Through the Red Door Blog

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.

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  • 11/24/2022 7:10 AM | Anonymous

    Were not ten made whole. Is there no one to return to give thanks but this outsider?” Luke 17:11-19.

    I was in the Fellowship almost five years before I accepted, I am an alcoholic. Then it was a while longer before I could verbalize thanksgiving for this simple suggested program of recovery.

    Recently I read the gospel of Luke about Jesus healing ten men with leprosy. Only one returned to give thanks. I identified with “the other nine.” I did not return – at least initially – to give thanks.  Many of those who talked about gratitude were people who did not attend church or at least not attend it regularly. This is not a judgement on them. This is a judgment on myself. I was the one going to church on a regular basis. I was the one who taught “Sunday school.” It never dawned on me to be thankful for my recovery.

    In fact, I was anything but thankful. I did not believe I was an addict and when one doesn’t believe the reality of their addiction there is no way they can be grateful for the program of recovery. I was at meetings to warm a chair; to make coffee ahead of time, stay afterwards and clean up, do anything to look good and learn to say “the right things.”

    To become thankful is to be aware of what is missing in one’s life. Those who buy clothes at a second-hand store aren’t grateful because they can’t afford the same clothes at the higher price. They are grateful that they can buy clothes for their children to send them to school. They are well aware of their financial limits and grateful for the kindness of others.

    There were a few times in my life when I had no income and depended on the generosity of others for food and shelter. I was, and remain, grateful for everything they did for me.

    One would think that one who went to church regularly would have an attitude of gratitude, an attitude of thankfulness. Yes, I was grateful for what others did for me, but I did not have an “attitude of gratitude.” I was angry that I had to depend on others. I was angry at God, myself, and others. I had resentments about what “they did to me.”

    To have an attitude of gratitude is to have a habit of being grateful. We can see it in a person who has the attitude of gratitude. Those with an attitude of gratitude are at peace with themselves, they are genuinely happy, and much less stressed than the rest of us.

    “The other nine” were busy running to see the priest who would tell them they were cured and could return to their family and friends. They were looking forward to a good meal, a bed, and shelter for the night. No doubt they were grateful for these things, but they did not return to give thanks to the man who cured them.

    As I began to work the steps and live the program I came to grips with the negative aspect of my life as an addict. I had to admit to myself that I was absolutely not perfect. I had to admit that my drinking had been out of control, that my life had become unmanageable. I had to admit that I am a human being with all the good and negative qualities available to me, but my addiction led me down a very dark, negative, and destructive path. How did I get out of it?

    First of all, I did not get out of it by myself. Were I to follow my instincts I would more than likely to be dead and not writing this blog. Some folks get a nudge from the judge and others get a nod from God. God did not give me a nod. She kicked me in the derriere and, when that did not work, She set me up to feel Embarrassment and Shame in such a manner that I sought the help She was steering me toward. And for that I am grateful. 

    Five weeks in a four-week program were not sufficient to make me acquire an attitude of gratitude. It took over four years and a declaration of bankruptcy that got my attention. That day I came home, and I laughed a good belly laugh. I could lose everything except my sobriety. It finally hit me, I am sober, I am at peace. I am grateful for sobriety and the Fellowship. That day was the beginning of recovery, the beginning of being thankful, the sowing of the seed of an attitude of gratitude for my Higher Power and the reality of the program and the promises.

    Séamus D., is a semi-retired Episcopal priest in New Orleans.


  • 11/16/2022 2:34 PM | Anonymous

    Most of life seems so and it is really complicated when alcohol is introduced into the mix. Complexity appears in a fog which seems to hide the essence of the issue. Fog uses words we don’t understand, words perhaps made up by the speaker to appear to be the only person qualified to help. The discussion then turns to arguments about definitions—always a sure-fire way to delay dealing with the real problem. She complains, “How did all this happen to me?”

