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Through the Red Door Blog

In the early days of the Church, when the front door of the parish was painted red it was said to signify sanctuary – that the ground beyond these doors was holy, and anyone who entered through them was safe from harm.

In the lives of many recovering people, it is through these same red doors that sanctuary is found on a daily basis. Initially that sanctuary may not have started in the rooms with high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, but in the basements and back rooms of churches where 12-step meetings are held.

This blog was created for recovering people to share the experiences they found walking through those doors of safety, refuge and peace.

To submit a entry to the blog, please click here for the details or contact us at info@episcopalrecovery.org.

  • 04/04/2018 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
  • 03/07/2018 9:00 PM | Anonymous

    Bill Wilson, a salesman, settles his vision of the benefits of sobriety in the Promises, we shall realize only if we “painstakingly” work the steps.   They follow the narrative on the 9th step in the “Into Action” Chapter Four of Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book (pp 88-89).

    “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.

    We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.

    We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.

    We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace.

    No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

    That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.

    We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.

    Self-seeking will slip away.

    Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.

    Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.

    We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.

    We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”1

    These promises lyrically describe “what we have”, mapping prospects that contrast vividly with our addictive psyches and circumstances, our litanies of disappointment, guilt, fear and shame, our mutual pain.  Wilson makes them conditional; we must be willing to go to any lengths to attain them.  Attain what, exactly, in a word?  Self-Respect as Children of God.

    Christ, who came to share our plight, our fight, our night2, made one promise to the Samaritan woman at the well: living water that “will become… a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” She replies, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”3  Christ understands her relentless thirst and offers more, a “living water” that quenches every human craving. 

    Recovery strives to ultimately resolve the spiritual thirst that ignites our addictions.  Our life in recovery and our life in faith are as progressive as our disease.  Together, we employ the steps and our religious practices to refresh ourselves and one another.  We may arrive late in the day, drained by spiritual aridity, clumsy and wasteful, tripping on resentments, spilling this lifegiving treasure.  Living water is God’s gift to us, who are His creation.  The notion of self-respect acknowledges that we are sparked into being  by God’s unconditional love.  Our SOUL: Source Of Unconditional Love. 

    We progress in recovery, working the steps, engaging our faith through scripture, tradition and reason to encounter God, regardless the chinks in our “understanding”.  Christ also told his parched friend, “God is spirit, and worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.”

    We probe for truth, the “rigorous honesty” AA invokes as we work through the steps.  Step Four’s heavy duty inventory creates a baseline of sorts, but each and every step entails honest examination of our behaviors, motives, aspirations.  We seek progress, not perfection.

    Destined for perfect union with God, we seek to return where we began as Children of God, and “know the place for the first time.”4  Our daily tenth step reckons our progress in returning to a God who calls us to come to him as His Children.  That is the “Self” to whom we must be true, the words imprinted on every AA anniversary token.  That is the “Self” we come to respect, the Self that is the measure of our days and ways, our responsibilities in a complex society:

    HEALTH: sleep, diet, exercise, teeth, check-ups, grooming

    RELATIONSHIPS*+: principled, capable, honest, generous, attractive/positive

    FINANCES: priorities, ledger, reserves, credit, foresight, restraint

    WORK: competency, capacity, relationships, productivity, rewards

    CIVIC: politically informed & engaged, duty, community service, social advocacy

    GROWTH: intellect, culture, technology, aptitudes, interests

    SPIRIT: recovery, resources, practices, discipline, and the expression of our faith

    *spouse, family, intimates, colleagues, clients, acquaintances

    +give and receive

    Bill Wilson’s attractive  promises inspire us, and the Steps are the gears and levers we engage to recover and grow as Children of God.  Menus for self-improvement in recovery abound, yet the central question remains, what do we want so dearly that we will direct our sober selves to any lengths to possess it?  God invested each Self with singular gifts and graces that we may serve Him, as we are, where we are, with the resources He places before us.  Each day we examine our Self in a mirror, asking:

    • §  What duties have I met?
    • §  What joys have I shared?
    • §  What fears have I faced?
    • §  What wounds have I healed?
    • §  What prayers have I raised?

    God made us as children who develop and mature into whole men and women, fully alive in grace, at peace among others, and at peace with our Selves. This is His promise to us, and ours to Him.  Our recovery covenant.

