Counting My Blessings

I am learning that if I am unhappy the reason is most probably that I am focusing on what I don't have rather than what I do. I'm thinking thoughts like "I don't have great job, I don't have enough money, my parents didn't love me enough, my wife doesn't treat me right"... and on and on ad infinitum. I came to AA with a whole list of "don't haves" and 1001 reasons to drink. Today if I'm not careful, I can still get to seeing the glass have empty.

The way the universe seems to work is to give me what ever I focus my mind on. If I am thinking about how bad my job is the universe responds by giving me a worse job or taking away the job I have. If I think constantly about running out of money then I'm bound to face even greater financial problems than I already have. I'm certainly not going to get better treatment from my wife by focusing on her negative behaviors.

I think the other big book calls this "sowing and reaping." This is some kind of spiritual law that says I can have no other life than the one I think most about. If I'm planting mental stink weed seeds, I cannot grow Easter lilies. By the same token, if I am focusing on those things in my life I love and enjoy, the universe responds by giving me even more. If I want a better life I gotta remember to count my blessings.

See Through Appearances

I learned something very recently that has helped me a lot -- If I feel angry, be angry. Let the anger out. Stuffing it down allows it to grow inside me like a seed. We weren't allowed to be angry in my house when I was growing up so I stuffed it down. Years later when it finally started erupting it was rage that felt like a volcano that I couldn't control and seemed to have no end.

Of course the catch is: if I get angry and say and do things that hurt other people or myself, I have to be willing to deal with the consequences. Since I no long have any guilt about getting angry, I find myself becoming angry less often.

The idea of seeing through appearances is a powerful tool when dealing with resentments. The book says I am to realize that the people who wrong me are "spiritually sick." Today, as I look back with more gentle eyes at the major
resentments: my father, the bully that beat me up in high school, my first Chinese boss, and a few others, I can see in each of them the fear that caused them to behave as they did. When I identify with the fear, I find equality with these people, it's easier to forgive and the resentment goes away.

I'm coming to believe that all the evil doers in the are world spiritually sick. They are driven to do the things they do because they are afraid or ignorant. When I remember this and can forgive, I have peace. When I forget and judge and resent, I lose my peace. I wonder why I forget so often?


My dad taught me to swim when I was five. First he taught me to float. He took me out in water over my head and, with his hands holding me up, he laid me down on the surface of the warm water. Slowly he took his hands away. I sank, water went up my nose. I  came up crying. I had to sink a quite few times before I got the hang of it.

I learned that floating is mostly about not getting scared and tensing up. When I finally learned to completely relax and let the water support me, I could float forever, just looking up at the sky, feeling the water tickle the inside of my ears.

That's the best image I have about life on life's terms. Floating without fear in the warm water and bright sunshine. Not clinging to anything. Letting the current carry me wherever it may. Totally at peace -- trusting.

Bricks in My Bucket

When I got to AA my mind was like a bucket of dirty, muddy water, filled to the top with fear, resentment, guilt and shame. As I began to give AA a try, it was like I placed my bucket under a spiritual faucet. Every time I took one of the actions suggested by our program, a drop of cool clean spiritual water dripped into my bucket. When I went to a meeting.. drip. Said my prayers.. drip. Put my hand out to others.. drip, drip. Called my sponsor..drip. Slowly, the spiritual water started displacing the dirty water.

It would seem that given enough time under the spiritual faucet of AA, eventually all the water in my bucket would be pure. But there was one problem. Besides dirty water I also had some bricks, rocks and rusty beer cans at the bottom of my bucket. These were my dark secrets, and the embarrassing things I did both drunk and sober that caused major harm to others. These were the things that made me cringe when I thought about them. No amount of dripping was likely to float these bricks from the bottom of my bucket.

The dynamic action of steps four and five and eight and nine lift these bricks right out of my bucket. Without an honest effort at these steps I have no hope of ever living free.