    Then some old-timer breaks through the “poor me fog”, and says, “Wait! How long had you been drinking that day?” Silence follows for a few seconds. Then, someone in the group suggests, “We get the picture, just sit still, and listen.” The comments switch to the real issue: mixing addiction to alcohol with a busy life. The listeners’ stories emerge with their own experiences of the results of continued alcoholic behavior producing the dreary lives of a drunk.

    As she listens to others, look what happens: suddenly there is a ray of hope suggestedfor the group explains that their own alcoholic addiction caused their confusion, anxiety, depression and so forth. The Program worked for them and maybe it will do so for her.  

    Yes, there really are complications that cause recovering alcoholics, strong believers in the ways of the Program, to encounter depression. At our best, we understand that we must seek help when this fog envelopes us. We go to a meeting and raise the issue and many others step in with the same theme, “Here is what I did, it might work for you, maybe not, but please never give up.” Some might suggest the making of a gratitude list to put problems into prospective. Another suggestion could be to “reach out to others, try a little Twelve Step work.” And maybe, “Give a lead at that Tuesday night group.” But it’s always an “into action” response.

    Dr. Bob’s last words to Bill may say it best, “Bill, keep it simple.” It is remarkable when the recovering alcoholic who sees his confusion then seeks help from her groupand we are reminded of the consequences of our alcoholic dependency, plus we learn ways to deal with our complicated lives without that dependency.

    “It works if you work it.”

    Jim A, Traditions of Lebanon


  • 11/09/2022 7:08 PM | Anonymous

    There are a number of people, in and out of the 12-Step life,  who have ‘issues’ with “the G word”: God. And not without reason!

    Many of us, when we were told about God when we were children, were led to believe that God was an entity who tended towards hot anger, stern judgment, and fierce wrath. Many of us were also taught that God is tender and merciful and loving and wanted nothing but the very best for us.

    And some of us were taught that God was angry and rejecting AND loving and merciful, which was certainly confusing. How can one entity be both, at the same time? But we were children and didn’t know any better, and tried to find a way to hold both sets of ideas in our minds - usually, without much success.

    And many of us, perhaps most of us, have not been taught hardly anything at all about God since we were children. So it stands to reason that we have childish notions about God. And because we haven’t had occasion to reexamine and reevaluate our ideas, we were not in a position, as St Paul wrote, to “put away childish things.”

    As a result, many have rejected “God” and will not have anything to do with such an awful thing.

    Before I came into the Program, I had many jumbled ideas about God, but none that I really had thought about for a long time, and certainly none that I had thought through in any rigorous or careful way. I believed in God, I suppose, but I had no idea what that God was, or was like! And as my addiction progressed, my thinking about God regressed, to where I had not much more than sullen fears and vague longings.

    But since I’ve been rescued from the hell of addiction into which I was sinking for such a long time, I have come to have clearer and, well, much more relaxed ideas about the Ultimate. And most of the other people I know who are in recovery seem also to have less fraught and more familiar concepts of whatever Power it is that has freed us from that bondage of self.

    For some of us, “God” means something like “the spirit of the Universe.”

    For some, “God” means something a lot like what is described in the Nicene Creed.

    For some, “God” means Love … “and where love is, God himself is there” as the hymn tells us.

    For some, “God” means the 12-Step program itself: “Group of Drunks,” “Good Orderly Direction,” infused with strength and wisdom of countless partners in recovery from the decades since Bill and Bob first met in Akron, almost ninety years ago.

    And so, whenever a member of AA or any other 12-Step program says the word “God,” they do not mean that confusing and harsh supernatural entity which frightened and confused us so badly as children. They also don’t mean a vaguely benevolent, merciful Being which comforted us as children. They mean “a Power greater than myself, as I understand that Power.” Whatever that might be.

    And what that word means to the speaker need not have anything at all to do with what that word means to the hearer. What the Power means to the speaker need not have anything at all to do with what that speaker or that hearer or anyone else was taught or mistaught as a child.

