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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.

  • 04/11/2019 8:37 PM | Anonymous

    For me, the Steps open doors for us. Each brings something important to the Program: a call for the assembly of a moral inventory of one’s life, making amends, developing a spirit-filled life. Each calls us to continuously check our progress and changing and making amends where we have erred, and carrying the message of hope to others who are still suffering.

    My path to addiction accelerated when I discovered that alcohol was a means to rectify a personal shortfall which had always troubled me forestalling any growth to maturity. I discovered that my addiction released my inhibitions enabling me to strive to become well-liked, part of a group and accepted. I discovered that this addiction partially blanked out moral standards, enabling me to recklessly live for what I wanted. I discovered that alcohol was my safety line, a means to erase feelings of inadequacy, fear, loneliness, inferiority, and failure. It permitted me to live in that black pit of “woe is me, you’d become an addict also if you had my job, my stuttering, my family.” Self-pity was my mantra permitting me to remain addicted far too long.

    Early in the Program and having to confront a serious issue, I had to ask, “But how was I going to deal with all that life threw at me – the really tough serious stuff – without my drug of choice?”

    The difficult problems certainly weren’t going away just because I wasn’t using my drug of choice to manage them. Some problems are really serious, life-threatening even. Was I deluding myself about future encounters with issues that in the past had “compelled” me to continue my addiction? Was I to become a hermit and live in a cave or some safe monastery? 

    I thought a lot about this. Then at a meeting, I seemed to have what I guess I would call a “flash of light.” To me it did seem to be somewhat of an “aha moment.” Specifically, I saw that… 

    It’s the Steps, stupid. I saw the Steps as “right there” enabling us to face life’s terribleness and securing a tranquil, happy, joyous, and free existence. Sure, they guided us to clean up our act and deal with the bare fact of our addiction.  But with the Steps, I now understand that at least for me, we can deal with life’s biggest problems by simply working the Steps as they applied to my problem de jour -the serious issues worse than the run of the mill bumps in the road. You usually can deal with those by going to meetings, mixing up the meetings attended, drawing on spiritual reserves, working with others, undertaking new service work, and so forth.

    So, what would the Twelve Steps look like if we phrased them as steps specially outlining a path of recovery from the really bad issues, the ones that cause you all that anxiety you’re suffering right now.

    To be continued May 15th  Red Door
    Jim A. Covington, Kentucky

  • 04/03/2019 8:38 PM | Anonymous

    Hebrews 10:24-25

    24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

    I remember the first few days of my stay in a rehab center.  To say the least, I was overwhelmed.  “What am I doing in this place with all these losers.”  How could I possibly benefit from being ‘exposed to them’.”  Didn’t take me long to realize that these “losers” had truck-loads of wisdom to share with me if I would just listen.  Their stories--their amazing experiences, their heart-breaking lives--were amazing.  I was so “blown away” to realize that in spite of their struggles, they survived.  After peeling back their stories and getting to the core I found me.  Yes, I had found my story in their stories.  We may not look the same, talk the same, or dress the same; but at the core of our being, we are brothers and sisters whose hearts were the same, our pain was the same, our desires were the same, our longings were the same.  It was then that I began to understand what this 12-step program was trying to teach me when it spoke of community. 

    I pastored a church for over 30 years before retiring.  In one of my last sermons to my church family I shared insight into what church should look like.  I told them that if they wanted to know what church should look like, they should attend a 12-step meeting.  A place where everyone is accepted just as they are.  A place where there is no one at the door with “registration forms” which will determine whether they qualify to become members.  A place where no one asks:  “What do you do for living?” “What’s your yearly income?” etc., etc.  A place where everyone is equal and the newest member is just as much a part of the community as those who have been present for multiple years.  That is what church should be like.  The 12-step program has given me a new perspective on what family is all about.  After 33 years of clean time, thanks to my God and this ongoing experience, I look at people in a different way.  If I look at them through the eyes of my God, I always see someone who is a survivor, someone whose story I will be blessed to hear, someone who is a warrior.  And yes, in the midst of all these beautiful broken losers --- I found me.