    1 Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book), AA World Services, Fourth Edition, 2002
    2 “Incarnation”, Michael E. Moynahan, S.J., Hearts on Fire – Praying with Jesuits, Loyola Press, Michael Harter, S.J., Editor, 2005
    3 John 4:1-42, New International Version, Zondervan, 2017
    4 “Little Gidding”, Four Quartets, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Faber and Faber, 1942

  • 02/28/2018 7:48 PM | Anonymous

    I've been meditating a good deal lately on the alcoholic death, and how so very few of us experience even the beginnings of recovery.  I've heard so many stories about our kind drinking ourselves to death, killing ourselves in drunken car accidents, falling down flights of stairs, suffocating because we can't come to, or taking our own lives in lost hope. Such a small percentage of us can reach the precipice of insanity and death to discover the turning point. We come to know complete defeat - egos perfectly crushed by alcohol - and realize we've backed the wrong horse. Through a barely lucid surrender, we allow the spirit to take the helm. 

    So, why do some of us keep crawling into death?  Those of us who live are not special, unique, or chosen. It could have gone either way. I’ve settled on redemption after death.  Why would God's grace expire when our spirit and body have died?  It seems to me that those of us who cannot reach God on Earth can find recovery after human death.  God never gives up on any of us ever, even when we have given up on ourselves and our own lives.

    Lee H.

  • 02/21/2018 8:30 PM | Anonymous

    I mentioned recently how I came to undertake a careful look-see at the nature of my spiritual life in the program. Step 11 certainly called me to do so and, for that matter, the Big Book contains much on the subject. What troubled me, specifically, was how do I identify His Will. Most of the time I'm pretty careful when it comes to figuring out what the next "right thing" to do might be. I'd like to think that "the next right thing" might be God's thoughts on the matter, but that can't be all there is to it. After all, my ego can take on many different disguises and insert itself as the answer to what's right and what's wrong. I am aware of comments in the Book which call us to improve our moral fiber, to elevate our moral standards, and, importantly, to abandon reliance on my ego to guide my actions. Several years ago, my wife and I joined a group at our church devoted to study of the Rule of St. Benedict. After many discussion meetings centered on sharing thoughts about the previously selected book, a couple of retreats at cloistered spirituality centers, I've come to some conclusions that for me, at least, make sense and seem to provide comfort as I encounter life's bumps and grinds. 

    First, effectively using mediation to find God's Will in a specific case; it's a process. I don't just email or text God and ask for His help. It's a process that entails daily contemplation. I don't pretend that that daily process is taking place in my basement in a cloistered enclosure, but maybe a moment of silence and isolation assists. I believe, like our daily thoughts about the program, our surrender and the litany of working the Steps and each piece of the whole program provides a backdrop for finding Him and His Way. For many, daily maintenance of our program is always present, a daily habit. Accompanying those thoughts and action steps is, in my case anyway, a repetition of the Serenity Prayer ... I ask for "His Will for us and the power to carry it out." 

    Second, how do I identify His Will, which option do I select as His Will?  I've found that the search for "the next right thing" assists --  it's a good starting point. 

    Third, listen. Listen to others. Don't think you have all the answers and know His Will. Listen to experts, your sponsor, the group - bring the issue up as a discussion topic, and - be quiet and listen. When I do all this I have found that His Will, his answer, is the comfortable one, maybe it is usually that "next right thing." After all, the program calls on us to "improve our spiritual life, to discard the old thought processes and elevate our moral being. His Will is a calming feeling to me --  a serenity. "It just feels like the right thing to do in this situation."  And isn't this what the Program is all about. Isn't the basic program intended to bring not only sobriety, but serenity? ... "you will know peace and find serenity" ;the Big Book promises this if we but work at it. 

    Jim A.

    Covington, Kentucky

  • 02/08/2018 5:50 AM | Anonymous

    At a recent discussion meeting, I suggested the importance of the spiritual aspects of the program as the topic for discussion. I did so because without a strong spiritual base we jeopardize our sobriety and serenity. I had long attended church and remained a faithful and believing member throughout my "days of rage". I was cognizant of the words in the Big Book about our prayers and believed in their validity; in fact, the admonition to "seek the will of God for us" became central.

    But, alas, several years into sobriety, I experienced a good deal of uncomfortable anxiety. I increased my meeting schedule and listening and participating in the usual "discussion meetings" but something was still lacking. I contacted my sponsor and discussed this with him, a person who has long championed a strong spiritual base as a key to one's sobriety and serenity. I studied the available material and articles on the subject and I started concentrating on aspects of "surrender" ... "surrender" in the same sense as our surrender to the fact that we were powerless and needing help from something other than my own efforts.