Heartfelt Amends

The three most difficult things for me (and I believe most human beings) are: returning love for hate, including the excluded and admitting I am wrong. In fact these three criteria are a pretty darn good measure of the quality my recovery today. Admitting I am wrong has always been tough for me, but I've made some progress.

I identify with that tornado it describes in our book. For most of my life and even in the first few years of my sobriety I was roaring though life, insensitive to the feelings of others and the damage I caused. Then when your reaction told me that I had knowingly or unknowingly said or done something that harmed you, my first impulse was to rationalize, justify or minimize -- to try and make it your fault.

As I grew in the program a little, I got to the stage of "half ass" amends -- whispering "sorry" out of the corner of my mouth. It's taken some time, but today most of the time I am able to make heartfelt amends. It may take a while, but the fact is that it is uncomfortable for me until I do. Making the amends and meaning it is the easier softer way.


I begin the forgiveness process in Step Eight. As long as I am unwilling to forgive, I block my HP out of my life. The light goes out. Then I’m back to running on Jeff power fueled by the energy of my anger. My mind whirs in a constant state of condemnation. I send out the vicious attack dogs to find more evidence of your guilt. They return and obediently drop it at my feet. Now I have new bones to chew on. I’m drinking the rat poison waiting for the rat to die. True happiness is impossible. Man o’ man, I just don’t want to live this way anymore.

I don’t practice forgiveness because I’m a good guy. I practice because I don’t want to suffer. It is forgiveness of self and others that wipes away the anger. This doesn't mean I condone what you did, it’s just I choose to forgive you for it. Sometimes it takes a while to get to the place of forgiveness, but I notice that the amount of time I’m willing to sit in my own crap is less and less as the years roll by.

Through the years I’ve tried everything suggested. I’ve tried to see the other person as spiritually sick, I’ve prayed, I’ve written steps. I try to remember when I point my finger of condemnation at someone, I’ve got three fingers pointing back at me. When I realize that I have done the very same things to others that you have done to me, forgiveness comes easy...well, easier. Forgiveness is the E-ticket to my own peace of mind.


I only had one tool in my tool box for most of my life -- a rusty old claw hammer of self will. Anytime I met any resistance to my demands I'd take out my hammer and start pounding away. Often I pounded so hard on close relationships, friends, and employees I broke our connection into smithereens. I learned the hard way if the only tool in your tool box is a hammer, your life will be filled with many situations that require hammering. It's an exhausting, fearful, angry way to go through life.

Throughout my recovery, as self will gives way to God’s will, new tools magically show up in my tool box. Even with new tools like acceptance, forgiveness, and surrender, I still reach in and grab that old hammer far too often. It’s only when the inevitable pain results do I realize I made the wrong choice and I’ll reach for another tool. Fortunately I’m much more sensitive to the pain today than when I was drinking. I guess I’ve thawed out a little.

I suppose understanding is the first tool I try to remember to use when the going gets rough. My understanding stems from the sentence in the Big Book: “God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is or He isn't. What was our choice to be?” Once I choose that God is everything, then I must accept that nothing happens in God’s world by accident, no matter how painful it is. So whatever is going on is somehow meant to be. There’s a purpose to it even though I may not be able to see what that purpose is. Since I also choose to believe that the nature of God is love, then whatever is happening is happening because I am loved -- to teach me or guide me in some way -- not as punishment for my so-called “sins.”

Peace of mind returns when I can understand the spiritual truth about what’s going on rather than believe the lies my mind spews out.


Heartfelt Gratitude

They told me when I was new that a truly grateful alcoholic doesn't pick up the first drink. Not one who pays lip service to gratitude, but one who is constantly giving thanks from the heart. I aspire to that level of gratitude, it's a great insurance policy and one that pays handsome dividends.

