Discernment

….and I’ll keep on truckin’ like I didn’t even see it, ignore the warning, and somehow think that I’m the exception to the rule. One of the big “D” words that I need to incorporate more often in my daily commute on the recovery road. Discernment is a spiritual term that means good judgement. The doctor, in his opinion, writes that there comes a time in an alcoholic’s drinking career when he or she “can’t differentiate the true from the false.” Another big “D” word and another bites the dust. Discernment is asking the question, ” should I stay or should I go?” or “should I help or should I not?” Many well intentioned people, including myself, can do more harm than good by giving advice, money, or lending emotional support to a person who doesn’t want anyone to break their fall. I know the man well because I was him, and he was me. Just thumbing, and disregarding good orderly directions.  What works for me now is to ask myself, ” how does my experiences apply to the situation at hand so that I may be helpful and not harmful?” I must accept that some just aren’t ready or willing to receive help. It really did take a long time for me to hit that wall as well. With addiction, it’s just like that, and it is unfortunate that any die without knowing that ” God could and would if He were sought.” Today, that is where I put my faith and trust. It’s a fact born out of 80 years worth of experiences and several million who have recovered from hopelessness. Discernment is using what works for me….letting off the gas, pushing easy on the brake, and prayerfully asking God to continue to give me the “wisdom to know the difference”…good day!…b

Transparency

I’ve wondered, at times, why it was so hard for me to get honest about my addictions. Getting honest was not easy. It can still be difficult in recovery. Denial is as ruthless as a pack of rabid dogs….. it is always nipping at my heel.   Not that I’ve got it all figured out, but I’m much more in tune when my words, actions, and thoughts become dishonest.  The word that comes to mind is transparency.  It simply means to allow the sunlight to shine thru. This is what I’m trying to achieve in life. It’s hard getting honest. It’s harder to stay rigorously honest.  I couldn’t do it on my own.  I still can’t. It’s peaceful not having to make up lies to cover old ones. A good reminder is to remember what my bottom was like. I don’t want to feel that pain anymore. The good news is that I don’t have to. It’s a feeling like you have when you hear that your best friend is dying, or you bury your mother, or you get the news that you’ve lost your job.  Those moments in time that can define my progress in recovery and make me or break me.  The moments that shape my character or my character shapes the moment.  It’s like 4th and goal with no time left. I want the ball. That’s how I want to live my life, like it’s my last day here. I was just thinking this morning how blessed I am. A gratitude list always helps when my back is against the wall. The kids laughing, the guys who share their stories with me….the stories I’ve lived, the stories I know so well.  By the grace of God, I’ve been able to stay sober and tell others about the journey….good day!…b

Shame and Guilt

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 The feelings of shame and guilt. One will lead me to the cliff, the other will push me over the edge. Guilt is the uppercut, and shame is the knock out punch. One says I am bad. The other says that what I do is bad. Even when things in my life are seemingly going ok, I seem to have been born with that switch that turns itself on automatically…… as if I don’t think I deserve better.  And I hate myself for staying there. I hate it worse when I’m there and create that same feeling in others.  For the same stuff I’ve done.  I’m not going to self will my way out for certain. It was all I had ever known. It’s much easier to throw up my hands than it is to stay still, recognize it, call it out, and stop the thoughts and behaviors that lead to it. So, what do I need to do today to steer clear of it?….stop the triggers that cause those feelings that creep up. Those are what I call hot thoughts, and they lead to relapse. Certainly, we are all made with feelings,but these two breed resentments, anger, and mistrust. They  cause me to retreat. They force me to lie.  They cause me to relapse into the idea that temporarily killing the feeling will ease the pain. The one way I have found that helps me get out of it is to acknowledge and accept it. I understand that it’s not rooted in my character as much as it is my psyche. I run from feelings because  I don’t like them. When I accept that the past no longer defines who I am, only then can I move more quickly into the sunlight of the Spirit …..good day!….b

