• Home
  • Through the Red Door

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.

  • 05/23/2018 6:56 PM | Anonymous

    “I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there. And for that I am responsible.” Responsibility Statement, 1965 International Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous, Toronto Canada

    Today, by God’s grace, I give thanks for 21 years of recovering life. I am yet another living miracle, along with so many, many others. Yet added to the key ingredient of God’s grace and my “daily reprieve based on my spiritual condition” were the countless others I was blessed by, the hands of AA to help guide me along this way of “happy destiny.

    Each year I take time on this day to look back at this journey, not to forget my past nor wish to shut the door on it. This year I received a very special “remembering gift” of this life. As the New Year began, I received an e-message from a Bill K. from Pittsburgh, desiring to reconnect with me. While my recovering life started in this area, I have been living on the East Coast for the past 18 years. I trusted our paths had crossed by his knowing who I was to find me across the social media universe, but how and where and when did our paths cross along this way? I searched my memory bank for our connections without success. Bill K. asked if I could read his story for an upcoming talk at a conference – and that is when the I am responsible connection was blessedly made again.

    As I read his story of addiction, mental disabilities, near death, institutionalization, and into living this recovering life, the “aha” moment appeared. In his recovering journey as a trained addiction counselor, he was the one I was blessed to encounter in my first 28 days while in the rehab center in Pittsburgh. I recalled how remarkably blessed I was by Bill K’s authenticity, compassion, and desire for my living this recovering life. While deeply respectful of my vocation from his spiritual life, he clearly bonded with me as a recovering alcoholic first and foremost. I remembered his belief in ME, his willingness to speak the truth of his life to ME, a truth I knew as MY life as well. Bill K. was living the life of I am responsible.

    The evolution of the I am responsible statement emerged for the 1965 A.A. International Convention in Toronto There is an article that identifies former AA trustee, Al S. as the author of the Responsibility Statement. You can read about the history of this at http://bigbooksponsorship.org/articles-alcoholism-addiction-12-step-program-recovery/aa-history/history-aas-responsibility-statement/ In the souvenir book for the 1965 Convention, Dr. Jack Norris writes: "...We must remember that AA will continue strong only so long as each of us freely and happily gives it away to another person, only as each of us takes our fair share of responsibility for sponsorship of those who still suffer, for the growth and integrity of our Group, for our Intergroup activities, and for AA as a whole ... As we become responsible for ourselves, we are free to be responsible for our share in AA, and unless we happily accept this responsibility we lose AA. Strange, isn't it?"

    Today I celebrate 21 years of recovering life, by God’s grace and the many, many, many hands of AA compatriots along this wonderful way. I also was blessed to reconnect with Bill K. again earlier this month, and to offer my deep, deep thanks for his part of my recovering life. While Bill K. was grateful for his part in this one precious and wild life I have been blessed to live, Bill K. simply believed and said, “And for that I am responsible.” And for this gift, the gift of Bill K. and so many, many, many others, I am too!

    Grateful always, in peace
    Paul G.+

  • 05/16/2018 9:29 PM | Anonymous

    Some are great! … only a few intolerable, but, honestly, never of “little or no assistance” to our working the program, especially the first 3 Steps.  Sometimes the lead is what folks call a “drunk-a-log”, one story after another of bad and embarrassing crash landings. Drunk-a-logs do serve a perverse service I suppose; if your own fall from grace is not very funny or exciting or unusual, you are free to steal one from those who have recorded a raft of funny stories. Walla! … you have a funny story to tell in your own lead, and who’s the wiser … except you.

    Personally, what I appreciate in one’s story is the reminder of the person’s (and mine) “bad old days”. I always enjoy learning how people came to believe that the Program could rescue them. We were reborn, a fresh start at driving through life’s hills and dales … without reaching for that bottle or drug to comfort us and ease the pressures. It was a resurrection.

    Usually, the leads we hear contain bits of helpful information we weren’t aware of. People run into all sorts of problems and joyous happenings.  Their experiences, strengths and hopes provide new ideas for our use, new ways to cope, or some new Twelve Step work we might be able to undertake.

    A lead by a person with limited time in the Program is interesting … usually very nervous (public speaking is one of the top stressors for most), fumbles with the mike, talks too long or too short or too quietly, and simply doesn’t appear to be enjoying the event for what it really is. We’ve all been there … Bill told us what to say … tell ‘em “what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now”.  The newbie’s story always brings nodding of heads, laughter, side glances. The audience is telling you that you’re on the right track.