  • 03/21/2019 8:54 PM | Anonymous

    I mentioned in “Ego-Part One” that we have to watch out when we wonder if our egos are perhaps becoming too aggressive; we need to be aware of the fact that there are “good egos” and “bad” ones, but which is which?

    I sought to dump the “bad” ones when I took the first Steps of turning over a new leaf of humility, gratitude, and comfort with ourselves. We dumped the arrogant and selfish parts of our beings. Ultimately, we found our Higher Power’s grace for us, if we but seek it through the Program.   

    Not all egos are bad, sometimes good ones emerge.  The medical profession is a good place to look at the difference. Take a surgeon who is extremely technically skilled. Does he project a self-righteous feeling of superiority over you? “Bombastic” is a good word that usually fits him or her.  But we certainly need surgeons who feel and project confidence that he/she can undertake the operation and complete it successfully and accompanied by a positive recovery cycle

    But we have to be on our guard. These “positive” good egos can morph into something else; something that we wrestled with during our times of addiction. If a person in the Program has worked the Steps, found recovery, and feels the Grace of the Higher Power, he or she is entitled to a little bit of positive feelings. “I did it and I’m proud of that! … with the help of the Program and others.” We deserve to be proud, but our gratitude and humility are always needed to trump ego’s emerging selfish, self-centered outlooks. After all, each of us is only one drink from a new descent into that pit of addiction.

    One spot we need to keep careful track of our egos is our Twelve Step work. We need to remember that we aren’t telling anyone what they should do (“follow me for I have achieved sobriety!”). We pass along only what worked for us and it may or may not work for them.  Grandiosity isn’t  welcome at this point. Humbleness is the watchword.

    The line we draw here can be slippery for like our alcoholic addiction, the way and extent we assert our ego can be one of those spots. We realize our ego, like our drug of choice, is cunning, baffling, and powerful. If we ignore that fact, humility may drop from the picture, and we risk a relapse back into the old feelings of superiority and ego-centric behavior.

    “Good ego” is akin to feelings of self-worth but we don’t go around broadcasting and pointing out our self-worth with a cunning, baffling, and powerful aura of how good we feel about ourselves—for we are one drink away from…

    It’s another piece of life that calls for balance—the old Greek “Golden Mean.”  We lost this “ability to balance” our alcohol intake and we descended to the depths of addiction.

    So, “good” or “bad” ego is our choice. We need to be alert to the fork in the road and seek “His Will for Us and the Power to Carry it Out.”

    Jim A., Covington, Kentucky

  • 03/07/2019 12:42 PM | Anonymous

    “A lie is not an object at rest.” 

    “Bred to Be a Superstar - Learning To Be Human Again” [Todd Marinovich], Michael Rosenberg, Sports Illustrated, 1/11/19

    “The Saromsker Rebbe had lied, directly and by omission and with dreadful, unholy serpentines. Lying was an unsolicited insult to the divine order. … One uncourageous lie destroys the core of the imagination. “  “Perfection” a short story by Mark Helprin in The Pacific and Other Stories, 2004

     “Those who do not recover are …, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.”  “How It Works”, Chapter 5, page 58, Alcoholics Anonymous [Big Book]

    “How do I lie to thee? Let me count the ways.”  Variation on Sonnet 43, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    Deceive, distort, exaggerate, con, obfuscate, deny, mislead, distract, camouflage, dupe, pretend, prevaricate, fake, equivocate, quibble, pose, fib, invent … and on, and on…

    to myself, especially and intensely to myself, and to my family, my friends, colleagues, acquaintances… people barely met … and more…

    about affairs that are heartfelt and incidental, grand and trivial, on matters big and small …

    by “dreadful, unholy serpentines” and stark assertions …

    for any and every reason and for no reason …

    Willfully and unwittingly, I was “constitutionally incapable” of reckoning with reality.  So it was last week, mired in boredom in a doctor’s waiting room, grabbing a random magazine, reading an arbitrary piece about a half-remembered, failed wannabe in a sport that holds only a fragment of interest for me, I was arrested by the revelation that according to Newton’s First Law “a lie is not an object at rest.” 

