Question of Faith

 

“When we saw others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe, we had to stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did.” p. 52 BB

Is God really interested in whether or not my dog dies, or the mortgage doesn’t get paid, or the basement gets flooded?…hardly, I suppose. I love the chapter, ‘We Agnostics’, from where the passage above was taken because I tend to over complicate, over analyze and over think the faith question. I have always questioned reality to a fault, but I have always believed that there is a God. So much so that I spent countless hours attempting to argue and prove it. I’m not alone. I still spend money, time, and energy diverting myself from the purpose of showing others what God’s power of love can do. God either is or He isn’t, and my actions will speak volumes over my beliefs. I can argue the existence of God, or I can take myself to places so surreal and serene that there is no denying the existence and power of a Creator to enhance my own faith. For years I was fooling myself while looking religious on the outside, honoring God with my lips, but showing no real demonstration of the transformational power of change. It’s a heart matter, and in order to overcome my struggles, I have to confess them and ask God to give me the willingness to do what I have to do to remain sober. In other words, I have to want to be sober whether I truly believe in God or not. But I have found from my own experiences a brokenness and need for God. I found Him deep inside of me, then my conscious followed. It was simply false pride to convince myself that I knew better. After all, I had been churched, recited chapter and verse, and today I’m grateful to have been grounded in what is absolute truth. I will either believe that or I won’t, it’s just that simple. It took the 12 steps to show me a simple outline for change. I’ve never seen bright lights or been smitten with the lightning rod of faith, but I have had a transformation so profound that it gave me hope that I could make it just a few minutes at a time without a drink. My alcoholic problem was taken away. Circumstances made me willing to believe and not just a rote memorized passage that I learned as a kid. Letting go of my old ideas of who I thought God is and was had to change, and my faith and belief has grown exponentially. When I draw near to Him, more and more is being revealed to me. It’s the same answer I give my kids when they ask, “ where can I find God?” I tell them to start inside of themselves because I find Him wherever and whenever I look for Him…..good day!…b

 

 

A Wing and Prayer

Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer
What a show, what a fight
Boys, we really hit our target for tonight
How we sing as we limp through the air
Look below, there’s our field over there
Though there’s one motor gone
We can still carry on
Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer.

This idiom came from a WWII late night bombing raid, flying home after losing an engine.  There is still truth to the whole idea that angels can still fly with broken wings. I’ve met many in my day. A decade ago, I was bankrupt, divorcing, drunk, and without a home, forced out of a friend of a friend’s house, because I just couldn’t pull myself together. As hard as I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to live life and hold it all together on my own.  Wracked by insecurities and fears, I had to acknowledge them so that they would lose their power over me, but it’s a day at a time deal, and I had to find out the hard way. If staying sober were always easy, others with broken wings might be praying more too, but praying alone will not keep me straight. It takes willingness and action. Honestly, I haven’t felt inspired to write, read, or go to meetings lately, and I still try to figure out why. I know I can’t be inspired at all times, but I’m still flapping my wings and searching for that all time high. The problem has been that I can’t stay there forever. I have to keep moving in the mess of it all, stay connected, and let go. I could walk around and convince you that I’m alright, but really I’m literally wracking my brain trying to figure out the age old question of what I want to do with the rest of my life. Perhaps you’ve been there as well. I’ve spent the last 18 years working at a job and still wondering the same thing. A year ago, I left with a severance, and now defying my own good sense, I’ve decided to keep searching for that labor of love. I know the answers will come if I keep praying and flapping my wing….good day!…b

Survivors

 

