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Through the Red Door

Red Door

In the early days of the Church, when the front door of the parish was painted red it was said to signify sanctuary – that the ground beyond these doors was holy, and anyone who entered through them was safe from harm.

In the lives of many recovering people, it is through these same red doors that sanctuary is found on a daily basis. Initially that sanctuary may not have started in the rooms with high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, but in the basements and back rooms of churches where 12-step meetings are held.

This blog was created for recovering people to share the experiences they found walking through those doors of safety, refuge and peace.

 
To submit a entry to the blog, please click here for the details or contact us at info@episcopalrecovery.org.

  • 02/22/2017 9:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I often joke when I speak at a meeting that God brought me to recovery and recovery brought me to God.  But it is my absolute truth.  As we wind our way through Epiphany this year I have been so conscious of the influence of the Program in my life as an Episcopalian and now as a seminarian.  It seems like every encounter with scripture, every sermon I hear and encounters with others I have are enriched by the gift of the Twelve Steps in my life.  

    This is especially true, as we have encountered Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew over the past few weeks.  The counterintuitive nature of the Beatitudes, where high is low and low is high, poor is rich and rich is poor, where humility is celebrated, and death is transformed into life, punctuates for me the radically transformative nature of surrendering to win that I have been shown so dramatically in my own recovery.  Sobriety is not only transformative; it is God’s gift of new life each precious day.

    I don’t think I have ever been so grateful for the “rooms of recovery” and for our Traditions and singleness of purpose.  Being in a meeting is safe harbor for us.  With the current turmoil in the U.S. and the caustic rhetoric that seems to have invaded every corner of living, being “in the rooms” has never been such precious sanctuary as it is right now for me.  It’s much the way that the apostle Paul describes who we are in Christ, “neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, slave or free”.  When I am at a meeting, I can leave the pervasiveness of politics, political partisanship and differences in viewpoint at the door.  They will be there waiting for me when I leave, but oftentimes I find that simply setting them aside for an hour allows me to once again bring the focus back to living out my faith and my recovery, with the help of my Higher Power.

    And while I can find blessed peace and centering in a meeting, I am also so aware, perhaps more now than ever before, that my program is meant to be lived out in this crazy world.  The road to happy destiny holds no promises of being without challenges.  Thank you God for the Steps and my companions along the way!

    -Sandi A.

  • 02/01/2017 10:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At my weekly AA gathering it is customary, after hearing the daily readings and instructions for our time together, to go around the circle and introduce ourselves and share our experiences and/or reflections on the literature, etc. This is pretty much standard practice in most meetings, I suppose. Last week I especially noticed how many participants began their allotted time by saying something like: “my name is _______ , and I’m a grateful recovering alcoholic, and thankful to be at a meeting tonight…”  

    Grateful. Thankful. What important words these are. Even more, what an important attitude. The Psalmist encourages and challenges us to offer gratitude and thanksgiving to God in every situation: “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  (Psalm 34:1) St. Paul advises the congregation in Ephesus: “Do not get drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-20)

    And the apostle Pauls’ parting words in his first letter to the Thessalonian believers seem to settle the matter: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

    At all times? For everything?

    This has indeed been a struggle for me as I continue in recovery. What am I to do with all the wasted years given over to addiction, when my life, it seemed, was spinning out of control? Should I be thankful for all the grief and loss my family and I have endured in the past? And what about the present? Should I be grateful when there is a temptation to relapse? Should my first response to challenging  circumstances like these really be to simply give thanks, or to fight- to make holy war on the disease that has robbed me of so much? I must confess my first inclination is to fight.

    Here’s where Step One of the AA Twelve Steps can be a source of wisdom and encouragement to us:

    “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

    Power-less.

