Monday, December 21, 2009


My first week of work has been great, it is nice to feel like I am getting back into the driver’s seat of my life and things are moving along. We are getting ready for Christmas on the ranch, and our small tree in our dorm is already brimming with small gifts that we have been able to either make or buy for each other. Christmas this year is going to be a good one, I feel blessed by a lot, and there is something that gets you into the spirit when you live on a ranch – it’s peaceful, the snow is untouched, the Rockies are only 11 miles west of me so the snow capped peaks are a welcome reminder that it is December in Colorado.

The buildings on the ranch are bright red, so they contrast the snow – it’s just beautiful.

So, the other day I went to treat myself to lunch. I stopped into a small deli in town and ordered my favorite – Braunschweiger sandwich on dark rye with swiss cheese and cucumbers – and I settled to a small table in back to eat it and suddenly, a small gaggle of high school girls and one parent came up to me and introduced themselves to me.

It was the high school girls soccer team and one of the team mates had heard me speak about sobriety when I visited her school, and she wanted to check in with me and introduce me to her friends and the coach and someone’s mom. They all wished me a great Christmas and New Year, they got my email address and said they would like to stay in touch.

A few days earlier a strange thing happened. I wrote about how my boss Googled me and found out about the article written in the Denver Post and as a result, he also read some of this blog. I mentioned that this didn’t really bother me because, in the long run, it’s easier and healthier to own my sobriety, and getting treatment isn’t something that I should be ashamed about.

A couple days later a co-worker came to me and, over the course of a somewhat awkward conversation (I couldn’t exactly figure out why it was awkward at first), she explained to me that it was she who actually Googled me, not my boss. And then she paused and said, “I am an alcoholic too, I have known I have a problem for about 10 years, but I haven’t stopped, I still continue to drink.” You would think I would be speechless by this admission from someone I hardly knew but I am less and less surprised by the way people have felt close or have even felt a kinship to me since I put myself out there – explaining how alcohol or addiction has touched them – either through a family member or by their own hand.

She went on to ask me a little about treatment and said that she is completely functional (which is obvious, she runs a tight ship in the office – one might never guess), but she said something I found to be powerful. She said that she is fine at work, she works quite hard, and she does, but she said that every night from 6-10, she is completely off-line in her life and is her time. I understand this because alcohol was a very personal time for me too. But by inviting me to share her experience she opened herself up to the uncertainty of my reaction – and this is how I began to own my addiction, it’s how I began to tear down the old self and rebuild a more fortified self, strong in my ability to look people in the eye and say, ‘I am what I am.” And so, it was really a priveledge to have her to tell me this.

At the beginning of this blog I used to say, “People will surprise you if you surprise them first,” and I said this mainly in reference to apologies, forgiveness, meeting you half way in amends, etc. This has happened with most of the guys I live with, they are succeeding in the program and their families are slowly meeting them back where they left off.

I think my statement is bigger now. When I said it, I was speaking about sobriety, but I believe that this statement has effects throughout my interactions with everyone. I wrote about how part of this process is tearing down the old facades and learning to be ‘real’. And the more real I become with people, the more real people become with me. It weird, and it might be unnerving; it’s real and surprising. There is something innocent and basic and comforting about being real. I watch my two youngest nephews, both two and a half years old, and observe how they see the world. To them, the world is very real – people are taken at face value, things that are said are assumed to be true, there are no hidden agendas, no hidden motivations, there is no guilt or shame in being human, whether you have a booger hanging out of your nose or you fart in public, to them, forgiveness is a no-brainer and they offer it as easily as they expect it.

And I think when you become like that, you surprise people, and they, in turn, surprise you.

But these two events, the deli and the office, bring me to this week’s topic, something that I had avoided writing about for some time, but it is an essential part of sobriety, and I don’t know why I haven’t really spoken about it. But it is part of my journey, it is something I had kept out of this blog because I wanted the whole spectrum of people to be able to relate to it, and then I got to thinking, this is my blog, my journey, and I promised that I was going to remain real, and so I’ll tell you, one of the most essential components critical to what got me here, and what might keep me here, is GOD.

My belief in a higher power is real. One of the things that I felt was damaged by years of alcoholism was my spirit, and repairing that spirit happened to me only when I repaired my relationship with God.

