Saturday, November 28, 2009


Ah, that's what I love about this new way of life that y'all are helping me live. Y'all have help me to swing through the high wire gamut of emotions with the help of a spiritual safety net. Since that grace-filled day in '61 I've been lifted to life's mountain top and then dropped into hellish bottomless moments; neither has killed me. I've come to believe through experience what I was told early on. "What doesn't kill me will only make me stronger."

My life now is a life in full color. The necessary splats of dark and the light mixed together by the master- mixer to produce, in His good time, a harmonious pattern. Neither labeled good nor bad. Both have been essential to form a dynamic tension. A tension necessary for my growth. I have to admit it's better than a "two-by-four" up the side of the head.

Sometimes in the tension's pain I've been heard to lash out and snarl "enough already, back off, I don't want to grow anymore." Its at times like this that I hear your "nagging but loving" voices chime in with, "Hey Jimbo, serenity and peace is not the absent of conflict but the ability to cope with it." In other words, live with it and learn from it.

I write this as we come off turkey day. As the our children and grand children, now parents gathered the conversation ebbed and flowed on family, health, new adventures started, old completed and the new antics of the under nine great grand children.

The subjects ranged from tearful laughter to tearful grief. It was wonderful as we all felt that peace and happiness that surpasses all understanding. Over the years we have been akin to a family that has suffered shipwreck and the pain of the survival process together.

Our gifts today are that we are all healthy, together and can share equally in the gift of sobriety, not to mention the love and playfulness of our children and our grandchildren.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Promises Do Come True

After yesterday's post this post goes to the lighter end of my emotions and feelings.

A week ago I spent the day at the Aquarium with great grandmother (wife,ageless), granddaughter (mommy, 30's), great granddaughter (GGD,5), and great grandson (9).

One of the top moments(days) of my life started at the Otter exhibit. Petite blond haired, blue eyed GGD grabbed my hand. With me in tow she pulled me into her magical world..hers and the otters. We dove, flipped onto our backs, brushed noses,zoomed from one end to the other of the otter world like daredevils foolishly skimming boulders and thick vegetation.

The magic continued as we were carried through the penguins frigid setting into the tropical air of the butterfly garden. I challenge you to find anything more innocent and beautiful than a five year old blond blue eyed bundle of awe whispering to an attentive butterfly perched on her index finger.

Then out into the street to a horse and carriage ride. Passing strangers tossing smiles to the waving giggling little girl.

All of this capped off by a satisfied double-dip strawberry ice cream smeared face.

If you don't believe me ask a certain giggling little girl if Sobriety isn't the greatest.
God is great.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Rest Of The Story

Yesterday started out with a nicely defined schedule. Slept later than intended. wiped out from tennis, hot tub and little sleep the night before. By nine my laid back schedule would be tossed.

After "quiet time" and coffee I went to our local paper's website. Only do this about 3 to 4 times a year. Clicked the obit tag by mistake. Scanned the names. As I scrolled a familiar name peeked over the bottom of the page. I pulled up the entire obit. Couldn't believe it, hadn't seen the young man for over ten years. Had to rush get to the funeral home in time.

His father was a friend of mine. His son 47 y/o died in Texas. Alone. Parents, children and the rest of the family lives here in Tennessee. The obit was short, compact, it listed: next of kin; military service; Union membership; along with age and local schools attended. It added favorite activities and sports to round out his character.

When I mentioned "familiar" above I was referring not only to the name but to how similar the obits for my son and for for both (yes two) sons of another friend who was sitting next to me at the service and at the cemetery.

I think you know where I'm going with this. All the obits failed to mention the "rest of the story." The history of alcoholism in the family, the jails, accidents, broken relationships and overall destruction in their shortened lives.

My pew-sharing friend's boys were murdered on the same night in the same apartment a few years ago. One was in college and the other a father with a young daughter. The police were unable to establish a motive. They were in their twenties.

The young man today had been wounded while a marine in Beirut. He had broken his back in a fall in Texas a few years ago. He fell while entering a building through a third story window. From his wheelchair he called a few days ago. He was incoherent and had been drinking. Later the same morning the family received the call that he had died.

My son was shot and paralyzed in 1984. He lived through a constant hell of hospitals, morphine and brief periods of sobriety until his death in 2005. He died alone in a Tampa emergency room.

Yes all three of us cried and hugged. Me and my pew-friend held hands during the eulogy. We grieved not only because our sons had experienced the violence of alcoholism or as fathers: we grieved the deeper grief; that for a another alcoholic.

