Courageous Vulnerability

Nothing but gut level honesty can produce the kind of vulnerability it takes to find myself. Realness? …..yes, getting real. I’ll still manipulate and think, for some reason, I’m getting away with something. I guess I get some sort of rush out of faking it at times. People ask, “how are you?”….and I’ll lie and tell them, “fine”, and quite possibly could be having the worst day of my life. I believe I’m conditioned to believe that….we’ve all heard “fake it ’til you make it.” It’s best for me just to get it on out. I have to one way or the other, but I don’t like being vulnerable. Who does?….it’s a learned behavior that I have to practice, and it takes courage. Courageous vulnerability. Vulnerability is not weakness, paradoxically,…..it’s actually strength. Yet, it’s so hard to not only tell others, but show them the deep seated guiding forces that actually can derail me. The cycle goes like this: unresolved feelings, obsession and fixation, I use, feel guilty, and use again to get thru the guilt and shame….and back to the unresolved feelings again. That’s why a thorough inventory of my personal “handicaps” has been so instrumental in my recovery. Dealing with anger, fear, and personal relations is not an easy practice. Actually putting pen to paper and writing about them….even harder….that’s why I never could stay sober any length of time….because I wasn’t willing to get vulnerable with my true feelings about myself and others. I have to confess it so I  may be healed….healed from what?…. The bondage of myself. That, my friends, takes courage and vulnerability……it’s a day at a time ordeal…..good day!…b

Addiction

I shuddered, looked away, avoided the inevitable, but I couldn’t run from myself. I really can’t leave it totally behind. I can’t forget how far I’ve come and that it’s a part of who I am today. Still recovering from a disease that is no respecter of persons and doesn’t discriminate based on knowledge, will power, ethnic origin, family wealth, or power. It’s hungry like a wolf. All appears ok for a while, then life starts taking turns and twists…..then the sheep start scattering.  I share my story of hope and survival because I know, deep down in my core, that there will always be a wolf inside that wants to feed on the carnage I create when I’ve turned back. It lies and waits patiently, to rip my very being to shreds. It starts in my mind and lures me into thinking I know an easy way of taking my feelings of discomfort away. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I knew it had quit working long before I admitted it. No, really long before I accepted it. Getting honest for an addict is about like breaking a horse. You got to get on and ride it, get bucked off…..tell a few lies, get caught, get in some trouble…and get knocked to the ground again before reality sets in. Unfortunately, for some, their death is our reality. This disease does have the power to kill. I’ve watched it happen before my very own eyes. It’s tragic and sad and somehow, for some people who do not know, it’s not a moral dilemma….it’s a spiritual crises.  Many people find God and die sober. Drunks, who were once like me, who never again taste of the fruit from the vine that can produce a chemical so toxic that it destroys the fabric which had made the man. The biggest hurdle for me to overcome was admitting that the substances that altered my mind were the very by products of my maladjustments in life. God removed the obsession, and I learned I’m not the average, temperate drinker or user. I imbibe, and my brain chemistry changes…….I’m not a crusader nor a reformer……..just 1manzstory, one day at a time…..blessings!…..b

Perseverance

The healthy and strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it. Whether he’s got an abscess on his knee or in his soul. ~Rona Barrett