    Because what matters for sobriety, for recovery, is not what anyone thinks or believes about “God,” but the fact that one thinks it and believes it. What matters for recovery is not the content of one’s faith, but the having of faith. What matters isn’t what you think but that you think it, not what you believe but that you believe it, not what you rely on but that you rely on it, whatever it is.

    I daresay that most of us have developed an understanding that is more benevolent and merciful than it is confusing and harsh, but it is the understanding, and not what is understood, that is important.

    And thank God for that! If the gift of sobriety were available only to those whose ideas about God were correct and accurate - whatever that might mean - then nobody would be sober, nobody at all. But if the gift were available to those whose desire was sincere for a relationship with God - whatever that might be - then, well, lots and lots of us would be sober. And that is exactly how things are!

    Because what matters for sobriety, for recovery, is not what anyone thinks or believes about “God,” but the fact that one thinks it and believes it.

    - Scott E


  • 10/27/2022 9:50 PM | Anonymous

    Kelly Corbet wrote: “Left unstewarded, anger, resentment, fear, frustration—any form non-Love takes—can grow into all sorts of warfare, internal and external.” 

    When I came into the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was, externally, happy as a clam. Internally, however, I was at war with God and self. In A.A. I thought I had found a place where all I had to do was to read the Big Book, work the steps, go to meetings, talk to a sponsor. Oh, I had to stop drinking, but that I thought, was no big deal. It was some time before I understood that “alcohol is but a symptom” of this disease.

    Some of the A.A. folks gently encouraged me to come early, help set-up; stay after and clean up. I felt welcomed by them. I wanted whatever it was they had and I had no idea what it was nor did I know how to ask the question. My grandiosity had me thinking these folks were grooming me for a leadership position. Before long I’d be chairing meetings and being a speaker.

    I glanced through steps four and five and a small—very small—light lit up and I sensed something was happening to me. There were men and women at the meetings around whom I felt uncomfortable. As they shared their behavior and attitudes while they were in active addiction, I could see my own image in their stories, but there was no way I was going to admit this in pubic. I told myself: “I can’t tell “these people” what I did when I was a priest in a parish. They would be embarrassed and shocked.” I was the one who was beginning to become embarrassed. I was admitting to myself: “I did that.” “I said that.”  In time I was to learn of things I did and said that not only embarrassed but also shocked me. Thank God for honest friends. This information was creating a conflict between my image of myself and what I was now admitting to myself.  Mental and emotional conflict was now in operation.

    I have always considered myself to be honest, truthful, compassionate, spiritual, generous, etc. Unfortunately, I misused these gifts for all the wrong reasons—to get what I wanted. Yes, I had to admit I used people, places, and things, for my own gratification, my  delusional  “self-importance.”

    And so, I began to work the steps – beginning at the beginning, step one. I remember the night I went over to the dark side.  I took to whiskey like a duck to water. Johnny Walker, James Jemison, Jim Beam, and friends were to be there for me in good times and in bad. They smoothed the negative emotions; they left me emotionally frozen even as they forced me to smile and be happy. They gave me courage to do what I could have done without them but did not think I could do so.  As time passed, they assisted in the numbing of my spiritual fight with God. In Sunday school and preaching I presented god as a loving, kind, forgiving Parent. Within me, however, I lived in fear of sudden death and being condemned to hell.

    My internal war came to a head as I continued working the steps, living—as best I could—the program. It came to a head as I grudgingly accepted responsibility for all my words and actions while under the influence. Then one day I had what I later knew to be a Spiritual awakening. I accepted I had a disease and I was no longer at war. Rather, I was at peace with self, others, and God. It was a strange and wonderful feeling that helped me understand that this was the gift of what we call “the Promises.”

