Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's A God Thing

If only we knew what the Master Weaver is up to in designing our lives. Yesterday I presented a seven year chip to a special friend, SC. in the program.

Unknown to us our intertwining paths began over thirty years ago. He was just a high-schooler growing up in California, while I had just accepted a new job and was moving my family from Ohio into Tennessee.

After a several months of searching for a new home we were fortunate to drive by a house as the contractor was taking lifting a "for sale" sign out of his pickup. We pulled in and he put down the sign. We walked through the house, loved it and immediately started negotiations. We moved in the first of August,1977.

Soon afterward while attending our new church my wife and I met a young couple. At church they had their two beautiful young daughters. As our lives changed we grew apart.

Now fast forward to 2002 and twenty five years later. This was the year that I met SC while at an AA meeting here in Tennessee. Later SC began counseling with me to repair the "unmanageable" circumstances in his life caused by his addiction. SC progressed well, growing spiritually and going on to "graduate school" while fully engaged in his "practice".

As his history became known to me, I was delighted and surprised to learn that after his move here to Tennessee he met and married one of "those beautiful daughters" and that they now had children of their own.

A few weeks ago SC by chance discovered that his friend wanted to sell his house. SC also wanted to move into a larger house. They immediately started negotiations with all parties coming to agreement. To both SC's and my delight on February 8, SC will be moving into the house next door.

Thank You for Your Will and the many gifts It brings into our lives.


Thursday, January 28, 2010


Going through old files and came across this poem written in the sixties.
The poem is kinda crude but then again so was I. Brings back memories of the first couple of years in sobriety. We had it all, we had just what we needed; God, the program and each other.
I love it.

In each of you I see a friend.
One whose friendship knows no end.
Just for today I will try to be,
to others what you are to me.

You stopped and turned and took my hand
and steadied me till I could stand.
Then let go my fingers one by one
till I could stand alone.

You did not say to me do this
be thus but quite simply
walk with us

I tried and when I lifted up
my eyes could see
that same vision which had made you free

We'll walk together now
a pleasant band
that waits for me
if I should fill my hand

with trembling fingers of someone
whose spirit must also break or bend
and teach them softly
what it means to have and be a friend.

so just for today I will let others see
what each of you had done for me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spiritual Awakening & Patience

In A Path With Heart, Jack Koenfield, writes about the Eight Qualities of Mature Spirituality Of the eight patience stands out as the most most difficult to achieve in my quest for a spiritual awakening.

Early on in recovery I was told by the group. "Be patient, the promise of a spiritual awakening is based on a result of certain steps, its a journey, a process, you'll get it, it takes time. Don't expect it to happen by a simple palm slap on the forehead in a evangelical moment."

They went on. "
Sorry there are no short cuts. You're not special. You will have to take all the necessary Steps to get there. The awakening will enfold without you being fully conscious of it. Others will see it in you before you become aware of it. Besides if you got it with the snap of your fingers you wouldn't appreciate it."

That was all well and good but I wanted to feel good and experience peace and relief as a constant in my life not just for a few moments at a time. I wanted it right now and to be there whenever I wanted it. I wanted to be able to "think" it into my life, not have it dependent on any "action" on my part.

Not getting my childish way I had to begin to get in touch with all my shortcomings and defects of character. Then commit to giving them up; to unlearn the old ways by learning (practicing) the new ways. I was told that the only way to enter into a new way of life was to face the consequences and secret underlying issues of my old life.

It would "take what it takes" or more specifically in "God's good time, not mine." In my case the journey took the better part of five years. One great thing is that once on the path the "steps" are paved with spiritual experiences.

The following story from the play
Zorba the Greek, Zorba tells of his own lesson in patience and I believe it to be a fitting metaphor for patience in recovery.

I remembered one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree just as the butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile but it was too long appearing and I was impatient.

I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened. the butterfly slowly crawling out, and I shall never forget my horror when I say how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them.

Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath. In vain. It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings needed to be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.


Saturday, January 23, 2010


Up at 4:30a the other morning. Thank God the weather had changed from teens to near forty. The order from the doctor said. "no food or drink after midnight." It's almost inhuman to wake up an start the day without coffee. Had to hurry to be at the surgery center by 6:00a.

Now I'm old enough to know that they always have you arrive early. Having to retain some control I it was impossible for me to do anything other than arrive at exactly 6; actually it was 6:01 when I signed in. Even though I "just had to"arrive at the ordered time I brought a book to serve as my security blanket; one I knew I wouldn't be able to finish in a day of waiting.

As the little hand on the clock approached eight and the big hand the 12 I began to lose it. I could only sooth my fright of needles and IVs for so long. I no longer could focus on my reading and even the Serenity prayer began to show wear and tare . Meditation in the pass has always worked but to close my eyes and attempt to meditate would only allow my mind to conjure up all kinds of scary thoughts and fears.

Finally my name came up. I was ushered into the "prep room". The "prep' was not pretty. The nurse could not find any plump veins to, as they say "stick me" . Three nurses and several "near sticks" later this grown man, nearly in tears finally sighed relief. The ensuing "op" was a piece of cake, since I had no choice but let them put me "under."

