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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  • 06/02/2021 7:50 PM | Anonymous
    Red Door

    No, this is not a new version of a highway stop sign. For the recovering alcoholic, it’s shorthand reminding us of dangerous points in our recovery program.

    H –“You’re hungry.” We start thinking of the good foods and drink we enjoyed fairly regularly—a time for us in a sneaky fashion to “sample” various wines and special bourbons. We can snap back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when out of a smokey grill, a flashback takes us to cold beer, delightful company, and a grand time. Ah, those were The Days—but, we now know, they “weren’t”.

    A – “You’re angry.” The Big Book says an alcoholic in recovery can’t afford anger. It’s an irrational approach to a perceived hurt, or disappointment, or aggressive action by someone. We need to always “keep our cool”, and not leap at an irrational reaction—a reaction that removes safeguards of patience, “letting go”, “easy does it” and a host of reminders we pick up at meetings.

    L - “Lonely.” We learned we had to change our friendships, maybe of longstanding relations. Our acquaintances now were mostly fellow recovering alcoholics. “I miss the old fun days.” If we admitted it, we’d say that we always drank onto that slippery slope with these former friends. Being with them is taking a risk to our sobriety. Let ‘em go their way. Your new way brings you to a new and positive life of serenity.

    T - “Tired.” Being tired, stressed out, and so forth is just a way of saying you’re letting your guard down. In some ways it’s a self-indulgent habit. Get to a meeting, work with a newbie—anything, but don’t continue to indulge your own feelings like the old days and use them as an excuse to “take that first drink.”

    There, you see? The Program offers a variety of teachings. Go to a meeting today—and maybe tonight make the coffee.

    Jim A, St. X Noon

  • 05/27/2021 9:24 PM | Anonymous

    “When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.”

    The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 64

    In all the things that have unfolded in this past pandemic year, my recovering life has kept on a fairly good path for the most part. When in-person meetings were suspended, online meeting offerings emerged a-plenty to fill the fellowship void. Phone contacts and spiritual walks [masked and at proper distance] with recovery friends continued. My work with others individually beginning a recovering life, as well as working with a team to develop a diocesan recovery ministry program resources have kept this semi-retired priest busy. Life has been good on life’s terms overall. And then …

    I was donating blood at the end of April as part of the parish outreach program where I am serving part-time. In preparation for the donation, check-in procedures were conducted – temperature check, the multiple Covid questions to be asked, and blood pressure taken. The intake nurse noted that my BP was rather high by the concerned look on her face. She suggested it might be good to check in with my physician. And then … It was obvious to me that something must have been wrong with her BP measurement! I went to a local pharmacy and used their machine – and it registered higher than the first reading. I tried again a few days later with the same result.

    My first reaction was to return to my old patterns of “stinking thinking” as those CD’s [and I don’t mean Compact Discs] subtly emerged again after all these years – All these machines must be wrong … I am in good health, just look in the mirror … They can’t be right! I had taken to steering my old frigate called Rationalization to sail down that River of Denial again. And then …

    I remembered what the program has taught me. I stopped, prayed for God’s wisdom and will, and listened. From this place of grounding in the spiritual Presence, I called my doctor for an appointment and check of my blood pressure. No surprise it was still too high, and so I began with medication support and reconfiguring my diet – not that ANYONE’S diet has not been out of sync this past year!! In essence, I grounded in myself in the principles of what the program or a recovering life has taught me – Do the next right thing and the next thing right. And then … on the day of my 24th AAnniversary, the reading from the Daily Meditations was the title of this offering! Who says there are coincidences in the world? For me, they are only God-incidences for which I am grateful.

    Life happens. Our health changes as we grow more “mature” in chronological ways. Thanks be to God for this program of recovering life I have been blessed to live. I am off my frigate called Rationalization, off the river called Denial.

    I am responsible. I am grateful.

    Paul G.

    Newark Delaware

  • 05/20/2021 9:31 PM | Anonymous

    Strange, he thought, the places in yourself that you don’t know about, the deep places inside you that can be weeping all the time that your mouth is talking or laughing.” SEEK THE FAIR LAND, Walter Macken. 

    Another way of putting the above quotation is “crying on the inside while laughing on the outside.” When I look back at the years of my active addiction, I can now see many of those times when, to all externals, I was the center of attention, having ‘a good old time,’’ and, inside, I was crying, thinking “if they only knew how miserable I feel.” “If they only they knew how stupid I feel.” “If they only …”

    The sad part is that I knew, on some level, my life was miserable and yet the only “solution” was to feed the disease that was causing my misery, feed it with alcohol, drugs, anything but an honest discussion.