    Where do my lies lead me? What contortions are required by my distortions, my licenses and liberties with facts as I know them, forces as I encounter them, compressing my life into an ever-shrinking coffer of my dwindling capacities to control the acceleration of my escalating fear? The panic that I can no longer heft the fronts that hide the horror I know myself to be – lies shielding the lie of my own existence. 

    How then, how now, to consider all the harms the energy of my lies in motion inflicted upon those I would have loved, could I have loved, more or better, or at least faithfully? 

    “… an object in motion stays in motion… .” There’s more, yes?  … with the same speed and direction until acted upon by an unbalanced force that upsets the equilibrium of the forces acting upon it. A Higher Power, perhaps.

    My lies rose in layers like tiles for nearly forty years, from my earliest childhood to the end of my drinking. They were not quickly reconciled, and even yet are not resolved, not fully. Happily, truth is grace, a face of God that illuminates our lives and diminishes our deceptions. By grace, we can face ourselves, account for our behaviors, repent of the wreckage we strew across the landscape of our relationships. Truth too, comes in many guises and in serendipitous ways to save us.

    Each day, a new beginning. We are objects in motion encountering life forces,  experiencing powerful graces, uplifted by powers greater than ourselves, pulled forward by a Love our most extravagant imaginings could never conceive. Life in Truth.

  • 02/27/2019 6:10 PM | Anonymous

    On Ash Wednesday a few years back, I decided I was going to give up drinking for Lent. Somehow I knew that I couldn’t do it by willpower alone, and I really wanted it to work.

    I figured that if I could surrender my whole self - my life - to God on my knees back in the Cathedral ten years earlier and not turn into a Jesus freak, I could surrender to the power of alcohol and turn it over to God for the forty days of Lent until Easter.

    I always remembered a little sign that I saw in a Christian bookstore, it said something like … “Nothing is going to happen today that you and God can’t handle together.”

    I thought to myself, “If I put aside the masculine - ‘I can do it by myself’ - part of my ego, and let God help me, it might work.”

    I’m an optimist. To me the glass is half full, not half empty. Maybe that’s why I’ve loved the saying, “When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.”

    Well, that was like my plan to abstain from alcohol until Easter.

    Here’s what I did: Every time I had a fleeting thought about that next beer or glass of wine, it would be like a signal that God was tapping me on the shoulder. The Holy Spirit enabled me to turn cravings for alcohol into a chance to pray. Turn lemons into lemonade. Turn dependence on alcohol into dependence on God.

    Also part of my plan - what I didn’t know was a Lenten Devotion - was to drive the half hour to work in the morning with the radio off - (that was a toughie) - and use that time to pray. But day after day my mind would wander when I ran out of word prayers, even though my intention was to spend that whole drive to work praying. But every day when I pulled into the parking lot and look back at that half hour ride in silence, I’d kick myself for only giving God the first four minutes - and then the monkey chatter would begin and I’d be thinking about earthly trivialities that my self-centered ego generated. I hoped God wasn’t timing me.

    Well, I did make it to Easter without drinking that Lent. My Lord and I did it together.

    God and I worked together to forestall and prevent so many tragic outcomes that would have ensued if I had continued drinking. He and I had preserved my cherished marriage, my fathership, my family, my job, my financial security, my friends, my faith, my life, my sanity, my self-worth, my self-pride, etc, etc.

    That Ash Wednesday, the disease of alcoholism had not progressed to a crisis. My drinking had not caused legal or marital, or employment or medical problems. So why would I quit? I can only explain that it had a lot to do with what God laid out for me  to follow:

    Lent in the church calendar calls me, every single year, to deny some particular worldly pleasure that takes my eye off my intended relationship with God.

    Prayer called upon God’s outreached hand to help me. In my life in 1987, it was to resist alcohol. I can only thank God for this affliction. It led me to a closer walk with Him, strengthened my faith, and blessed me with a spiritual healing.

    Thanks be to God, Ash Wednesday this year will be 32 years since I have had any alcohol except the blood of Jesus from the chalice at Eucharist.