The Story

“Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday”-John Wayne

I guess I still believe that I’m suppose to ride off in the sunset; saddles, somehow, ablaze with all the glory. But the good westerns never ended without a shootout.  Growing up, we didn’t have cable TV, so my family told stories on the front porch. Where I come from, storytelling is not just an art form, it’s a way of life. Stories about ‘migrant carpentry’,  ‘bootleggers’, and ‘hitchhiking’ were three of my favorites.  Even stories get retold, and sometimes the lines get blurry like the tail lights on a straight scotch night.  Even the good stories can have a not so good ending.   Life, much like stories, can change on a whim.   Today, living sober is a new found freedom…God’s gift is rewriting the script. I’ve been at it long enough to know that I’m always one sip away if I don’t continue to do simple things that got me back on my feet. Sharing, reaching out, and staying accountable have surely been helpful in me staying sober.  How I finish each day’s ride is determined by my adaptability to life’s little pitfalls and pin pricks. They say you can get a drunk horse thief to sober up, but you still have a horse thief. So much work, so many rewards. If it were a fairy tale, I would write a book about all the experiences. But mine would end with me getting bucked off because I held on way too long. I have to learn the hard way it seems. Whether I’m on the summit or in the ditch, my story still has a chance for a decent ending. It may not be riding off in the sunset, but at least it’s not stumbling around drunk down on the farm……good day!….b

Letting go

No matter how many mistakes a man makes, he is still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying- author unknown
Letting go of any character defect is a life long process. Letting go of unhealthy resentments and fears from my past can be too. Add worry, anger, and self doubt and my whole plate is full.  I have to remember the “progress, not perfection” slogan to keep from reverting back to old behaviors. Many of you may know people who struggle with fixating on situations and people. I’ve learned the hard way that doesn’t work  either. It’s deeply rooted alongside addiction in the planter of my life,but it has gotten much better with the practice of letting go.  At some point, I have to recognize it’s just me trying to fix my own brokenness, and in its basic form, it is really about control. The very thought process that I tried with my drinking.  I have to remember the fruits of my labor present themselves when I let go, and so do the fruits of the Spirit. I’m kinder, gentler, and generally more content after I have let go. But there are those that I still hang onto madly. I guess I’m afraid to say goodbye.  When I drank, I went from rigidity to no boundaries in a full tilt. That was before high gravity beer came to town. Today, my thinking is more right sized when I turn it over to God, ask for His care, and let go of the idea that “I got this.” That sort of thinking is a death trap for me. Opening up to new ideas and letting go of old ones was a foreign concept for most of my life, but when I am honest, open minded, and willing, somehow I know that I will make it in spite of myself ….good day!….b

Legacy

Of all the truths I have ever found to be exact, this is it: I will one day exit this earth and leave a legacy. It will not be of wealth, fame, or notoriety. I want it to be one of hope. We all have one. As many ways as there are to celebrate a life well lived, there are as many legacies. We are all just vapors, then we vanish, but the man who dies and is missed for his presence is a well preserved existence. The memories of my loved ones who are gone resonate with each step I take along the shoreline of my life. Each gave a part of themselves and opened up my mind to new ways of transcending time. I appreciate the person I am becoming because they touched me in some positive way. It takes faith and courage to dig deep into the well of my soul and bare the essence of who I tried to hide for so long. Those old patterns failed me miserably, so I have to learn new ways to live. Nothing can be more complete than a man who walks the walk….and he doesn’t have to say much because his actions are believable. I could name them all, but each life would be a chapter in a story untold. I love the saying on our 12 step medallions. It simply says, “to thine own self be true.” I have told many lies, but ultimately I could not run from the truth I know in my heart. Twisted and torn at every turn, defiant, illogical, and self serving would describe the old man. Today, I am happy and content with what I have and who I am, and that God spared me, in His infinite wisdom, to carry the message of hope that so many die without knowing. A legacy of hope that people will say, “that man made a difference in my life”….good day!…b

Perspective

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The task is…not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.”-Erwin Schrödinger

 It is what gets me derailed often, my own frame of reference. With art, perspective is the way objects diminish toward a horizon line.  An example would be two tracks of a railroad getting smaller and closer together as they move away from you. Or suppose I make this statement, “He is stronger than a fox.” You would perceive that I meant to say either, ” He is stronger than an ox, or he is smarter than a fox.” My mind’s perspective works much in the same way. Throw in a little knowledge, sprinkle it with anxiety, some ADD with a little OCD, and from the start, my perspective is skewed. Before I even get out of bed in the morning, my thinking is already behind the eight ball. It’s the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I know because I have to live inside my own head. Thankfully, God freed me. I’m just hard wired that way; however, it contributes much to the factors of my addiction. It’s why I sought relief from the thoughts and feelings that are so ingrained in my mind. Balance between the what is and not the what if’s is what I seek today, so rather than expending my energy on what it is that bothers me about others, I need to look within myself to understand that it’s my perspective of the person or circumstance that usually is faulty.  Then, I can do something about it. Living in the solution then forces  my perspective to be more in line with my core and frees my spirit to be of service to others…one thought at a time…good day!…b