Never give up…… I’ve heard it all my life. One morning I woke up to a note that my mother had left on my desk….it read, ”Thank God in the morning when you wake up that you have something to do whether you like it or not. Being forced to work and do your best will breed in you a hundred virtues which the idle will never know”……I committed it to memory. I’ve thought about that when I’ve wanted to give up. I appreciate the values I learned in the experiences of growing up and working hard. I left home at 17, and I’ve had many jobs…….furniture mover, lawn care, student co-op work, librarian, steel worker, teacher, coach, administrator, salesman, and project management to name a few, but full time college student was the one I liked the best. It sure beat the steel factory because that was hard, dangerous work for 6 bucks and some change an hour. Tons of steel moving overhead on cranes that a hard hat would have been useless if the chains slipped sure made a college degree look real good…… in fact, I liked college so much that I crammed four years into eight. Then, I moved on and got a master’s degree…..I learned to hunt deer and turkey when I was 30, mountain bike when I was 35, do triathlons at 38, and at 44, I hope to careen down to the floor of the Grand Canyon in a few weeks and see the mighty Colorado face to face ……I kept coming back, never gave up, stopped blaming others, and along the way, I discovered that God never gave up on me, either. It takes intestinal fortitude to forge a living……. blood, sweat, and tears…….. but it takes perseverance and acceptance to make a life. It’s only a vapor, it will vanish. The truth is evident as I look around and watch my friends and fellows drop dead from the same disease, with no hope. They die before they really hear the meaning behind the message. The same hope that lies in me……the same hope of a better future for my kids that don’t have to watch me self-destruct anymore. Now, I get up every morning and ask God to help me persevere one more day……and remember those words my mother wrote on my desk years ago……good day!……b

                                                                      Bible Verse

Fruits of the Spirit

The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long suffering, goodness, patience, kindness, faithfulness, and self control.         Gal. 5:22

The very opposite of my character flaws, defects, weaknesses, or whichever you prefer to call them. The same ones that drove me most of my life. But those same defects can be turned around and used to help a man grow….just like seeds in the soil. Growing up on a farm helped me understand some unique wonders  about life. There is a time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to prepare the soil for the next season. A time to pluck the weeds from choking the grain, and a time to cut the dead vines from the vineyard because they choke out the good fruits. Just like my character defects that crop up like Johnson grass in a hay field. Cows won’t eat Johnson grass….. it’s too bitter,  like my attitude can be from time to time. Bitterness is ugly, just like sour is from the taste of old grapes. Same old grapes that kept getting me snockered. I’ve watched my father plant a garden since I can remember. He’s 83 now, but the lessons on farming and raising fruits and vegetables have been priceless. You pluck the rotten tomatoes from the vine, to help the healthy ones grow bigger.  You use natural fertilizer to make the soil rich. I remember those days, shoveling chicken manure and horse dung….and I never liked it one bit. But I sure do enjoy the fruits of the harvest, and the same analogy can be applied to those nasty, foul, and rotten defects that rare their ugliness from time to time. My attitude can get so bad, that even I don’t like being around me. Recognizing them is one thing, doing the work to rid them is often times nasty work. I know they will never completely go away: greed, lust, deceit, jealousy, envy, and pride……, but the Program teaches me that these have been the biggest cause of my problems. Like a dead vine, I have to cut them as quickly as possible, and dependence on God is the key….if a farmer tills, fertilizes, plants, and plucks…..who for heaven’s sake does he sit back and wait to provide the rain?…..good day!…b

Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” -Melody Beattie

Nothing works better when I’m feeling sorry for myself than the good old gratitude list. The list that reminds me of how thankful I am to be alive, breathing, with a little walking around sense. It’s that “whoa is me” attitude that no one cares to much for, really. The same old…..”nobody loves you when your down and out blues”. Yet, I will stay in that misery just long enough until the pain forces me to change my thinking. There once was no stop gap between the two. It was, ” they did me wrong”……and “I’m going to get them back by getting a sack and bottle.”Damned near killed me. The problem is, everyone has problems too, and everyone is  running around trying to figure out how to deal with them in their own way……but the chip. The one on my right shoulder. The  one that tells me that the world owes me something, that I’m entitled to something for whatever reason…just because I am, mostly. No, it doesn’t….. not a thing. That sort of self centered thinking creates misery. I don’t want to live like that, so in the morning, I come up with ten things that I’m grateful for…….roof, car, kids, job, insurance, health, program, family, friends, God……I wrote those as I typed. Maybe yours is a toothbrush or that shiny new corvette. Point is.. when I got sober, I had no idea what gratitude was……others had  to show me….and today, it is the single most important factor in how my day starts and finishes….. I have a love for experiences. All kinds. I love new food, clothes, shoes, adventures, places to go, books to read…..but I really love my front porch. I got all the amenities on it I need. Some days, and at night, I have a cigar, soda water with twist of lime, ….and think to myself….”what a wonderful world”……and hear raspy voiced Nat King Cole somewhere in the background of my mind…..singing me back home, making me ever so grateful for life’s little pleasures…good day!…..b