    I was a young seminarian and had recently triggered my disease when I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous, brought to a meeting as a visitor. I sat in the back of that smoke filled, relatively dark room and listened to better confessions than I would hear later on in a confessional-box. That night I chain smoked as I listened to the topic of “Honesty” and wanting to get out of there for a drink. Men and women were being honest with one another as I was getting tied up in knots because, again, on some level I could identify with much of what they were sharing but I could not bring myself to say so, probably not even to myself. I wanted to deny it. After all, I wasn’t “that bad.” I “was different.” But, at some level, I knew I wasn’t. When the meeting ended, I escaped to find some company with whom to have a drink. People who drink alone are alcoholics – so I thought.

    While I was talking up a good story, my insides were crying. Crying because I was lying to myself and everyone else. Crying, because I could help others ( I was a counselor) and couldn’t help myself.  Crying, because I was so damn lonely and alone even as I pushed away people I admired and wanted to be close to.

    As my conscious awareness of my unhappiness increased so too was it just as quickly drowned by the denial of reality. I ‘knew’ I was not living up to the values I professed and minimized my behavior on the grounds that “He’s worse than I am.” Deep inside, in the darkest recesses of my mind, something began to stir, and I didn’t like it and didn’t know what to do about it.

    It is said we come to AA via “a nudge from the judge or a nod from god.” I believe my Higher Power got tired of giving me a nod and, one Friday afternoon as I was about to leave work, I felt propelled, and I mean I felt propelled into my boss’s office saying ‘I think I have a drinking problem.”  After four-and-a-half years of a dry drunk, I finally began to work the program as it is meant to be lived and I realized that it was my HP who took a more affirmative action and propelled me into the beginning of getting the help I needed to look at where I was crying on the inside.

    It is strange “the places in yourself that you don’t know about, the deep places inside you that can be weeping…” Some years after I got into the program, I learned about muscle memory and how the body retains memory of trauma, stress, and negativity and locks it in until such times as we are ready to deal with it.

    Louise Doughty wrote: Muscle has memory: the body knows things the mind will not admit.” I can still recall the  time I was referred to a therapist trained in the art of Rolfing. The first session was delightful and I looked forward to the next. In the second session, the therapist had barely touched my muscle when I gritted my teeth and muttered something I can’t write. He leaned down and whispered “you have my permission to say what comes to mind.” I did. That experience opened a whole new chapter of emotions long buried and “forgotten” about except in the muscle.

    Living the program, working the steps, sharing at meetings, rereading the Big Book, and talking to a sponsor slowly opened my unconscious awareness, made it more conscious, brought it to light and life, and helped bury that which needed to be buried in a healthy wholesome and spiritual manner. Thank God for this program, for Rolfing and good therapists.

    Séamus D
    Greater New Orleans

  • 05/05/2021 8:57 PM | Anonymous

    In response to a Chair’s request for a topic, the following situation was brought up: “Ron, a friend, drinks a lot. I saw it at Holiday functions last year. A lot of people drink a lot but Ron’s drinking habit rears its ugly head a lot. He’s always been a party-hardy guy. I’m fairly certain his wife, Peg, knows I’m in the Program. She asked me if I can help him, take him to lunch.”

    Two suggestions:
    #1:Get her to Al-Anon!
    #2: 
    Plan and think before you act.

    • Start by re-reading Chapter 7, “Working with Others,” and talk to your sponsor.
    • Raise it as a topic at a discussion meeting and ask for ways to raise it.
    • Although sensitive, a talk now with Ron can be a positive opportunity.
    • Don’t just contact Ron without thinking through issues like:
      • who contacts him?
      • what’s the reason for the call?
      • what’s the role of the spouse to get him to ‘have lunch with you?’
      • would this be consistent with your relationship with him?
      • has he had experience with AA before or with some manner of counseling?

    If this is a relationship where sensitive topics have been discussed before, it might be appropriate to say something like, “I have been fine, but a bit bumpy with my wife. She has a brother that is fighting a substance problem.” If he says anything like, “Gee, that’s an issue for some,” you then might say, “How have you been … you seem tired or otherwise involved with stuff when we talk. If his is a general noncommittal response, you say, “I went through some stuff a while back and had to reach out.”