    I have a pastor friend, a mentor, whom I’ve known for over thirty years. He concludes all his letters to me not with a “sincerely yours” or “be blessed!” but with the command, “stay weak!” This is truth that is counterintuitive; none of us wants to be weak. We want to be capable, self-reliant, powerful, certainly not weak.  Yet this is exactly what Christ became:

    “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

    Father Richard Rohr, in his thoughtful book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, observes: “What humiliated and wounded addict cannot look on the image of the crucified Jesus and see himself or herself? Who would not rush toward surrender and communion with such a crucified God, who against all expectations, shares in our powerlessness, our failure, and our indignity? Who would not find himself revealed, renamed, and released inside of such a God?”

    A suffering Savior? Inconceivable to the first-century mind. A scandal, and utter foolishness to most, says St. Paul; the majority prefer their deity to be invulnerable, powerful.

    Yet those of us who have been slaves to addiction are continually invited to fall into the arms of the one who himself became a slave; the one who gladly gave up his privilege and position in order to forever redeem us from the powers of sin and death – and addiction.

    I’m convinced, too, that giving thanks and daring to rejoice in our powerlessness is a spiritual discipline.  It’s a valuable thing to go around the circle at meetings and echo the words “I’m a grateful recovering alcoholic…” It’s like the words of the liturgy; you hear it, and repeat it enough times and eventually it seeps down into your soul and ultimately you believe it. This is important work. Gratitude is an attitude, yes; but it’s also something we must practice. If you really want to learn something, you practice. As a musician, I know this. Scales and arpeggios. Arpeggios and scales. Played over and over until they become a part of you, until they are literally hardwired. Continually acknowledging God’s care for us and his presence, even in the midst of our pain, reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles. Moreover, giving thanks also reminds us that even the most hopeless circumstances and wounds are redeemable, and can be occasions for grace. Julian of Norwich wrote:

    “First the fall. Then the recovery from the fall. And both are the mercy of God.”

    Be grateful. Give thanks. It won’t always be easy.

    And stay weak!

    Fr. Richard W.
    Goshen, Indiana

  • 01/25/2017 8:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Today the Church marks the Conversion of St Paul.  Today also marks my 25th anniversary of sobriety.  I certainly didn’t plan to be converted on January 25, or any other day, for that matter.  But there are some interesting similarities when one sets aside the old way of life and picks up the mantle of a new one.

    I doubt I ever would have awakened one day to decide I’d call anyone or anything to ask for help.  Yet people who knew me began to hear of my deteriorating life, and they were wise enough to know that an intervention was mandatory if my life was to be spared.

    I don’t know how much Saul might have been looking for a conversion on the Road to Damascus.  For us today, perhaps it doesn’t matter that much.  Something was working inside him, and he was open to a sudden or radical conversion.

    For someone who drank every day for 20 years, the idea of staying sober for a day was about as radical as can be.  To me, the idea of becoming a non-drinker was more than a conversion, it was an impossibility.

    But our God is a God of surprises and there is no question He was working on a big surprise that day.  My first night in treatment, a kind, older, wizened woman told me I didn’t have to drink tonight.  And it was obvious I wouldn’t find a drink anywhere in a treatment center.  She also told me I didn’t have to give up drinking forever, just for today was enough.

    I find sometimes the smallest thing can start the conversion.  It might be a burning bush, but more likely God messes around with things much more subtly.  Living with the questions and recalling that we do not hope for that which we can see.  Once we see it, there’s no need to continue to hope.

    My Church was newly meaningful to me in the midst of this conversion and it was a safe haven, a refuge from my storm, and a place of hope.  I am glad I had spent 40 years attending church every week and serving in a multitude of other ways. 

    Church was significant in my recovery as it welcomed me back in so many new ways.  In 25 years, I see how this is the experience that many have after they begin recovery. Not all, but some.  This alcoholic is grateful for all that God has done for me, and for all He has spared me.

    What Paul received, he passed on.  Conversion and hope is what I can pass on to others in recovery.  I hope you can do so, too.

    Gary G

  • 01/18/2017 8:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    January is a month of new beginnings! It's that time of the year where we make resolutions and try something new. The name January actually comes from Janus, the Roman god of transition or beginnings. Janus is represented by two faces looking in opposite directions; the past and the future. Janus was also thought of as a gate, a doorway, or of passing time. In the spirit of Janus I begin the new year with working Step One of AA which has been about a new beginning for me!