Self Knowledge

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It’s where we go, and what we do when we get there, that tells us who we are.
Joyce Carol Oates
 I know about half as much now as I thought I knew way back when. It’s probably good to admit it since I’m a self confessed one time know it all. The craziness is that you didn’t even have to ask me because I’d just tell you. If you weren’t listening, I’d get louder. Twain said its “best to be silent and let people think you’re a fool, than open your mouth and remove all doubt.” The idea is insane that I can outsmart the disease of addiction when it’s knocked me to the canvas, round after bloody round. Educated and smart are two entirely different angles. Addiction knows neither.  Until I became willing to surrender, throw in the towel, and let God have it all, very little ever changed. I have to constantly and vigilantly remind myself of that fact. When I think I know best, it’s usually time to run it by someone who has the wisdom and gift of discernment based on their own experiences. My best thinking,rooted in selfish desires, usually produces chaos, confusion, rebellion, and complete debauchery. Then, I act out in ways that get me in trouble. All from a man who at one time was afraid to let people know that he really didn’t know the answer, so he’d just lie and try to convince you it was true. On the flip side, I can get so “spiritually minded” that I think I know all the answers to finding God.  That is spiritual pride. The only experience I can give a new man to recovery is to get God in it quick, and pray for willingness. At least that is what works for me. I can know a little about a lot, but it’s what I do that matters….good day!…b

Love

In its simplest form, it’s called love; in its purest form, God.

How anyone can have the capacity to love, and love deeply, after hearing traumas they have experienced has always amazed me. If God is love, and others can love, then so can I. It took me looking at myself while doing  step work to find the real answers. They lie within. The problem I had with love is that I was predisposed to believe that I had to perform perfectly in order for God to love me. That’s not love, that is perfectionism, and I am far from that.  So often, people turn to kill the inward pains of loss, abuse, neglect, poverty, divorce, death, dysfunction, natural tragedies, disease, family trauma, unemployment and the like with alcohol and drugs. I did, and they turned on me. There really was not a whole lot of choices when the pain got that bad, or so I thought. Eventually, nothing worked. It was entrenched in my thinking to take the easier, softer way.   I ran out of hiding places inside myself, and it was in those desperate moments that I found the God I know today. I hear him and see him when I see acts of kindness and love. The struggle to surrender is real, and I find hope in others. When I see their lives change, I feel God. When I look into the eyes of someone who tells me, “ive been where you’ve been”, I experience God. He allows start overs….. in the middle of life, or in the middle of the day. I thank Him for that, and today I know that I’m worthy of being loved and loving unconditionally without expecting anything in return. It doesn’t always come to me naturally, but it’s one of life’s big lessons that comes back around in ways that I can’t even explain……good day!…b

Family disease

 
 For years, I thought that my actions were only hurting me. Silly thinking because I was wrong. They affect everyone in whose lives that I contact. Most of all, they affected those that were the closest. They didn’t understand as if we were all looking thru a glass: darkly, dazed and confused. I breathed just to make sure I was still alive, checked my pulse, and thought, “you’re not going to wake up tomorrow.” The sad part was I really didn’t care.  The emotional appeals never worked, neither did interventions. Not until I got ready. The surrender had to emerge from my soul. I know they got tired of lending money, the bail outs, the excuses, the lies. Showing up to family functions under the influence wasn’t good either. I remember my sister grabbing her oldest from my arms when he was a baby. She told me never to hold her child when I’ve been drinking. I was 16 then. I never forgot that.  If I could have stopped the mental blank spots, I would have long ago.  I had to be crushed enough to take a few simple suggestions, ask God for willingness, and look back to see my own life turn. Today, I believe in miracles. It takes time to repair the damage, but the results are tangible.  My kids hug me again. They tell me they are proud of me, and that they love me. What once was an icy cauldron has melted away into trust. They believe that I’ll come home sober. My nephew that I was once held has grown into a fine young man. He shakes my hand and hugs me, too. He will hopefully never go down that lonely ‘ole road. They’ve never given up on me.  I open up my life to them and share my stories all because God never gave up on me, either……good day!….b