Screenshot_2016-04-19-10-15-32-1 We all head out as youngsters with no warning of how harsh and cruel the world actually can be. I beg for worldly comforts not even realizing that there is a Divine purpose to the struggle. It’s not forever, the heart couldn’t hold out that long. Perhaps we both met strangers today that we may never see again, and they were there at that very moment to help us see a bigger plan….. I posted an add to sell my pop up camper that my kids and I used for creating priceless memories while rummaging around lakes and thru oak overhangs all across the South.  A buyer in his late twenties pulled up in a little truck with his five year old daughter. She was one of four he explained, an iron worker from the mills around Birmingham that during its heyday fed tens of thousands of families and kept the steel market stable in America. Then in October he got news that none of us like to hear; his job of ten years was being cut. Millworkers are a dying breed, but I, for one, appreciate their craft. Forging steel isn’t for lightweight first rounders. I found out by working my way thru college at a steel fabricating plant several lifetimes ago it seems. Life can be vindictive even to the blue collar working class. It’s believable when I take a ride thru the mining towns of the Appalachia that have been wiped out by the ravages of hillbilly heroin and coal dust, tho here was a young man that had the same cruel fate to all he’s ever known. I wonder how folks like him feed their kids, but then I remembered he does it just how I have, one morsel of bread at a time. His ‘daddy’s ‘lil sidekick’ smiled the biggest smile, and hadn’t a care in this world when she told him it would be her playhouse. I picked up on his vibe of understanding that life here is short, so we might as well go ahead and make some happy memories for the next generation as quickly as we can. As they pulled out, I was happy that she has a camper now to create memories while passing her time. It reminded me that we are all lending torches and leaving legacies of survival in ways I don’t often understand. Survivors are like that, we make it in spite of fate and even our own undoings, and nothing says it better than the smile and innocence of a child…good day!…b

 

 

 

Days of Future Passed

imageNowhere had I found the sense of ease and comfort that I once got from a sip of Scotch than when I was a boy. In fact, it’s inherent in me and has been ever since I took that first drink I am now convinced. It created wide open spaces.  I wanted to be outside, and that’s exactly where my mother let me play. Growing up in the country afforded me opportunities to eat wild blackberries straight off the vine and walk thru cattails so tall that they looked like skyscrapers when I looked up into the golden rays of the sun. But I’m certain there have been a few life lessons I missed out on growing up virtually alone, with no kids my age to play with like there were in neighborhoods in town. I guess the trade off has been my appreciation for hung up gobblers and catfish trot lines. I understand that walking down dirt roads under tall loblolly and long leaf pines is not everybody’s idea of a good time, but give me a little moonshine and suddenly the walk becomes a euphoric rush of a place that time almost has forgotten. I miss those days. And sometimes, quite frankly, I miss that buzz. If I told you otherwise then I would be lying. After all, it wasn’t the taste and feeling that sobered me up, it was the consequences. I had to dig deep into my childhood to find nuggets of wisdom to learn to appreciate what makes me tick. Isn’t that the purpose in life, to make meaningful connections with the past in order to understand what better choices I can make going forward to ensure my sobriety another day? It’s not always an easy called purpose. In fact, it can be down right painful to dig up emotions thru experiences that have shaped my psyche for a few decades, but I had to connect those dots.  Finding those parts of my life that I quarantined into the dark corners of my mind and finally talking about them openly freed me from bondage. And alcohol was my only way, I thought, to do that for a very long time. Drinking puts me into a fantasy state, an anesthetic so powerful that it kills everything in its path if left unchecked. It actually does have the power to kill. I have watched it happen to friends and loved ones for a long time. I miss them, too. If making a connection to my past by retracing the steps of my childhood were all it took, I’d have stopped right there. The miracle happens when I take a walk down memory lane for a moment and remember not to romance the stone for too long. I’m grateful that I’m still alive, and enjoying the days of my future that have also already passed….good day!…b

 

