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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cathedrals


Note to self:

"go check out that whole religious thing" 


Where to begin...?

Well, I was attending a fundraiser dinner a few weeks ago in which one of the speakers (A famous Doo-Wop singer with over 40 years sober) was espousing on how religion had given direction to his spirituality.

For some reason this birthed a new curiosity; if not an out-rite thirst inside of me.

Allow me some background...

I was raised and schooled in the Catholic Church and I was in the choir until puberty hit and my voice changed.

I was also an altar boy until the 1st day of freshman year in high school, where upon walking up to the school entrance I noticed a tall,  redheaded junior-class girl smiling at me.

I got a bit flushed, but managed to summon the courage to say, "Hi" as I walked up. She responded, "Didn't I see you on the altar last week" and laughed at me.

I was embarrassed to say the least. It was immediately apparent to me that if I was to have any chance with the girls, I was going to need to ditch anything that didn't just reek of coolness.

Much to the chagrin of the Jesuit priest that was mentoring me, I withdrew from the altar boy ranks.

It was to be the preliminary round of a gradual withdrawal of my civic, athletic and religious activities over that 1st year of high school. (And yes, I did get the girl).

That priest would often catch me kissing in the hallways and was very adept at detaching me from her by pinching my ear and very assertively reminding me who was Sheriff.

Ah....fond memories.

-So, back to religion.

My parents were both very active in the church and my mother had a very intimate experience involving the Sacrament of Communion when she has young.

It forever altered her life and she has a level of personal faith that I both respect and admire.

Though I thirsted for it, I never had such an intimate experience with my Creator and I eventually came to view "God" as somewhere far off and not particularly interested in my exploits for the most part.

-Let me state at this point how flummoxed I feel when I hear someone label themselves as "Recovering Catholics".

Unless one was a victim of what has become a highly publicized problem of abuse of young boys and men, I have never seen religion as a disease or something that required recovery from.

(One other exception might be that of fundamentalist extremists such as those that send their woman to blow themselves up in the name of God, but there again this is a human condition or sickness and one I believe has little to do with God in all actuality)

-Here's an excerpt from the AA Big Book from page 49 of the chapter, "We Agnostics" that I have found a new appreciation for of late:

"We, who have threaded this dubious path, beg you to lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion. We have learned that whatever the human frailties of various faiths may be, those faiths have given purpose and direction to millions. People of faith have a logical idea of what life is all about. Actually, we used to have no reasonable conception whatever. We used to amuse ourselves by cynically dissecting spiritual beliefs and practices when we might have observed that many spiritually-minded persons of all races, colors, and creeds were demonstrating a degree of stability, happiness and usefulness which we should have sought ourselves."

-Indeed; having attended a local church for a couple of weeks now I do wish I had ventured into the hallowed doorway of God's House sooner, but alas the teacher arrives when the student is ready.

Amazingly enough I wasn't struck by lightening upon crossing the threshold and I was wonderfully surprised by a service in which I both laughed and cried and one in which I felt totally at ease.

I am very aware of the pitfall that many a newcomer has been beset upon by ...that of trading the practical 12 Step journey and fellowship of meetings for the temporary feel-good raincoat of religion.

Quite the opposite; I have discovered that my newfound fellowship and worship dovetails perfectly with my endeavors in AA.

Balance.....hmmmm....perhaps it's not so elusive after all.

Apparently those old-timers knew what they were talking about.

So, I'll leave you with a heartfelt and sincere wish for a blessed Thanksgiving for you and your families; and with a Quote from page 155 of, "As Bill Sees It"

"We give thanks to our Heavenly Father, who through so many friends and through so many means and channels, has allowed us to construct this wonderful edifice of the spirit in which we are now dwelling - this cathedral whose foundations rest upon the corners of the earth.

On its great floor we have inscribed our Twelve Steps of recovery. On the side walls, the buttresses of the AA Traditions have been set in place to contain us in unity for as long as God may will it so.