    A good train of thought is to speak to the meeting’s “first-timers” or a couple early attenders anxiously trying to remain sober for first time in their adult life. We can pick up on their feelings, as we recall our own and speak to this anxiety … after all, you were in their shoes once … tell ‘em what worked for you. That’s exciting stuff. Directly helping someone who might be hurting, ashamed, depressed, and lonely. That person is beginning to realize he has to change “people, places and things”, essentially starting over his manner of living. What and how you respond to their seemingly isolated corner will impact their lives.  

    By the way, If you missed a lead recently and need a supplemental goofy stupid story, here’s one to be used as any readers desire…………..

    My Saturday morning’s yard work schedule called me to work with a pile of tree limbs and branches recently pruned by the professionals.  I was well into my Saturday’s supply of beer, my energy drink. Armed with my chain saw, but alas, no ear or eye protective equipment, I fired up the saw anyway and approached the wood- It was the pile or me … I thought this was going to be a piece of cake and fun to boot. Oh, I forgot to mention it was cloudy and wet from Friday’s heavy rain … I vaguely remember someone behind me yelling something … I turned and as I did, that roaring chain saw .… 

    … To Be Continued. 

    Jim A.    Covington, Kentucky

  • 05/09/2018 9:59 PM | Anonymous

    Last night John and I sat down, took deep breaths, and looked at what life on life’s terms has meant for us in the past six months. His cancer diagnosis, the anxiety of waiting for appointments and dates, surgery and recovery (a bit more complicated than we had thought it would be.) His hospitalization for pneumonia. Leaving a temporary job that had become beloved. A busted boiler/water heater. Learning that John’s brother had pancreatic cancer that was metastasizing rapidly. A flight that included top-dollar pricing, delays, rerouting and not being with Bill as he died.

    But, the last six months have also included: sobriety.

    And sobriety is a priceless gift. Because of sobriety, we have not had to pick up a drink or a drug. We are able to not only cope, but also to celebrate the joy that never leaves us.

    • v We have the love of our families, who like to spend time with us and with whom we laugh.
    • v We have sponsors and friends to talk to and rely on, and they listen and give comfort.
    • v We love to read good books—fiction, non-fiction and program literature--and we talk about the ideas others share.
    • v We manage our money and don’t spend it recklessly, so we can pay our way.
    • v We have each other.
    • v We attend meetings regularly, where we are known and where we know others.
    • v We have faith in our Higher Power and, as we read in The Twenty-Four Hour Book, feel deeply secure in the fundamental goodness and purpose of the universe.

    Years ago, my sponsor taught me about the benefit of writing gratitude lists, about how seeing that those words on paper makes a positive impression on the mind and heart. A gratitude list is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” has been fundamental to my recovery. “There is always something to be grateful for,” is a message I tell my sponsees, for a grateful heart never drinks.

    Sometimes I write an alphabetic gratitude list (A is for AA, B is for our dog Bridget, C is for curly hair, D is for Dancing…) and sometimes as I’m falling asleep, I just think about my list. I make rules for myself like: only names of people or nothing I thought about the night before. Sometimes we just look around the room or wherever it is that we find myself and try to find a few things there that we’re particularly happy about.

    It’s a way of thinking. It’s a way of life. And gratitude is a wellspring of energy and stability.

    -Christine H.

  • 05/02/2018 9:03 PM | Anonymous

    The Four ‘N 20 restaurant in North Hollywood is a small popular eatery known for their pies. It’s one of those places that is better known by the locals than by the millions of tourists that visit Los Angeles each year. Other than the pies, the other menu offerings such as burgers, chicken-fried steak, and the rest of the usual fare you would find at a simple diner is not bad, but nothing to write home about. The charm and attraction to the place is not so much the menu but the history. It’s been there for decades and has become a connecting place for old friends, striving actors, and a gathering spot after the various recovery meetings in the area. I know, because for years I had drifted in-and-out of those meetings in what the program refers to as countless vain attempts to gain a foothold in recovery. It’s also located on Laurel Canyon Boulevard in the North Hollywood section San Fernando Valley where I hustled dope and roamed the streets during the last seven years of my life in active addiction before I was able to get sober and allow myself to be rescued by God and the program of recovery. My darkest times were here in this land of oblivion between 1991 and 1998.

