I’m sorry

Screenshot_2016-01-30-23-05-39-1For all the lies I’ve told and the times I’ve stolen folks peace of mind, I am sorry. If you’ve ever had any dealings at all with an alcoholic in his cups, you’ve been short changed. I’ve never heard a woman say, ” I just love it when my husband is drunk all the time because he is such a good example to our family of what drinking too much can do for everyone’s well being .” On the contrary I hear bitterness, remorse, self pity, hatred, and disappointment. Most drunks will tell you that they will quit one day. Every drunk I know will get sober, I’m just thankful I was still alive when I did. Many have to sink to the depths of hell with family watching on the sidelines with seemingly little time on the clock. It’s easy to be the victim, but family members need help, not excuses. There are support groups for family members of alcoholics, a place where others understand. I didn’t drink because I didn’t love my family and friends. I drank to overcome a mental obsession and to relieve the physical craving for alcohol…and I was sorry, all the time. I apologized, swore off, moved, changed brands, and made promises I could not keep. Staying sober has helped me see that destructive mental pattern of self pity and doubt. I can make excuses, but ultimately I get out of my recovery what I’m willing to put into it. In the end, what will matter is whether I choose to be a giver rather than a taker. I never had any idea back then that I was robbing myself of the true joy in living. I could barely crack a smile. Today, I belly laugh even when the going gets rough. It’s the little bit of serenity in knowing that I’m in God’s will. When I’m selfish, resentful, and afraid then I’m showing the world that God doesn’t work, but He does, and for that reason alone you will never hear me say that I am sorry…good day!..b

Hope

imageLosing hope feels like a four walled room closing in on me. I have had those feelings of impending doom before and had no idea what was causing them. Bathed in a swath of liquor and pills, I’d be high before I ever sat up on the barstool for my first drink of the day. The decision had already been made. It’s a feeling unlike any I’ve felt, like hanging onto a sandstone cliff with the rock crumbling underneath my one hinged hand. The other was hanging onto a bottle so tight that not even the fear of dying scared me. The fear of living without it did. That’s when I knew I had lost all hope. For years I tried church, religion, God, AA, Celebrate Recovery, rehab stints, detox centers,  and I simply couldn’t fix myself. I tried everything to prove that I really wasn’t an alcoholic. Maybe a high functioning heavy drinker, but I just couldn’t admit that I was different. Even when the circumstantial evidence proved otherwise, and any old road kept taking me back to the same old demons. The harder I fought, the more the demons won. It was a vicious cycle of complete hopelessness until a series of unfortunate circumstances beyond my mental control led me to give up even making the simplest of everyday decisions. I was ruled by anger and fear, lust and pride. Those deep dark secrets that I had never told anyone but had written down finally had begun to help me understand that God was inside of me all along. That understanding builds trust, trust builds faith, faith builds character, and character breeds hope. Hope doesn’t just happen. It’s not born out of the friendly confines of convenience. The facade that I got to pull it all together, have food in the fridge, new tires on the car, and a double dose of serenity all of the time never gave me hope. It’s birthed from hopelessness. I see hope now because I look for it. It may be a ray of sunshine gleaming off of water, or a person’s car I haven’t seen in a while sitting in the lot before a meeting when I pull up, or a guy with nine months sobriety who had to be wheeled into his first meeting months back because of poor health due to excessive drinking. Now, he looks better, talks better, thinks better, and acts better and gives his credit to God. That’s the place where I find hope…..blessings!…b