Eager hearts and minds have lifted the spire of our cathedral into its place. That spire bears the name of Service. May it ever point straight upward toward God."

Crossroads

So...as you may have inferred from my initial posts, I am a recovering person. The substances involved are of little significance in larger scheme of things...suffice it to say that my "lower self" enjoys anything that makes it feel better and wants more of it...and it wants it YESTERDAY!

Reeling from a recent relapse; a term that almost understates the calamity of such events for someone like myself, I have again embarked on a journey of recovery.

I have chosen the 12 Steps as my guide...it's been a proven method since the late 30s and it was the stairway in which I claimed into over 5 years of sobriety and which led me into a life I could have hardly dreamed of hitherto.

I won't bore you with a summary of the 12 Steps; that information exists online and in perhaps thousands of books and literature in many languages (and probably much better explained by real writers), but I would like to share some of my journey... And some explanation is required for context, so those of you that are veterans of this experience please bear with me.

So, I find myself at a crossroads on this journey. I'm approximately half way through the formal 12 Steps and am at a place where the focus is turning from inward reflection, discovery, confession, and admission to a more outward look towards the needs of those around me and a closer "walk" if you will, with my Creator.

The 1st steps outward involve cataloging the harms that I have inflicted upon others and becoming willing to set them straight..."to clean up my side of the street". It's a process laden with the land mines of guilt, shame, and false pride and I have been especially prayerful of late.

In preparation for these amends I recently catalogued my list of "character defects"(Step 6); in this case taken from the list of Seven Deadly Sins (Pride, Greed, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth) and became willing to have them removed by a power greater than myself (Step 7), it is now time to construct my amends list.

This may all sound like a lot of unpleasant work, but I must say that the revelations about myself and the patterns I have discovered to be woven through my life have been really keen and have deepened my faith in God and my knowledge of myself and the world I live in. The whole process to this point has been shot through with the Grace of God...I have not spent too much time in morbid reflection. I am quick to remember that what I am doing is of no less significance than life and death for me.

It is on this precipice that I now stand...no longer isolated and alone, but once again embracing life and willing to do the work.

As someone I really admire often says..."Onward".



Kittens

I awoke; or more accurately WAS AWOKEN this morning by the din of my housemates going about their 6:00am rituals, which include peeing with the bathroom door open and just generally making as much noise as possible.

So, from the inception of a new day, I'm angry (and a bit lonely, but that's another story). I make my way to the kitchen to get a pot of java going, but am intercepted in the hallway by a rather glib roomy who says something about how I must be tired.

I want to say, "f**k yes I'm tired! Maybe if I could get more than 4 hours of sleep in this house I'd be as bright eyed and bushy tailed as you are...A**h*le!" or even better, just a simple "Piss off mate" in my best cockney accent, but all I can manage is a grunt and I brush by him.

I get the coffee going and by now I'm starting to Seethe as I stand there; one eye opened, listening to the gleeful banter of 2 guys getting ready for a Friday. Thank Goodness imaginary murders are just that...imaginary.

The smell of the coffee brewing snaps me out of my "malice and forethought" and I make it out the front door; cup o' joe in hand (what do you mean why can't I wait till the pot is finished brewing?).

I sit down and light the 1st smoke and take my 1st sip of the day. The coffee tastes great, but I'm not exactly brimming with gratitude. *Noticeably missing in my accouterments are my usual morning meditation books. Quite frankly, at this point I'm just not in the mood. Unnoticed by me at the time was the fact that I had bypassed my customary prayers at my bedside this morning.

So, there I sit imbibing in my 2 other morning customs and generally being a sod...

Just then "mamma cat" (who's been coming around for a few days) appears and lets me know she'd like something to eat. She looks pretty tired and frustrated at that moment also.

