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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.

  • 08/27/2018 7:50 PM | Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jim A.
    Covington, Kentucky


  • 08/21/2018 5:29 PM | Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    We, the broken and ashamed,

    we in chaos live untamed,

    we can hardly speak your name,

    But, you, O Lord:

                   Take, O take us as we are

                   By your grace we come alive

                   Mark us as your saints to thrive

                   Within your love.

    -Martin McE.

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


  • 08/15/2018 7:00 PM | Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • 08/08/2018 5:59 PM | Anonymous
    Frederick Buechner reminds us that “the biblical view of the history of humankind and of each individual man or woman is contained in the first three chapters of Genesis. We are created to serve God by loving God and each other in freedom and joy, but we invariably choose bondage and woe instead as prices not too high/ to pay for independence. To say that God drove Adam and Eve out of Eden is apparently a euphemism for saying that Adam and Eve, like the rest of us, made a break for it as soon as God happened to look the other way.”

    We seem to be hardwired to try to take over control, to be God. This is the direction of most of my sins. As I think of all my offences, the evil I have done, the harm I have done consciously or unconsciously, the friends, the family members I have hurt. I make amends when I can for the harm I have done, but mostly I try to make living amends. I want to let others know how I have been loved even when I felt unlovable or did unlovable things. I want to hold closely the Christ in others and let them know what a treasure they are. I want to be able to see the Christ in others. This is what spiritual friends and those in 12 step recovery are called to do for each other. We affirm, stand by each other.

    More often now I am paying it forward. For many reasons I cannot make amends to the person I have harmed but instead I try to show the love I wish I could now give to them to someone else. Paying forward is showing love to someone else that has done nothing for me, especially someone we do not know and often someone who feels loveless.

    I try, I judge, I make mistakes, I mess up, I hurt others, I make amends, I try to show love that has been so often unconditionally given to me, and the cycle invariably seems to start all over again. It is a circular path. I try, I mess up, I make amends. It is the human condition. I try to stay connected to this circular pathway of others who know more than I know how to love so that I can learn from them. I try to stick with the winners, /those whom I can so easily see Christ in them, and occasionally they can see the Christ in me which guides me back onto the path of love. Today I now learn most about how to love from my six grandchildren. What a circular life, for I first learned about love from my four grandparents many years ago.

    I return to Buechner who so beautifully reminds us that “if God really wanted to get rid of us, (to kick us out of Eden), the chances are/ God wouldn't keep hounding us every step of the way ever since.”

    (Frederick, Buechner, Humankind, Frederick Buchner Quote of the Day, May 28, 2018. Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words)

    -Joanna
  • 08/01/2018 8:16 PM | Anonymous

    Matthew 23: Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and his disciples, “The legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others. They make extra-wide prayer bands for their arms and long tassels for their clothes. They love to sit in places of honor at banquets and in the synagogues. They love to be greeted with honor in the markets and to be addressed as ‘Rabbi.’

    “But you shouldn’t be called Rabbi, because you have one teacher, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Don’t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly. Don’t be called teacher, because Christ is your one teacher. But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant. All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up. Common English Bible

    I am honored to have the opportunity to say a few words this morning as we gather to remember the life of Bob D. Sermons at Funerals are peculiar things in the Episcopal Church. They are not intended as eulogies but instead are meant to show us how God’s grace shown through the life of Bob with the hope that this will lead us to see God’s grace in our own lives.

    I chose this morning’s Gospel because I think it captures a side of Bob that I saw frequently. While Bob was an authority on many subjects and unafraid to assert that authority, at the same time he was suspicious of authority when exercised on him by others. Bob is Irish Catholic and had a thoroughly traditional Irish Catholic upbringing. He challenged that upbringing his entire life. It gave him some gifts but he had the clarity of vision that much of the certainty in the church he grew up in was based on the old preacher’s maxim of Weak Point, Shout Louder. Bob had unerring instincts in finding weak points and they offended his sense of integrity.

    If you look in the Bulletin you will see that I’m identified at the Homily as Father P. For those of you who know me well you know that I am known as Pete and almost never as Father P. I put it there today to make the point of today’s Gospel. I put it there to take it away and have you notice that I’m taking it away. The text we just heard in the Gospel read in v. 9: 9 Don’t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly. So call me Pete.