    I had been sleeping behind the wall of a small run-down office building on a large-box piece of cardboard for a couple of weeks. It was hard and cold, but it was relatively safe. It was one of many spots where I hid away for the night in the area. I woke up – or should I say that I came to – one morning with the usual hungry stomach and sick with craving for alcohol and dope. So I did what I have done a hundred times before. I searched out a supermarket to target to lift some booze and maybe food. I decided on Gelson’s Supermarket on Laurel Canyon Boulevard across the street from the Four ‘N 20. I had my routine. I knew what to do and I was pretty good at it. I would go in, grab a basket as if I was a legitimate shopper walking the isles tossing a few things in the basket and along the way, stuff a couple of tall boys (16 ounce cans of beer) into the lining of my jacket along with some packaged sliced ham and small tortillas. As I casually left the basket abandoned and headed for the door, my heart rate quickened, partly from the risk of being caught, but also in anticipation of being able to pop those tall boys and get my morning medicine.

    Just as the automatic doors opened and I was stepping out, there was a rush of activity and two security guards tackled me to the ground and began searching for the goods. They found them. I was busted. They led me back to the security room of the store and began the process of interrogation and humiliation. What was my name? Where was I from? Why did I steal? To my surprise, they didn’t call the police. Maybe they just felt sorry for me because I was so pathetic. Instead, they had me sit with the tall boys, ham, and tortillas in my lap and they took a picture of me sitting there dirty, with my stolen goods. This is the exile of shame. They told me to never come into their store again and they let me go. I walked out into the street, still sick and needing something – anything – to qualm the craving. I walked across the street and past the Four ‘N 20.

    There is a row of tables and chairs inside the restaurant right next to the street side of Laurel Canyon Blvd., only about six feet from the sidewalk. I had sat at those same tables before my life went totally into the toilet. Now, I was standing outside looking at a man and woman sitting comfortably eating, laughing, and enjoying their slice of life. They seemed so happy and so content. Standing there on the sidewalk just a few feet away watching them, I longed for their life, my heart ached because I was just so very lost. Even though it was just a thin piece of window glass that separated us from one another, I felt a million miles away. So close yet so far away. Then suddenly, the couple turned and looked at me, clearly uneasy that I was staring at them from the other side of the glass. I looked away. I walked away. More shame. This is life in exile of addiction.

    In over twenty years of recovery, I have stopped in at the Four ‘N 20 many times. I always try to sit at one of those tables next to the glass and I drink my coffee and eat my sandwich, sometimes with my friends in recovery. I remember that day all those years ago when I felt so lost and buried in shame. The supermarket is still there across the street. Keeping my promise, I have never been back inside. Sometimes this is what God’s grace looks like. 

    –Brother Dennis

  • 04/25/2018 9:15 PM | Anonymous

    12 Step Eucharist Luke 11:14-23, The Mute, the Demon, and the Hound of Heaven

    Our congregation read the gospel of Luke and Acts during Lent and Easter with Episcopalians all over the world at the suggestion of our presiding bishop. A theme that kept recurring to me was how Jesus seemed attracted to demons like a cadaver-sniffing Scotch collie. He smelled them out and they without question knew his scent as well.  Jesus cast out a demon who came out of a man in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath no less.  He cast out the multiple demons named Legion from the man in the tomb bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard in the country of the Gerasenes. As soon as Jesus reached the bottom of the mountain where he was transfigured to a dazzling white, he sniffed out and rebuked a demon who also immediately picked up Jesus’ scent and convulsed a young boy to the ground. Jesus released the cruel demons in the daughter of the Syrophonecian woman after her “crumbs for the dogs under the table” answer which prompted Jesus to extend his ministry to Gentiles, and of course Jesus cured Mary Magdalene of not one but seven demons.    

    I remember being most moved in Luke 11: 14-23 when we read how Jesus cast out only a single demon from a person who was unable to speak. Usually those who cannot speak have the root cause of deafness as well. Since they have never heard speech, they cannot imitate the sounds. They most often have an amazing mind, but people think they are useless, “dumb” is the word, because their thoughts and intelligence are locked up inside of them like a bank vault with no combination. We can understand how the crowd is amazed when they hear the man or woman in our story now freely speak and communicate.

