Tag Archives: Gratitude

100 posts; 500 (almost) subscribers!

You guys, I can hardly believe it!  “Afterlife” was my 100th post – isn’t that nuts?!  And right now there are 495 of you subscribing, so it won’t be long til we hit 500.  I remember my first subscriber back in 2014 – Ezekiel.  “Why in god’s name,” I thought, “would poor Zeke want to plague himself with emails of my babbling posts??”  But then Mick signed on, and I had two…  Then one day I wrote the Robin Williams post and – BOOM! – everything changed.

Today, 60 views per day is about the norm, but they’re hits from all over the frickin’ world!  How cool is that?  I mean, even if 90% are folks who stumble on a post, think, “Alcoholism? This is boring…” and click away, that’s still 6 drunks a day, maybe people not situated to get to meetings, who get something from it.  (Hi Nepal!  Hi Netherlands!)

When I started this blog, my only thought was to try to market my (severely freaky) addiction memoir, since I sucked colossally at all things commercial (and still do).  I thought I had nothing to say that wasn’t already in the book.  The idea that I could use the blog to share ongoing experience, strength, and hope with others came gradually.  What Normal Drinkers Will Never Understand was my first post intended to help alcoholics and their loved ones.

Anyways, I have no idea who all of you are or how often you read, but I just want to say THANK YOU for sticking with me.  I’m an odd mix of Big Book orthodoxy and eccentric woo-woo Near Death Experience – not everybody’s cup of tea.  Your encouraging comments keep me going.  Whatever gift god gives me with words, I’m going to keep using it to extend the wisdom of AA’s 12 steps and the wackiness of NDE faith to others.

Love to all,



Filed under Recovery

What is Goodness?

Words can be dead or alive.  My big, fat Webster’s dictionary devotes a full page to the word good, yet conveys almost nothing.  Definitions range from dictionary“making a favorable impression in terms of moral character” to “wholesome” or “noble and respectable.”    Words – nothing but lexical connections.

Yet words can also be alive when they resonate with what we know to be true.  Years ago at an AA meeting, for instance, I heard these: “Love from the heart is a one-way street.  It goes out.”  The guy saying this gestured from his chest into the room, his hand unfolding from from fist to open.  I knew the truth of what he was saying.  I’d never heard it so succinctly put.

Goodness.  What is it?  Most of us know it when we’re feeling it.  If we’re around a good person, something emanates from them.  A work of art or beauty can evoke the same feeling.  It’s a warmth, a light, a glow – maybe an aura.  But of what?

Love.  Goodness is the product of love.  When that inmost heart of ours, the font of our being, our life energy, reaches out to connect with something in the world, the energy around that connection is goodness. Love has a direction, a flow along the one-way street, while goodness is the product of that connection.  It shows up in any act or effort of integrity and honor that is untainted by selfishness.

A friend of mine experienced a Near Death Experience far more protracted and detailed than mine.  Hers occurred in the seconds before a head-on car crash, which for her expanded to hours of interaction with spirits.  She was a teen at the time, verging on a dark turn of acting out from pain in her past.  An ugly, squat demon at her feet in the passenger’s seat invited her to join him, promising her a chance to “get even” with everyone who’d ever wronged her.  But she declined, and found herself suddenly pulled up out of the car, rushing into the sky with her very serious, earnest guardian angel whom she realized she’d known all her life.  Among the things she was shown was a whirlwind tour of the globe, zooming in on all the pies being made right then.  Yes, pies.  She saw countless homemade pies, all different styles and types, until finally her guide showed her the very best pie on earth at that point in time.

It was a cherry pie made by an older woman somewhere Cherry-Piein Europe. The pie was just coming out of the oven, perfectly browned with woven crust and beveled edges.  The woman loved the pie.  Into it she had poured everything she knew about pie-making, every skill acquired in years of baking – not to impress anyone, but purely to manifest the best of her abilities.  The guide flashed into my friend’s awareness that the same can be true for anything we do in life.  When we care enough to learn something, when we respect the skills involved enough to apply them with dedication, we can bring into the world a work of goodness – even when tremendous faith and courage are needed to do so.

Any time our efforts are powered by such love, they become acts of goodness – an emblem of the plenty we’ve received from god.  They are, in essence, acts of gratitude: “Life is God’s gift to you; what you make of your life is your gift to God.”

Conversely, when they’re powered by the desire to get, which is actually rooted in a sense of lack and the driving fear behind it, which is ultimately a distrust of god, our efforts become acts of aggression.  They devolve to a way of “showing” and outstripping others, of getting even with those we feel have wronged us.  The recognition is all for me.

For these reasons, addiction cuts us off from goodness entirely.  Compulsive use of alcoholalcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, etc., or the codependent urge to steer another’s life – all these keep us constantly in the mode of wanting.  We try to suck from the world whatever we think will fill the gaping hole in our guts.  This time, we’ll get what we need to feel good about ourselves.  We’ll score it from the people we impress, from the places and things that infuse us with status, lend us power.

What we have in addiction is wrong-way traffic.  As long as I’m trying to suck up whatever addiction promises will fix me, I’m incapable of even recognizing goodness.  I’m numb to it entirely.  In fact, as told in my addiction memoir, by the time I neared hitting bottom, I’d quit believing goodness even existed!  It seemed a sickly sweet delusion manufactured by conformists, when the hard core truth was that I had to grab whatever I could from a mean, barren world.

