Monday, June 11, 2012

William's Burg

In 1970 I was on a job interview with my wife in a small Ohio town about thirty miles west of Akron.  After a long day of interviewing and house hunting we felt we needed some spiritual refreshment.
              “Let’s find a meeting; must be one around here somewhere.”
    We drove to the local police station. I went in and asked,
            “Where can I find an AA meeting or do you have a number I can call?
The desk sergeant gave me a once over.
            “We have a number for a local AA member.”
I called.
            “You’ll have to go down to a little burg about ten miles out in the country if
               you want one tonight.”
I paused, so he asked the obvious.
            “New in town, don’t know how to find Fredericksburg, do you?”
He gave me directions and cautioned, “be careful, bad fog setting in.”

Leaving the main highway the narrow single lane country road wound itself up, down and around the rolling hillside. With every mile the fog got thicker. About half way there the visibility was limited to a few hundred feet.

With my eyes glued to the windshield I did a double take as I caught the flicker of a bobbing red light coming up fast in front of us. I hit the brakes, regained my composure then cautiously passed the horse and buggy muttering, “What the hell is that doing out here in this fog.” In the buggy sat a bearded old man in black hat and coat with reins in hand.  

As we crested the last of the hills and began our decent into the little valley we were treated with a sight out of the past. Under the fog lay the lights of a tiny “Norman Rockwell” village.  Only the white church steeple faded out of sight into the fog.

Another surprise met us as we pulled into the church’s parking lot. The lot was wall-to-wall horses and black buggies. Shaking off my disbelief I turned to my wife and said.
“This must be the place; we were told to look for the little white church and this is the only one around. Lights are on in the basement.”
As we started down the storm-cellar stairway to the basement we were greeted by a wizardly old man in a black suit grinning from ear to ear.
            “Welcome friend. If you’re looking for an AA meeting, you’ve come to the right
               place, my name is Mose.”
            “Hi, I’m Jim and this is my wife, Cynthia.
We followed him down into the meeting hall filled with more black-suited men wearing denim shirts, no buttons and suspenders. My wife was quickly escorted to a room off the main meeting room by a couple of modestly dressed long skirted women for an Alanon meeting.

The meeting was ready to start.  It was a typical Ohio AA meeting; a lead meeting with a twenty minute speaker followed by a “pop-up” comment session for the balance of the hour. As the speaker and the “pop-ups” continued I became aware of numerous references to a fellow member named William.
Curious, I asked Mose.
“I presume William isn’t here tonight but I sure would like to meet him. It    sounds like he has a lot of wisdom and good sobriety.”. 
With that Mose jumped out of his seat giddy with laughter, pointed to me and addressed the group.
            “Our new friend James here doesn’t know who William is”.
With that the whole room exploded into laughter. At once it dawned on me.

            William… William..! They mean Bill, Bill W.
Amazing, here I am , , in a little burg out in the boonies, in the middle of Ohio in the middle of a fog, in a story book church with story book little men in black suits, their wives in long dresses while their horses hitched to buggies await them attending a meeting frequented by one of the founders of AA.
WOW. PRICELESS. Isn’t GOD great. 

For anyone, especially Bill W, (William) wanting to be simply Bill W. alcoholic, the meeting out in this small village in the countryside amongst the Amish was ideal.  In this “little burg” with these men one could find one of the backbone of our program; the simple, honest “principles before personalities” fellowship of AA.

 Jim M.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mirror, mirror.....& Defects and flaws

Just back from a 12 Step meeting. Talked about the Sixth Step and defects of character. I could go on and on with a list of what I think are definitely my most glaring defects. So much so that when confronted about one of these defects I generally answer " yah I know, I'm working on it."
 No sweat, I've owned up to them, I can deal with the criticism, I can bow and graciously extend a "thanks for pointing that out" while oft times under my breath I'll make a note to myself that the person would have been better served if their mother had been married.
I wish it were all so simple, this getting a handle on all my flaws (defects) but sadly it isn't.Problem is its the defects in myself that I can't see; the defects that are relationship breakers.  Its wishful thinking to think that I could "nail" all of my defects.
Taint possible, simply because I can't see them. Or rather I can't accept that the flaws (defects) that piss me off about you are a true reflection of my own defects.I refuse to accept the defect as mine because; "I could never be like that".
Nope I'm too emotionally caught up in "your" defect that it completely blinds me to the truth. My ego will not tolerate me admitting to being human like the rest of you.
Thank God for the mirrors  who have the love and courage to be true and unflinching reflections in my life; my wife and my friends in the 12 Step fellowship in particular..
Backing up to the Fifth Step, we admit these defects to self, God and another human being. While all three are essential another human being provides us with the truest reflection we need in our daily comings and goings. When the behavior of another irks me I have learned from experience in recovery to pray for the individual. Surprise, surprise somehow I seem to receive the benefit of the prayer...a new awareness. I take ownership of the same "defect of character" in me. 


Monday, March 5, 2012

Sharing our experience, strength and hope.

Food can be grown almost anywhere yet millions are starving. Oil is in abundance yet prices soar. To quote Parker Palmer, “What is truly remarkable about the human animal is not that we take physical abundance and turn it into scarcity (or demand an exorbitant  price for it) but that we do the same with the infinite gifts of the Spirit.”

It is one thing to overvalue diamonds or under supply tomatoes. Yet how often in our relationships with God and others do we act as if the Spirit’s stores of love, affection, trust and compassion were limited. Why do we hold back; afraid if others get too much of it, there won’t be enough left for me?

We in recovery often hear we have been given an abundance of love, “much more than we deserve.”  We also know that by sharing our experience, strength and hope that we receive much more in peace and serenity in out lives.