     I knew a new freedom and happiness; I did not regret the past nor wished to shut the door on it. I finally understood serenity and experienced peace. In being honest with myself and others, I learned that my past was helpful to them. The feeling of uselessness and self-pity disappeared (although it raises its ugly head now and again); I lost interest in selfish things and gained genuine interest in others; Self-seeking disappeared. I began to enjoy this healthy outlook and attitude about life as a sober alcoholic. Fear of others and of economic insecurity left me and I realized I intuitively knew how to handle things which used to baffle me. God is doing for me what I could not do for myself. War, no more. Peace began with me being sober one day at a time as I worked to maintain my spiritual condition, living the program, working the steps and being the hand of AA where needed.

    Séamus D. is a semi-retired Episcopal priest in New Orleans.

  • 10/13/2022 7:53 PM | Anonymous

    While I was undertaking skilled graduate work to become an alcoholic, I felt I’d earned the right to continue my drinking alcoholically. I felt “you’d drink too if you were as lonely as I was.” Just a bit of anger, fear, sadness was all it took to find that next bottle of scotch to hide behind.

    In sobriety, I look differently at this kind of reaction -- one usually sparked by conversation of a sharp nature, boarding on insult. I know there are people who love to get into sharp crisscross back and forth exchanges. But that’s different. I’m talking about the normal conversational exchanges, the slights perceived as out-of-line, not nice, and sometimes hurtful.

    In sobriety, we must watch for these incidents. Do we preserve them and foster and cultivate them so that they become something far greater? Sometimes these inappropriate quick jabs can end up in an accumulated pile large enough to support anger and self-pity on their own.

    That leads me to understand the wisdom of regular attendance at discussion meetings. When they ask for a topic for discussion, mention you are troubled by crude statements which hurt and embarrass. Sure, “words don’t hurt us,” but accumulated, they can be a trigger to run and hide to that “same-old, same-old” alcoholic haze. We attend meetings for many reasons. One is to learn how to deal with these slight hurts. As recovering alcoholics, we just can’t take things too seriously. Don’t sit back and carefully and quietly nurse the “hurt” you feel. What to do? Get it out on the table at a meeting, especially if you fear your negative feelings might deepen.

    We need to hear someone say to us in response, “Come on, poor you. Look, that guy across the circle lost his job because of his drinking.and you’re complaining about some caustic words which “hurt your feelings?”

    The lessen is don’t let ill-will be blown out of proportion and nursed and carried for a time. Get to a meeting. Bring it up, see what others say to you about your perhaps too sensitive skin.

    The Program is serious business and so teaches us what is important in life. We have a place to ask the silly question like this to avoid making something out of nothing. “Get to a meeting.”

    JRA/Traditions of Lebanon

  • 10/05/2022 7:33 PM | Anonymous

    Several years ago, one weekday morning I was standing in line at an outdoor ATM on a main street in my residential neighborhood in Chicago. One person was ahead of me at the machine, and another man about my age behind me. As we were standing there, a homeless person shuffled by, pushing his shopping cart laden with crushed aluminum cans, rattling along the sidewalk.

    The man behind me and I both watched as he made his way slowly by and turned up the alley, no doubt in search of more cans to recycle in exchange for his daily sustenance. The other man glanced at me and I at him, and he said, “Hm. Must be one of those alcoholics.”

    I paused and thought for a moment. The other man in line and I had both clearly stopped off on our way to work, were both dressed in clean clothes with pressed pants and shirts and ties and jackets, shaved chins, bathed and deodorized, recent haircuts -- the whole productive-member-of-society thing.

    I thought about it for a moment and replied, “Well, I’m one of those alcoholics.”

    The other man’s glance became a stare. “Really? You don’t look like an alcoholic!”

    “What does an alcoholic look like?” I asked, to which he had no answer. I stepped up to the machine, got my money, said goodbye, and left.