    He probably doesn’t know his habits will get worse, not better, and won’t go away on its own. Your purpose is to leave an open invitation for you and another AA person to talk with Ron sometime to relay the nature of your problem and what you had to do; your Message is, “It saved my life, my marriage, my job,” and so forth.

    Key conclusions: Care, patience and planning are key elements -one size doesn’t fit all. Preaching and judging him in any way is verboten! Put yourself in his shoes – what worked for you? And remember, you are selling something he absolutely, positively does not want. He thinks he is “not that bad,” believes it is none of your business and thinks he is managing it “just fine.” He has no idea what will happen if he continues the same pattern. The disease never stays the same – always gets worse until that final catastrophic end and he loses all self-respect, wife, family and, his job, or worse.

    A great idea can be suggested with prior careful thought: “Hey Ron, come with me to a meeting; see if it makes sense, nothing to lose. They’ll tell you what worked for them, maybe it will for you if you find yourself on a slippery slope.“

    Jim A, St. X Noon, Cincinnati, Ohio

  • 04/14/2021 7:05 PM | Anonymous

    In one of my last meditations, I promised to bring some thoughts I had in my own recovery program about the importance of “speaking-out” at discussion meetings. Early in my attendance at my home group, when a “topic for discussion” was sought, I noticed often folks suggested topics touching on personal matters or events impacting their Program. They were seeking advice and counsel from the group about how they might handle similar problems such as: “I have a report date next week and I’m scared,” or “My spouse left me last night,” or “I can’t find a sponsor.” The rest of the group simply supplied how they dealt with the issue and what worked or didn’t work for them. Usually, the main comment was “Yes sir. I went through the same thing. Here’s what I did and it worked for me but may not fit your situation.”

    It was an important realization for me that as a recovering alcoholic. I was still subject to the same old troubling incidents I had used to justify use of a substance to assist with my coping with those incidents.

    I was learning that when life’s challenges arose in my sobriety, I needed to learn how to cope with those challenges without resorting to drink as I did as a practicing alcoholic.

    So, one day, on the way to my regular meeting, I thought I would bring up an incident encountered that morning at work. It certainly wasn’t a serious challenge and certainly didn’t tempt me to turn to alcohol for relief. But, it was simple so I raised it as a topic: “How do we handle challenges like this simple example?”

    Boy, did I ever get responses from the group! Everyone had a similar issue at one time or another and everyone had a suggestion: take five, call someone, pull out the Big Book, call your sponsor, bring it up to your next discussion meeting, let go & let God. Almost endless were the suggestions. This was another of those “it made all the difference” action steps learned at an AA Discussion Meeting.

    Jim A., St. X Noon, Cincinnati

  • 04/09/2021 11:07 AM | Anonymous

    “The three were hermits on an island in the Black Sea, very pious and humble and loving to all men, but terribly ignorant. A bishop goes in a steamer to see them and teach them a few prayers but finds them too old and stupid to learn. At last, he gets—or thinks he has got—one brief and simple prayer into their heads and leaves the island, feeling rather contemptuous. When night falls, he sees a bright light advancing swiftly over the sea behind the steamer; it is the old men who have come, walking on the waves, to beg him to be patient with their great stupidity and teach them the prayer again.”—Tolstoy.

    My husband sends me this story. He tries to read it to me but is so moved that he cannot speak. Alas, if all of us could be that way when we hear this story. I think of so many people I have talked with, hoping to connect them to their higher power. Instead, I often learn more about my higher power from hearing about their connection to their higher power.

    I learn this truth first from recovery meetings, where I hear wisdom from people I would never have previously listened to.

    Wisdom comes from those with no education who can barely speak intelligently. Wisdom comes from men and women who have spent a majority of their lives in prison. Wisdom comes from those who have lost their children because of their addiction. Wisdom comes from women who have lived on the streets. Wisdom comes from the homeless.

    I also hear this wisdom at our Food Pantry, where people come each week for just enough food to survive. They, like we in recovery, know what a bottom looks like.

    Gratitude and blessing are the most frequent words we hear.

    They share what they receive with other families.

    They teach us about how to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God. They teach us how to live in a community just as we in recovery learn how to be connected to a community. They know what a “we” program is all about instead of an “I” program.

    May we continue to keep our ears open to hear wisdom in people at places we least expect.