Self Forgiveness

image  Learning the skill of forgiving others provides me an opportunity to forgive myself for buying into misunderstandings from my past. Self-forgiveness offers self-love, acceptance and inner peace I have found, but I have to work at it to reap the benefits. Nothing comes to me naturally or by intuition along these lines. I have held grudges in the past that were only killing me. I am experiencing these attributes for the first time in my life, and for now, at least,  am content as much as happy. All life is for learning.Taking the approach that learning is a part of spiritual growth has allowed my experiences to become opportunities to get out of myself. I read an interesting article yesterday in Psychology Today about man’s need to look at challenges and adversity as opportunity for self-actualization. The author suggested my need for connectivity and wide open natural spaces. The most compelling was his academic perspective and depiction that in order to find peace, man must first learn to serve others. I thought immediately about how the application is so true in my life today because of the foundation of recovery I find thru working the 12 steps of AA; simple, yet profound.  When I can drop expectations and fear of failure, only then can I forgive myself for wrongs done and let go of harsh judgements and grudges. When I receive negative feedback from the Universe, I can correct these concerns if need be. That is growth based on spiritual principles offered to me as a new way of being and doing, a way that has resonated within my soul. Codependent by nature, I am working my way back to the truth of who I really am, and in order to help and love others, I must first forgive and love myself….#doinwhatworks…..b

Personal Responsibility

Screenshot_2016-04-15-10-22-56-1It really is up to me whether or not I work with the gifts that I’ve been given. With 6 months of sobriety, I embarked on a spiritual journey that would transform my thinking and consciousness. With the support of one man and lots of teachers, I began to learn new techniques and ways to live drug free.  The spiritual principles of the 12 steps acted as a guide, opening a world of possibilities that were invisible to me when I was using drugs. I started to connect more and more with myself and others versus buying into the story of my own ego. This was the principle that taught me that I am divine. I had never looked at myself that way. I had only connected with my humanness which I judged as wrong and bad. When I consider myself as a divine being, I know I am innately good and only then can I have compassion for myself and others. Substance abuse, mental health, and trauma are all parts of my story, and understanding those released me of having to shame myself any longer. Personal responsibility is the foundational key that opened the door to those freedoms.  I had been living in victimhood and compared my life to others whom I believed were more successful than me. Then came the harsh realization that no one was coming to avenge my victimhood which was difficult to accept and embrace. Today, my life is what I choose to make of it. I’m healing, and life produces uncomfortable feelings. The same ones I got high over. There still are brief moments when I use circumstances to disturb my peace, or I can choose to look inside, and see what is being disturbed. When the substances were taken out of the equation, I realized how strongly I felt judged by others. I didn’t have the tools to make a different choice. I did know that if I didn’t change my thinking that I wasn’t going to maintain my sobriety. I was 41 years young then but was experiencing these life changers for the first time. What I know today is that my life isn’t just happening to me anymore; I’ve found a way to be the owner of my experiences thru taking personal responsibility. Read the words of a brother who had the tortuous task of turning over his elder brother to the FBI after reading his manifesto and recognizing his writing style. ” Responsibility to me means taking responsibility for one’s own suffering, finding in one’s own pain the seeds of a wider compassion, not an excuse to inflict pain on others.” David’s brother, Ted, was the Unabomber; a man imprisoned for life for the murders he committed because of his disdain of the industrial revolution and advances in modern technology. He has an IQ of 165, a doctoral degree in mathematics, and suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.  Life has twists, taking responsibility for my part still takes work…..good day!…b