    Step One can be the beginning of a new way of life. This step is an honest statement about what our lives have become. "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable". When I came to AA I was told that this was the only step I had to get right and that the rest of the steps were suggestions for a new way of living. During those first few months my mind was in such a mess. I knew that my life was unmanageable. In my confused state, many told me to focus on the word "WE". "We" is the first word in Step One and I believe it is for a reason. It means we are not alone. I had felt alone for so long that I hung on to the word "WE" for dear life, leaning on others and listening to their stories. I learned to identify with people and to quit comparing. When I saw myself in others I began to see that we were connected, that we needed each other. We were never meant to see ourselves as alone. Was this really what Step One stood for or was there more?

    As part of working Step One, it was suggested that I look up the words powerless and unmanageable to make sure I knew what these words meant. It gradually dawned on me that these words were about giving up. I knew from listening to talk in the rooms that I was supposed to surrender, but who wants to admit defeat? What was I surrendering to? I knew it was supposed to be God, but even though I grew up in the church, I really didn't know God yet. I began to keep a journal and to write about how these words were manifested in my life. Slowly I came to the conclusion that I gave my power away out of fear. I tried too hard to be strong when letting go was all I needed to. "When I am weak God is strong", but I wasn't there yet. I was not able to see that I didn't need to pull myself up by my own bootstraps. I was trying to do God's job. I went through the rest of the steps as suggested to the best of my ability, but it wasn't till I started with a new sponsor after several years in the program that Step One took on a whole new dimension for me.

    My new sponsor said to me one day that "I Can't" was a short version of Step One. When she said "I can't" a light bulb exploded in my brain! I immediately grasped what Step One was trying to reveal to me! It was that I can't fix the chaos around me and that I am powerless to fix almost everything. Realizing that "I can't" was probably the biggest epiphany of my spiritual journey in AA. It helped me to start letting go. I now could see the futility of what I have been trying to do all my life. To be honest I still sometimes try to slip back into my old habit of crazy thinking, trying to take over and fix things, but then my dis-ease reminds me it’s my Higher Power's job to take care of the universe and not mine! It is the small deaths daily to my ego that reveal my true self to me - the self that can be of service to others and not get stuck inside my head.

    Step One continues to help me surrender and let go. The amount of time to let go depends on how much pain I want to deal with. Pain is a gift now instead of something I want to be free from. It is a warning sign. It usually means there is something wrong with my attitude or how I am looking at the world. I accept that pain and suffering are part of the human experience. Trying to escape pain is what led me to drink in the first place so accepting it has set me free. Today I have a new pair of glasses called AA. AA has helped me experience the world the way I feel God meant it to be for us. So today let January, a time of new beginnings, remind you that Step One is all about bringing you to a place of transition and transformation. May you experience it and you too finally let go.

    Margaret D.

  • 01/04/2017 5:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I recently had the coolest, most spiritual recovery experience I've had in quite a while!

    One of our local meetings had four birthday celebrations, and although I don't normally go to that meeting (even though it's an awesome meeting), I went this particular night for the birthdays.

    It was a huge meeting. I sat down and looked across the room and saw a lady who looked so familiar, but I couldn’t place where I knew her from. It didn't seem like it was from our local meetings.

    Towards the end of the meeting she shared that she had just gotten out of prison, and it clicked. She had been in the women's facility that we had been taking meetings into for the past year! She shared that although she had a year clean, someone told her it didn't count since she was in prison. My first thoughts were how awesome it was to see this lady in a meeting and that people CAN recover in prison, too! Plus, she was going to meetings there and now at a meeting on the outside!

    She picked up a white key tag when they were handed out. After all of the anniversary medallions were given out, the chair of the meeting stands up and says, “We just happen to have another one year medallion. And yes, prison clean time counts, so come get your medallion!” It teared me up then, and still does, and gives me chills every time I think about it.