    After a meditation program I grasped the fact that this "spiritual surrender" is as important as our "powerless surrender". I learned I'd have to "really mean it" when I took this second step in my search for His Will for us. Not a surrender with a "hedging of my bet" but an "all in" surrender. So what happened? ... no, my anxiety didn't disappear but it redefined itself by relieving me of the anxiety over my anxiety. That is, I became more comfortable with the problem. I spent time on how I might be able to work through the issue, knowing that sooner or later God would show the way. He did ... the problem was resolved and consequently my uncomfortable anxiety went away ... it was clearly a case of my ego still trying to control the situation. I had done all I could. I needed help and the program provided me the tools to search for the help I needed ... His Will was truly more powerful than my ego.

    So today, just as I ask for His Will to carry me through the day without drinking, so do I look for His Will and His Power to carry it out. The program supplied the tools for me to search for and ultimately find some serenity for an issue that was becoming a problem and for that I am grateful.

    Jim A.
    Covington Kentucky

  • 01/31/2018 8:10 PM | Anonymous

    Do you ever wonder where the 12 steps we so often repeat came from? Listen to this story.

    1934 Calvary Episcopal  Church New York, City

    The Rev. Dr. Sam Shoemaker has been rector of Calvary, for 10 years. He has developed Calvary House, a hostel and center for ministry and small groups in the city. He also runs Calvary Rescue Mission, a place for the “down and out” to get a meal and rest. Bill Wilson, an alcoholic New York stockbroker, visits there during his last days of drinking. Bill is influenced by Ebby Thacher, a friend who has become sober through a spiritual program called the Oxford Group led by Sam Shoemaker while Ebby meets at Calvary House.

    1935 Bill Wilson becomes sober and spends more time with Sam Shoemaker in his book-lined office talking with Shoemaker and attending Oxford Group meetings as well as visiting  at Calvary Mission and Calvary House. Dr. Shoemaker sends Bill a letter when he is 60 days sober thanking him for his help getting a chemistry professor sober.

     Later Bill Wilson says, “Every river has a wellspring at its source. AA is like that. In the beginning there was a spring which poured out of a clergyman, Dr. Samuel Shoemaker. He channeled to the few of us who then saw and heard him.. the loving concern, the Grace.. to walk in the Consciousness of God- to live and to love again, as never before. 4 Dr. Sam Shoemaker was one of AA’s indispensables. Had it not been for his ministry to us in our early time, our Fellowship would not be in existence today. Sam Shoemaker passed on the spiritual keys by which we were liberated. He was a co-founder of AA.”  The first three Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous were inspired in part by Shoemaker. “The early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgement of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Groups and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and no one else.” I am quoting Bill Wilson directly.

    So, Dr. Shoemaker provided a refuge for alcoholics in New York and directly influenced the Twelve Steps through his long and close friendship with Bill Wilson. 1.2,3

    You have heard from Bill Wilson. Now here are the words Sam Shoemaker later said.

    “I believe the church has a great deal to learn; not from any individual member of AA, but from the incredible collective experience of AA. I pray to God that what is happening pretty steadily and consistently throughout the fellowship could happen in every church. The AA fellowship is made up of people who are beginning to be changed, not saints, and not perfect. We in the church can all learn by this example and if we think we’re above it we are in real danger.”5

    Every January 31, the Episcopal Church remembers the ministry of this Episcopal priest in New York City who saved and changed the life of so many people at this service today.  One of my most spiritual moments was attending an AA meeting seven years ago in Sam Shoemaker’s office at Calvary.

    Perhaps you have seen an Episcopal presence in AA, but even more, perhaps you can see that Sam Shoemaker transmitted to AA a message, that it is all about love.. the same message we hope is transmitted  at every church and at every Eucharist.


    1. Dick B, "Calvary House and the Oxford Group,”  The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous, A Design for Living that Works, p. 114
    2. “A Biography of Sam Shoemaker,” AlcoholicAnonymous.org
    3. "A.A. Tributes Samuel Shoemaker "Co-founder" of A.A.," Dickb.com
    4. Karen Plavan, "A Talk on Samuel Moor Shoemaker," Calvary Episcopal Church, Pittsburg, January 31, 2010
    5. Michael Fitzpatrick, "Rev Sam Shoemaker, His Role in Early AA Part 11," Recoveryspeakers.com
    Joanna Seibert   joannaseibert.com

  • 01/24/2018 8:42 PM | Anonymous

    On St. Patrick’s Day, the city dyes Chicago River a brilliant hue no Kelly I know would claim for his own.  I’ll be there to attend a retreat with recovering men I’ve known for decades. I’ll also have tea with my former wife, the mother of my children. We’ve been estranged since our divorce a dozen years ago and this conversation is long in the making, though not overdue.

