/2015 7:43 PM | Anonymous
    A clergy who is an abnormal drinker and ends up killing someone while DUI is Big News. A clergy who is in an ongoing spiritual program of recovery is, thankfully, not Big News. By the grace of God and the fellowship of recovery, I am a clergy with 19 years of sobriety one day at a time. More than that, God, for reasons known only to Godself, has chosen to bear witness to those I would help of God’s power, love and way of life through my experience, strength and hope. The manner in which God chose to use me is not one I would recommend to anyone in recovery unless there is a very clear (and verified through independent prayer for discernment) prompting of the Holy Spirit.

    I was a Spiritual Director on a Walk To Emmaus (think Cursillo with Methodist flavor) with 5 years of sobriety when I received a prompting of the Holy Spirit to reveal my disease to the pilgrims on the Walk. There were several women from my church (it was a women’s walk) who were spiritually mature and powerful in prayer and discernment. I told them what I thought God was asking me to do and would they please, please, pray about it. They did and came back with the answer I didn’t want to hear: “We think this is what God wants you to do.” So I did in a chapel meditation of the scripture popularly known as “The Prodigal Son.” During the time set aside on the weekend for spiritual direction. I had a line of 7 women wanting to talk about alcohol related problems. Well, the proverbial cat was out of the bag now, I thought. There’s a reason why “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation” of recovery and I had broken mine -- so that 7 women could get some help for themselves or loved ones.

    I returned to my “normal” ministry for a year until I was asked to be a Spiritual Director on an Epiphany Weekend. Epiphany is the 3 day spiritual “retreat” in prisons with Juvenile Offenders. These young men and women are felony-level offenders. They were hardened car jackers, gang bangers, and even murderers. What did I, a middle-class white clergy have to say to them that would get past the shell of toughness they had developed to survive on the streets? Despite obvious socio-economic differences, I was still a drunk -- addicted like most of them. Into the simple faith prescribed by the official talk outline was infused my own adventures before, what happened, and what it is like now. That afternoon there were several requests for “one on one” sessions with a spiritual director. Their issues were heart-rending and ranging from “How can I stop Daddy from drinking?” to “How can I stay clean after I’ve served my sentence?” To paraphrase St. Paul, it was not I, but God working through me to break through the hard shell.

    But God was not done putting me through the wringer yet. I was in my 7th year of sobriety and Easter was fast approaching. Another prompting of the Holy Spirit kept poking at me as I was working on my Easter Sermon -- “Tell the people.” Hang on, this could get to the District Superintendent and in turn to the Bishop! “Tell the people.” So I gather 5 of that church's Healing Ministers and ask, once again, for them to take a week and pray for discernment. Naturally, they came back with the dreaded words, “We think this is God’s will.” The Lectionary reading was Mary Magdalene’s encountering our Resurrected Lord. Why would God choose a woman (unreliable witness in that culture) from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ (Magdala) to be The Apostle to the Apostles? Because that’s what God always does. God uses people we probably wouldn’t invite to our next potluck in order to touch and heal a person’s hurts and hopes. God even chooses (for reasons known to God alone) to use this recovering alcoholic of a pastor.

    The custodian of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship which rented space from my church was the first to seek an appointment. He was slipping in and out of sobriety. Then a young wife and member of my congregation came in. In tears she said she was ready to end her marriage because of her husband’s drinking. Then an older lady came in and poured out her worry over her son’s drinking. And so on it went. God’s power, love and way of life was manifested in the weakness of my disease. It’s not Big News, and that’s all right.

    -Lee C

  • 02/12/2015 8:20 AM | Anonymous

    Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” (Mark 1:31) I love the focus on serving in the gospel of Mark.  My first attempt at getting clean wasn’t successful and was short-lived. One thing about that attempt is that I don’t remember being of service, other than the chores required of me in the rehab center. On my second attempt, I prayed for the willingness and strength to do the things I needed to do to stay clean. One of those things was being of service. I was told that I couldn’t keep what I had unless I gave it away and I believed it. The fellowship I was recovering in was a young fellowship at the time in Memphis, TN, so there was plenty to do.  I came into recovery with little to no self-esteem and found right away that being of service helped me to feel better about myself and I needed to feel better! This was just one of the benefits of helping others. I wouldn't have thought in a million years that opening a door for a meeting, or making a pot of coffee, or answering a helpline call would help ME.

    I was blessed with finding a job working in an Episcopal church early in recovery. One day when opening the mail, there was a notice from the diocese about a local commission on alcohol and drugs.  I was thrilled to see that the church was interested in addiction and recovery!  After sending a message to the bishop expressing interest in this commission, I became involved in this ministry.  Along with being involved locally came news of a national organization – at the time called the National Episcopal Coalition on Alcohol and Drugs (NECAD), now Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church.  Now, I not only was of service in my 12-step fellowship, but in my church also! My church started setting aside one Sunday a year for education, support, prayers, and recognition of this important ministry, and still does.  Join us August 30 at Grace-St. Luke’s Church in Memphis as we welcome the Rev. Rebecca Stevens as our guest preacher and Sunday school presenter for Recovery Sunday 2015.

    The motivation to continue this work has not always come easy.  But when I remember that being of service in my church in this way can be a matter of life and death, I am grateful for the opportunity to continue this work. We, the church, can plant seeds that will bring others out of the bondage of physical, mental, and spiritual addiction - from a life of jails, institutions, and death - and into a life worth living -- a life filled with faith, hope, love, and freedom.

    Just like Mark 1:31, when the fever left me – when I stopped living in active addiction – I began to serve others.  And in turn, the days have added up – over 10,000 days to be exact – and just maybe another addict or 2 along the way has found a life worth living. 

    -Lucy O.

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