Progress, not Perfection

imageMy ego can still be so driven by getting to places, getting stuff, and gathering goods that understanding the simplicity in spirituality is a mystery that I cannot explain. Tranquility comes when I stop trying to figure it out and just enjoy it. There are 6.7 billion people on planet earth and the biggest cause of death is birth. I love the Prayer of St. Francis where he prays that we live by dying. Jesus Christ once stated, “we live by dying to ourselves.” It’s not a perfect world, and I don’t work a perfect program of recovery, but acceptance is not trying to live life alone. I have to have help to see what I cannot with the naked eye lense of my mind.God’s plan has nothing to do with whether or not a child dies or if I win the jackpot. What matters is that I put my hand into His and become constantly  conscience and aware of His presence in every situation and person that I meet. Only then has my focus shifted from mine to His. My thought life changes, and then my actions. Even my best plans caused me spiritual bankruptcy, and in hitting bottom I found deep inside of me a sense of love and well being. That to me is God. I see God in others and subsequently, I want to be more like them. The struggle has been that I wouldn’t be satisfied unless it was my plan. I don’t have to get perfect and clean now for God to like me. I don’t have to get it all right all of the time in order for God to even love me, but that was my thinking for years. As long as I creatively think of ways to create progress without Him, I have no serenity. Just a few short years ago, no one could pry a drink from my cold, heartless hands. The numbness and tranquility I felt after the first couple were so powerful, that only God could have removed the obsession. The comfort is in accepting the inevitable and not trying to change it or fix it. Find a man who is not trying to control, manipulate, and coerce his way thru life, and you will find a man at perfect peace….happy hump day!….b

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The Bottom Line

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I’ve often said that money doesn’t mean a thing until I run out. We get our ticket stamped out of here and are not even remembered for how much we have, but how much we gave. I was a taker most of my life, and ironically seldom saw the blessing, the beauty, and goodness threaded and interwoven in it all.  Miserable, mad, and misaligned, I was in constant conflict with my inner core and almost everyone in my path.  I could not see the roses for the thorns. Comparatively, it is in my nature to say to myself, “they have this or that,drive this or that, or vacation here and there.” I have hobnobbed with millionaires and coddled with the down and out, all on a ship of fools. When I place the value of a friendship on what someone else can bring to the table, then I’m having dinner for a party of one. I had to learn the hard way that living life my way led to complete moral, financial, and personal bankruptcy. Alcohol, the 12 and 12 book says, is the “rapacious creditor that bleeds us all of self sufficiency.” Oh, I can make a living, I just never could make a life. The world’s problems have a profound effect on my psyche when I take it to the limit. The credit limit that is. I’ve been in Vegas where I saw limo Hummers, diamonds, and pearls flowing like milk and honey when a friend told me,” you ain’t seen nothing yet.”  People’s pockets lined so deep that they should have been sewn in velvet, all while double fisted, smoking borrowed cigarettes, and drinking top shelf, stolen vodka on someone else’s tab. Drunks come in all shapes and sizes. We are rich and poor, and all in between. Some unforseen tragedy happens, and all the bling goes down the tubes.  I told a wise man one time how I had noticed how hard it was for a rich man to sober up. He just winced and said, ” yea, but it’s hard for a poor boy, too.” Addiction is no respecter of race, religion, culture, or creed. It is ruthless, heartless, and the monster will always need to be fed as long as I open the bottle. The solution is learning to accept whatever God puts in my way. After all, if I turn my will and life over to Him, should I not believe that my needs will always be met? If it’s the bottom line I am chasing, then I hit bottom chasing a line…..good day!…b

The Reverse

Screenshot_2016-01-24-06-49-36-1Reality can be a hard pill to swallow. Setbacks, throwbacks, and disappointments can all be gut checks that gauge my connectedness on a spiritual level. Its the acceptance and awareness of the plan that has changed in me.  The world doesn’t stop for anybody and to think that rolling around in an addiction to ease my pain seems almost tragically foreign now. I say its tragic because that is right where the enemy wants me…in reverse, looking over my shoulder rather than planting my feet firmly on today’s ground. The most successful people I know prepare for tomorrow but live in the here and now. I want to be more like that. I can’t spend too much time relishing in the glory days, either. The glory days are now, and I had better enjoy them while I can. I ran into an old friend over the holidays who has spurned his own wisdom and explained his nineties cocaine problem away like it was just a bad dream. He had a case of beer in the buggy, and after chatting I thought, ‘if not for the grace of God there I go.’  Living on self will, propelling myself forward, living with the delusion that I can fix my own problems all while stuck in reverse doesn’t work. It’s like trying to get a 71 Superbeetle out of a ditch with no winch. It doesn’t have the power to just pull itself out and neither does my will to overcome my own addictions any more than self knowledge. I’ve read all the books, attended the college of hard knocks, but I still think at times that I’m in control. Today, I’m reminded that I can’t move forward while stuck in the past. Old loves, adventures, and geographic cures never worked either. The idea is that the Father who has given me grace and mercy to learn and grow from my experiences whether good or bad does it for me. The One who keeps me out of the ditch and out of reverse…..blessings!…b