As I pet her, she starts to purr and then I sit up to take another sip and all of a sudden her 2 kittens appear. They're teeeeny and unbelievably cute. In an instant my anger and self righteous indignation vanish. I get to play with them for a few precious moments before they decide that a twig is more interesting and they take off.

I look upwards and thank My Creator for allowing me this intimate moment and turn to go back inside with a smarmy grin on my face.

The door doesn't open... It dawns on me at that moment that my interceptor from the hallway has just left for work and locked me out of the house.

I actually laugh as I stand there; thoroughly enjoying the irony. The rest of the day was a piece of cake.

Thank God for kittens... And for roomies.

:)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Love (Where the rubber meets the road)

“The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being” Page 53 Twelve and Twelve.




Partnerships, huh?

As I sit; slightly bloated from a Thanksgiving feast, I ponder the meaning of that word. 

I recollect viscerally the images of my last lovers and I can't help but feel the slightest tint of guilt.

Yes guilt; that bitter old friend of my upbringing. These days it rears itself within me more in tinges than pangs...the result of many years of self-numbing. 

I feel a bit of that old guilt tonight. I am recently single again and with what seemed to be a very promising relationship in ashes. 

This time I struck the match and didn't stick around to watch it burn and I didn't try to quelch it either. I "ghosted". 

Well; what I can say is that I loved with all my might and I lived to tell the tail. I have a fresh set of amazing memories and little in the way of regrets, but yet and still guilt is calling my name.

As I helped with Thanksgiving preparations today, I couldn't help but wonder if she was feeling as grateful as me today. Did she at any point fling her hair and laugh with that certain glint in her eyes? 

I hope so...I really do. 

I hope that she can find a way to heal her scars earned from years of trauma and loss. I hope that she will one day embrace love without overwhelming fear. I hope that God will give her things I tried to. I hope that she will find herself.

Lastly, I hope that I can one day find all those same things as well. 

That as I trudge the road of recovery, I will one day know more than just loving the feeling of falling in love.

They say that where there is breath, there is hope...and I'm still breathing.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Promises


...And so the page turned. 

2013 arrives; full of hope and it appears that the world is once again smiling upon me! 

A first kiss under the New Year's Eve fireworks has me walking on air. A job offer; complete with a solid salary, a 3 bedroom villa and health benefits. January hearkens a new year so much brighter than the one passing behind me.

It feels as though I have been holding my breath these long months and that I can finally exhale again!!! I move, start the job and begin what promises to be a new adventure. I pinch myself, smile and thank God for having brought me so far. This new year is off to an amazing start!

Then life decides to strike me with the blunt callousness of a sledgehammer. Within the same week I lose the job and the villa. I am discouraged, but relieved in some ways (the organization; as it turns out, was filled with some of the most brutal and unethical people I have ever worked with).

I commence to network and within days I get interviews..."stay positive", I tell myself..."you've been through this before". 

That Saturday my girlfriend calls me and surprises me that she has an unexpected day off and asks if I'd like to share the evening with her. I arrive; gift in hand and settle in on the couch with her. She ends a conversation with someone on her cell phone and starts giving me the "Dear John" speech. I'm blown away, but I contain myself and I politely tell her that she need not explain herself any further. 

I give her a kiss on the forehead and walk dizzily out. I leave the gift on her car windshield and I pull away...heart in my throat and feeling as though I suddenly weigh 1000 pounds. 

I immediately go where I know there will be a lot of AA people around. It's a meeting hall and although the timing isn't right to catch a meeting, I just need to be there. I pull into the back of the parking lot, park in a dark corner and the tears come in waves. I purge and I breath. I don't drink.

So, as January ends I am unemployed and a little heartbroken, but above all I am sober...stark raving sober.

Turn the page......

Stay tuned.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ripples

So...2012 Anno Domini is coming to a close. Its been a while since I last put pen to paper (or in this case finger to keyboard) and what better a time to put another bookmark in the timeline of my life in recovery.