    Perhaps classic movie fans have seen Johnny Belinda where Jane Wyman plays an isolated small-town Canadian woman who is deaf and cannot speak and is branded the unfortunate word, “the village idiot.”  Wyman is healed of her demon as she is taught by her country doctor, Lew Ayres, how to communicate with newly developed sign language. Wyman never speaks in her academy award winning performance and expresses herself with her hands in this classic 1948 movie about prejudice!

    Of course, we have another chance to experience what it is like to be mute in this year’s academy award winning best picture, the fantasy drama, The Shape of Water, where a sea creature heals a mute “woman” named Elisa.  

    My mind wanders from the movies and first century Palestine to think about where in our culture today are we mute and deaf and in need of healing? People in addiction cannot speak their truth and are mute because of the anesthesia brought on by drugs, alcohol, commercialism, materialism, or whatever is filling their God hole. I lost my voice when I became an alcoholic. I knew I could not speak out or otherwise people would know I had been drinking too much. Some addicts and alcoholics become loud and noisy, but what they say makes no sense. They also are mute and indeed do say and do “dumb” things.

    Lent was a special season of the year to begin to ponder where we had been deaf and had not heard the truth, had been mute to the messages from God about being the person God created us to be.

    We do not have to live with our demons. There is a way out. For those caught in addiction, people all over the world are recovering, being healed, in the 12-step programs.

    Maybe some of us are deaf and mute to the needs of others around us who are suffering, and we have not spoken out with our voices and our hands and our feet against their injustices.  Maybe because of our social disease of busyness, some of us are deaf to those we live or work with, and have been mute, not telling them how much we care or love them.

    My experience tells me that the finger of God can not only cast out demons in first century Palestine but also in twenty-first century Little Rock, on the other side of the scientific revolution.

    I keep remembering that my prayers should be that the Christ within us releases the demons that keep us from forgiving others and ourselves, the demons that keep us from asking for forgiveness for the harms we have done to others. Christ, “the Hound of Heaven,” 1 has stopped to rest just behind us waiting to heal these demons.  We only have to turn around and realize that it has been the outstretched finger of Love relentlessly following after us all along.     

     Joanna  joannaseibert.com

    1Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven.

  • 04/19/2018 7:01 PM | Anonymous

    At the meeting the other day, we were discussing the meaning of ‘the surrender’, that moment we gave up and ‘really meant it’.  Let’s discard talking about those many promises we’d made in the past … perhaps we then sincerely meant it, but, as with so many other ‘promises’ in the past, the mind was strong but the body weak and nothing really changed.

    I find my final “surrender experience” a joyous time for it was only on that occasion I felt this time “I really meant it”. this time. This had to come from beyond me … my Higher Power. I was on my knees in the bedroom. I rose up and immediately felt I had passed into a sincere honest life with the Program. I felt that with the Program with all it entails – my Higher Power, the Groups, the Steps and all aspects we are called to undertake – with all that assistance, I would have a chance to lick this disease. That was what I felt … and I couldn’t wait to start.

    I’d tried working the program before. I knew what I was getting into. No! that’s not correct … I never had really tried to work the program. I just drifted along playing the game of attending a meeting once in a while and talkin’ its lingo. Fact was that I just hadn’t had enough of my gala alcoholism.

    Returning once again to friends “in the Program” wasn’t the easiest thing to do but it came about easier than I thought. I believe this was so because I had done this for me this time, for me to undertake the Steps and all the rest. I had rejected the game-playing of my previous “surrenders.”

    After a period of work on the Steps, when I reached the Steps emphasizing the spiritual aspects of the Program, I decided to put a lot of effort into these steps. I had a belief in a Higher Power since childhood, the nature of the belief having evolved. I hadn’t forgotten all I had experienced. I suppose the fact is that this time I essentially repeated my act of surrender … I truly accepted that old rubric, “Thy Will, not mine.” I went about studying, meditating, following the Big Book’s suggestions for prayer to my Higher Power, and I joined a Church group studying the Rule of St. Benedict thinking it may provide ideas for finding time to really quietly meditate.

    I retired several years ago and all at once I had the time to undertake the things I really wanted to do.  People asked me, “How are you going to keep busy?” Of course, my reply was that I just “did it.” Among a number of other subjects, I learned that there is plenty of time to explore the spiritual aspects of our lives and for heaven’s sake to bore deeply into the Program … if we but choose to do so.