I'm coming to believe that when I send out heartfelt thanks to the Universe for the blessings I receive, somehow a divine energy is triggered and the Universe responds by giving me even more blessings. If I want abundance in my life (which, by the way, I do) then I gotta be grateful for all that I already have.

I've had my share of pain and loss in my life. It's sure easy for me to forget that I get sent these challenges to help me grow. But as soon as I can see my part and begin to understand the lesson, the pain goes away (well, almost.) It would be a stretch to say I was grateful for the pain, but I am truly grateful for the lessons and to AA for giving me the tools to learn from the experience.


Admitting stuff was never my strong suit. Admitting that I stole money from my fathers coat jacket, admitting that I dented the car, admitting that I cheated on the exam, admitting that I was the father... I denied each and every one of these incidents and plenty of others throughout the years. Such was the level of guilt and shame I carried around that I couldn't bring myself to admit fault at anything -- even if I was caught red handed!

Denial kept me from the truth of how pathetic my life had become. I went to a therapist who knew me complaining of a midlife crisis. I lay on her comfortable leather couch and whined about my life for the better part of an hour. When I was finished she said, "Jeff, I can't help you." "You are welcome to come here once a week and pay me $80 to talk about your life, but I can't help you." Then she lowered the boom. "From what I know about you, I think you have the emotional maturity of a 13 year old, you don't have an ounce of humility in your whole body, and your brain is so cloudy from drinking that you can never hope to get any clarity on your life." So I don't think I can help you."

I was reeling from her cold words when she looked right into my eyes -- like she was looking directly at my soul -- and she said, "you're in trouble aren't you Jeff?" The voice in my head was screaming "don't admit anything, don't let her know." I remember a long pause ... finally I muttered "maybe."

It turned out that slight admission of "maybe" I was in trouble was just enough of an ego opening for God to come into my life and work His magic. Three days later I floated into my first AA meeting on a pink cloud of hopefulness and began, for the first time ever, to take responsibility for my life.

I'm learning that I can't begin to take responsibility for the healing of any aspect of myself -- mental, physical, spiritual or emotional -- without first admitting that (a) I have a problem and (b) admitting that I don't have the where-with-all to handle this problem without help. For me admission is as good for my soul as is confession.

Just One More

I came to the conclusion early on that there was no such thing as "staying the same" in AA. I am either taking the actions to grow spiritually or I'm slowly sliding backwards toward my disease -- back into the cesspool of my own self centered fear. It really makes no difference where I am on the path. What matters is that I'm moving in the right direction.

To me it all boils down to the desire to be changed at depth. Without this desire I won't have the willingness to do the work -- to keep trudging. The grace I received was that I was so thoroughly beaten by alcoholism, that I had accumulated so much self hate, that nothing but a brand new me would do. The grace I receive today -- that lives and breathes with me -- gently encourages me to keep moving toward It's ideal even as the comfort zone beckons.

The fears that were my constant companions, the fears that I drank at, the fears that held me prisoner, are slowly, slowly beginning to give way to a new attitude and outlook. It's a whispered promise that a better life is just around the next bend as long as I keep moving forward. Regardless of the problems, regardless of the pain, regardless of all outward appearances all I gotta do is take one more step, make one more meeting, say one more prayer, and have one more conversation with another alcoholic. Just one more.

Sobriety Is Enough

I may have no program and I may be toxic and I may be angry as hell and I may be creating serious wreckage, but if I ain't drinking, then I'm living life on life's terms and at least I have a chance. A chance to be healed. A chance at a better life.

If I'm an alcoholic and I ain't drinking then I have a chance to get to the point where things like getting enough exercise and which church fulfills me spiritually is important. But I can't get to this point without sobriety. Sobriety is my first priority all the other items on my To do list follows.

I can evaluate the quality of my life, or the quality of my program, or the quality of my relationship with God and my fellows. But to me there's no such thing as "bad" sobriety so the words "good sobriety" are redundant. Sobriety in and of itself is good thing.