    Think about using this Lent, and God’s help to give yourself a cherished gift at Easter, and get to know Him better.

    Jim Fox
    St. Mary’s Church, Bonita Springs, FL

  • 02/20/2019 8:08 PM | Anonymous

    One of the gifts of the spiritual program outlined in the Twelve Steps, is the possibility of constant renewal, peeling away layer after layer of my personal onion. This is one such story.

    I have long had an ambivalent relationship with the Blessed Apostle, my sainted namesake. In Sunday School, if the teacher mentioned Paul’s letter to, say, the Romans, the other kids would point and giggle, “You don’t know any Romans!” And I would flush with shame.

    As an adolescent struggling to understand my sexuality, the religious milieu of Pauline purity codes and predestination created an enormous amount of inner conflict and anxiety. This combination caused me to pursue a long list of accomplishments, hoping to prove my worth as a person while distracting the eyes of the world…and of God.

    So, fast forward to January 25th of this year, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It’s a day that I have observed but had never really celebrated. This year was different.

    Several months ago, a friend had introduced me to a prayer app that takes the form of a guided meditation; it is produced by British Jesuits. The reading is heard twice, with questions offered as points of meditation during the musical interludes. I’ve grown attached to this method, adding it to my morning routine of readings from program literature.

    The reading was the familiar story from Acts 9 about Paul on the Road to Damascus. After the first hearing, the guide talked about Paul and his credentials of being righteous before God.

    Then the guide said something like, “Are there moments when you feel the need to get beyond those ‘externals;’ and deal with the real person behind them? How might doing that change my life and my attitude to other people?”

    And suddenly that morning, what felt like a thick layer of my onion was peeled away, and I heard myself thinking, “Paul’s credentials are important – until they’re not. Maybe they kept him looking in the wrong direction. The horse, the brilliant light, the bottom, the blindness, the help of others.” For the first time, I was able to stop comparing. This was a story I knew in my own body.

    I listened with different ears to the second reading. Then, the guide asked, “Is there a direct and personal dialogue that you want to have with Jesus, right now?”

    And the words that popped out of my mouth were, “Thank you for saving my ass!” And I took a deep breath, thinking that was that. But it wasn’t over. The conversation between Jesus and me continued.

    “Why are you persecuting me?”

    “Who was I persecuting?”

    “You were persecuting me -the one who made you to be who you are. Stop hiding behind all those walls of credentials. Just be you.”

    That’s a lot for 12 minutes of a Friday morning! What does it all mean? How might learning to deal with the real me, so long laden with externals, be? How might it continue to change my life and how I see those around me? Today, I don’t know. But I do have faith that, if I continue to listen with the ears of my heart, more will be revealed.

    Paul Jacobson
    February 20, 2019

  • 02/13/2019 6:35 PM | Anonymous

    After eighty years of life, and almost 19 years of continuous serene sobriety, I have a few observations about my ego.

    I don’t claim a unique path of any growth or fall-backs. Here are some random thoughts:

    First, let me tell you what my ego is and how it reveals itself. Sometimes it comes when I am stressed out, under a lot of pressure, over-scheduled, tied up in the old “should-ought-musts,” or just plain worn-out. I think it is accompanied in my case by the “poor me’s.” That is, “I’m so burdened, I have to think of JIM to the exclusion of others and I deserve [ …something …]. And, in the old days that “something” was always that old addictive substance. 

    Second, it also seems to come about when I have not been able to complete some personal tasks that have been postponed, partly by over-scheduling. For example, when I have made a commitment to write an article, or attend a meeting, or just plain trying to take an hour or two so I can quietly read a new library book.

    Third, I believe that when we took the first 3 Steps we were essentially our old worn ego, the old “me-first” attitude. That feeling that we could control everything, that we were so important and others got in our way to stop us from doing important stuff. Like our addiction, that seemingly sudden re-emergence of our ego as our guiding light reflects our ego’s own essence – it’s “cunning, baffling, powerful.” 

    Fourth, when I sense my ego’s call I have to stop and ask the question, “Is this a result of a return of the old ‘me-first” attitude?”

