Baffling and powerful

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It’s cunning, too. The book even says it, but I didn’t get the sublety of a disease that waits patiently like a crocodile in the Nile to snatch those who come for a drink.  Thankfully, my life never played out in the papers like some of the well known athletes, actresses, and famous people of our time. I mean about the drinking and all. Oh, wait a minute…it was somewhere in the small town local paper a few times way back, and there were multiple charges. I write that as a reminder of how far I’ve come. I no longer drink, therefore, I no longer try to outrun the cops. My life has changed. I enjoyed listening to Cris Carter’s comments this morning on NFL Fox regarding his recovery from alcoholism and how it’s not something you just wake up from and you’re over it. He was also candid about his sadness over watching a progressive and fatal disease play out in the life of Johnny “football” Manziel, a highly talented, but somewhat maligned player because of his drinking. It takes a village for a man like me to remain sober, and I can’t imagine how a public figure could do it. Even Robin Williams wished to remain anonymous in meetings, but cell phones change all of that. Another example of a life of addiction playing out publicly in fatal fashion. Think about it. Hendrix, Joplin, Belushi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Mickey Mantle, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston to name a few. Even the father of modern day psychiatry, Sigmund Frued, died from a physician assisted death from drug overdose.  For every one of these celebrities there are thousands who toil in relative obscurity, afraid to get honest about a disease that painfully and methodically sucks the very breath from a man. Amy Winehouse sang, ” they make me want to go to rehab, I say, no, no, no.” She overdosed and died, too. I’m for intervention and rehab is a good place to start, but rehab can only get me sober, it will not keep me there. Addiction is alive and well even in the most gifted and talented people on earth.  It’s unfathomable to me that I somehow stigmatize people based on wealth, fame, or celebrity status. Addiction doesn’t. It kills the poor, rich, proud, downtrodden, and the star studded jet setters. If I can’t stop once I start, I’m probably alcoholic, no matter my lot in life. Acceptance of that fact is a great start, but each day I must take action….good day!…b

Heart don’t lie

imageWe have a simple slogan in recovery , “to thine own self be true.” It sounds like it might have come out of a 1950’s hardback library book. I have one too that works for me: ” the heart don’t lie.” It sounds like a country LP that might have come straight out of Bakersfield. My mind may play tricks, con, and manipulate me, but if I stay true to my heart then I’ll stay true to myself. The “heart” I’m referring too here is the God conscious Holy Spirit that lives in me. I have to feed it or it will die. The book says that deep down inside each of us is the “fundamental idea of God”, and sometimes I have to go to Him alone, because the answers I seek are usually revealed to me when I choose to do the right thing from the heart.  I know when I don’t, and I know how it makes me feel…just like I feel when the car won’t crank, or the money runs low, or the kids are sick. Those aren’t choices, that is life, but what I choose to fill my heart with everyday is up to me. I know there are evil forces in this world, but there are good forces too that work on my behalf in the spiritual realm. They help me fight those demons deep inside of me everyday thru surrender, service, and prayer…… “The heart don’t lie.” I know it’s grammatically incorrect, but to remind myself over and over works for me. If I sold all that I have and give the rest away, then I’m experiencing the radical transforming power of the heart of God.  The same heart for change that dwells in me. Nothing is static, not even a heartbeat, unless there is no heart, and that is where the lie lives….good day!…b

Gratefulness

 

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Up a little early this morning, dogs barking..deer must be running. I killed my first deer one cold, frost-bit morning. It’s a wonder I didn’t shoot my foot off.  I also caught a chicken house full of wood on fire the same Thanksgiving night, flames looked 40 foot high, all fueled by whiskey and pills. Never give a drunk a match, because we will burn something slam to the ground. Especially an angry one like me. I’m grateful that I don’t live like that anymore.  Gratitude, to me, is being thankful for the life I now have, and the fact that God has removed the obsession for me to drink and get high. Practicing gratitude is like an art form. I have to work at it. Michelangelo painted non stop for three days straight, his body twisted and contorted, all to get the Hand of God just like he wanted it on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I use to stay up for three days straight, and I wasn’t working on changing anybody’s hands, I assure you. You want to change a man’s life?…tell him you believe in him, and show him. When I am grateful, my whole perspective changes. My outlook on the day, my future, and my acceptance of the past.  So today, I want to tell you that I’m grateful for you all. For the hope and encouragement you bring to my thoughts because I hear it in your voices, I read it in your text and emails,  I see it in your eyes, and I watch it in your lives. You’ve helped me change my life. To God, whom I oftentimes don’t understand but I pray to often, helped change my life, too. I no longer see washed out, hollow eyes. I no longer stumble around, crash and burn much of anything anymore. I live life today, and it is good, no matter what is going on. For that, I owe my life to service for others and surrender to stay alive……all because one man told me He believed in me……and God gave me the willingness to change…good,good day!!…..b

Forgiveness

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Remembering  that God did not create me to watch everyone’s life transform, two of the most healing actions I’ve learned while on this earth are forgiveness, and my admission when I am wrong. Understanding that if I had gotten what I deserved would have been the death penalty, helps me better understand the words, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Forgiveness helps me let go of hurt and anger. It is a process that frees me to live life more fully. Forgiving is not forgetting, excusing, reconciling, or being weak. As one person put it, “Forgiveness was one of the hardest things in recovery for me, but now it means to let go and not to let the people who hurt me keep me locked to them with anger.”