The Path

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In 2011, I was riding on a mountain bike trail in North Carolina in a beautiful part of the country close to Lake Fontana on Tsali Mountain. On this particular day, the trail I had trekked before was closed, opened to horses only. They can usually maneuver these paths thru the mountains, but I’m no horse. It’s a reminder of how often I live life to my satisfaction. Most all of my life I have flown solo where there is no path and tried to cut my own trail. My muscles were loosening, I was  breathing fresh air and feeling the adrenaline rush of freedom, but my mind was racing like a squirrel in a cage. All was good for 5 miles into the ride when I suddenly and unexpectantly hit a culvert at the bottom of a trail going 30 mph. At least that is what my cat eye read. The wheels came off with bike and body parts flying everywhere. Thank God I was wearing a helmet. I finally caught my breath, wiggled my fingers and toes, and realized I still had six grueling miles to go with a bad hangover, pulled muscle in my back, and a busted up bike.  It was grueling, tedious, and painful much like life when I try to do it all on my own. Cell phones don’t work in the wilderness. I was barely able to walk, much less peddle, so I had one choice and that was to muster the courage to make it out. I stopped and thanked God for those sun ripened wild blackberries that were along the trail, while I carried, pushed, plodded, and trudged. It took a walking stick, some chiropractic work, exercise, and the rest of the summer to gain some flexibility to walk completely upright again. I’ve not ridden many trails since then, but the ones I’ve ridden have been on flats. That’s my best thinking and it gets me in situations where only an act of God can free me. Before this incident, very few times have I stopped long enough to learn the lesson.  How often in life I have wondered….whose going to rescue me, fix me, and get me home? The answer is that spirit that lives in me, A Spirit of hope. I’ve fallen off both a horse and a bike, but it’s still my choice of which I’ll ride and what path I’ll take. Anyone can fall into the gap of life, but without a Power Source to pull me out, there is no hope of my recovery…..good weekend!…b

Changes

 

image.jpgNothing will change inside of me until I see the necessity. So until I do, I’ll fight, struggle, control, manipulate, and coerce to have my way. It is  self centeredness that keeps me there,  unwilling to unravel the chain of a lifetime of childhood experiences, choices, and family of origin concerns that can put a damper on my recovery. The first red flag is becoming at odds with others. I have to acknowledge that the problem is not them, it’s rooted like a tall oak deep inside of me. I can smile at you, tell you jokes, and make you laugh but deep down I can be an insecure and scared boy afraid to talk about or recognize what I am truly feeling. Feelings get me stuck. Feelings can keep me stuck if I become unwilling to ask God what it is that He is trying to teach me. There is a lesson in it all if I am willing to accept the answer no matter the cost. Some things in life I have readily and easily given up. Others I will cling to like a rope while rappelling off a cliff. If I know and trust I have a belay at the bottom who will anchor me, then I feel more secure. Otherwise, I just slide thru life, making my life fit my schedule, my wants, and my desires. The design for living outlined in the 12 Steps works when nothing could free me from the bondage of myself. God gives me the spiritual tools but it’s up to me to pick them up and chisel away at whatever has me crossways. I wasn’t born with fear, resentments, anger, lust, and pride. Those are personal items I learned, and I must relearn how to rid myself of them daily. I can intellectually understand it, but the question is, “do I have the faith that will help me overcome them?” They will never completely go away, but will I allow them to rule me? It takes acceptance and surrender but as I walk this journey I am reminded of those who stayed the course, walked by faith, recognized their faults, and asked God to remove them…..and He does daily…..Fare thee well!…b