    We make cut ‘n’ dry amends for what we have done, or what we have failed to do.  But, when we perpetrate sins or shirk duties out of a lack character, well… we can’t exercise, can’t put to work what isn’t ours to summon.  Joan Didion1 wrote that “people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; … the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.” 1  I flubbed the play because I was never in the game.

    “To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness.” 1  Shame?  Guilt? Regardless, without self-respect, we stand empty-handed at every threshold.   There, I remained. 

    What then, might I now say to my darling-ago?  Words will come.  My determination arises from a long delayed appreciation of my childhood. My parents loved, nurtured, educated and entertained me, insured my place in the family circle.  I came unmoored, perhaps by circumstance, but not thorough any intent of theirs.  My education included the conviction that we are children of God: “God’s love sparked me into being. My life echoes His love. Inhabiting this love is my deepest need and my greatest desire.”2 This exalted belief implies a responsibility to myself, to my innate gifts and to the prospects that arise to use them. To show “the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life.”  

    Decades ago, I did not enter my third marriage with any such mandate, and my alcoholic bottom shortly followed our firstborn’s arrival.  In recovery, I acquired a grudging “willingness to accept responsibility”, but lacked “discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts.” 1  George Bernard Shaw described Oscar Wilde as, “…so in love with style that he never realized the danger of putting up more style than his matter could carry.  Wise kings wear shabby clothes, and leave the gold lace to the drum major.“3 Time heals; it also teaches. 

    If we even half-practice a rigorous honesty in recovery, eventually our egos crater and we are  “driven back upon oneself, …the one condition necessary to the beginnings of real self-respect.” 1  We discover that the “sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect, is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. … to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect.” 1

    In college, Ms. Didion lost “the conviction that lights would always turn green for me, the pleasant certainty that those rather passive virtues which had won me approval as a child automatically guaranteed me… happiness, honor and a good husband.” We zealously cling to our innocent self-deceptions. Some of us drink and drug ourselves silly to perpetuate them. When we ultimately release, are finally released from them, we know a “new freedom and a new happiness”4 grounded in a newfound self worthy of respect, a self we protect, nurture and love.

    -Martin M.

    1 Self-Respect, its source, its power, Vogue, Joan Didion, August 1961

    2 First Principle and Foundation, The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola, interpretation, Martin McElroy, 2017

    3 Letter to Frank Harris, introducing a revised edition of Life of Wilde (1918)

    4 Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book), AA World Services, Fourth Edition, 2002

  • 01/17/2018 9:39 PM | Anonymous

    I heard something a couple weeks back in a meeting that hit me between the eyes. "I'm a spiritual being having human experiences." I'd never heard that one before, as you guys probably have.  It made so much sense to me, and it's been rolling around my alcoholic brain ever since. My dad always told me that I would start paying attention to and caring about politics when I became a taxpayer. I care less about it now than I did when I was fifteen. I don't have any affinity for watching football, basketball, baseball, golf or any activities of their type. I tried to fake it for years.  

    My thinking runs counter to our societal values and conformity.  I'm not interested in hunting, fishing, or other stereotypical masculine pastimes, and, growing up and into my twenties and thirties, I always thought that my disinterest meant I was generally disinterested. I was a searcher, as my mother-in-law says, but I didn't have the rocks to be an all-out member of the counterculture.  

    So on and on, I developed low self-esteem, felt awkward and out of place, fell victim to fear and anxiety, and started the cycle of mental self-abuse. I was innately alcoholic on a cellular level. Then booze came along and introduced me to the two-drink smooth. It was literally magical.  Alcohol began doing for me what I could not do for myself. Low self-esteem, vaporized. Awkwardness, gone. Fear and anxiety, gone. As one of my favorite speakers says, all of the boxes were being checked. And so began the descent and ultimately the path back to the happy road with you guys. 

    I couldn't have understood back then that I was a spiritual being having human experiences. The journey is required to smash the ego and set the heart in a condition ready to accept the weight and depth of the spiritual life. It’s so clear now why I was the way I was. God does not make mistakes.

    -Lee H.

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