The crazy thing about the surgery is that I absolutely did not feel any pain nor any other sensation. Yet all the while I could hear what they were saying. For the op to be successful they needed me responsive to cooperate with their directions.

For the next twenty four hours I had to wear a "patch", it was clear plastic but with all the tape and "goop" in my eye everything appeared to be hazy as if in a fog. The following day the doctor removed the patch and my vision (abet in still a bit of a haze) was better than before the operation. With each passing twenty-four hours I can see now farther and clearer. A miracle.

In retrospect the eye operation was like so many other things in my life that I have to face to grow and get healthier. I commit to an "operation", taking a leap of faith, knowing that I will reach a new and healthier plateau. I get impatient with the process and God's timing. My fear of how it will hurt; having to give up control ; to surrender to a higher power and follow directions is almost unbearable.

But I can always fall back on having talked to friends I could trust tell me. "I was scared not only of the pain but what if something went wrong or the operation didn't work. I need not have worried the worst pain I felt was the fear of the unknown and my own fear of pain ....and I did that to myself. You can trust me I've been there, I don't know how it works but I can now see things that I never could see before."
I also continue to keep on praying.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Balance vrs Juggling Priorities

I've been wanting to post these last few days but life kept getting in the way. I'm on a timetable about cleaning up sections of my book and attending to other priorities so I've had to rearrange some of my priorities.

Back in the eighties I looked eagerly ahead to early retirement from industry. I wanted to completely change careers. I felt I had survived, not without scars, all of the pitfalls in chasing financial and ego security. I yearned for something else, something more fulfilling so two years before that gold watch date I began studying for a certification in relapse prevention counseling.

Under Terrance Gorski, founder of CENAPS, the center for relapse prevention training and certification I attained certification. According to Terry relapse begins to occur long before the alcoholic takes the first drink. Actually the drink is the event at the end of a relapse. Our relapses begin with our stinking thinking followed by self destructive behavior the leads us further and further down the spiral into that point of no return; drink, act out destructively or suicide. The important thing is be aware of our personal relapse warning signs in order to catch our relapsing early or before the event happens.

I've said all that to point out that I learned that striving to maintain balance in my live was a key factor in preventing relapse in my life. I also know that as a addict/alcoholic the hardest thing for me to do is maintain an equilibrium. My first tenancy even to this date is to approach things addictively to the neglect of others and other things in my life. Especially those things that boost my ego such as blogging.

Whenever I catch myself in that addictive web I have to reevaluate my life based on the HALT criteria of hungry, angry, lonely and tired and then do an honest evaluation of my daily schedule.

P.S. No matter that I've counseled many professionally and sponsored many in the program, being the addictive person that I am I have to practice not falling off my balance bar daily. Thankfully over the years when I have lost my balance I've been able to reach out for help before falling all the way down the spiral. I'm also thankful that I only have to maintain that balance one day at a time no matter how much I learn or how long I live.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Gaggle in My Head

In our clubroom there is a blackboard listing the up and coming birthdays for the month. My birth-date will be added to the list in a couple of weeks. The thought of another year got me to thinking.

New Years Day and my first day of continuous sobriety both mark a new beginning. A beginning and a promise of new adventures, disappointments, grief, happiness; you know the whole basket of life's goodies and badies and inbetweens. I know there really are no stand alone goodies or badies .......just life in technicolor.

I also thought of early recovery when my mind was loaded down with a crazy gaggle of voices. They screamed at me during the first few months to continue acting out insanely. I was/am thankful that beneath the ranting voices there were new-to-me barely audible voices of encouragement to behave differently.

I pleaded with my sponsors to tell me how to get free;to be able to shut down the "ranting" voices once and for all. The cold water in my face was their reply, "No way, those voices will always be with you, waiting in the swamp end of your little head. You'll be okay you'll develop the tools to keep them quiet and send them back when they surface. Your life in recovery will be a process not an event."

I realized that there would be no instant gratification here; that the day I took my last drink, that was an event; the event that marked the start of my journey. The days and years between the dates would be a well-traveled path into sobriety/spiritual growth; I also would be given the grace to walk it one day at a time.

I'm grateful its a process and that I don't have to be held accountable for perfection. Only yesterday when reviewing a strategy for publishing my book with my agent the crazy gaggle of voices began to emerge out of the swamp. I was being bombarded by them with snide remarks like: "not good enough"; "nobody will read it"; publisher will laugh" or "who the hell do you think you are?" as well as other loving bits of encouragement.

Over the course of my sobriety I've developed a go-to plan when in trouble. I went immediately to my Higher Power then to my basic spiritual first aid kit. I love that kit because I can depend on it to put my demons in their place and to get back on the high road sober/sane for another day.

To me the most encouraging of words by the the crafters of the 12 Steps remain: "...God could and would if He were sought." ("money in the bank") and "...we are not saints...progress (no matter how long it takes) rather than perfection."