The ninth step is about amends. It’s me righting the wrongs. That is the point in my recovery where I began healing from my past. But what about those who have already left this earth? My sponsor suggested that I write  letters that I could not send. Then I wrote the response that I would have liked to have heard from the other person. Letting the issue go is not always easy, but in every occurrence, I have a part to play. I finally had to learn that I don’t need anyone else in order to achieve this freedom. It is given as a gift when I am willing, open minded, and honest. The only person that can stop me from forgiving myself for the past is me. God has already forgiven me and doesn’t remember it anymore. Today, I not only want to be drug and drink free, I want to experience the freedoms that God has placed in my path. It really is an inside out job….good day!..b

Gratitude in the ground

 

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Slow smoked over low heat in the ground, all night long. The best metaphor I can compare to the way life has seasoned me. Nothing else works to get me out of myself better than the gratitude list, and cooking for others. I’ve come a piece since I learned to boil water, and I’ve learned that food can draw people together in ways unlike anything else. It’s cross cultural, regional, and creates camaraderie and laughter along with great memories. That is what sobriety and recovery  has done for me. It keeps me true to myself and others. These are the gifts and byproducts of a life I had never known but always wished I had. Comfortable in my own skin was a twist of fate it seemed for a long, long time. Rooted in childhood of origin, it’s the stuff I had to “unearth” inside of me just like pulling pork and brisket out of the smokey dirt. I know life is good when I see and have those promises come true. Fear of people has gone. I no longer am looking over my shoulder wondering what someone else wants from me. It is probably because I no longer live my life just to get something from others. God did that for me when he changed my mind. It is a process, just like smoking meat. Nothing I  do can hurry it up either. Awareness of who I am and where I am going takes time just like good BBQ. When I put in the effort, God blesses me with others in my life who have shown me how it works…living life without a drink one day at a time, and just a few years ago, I had nothing in my personal life that anybody even wanted. The book says I can’t give away something I don’t have, but over time, blessings of fellowship and friends to enjoy a good meal  is time well spent. When I slow down, then I don’t  ruin the enjoyment of the laughs and the love. Thanksgiving is an everyday treasure to those of us who have already been smoked with one leg in the ground….blessings from the Maker!….b

 

 

Frustrations

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There was always something I liked about Ralph Waldo besides  his name. I could take his advice on the above quote, which hangs as a magnet on my refrigerator door, more often.  I place  it there to remind me when my threshold for frustration gets low and what I need to do differently. I still  get frustrated easily at times, but mostly with myself nowadays. I believe something should happen or not happen and when it doesn’t go my way, I get irritable. Straight textbook stuff there, just like I did when I drank or if I needed a really stout one. Pacing back and forth into each room of the house, turning the TV’s on, turning the radio up, looking up something on youtube, and for that bottle I had hid the night before; fooling no one but myself. All I was doing was temporarily distracting myself from the core of my problem. I have since discovered that it is usually rooted in selfishness,  or sometimes it’s a festering resentment. The book says that is my number one offender, and it destroys more alcoholics than anything else. I drank because I liked the affect. I could forget my problems, not worry about too much of anything, and therein lies the nonsense. The problems are always still there, and they are not going away. It’s my reactions to them today that have changed. I no longer drink over them because I had to learn some hard core truths  about myself thanks to the fellowship of people just like me. They teach me that I can make it thru any experience or circumstance sober provided I let go of the past and ask God to continue to heal me from the core of the problems that causes the frustrations in the first place….good day!…b

And Then There Were None

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That title was taken from the Agatha Christie novel about 10 people invited to an island who began to die one by one with each who were still alive blaming the latest to die as the killer. In the end, there were only two left. For a long time I held close to the idea that I could still maintain contact with my drinking buddies and stay sober. It’s like bouncing a ball with no air.  I just didn’t want to cut them off because we had some hair raising good times together I would think. I was younger then, and a lot less wise. For me, I have had to change everything in order to stay sober including the people I choose to run with these days. After all, it might cost me my life. I’m talking here about the hard core drinkers like I once was. It’s natural for the last few standing to somehow gravitate toward each other in common brotherhood with the same old tall tales and same old war stories. We have a saying you probably have heard, “if nothing changes, then nothing changes.” The reality has been that I had to change EVERYTHING in order to get and maintain my sobriety..from places I once frequented, some acquaintances, and even my normal routine for a while. It was weird at first, but I’ve gotten more use to it. If I go to a concert, I go with a recovery friend. If I go to a ballgame, I go with a recovery friend. If I have a hang out, most all my buddies are in recovery. It’s not a right or wrong thing, it’s just that my mind has changed, and so have my associations. I had lunch today with two of my buds in recovery. I go to different places  when I travel to create new memories, not to the same haunts to relive yesteryears. Some of the former “friends” weren’t really that at all. We just used each other to get whatever we needed. Today, I can be real, honest, and open about who I am and where I am going. There is a freedom in that. I also have relationships with people that were once impossible. That is a gift. I cherish the gift and the freedom and I never want to take them for granted. God is willing, when I humbly ask…..good day!…b