I am probably the most spiritual person in my family and certainly the most Catholic. One of the best gifts my parents gave me was a knowledge of GOD. I am not some bible thumper or someone who belts off bible verses to advance my own agenda. But I do spend a lot of time in quiet prayer time with God and I do manage to thank God for blessings. I also ask God for help when I need it, I ask for guidance when I am troubled, I sometimes just tell God about my day like we’re old friends. I am not intimidated by God, afraid of God or ashamed of God. Indeed, I pray to God right before I even start writing this blog each time and thank Him after I post the blog for giving me the gift to write and the burning desire to tell a story.

Sobriety works much easier when you can surrender to a power higher than yourself. There is something that frees me in the belief that I don’t have to solve my every problem, that some problems I can just give to God and have faith that things will work out the way they should. I like the idea that this is not for nothing, the idea that I am eternal in some form makes the work of becoming sober seem worthwhile.

Here’s why this blog topic came about now, however. I read Bible scripture and try to apply it to myself, its how I live the question, “What’s my relationship with my higher power.” (Remember “living the question” blog? If not, go back, these all tie in together) I feel a divine vibration throughout all of nature. There is something divine about the cycles of the seasons, the birth, death and resurrection of plant life. There is something divine about physics and the fact that things have an order within the chaos, today is the winter solstace, it is the longest night of the year... it is also the day the earth is closest to the sun. The longest darkness is marked by our closest proximity to our life source. Tell me that isn't divine.

I’ll wrap it all up, I promise, and I won’t go into some sort of a bible sermon.

But, in John chapter 11 we learn of Jesus’s good friend Lazarus. Lazarus was sick and Jesus was summoned by Laz’s sisters, Mary and Martha, to come and heal him. But Jesus didn’t make it in time (it is a remarkably hectic job saving the world) and Lazarus died and was buried. According to the Bible, Jesus intentionally stays where He was.
When Jesus finally arrives in Bethany, he finds that Lazarus is dead and has already been in his tomb for four days. He meets first with Martha and Mary in turn. Martha laments that Jesus did not arrive soon enough to heal her brother and Jesus replies with the well-known statement, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me shall live, even when he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die in eternity". Next encountering Mary, Jesus is moved by her sorrow, and we read the famous simple phrase, "Jesus wept".
Never one to miss an opportunity to do some miracles when a crowd is present, Jesus comes to the tomb. Over the objections of Martha, Jesus has them roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb and says a prayer – yes even Jesus prayed. He then calls Lazarus, “Hey, Laz, COME OUT OF THERE,” and Lazarus does so.
The next chapter takes place a few days later. Everyone in Bethany is so excited about what happened that there is a huge feast and people come from miles to speak to the guy who was raised from the dead. Lazarus was a spectacle because people began to realize that they, too, could be raised from the dead with faith and friendship in Jesus.

It should be clear by now that I feel like Lazarus. My friendship with God didn’t prevent me from heading down to the path to destruction and death. In fact, I believe that God intentionally stayed out of things, intentionally let me fail, for many years so I could eventually reach the end of that life – and die.

And when I finally surrendered to it, and I died, the stone that separated me, in my tomb, from a life outside, was rolled away by my faith and friendship in God and I was resurrected (I've always said it isn't WHAT you know.....). And now, I am in that feast period, people are coming from all over to speak to me, in a deli, in an office, via email, to speak to the guy who was raised from the dead. My new life offers a bit of hope that the death in their lives isn't permanent either. And while I rarely write about my belief in God, it is there, and I do apply these principles to my sobriety and daily life, and overcoming an addiction is so much easier when you just surrender to something greater than yourself – to God.

This year, Christmas is something I’ve anticipated and will enjoy. Not for the Santa stuff, the family, the kids, all those things are great, indeed. The story of Christmas is most importantly the simple story of a birth; the story of a baby being born - in a barn on a farm surrounded by sheep and goats and cows, a baby who's mom was travelling by of all things, a MULE, a baby who's very birth made people want to seek Him out and visit and share the experience. A birth that would bring hope and save people from their own demons, a baby who would grow up and help raise people from the dead, a baby who would give solutions, provide gifts of wisdom and a closer walk with God.

This is a great story of beginnings, and I bet you thought I would end by comparing myself to that baby, to my new spiritual birth, to my faith that I can give hope to people and offer comfort. Boy, are you off. I’m not going to do that. I am not that baby.

I am just His friend.
Merry Christmas All!

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