But goodness not only exists, it’s the ultimate expression ofsunshine1 living.  It can emanate from any relationship founded in sincerity – in creativity and playfulness, in compassion and affection.  Whenever I reach to connect my spirit to yours without seeking to get something from the deal, the energy from my heart streams toward you, and I become a channel for god – which is love – to flow through.  God is the source of all beauty, and as soon as we give ourselves over to expressing it, that flow simplifies life radically down to being present in gratitude.  We are complete.  In fact, we have a surplus, because the wellspring of our life-force is constantly flowing, flowing.  So we can try to give it shape, to bring goodness into the world.

That’s why I wrote this, from me to you.


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Filed under AA, Alcoholism, Codependence, Codependency, Faith, God, Near Death Experience, Recovery, Sobriety, Spirituality

Humility and Gratitude

“If you claim to have humility, you don’t have it.”  That saying has some validity.  But there’s a bigger picture here.  Saying you have humility is a bit like saying you inhale.  That is, it’s never a constant state we can hang onto, but part of a fundamental rhythm.  I’m not really sure what the hell I’m saying here, but I’m going to keep writing.

BoxerWe all have egos and self-will built in to help us hold our own in this hazardous world.  It’s when they exceed their useful scope, as they often do for alcoholics, that we run into trouble.  We become selfish and egotistical because those states seem to grant us power, to make us bigger and badder so we can vanquish whatever we fear (i.e. most of life).  Unfortunately, what they really do is shut us off from faith in god – our only true recourse against fear.

Richard Rohr, in his discussion of the Twelve Steps (Breathing Underwater), quotes the bible in relation to Step 7.  Now, don’t run screaming from this blog!  I’m not a Christian and, trust me, not even a monotheist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize wisdom from a Franciscan friar who dares to challenge his church.   Just roll with me a minute.  Anyway, Rohr quotes Luke quoting Jesus: “It is easier for a camel to pass through camelneedlethe eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  But he moves right along from there.  He says it’s not the possession of stuff per se that blocks us from god, but an attitude of entitlement. “I am the shit!” is a stance that blocks us from spirit, as does its mirror image of self-c0nsumed self-pity, “I am a piece of shit.”  Neither can co-exist with humility and faith.

The points Rohr asserts that I want to highlight are these:  1) That our truth is not in what we claim to believe, but in the way we live.  2) That we pray not in order to “change God” (i.e. kiss ass and win approval) but to “change ourselves.”  3) That prayer opens us to god, and that the gist of all prayer – here I’m paraphrasing – is essentially, I lack.  I need you.  Rohr writes,

So it is important that you ask, seek, and knock to keep yourself in right relationship with Life Itself.  Life is a gift, totally given to you without cost, every day of it, and every part of it.  A daily and chosen “attitude of gratitude” will keep your hands open to… receive life at ever-deeper levels…

What really wakes me up is to substitute the word “sobriety” in place of “life,” above.  Sobriety is indeed a gift, given to me freely every day.  And it started on the day I turned to god and said simply, “I lack.  I can’t do this.  I need you.”  Something shifted then, some channel opened that allowed god to help me do what I’d spent years and thousands of desperate, failed attempts trying to do: Get well.  God, not I, removed my mania for drinking.

Prayer relinquishes the illusion that I can do life, including sobriety, on my own.  As a spiritual being, I am intricately connected to both my Source and my fellows.  Prayer acknowledges this, re-opening the channel.  And it stays open at meetings if I listen knowing I can’t stay sober on my own.  Here’s where that mixed nature of humility comes up.  Truthfully, I go to meetings in a hybrid of mind frames.  Part of me (ego) says, “I’m comin’ up on 20 freakin’ years, dude!  I so know this drill!”  Part of me (compassion) says, “I’m here to help the newcomer and those who are struggling.”  Meeting snowflakeBut a key part of me – the seed of genuine humility – says, “I am here to be taught.  I am here to listen to god speak through my fellow addicts; and whether they drank just this morning, are fresh out of prison, or have thirty years and sponsor a jillion alcoholics does not matter.”

Humility and gratitude are inextricably interwoven, and both are essential to the fabric of sobriety.  Both can be cultivated in mindfulness – living in the simplicity of the present moment, saying to ourselves, “I am a living creature doing this here now,” and seeing, as Rohr says, that all of it is a gift we can love.  Ego lives in the thought-movies that our minds play, in the loveless illusion that we make shit happen, in the Teflon of coolness that causes meaning and responsibility to slide off us until we’re only half alive.  Ego refuses to appreciate that we are everywhere dependent on one another for survival, and on god for sanity (and everything).

One more note, though.  It’s important, too, for me to cultivate humility about my own arrogance.  Here’s my fav quote from Thomas Merton (another Christian, but oh well), part of which kicks off my addiction memoir:

This is the terrible thing about humility: that it is never fully successful… [O]ur humility consists in being proud and knowing all about it… and to be able to do so little about it. *

Pride goes with the turf…and Merton  didn’t even Facebook!

The bottom line is, I’m human and I’m flawed.  I have a big, gaping hole in my guts and an ego determined to fill it with bullshit.  I can either grab at mood altering drugs, attention, food, merchandise, etc. to try to fill the hole ego’s way, or I can acknowledge my incompleteness, my flawed nature, and turn to god for help.  I can do this not only about drinking, but about my unmanageable life in general.  When I open with asking, when I am humble and admit I am wounded, I let god in.  And god lets me flourish.

Love to you, alcoholic!  Love to you, seeking person!


*Thomas Merton, Thoughts on Solitude, p. 59

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Filed under Alcoholism, Recovery, Sobriety, Twelve Steps