    Out of the six panel members for the women's department of corrections, five of us were at the meeting that night. That is amazing in itself. I'm not saying God magically put all this together—her being there, us being there, the medallion—but it certainly was a special god moment for me, another spiritual awakening, more proof that taking meetings into prisons does make a difference.

    So, here's a plug for being of service in this way. In our area there are facilities WANTING recovery meetings—but there are not enough willing people to take these meetings in. Why, I wonder? We have a big fellowship. The women's prison panel goes in twice a month. Wouldn't it be awesome to go every week??? Many of us got clean in a prison or treatment facility. I know I did, and being of service in this way (taking meetings into prisons and treatment facilities) is how I show my gratitude. I'm grateful that the opportunity came up for us to go in this women's prison, and that I just happened to be at the right place, at the right time (a Hospitals and Institutions learning day) to find out about it. I need to be of service for my recovery and this is a much needed and very rewarding way to give back to the fellowship that saved my life.

    -Lucy O

  • 12/14/2016 9:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Advent is observed by the church as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. The word Advent comes from Latin word adventus which means"coming" or "arrival" and in Greek it is the word parousia which was used to describe the coming of a King or in this case about Christ's second coming. So with these meanings in mind it is for many Christians that Advent is the anticipation of Christ coming from these two perspectives of the ancient longing for the Messiah and being alert for His coming again. It is about expectant waiting and the hope coming into the world.

    When I was a child I would get so excited during Advent about the preparations for Christmas: the presents, the tree, the decorations, wrapping paper and the wonderful scents in the air of balsam and pine and especially the rich and succulent food prepared by my Grandmother. The anticipation alone would keep me awake at night. I would get so excited and anxious that I also could not enjoy the days of Advent, because I would wish them away for Christmas! As I got older it was the anticipation of the people that would come and celebrate with us, usually some new boyfriend when I was teenager and young adult. My feelings were always about me and my expectations.

    Growing up in a home with an active alcoholic Father and in a family that pretended that the problem did not exist was very hard, especially since I wanted my home life to be different, to be normal. Many holidays were about stepping around the elephant in the living room. This would make me dive further into my own thoughts and desires, to try and think a way out of what was in front of me. Part of my escapism was at church; the smell of incense, the brightly colored poinsettias, and the beautiful carols during the holidays! I loved them so much I would wrap the sights, fragrances, and sounds of the season around me like a beautiful multicolored quilt to protect me from the fear that was always on the edge of my horizon. I would be so tightly wrapped in anticipation that come Christmas Day all the excitement was gone and only disappointment was what I felt. This would usually come to a peak for me on Christmas Eve. This is when my family would meet at my Grandmother's for dinner and presents. It would end with midnight mass at our Episcopal church. In the dark cold night of Christmas Eve as I left church I would look at the stars and wonder why all my dreams and wishes did not come true. Why did God not stop my Father from drinking? I prayed to God that he would make my Father well. I wanted God to love me and save me from all the craziness of my life. What was I doing wrong? So Christmas Day would come and we were just back to a normal day and my same problems were still right in front of me. I couldn't see God's Love right in front of me, within me and all around me. I didn't know how to see God's infinite love because I had so many expectations and no hope.

    All the hopelessness of crazy thinking led me to drinking. I began to see myself repeating history that I saw in my Father's drinking. It terrified me that I was becoming like him. However, I knew about AA and I knew there was a solution there. I had seen my Father's best friend become sober and his life change miraculously. At my end I knew I had lost everything that meant anything to me. I was on my knees in so much pain that the only way out was to give up. Surrender and defeat became my "gifts" that I had been looking for all those years ago as I struggled to find the baby Jesus that would come on Christmas and save me. Looking back. my life had been a continuous crazy kind of “Advent" as I lay in wait hoping for something or someone to rescue me from my life. I looked for salvation in people, places, and things and of course that did not work. I also didn't see I had a part to play in all of this. It was through the action of my surrender that my real Savior materialized before my eyes and I realized God had always been there waiting patiently on me. What a surprise! God celebrates Advent too! He waits patiently for us to give up!