Binge Drinking

imageBinge drinking in the summer before my start in high school is what set it all off. I had been warned by watching neighbors, family, and friends drink themselves into a sweet utopia for a while by then. It never dawned on me that alcohol would turn me into a martyr one day as well, but only in my head. Intoxication produces an effect of invincibility in me; always has, and now I know that it always will. Drinking was forbidden in my home, and it was all the more reason for me to want to test the vines of the forbidden fruit. From my very first drinks I knew there was something about alcohol I loved. It took away feelings,made me numb, and it robbed others of getting to know the real me. Allow me to back up a few years, if you will. After a night of drinking as a kid, I would wake up with the guilt and remorse of thinking it was a stronger set of moral codes that I needed to keep me from doing it again. What began as fun on a Friday night turned into weekend binges. Sprinkle in the mix of that and the high stakes game of not getting caught by my parents, and that turned into some crazy Saturday nights. By Monday, I was already obsessing over when and where I could drink again. I would buy it, take it home, wait for my parents to go to bed, and put it in the freezer to get it cold quicker, all while meticulously covering my tracks. Then came college, and the freedom of drinking whenever and wherever I could. They don’t call it binge drinking for nothing. Nights turned into days, and I began cutting classes, cheating to pass, lying about my attendance, and eventually dropped out to “get myself together.” That is code language for ‘controlled drinking’ to a real alcoholic, but I was too far gone by then. I don’t write for entertainment, but for acknowledgment and acceptance of who and what the problem really was. It wasn’t poor parenting, a bad home life, or broken promises that made me drink. It wasn’t failed relationships, God, abandoned dreams, or lost income that forced me to guzzle alcohol like I was hollow legged. I am no victim nor martyr. It was merely that I couldn’t stop once I started or quit entirely even when I swore I wouldn’t wake up and drink first thing in the morning, or ever drink cheap tequila again. But give me a few days of riding shotgun, and I’m off the wagon running solo. My real problem was honesty, and that sprung a pattern which became a way of life. I would start the fight that started the spree. My own motives set the ball rolling until I was a zombie; passed out in my own urine. It’s embarrassing and disgusting for me to think about how sick I really was, but it’s a vile and merciless, puke my guts up disease, man. To portray my experience as anything but that would not be honest or true. I’m reminded by friends and family who tell stories about my life that I can’t even remember. Passing out in my sister’s driveway on the side of the car wasn’t a real star studded moment. Throwing my good buddy into a hole in the sand at the beach while under the influence because I didn’t get my way isn’t a good reminder either. I couldn’t stop for any of those reasons. As a matter of fact, in my last desperate attempt to quit, I ended up penniless with nothing, and wrapped around a tree. But thankfully I found something that worked: surrender. Everyday, I have to surrender the idea that I can drink socially, successfully, or normally. ‘Incomprehensible demoralization,’ the book calls it…..I know that feeling familiarly well….good day!…b

New Beginnings

 

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In any endeavor, I’ve had to find a starting point. Just like ancient sailors did years before when they located the Big Dipper, moved four sizes to the left of the top two stars, and found the North Star. That was the world’s first GPS locator. Writing is a good starting point for me. It’s a way to reminisce about the old while accepting the challenges of the new. There are happy times when all appears to be good, but even appearances can deceive. I think about the lies I tell myself about how I have the power to change this or that about each scenario, never taking into account there has been a purpose and plan to it all. God reveals lessons thru experiences for me. Perspective is how I am shaped by these experiences in viewing my life and then choosing to move forward in it. Reality is not the same for everyone, and some days it’s tougher on me than others.  There are times when I want to run from it, throw my responsibilities out the window, and be a kid again. Faced with a self imposed crises I could no longer evade, I had to seek spiritual help that I never had understood before. I mean, I thought I had the physical and mental part down, but I just couldn’t grasp the spiritual side.  The reason, truthfully, is because I can’t control it. 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 angry or in fear, and 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 accept life each day, people just the way they are, and myself all as new beginnings….good day!…b

In Memoriam

 