My wife had a dream a week after our son's funeral. Mike was running in the surf laughing, waving his hands and shouting "Look mom I'm free!I'm free!"

I like to think of this ending as truly "the rest of the story".


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just For Today

Daily Leaven

He's at it again
that wise ole' baker
kneading the dough
wheat along with chaff
firing my daily loafs.
Some light, some dark
some marbled through and through.

While I sleep, in my pantry
He'll stack my daily ration
so when I awake I'll find my
four and twenty rounds,
no more no less, He's exact.
Some half, some fully baked,
some sweet, some vile.
Some a mix of
both smile and frown.

Would be a shame if
these rounds of the day
were miserly hoarded,
not shared by me,
in tight-lipped
fear of future pains
or memories of a wasteful past.

In gratefulness to
my wise ole' Baker,
I will not gorge, starve,
waste of hoard.
I'll sate my appetite
while I enjoy
the bounty of my daily
four and twenty rounds.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Voices --Benign and malign

As Bill W. wrote "...we have two authorities which are far more effective, One is benign, the other is malign."
At the noon meeting today we discussed the two within us. They manifest themselves within as the addictive self and the recovering self. The other is ego driven, wanting to keep us in our addiction. To not only remain sick but to kill us in the end. The benign One wants us in recovery, wants us to heal. To become healthy and to live.
In the early days of my recovery I was almost driven out of my mind from the constant jabbing in my head for my soul. The benign and the malign seemed to be poles apart, all black and white, all or nothing. Had a real problem making out which one was which. I thought "Man, Jim, you are crazy. Don't let anyone know that you're having all these conversations. They'll lace you into a straight jacket and take you across the river to the funny farm."
When I could no longer stand it I reached out to my sponsor. He explained "Jim you've came in with a drinking problem which you no longer have; you now have a living problem. The confusion and the hassle between your ears comes from not knowing how to live life without a drink in your hand."
"Your in-head arguments are between the drinking guy and the sober guy. The old drinker, when confronted with a life situation will automatically want to run, kill himself, flip out or drink. The new sober-self will stand there dumbfounded at first, then run around in circles trying to find an alternative solution to the situation.
"Since you're a novice at sober thinking I suggest you keep it simple. Accept that your first reaction is probable wrong (old alcoholic thinking); stop;call on your Higher Power and simply do the opposite (to the initial reaction). Just doing it this way your batting average for doing the right thing is bound to improve."
"As you add days to your sobriety the next level of coping will be to accept the voices, the arguments and their contradictory rantings as too powerful for you to control; call on your Higher Power; invoke the Serenity Prayer and if the situation demands, call your sponsor for his opinion."
Over the years the voices have become more sophisticated and shrewd and less annoying and obvious. However they are still lurking in the deep end of my mind pool waiting for me to become complacent. I have to remember that the addict in me wants to kill me. Thank God the same simple tools that were given to me in the first days of sobriety are as powerful and effective on each given day as they were then.


Monday, November 16, 2009


Bunch of things swirling around in my head. But like most days I don't know where to start. Oh well that's probably the problem. I should sit back, get out of my head and into my heart.
I love writing especially since I had to start from scratch a few years back; didn't know an adverb from an asterisk. Well not quite that bad. Thank God I only had to to dictate or write notes to an "executive assistant" for most of my letter writing life. To my credit I knew my limitations, I always saw to it that they were very well paid.
Since those first bubbling days I have won a award for my writing and have been published, all of which have fanned my ego and kept me returning to the book I am in the process of writing.
Almost from the first days of my epiphany in the early sixties I have been concerned by relapse and especially the folks who relapse repeatedly. In so many cases they don't ever get into sustained recovery. Why? The most popular and common answer is " they don't want it bad enough." Hearing this only drives them deeper into their shame and conviction that they are really broken and will never get it. Yes wanting it is a key factor, but not the only factor. If "they" don't want it bad enough then why in the hell do some keep knocking themselves out trying to get it.
In the first years of my sobriety two of my best relapsing buddies put shotguns into their mouth (Paul) or stomach(Don) and pulled the triggers. Paul died, Don ended up in the hospital one floor down from me. I was in for a dental operation. I visited him only for a few minutes. His stomach was so shattered and blasted open that they had to repair and do reconstruction bits at a time; it took weeks.
It was during this visit that I first got "the tap" on my shoulder to to do what I could for the relapser. With a few exceptions I have always sponsored the relapser. In the last nineteen years after retiring from my day job I got certified to professionally counsel the relapser. I found out that in addition to relating as another addict I could identify and address their core issues. Core emotional and mental issues planted in deep seated shame.
So why do I want to improve my writing? I believe with my years of experience both personally and professionally I can carry a message of hope, God willing, whether to one person or to many folks who relapse.
I am writing, a memoir , it's a compilation of stories I share about my first five years of sobriety. Most important the tome lies open the constant battle of my addictive self and my recovering self "between my ears." Yes five years as it takes time, for some longer, some shorter; its a process that can't be rushed. They were the "foundation years" for my new residence in sobriety.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