The Process

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In a 24 hour period, I process emotions, feelings, beliefs, and my actions, and its a full time job. Growing in recovery is a process as well because the feelings and emotions given to me by God can take on a whole new life. I feel sucker punched, I isolate, and then I find myself curled up in a fetal position on the couch wishing for an end. I’m reminded that I’m just a work in progress, slowly being refined by the choices I make. It happened in early recovery. I was about half way thru my character defects list in Step 6 when I realized I should be sharing my hope with others, but the book says I can’t give something away that I don’t have. I was seven months sober at the time, and I wasn’t quite ready. The process occurs within me naturally when I follow thru working all the steps and take suggestions. They work synergistically in my life now. The spiritual awakening the book talks about comes along thru the process of abandoning myself to God, cleaning my mess up, and helping others, but I can’t help a man when I’m unwilling to ask for help myself. That’s the reason the steps are in order.  Sharing honestly in meetings has been a process, too….I already know all the cliches. For years I sounded good, but I could not maintain much clean time without relapsing. The reason is because I didn’t want to go thru with the soul searching process it takes to find freedom. Today I know I have to because I’ll go back.  That’s what I do. I have a disease that convinces me that I got this now.  I become my own god, and give up on the process. Iron sharpens iron. If I want to stay in spiritual shape, I’ve got to do the work that keeps me fit.  Nobody I know starts working out without a goal of looking and feeling better. That’s the same with my recovery with the addition of acting better. I laugh out loud when I get asked by a close friend if I’m “behaving myself.” She knows me well.  It’s a daily process of taking responsibility, relinquishing control, and helping others. A process that works in rough going….good day!…b

Tears in Heaven

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The best definition I’ve ever read for serenity is wholehearted cooperation with the inevitable. The inevitable is going to happen whether I like it or not, accept it or not, cooperate with it or not. For me it culminates in the love of and belief in God,and I sure could use more of both these last few days. I don’t share with you my opinions, but I can share my experiences. Let’s face it, we all have our own battles to fight, but the good news is that we don’t have to fight them alone anymore. Something I learned way back is that tough times never last, but tough people do.  Aging, death of loved ones, illness, betrayal, addictions, and even my own mortality can feel overwhelming. We lose people we love and nothing stings like the separation of physical death.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears yesterday. That’s the man I am today. I look at myself, and I know that I have to keep moving along for me, my kids, and for my Father. Faith works thru and in me when I put my trust in the One who gave me His life. I may not know how to slow the process down, but I certainly know how I can speed it up, and that’s by replacing peace with chaos. I had rather be in harmony with the world and God now. It’s where I feel most at home.  Serenity is the peaceful tranquility of knowing that no matter what happens, God’s got my back. How else can I explain waking up, looking outside and not seeing my truck, and then have to back track my way back home? Adding up those innumerable times I could not recall a situation or thing I said is humiliating. God have mercy because that’s what alcohol does to me when I drink it. Working hard and surrendering is not so bad when  I finally stop fighting. Today I trust the process more.  I trust myself, others, and God more, too.  That gives me hope. That gives everyone some peace. So when I think about reverting back to old behaviors, I am reminded not how far I have to go, but in how far I have actually come, and that I awoke this morning believing that the sun is still ‘gonna shine thru the clouds’…..good day!….b

God of Wonders

 

Screenshot_2016-01-17-08-57-47-1-1There are many situations where life presents itself with challenges or opportunities depending on whichever perspective I choose. I’ve chosen wrong at times, and there is always a price to pay. Today, pain still stings, but my faith has grown and I have a reprieve. That is the freedom that God gives me. What I want to be in the second half of my life is vastly different than what I took from the first half. I see my part, and if I don’t make it right with God and my fellow man then I feel hollow and empty inside.  I said I believed in God, but my mouth and feet were in two different places.  I want to leave this earth with no regrets just like my father who I’m watching transition from this life into eternity. A man that has worked hard, provided for his family, and given his time, energy, and resources to leaving this world a better place. It’s a beautiful thing to witness….no fear, just faith. We’ve had our disagreements, arguments, and misunderstandings thru the years, but looking back he just wanted what was best for the youngest of his six kids. I think I came into this world kicking and screaming and wanting life to suit me, but he has never wavered with an enduring love for all of us. I cannot recall a time where he wasn’t fair and just. If he felt favoritism, it didn’t show. It’s a design for living that works. My oldest turns 18 today, and I’m grateful to God that he welcomed me to fatherhood, too. I learn lessons from my father and my son, but the greatest joy has been living these last few years sober. I know my Pop is proud of me. He watched me progressively struggle for years and loved me when I couldn’t love myself. My son has too. I only pray that I teach thru my actions that kind of love to him and my daughter. It’s a love without end, just like the God of wonders has for us all!…..with no regrets, I am…..b