Bible Verse

Hitting Bottom

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Some days, I have to remember what it felt like falling out of the top of a tree as a kid and hitting every branch on the way down. That’s about what hitting my bottom felt like….at least emotionally anyway. A bottom can be physical, mental, financial, emotional, or spiritual……..just imagine if you lost your whole family at one time. The little girl pictured above did, in the war torn country of Afghanistan. I can’t imagine,…… but there is a war that rages within, too. If I had all the tea in China, salt in South Africa, and sugar cane in Cuba, I would still have to work the steps to stay sober. Materials, people, work, nor crying pleas from my own children couldn’t make me quit. So, what are these steps I write about that helped save my life?…they are one man’s way of putting into understandable terms how to get sober and stay sober for an overthinker like me. The principles behind them are the guiding force: humility, honesty, willingness, acceptance, faith, and service to name a few. It’s not for the faint of heart. Losing your whole family wouldn’t be either. I learned about the steps in my first detox stint in 1991. I thank God for that exposure today and for the fact I never gave up. I knew I had problems early on, and I tried…..I really, really tried….but I wasn’t ready. Sometimes, it’s that last blow that finally knocks some reasonableness into a man. No charges, jail, detox, rehab, or frothy emotional appeal worked. Not until I became willing. That life got old, running wide open….telling lies, living a lie….it’s exhausting. Thankfully, there is a solution….and I persevered, never gave up, and surrendered twenty years later. For some of us, it takes that long to be beaten into a state of submission…..and like every branch I hit…I learned it’s a painful and long, hard fall….good day!….b

Bible Verse

Hope

When a man loses hope, he’s lost everything. Hopelessness is like being caught between a rock and a hard place. I’ve seen hopelessness, and I’ve experienced hopelessness. Pure defeat. William Faulkner once wrote that a man can never learn to swim until he finally takes his eyes off the shore. I can only paddle around for so long….and I’m either going to sink or swim. My second experience at doing intermediate triathlons proved it. There were 400 participants in a 600 yard swim, each going into the water by our estimated swim time. I had practiced all spring refining my strokes, breathing techniques, and staying true to form. But like most anything else, I start fast…..lose form, get tired, give up, then lose hope. In that order. I want to be good….but what does good have to do with it when a man has no hope. It all starts in my mind. If I focus on being “good” rather than doing “good”, then I get discouraged, demoralized, and give up hope. “What’s the use?”….I ask myself…and I forget the need to let go. That kind of thinking kept me in a time warped cauldron of doom and gloom. There is no hope there. For a man like me, I had to hit rock bottom, ask for help, take suggestions, and pray for willingness to gain some hope. The same things I do today. In other words, these actions don’t come natural…I have to work to maintain the hope that lies within me. No man can do it for me, I have to ask God to help me. I’m not a martyr nor a victim. That thinking throws me into addictive behaviors. What I do is open my mind to the idea that to get hope….I have to keep remembering that my past is a series of lessons that advance me to higher levels of living and learning….good day!…b