    Many of us who are clergy in the church are challenged frequently by our insistence upon titles of respect. This gospel reminds all of us that none of us are worthy of that respect, that deference, or that authority. Instead we are called to be servants first. Our only hope is in being generous. Furthermore, service that expects reward is not servanthood. We are called to be servants to find ourselves not so that someone else can reward us for being such a good one. The church and organized religion have too frequently lost that and have settled for accumulating power, authority, position, and respect.

    I know that many of us in this church today have been damaged by the power and authority claimed by some in the service of Religion. This morning’s Gospel, and this may be the only Burial Office at which it has ever been read, rebukes any confusion of faith and power. Quite the opposite is true. We are faithful in our willingness to do service. No expectation of reward; no payment sought; no accolades given.

    When I met with Bob’s family on Wednesday the thing I came away with was the sense that they remember Bob as a generous person. I remember him that way, too. What does it mean to be generous in this context? It means giving of yourself without expectation of return. It means giving the service I’ve just described. Generous people give because they find themselves in giving, in serving, in being humble, and in being a servant. I know Bob through his participation in AA. I’ve known him since he got sober and I’ve talked with many people whose sobriety was enhanced by knowing, being with, and talking with Bob. He was generous.

    I also know Bob because he and I used to meet regularly to talk about his spiritual life and his growth in sobriety as a humble, content, spiritual being. We began in the late summer of 2016 and met, usually in Mackenzie, just the 2 of us, regularly through the spring of 2017. Ultimately he decided that we were too intellectual -- that’s Bob -- but it worked for a while.

    The crucial thing about Bob in my experience -- and he and I talked about this when we went to Golds for coffee a few weeks ago and again a couple of weeks ago when I visited him in the hospital -- the crucial thing was the happiness and contentment he felt as a sober man. He knew that he was present to his family and to the world in a way that had not been true.

    Now, to be borderline heretical. 41 years ago when I was ordained a priest I was much more certain about what happens to us when we die than I am today. I was much more certain about the necessity of baptism than I am today. I was much more certain about how God was present in our lives than I am today. I told Bob on Monday that I have no certainty about where we go when we die. He had just expressed his doubts. I no longer believe in a God who has room in heaven only for Christians. I’m not at all certain what heaven is, but whatever it is, the primary characteristic of it is love for all. As the men in the rooms are probably tired of hearing me say, I think of C.S. Lewis’s Great Divorce. The primary requisite for making it into heaven is giving up Resentments. Bob and I learned this in the rooms of AA.

    I didn’t learn about Resentments in seminary. I didn’t learn Resentments in grad school after seminary. I only learned the importance of giving up Resentments by getting sober and sitting in meetings for many years now and getting to know people like Bob, and getting to know them well.

    Of course no one gets sober to go to AA meetings. I have been assured that the spiritual growth Bob experienced, however defined, was apparent to those who were close to him

    My hope is that everyone here this morning will acknowledge the spiritual growth in Bob’s life. He was always a force of nature. He always wanted an A in life. His intellectual honesty was important to him. He seemed not to suffer fools gladly. He enjoyed many blessings and he died surrounded by his family. What more can any of us hope for?

    I have no idea why some of us get sober while others do not. For some of us the community just makes sense and we fall into it. If you met any of us the day or week before we got sober it is unlikely that you would predict that we would ever enjoy sobriety. Yet here we are. For those here who are having trouble staying sober know that it wasn’t easy for anyone. Years of debate are a feature in all of our lives. However the community is here for all. That’s the spiritual gift of sobriety. In this church this morning are Christians, Unitarians, Jews, maybe a Muslim or 2, atheists, agnostics, doubters, the angry, the hopeless, the weary and much else. The message is that you won’t find meaning in authority, call no one Rabbi, Father or Teacher, you will find meaning and spirituality in service. Give of yourselves. In this way you will find yourself. Bob found himself.

  • 07/25/2018 8:13 PM | Anonymous

    The weeks leading up to my sober anniversary are full of particular kinds of reflection. I can more easily recall the awful days that led toward that crunch of clarity. And, as time rolls forward, my sense of gratitude grows deeper and richer. Retracing the line from then to now, I can begin to catch glimpses of how it happened.

    Mine is a story I now hear from countless others; only the details vary. I grew up as a fearful child; I developed into a fearful adult. At the same time, I was blessed with enough gifts to construct large barriers of acceptable accomplishments, protecting myself from a world I experienced as unwelcoming.