    Joanna. joannaseibert.com

  • 03/31/2021 6:42 PM | Anonymous

    Easter, I “celebrate” several years of sobriety. My surrender came when I was finally ready, when I finally realized I couldn’t get “enough,“ that I was tired of the damage to myself and others. My early months in the Program were filled with work, and study, and prayer5 noon meetings a week, an evening meeting or two, writing a 365 day-by-day volume of meditations.

    The hard part was what preceded that day when I threw in the towel. Since 1974, I’d had a couple long periods of continuous sobriety. But all I’d done was “white-knuckled it.”. I went to one meeting a week (that should be enough), did a bit of service work (that was hard since I knew my tenure in the Program was on very shaky ground). The price I paid for this false action was my anger, depression and self-centeredness “self-shame), and so forth.

    This time around, I honestly believed I’d had enough and was willing to follow the necessary action. My noon meeting was a priority. I found a counselor to help with a couple difficulties. I studied the Steps and read and re-read the Big Book and Twelve & Twelve. I participated at discussion meetings. Importantly, I didn’t shout from the roof tops to anyone that I finally “got the Program.” I had more or less done that before, and it hurt them and myself greatly when I had to admit I had “gone back out.”

    This time around, I was surprised with the ease with which I buried myself in the Program. I think that one of the key decisions I made was to attend discussion meetings as much as possible, not as I had done before when I only availed myself of lead meetings (about 5 or 6 months passed before I said a word during the discussions). [More about that in later submissions to Red Door.]

    In hindsight, I think this concentration on discussion meetings made all the difference. I could hear folks talk about their problems, which I saw were not all that different from mine. I could see progressthey kept “coming back.”

    Yes, my anniversary date is a time I give special thought to, not to glorify it, but to quietly recall those times I was learning how to handle sobriety.

    So, “Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy...”

    Jim A. St X Noon. Cincinnati

  • 03/25/2021 8:52 PM | Anonymous

    When I got sober in January 2007, one of the first things I remember my sponsor telling me is, “Stacey, anything you put before your sobriety, you will lose.” I would look at her incredulously and say things like, “But Karen, I have to put my job first, my friends first, etc.” The list could go on and on, and whatever I said was the thing that had my attention at that moment.” She would look at me and smile and say, “Stacey, anything you put before your sobriety, you will lose.” It is just like what Mark 1:35 says, “In the morning, while it was still dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place to pray.” My sponsor Karen and Mark reveal the same message to me: keep the first thing, the first thing. Mark’s passage is a gentle reminder to me that even Jesus needed to spend time with God alone to pray.

    Over the fourteen years I have been sober, I am grateful for the daily practices I have developed with my relationship with God. I look back to the early days and remember not being able to sit still to meditate for five minutes or being so rushed in the mornings that I did not have time to read from one of my daily readers. In some ways, I feel as though the person I was fourteen years ago is unrecognizable. And, although things today are radically different than what they were when I first entered sobriety, there are times when I can get lax about the practices that I know bring me peace and serenity. Whether I look at my life as a seminarian or my life in recovery, although it seems like I am eating, breathing, and sleeping God or working the heck out of my twelve-step recovery program, I forget the importance of taking time to fill my cup through quiet time with God.

    With the year anniversary of the COVID lockdown and the coming of Holy Week, I find myself so grateful to be a part of the Episcopal Church and a Twelve Step program based on daily practices and rituals that bring me back to keeping the first thing, the first thing.

    Stacey C.
    Austin, TX

  • 03/17/2021 7:36 PM | Anonymous

    In the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions we read: “Meditation is something which can always be further developed. It has no boundaries, either of width or height. Aided by such instruction and example as we can find, it is essentially an individual adventure, something which each one of us works out in his own way.”  I had no idea I was meditating when, as a teenager, I parked my bicycle next the church at the monastery, sat outside and listened to the monks sing. I did not know they were singing “Vespers”. All I knew was I loved the music, it lifted me to somewhere else and I felt at peace.

    I entered seminary after high school and morning meditation happened before we were fully awake at 6 a.m. We stood for fifteen minutes, then knelt. There was no  music or choir to lift my spirits. I had no idea as to what I was supposed to do. Think about God, about my vocation, the missions, about Jesus. Whatever entered my head (except for those thoughts I was not supposed to think about girls – was my morning meditation. Then there were books to enlighten us on the topic. Never did I dream or think I’d be like the folk I read about who had mystical experiences (and still don’t). Perhaps the only mystical experience came from taking what I was not supposed to take. What a trip.