Bible Verse

Thrill is Gone

           ” The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you”- BB King

I’ve spent my whole life chasing that thrill…..5000 records, a guitar named “Lucille”, and one hit later…and Riley “Blues Boy” King is gone. Just like all the thrills I chased. His riffs were so sweet that he could make a man fall in love even if he didn’t want to….his honesty, courage, and rawness is what I admired. Three indispensables for me to stay sober. The son of a sharecropper, he was self taught and admitted he couldn’t play chords very well. So, he invented his own vibrato style that influenced everyone from Clapton to Derek Trucks. I saw him at Lynn Park in the early nineties, and he’s the only guitar player I’ve ever heard that can make my right knee start to move without even thinking…..the thrill?….that next high, next adventure, next drink….adrenaline junkie with ADD. Once I finally discovered who and what I am….the thrill for me has changed. The thrill of helping other people, offering hope, giving my time to worthy causes. That’s the thrill that comes when I stopped chasing my tail and started chasing my dreams. Writing a book, blog, traveling, spending time with my kids, working with disadvantaged youth. A thrill I wouldn’t trade for the best Scotch in the Highlands, today. God has brought me this far….I don’t think to desert me….but to help me learn the simplicity of helping others. BB King was to the blues what working the steps are to my recovery. I have to see how to improvise, to change, to handle freedoms…..in order to appreciate the blessings when I hear his riffs and voice play and sing …”when love comes to town”…good day….b!

Bible Verse

Leap of Faith

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” — Soren Kierkegaard

You ever look thru old pictures and reminisce?….about the “good ole days”? The happy times when all appeared to be good…… the façade…..and think about the lies we tell ourselves about how we wish we could change this or that about each scenario? ……never taking into account there has been a purpose and plan to it all….that most of life’s events aren’t problems…they are really just inconveniences. Perspective is not just two tracks in a picture that narrow as they get farther toward the horizon.. It’s also how I am shaped by my experiences in viewing life. Boiled down to the very essence of our beings….each of us are worth about a buck fifty…or if you have gold in your teeth, you may be worth a little more. Morbid, I know…..but the reality is we will all get there one day. Some of us sooner than later. A few years ago, I was speeding the process up rather quickly. Honestly, I never thought I would see 40. Gut level honesty…..I didn’t really care….some people have a few bad days, I had a string of bad years….that landed me straight onto the psych ward doing the Thorazine shuffle. If you’ve ever hallucinated that ants were crawling out of your skin….you will get it….that’s the ugly side of an addict’s bottom. Faced with a self imposed crises I could no longer evade, I had to seek help….spiritual help….it is a God thing…that I never understood. The upside?….thankfully, God has restored me to a more serene way to live once the obsession to drink and use was lifted. I do the work today. God, does the rest….so, when I’m down but not out…thinking about the “miles to go before I sleep”…I have to remind myself…..that if I want to change, I have to be willing to take a leap….good day!…b

Bible Verse

Hold On

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 Where are they?  Those giant bounds and heap fulls of faith that I think I already should have earned, shaped by priceless experiences that force me to move along when I’d rather just quit. I understand better today why people turn back. I want to do the same at times, but adversity is designed to make my faith grow stronger I have learned. It’s spiritual in nature, and it’s just a test of my willingness to turn it over and let God have it. Riddled by unemployment, political indifference, an elderly sick father, and a kid abusing substances, there are days I get down. Real low down. There have been happy times when life appeared to be good.  Looking back,  I think about the lies I told myself when I played god. I was arrogant and egotistical, and all I wanted was to change this or that about each scenario never before taking into account that there has been a purpose and plan to it all. Life does have new meaning,  and I’ve discovered that there are necessary endings for new beginnings. Those feelings that once ruled me lose their power when I put pen on paper, or perhaps talk it over with a good friend. It’s easier for me to become the victim, but now I realize that martyrdom does me no good. In fact, it can have the power to kill my spirit for all that’s good. Boiled down to the very essence of our beings, we each do the best we can with what we have, but left to my own devices, I invariably self destruct.  Some people have a few bad days, I had a string of bad years. Those times when the world was beating me to a pulp. But God will continue to  look out for me. I think he wonders about me, loves me, is perplexed by me, and is interested in me.  Faced with a self imposed crises I could no longer evade, I had to seek help, deep spiritual help. It is a God thing that I had never understood before. The upside is that I’ve been restored to a more sane way to live once the obsession to escape was removed. Everybody bears the brunt of a burden. I hold fast, God does the rest. It takes guts and courage to change, but some days I know when I have to loosen the grip…..good day!…b