It simply comes down to “we have to give it away, in order to keep it.” The more freely we share the more we get in return.
We in recovery have been invited to a King’s banquet yet we stop at the first Hors d'oeuvres table, satisfy our own appetite with finger food, sometimes hesitant and afraid to enter into the main dinning hall to sit at the King’s table and share the feast with others.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Steps on the grounds of a leading A& D treatment center on English Mountain in the Smokies.

A great reminder to all of us in recovery that in in order to climb out of our addition we must use these steps daily.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Imperfect Spirituality

I'm giving a workshop presentation in a few weeks. The emphasis will be on Imperfect Spirituality or Spirituality of Imperfection; the premise that it's through our flaws that we grow spiritually. It's a spiritual journey taken step by step on human feet.

By embracing and living through our flaws ("character defects and shortcomings") we become whole. Granted wholeness is not a destination, it's a process, a one-day-at-a-time journey into wholeness. As Yogi Berra said, "it's not over till it's over."

It's a journey not undertaken alone although we alone can not do it alone. We need others. Bill Wilson and Bob Wilson started it all with their first meeting. Bill would later identify that meeting in Akron in 1935 as the critical link in AA and is quoted as saying "I came to the realization that "I needed him and he needed me."

I also know that embarking on and continuing on this journey requires the grace of my Higher Power. It wasn't until I pleaded with God to help me that I picked up the phone and called for help. I had no idea that I was taken the first step on a spiritual journey: hell I was hopeless and helpless on the brink of losing everything and I just wanted to save my ass.

Why that day of all days did I call for help, when there were many times before that I should have called? I have come to understand that it was the grace of God working in and for me. I also understand that although the grace of God is paramount I need another human being, another flawed person(s) to identify with.

The freedom and the courage to embark and continue on this High-way of sobriety comes from not only identifying with another alcoholic but that it's "through forgiving him/her I can forgive my self. It's the old adage, "if he can do it, I can do it."

Approaching fifty years I can share with you that there were many days my feet of clay wanted (wants) to run away. To escape the pain of facing "life on life's terms" but it's the grace/love of my Higher Power and the support/love of others that soothes that pain, shores me up and turns me around.

Thanks to all of you


Monday, November 28, 2011

What Will It Be......or not?

Good friends, friends who know our warts and still love us to pieces.

Friends, closer than family, who

I suspect know us better than ourselves

after all they’ve got a ring side seat to all our antics; only thing missing is the popcorn

Why am I concerned with what they think or for that matter what I think?

God knows, and yet continues to include me in Creation.

Am I a critical and unique link in the whole scheme of things or just a metaphor.

Are my worst mistakes my best contributions or is it those times

when I scored myself a perfect ten?

How much and in what way does my laughter and

my tears contribute one iota to anything..

Am I part of the spit that keeps everything together?

Or am I a particle of tension keeping everything from colliding.

What is it?

Am I this or that or…am I this and that?

My bumbling speech? My misspoken and mistaken word?

My gravity dragging actions?

Is it in spite of them or because of them?

Is it my experiences stacked high with age or is it my ignorance of tomorrow?

After three quarters of a century under my belt are

the few remaining years to contain my main event?

Will I recognize it or will it be like so many others in the past

just another day at the office?

Will I participate or sit idly by?

Will I sit on my comfortable old ass or get up and take the risk?

God what ever is your will use my love hungry heart, my memory filled mind and my love –to-tell-a-story tongue as instruments of Your love and Your peace.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

God's Network

Attended a truly joyful “Old Timers,” dinner and meeting last night. Everybody with over twenty-five years of sobriety was counted as an old timer. I have forty-nine and was the oldest in the room. Our town’s oldest, a wonderful woman and an icon with 56 years couldn’t make it.

Seemed overcrowded with alki(s). As I looked over the crowd I thought, “ damn there are a lot of old guys and gals here; a hundred of us. What a diverse and strange group. We all looked anonymous, couldn’t pick us out in a crowd unless you were one of us.”

Wish I could have taken pictures. People, standing around hugging, laughing, talking while juggling and eating off paper plates with a plastic fork in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. If you’re counting it would appear that they needed three hands. That’s what was so weird about it. It came off without any major food spills. Guess that happens when the love in the room overcome gravity.

Asked to speak (oldest) I threw away what I planned on saying and attempted to make out a list of all the wonderful loving mentors God had placed in my life over the fifty years (I had an up and down year prior to my sobriety date.) The list went on and on until I stopped, remembering the chairperson had asked me to keep it short.

Looking out over the audience as I took the podium I remember David C. and David G.. The bond between us was formed in sharing our strength and love with each other in our grief at “losing sons” the same year (2005). Since we worked together (I’m sure God had arranged it and really strange circumstances brought us together) we were a daily support to each other and we needed it. I paid tribute to a lot of my sponsors, finished the talk in the appointed time without mentioning either David and left the podium.

The next day I answered my cell. It was David C. on the line. He was in Charlotte NC, alone, attending a conference but was bubbling over. He had been reading my book “Joyous & Free In Spite of Myself.” He was beside himself with identifying with my story, the issues and the voices. He had also met a young man, new to the program, at the AA meeting the night before. He said, “you were there with us. We were one, the three of us. It was truly a “bonus” meeting.”

However what he was excited about was what he called the most amazing part of the evening and the frosting on the cake. Later and alone after his “bonus meeting” he checked his phone. Much to his surprise he heard my voice, apparently I was at the podium and he was hearing my “talk”. Evidently as I walked up to the stage I had mistakenly hit a redial or something instead of the silence button.