When I was new I had no spiritual solution. All the cells of my body and brain were saturated with alcoholism. The voices were screaming for some relief. My sobriety in those days was good, very good. How do I know this? Because I didn't drink.

Sobriety is good regardless of what our outside circumstances look like or what we share in AA meetings. Whether someone's sobriety looks pretty to you is not important. I think it's better that you get another day sober even if it requires you to puke your self will all over me and the rest of the group.

I've heard some folks share smugly "just not drinking is not good enough for me." Oh really? Well it would be plenty good for all those miserable souls out there that can't seem to get this thing.

If you're alcoholic, sobriety is good. Cause if I have sobriety, I have a chance.


I'm coming to believe that I gotta be serene before I can hope to be happy. Serenity is my passport to my Higher Power. Unless I've got interior calmness -- peace of mind -- what might feel like happiness is in reality only a flash of pleasure, not real happiness at all. And as it is with all pleasure there is pain waiting. Just like the hangover the morning after.

If my mind is jumping around like an ant in a hot pot, if I am fearful, if I am angry and resentful, serenity is out of reach. I am locked up in the prison of my own mind. Every character defect is one more deadbolt on the door to freedom.

Fortunately the 12 Steps provides a way for me to get "cleaner" inside. To "uncover, discover and discard" those things that are blocking me from a full and complete experience of my Higher Power. Serenity happens naturally as I move toward the light. If I am serene, Happiness is right around the corner.

Sobriety Bank Account

I'm pretty sure that if I ever have to take that first drink, the last thought I'll have before I swallow is "what's the use in staying sober? My life can't get any worse." Of course it will get worse, but, by that time, I will be in so much pain that death or an institution might look like a step up.

At this point I will have severely overdrawn my sobriety bank account. My disease -- whose number one job is to convince me to drink again -- will have won.

I look at maintaining a fit spiritual condition much the same way as maintaining a fit financial condition. If I am spending more than I am making I'll go into the red. I can't stay in this position forever. Sooner or later the creditors will take away anything of value.

I deposit spiritual currency every time I practice a principle of our Program,
every time I attend a meeting, every time I pray and every time I put my hand out to others. If I maintain a big fat spiritual bank account, I won't be thrown off the merry-go-round when it starts spinning out of control.

When I get discouraged, it's a reminder that I'm drawing down on my sobriety bank account. I can't afford discouragement. It's time to get back into action

Three Gifts

When I first came in I had a continuous discussion going on inside my head, day and night. Sometimes the voices would all talk at the same time. Sometimes, when they were discussing me, the loudest voice would call for a vote. One by one they would go around the big table with each voice answering in turn: GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY... And the gavel was slammed down and so, once again I was convicted and sentenced to another layer of self hate.

As long as I hated myself there was no way to be comfortable in my own skin. I had to use alcohol, drugs and other to try and escape from these uncomfortable feelings. Finally I got to the point that the alcohol stopped working. Oh I still got drunk all right (and did stupid and hurtful things), but I could no longer escape from the feelings. Instead, the feelings of worthlessness and self pity were magnified.

In the beginning I was given three gifts from my Higher Power. First, I was allowed a moment of clarity that allowed me to see the truth about my life and what I had become. The second gift was the willingness to be changed. And the third gift was being led to the solution contained in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In AA I learned that it isn't other people, institutions and conditions that cause the trouble in my life, but my very own "stinking thinking." You taught me that to change my thinking I first had to change my actions and that the 12 Steps would help me do just that as long as I was willing, open-minded and honest.

More Old Ideas

It says in How it Works that "some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." . The word absolutely doesn't allow much wiggle room. If it means that I have totally and completely let go to all of my old ideas, then to be honest I haven't made much progress in this department.