Always a contemplative time for me, this December has placed new hews to the colors of my reflections. 2012 was a year to remember for me in so many ways...where to begin? Well, suffice it to say that I was lucky to have survived it in some respects, but in the end I have transcended mere survival and have indeed flourished. This is in no small thanks to some especially caring and brilliant people in their own rights.

Attending family functions, 12 step meetings, church, and a refreshed social (and perhaps romantic) life this last month of the year has brought into keen focus for me not only the incredible progress I have been fortunate enough to have made, but also the immense amount of work that lies ahead.

I can think of no other year of my previous 40 or so that have been witness to such depths of despair and such heights of joy. As I reflect upon this and ponder the adventure that has just begun anew, I am filled with a deep knowledge of My Creator's grace and of the immense amount of love that He has bestowed upon me.

I will take the advice of a few select writers in this instance and will keep it short and to the point...I am once again in love with life. 2012 will go down in my book as a redemption song, a love note, a touchdown dance, and collective sigh.

All my best to you and yours; wherever you are, as you turn the page with me into a new year. May it find you with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

Always,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Armed and Dangerous

My continued journey through the 12 Steps and into deeper realms of recovery have spawned some further observations of late and I thought I'd share a few nuggets.

I occasionally here someone introduce themselves in an AA meeting as, "My name is ______ and I'm a recovered alcoholic". This has proven to be a point of contention for some time among members of the fellowship and one that spawned questions to myself, such as, "Am I truly recovered?".

In the Big Book of AA, there lies a statement which reads, "Having recovered from a hopeless state of body and mind". Not being an encyclopedia of the Big Book, I cannot accurately state how many times the word "Recovered" appears there, but I know its there in several chapters.

So, what does the term "recovered" actually mean in this case? I would venture several guesses, but I have learned that the dictionary often provides insight on words (Who knew?)
Here's one; "To regain strength, balance, composure, or the like".

-The only problem with this definition is that in the framework of my recovery, it is fairly clear that I didn't have those things to begin with; but that's not true of all recovering folk, so it will due.

Alas I digress. So, to the point of being "recovered" I found what I believe to be a really good litmus test right out of the Big Book (again, who knew?). They are called "The Bedevilments"; which describe fairly accurately the wretched state of affairs of the active alcoholic.

Here they are from page fifty two:
1. We were having trouble with personal relationships,
2. We couldn't control our emotional natures,
3. We were a prey to misery and depression,
4. We couldn't make a living,
5. We had a feeling of uselessness,
6. We were full of fear,
7. We were unhappy,
8. We couldn't seem to be of real help to other people

"Check!", yep... They pretty much all applied to my life; both before and during the early days of "just" attending AA meetings daily. It wasn't until I began to follow the prescription; if you will, to meaningful recovery and happiness by actively working the 12 Steps that this began to change.

It serves as a good gut-check for me...a clearly defined spreadsheet for plumbing out where I really am as I "Trudge the road of Happy Destiny".

So, am I "recovered"??? I hesitantly say yes I am... Today I have real and meaningful relationships, I have regained a sufficient amount of emotional control, I am scratching out a living (and its both challenging and rewarding), I am useful (and am endeavoring to increase my effectiveness), I am not wracked by , "A thousand forms of self-centered fear", I have a generous degree of happiness, and I am available to help.

Let me ad a little salt to that statement... I still possess a degree of what I lovingly refer to as "retardation".

-Allow me at this point me to address those that are of a politically correct bent... I only refer to myself in this way and COMPLETELY get how that term can be offensive to those who either are; or love someone that is challenged by either a physical or mental handicap.

So, I still possess a bounty of "character defects" or liabilities...hence my continued and for the most part focused endeavors to overcome them. My trials with these may make for some good future posts (look for one called, "Rogering" soon).

And the truth will set you free...

To again plagiarize someone I sincerely respect...

Onward.