    I wish now that I had said something a little less accusatory. I wish now that I had said something a little more friendly, like “We’re all over the place” or maybe quoted Talking Heads’ song, “Life During Wartime:”

    We dress like students, we dress like housewives

    Or in a suit and a tie

    But I didn’t. At least I did put the tiniest of cracks in that one guy’s false notion that alcohol dependence and being on the extreme low end of the socioeconomic spectrum are one and the same. In my awkward, irritating way, I was an evangelist for accuracy in thinking about addiction, and that might have helped that man, years later, when dealing with alcohol or other drug dependency in himself, a loved one, or an employee or employer.

    But also:

    Upon saying that, I felt a surge of affinity, even of affection, for that homeless man, far more strongly than I had ever felt for anyone like him before. He and I were radically different, of course, in so very many ways. But we were also the same, and the same in ways which, oddly, are deeper than the sameness we all share as members of and participants in humanity. I felt a kinship: we were family, and we still are.

    That feeling has faded, of course, but has never quite left me. Ever since, when I see a homeless person - as I do with some frequency, living in a major city and all - I get at least a memory of that feeling, for which I remain grateful.

    –Scott E.

  • 09/30/2022 6:52 PM | Anonymous

    So said my very good friend Howard at his annual Labor Day party, who noticed I wasn’t enjoying his special party wine. My immediate response raised the question, “Well Howard how bad does it have to be … do I need to experience 3 (not 2) DUI court appearances, or divorce at least one wife, before I do something about it?”

    Howard was just speaking from the vestiges of STIGMA, the widespread view that alcoholics lived in cardboard boxes on the street rain or shine and begged for enough coins to buy a “six-pak” of the cheapest beer available. But back then, “treatment” could mean shunning, isolation, maybe confinement.

    “Stigma” haunted the practicing alcoholic. It was a barrier to entering treatment of any kind. It was associated with those old hospitals for the inebriates. Even those who had achieved sobriety faced an eye of doubt and suspicion. But addicts started to emerge from all manner of socio-economic groups as our society recognized a more responsible understanding that our malady was a disease, it was treatable, sobriety could be achieved, and best of all, retained and a sense of spirituality developed.    

    Occasionally, a friend will ask me at social gatherings, “Say, Jim, I have a cousin who drinks a lot. What can her family do?” So, I join the many who carry AA’s message of hope.

    Stigma can be a two-way problem. Often the addict is a broken person, he knows the bottom has been reached, and that the alcoholic way of life has cursed him. He’s let his family down, lost his self-respect and perhaps the material things of life.  He may realize that just as his early social drinking took time and effort to progress to an uncontrollable addiction, so will it take time and effort and many changes in his way of living to reverse that lifestyle and return to a life of sobriety and a life of serenity.

    He comes to know he must work the Steps, attend meetings, work with others, study the Big Book for just as alcohol was his life’s driving force, so the whole program of fellowship and community becomes his life’s driving force.

    What provides the encouragement to continue growth in the Program? I believe it’s the Grace of our Higher Power -- the grace to provide a way again and again and again to each of us despite our missteps. Our Higher Power is always there -- we can reach for it countless times until we finally “get it.”

    The recovering alcoholic is blessed by His Grace. Do I feel “stigmatized? Absolutely not! A problem which almost brought an end to so much is gone but His Grace was there for me to accept.

    I saw a problem, accepted the Program and its teachings, and licked my addiction.

    Stigma? No way.

    Jim A. Traditions, Lebanon, OH


  • 09/21/2022 7:21 PM | Anonymous
    Red Door

    In his book SUN DANCING, Geoffrey Moorhouse creates a story of monasticism in Ireland. He begins with a few monks who land on the desolated rock island known as Skellig Michael, climbed to the top of it. and created a way of life on this remote, Atlantic beaten rock off the west coast of Ireland.