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Quotes Have It

We've all heard the quote. "You can't solve a problem with the same mind that created the problem... "

That's why they advise us to avoid thinking in early recovery because we also admit, "my best thinking got me here." Here being to that place where our lives are unmanageable and we can't for the life-of-it figure out how we're going to get out of the mess we've created.

The saying " it'll takes a few (3-5) years to get your head out of hock" ties in to the fact that we not only have to learn the steps to take into our new way of life; we have to unlearn the old destructive addictive ways. We have to change our thinking but "we can't think our way into right living, we have to act our way into right thinking."

In the old way, the addictive way we broke all the rules. Another often heard saying. "Hey man, rules are for losers...I got my own." Of course that is the ego talking, either from a deflated or an inflated position. The ego needs to have the answers, it has to be able to figure it out, no matter how shitty the logic.

Cutting to the chase the new way is the spiritual way which leads me to another quote, this one out of the Big Book. ..."we will intuitively know what to do..." We don't have to figure it out, we just have to pray, meditate, seek counsel if necessary and "do the next thing." We just have to turn our will over to our Higher Power and listen to the guidance from those (sponsors, etc) who are further up the path in recovery.

I''ll end with one last quote from Shadow Dance by David Richo. "Nothing is to be taken literally in the spiritual world. All is a metaphor for the transition from the ego to Self, the personal journey to the transpersonal Source." The transition out of my will to my Higher Power's Will occurs through the practice of the Eleventh Step to my personal "conscious contact with God."


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Asking for Help

Woke up this morning feeling like a new man. The weather forecast called for a warming trend, always great for me because it can't get hot enough for me. That's why I moved from Illinois via Michigan and Ohio to Tennessee. I always felt like I was born in the wrong temperature zone.

When I'm out running in mid-day in 100 degree sunshine the neighbors all think I'm out of my gourd. I need heat and sunlight for all the "parts"to function, to move, to smile and to feel optimistic. Cold and dark have the opposite effect on me.

I've said all that to come to the point. When I'm "into my damped down days" I "pull back and isolate". Since I have become an expert on pulling back and isolating I can do so without others, and most importantly myself, nailing me on it.

My first warning sign of relapsing into isolation is my neglecting to update a current weekly schedule. It generally starts out with: "cutting back" or "putting off till later"meditation and prayer time; I'll catch a meeting tomorrow; I'll call him later; its too cold to run, exercise or go to the "Y"." In other words putting all the core things for my sobriety on the back burner or canceling them all together.

Cheating on the core activities"action" in my life contaminates the whole of my life. My life feels like I'm running in slow motion without any purpose. I neglect my relationships, my life is backed up in things not done and things to do. My life takes on all the trappings of being unmanageable and when it becomes overwhelming I'm in deep do-do.

The insidious part of it all is that it's so evident. Being the master of denial and rationalization and procrastination that I am I can bullshit myself into believing I'm handling everything as best I can. I'm on top of it and yes I'll start doing it differently tomorrow.

Thank God I can start today, this very minute, by surrendering and yes, lordy-lordy the hardest thing to do, asking for help.

And to make out and follow through with a balanced recovery schedule.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

No Lifetime Guarantee

Well here it is the ninth of January and I haven't posted anything since New Years day. Been off the radar, either going to/from or waiting in doctors offices for testing and probing. Looking back over the past five plus months it's hard to believe two people in such great health could rack up two surgeries, several lab visits and over a dozen doctor visits.

I'm sure that I was suppose to learn something from all the visits. Could it have been patience and faith. Patience in that I could look at the the waiting as an opportunity to catch up on my reading and writing. Faith to believe that the doctor was really in.

All the visits/surgeries were due to "parts" wearing out, obsolete or becoming less than efficient due to aging. They don't all come with a life-time guarantee. The comment from the several different doctors we visited was. "Not to worry you're in excellent condition, you'll probably live to celebrate your 100th." God that sounds old.

As it is now as soon as I get my "new" set of eyes, (Cataract surgery), the set God created me with were always clouding up on me, especially in the sunlight. I finally got the message in December when I whiffed a couple of forehands playing tennis.

Gratitude for: insurance; the promise of "improved" eyesight; no pain; the wonder of a "new pair of eyes" in just a few weeks and a wife who has patiently "nursed" me through it.

I did miss was the posting and especially your comments.

love you

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year.

Last night my wife and I went to two New Year's Eve Parties.
The first was a mix of long time friends in the program just a couple of miles away. After the making the rounds, sampling the food , hugging and shaking hands wishing everybody a Happy New Year. We made an early exit quickly passing through the "guys room" and the bowl game of the day.

Hitting the interstate and no traffic we made our way to the second party of the night. It took forty five minutes and unfamiliar back roads to reach our destination. This party had "partying people, half of which were in their thirties. No, there was no booze, only one couple, family friends of the host, were drinking. It's just that there was a lot of energy and game playing ignited by the younger crowd.

It all was capped off with fireworks at Midnight. Again we had to leave early, but had not missed any of the fun.

At both parties were old and new friends, no regrets the next morning just warm feelings of sharing the beginning of another year with friends we love and who love us.

To all of you I wish the same for the coming year.

Wanted to post this to as we