    So, I suggest and say, that surrender can be and for me was a joyous time, one which sticks with me each day.

    Jim A.
    Covington, Kentucky
  • 04/11/2018 8:22 PM | Anonymous

    I seldom had a problem of taking the inventory of another. After all I was only telling the truth about that person. What arrogance and blindness! That’s bad enough for a lay person but I was an ordained priest. I knew better, but my friends, Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker and company only helped to make me laugh it off and bury the guilt and shame of my behavior.

    I spent five weeks in a four-week program so I could complete my fourth step. To the best of my knowledge I had seldom, if ever, done any harm to anyone. “Bless me father, for I have sinned. I told (?) lies, I had impure thoughts, I was disobedient, I was angry (?) times……..” and the list I had memorized in childhood I could repeat with some minor variation.

    “Seamus, the fourth step is not about getting ready for confession. It is about an internal evaluation of yourself; getting to know yourself, your strengths and weakness, your qualities both positive and negative.”

    I had avoided getting to know myself for thirty-three years and had, I thought, done a good job at hiding behind a variety of masks. “If they only knew…..” “They” knew more about me than I knew about myself. My first attempt at a fourth step was superficial and, sadly, sufficient for me to graduate.

    Recovery came slowly. I did not need a sponsor. With a degree in theology, courses in counseling, certified as an addictions counselor, I was going to be a “big help” to those in recovery. I read the Big Book to quote it at the next meeting and “look good.” God has a wonderful sense of humour. She sent angels to sponsor me. Two Bostonians, former jailbirds, and absolutely grace-filled people.

    “What is a character defect?” I asked. “What is there about…..you don’t like?’ was the response and, without hesitation, I listed what I didn’t like about the mentioned individual. “Seamus, what we see and like in another is also in us. What we see and don’t like is also in us but we don’t like talking about it.”

    So, with pen in hand, a legal pad, I began again my Step Four. I listed the Ten Commandments; the seven deadly sins, a list of virtues. I had many of my own gods. In fact, from what others shared with me, it seemed that I had become my own god. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. Me, myself and I were my Trinity.

    No, I had not honored my parents, not the honor I believe now I should have given them. No, I had no murdered anyone but, Yes, I had seriously wounded some individuals with my tongue. Oh, my tongue was very sharp at times. I have stolen time from those who wanted my time. I was there physically but not always mentally or emotionally. I was jealous of the material things others had and I could not afford; I may have taken a vow of celibacy but “the spirit is willing yet the flesh is weak.”

    The Seven Deadly Sins are listed as: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Laziness, Anger, Envy, Pride. These are considered “deadly” as they prevent us from being the Spiritual people we are trying to be. Anger and Fear are like a hand and glove. I did not want to acknowledge my fear so most people experienced my anger. It came out straight or sideways, or passive aggressively. I ate and drank to extremes. Not having the humility to ask for help, I prided myself in my knowledge. And the list goes on. Whatever Virtues I may have had I was much more aware of their opposite in my behavior.

    The end result of making ‘a fearless and moral inventory” of myself was freedom and peace of mind; putting my life in perspective and opening up to see myself as others see me; to see goodness and know that mistakes are human, that failure is an opportunity to grow, that’s being human, and Humans are spiritual people attempting to be human.

    I believe that, for me, I had to return to Step One and accept the full implications of that step followed by a deeper understanding of Step two. Step three opened the door to trust and risk taking. All of this was the foundation that helped me realize the depth of what Step Four calls us to be and become. Yes, at times it is difficult to see ourselves but then, to see ourselves as our Higher Power sees us - it is a wonderful gift of love. 

    Seamus D.

  • 04/04/2018 8:26 PM | Anonymous

    By the Grace of God and through 12-Step programs and fellowship, I am in recovery.

    One morning I got a call from Tina, a friend of mine whom I had met at church when we were both young brides in South Carolina. She started with, “I was thinking about our conversation of last night…”

    My heart sank. I had no memory of having spoken with anyone the night before. Apparently, I had talked about my family of origin, problems with accepting myself for who I was, and the overall melancholy I harbored despite being a “believer” and church-goer.