    Fifth, I think the curtailing or abandonment of our ego is life’s guiding light. Essentially, it is surrendering to the Will of God. It’s quite simple, actually: “my will or God’s Will for us.” Have we prayed about our over-scheduled lives and asked for His Will for us in that regard? Are we the only ones that can do a particular assignment we have assumed responsibility for?  Are we really in charge of life’s activities or do we ask for divine guidance? Are we just looking for lots of praise?

    Sixth, this last point is for some the center of the problem, for many of us trace our own personalities back to the teen years of inferiority complexes, lack of self-esteem, always seeking the praise of others, using an over-schedule to achieve a degree of prominence based on our excessive work for the group.

    Seventh, we need to be aware that the stresses of this attitude, of “I can do it all,” leads sometimes to frustrations, stress, self-pity, anger, resentments. And then, at some point may turn into a relapse--an escape from the chaos we have created.

    So, check that old “ego-meter” periodically. If it’s somewhat out-of-balance, get to a meeting, call your sponsor. Refresh yourself again about your abandonment of that “me-first” command and stick with all you have learned and worked through in the Program. Ask what God’s Will is for you and the power to carry it out. That will keep you centered and in the right direction.

    BUT, there’s always a” but” in life, and I’ve run out of space. So watch for future sections of “EGO.” The teaser is that we will discuss in Part 2 “the good ego” in all of us.

    Jim A. Covington, Kentucky

  • 02/06/2019 8:09 PM | Anonymous

    Not long ago, a friend of mine, I’ll call her Susan, went on a trip and brought home a gift for me (she does stuff like that).  It was a pair of work gloves—I had mentioned my gardening hobby to her.  The gloves are white and sturdy and on the back of one of the gloves, stenciled in large, black capital letters, is the word PRAY.  I will never use the gloves.

    I put the gloves on the top shelf of my gardening rack.  It stands on the front porch and I pass the glove several times a day in my comings and goings.

    Each time I pass the glove I pause and see that word, I pray. I don’t have a prepared prayer I read somewhere in a book.  I don’t pray for my friends, for good weather, for world peace.

    I do this. I alert myself to the presence and responsiveness of my Higher Power and all creation.

    Now that cold weather has come and gardening chores are few, I have brought the glove indoors.  It sits on a small table near the front door.  I pass it several times a day and think a little prayer. I have two: “Thank you for keeping me sober today” and “Help me get through the day.”

    I am reminded what it is not: my Higher Power is far, far away someplace up there and I am just down here tied to the ground.  We are not separate.  We are the singer and the song.

    I will never stop using Susan’s glove and it will never wear out.

    —Ron B.

  • 01/31/2019 8:18 PM | Anonymous

    Step Twelve charges us with the responsibility of “carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.” It is easier to do so sometimes, but not so easy other times. When the alcoholic is a friend or relative or spouse, or when someone simply seeks us out and inquires, usually, but not always, we can have a positive constructive conversation passing along our experiences with the disease and our recovery.

    But sometimes we are carrying the message in a hospital lock-down psyche ward or a jail-like facility for repeat DUI offenders, any compulsory confinement.  It appears that when the person is being held against his or her will, they’re not interested in much of anything, especially comments causing them to look at their own addiction; they may be only hoping to find ways to game the system. They may simply have overdosed and need to be locked-up for a few days for a medical evaluation. It may not be their first encounter with a lock-down ward—or, they are attending the weekly meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous you are chairing merely to gain favorable reports for their parole officer.  

    You find that “yes,” you are carrying the message—perhaps very effectively. But the reality is that your meeting attendees will probably continue their addictive behavior. After all, what should we expect? Most of us didn’t show any interest in the Program until we were good and ready and had fallen to the depths of our spiritual well-being.

    Of course, the state of our egos drives our reactions to this “stone-wall.” We may wish for a more positive reaction. There may be a messianic aspect to our work—we may feel as we enter the rooms that we will “save” them from themselves and deserve credit somewhere for doing so.