God's Will

As usual I picked up my 24 Hr a Day and began my quiet time. I've had my 24hr book since the first year of sobriety. Over the years I have made notes of the events of that date, sometimes adding attitude feelings etc. It's like a family bible with births, deaths, firings, promotions graduations.
On today's date the margins were cluttered with such happenings. Over the range of events and years I entertained feelings and attitudes that ranged from loneliness, depression, anger, fear to joy, gratitude and immense love. All recorded.
The difference in feelings and attitudes were directly dependent on me. When I pout and react like a spoiled brat my ego has been bruised. I want the answer and I want it now, I want to control the situation and the outcome. I god.
However in those times that I experienced love, joy, gratitude, and peace of mind I had let go of the situation, event, person whatever and let God. I didn't need the answer, I did not have to understand the reasons nor see the outcome; just make (and continue to daily make)"...the decision to turn my will over...." like in the following poem.

The Weaver
My life
is but a weaving
between my Lord
and me.
I cannot choose
the colors
he worketh
Oft times
he weaveth sorrow
and I
in foolish pride
forget he sees
the upper
and I the underside.
Not until
the loom is silent
and the suttles
cease to fly
shall God
unroll the canvas
and explain
the reason why.
The dark threads
are as needful
in the weaver's
skillful hand
as the threads
of gold and silver
in the pattern
he has planned.
Author Unknown

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Turning Points

Patience and persistence. I'm back after being away for a couple of weeks. Lot of stuff in my life changed. Couldn't muster the time to post. As in the past it was a time to back off. Get back to the simple things. Take an inventory. Share with others. Pray and meditate. Then take action. It's time to return to writing and sharing.
As I was looking for a kick-start I thumbed through my "book" file and ran across this little piece I wrote and discarded a number of months ago. It's a little something on my last day of drinking and the first days without. Somehow it seemed appropriate although nowhere as desperate at this time as a starting point.

The Waterfall
The last frightful months of my drinking sped by with all the unchecked craziness of a rampaging torrent. Carried along under the influence of my alcoholic monster everything in my havoc-ridding path had been mindlessly crushed and discarded with all the other debris of my life. Steeped in denial I had been unaware of the fiercely stoked pace by which I was racing toward my inevitable fall.
Having fought the current I was exhausted an unable to break its selfish unbridled fury. It overflowed all the banks and dikes of my life. In desperation I had tried to divert its destructive course, but had to give up. Resentfully I conceded I was powerless and no longer able to resist its overpowering hold on me . As I reviewed the tattered remnants of my life I was forced to accept the insanity of my efforts.
I was boxed in; time and options seemed nonexistent. There was no way to escape the inevitable. The course and the outcome were out of my hands. Looking ahead scared the hell out of me. If the shear terror of being swept over the fall didn't kill me, then either the sudden impact or the whirlpool below would do the job.
I surrendered! I admitted I was addicted to my polluted and turbulent course. I had tried again and again, always promising, "This time will be different." It never was. I always failed miserably. I conceded I didn't have the power to harness of change its fury. In the past I was constantly on the verge of ending up like a drawing rat. On my runaway voyage I was occasionally dumped onto the shore, safe and sound: only to insanely jump back in foolishly thinking I could master it.
This time was different; I admitted I was whipped. I let go and accepted the consequences of the baptismal waterfall. My only chance of being saved now was to hook up to something bigger than myself and pray that it would guide me away from the rocks and through the swirling water below.
As I crested the fall, reality hit my cerebral hold-button freezing my life in a single collage of shameful scenes. Crushed by the ugliness of the past and stunned with fear for the future I became aware there was no turning back. I prayed the moment would never click away. I didn't want to go forward nor did I want to go back. Only whining thoughts escaped my momentary lapse.
Why me? God why me?
Why did it have to come to this?
Do I really have to go through this?
There's got to be another way.

Alright, alright. You've stripped me.
I'm nothing.
Nobody wants me.
I don't want me.

They say You'll take me.
So take me.
I surrender.

I awoke downstream alive, disoriented yet intact except for the damages incurred while immersed in the current of my drinking. Scared, my only thought was.

What the hell do I do now?