The reason I can tell I still have old ideas is that I still have character defects. If the character defect is a weed, then at the end of the root of each character defect is the seed of an old idea that I haven't yet let go of. Here's just a few of the ideas I'm still obviously carrying around:

--It is my wife's responsibility to make me happy.
--I've been put on this earth to achieve something.
--The chief aim of life is to be comfortable.
--If I act considerately towards you, you should act considerately towards me.
--I will someday receive extra points for trying to do everything perfectly

Maybe one of the most powerful old ideas I still carry is that I am totally responsible for every aspect of my life and if a problem arises I must solve it myself without any help. Without God gracing me with a moment of clarity, this idea might very well have killed me!

As I look at this list now it seems almost silly to still hold on to most of these. Why don't I just drop them? I guess I will let go when I am entirely ready to let go.

Even though I obviously haven't let go of all of my old ideas, I must have let go of enough of them for my Higher Power to come in and work in my life. Because my result hasn't been "nil" at all, it's been a far better life than I could possibly imagine eleven years ago. Thanks totally to the program and fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.


To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure what a "spiritual" life is. I read the answer a famous guru gave to the question, "what's a spiritual life?" He said "when you are hungry, eat and when you are tired, sleep."

I was taught by my first sponsor that spirituality is a gift from God. I suppose this means that I could completely withdraw from the world and sit atop the most beautiful mountain and meditate and pray for the rest of my days, but I wouldn't be spiritual unless God gave me the gift.

It seems I can't make myself "spiritual." The best I can do is to become that channel that St. Francis takes about in his prayer so God can do his thing through me. If I've got the channel open I'm expressing God, not me, in every moment of my life -- work, home , play, sex, and AA. Then it's God's love, forgiveness, understanding and comfort flowing through me. I shouldn't try and take credit for any of it.

I'm really grateful for the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. It provided clear cut instructions on how I could open my channel and how I can keep it open. All I have to be was willing, honest and open minded.

Entirely Ready

Somehow, I developed a great number of "personal concerns" when I was a kid that carried over into adulthood. I was concerned that you didn't like me so I became a people-pleaser, the class clown. I was concerned that I didn't have enough "stuff" so I stole my friend's ball point pen and cheated on my expense accounts. I was concerned that you would abandon me so I manipulated and controlled you. I was concerned that I didn't "measure up" so I lied to you about where I had gone and what I had done. And on and on...

Each little fear and insecurity sprouted a character defect that grew above the surface and became a part of my "personality." I didn't set out to be a liar, a cheat and a thief. It happened naturally over time. All I ever wanted was to be comfortable in my own skin. I just didn't know any other way to go about it.

Little by little by applying the principles of our program to my daily life to the best of my ability, my belief and trust in my Higher Power has grown. As my reliance on God has increased, my concern about myself has decreased. Many of my character defects have fallen away of their own accord -- no longer needed. The roots of other "defenses" remain deeply imbedded, but these too will disappear once I fully realize that they are no longer serving me.

I think it was Bob Dylan who said "successful livin' is daily dyin'"


Long before I crossed the line into active alcoholism I read a little book called Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Jonathan began his spiritual journey because he just could not stand the way the other seagulls fought, clawed and scratched over bits of food and garbage and the way the larger, more powerful seagulls ripped the food out of the beaks of smaller gulls. I was just like those seagulls, except after a full day of fighting over scraps, I needed a few drinks to relax and then a few more...

I did not begin my spiritual journey, like Jonathan, because I became disgusted with the human condition. I could have cared less. No, It was only by the grace of my Higher Power, whispering to me that there was a better way to live, that started me out. Without this moment of clarity that led me to spiritual solution the program of Alcoholics Anonymous provides, I'd still be crawling on the floor to get a few crumbs all the while ignoring the overflowing banquet table that has been set in my honor.

It's taken a while, but just like the old timers promised when I first came in, I've come to the point where being restored to the sanity of my spiritual condition is the most important thing in my life today. More important than than any of my possessions.

It's funny that all I've really done to get to this place is to put my sobriety first in my life. Sobriety is my priority, all this other stuff just comes naturally.


