Monday, February 10, 2014


I know I talk about humility in this blog, BUT! This is going to be the best article you have ever read on spirituality!

And hopefully after reading this, you too will want to at least consider surrendering to Life rather than trying to control Life.

Hopefully you will begin thinking about surrendering to heaven instead of forcing your way there.  Hopefully you will realize you can stop running from hell and surrender to whatever Life has to offer you at any given moment.

Hopefully you just might surrender to the gnawing urge to give up trying to be better than everyone else.

Hopefully you will consider surrendering to this very moment with the faith that there is a More, both inside of us and surrounding and sustaining us if we only let it.
And like the baseball player, hopefully, you will decide to stop judging your success by how many times you strike out, and you will see for the first time in your life that being successful thirty percent of the time is a DAMNED GOOD BATTING AVERAGE, A HELLUVA BATTING AVERAGE.

Anonymity is an important spiritual principle in twelve step work, so I have consciously made sure that nothing I share in my story jeopardizes anyone’s anonymity except my own, and I have chosen to be seen rather than remain anonymous with careful forethought. 

I am very fortunate that I started attending Al Anon meetings before I got honest with myself and recognized I was at the “wrong” meeting! (Check out my previous blog).  You see, I am as judgmental as they come, and I think, had I not developed a connection with and a liking for the folks in the Al Anon group, I might have judged my way out of any AA meeting.  I would have picked a part every person there and quickly came to the conclusion that everyone was way nuttier than I, and that AA could or would not do diddly for me let alone diddly squat!

There were many miracles happening to get me to an AA meeting.  First, it was a miracle I even went to the Al Anon meetings.  It was even a bigger miracle that I got to that first Al Anon meeting alive, as the person driving was blinded by the setting sun at one point, and while I was literally screaming, “Stop,” she crashed into a cement island and then laughed hysterically!  I laughed too because I had crapped my pants!  No, just kidding.

So when I finally get the obvious, that it could be even more helpful to me to go to AA (although many folks participate in both, Al Anon and AA), I discover there’s an AA meeting right around the corner from my house.   In fact, it’s the same morning meeting I have been recommending to my clients for the past twenty five years!  No, I never went myself!  How funny is that?  (Or is that sad?)

The meeting was also held in a building that was once a small church.  It was the same little church where I had stopped several times a week in the afternoon to sit and talk to God until it was decommissioned!  I was furious that they had desecrated MY sacred spot by turning it into some kind of multi-purpose hall, and I was preparing to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper with my complaint.  You know, how does the House of God become decommissioned?  Is that some new brand of real estate theology?

So it was becoming a tad difficult to turn a blind eye to a God at work here, and a God with a weird and great sense of humor.  I mean what do you think?  Gets me to an Al Anon meeting when I really need to be going to AA, gets me damned near killed on the way to the Al Anon meeting, softens me up for a few weeks listening and relating to some powerful personal sharings at the Al Anon meeting, and then directs me to the very same little church where, for the last thirty years, I had been stopping several afternoons a week to sit and talk to God?  Is that total coincidence?  Or is that the kind of “proof” we all look for to know that there may not be a lot of strings, but obviously some, and God does yank them around when He or She wants.

So I walked into my first AA meeting, naturally a little nervous, a tad protective and defensive, but also open, very open, and to my surprise there were folks there that I already knew. Wow!

One of the first things I heard shared or proclaimed was, “God did not get sober.  I did.” At first, I wasn’t sure just what the person was trying to convey, but I just about fell out of my chair laughing, but I contained myself.  I wanted so badly to say, “Hey, thanks for that information.  Now I get it.  God is drunk and you’re running the show.”

I heard another person share, “I come here each morning to have fun, and if you’re not having fun, I don’t know what in the hell you’re here for!”  What a wild ass thing to say?  I was sold.  I hadn’t laughed that hard in weeks or perhaps months or perhaps years.  So AA is not a punishment for me.  It’s not something I have to attend.  Never even thought of it in those terms.  I go to AA to have fun, and I do. 

But here was the biggest kicker of all for me. That first AA meeting was the most powerful spiritual experience I had ever had in my entire life, and each meeting continues to live up to that standard for me.  Yes, spiritual experience.

So how is it spiritual, you ask.  Well, first of all, it was and continues to be a very humbling experience.  Not humbling in terms of shame or feeling lowly.  Humbling in the sense of sitting in a room with other people who are just like me:  ordinary, flawed, searching, wanting more, sometimes weak-willed, sometimes proudful, sometimes irresponsible, and they make no bones about it.  They put up no defense to disguise themselves.  You never hear folks groveling about any part of their lives even though some of them have lost a great deal because of their alcoholism, a great great deal. Yes, those are the rightful consequences, and yes, these men and women are willing to take complete responsibility for their entire life.  Yes entire life, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  

And whenever anyone shares, they include something about their relationship with, well, some refer to their higher power, some, to the God of their understanding, and some just refer to simply God.  Everyone acknowledges that they really don’t understand who God is or what God’s make up is, but they experience God’s presence and working in his or her life, and some of these same folks admit they aren’t really sure there even is a God, but they cannot deny their experiences of God.  The most common experience shared is God removing the obsession to drink.