    It was eight and a half years ago that I finally gave up. I now believe Christmas comes to each of us when it is supposed to. It is the gift of dying before we die that saves us and helps us find our Messiah. I began to see Advent for what it truly is. It is a time of quiet expectation, not the expectation that is leading up to a resentment like most of our human expectations are, but a spiritual expectation where we know that God Loves us just the way we are and His grace is sufficient for us. We are made in the image of God, we see God in His examples of creation and soon one day we will all return to God as the very source we came from. While we are here in Advent let us be patient and full of hope in waiting and know that God is already here waiting just for us!

    Margaret D.


  • 11/30/2016 9:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In 1992, as I was nearing my one year anniversary of sobriety, the season of Advent began.  “Cast away the works of darkness” spoke to me in a new way that year, even though I had heard and sung that line for nearly 40 years.  While the world around me moved into the darkest time of year, I was emerging from the darkest time of my life.  Putting on the armor of light of recovery and the sanctuary of the Church was literally and figuratively meaningful.

    Thomas Cranmer’s words about casting away the works of darkness was for me about shedding the darkness of 20 years of drinking, a darkness that was so familiar, yet so debilitating.

    In detox and treatment, I learned that sobriety was going to require action on my part.  Not difficult or stressful actions, but it was not going to be a passive undertaking.  I’ve heard it said ‘I didn’t do a thing’ to acquire my sobriety.  That’s not my experience.

    If I show up for a meeting, I am taking action.  If I ask someone to be my sponsor, I am taking action.  If I go to lunch with a newcomer, I am taking action.  If I meet a fellow alcoholic for coffee, I am taking action.  If I pick up folks from a halfway house and take them to a meeting, I am taking action. Taking action is a way I put on the armor of light and experience God’s grace.

    God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved, forgives us, enlightens us, and strengthens us.  Only with those gifts from God do I continue to have the ability to cast away the works of darkness on a daily basis.  For we know well that recovery is a daily reprieve, if we maintain our spiritual condition.

    Until those last weeks and months before the bottom rose to meet me, I had never left the Episcopal Church. I believe that God missed me and came looking for me, through the action of friends who intervened, moving me to refuge and safety.  Words came back to me from countless hymns.  Immortal, invisible, God only wise, He tends and spares us, well our feeble frame he knows, God of grace and God of glory, I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true.

    Together with what I was reading and hearing in treatment, I realized God was responsible for guiding me through the storm, keeping me alive and safe, when the course I was on was anything but.  Tears of peace and joy streamed from my eyes one afternoon when I was overcome with that realization. 

    In retrospect, I realize it was in that moment I became conscious of contact with God, and I had the good fortune to feel the tears and be overcome with gratitude. 

    Advent reminds us that God has visited us.  And God is coming again.  Put on the armor of light, again today, and be blessed with another season of sobriety.  Soon the season changes: the world is about to turn. The days get longer, the light moves closer, hope takes hold.

    Gary G.
  • 11/23/2016 10:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Okay, first off, I stole that title. It’s actually the headline from a recent blog post by the marketing guru Seth Godin.* My story does not relate to Seth’s story, it’s related to the headline itself.

    About a month ago I had the pleasure of attending a talk by the Director of Community Relations from Hazeldon/Betty Ford, William Cope Moyers, a former crack addict and now a bestselling author. In his presentation he mentioned that when someone tells him that they had ‘hit bottom’ as a result of their addictive ways, he corrects them by saying, “The only real bottom is death.” In a Q&A following his talk, he unpacked the phrase to explain that while everyone has a different depth to which they have fallen, it’s not so deep that there is no way out. To describe a situation as a bottom means that there is no further depth to fall. Many of us who have lost friends and loved ones to addictive diseases know that whatever depth we have fallen to, it is not the ‘bottom’ that has taken so many others.