    Stop this self-pity! … this “self-aggrandizement”. Step Twelve calls on us to “carry the message,” not to save their souls or their lives. Look at us—our ego rears its cunning, baffling and powerful head once again maybe where and when we don’t expect it. It’s our addiction in a different costume. Your job is to open the door. If they don’t want to enter, that’s their decision. Who are we anyway to assume the power or seek to think we might wave a wand over the addict releasing him from his malady? This is the stuff that really caused us so much of a problem.We couldn’t do it for ourselves. We’d tried and failed. Do we believe we now can wave that wand over someone else, someone else who may not want to have anything to do with us or anything else to achieve that “desire to stop drinking?”

    But, look… never give up! You are a product of a miracle. Your higher power carried you through the early dark days. Maintain contact with your higher power as you embark on Twelve Step work like this. But don’t give up … “carry the message.” Who knows, you may even see one of these souls at your next meeting.

      Jim A., Covington, Kentucky

  • 01/23/2019 7:57 PM | Anonymous

    Somewhere in his biography CONFESSIONS St. Augustine wrote that he heard a voice from a nearby home of a boy or girl that sang, “Take and read. Take and read.”  When I was early in recovery, I remember a meeting at which I quoted from a book that I had been reading (showing off my intelligence!!). I can still see that tall husky man from across the table, stand, slap his hand on the table, and say, “We don’t read anything that is not in the Big Book.” That, thank God, was some thirty-nine years ago.

    Since then, I have read everything I could get my hands on about this allergy/ disease or sick relationship or whatever it is that one wants to call alcoholism. I totally and entirely believe that being alive today depends on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. The maintenance of my spiritual condition requires me to, “take and read.”

    What set me off on this reading spree some years ago was that somewhere I heard or read that Bill Wilson said something to the effect that everything in Alcoholics Anonymous could be found in various religions and philosophies. If that were true, I wanted to know more about it since I came into this program pretty much a fundamentalist in my beliefs.

    When I was in high school I could not remember much of what I read, so I was considered to be a slow learner/stupid. Then, one night, I was reading a novel, and I could “hear” the author read to me. From then on, I wanted to read everything I could. So, when I was told, “we do not read…,” my reaction/response was to ‘take and read.”

    Since then, I have enjoyed the spiritual/philosophical underpinnings of what came to us in the 12 steps. In The Upanishads I read, “Forgetting our divine origin, we become ensnared in the world of change and bewail our helplessness.” In The Bhagavad Gita, I read, “Even sinners become holy when they take refuge in me alone." I had already read the Jewish/Christian Scriptures.

    Early philosophers discussed the question of how one should live his/her life. It was Aristotle’s view that the happiest people were those who lived a virtuous life. The discussion continued throughout the centuries as to how we should live. It can be concluded that those of us with addiction issues are philosophers since we are all discussing the issue of how to live a good life.

    Charismatic leaders created programs to help people mediate in order to find God; study groups to lean the scriptures; prayer groups to help fight their character defects. For those for whom alcohol and other drugs were an issue there was the drunk tank/hospitalization; abstinence programs, religious programs etc.

    Then came a Wall Street atheist who couldn’t get sober, and someone told him he could pick his own description of God. One day something happened, he had a spiritual awakening and that was the beginning of our recovery program.   

    Someone once said at a meeting that the 12 Step program was created to keep our life simple; that the Big Book was written for a bunch of drunks to understand their sickness.  Bill W. may or may not have been aware of the beliefs of the religions or the philosophies he said were the background of this program. Sam Shoemaker, who Bill frequently cited as being a great influence on him, was an avid reader and had travelled in China and the Middle East. Bill did not know of St Ignatius until Fr. Ed Dowling showed him the parallel between the 12 Steps and the Ignatian Spirituality. 

    Today, my gratitude is for the gifts and talents of the early founders who were able to take traditions and philosophies and formulate them into a simple program that is suggested as a program of recovery.

    I am grateful to Bill W. for pointing out that the roots of our program run deep and wide. Everyone, everywhere, regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs or their philosophy, can take the Big Book and the 12 Step program and there find a distillation of religions/philosophical beliefs that provide a program for a life of sobriety and serenity. “Take and Read.”

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