    On one of my earliest 12 Step calls, I went with a guy who was head and shoulders taller than I, long hair, tattooed from head to foot, and a former member of a dangerous gang. As we talked about the program, he told me that when he entered treatment some years earlier, “I couldn’t sit still for a second. Now I can sit long enough to watch the grass grow.”

    I understood the words he said but I had no idea of the full meaning of them. I was in denial of my own addiction even after spending five weeks in a four-week program and committed to a year of “Aftercare.” Denial of my disease meant that I was still running my life which meant I was not meditating or asking God or anyone else for help. I didn’t need it. Oh, during this time I was quite religious. I went to my RC mass on Sunday morning and then off to “A service” at the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal or some other church. At this point I was a “Former/ex” RC priest and the custodial parent of my two-year-old daughter and interested in finding a mother for her – not a helpmate for myself. As for addiction, I had increased my nicotine, caffeine, and food intake. Of course, I was in denial of that also.

    Then came (four and a half years in the program) the spiritual awakening and the admission I am an alcoholic. It would be five more years before I had my last cigarette and I am still fighting the battle of the bulge. (Those of a certain generation or history buffs will understand that last remark.)

    Meditation came back into my life on more or less a few days a week and gradually became a way of life. Sometimes with coffee in the morning. Sometimes in the late afternoon. Sometimes while going for a drive.

    Meditation grounds me in the moment, reflecting on the day, on a thought, on something I read. Meditation is that connection between my heart/head and the spiritual world outside of me. In meditation I can think, listen and feel the process that is going on. At those times when I can’t shut down the movie in my head, I have a meditation book nearby, a spiritual book, and a few sentences or a paragraph of that is sufficient to bring me back to focus on the here and now.

    For those who do not yet believe in God or have not found a Higher Power, meditation grounds them also in the here and now -- how am I living my sobriety, how am I living this program -- how am I to live this step.

    With or without God or a Higher Power, meditation is important for us (for me) as it invites me to take time away from the “rat race” of work and lets me ponder my past insanity, be grateful for my sobriety, my peace of mind, allows me to acknowledge my emotions to myself, and brings a smile to my face.

    Meditation lets me know I am not alone in this world or in recovery. Meditation lets me open my mind and heart to a world that is bigger and wider and deeper than I ever imagined and increases by gratitude for the sobriety I have to see this beautiful world.

    Séamus D.
    New Orleans, La.

  • 03/12/2021 6:39 AM | Anonymous

    “And who is my neighbor?” —Luke 10:29.

    Ken Burns’ television series on the Civil War describes a remarkable scene that takes place on the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1913, when what is left of the two armies stages a reenactment of Pickett’s Charge. The old Union veterans on the ridge take their places among the rocks, and the old Confederate veterans start marching toward them across the field below—and then something extraordinary happens. As the old men among the rocks rush down at the old men coming across the field, a great cry goes up—except that instead of doing battle, as they had a century earlier, this time they throw their arms around each other and embrace and openly weep.

    In 1914, during World War I, German, British, Belgian, and French troops in the trenches mingled with each other along the western front during a brief Christmas truce and even sang “Silent Night” and other carols in solidarity. Recently we have observed something similar at World War II memorials such as Normandy, where German, English, French, and American soldiers have wept together and shared their stories. We have seen it also when American soldiers return to Vietnam to share stories with those they once bitterly fought against.

    This repeated action of shared love and story can tell us something about war. Many of those who have fought on foreign fields can be our strongest advocates against war. They know what they themselves—and those who once were their enemies—have lost. They share a common life-altering experience that only someone who has been there can understand.

    Those in recovery of any kind also know how awful their life of obsession was before their healing from addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, food, etc. They can relate to those who remain trapped in their addiction. Most of all, they can minister to those who are still suffering and offer them hope that their life can be different. They do this by sharing their story of what their life was like in addiction, contrasted to what it is like now in recovery.

    Those who have overcome mental illness can become advocates for others who suffer from this common disease as well. People who were once homeless themselves can offer a restorative hope to those on the street. Cancer survivors can encourage and pray for others recently diagnosed and give them strength and support.

    This story goes on and on and on. We are healed as we reach out of ourselves and share our story and listen to sufferers in situations we know all too well. We begin to realize “who IS our neighbor.” Some call this becoming wounded healers.

    Joanna. Joannaseibert.com

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