    When those fortifications of self-will failed, drugs became the duct tape that held me together. Until it didn’t. On that last day, through the din of shame and fear, I heard the gentle voice of a state trooper saying, please get some help, you don’t have to live this way. Could it really be true? There was a way out?

    Here’s a question: How do we move from fear to faith? Fear and faith each seem to arise when we face the unknown, the challenging, the difficult, the threatening. On the surface, faith and fear seem like polar opposites, like fight or flight.

    But, I wonder if fear and faith aren’t more closely related. Maybe it isn’t such an either/or proposition. Maybe faith doesn’t so much banish fear as make it possible to cope with it. Maybe the question isn’t about replacing one with the other. Maybe it’s not about never being afraid, but learning what to do when you are.

    Several weeks ago, the lectionary featured an iconic story of fear and faith: Jesus calming the stormy sea. This is a story important enough to the early followers of Jesus to have been included in all four gospels.

    Mark starts this passage with, “When evening had come,” he said to them, “let’s go across to the other side.” For this recovering addict, I can’t help but remember that gentle voice inviting me into recovery. And I climbed aboard.

    Sometimes the trip has seemed slow and long. There have been life storms along the way: health, finances, employment, relationships. But I stayed in the boat. And each time I was able to ride a storm out, I grew. I had a bit more faith; I was less afraid. Until the next storm.

    Today, I am occasionally plagued by doubts and fears, but I am no longer fully fearful. Life in recovery has taught me that moving from fear to faith to growth leads to new fears and new faith and new growth. After all, grace is gradual.

    Life in recovery, the life of faith, is not a “one and done” sort of thing. It is, however, a “stretch and grow” sort of thing. Leaving detox doesn’t make you sober. Taking steps to live a changed life, a day at a time, does.

    For this addict, what moves me from fear to faith is not a what, but a who: Jesus. That same Jesus that Mark describes as determined to free folks from all the things that keep us from God, even addiction. Jesus reveals a God who cares passionately for our wellbeing, and whose goodness is always at work beneath the surface of every storm.

    When we accept the invitation to cross over from fear to faith, when we allow ourselves to experience these unhurried changes, we will discover that source of hope, that next supply of serenity, that gradual grace that enables us to take the next step. And the next, and the next; daily trudging forward with more faith and less fear.

    Grace is gradual. And it’s glorious!

    Paul J.
    July 24, 2018

  • 07/18/2018 9:24 PM | Anonymous

    I suffered relapses several years ago, but the residual feelings I experienced remain and tell me to “keep coming back.”

    A relapse gives us a sense of failure, of letting people—and myself—down. It seems like a loss of confidence in one’s ability to deal with a terrible disease when we knew the awfulness of addiction’s end-game. Shame, guilt, embarrassment, the brutal impact on one’s psyche. Helplessness. I really meant it when I swore off the bottle. Was I simply so weak I couldn’t carry out an earnestly-made promise to loved ones—and myself? We fell into a grand funk. Unconscionably, we may have nursed along this terrible negativity. We were on the border of deciding our lives weren’t worth it. We may have fallen into the depths of “Poor me. You’d drink, too, if you had my problems. I’ll just give in to demon rum, the hell with it!”

    BUT WAIT! That’s only the negativity of a relapse. There is a positive side. I went back into the Program with an increased understanding of addiction’s traits of cunning and power.  I saw it for what it was. At least I awoke and saw I couldn’t lick this disease by myself. I needed help, a refuge, a safe zone of protective custody, and I was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I’d had enough! As much as I was in the clutches of my drug of choice, I needed to get into the clutches of the Program in order to find Life.

    Many of us no matter how smart, no matter how fortunate and blessed our lives have been, are slow learners. I think that when we speak negatively about a relapse, we are saying that I simply haven’t had enough of my drug. I want more of that “good old feeling.” When I sedate myself, I have no problems. Seemingly, it’s a happy time, care-free, problems solved—at least for a while.

    Sadly, these negativity feelings miss an important message of the Program. The Program provides a twofold gift: first, how do we stop drinking? What can we do if we feel a slip coming on? What do I do with all my drinking buddies? How will I get through the family picnics and holiday reunions? That’s the stuff of the benefits of those early days in the Program.

    But, the Program carries a second and equally important piece: How do I live through life’s bumps and problems, disappointments, physical issues—all that stuff that is still out there—without my alcohol crutch? We were seduced by our drug to believe we could escape the pain and suffering--the normal bumps of life—but if we were to admit it, those difficulties were still there when we woke up. Only they were made worse by our shame of running to the bottle for relief.