I became addicted to ME long before I crossed the line into alcoholism. I'm not sure if my preoccupation with self was the root cause of my alcoholism or not. But I am convinced that it is this very self centeredness that blocks me from the direct experience of God. I know today that the emptiness I felt for most of my life was the absence of God in my life.

I neglected my inner garden and it became over grown with the weeds of my selfishness. Toward the end the weeds looked like flowers even though the thorns stuck me repeatedly. I wanted to escape the pain, but the bonds were too strong until God tapped on my heart with a moment of clarity that led me to Alcoholics Anonymous.

I took the fourth step as it was described in the BB. I learned to name some of my weeds: anger, cynicism, impatience, judgement, perfectionism, sloth and others. Seeing it down on paper in columns and lists revealed a good dose of truth. Underneath the justifying, rationalizing and minimizing, I had done some real harm to other people. I got a good whiff of myself. It wasn't a pretty smell.

I cut back the weeds of my selfishness through 5,6,7. Many of the them grew back, but I kept naming and I kept cutting. Today my garden has fewer weeds. Although some of them still look like flowers.

Stinking Thinking

I'm pretty sure that my life today is a direct result of the thoughts I think today. Virtually every thought I think is either a recovery thought or relapse thought. So, in reality I'm consciously or unconsciously making the choice between alcoholic death or spiritual life on a moment by moment basis.

I have learned from experience that if my thoughts are consistently negative, fear, pain, sickness, and poverty result. Before my moment of clarity and AA's suggested program of recovery, my favorite expression was "life is a shi*t sandwich and it's always lunch time." My negative thinking was chronic and progressive. No wonder my life was such a mess.

Today, more than 10 years later, I still have negative thoughts. I know they are there because feelings of anger, resentment, impatience, boredom, and fear and anxiety still arise. The difference today is that, thanks to AA and my Higher Power, the MAJORITY of my thoughts today are recovery thoughts. Consequently most days turn out pretty darn good.

As one old timer used to share at every opportunity "I came for my drinking, but stayed for my thinking."

A "We" Program

What started out as a walk in the woods turned into getting lost in the dark forest. Relying on my own sense of direction, I tried many different paths to get out, but I succeeded only in getting more lost -- moving deeper and deeper into the forest. Fear gnawed at me and the sense of hopelessness was growing.

I was at the point of giving up when at last I saw another human being. "Can you show me the way out?," I asked. "No" he answered, "I'm lost too, but maybe we can help each other find the way out. If we tell each other the paths we have already tried that led nowhere, that will help us find the one that leads out."

New Perspective

One of the teachings found in the other Big Book is the idea that if get slapped on one cheek, I shouldn't get mad, but I should "turn the other cheek." This was a difficult concept for me until I learned that this doesn't mean that I should encourage others to beat the hell out of me. What it does mean is that I should get another perspective -- to look at the problem or the situation from another direction.

I believe this is exactly what Steps 4 and 10 asks me to do. To find my part in any problem, to see the situation from the other person's point of view, to try and understand what God has in mind by bringing this situation into my life.

Today I'm pretty sure that everything that happens to me is for the reason of my spiritual development. If I am to fully learn the lessons, I must look at what happens in my life from all angles. If I am blaming, condemning and rejecting I can't hope to learn or understand anything. Then I just stay stuck until the pain ratchets up high enough to motivate me to make a change.


You harm me in some real or imagined way and I feel angry and afraid. I harm you in some way (or commit some other so called "sin") and I feel guilty and ashamed. I don't know how to process these feelings so I stuff them down into my subconscious into my "mental cesspool."

This place of self hatred becomes a seed bed for my character defects. Up sprouts control, perfectionism, judgement, arrogance, etc. These "defenses" are my way to try and be comfortable as I make my way in the world. But these defects end up causing me more pain. Finally, getting and staying comfortable becomes the most important thing in my life. Drinking begins to take top priority.