    “I’m going to send you some things that I think will help you,” said Tina, who was a mental health counselor. I wonder if she knew that the bundle of typewritten sheets, pamphlets and books she sent me would change my life forever.

    What she sent was information about the disease of alcoholism.

    I was overwhelmed. I recognized myself. I was not alone. I felt a glimmer of hope.

    The only way I knew how to celebrate was by drinking, so I did. I downed one after another until I could feel no pain…or joy, or hope.

    After a few days, I realized maybe I should taper down on my drinking. Not because I was an alcoholic, for goodness sake, but because I diagnosed alcoholism in other members of my family. I told my brother my plan and Peter said, “Oh Chrissie, don’t stop all at once. You drink so much; it would kill you if you went cold turkey.”

    A few days later, I called a rehab facility at four in the afternoon and told the intake worker I would like to come for the two-week program for children of alcoholics. As part of the screening, she asked me when I had had my last drink and I looked down at my hand. “Well, I’m having a gin and tonic right now,” I said, “but that’s not the problem…I can control it...it’s my family…” She suggested that I should perhaps come in for three weeks for the treatment of my own alcoholism. I heartily disagreed and hung up. Outraged, I called my sister and told her about the conversation. She said quietly, “I agree with her, Chrissie.” I swore at her and slammed the phone down.

    How could I be an alcoholic? I was a well-educated woman, a teacher, the mother of beautiful children. I sang in the choir and was a lay reader at church. I never drank Scotch. I only drank my wine out of crystal stemmed glasses.

    I started going to ACOA and then Al-Anon meetings, never discussing my own drinking with anyone. Then I read an essay written by Jefferson Airplane’s Gracie Slick in Courage to Change: Personal Conversations with Dennis Wholey. In it she said if you could go three months without a drink, you were probably not an alcoholic. Tapering off so I wouldn’t die as my brother forewarned me, I stopped drinking to prove to the world that I was not an alcoholic.

    Since I was a teacher, I decided to go to the three-week Rutgers Summer School for Alcohol Studies to learn more about the disease that affected so much of American society, and undoubtedly was the cause of some of my students’ behavior problems.

    During the second week I was there, I arrived at my 89th day without a drink. I was at the Jersey shore with six of my new friends, all alcoholics in recovery. The sky was blue. The sand was warm under my toes. The sun sparkled on the water. Gulls called to each other. Sailboats drifted by in the distance. There had never been a more perfect day.

    And I started to cry. To sob. To shake.

    My friends formed a circle around me, asking me what was wrong and offering comfort. I stammered, “To-to-tomorrow will be 90 days since I’ve had a drink…so I’ve done what Gracie Slick said and I’ve proven I’m not an alcoholic.”

    And one of them said, “Congratulations, why are you crying?”

    I wailed, “Because the only way I know how to celebrate is by having a drink.”

    And another friend said, “Well, what do you have to do then?”

    I said, “I have to say it…I have to admit it. My name is Christine and…I am an alcoholic.”

    And they encircled me and hugged me and jumped up and down for joy with me. We left the beach and went to the nearest diner and ordered coffee and pie. And they in turn told me their stories. I was at my first meeting. I have not been without joy and hope since.

    And, by the grace of God, I have not had a drink or drug since April 10, 1985.

    -Christine H.

  • 03/28/2018 8:01 PM | Anonymous

    We are careful never to show intolerance or hatred of drinking as an institution. Experience shows that such an attitude is not helpful to anyone. Every new alcoholic looks for this spirit among us and is immensely relieved when he finds we are not witch burners. A spirit of intolerance might repel alcoholics whose lives could have been saved, had it not been for such stupidity. We would not even do the cause of temperate drinking any good, for not one drinker in a thousand likes to be told anything about alcohol by one who hates it.

    Some day we hope that Alcoholics Anonymous will help the public to a better realization of the gravity of the alcoholic problem, but we shall be of little use if our attitude is one of bitterness or hostility. Drinkers will not stand for it.

    After all, our problems were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol. Besides, we have stopped fighting anybody or anything. We have to!

    The ‘Big Book’ of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 103

    The chief priests accused Jesus of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

    —Mark 15:3-5

    This is Holy Week, the annual Christian celebration of someone who never got into a fight.

    You might disagree. Jesus cleansed the temple. He called the Pharisees hypocrites. He threw some shade at the Syrohoenician woman, who managed to get Jesus to expand his own understanding of his ministry (!). He got pretty mad at Peter when Peter balked at the idea that Jesus would have to be killed.