    My personal journey into alcoholism has taken me to deep depths that have created feelings of grief and remorse for what I have lost and the hurt that I have caused loved ones that will last for the rest of my life.

    My recovery has forced me to take 50 years of Christian formation and turn it upside-down. Most of what I studied was always through the filter of applying the lessons from scripture and the studies of theology to other people. People who needed help more than myself. How could I identify with those that needed these messages when I was, well, not perfect, but in complete control of my life? Wow. Talk about alcohol being cunning, baffling and powerful. I was the model of that sediment. I was not in control. In no way, shape or form.

    I cannot, however, let my feelings and past failings get in the way of what God has laid in front of me, an incredible opportunity. This is where Seth Godin’s headline comes in. It’s a great metaphor.

    The writings of Richard Rohr, with his plain and clear style, really spoke to me and forced me to look at life with a new set of filters. I could use my fall, to my depths, as a brand new starting point to not just rebuild a life, but to build a new life. One that can take the strengths and skills of my past life, work through the challenges created by my addiction, add a new ‘clearness of thought’ and emerge as a much stronger, focused and humble Christian servant.

    “It's not the bottom, it's the foundation.” As clearly stated in Psalms 118:22-23, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”

    That passage from Psalms always takes me back to my younger days as a counselor at Sheldon Calvary Camp with the words of Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary fame from his song Building Block, “There is a man who has collected all the sorrow in our eyes. He gives us love as God directed but is seldom recognized. When all your dreams have been connected and your vision has been returned, remember, love, you are protected by the truth your heart has learned.”

    Amen. Every day I am thankful for AA, my spiritual advisor, my Church, and my triune God for this amazing journey.

    Andy M.
    Sober since August 26, 2013

    * http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/11/its-not-the-bottom-its-the-foundation.html


  • 11/16/2016 8:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I was looking forward to attending my first Episcopal Recovery Ministries Annual Conference in Williamsburg, VA on November 3-5. The wonderful opportunity to connect with good friend in recovery journey from a previous parish, to hear about the work and resources for supporting recovery and healthy recovery living at my parish, and to meet and make new friends along that “happy road of destiny.” However, the literal “happy road” did not start very well.

    Driving along I-64 to Williamsburg, I was about 1 mile from my exit when traffic stopped due to a truck accident ahead. I stopped in the right lane, turned on my emergency flashers, glanced in the rear view mirror to an empty highway behind me, and then started to text my friend to alert her of the delay. Something nudged me to look again in my rear view mirror, now to see a tractor trailer appearing around the bend at a high rate of speed. Sensing he would not be able to stop in time, I pounded on my horn, and then began to move to the right side of the road … just not soon enough. The truck clipped my back driver side, then careened and totaled two more cars in the eastbound lane, rocketing across the median strip to the westbound lane and totaling another two cars before stopping by hitting a tree. I joined with others in reaching one man who took the brunt of the impact, turning off the car engine and providing care until emergency help arrived soon afterward. There was a long waiting process, speaking to state police, completing reports, clearing the road of debris, and replacing my destroyed rear tire with a spare. My insurance carrier directed my to a local tire and car repair facility, who were most understanding and helpful in processing the work to obtain a replacement rim, tire, and damaged sensors so I may return home to attend to the body damage to the car.

    Finally arriving at the hotel, most of the first day session completed, I sat in my room looking at the mini-refrigerator. Although and thankfully nothing was stocked inside, my addiction whispered in my soul, “A drink could make this all better, just like old times.”  I was firing on all the H.A.L.T. cylinders at this point – exhausted physically and mentally, just settling into the shock that I could have been in the hospital at that point, if not dead. I sat with that thought, the old voice whispering, and then …

    I texted my friend to say I had arrived and needed to meet with her and others gathered as soon as possible! We met in the hotel lobby a little while later, driving with other new friends to the evening dinner and program, where I met more new friends in recovery. We shared stories, said prayers for the unknown man badly injured, trusting the Holy One would direct our healing intentions. I got out of my self, got right by using the recovery tools I know well, and the subtle but strong whisper disappeared. Sessions the next day were wonderful, learning more about brain science and spirituality of recovery, sharing resources, and making more new friends for the “happy road” ahead. I was reminded in spirit what my first sponsor would often say, “The grace of recovery is great because we receive God’s grace gratefully.”  The car was temporarily repaired to make my way home to family and parish, and my Sunday after All Saints Day sermon was changed to GREAT with GRATEFULNESS!