Recovery for me is very much a process of mucking out my mental cesspool. Because of the law of cause and effect, if I can clean up the seed bed of my negative thinking, my defects will fall away automatically. I'm coming to believe that forgiveness is the best tool for this job.

I believe forgiveness is an ongoing, never ending process that must start in my own heart. Attending meetings and hearing truth, doing inventories, reading our literature and other spiritual books, praying and meditating and being of service are all ways I am using to forgive myself. In a way, everyday I stay sober is an act of self forgiveness.

I also believe that if I am really forgiving you it must be unconditional, if I'm waiting for you to apologize, then it is not forgiveness it is a pardon. I'm not very good at "unconditional" yet, but I'm getting a little better. The good news for us drunks is that "a little better" is always enough.

Our Story

Bill's story is my story and your story. It's the universal story of the Prodigal Son found in the bible.

I wandered away from beauty of God's house convinced that I could go it alone. I enjoyed some early success which gave me the feeling that I didn't need God in my life. Left to my own ideas my living experience became progressively worse. Finally I arrive at the point of desperation (I woke up in a pig pen, eating what the pigs left behind). I receive God's grace. I become willing to humble myself if only God would take me back as a servant. God is overjoyed at my decision and welcomes me home with open arms.

There is always a great deal of spirited discussion on the subject of whether or not we alcoholics should be grateful to be alcoholics. I for one am grateful to have this disease. Without this life threatening soul sickness, I'm not sure I could have arrived at the point of utter desperation necessary for me to become willing to try another way. I believe God made me an alcoholic so I could find Him again through Alcoholics Anonymous.


When I was a kid I had a toy called Chinese finger cuffs. You put your index
fingers from both hands into a tube sort of thing. Then when you tried to pull them apart, it tightened. The harder you tried to pull them apart the tighter it became. Remember? This kind of describes me for most of my life prior to AA -- it seemed the harder I tried, the worse it got.

I was addicted long before I picked up my first drink. Addicted to being loved, appreciated, respected, and cared for. Addicted to fitting in, addicted to to being successful, addicted to comfort. My society and my parents conditioned me to believe that I couldn't live without these drugs and I was willing to go to absolutely any lengths to get them.

I did all that was suggested: pursued a career (work-a-holism), got married
(took a hostage), and acquired lots of possessions. But the emptiness would always return and there was constant fear that my drug supply would be cut off. So I worked harder, tried harder, did more, drank more. But just like the Chinese finger cuffs, the harder I tried, the more imprisoned I became. Life became a struggle, but I thought this was just the way life was supposed to be.

Talk about delusion. Here I was at age 47, sitting alone in my darkened apartment in my dirty bathrobe where I had been for the better part of every day smoking dope, drinking wine and watching re-runs of lame TV programs. And my best thinking was that everything would be fine if I could just find a new job (more drugs).

It was in this sorry state that God graced me with a moment of clarity that
quickly led me to Alcoholics Anonymous and I'll be forever grateful. By
taking the actions suggested by the program, I'm slowly coming to believe
that I can live without society's drugs and it's this vision of true freedom
that keeps me coming back.


In AA I heard that grace is an undeserved gift. I didn't earn this gift or have to make any promises to receive it. It is given to me freely with no strings or conditions.

Grace is what I received when I had my moment of clarity. For pretty much the whole year before I had been wallowing in full blown alcoholism. Most days you could find me sitting alone in my dirty bathrobe with my bottle of wine, bag of pot and over flowing ash tray watching reruns of lame TV programs. I was full of fear but I was living in the delusion that as soon as I got a new job and a new girlfriend everything would be just fine. I was incrusted in denial. Then grace happened.

Grace came in the form of a vision of myself as I really was: A forty seven year old immature alcoholic and pot head without a clue about how life really worked. And I believe it was grace that led me to AA and it was grace that gave me that pink cloud experience and the sense of eagerness about the program.