    But these weren’t fights. The temple cleansing was a political move, a symbolic action. He was sometimes sharp with the Pharisees, but he didn’t get into brawls with them, verbal or otherwise, and he raised no objection, no word in his own defense, when they took him to the Roman authorities on false charges. When the Syrophoenician woman challenged him, he quickly saw her point, and praised her. His anger at Peter was more akin to anticipatory anxiety. Peter, like Satan in the wilderness, was unwittingly tempting Jesus to shrink back from his calling, to duck his own destiny.

    I have reflected recently on fighting, the behavior, the relationship pattern, the way humans sometimes resolve differences. Fighting is sometimes praised, and perhaps rightly so. Politicians promise to fight for our rights, or our wealth, or our safety. In church we are often challenged to fight for justice, or (paradoxically enough) fight for peace. In the last couple of years, hundreds of thousands of people have marched through the streets to protest one thing or another, and it’s not entirely wrong to look at this behavior as a kind of fight, even though these protests have been nonviolent, and no one was injured.

    I am an alcoholic, and page 103 of the Big Book has always been, if not my favorite page, the most relevant page for me. In my first couple years of sobriety, I felt resentful of people around me who were able to drink, and I was quick to notice the problematic role of alcohol in various social settings. As an Episcopalian, I watched with keen interest as a bishop in our church stood trial for taking the life of a cyclist in a drunk-driving tragedy. It seemed to me, when I honestly reflected on my motives, that I wanted the Episcopal Church, like the city of Nineveh, to sit in sackcloth and ashes, repenting our communal sin of celebrating the frequent use of alcohol in our social gatherings, and the central role of alcohol in our church culture.

    I did not help anyone when I nurtured those resentments. It did not help my own sobriety, either. I haven’t taken a drink of alcohol for almost five years now, but that achievement is the work of my higher power, in spite of my small resentments, and my human impulse to fight. Sometimes I want to fight others, to win a competition for the wisest person, or be recognized as the better debater. Sometimes I dream of revenge: I want others to feel the way I sometimes let them make me feel. But indulging those impulses only brings me closer to my next drink.

    If fighting works for you, even as a metaphor, then by all means use it, do it, join the battle, particularly if someone will be helped by your courage, strength, and grit. But for me, I have to seek justice differently, not because I am like Jesus, but because I’m not: in my hands, fighting leads to separation, destruction, and anguish.

    May you find blessing, peace, strength, and new life this Holy Week.

  • 03/14/2018 10:21 AM | Anonymous
    I was about 18 months into recovery, beginning to rebuild some of my professional life. So, there I was, coming to the end of an organ recital, the first I had played in nearly a decade.

    Most of the program went well (in my head, anyway), but I felt increasingly anxious during the last piece. So much so that, by time I came to the last chord, all I could hear was the voice in my head telling me that I had never – ever – played so poorly. “How in the world can I face this audience after such an abysmal performance?”

    But, applause requires response and, as I worked up the nerve to drag myself off the bench, I heard another voice. Having lived a long life of perfectionism, this voice felt new. Well, maybe not new, exactly, but certainly unheeded.

    Then, in those several seconds that it took to get off the bench and turn to face the audience, it happened. IT. One of those moments of spiritual awakening, of grace, that so many of our companions in recovery share in their stories. On that day, it was no bolt of lightning, but a still, small, urgent voice saying, “you know, you could be wrong.”

    Wait… What? Wrong?? And, in yet another moment of grace, I let the voice talk. “Yes, I know that you think you’re the expert in how you played. And, sure, it wasn’t perfect.” (Again, more grace, no mute.)

    “But, what if, instead of listening to yourself, you listen to them; to what their applause is saying? The music you played meant something to them, and they are thanking you for it.?”

    The very thought seemed transgressive. After all, I was the expert on me.
    It couldn’t be that easy. But, what if it was?
    What was there to lose in the trying?
    Somehow, I became willing to take the risk. That day, taking the risk meant that one neurotic knot in my bondage of self was loosened.

    That day, I understood what Herbert Spencer called “contempt prior to investigation.”
    That day, perhaps for the first time, I became willing to listen.
    May it continue to be a practice each day.

    Paul J.
    8 March 2018
© Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software