    On Thanksgiving Day, I will begin my ninth and final year of serving at my parish, retiring sometime in 2017. While serving and sharing my recovering life with many during my years in this parish and others I have served, I am looking forward to being able to “spreading the message of recovery” with many, many more in years to come, along the Happy Road!

    And for this, I am grateful

    Paul G.
  • 10/27/2016 11:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Before I stopped drinking I walked in fear and isolation. It was not until AA that I came to know that my life has a purpose. It seems to be to help other people just like me. This is the gift of AA and living a sober life. I see now that suffering is a part of all our lives, but being a victim is optional. It is what we do with our pain that makes a difference. I realized through the help of others in the program of AA that I didn't need to be a victim anymore. When they reached out their hand to me, I said yes to their gift. They helped me see that my powerless could actually set me free, and that by surrendering my life as I knew it, I would be changed. It wasn't an instant change, but a slow gradual one that happened by going to meetings and not drinking and by helping others.

    By helping others I began to see that I was being released from my wounded spirit. I first saw this through the eyes of a newcomer! I will never forget the night a lady walked up to me at a meeting and asked me to be her sponsor. I only had about 6 months of sobriety and I was afraid. I tried to think of an excuse to say no, but I looked in her eyes and saw how serious she was. Before I could answer her she told me she was an atheist and she did not want to hear about Jesus because she didn't believe in him or God. She had never gone to church or read a Bible in her entire life. I was speechless. I wanted to say no. How could I share with her my sobriety and not talk about God--the God I knew and loved? Then I remembered when I had asked for help someone had said yes to me. Couldn't I do the same for her somehow? I would do my best and so I promised her I would not force my Christian beliefs on her. I decided to show her the love of Christ with my actions instead of my words. I started slowly using secular words and ideas as we did each step. Sometimes I would hit a wall where I knew no other way to explain something to her or how to share my experiences without a story or an idea that was part of what I believed. We agreed that I would tell her in advance that I needed to use a Christian idea and gradually she began to trust me and just let me share however I needed to. This is how we began the steps and our friendship.

    As we went through the steps I started to realize what I would have missed this relationship if I had not said yes. By doing the steps together we learned to trust each other and to trust that the steps would work for her as they had for me. To my greatest surprise she began to help me. She became a mirror so I could truly see my true reflection. We were more alike than different! She saw herself as a victim just as I had. However, we shared the greatest character defect of all...Resentment!  I never could see resentment in myself till I met her. Resentment was the log in my eye that I had to release! The whole experience with this person made me see the purpose of Jesus' life and what he was calling us to do. It is the action of really living in community with one another and loving one another that we can lift each other up. She saved me from my resentful self. She has been one of the greatest gifts in my life and I almost said no!

     My dear friend died last year after being sober for seven years from COPD. It was my honor to have been with her through her illness and to help her make choices about the end of her life. She knew it was time to truly surrender and let go for real and she allowed me to walk that last mile with her. I cannot describe in words the sorrow and joy of this experience, but it has been profound and it changed me forever. Our last words together were words of love and surrender. I can truly say we became like Christ to one another. Although her faith didn't look like mine it didn't matter. I knew she found her Higher Power because she died sober and free. Just like the man Jesus healed from Gerasenes that was living in the tombs alone and destitute from his personal demons, my friend and I were healed and made whole again too. We are no longer possessed by our addiction. We are always being saved by the love of God no matter what words we use to talk about our Higher Power. God's grace comes to us in many ways. Sometimes we become aware of it when we sayv"YES" to another alcoholic!

    Margaret

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