And they don’t talk about this relationship in theological or dogmatic terms or in pretty terms.  They are just plain ol’ down and dirty in sharing their relationship with God.   They talk about God as if God is their best friend or a partner or a mentor or a guide.  God is never described as punishing or angry or mean or cruel or tricky or dishonest or withholding.  No one seems to have a fear of God.  They talk about how this relationship moves them to grow and continue to grow a selfless caring for the people in their lives, particularly the people they love and have hurt including those who no longer want anything to do with them.  They talk openly about ALL the ways they have hurt other people and continue to hurt people (that’s one of the things we do as human being, right?), and the ways they go about making amends.  They talk about their daily prayer life not in some task-oriented way, not in terms of some religious practice where you better pray or else.  But praying has become an important part of everyone’s day.

You know, the stereotypic Mafia hit man, big bruiser, with the Italian accent?  Well, imagine that guy sharing that he gets on his hands and knees to pray every morning and every night. And when he doesn’t, his wife reminds him to. That brings a big laugh.  You don’t think I felt humble listening to him?  Of course, I don’t get on my hands and knees.  That’s for little kids or is it?  Or is that who we are?  Grown-up little kids?  And you know what?  During the last almost four years, I have heard that same sharing from different people, over and over again to the point I have begun trying it on for size for myself.

People share things like, “Yeah, I got pulled over for drunk driving several times, but they always let me go and well, the last time, they didn’t let me go.  And I knew almost instantly, that this was the best thing that ever happened to me."

What?  The best thing that ever happened to you?  God was somehow having this deputy arrest you?

“Yeah,” he would say, “the best thing that ever happened to me.  It woke me up and made me realize what I was doing to my wife and to my kids and to all of you by being a drunk.”

And people share how God has lead them back to a life that includes a job, having enough money to pay the bills, being able to once again be a contributor, being able to hold their head up high, being proud to be out in public with their loved ones and family, knowing that no matter how challenging starting over is, God keeps giving them a sense of hope and confidence like they have never experienced before.

Oh, here’s another kicker.  You’re not going to believe this one either.  Every person shares how SERVICE to others is the final piece in the puzzle.  Without service, sobriety remains incomplete.  Service?  Yes, service.  If I want to remain sober, I better be doing something for my fellow human beings, something that benefits me nothing, except ironically, the final piece to my sobriety.   And one better!  Don’t tell anyone when you do something to serve others. Keep it to yourself!

I knew that what I was hearing here on that first morning, and continue to hear, was and is real and coming from down deep inside each person’s soul.  God was in this room in a way that I had never experienced in any church or any church service.

Now you got to understand, these folks are not what we think of when we think alcoholic. This AA fellowship represents the entire gamot of our little town including those alcoholic stereotypes.  But everyone in this fellowship is seen and respected as an equal human being no matter their wealth or their poverty, no matter their formal education.  Everyone is considered wise and having much to offer spiritually.  And we listen intently to each person for what they give us.  There are no priests or reverends in this spiritual gathering.  There are no chosen authorities to whom we better listen.  We are all a part of this gathering and simultaneously a part of something bigger than any of us individually.

So it is no longer MY sobriety, MY journey.  The same way that we all get it that Love is not a singular journey.  Love exists in a relationship, obviously.  So too, sobriety is not a singular journey.  When you make it a singular journey, you are indeed sober, but walking around with hairs up your ass and you drive everyone absolutely insane, and you can never figure out why because after all, you’re sober just like everyone wants you to be.  But you’re resentful about your sobriety.  You’re proudful about your sobriety as if you did it all by yourself.

I know all about sobriety ALL BY MYSELF (See the previous blog).  This time around I decided not to go it alone. I have come to realize that sobriety is a connection to my highest self, so to speak, and that connection demands yet another connection to other human beings.  My sobriety has also become my connection to God even if I don’t believe in God.  That’s perfectly okay because I am still connected and I get it. I’m connected to “something” I’m not sure I even believe in, but somewhere in my soul, which I might not believe in either, I know there is an indisputable connection that has allowed me to accomplish what I never thought achievable before.

Even though at this moment in my life, I have no doubts about God’s existence and presence, I wrote the above paragraph the way I did because I know most of us have those questions and doubts.  And they may come and go. Sometimes they are like fuzzy shadows and sometimes they are like absolute darkness.  But that’s what is so profound about the spirituality of twelve steps.  You do not have to be certain about God in order to connect to God.  How is that for one big paradox or oxymoron?  But that, my reader, is spirituality at its best!

Thanks again, to Phillip Seymour Hoffman for giving his life so I might be inspired to write about sobriety.  There will be more.

THANK YOU FOR READING AND THANK YOU for looking at where you are spiritually.

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