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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.

  • 08/01/2018 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
  • 06/13/2018 9:12 PM | Anonymous

    Early in my codependency recovery, I became acquainted with a quiet voice of knowing that sometimes came to me when I was journaling and inquiring into myself. The voice brought me words of truth about my life. No condemnation, just clarity.

    I was not yet a Christian, and I knew no name for this gentle assistance in my soul. I felt it came from beyond me. I called it “the spirit that helps me know myself.”

    I know this spirit as the Holy Spirit now, and I seek the truth he brings: the vital, blessed, and sometimes very difficult truth.

    At the beginning of recovery, I was afraid to search myself. I’d had therapy that worked deeply in me and made me grow. But what would I find when I looked at myself from the fresh perspective of codependency recovery? 

    Although I have functioned in the world as a friend, a professional, an artist, and even as a daughter and sister and wife, I have spent a lot of time not knowing the whole truth about why I did what I was doing — particularly in forging relationships, clinging to them, or abandoning them.

    Like many of us codependents, I came from a troubled family. I learned to adapt to others and deny what I knew for the sake of peace and the hope that neither parent would fall apart or walk away. 

    As an adult, I often gravitated to troubled people who had the emotional fingerprint of my mother or my father. I adored them and molded myself to them. I tried to get them to keep me and never let me go. 

    I didn’t understand what I was doing at the time. It is embarrassing to remember and sobering to understand how my behavior deprived me, other people, and God of my authentic presence and real love. 

    In the recovery meetings, I gradually felt safe and brave enough to describe my pain and fear and admit my mistakes. I found a gentle, wise, trustworthy sponsor. I began to trust a higher power, and I began to feel valuable. 

    I started to glimpse and claim a true self, independent of anyone’s attention or approval. I wanted to know this new self and to live without trying to be anyone else. 

    The truth was my ground to stand on, and it was the path forward.

    Three years into recovery, I became a Christian. To believe now that my self, my life, was made by God with loving intention, and belongs to God for all time, has impressed on me that it is my serious responsibility to understand exactly who I am, to discover and steward my gifts, to remember that God made me unique for work in the world that no one else can do, and to be thoughtful in my commitments, with gratitude to God who gave me life. 

    I lived more than 50 years without this understanding of who I am. I’m gratefully continuing to recover and grow.

    My old behavior patterns are embedded deeply in me, and I have to go back to the beginning over and over, living the cycle of my Christian spiritual life and my recovery: conviction, surrender, prayer, inventory, redemption, forgiveness, gratitude, service. 

    A few years ago, during a silent prayer vigil in the wee hours of Good Friday morning, these words settled into my mind:

    Until you show up exactly as you are, you will never know how much you are loved.

    With God’s help, I’m getting closer. 

    - Bette Jo G.

  • 06/06/2018 9:39 PM | Anonymous

    Two celebrations on the same day and for some, maybe not “rah! - rah!” types as they are for many of us.

    Easter week is a time of rebirths, new starts, acceptance of His Grace, freely given. We pay nothing for it and His Grace flows over us like water over a cliff. It provides us with the courage to seek to do the things we should as well and the courage to ignore the things we shouldn’t do. We learn from our mistakes in life and seek strength to continue.

    This year on Good Friday members of our Parish walked through the downtown commercial center of our city … it’s a well-worn center formerly inhabited by girly bars and “clubs”, saloons, gun stores and other familiar debris. The look of the commercial center has slowly made progress accompanied by the usual barriers to downtown renewal which always seem to eat into the rate and quality of urban renewal.  But 18 years ago, I’m not certain we would have entertained such a “walk-through”.

    It was a bright afternoon, a crisp chill in the air fortunately moderated by a bright sun and clear blue skies. We were greeted by well-wishers some I expect remembering their child-hood days of participation in church Easter activities.

    We shared carrying a wooden cross as we walked and stopped at each block to read the Steps of Christ as he headed to his tortuous doom. Unlike Him, the cross we carried was light, easily carried, and stop to stop, with just enough weight to bring His struggles to mind.

    But wait! … an anniversary? Yes, indeedy!

    I began the process of “surrender” 18 years ago Easter Sunday. The specific date escapes me but it was just about that time so I “picked” Easter Sunday as my date of sobriety.

    Seemed appropriate. The Good Friday walk especially fit my surrender process completely. My life was a wreckage, filled with events and feelings I’d just as soon forget. They always come back to me about this time … they reinforce my decision to surrender all and to step into a new life the resurrected life if you will of the Program itself. It provides answers and ways to clean up that old mess from my side of the street. It gave me ways to become closer to my Higher Power and to seek His will for us and the power to carry it out.  It told me that one of my steps in the Program was to reach out to aid the still suffering alcoholic and addict.

    His Grace provided a way out from the turmoil and pain and self-centeredness of those past days.

    As the old song says, “t’was the Grace that saved me” and all I had to do was to reach out and accept it.

    Easter morn … a surrender and a beginning … miracles both? … You bet your bottom dollar!

    Jim A.

    Covington, Kentucky

  • 05/31/2018 9:06 AM | Anonymous

    They cut the tumor out of his brain and the surgeon held up his fist to show that it was “this big”, but I picture a huge, oozing cone of blackberry gelato. That early May day, the sun shined like July, but then for days and days clouds blocked the sun and rain fell like endless April.

    After a few hours, he leaves recovery, after a few days, he leaves intensive care, after a couple more days he leaves the hospital, after a couple weeks, he leaves the rehabilitation center, and in a few months, he leaves skilled nursing, and in a few months, or more than a few, they say he will leave us with hearts breaking.

    He is the guy who sees into my soul, who rambles freely along the paths of my conscience and rummages amid the cavities of my heart. We share our recoveries from alcoholism, our experiences with humanity, our perversions, perplexities and pleasures. Weekly breakfasts at McDonalds / lunches at Wendy’s twist threads into yarn, weave yarn into gauze that wraps our wounds, warms our extremities, crowns our glory.

    Sponsor is a loaded word in recovery – a shape that alters to fit every stage of recovery and, sometimes, the absence of recovery, and to bind radically different personalities and long-lost clones. Sponsorship is a laboratory for intimacy, freedom from denial, escape from isolation, the passport granting entry to the possibility of faith, access to realms of the spirit.

    Now, of course, he cannot say my name, because that part of his brain is groping for traction, but, he does see me and his gentle, vibrant spirit greets me. He is now unburdened with the functional, practical, practiced aspects of manhood and, hopefully, his therapists and treatments will restore these, but for now, the divine in him, the spirit that triggered his acceptance and ignited his recovery from addiction and sustains him through all the demanding, frustrating, thrilling, icky and gratifying events over multiple decades of sobriety – shines. Together, we aspire to be centered and settled: what better measure of faith, of sharing belief, of “knowing” God?

    Years ago, we left the restaurant and already at full throttle, veered toward our cars until he paused, hooted and motioned me to him. His embrace, then and every leave-taking since, affirms that our merged mass secures our soles to the surface of the earth and our souls to heaven.

    Pelagius: it matters less that we believe in Christ than that we behave as Christ. My heartfelt faith is schooled, disciplined, grounded in rigor and ritual; his is unframed, casual, settled in curiosity and doubt; and, thus unfettered, perhaps his faith exceeds my own. Regardless, the coming days, weeks, months… will reveal the Source of the generous love that makes us friends, keeps us sober and finally, leads us to be settled at the Center of All. Amen. 

    -Martin McE.

  • 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.+

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