The betting game

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Of all the things I am, thankfully, losing at a card table, football game, or a slot machine has never been my game. In fact, I was at a trade show on the coast of Mississippi years back when I put in three dollars worth of quarters in a slot, pulled the leaver, and walked to the counter with 400 dollars worth of coins. You would have thought I had struck a pot of gold and would want more, but I walked out. I’ve also stayed at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas and never put a nickel in a slot. It’s not my fortay to lose something I’ve never had much of to begin with….except my own sanity. I do know gamblers, and much like the addict I am, I have watched them lose everything, too. There are few safety nets or enablers to catch a man when he has to lose everything in order to find himself, unless he is willing to admit powerlessness and unmanageability. I have to watch where fear, excitement, and worry kick into gear. It’s all a head game, not a card game. Playing the odds of me picking up a drink today is about as senseless as throwing my money down on a game of Texas hold ’em. I lose at the game, every time. Working at my recovery,however, is 100% foolproof when I remain willing. It’s helped me stay sober and find a new freedom, and a new way to live even when the going gets rough and the money gets tight. The 9th step promises tell me, “fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us, we will know a new freedom and a new happiness……” Abstinence offers me that, the steps offer me that, but giving into the idea that get rich schemes, nickel slots, and match games is an old idea that I have had to let go…even when times get tough…good day!…b

On Death and Dying

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Jimmy Kimmel to Willie Nelson….” So, Willie when you die how do want to be remembered?” ……Willie paused and said, “when I die, you mean if I die?”….(laughing)

Even the Red Headed Stranger thinks he will be around forever I suppose. Mortality can be a hard pill to swallow .  I’ve already tried to die in ways, but the strangeness of it  is that the same pride and ego that almost killed me actually has given me the stubbornness to survive at times. I’m glad now that I stuck around. If you have ever wanted to end it all, got tired of the fight, and not wanted to surrender to the struggle, then I get you. The book says we have two alternatives: go to the bitter end, or seek a spiritual solution. For a hard head like me, those aren’t easy propositions. It’s sort of like trying to fly a plane with one wing knowing you will crash, but you don’t know when or where.  Culturally, I find it fascinating how people respond to death. In New Orleans, it’s a parade and a celebration of life.  The Caviteño people of the Philippines bury their dead in a hollowed-out tree trunk.  In the Appalachia, it’s usually  graveside with the worst baritone voice singing, ‘The Old Rugged Cross,’ drug out into what feels like the longest day of your life. What saddens me the most is watching older people slowly die, and younger ones die with needles in their arms and never having a clue of a better life. Sometimes, they both will lose their minds before their body quits. I lived for years on the edge like I would be around forever, too. It’s a sobering thought to know that I will not.  I believe God put me here and had a plan all along. A plan for me to evade death a little longer in order to share with others the experiences that have changed me. I see it everywhere; death, destruction, and hate. The same hate I had to work thru in order to understand what love can do. It can heal brokenness, repair damaged lives, sober a man up, and put the sordid pieces back together as well as free me from the fear of one day leaving this earth forever….blessings….b

Holiday Triggers

imageI might as well get it out a few weeks before the holiday boom. I spent 25 years of my life for this one time of year. It started about first frost and ended on a bad lake outing on the 4th of July. It’s changes in the weather as much as the holiday season. It’s time to hunt, or in my former life, hanging around the deer camp, drinking until two in the morning, and forgetting where I had put all my gear. It’s frustrating to live like that….but, boy how I anticipated it. It’s usually about the time I switched from beer to scotch. I still remember the warm feeling I got from that first swig. It’s insidious, insane, warped, and completely mind boggling how a guy like me would even show up to family functions taking drink after drink around a family who doesn’t celebrate with wine. I must confess, if I don’t stay busy this time of year, I have invariably relapsed, usually over some nostalgic thought of “what might have been.” The excitement of being off work, or just having an odd feeling over being placed in social settings where I am uncomfortable changed my thinking. Today, I drive my own vehicle, just in case I need to make an early exit. There is no use in standing around a Christmas party watching everybody else get hammered. The reality is that they get up and go to work the next day, and I call in sick and can’t get out of bed; Completely and utterly defenseless against that first drink without God’s help. This will be my fourth consecutive Christmas and Thansgiving sober and for that I am grateful. There is hope because it has gotten much better. Spending time with loved ones and helping others is how I spend my seasons now. I do a little traveling, too. I don’t have to live in pity and remorse over yesteryears, I enjoy the season for what it is and no longer for what I wished it once was….good day!….b