    One of the monks asks: “But how shall I know that I am advancing nearer to Him, that I am becoming purified?” The other replied, “You won’t, especially if you think of prayer  and meditation in that way. You must simply open yourself to God’s grace, by excluding everything that might come between you and Him. Open yourself and be still. Nothing in this life is more important that the stillness of it…Open yourself, be still and breathe the prayer. Trust that the Lord will then raise you up.”

    In my first years in the fellowship, I thought I was near perfection [Sober]. After all, I had “done” all the steps. I went on “Twelve-step calls.” I read the Big Book, the Twelve by Twelve, The Little Red Book, I went to two and sometimes three meetings daily. I was invited to tell my story. Oh, I was so good that a few folks wanted me to go on the ”Speaker Circuit.” Thank God my sponsors in their blunt and loving manner told me, “NO, you’ve got too big an ego, it will kill you.” For once in my life, I actually listened to someone and did as was suggested to me.

    What I was confusing was Living the Program with Working the Steps. I was busy doing all the externals for all the wrong reasons. I was doing everything so that others would notice me and see how good I am and how dedicated I am. I was doing all these things because I did not see myself, I had no idea as to who I was other than that I was lost and a looser and so I had to do all this external stuff so I could look good. I came very very close to relapse – that’s another story.

    “You must simply open yourself to God’s grace, by excluding everything that might come between you and Him.” The God I taught and talked about was not the God in whom I believed. The latter was an angry, vindictive God just like me. I knew there was a loving God, patient and kind, but She was not my God. I had to let go of this image, I had to “exclude everything that might come between me and Him [Her].”  That meant going back to Step One, coming to grips with honesty, willingness, and open-mindedness. This risk brought me to a Force, a Power Greater than myself that could restore me to sanity. By implication, I had to admit that my attitudes, thinking, and behavior were insane. They were – when I finally took a good honest look at them.

    “Open yourself.” Never in my life had I opened myself to anyone and perhaps not even mySelf. Opening mySelf to another was asking to get hurt; asking me to take a good look at mySelf was not something I ever wanted to do. Learning to trust in a Power Greater than mySelf who could restore me to sanity came as I actually listened to others at meetings and saw mySelf in them. Becoming human was the door to steps four and five which, at first, I had hoped to skip. As I returned to sanity, I realized that each and every step is a hinge to the next one. There is no cherry picking in the steps and when they are “done” then the next step was to make them come alive within me and in my life. This was the return to sanity.

    Be still. I had taken courses on meditation. I knew how to meditate. Problem was that I had no idea how to be still while meditating. My mind raced from one topic to another, from one location to another, from one idea to another.  “Be still and breathe the prayer.” 

    Breathe the Prayer [and] trust the Lord will raise me up. S/He did. I became alive. I came back from the dead. I was lifted up from my powerlessness to be given the Power I needed to live and share my experience, strength and hope. Progress is sufficient as it keeps me humble and reminds me there is always something for me to learn or relearn. Perfection can wait till my next life.

    Séamus D. is a semi-retired Episcopal priest in New Orleans.

  • 09/15/2022 3:50 PM | Anonymous
    Red Door

    You may not find a patient practicing alcoholic, but if you are looking for people attempting to learn how to be patient, attend an AA meeting and listen especially to the newcomers seeking ways to live a patient life.

    The lack of patience is another hidden harm for it often brings the alcoholic to raw anger, depression, a “poor me” syndrome, anxiety, a feeling of helplessness.

    All this is caused by our ego: “I am the master of my universe.” If we are recovering, a key sign of difficulty is an expanding ego: “I have this booze thing under control.” We take our tools for sobriety for granted and suddenly we wonder why a slip grabs us. AA meetings are “reminder meetings” -- easy does it, let go and let God, turn it over. The Steps ask us to ask our Higher Power for His assistance as we travel this path.