    That’s why working the Program is a 24 hour a day, seven days a week proposition. We learn by looking at what others have done in similar life experiences. The harms of divorce, imprisonment, loss of jobs, disappointments—all that stuff we ran away from when we drank until we blacked-out.  The Program’s constant reminders—this learning process gives us the ammunition we need.

    Why is that? Nothing baffling about this. It’s that old ego, the feelings of me, I’m first, I am all-powerful, I can do it, don’t need you. To maintain sobriety beyond “white-knuckle” sobriety, we need to let go and let God. Sobriety is dependent on our spiritual base. We have to get rid of the feeling of the primacy of our ego, of our selves. After all, we tried everything to manage our addiction and it failed in all respects. 

    To be continued...

    Jim A.
    Covington, Kentucky


  • 07/11/2018 8:32 PM | Anonymous

    350,000+ babies are born each day and, since only 150,000+ people die, we are crowding and eroding the blue planet home we share. UNESCO forecasts a global population of 8-10 billion by 2050 – two billion is a pretty fat range – but, what matters is not how many we are, only whether we are sane, capable, responsible, generous and loving. Can mankind, as a species, practice restraint and cultivate a self-respect that accords respect for billions and billions of others? Can we shed the binary, zero-sum math of win vs. lose, succeed vs. fail, advance vs. retreat, us vs. them, me vs. you to embrace multiplying masses of others?  Are we doomed?

    In the current noxious and perilous atmosphere, I find my mind fraught, my emotions on edge and my spirits sinking into an irritating malaise.  A pall settles over my daily life in recovery, and an anger rises from it that drains my serenity and incites rage, even hatred toward the haters who enflame fear and resentment toward “enemies.” How can my recovery and my faith animate my soul and rouse my spirits as an antidote to the toxic miasma? 

    The tenth step cautions that “it is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.”  The tenth step offers an intimate reckoning of our attitudes, motives, behaviors and all their consequences. We may apply any number of yardsticks: the deadly sins, the decalogue, the golden-rule, great commandment, or our personal inventory via steps four through seven.  Scripture, spiritual writings, and recovery literature all open paths of reflection, contemplation, and self-examination. We have tools aplenty and we have priests, counselors, sponsors, and friends to raise our ability to apply them to good purpose.  We discipline ourselves to grasp and grapple with the gifts and graces we receive – turning our will and our live over to the care of a Loving God as we encounter Him.  And, we encounter him most vividly in all those many, messy, maniacal, and miraculous others. 

    Each day, we are given a rebirth in sobriety within the community of our families and friends, within the coterie of recovery, within the social web, and within all of human society.  We, among all, know the ravages of fear and resentment; we above all, know the cost of investing our lives in any power equation not grounded in acceptance, generosity, grace, and love.  Each day, we embrace a new life that leads us away from the certain demise of our addictions.  In recovery, we are called to manage the noise and master ourselves, as we strive toward unity in the Source of Unconditional Love. We recover out of God’s Love for US. All of US. 

  • 06/27/2018 7:36 PM | Anonymous

    I grew up in a denomination where I went to confession and received forgiveness. I didn’t have to go back to anyone and say I was sorry (I probably wasn’t) unless a teacher or parent (mother) told me to do so.

    Step five was a new experience of “confession” as were steps eight and nine. Now I had to continue to do this?

    After a few years of going to meetings for all the wrong reasons and not drinking, I slowly began to work the steps as a program of recovery. It took a while for me to understand that I did not just “do the steps” one time and that was it. This program, I learned, is not about not drinking but rather it is about living - living every day as a healthy human being. What I had been told before was beginning to make sense: “Seamus, if you’re not living the program you’re not working the steps.” This is a daily program that helps keep me alive as opposed to staying in a Dry Drunk modality.

    Taking an ongoing personal inventory was an interesting experience. Even though I had ceased to drink, my old attitudes -character defects- were not that easy to break. But then, this is where God, my Higher Power, removes the Character Defects when I put myself in situations and the Higher Powers whispers “this is a good time to say “I’m sorry” or “You could simply say “I am wrong. I apologize.”

    One instance stands out in my memory: I really did not to want to go back into the restaurant and tell that bunch of teenagers I was wrong when I told them to relocate from being near ‘my table’ and go sit in the smoking section. As I left the restaurant, it was pointed out to me that I was in the wrong; the kids were sitting where they should have been. I continued to the car.