I don't really know why I was chosen to received these gifts. But I do know that these kinds of gifts must come from a God who loves me unconditionally and probably His only request is that I pass it on as best I can.

Language of the Heart

Big Al was the first to speak at my first AA meeting. "I'm so angry I could kill. My grown daughter has been going to a therapist and he has her convinced that I molested her when she was little." Then Dr. Bill spoke. "They have suspended my medical license until after the hearing. Don't know if I will ever get it back." Then Jay talked about his sick wife who only had a short time to live and the fear he had about being alone. The five or six other people at the meeting that day shared something about sobriety, recovery and how well their lives were going, but I don't remember much of what they said.

I'm coming to believe that the language of the heart flows from the honest sharing of pain, confusion and brokenness. In the safety of my AA brothers and sisters who have been to these places before me, I can break out of my denial that everything is "fine." If I can muster the courage to tell it like it really is, to admit my humanness, my frailty, my powerlessness, then I may give a small measure of courage to those who struggle with their own separation from the Source.

God is hard for me to find when everything is going well. He seems to wait patiently until I get to the end of my rope, to the depth of my despair. He waits for my darkest moments to lift me up. He has never failed me in these times. I sense a divine order exists in chaos and destruction. There is a perfect plan even though I can't wrap my mind around it.

To me, the language of the heart is not about whining about people, places and things. It is about empathy and compassion and honesty and humility. It is these qualities that connect us all together and when we are so connected, God is present.

Cure for Selfishness

If I have a hole in my roof and I can see a rain storm coming I become "roof centered." If I have a hole in my tooth and it is causing me pain, I become "tooth centered." If I have a hole in my spiritual being and it is causing me pain, I become "self centered."

If I am self centered, I must do selfish things. I must think and act selfishly. I have no choice. It's easy to say "tomorrow I won't be selfish." But as long as I have this hole in my being, I'm gonna be selfish and I'm gonna be continuously disappointed with myself if I think I can act any other because I am powerless to do so.

For thirty years I tried to fill this hole with alcohol and drugs, with a successful career, with possessions and all manner of other things. I did get some temporary relief, but it wasn't real and it didn't last very long. Soon I was back to feeling emptier than ever looking for the next thing to fill me up.

I'm coming to believe that the only thing that will fill me up is God. When I have the willingness to consistently try to apply the 12 steps to all areas of my life, I seem to make a space for God to come into my being and work His magic. I create the channel that St. Francis talks about in his prayer and I experience peace. With God in the center of my life instead of me, I no longer have to act selfishly because I already have everything I need.

Emotional Security

When I first read "it's a spiritual axiom that every time I am upset, there is something wrong with me," I couldn't believe it. I read it again looking for the typo. How could this be? It just had to be your fault!

Today the beauty and truth of this simple statement has seeped into my consciousness. Today I know that what other people do or say is never the problem. It's always MY reaction to what they do or say that is the problem.

Until I can develop the quality of Emotional Sobriety, I will continue to resent people who I've found guilty of some real or imagined harm against me. Besides anger, I'll never be free of worry, self pity and depression. Thus as long as I am emotionally insecure, I can't hope to have anything like lasting serenity or peace of mind.

I'm coming to believe that I was emotionally insecure a long time before I picked up that first drink. Unknowingly I developed a whole slew of character defects ("defenses") in an attempt live comfortably with these fears and insecurities. By the time I picked up my first drink and experienced the magic that alcohol could work, I was already an emotionally mess. Of course I didn't realize there was anything wrong with me then because I had lived my fearful life so long that it felt normal to me.

I'd like to report that today I am emotionally secure, but in truth I've made only a modest beginning. I still get into fear (usually expressed as anger) and give my serenity away too quickly. But I'm much better than I was and I have hope today that continuous action on our program of recovery will yield even better results in the future.