    Often hidden behind a cloud, impatience creeps up on all of us but especially newcomers: “Yes, I tried, but the Program just didn’t help, 32 in 90”, and newbie then cries out, “I don’t have the patience to work all those steps and attend all the meetings. I just couldn’t get it.” It took time to become a real alcoholic. We sometimes forget that becoming an alcoholic and finding its supportive and necessary habits usually takes time. To rid ourselves of those alcoholic habits takes time.

    But often we seem to want it all and we want it now. Perhaps some of us aren’t working the Program as hard as we should. We don’t discard those hard-earned habits overnight. Our ego is always looking for a spot of weakness to jump into and start beating tom-toms to the sounds of “You don’t need this Program. You can do it yourself. Don’t waste your time. Get out of all those meetings and the accompanying stuff.”

    Some would look at impatience as a way to blow-off steam -- maybe a way to draw attention to yourself and your combative personality: “I’m in a hurry, and important!” and we mumble, “Get this line moving, what’s the problem?” Of course, we firmly believe our often-boorish words themselves speed things along, remedy the congestion. A lack of patience is the prelude to the loss of control over oneself. And impatience stands in the way of securing that 60 seconds before we reply in an unreasonable manner.

    Patience also seems to me to relate to the importance of control, an issue I carry around. When it reaches …

    “… Wait! Stop! Excuse the interruption. I must end this. So sorry, but I have to take care of my 5-year-old grandson who we are babysitting who’s right now standing by my side and poking me as I write this, he’s crying and yelling at me that I promised ice cream! “Let’s go”, he says, pulling my shirt sleeve trying to get me to deliver on my promise …”

    Better end this: but boy, he’d better learn some patience -- and where the heck did he get that impatience.

    JRA, Traditions, Lebanon


  • 09/07/2022 8:14 PM | Anonymous
    Red Door

    The gospel reading in this week’s lectionary (Luke 14:25-33) is entitled “The Cost of Discipleship” in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. This prompted me to view the passage in the context of the cost of sobriety and, through that lens, all that from which we are to abstain. One thing I try to do with my clients experiencing addiction, is ask them to reframe their view of sobriety as what they receive as a result of their sobriety and not what they lose. If that’s the case, is it a cost or a reward we are talking about? Because how did chasing the dragon work out for you? Was there a reward or jail, institution or death? We are told in the rooms we can’t give away what we don’t have. And our faith tells us there is strength in weakness, the last becomes first, the meek inherit the earth--all the upside down stuff that makes sobriety and discipleship so appealing in the end.  

    Indulge me as I look at the passage from the gospel of Luke. If we can’t despise our binging which we think we love (mother, wife, children), we can’t remain sober (a disciple). And if we can’t make our recovery a priority (bear our own cross), we can’t remain sober. And if we can’t make a plan (sit down and count the cost of the tower we are building), we plan to fail and we can’t remain sober. Because we have all learned a failure to plan is a plan to fail.

    But if we sit down like a king in a meeting and take counsel from our sponsor or therapist, we can find peace. When we renounce our use, we remain sober. Which reminds me of our baptismal covenant: Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God? And we answer, I renounce them. If only it was that simple, right?

    Then there’s this week’s psalm and the promise of being grounded and delighted. Indulge me again. In the words of Psalm 1, I couldn’t help but see a healthy meeting or support group seated in folding chairs by a stream of water. A light breeze is blowing and there are fertile fruit trees all around. When we change our people, places, things (counsel of the wicked), we can delight in the law of the Lord and we take life on life’s terms. Our baptismal covenant also asks us, Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers? And we say, We will, with God’s help. Because we also made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. As a result we can enjoy bad coffee in a church basement on a Tuesday night and feel better and freer than we ever have. 

    So are we talking about the cost of discipleship or the cost of addiction or the cost of sobriety? Are we giving something up or getting something in return? No matter how we frame or reframe it, we can be sober disciples who are drawn toward the love of God. We flourish and prosper. We don’t wither and we don’t perish. And that all seems to be worth the cost.

    Deborah M., MA, LPC

    Lancaster, PA

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