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The only part worse than feeling is knowing that trying to change them will only make matters worse. There have been very few times where the pain of hearing of someone passing thru this life has caused me to grieve. I grew up watching Patty Duke reruns and Merle Haggard on the stage of the Grand Ol Opry in Nashville. The latter was a right of passage on a Saturday night, and Hee-Haw of course. I never was a Lawrence Welk kind of kid I suppose. And getting up to turn the knob on the TV thru six feet of shag carpet was real tough back then. I remind my kids of that often when they lose the remote. I guess that’s what makes me sad that somehow thru their lives, I realize my own mortality. Even legends have one final curtain call. I drank for many years listening to the working class songs that Merle wrote. He was a lyrical genius writing about his experiences growing up living dirt poor in a boxcar in Bakersfield, California by way of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. He truly was an Okie from Muscogee. But the real clincher for me is how he turned from that life, heard Johnny Cash play live while in Folsom Prison on robbery charges, and was pardoned with a dream to write and play the songs he lived and have it piped into everyone’s households via radio. He became a legendary outlaw but never forgot his older sister,Rose, on his visits back home. He finally gave up that hard driven life thru surrender, too.  Patty Duke grew up a child prodigy after being given up by an alcoholic father and a mother who could not raise her. Her ‘agents’ changed her name, took her identity, threw make-up on her, and propped her on stage at the tender age of 10 for all the world to see, and then robbed her of all her earnings as a young teenager.  The most tragic of all is her spiral into alcoholism and diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She battled both and learned a hard fought lesson. It took lithium, a natural chemical in the body, that came to the forefront of modern psychiatric medicine in the 60’s, to treat her bizarre mood swings. Her memoir, A Brilliant Madness, chronicles her descent into a living hell. But in some way, she found the inner strength to conquer her demons just like Merle, and became the face of mental health advocacy in America. I’m no legend, was no child star, and have no crown jewel moments on the big stage, but somewhere in my own humanity, I can relate to the struggles both endured because they got honest and opened  their lives for us to see.  That’s why I grieve, because both gave me hope that I could surrender to my own dark moments, give up the bottles, and live a life worth writing about. Thanks for the memories you two, and may you both fly with ‘silver wings’…….good day….b

place in my heart

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She worked a lot in those younger years to help me thru college and start a career. She also gave me two beautifully and wonderfully crafted kids to call our own. Her spirit rises within them, especially my son. I see her thru their lives as I watch them absolve the question of ‘why?’ that so many of us have asked since the day she passed into eternity. I want forget that call. I understood her in ways that most folks didn’t. She was my first love, and I married her because of it. It wasn’t perfect, but for a long, long time it was real, real good. We both had the same goals and dreams, hopes and aspirations. A kind soul, she watched me grieve the death of my own mother. We moved away to raise a family and get a start on life. I was from the country; she lived in town. I was a year younger and two grades behind her in school. She drove a BMW, and I had a 71 Super beetle, but she loved me anyway. It never was about that with her and I’ll always love her for that. Her quiet spirit was overshadowed by my demonstrative gregariousness. She let me be me, but she hated when I came home drunk and stoned. We both had our demons, and both of us somehow tried to hide in the shadows of a lurking desire to make it all look good on the outside. She called me to make peace three weeks before she passed. We exchanged courtesies in our fumbling, awkward ways, and she sounded like the girl who had asked her best friend to fix us up. I’ll never forget the sweet sound of a voice that I once knew way back when. She did things with me just because I wanted to do them. She didn’t like to camp, fish, or wade creeks but she came along anyhow. I’ve held my kids on Mother’s Day until my shirt was soaking wet with tears, and asked God why. It’s not anything you can just explain away. It’s their momma and they only have one. When the wheels were falling off, I knew deep down that neither of our stories would end well. That is why I share to give hope to those who’ve had loved ones who have taken their lives to sacrifice allowing others to see how painfully tough life can really be at times. My kids learned at an early age that life is just not fair. I had hidden behind an addiction for years to mask my pain. I was her and she was me, but unfortunately, we couldn’t make a house our home towards the end. My kids picked a rose from my father’s garden to lay on her stone yesterday. We hugged, and told stories of how we all ended up here. In our own ways, we’ve had to make peace with our past. People in recovery have taught me that. Friends that we may never see again have taught us all that. It’s God alone who gives us the courage to ask for forgiveness and the willingness to forgive, but deep down inside us, we make a special place in our hearts for our loved ones that we call mothers….HMD!…b