    My Higher Power began to talk to me, .and I argued back: Those kids were only too glad to see me gone. What difference would it make for me to go in and apologize? It’s raining; I don’t want to have to get out of the car again. I turned off the ignition, went back in, walked to where the youth had relocated and told them: “Guys, I was wrong in telling you to move. I was seated in the wrong place. I’m sorry for the way I behaved.” They sat almost frozen wondering, I’m sure, if this old man was “normal.” Perhaps I may have been the first adult to apologize to them. Back in the car I really did feel better. How often now do I have to do this?

    Well, as of this writing, I am in the program some thirty-nine years, and I don’t have to apologize anywhere near as frequently as I did when I began to work the eleventh step. I got sick and tired of apologizing, so I learned to watch what I said and what I did. Those character defects were now becoming much clearer to me and, more often than not, I’d catch them before the words and actions took place.

    A personal inventory became like making my bed when I got up; like having that first cup of coffee in the morning. It became a way of life as in living the program and in living the program I automatically worked the step.

    The personal inventory keeps me balanced. I am a good person who makes mistakes. My mistakes have their roots in the Character defects and so by keeping a check on the character defects I have fewer mistakes. However, I am human and there are those times when I get Too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT). Thanks to the program, when I now make a mistake I can laugh at myself, own it, apologize if necessary, and Guilt and Shame no longer overwhelm me. I am a good person who makes mistakes; it’s okay to be human.

    Continuing to take a personal inventory has – like breathing - like opening my eyes to see the world around me - become a way of life.  Making amends, becoming at-one (atone) with self, God and others keeps me humble and happy and for this I am grateful to Bill, Bob, and all those who have helped me work the steps till I learned to live the program.


  • 06/20/2018 10:36 PM | Anonymous

    Like many others, I grew up in an alcoholic family rift with the dysfunctional behavior that is characteristic of generational alcoholism. Rift with neglect, abuse and violence, it was a depressing existence where alcoholism seemed to rule the day and determine the future. It felt like a sub-standard way of life and although we may not have said it out loud, it inspired a sub-standard way of seeing ourselves. It created a lower expectation of what we might be and what we might become in the world and in some way, I know that it affected what we thought in terms of our perception of how God saw us. It was subtle, but it was there. The world didn’t think much of us and we didn’t really think much of ourselves, so why would God be any different?  But God does see us differently – all of us.

    I spent twenty-five years of my adult life burning myself up in alcohol and drug addiction, pointing the finger at those who were such horrible examples and who I blamed for all my problems. My absent father, my promiscuous mother, my violent step-father, all of whom were those horrible alcoholics, and list was lengthy. Playing the victim garnered me a lot of sympathetic shoulders from those who bought it. Boy, I could really tell the story – really make it spin. It worked. Until it didn’t. I eventually ran out of people who bought it, most all understood many years before I did that the problem wasn’t with anyone other than myself. But I just couldn’t hear it – not from the family, friends, judges, psychs, law enforcement – I just couldn’t hear the truth about the nature of my life and my disease until I sat in front of another alcoholic who was telling my story.

    There is something that sits in the center of the Twelve Steps that changed me at my core. It’s much like the altar in the center the church, much like the epiclesis – that moment where the Presence of Jesus becomes real in the blessing of the elements – that sits in the very center of The Holy Eucharist. It sits in the center of the personal inventory work at the core of the Twelve-Steps, and it is these words taken from page 66 of the Big Book:

    This was our course: we realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they like ourselves, were sick too.

    Those few words were then, and are still to this day, a huge game-changer for me. They level the playing field. The words presented an instant paradox. On one hand, I couldn’t imagine feeling that way about people like my step-father who would regularly beat both my mother and myself in a drunken rage. On the other hand, I knew deep down that there was profound truth in these words – truth that could lead me to freedom. That is exactly what has happened. The deep resentment I once held for others has been taken away, making room for compassion.

    I have done much work over the past twenty-plus years in recovery. I have healed. Relationships have healed. My footing is firm in recovery because I continually work the program. I still have the same sponsor that I met my second day in recovery. We still work the steps together, and every once in a while we are reminded of those words on page 66 and they guide us to freedom. It truly is a miracle in my life. It is a miracle in recovery.

    -Brother Dennis
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