Heroes

This evening has me thinking about the heroes I have had throughout my life. Some I have perhaps for trivial reasons—like my very first hero, my bother Jon, who was always there helping me out of the jams I got myself into. Case in point was growing up in Australia during our summer vacations my family would spend a number of weeks living in a camper out on my uncle’s property. On one particular summer night when I was about 9 years old I needed to use the outhouse, so although I was scared of the dark I let myself out of camper and headed out in the night. Once outside, reflected in the moonlight I was startled to see some large shapes move. Terrified, I paused to run for my life–until the shapes turned into kangaroos and they hopped a short distance away from the camper. Realizing they were not a threat I continued walking towards the outhouse all the while watching the kangaroos.

Now at this point I need to pause and add that my uncle had recently drilled huge holes (I’m guessing about 6 foot deep and maybe 3 feet across), in preparation for some construction project. I had been told about the holes and was warned not to fall into the holes.  But…..due to keeping a careful eye on the kangaroos and anything else that might jump out of the night to terrify me, I completely forgot about the holes, nor was I watching where I was going. Yes I stepped off into thin air, free falling into one of the huge, deep holes, landed hard and my terrified howls filled the night. My brother Jon shot out of the camper like a rocket and reached the top of the hole within one minute flat.  Seeing my dilemma he laid flat at top of the hole and reached down towards me. What I saw and will always remember is similar to movie clip of a  camouflage painted face of Navy Seal dude appearing above, clasping a falling comrades wrist, holding on with all his might and looking down into his friend’s eyes saying “if you go, I go.”  In reality what my brother actually said as he clasped my hand was “shut up and quit jumping.” Jon dragged me out of that hole, probably gave me a brisk smack on my back and scolded me for crying.

Many, many years later I found myself in a far deeper, more terrifying hole and one that I had absolutely no hope of ever escaping, that is until I met a few of my greatest heroes in life. The hole was alcoholism and drug addiction—the heroes had the inner strength and courage of a Navy Seal, they grasped my hand, showed me the way out of the deadly pit I was in and helped save my life.  Now some of these heroes I know very well because they personally gave me their experience, strength and hope. Their guidance, love and patience were unlimited as they revealed the steps necessary that would draw me out of the hole.  However, some of my heroes I have never met and actually will never get to see in this life time.

Those are the heroes who have gone on before me, who were faithful in carrying the message and who led by example. Throughout the decades and across far distances their example, their lives and their words profoundly touched the sick, broken and dying woman that I was and forever altered my life.  These heroes are a select few—whose lives and lights have burned so brightly that it touched thousands, including me. Heroes who were faithful in carrying the message, who lead by example; heroes who saved my life and hundreds just like me. Most of these heroes I will never get to meet in this lifetime. However, what I can do is follow the tremendous example set before me. Like my heroes, I am responsible to reach down into holes, I am responsible to grasp the next outstretched hand, I am responsible to carry the message, I am responsible to show the next suffering person the steps so they too can escape the hole.

Tonight I lost one such hero. A hero I never got to meet and one I will never be able to thank. Tonight my world is a little darker, my heart is simply sad at the loss. One thing I do know is that wherever my hero is he has made brighter just with his presence and he is probably already busy doing service work. I also know that he was greeted with hugs, a cup of coffee and a “well done, faithful and trusted servant.”

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A Real Live Hollywood Star

Is it tacky to name drop?

It was one of those days when the unexpected happened. Due to a chance meeting I found myself sitting in a restaurant next to a very famous gentleman who is a two time Grammy winner, a song writer, movie actor, guest on the Tonight Show 48 times, a published author, the list goes on and on. He was keeping the table entertained with stories of his current projects, life adventures and his fellow Hollywood friends. After a while the conversation naturally turned to recovery and spirituality since he has 20 plus years of sobriety and the subject of prayer came up. The famous gentleman shared with the group the prayer he prays every morning and has done so for years—“God surprise me today. Lead me where you need me.”

At this point I need to pause and explain that when I got sober I was one of those people who come into “the rooms” full of vehement hostility against God, religion and I even bristled with antagonism at the generic phrase “higher power.” After 11 months into “sobriety” and refusing to address my resentments and outright hatred towards God, I was in a free fall towards relapse. All I had been doing for 11 months was sitting in 12 Step meetings—I had zero recovery, no spiritual awaking and nothing that could be described as anything close to a psychic change. I was beyond miserable. I had come to a place where I could not imagine life with alcohol, but I also could not imagine continuing to live in my current daily hell of life without alcohol. I was at the end of my rope where returning to drinking or suicide appeared to be viable options. In the middle of this internal warfare a series of events occurred and I ended up relocating to a different city, which is where I was thrust into a hardcore recovery community and introduced to a person who then became my sponsor. This sponsor saw my spiritual bankrupt state and the danger I was in and aggressively set to work guiding me towards the spiritual solution contained within the 12 Steps. I finally had to find, face and resolve all my old ideas, fears and prejudices surrounding this whole Higher Power thing—in fits and spurts I became willing to be wrong and in doing so I found freedom.

Fast forward three years to the table at the restaurant; as the full impact of the celebrity’s prayer sunk in I was completely flabbergasted. I turned in my chair and looked at him in horror. I am sure that my alarm was evident on my face as I asked him, “Oh my god, isn’t that a terrifying prayer to pray?”  He turned his head my way and with a piercing gaze looked right past my eyes into my heart. Without skipping a beat he responded in a voice palpable with love and compassion, “oh no sweetie. God only wants your highest good.”

Simple words capturing maybe six seconds, but to me a significant spiritual experience. I felt like a baseball bat slammed into my chest and I was knocked back in my chair. No one was aware of the impact his words had on me and the conversation at the table continued buzzing around me. After all my Step work, after 4 years of sobriety, after thinking I had the “higher power” thing down I had a moment of clarity—I was absolutely terrified of God. It also occurred to me that it is not possible to willingly turn my life over to a power that I distrusted and feared. To entrust my very life to a power that deep down I firmly believed was not “out to care” for me but rather “out to get me” would be the very definition of insanity.  Thus began a timid yet exploratory relationship which has actually continued to grow for the past year.

It may be tacky to “name drop” but in the least likely of times, in the least likely of places and from the least likely of people (my famous friend), I met—God.

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A blessed mystery

For sweeter souls did not survive

But if you’re lucky, when it’s done

Somewhere deep inside

The dreamer’s still alive – Paul Williams

Non nobis solum nati sumus (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)

IMG_217570050684695Funny thing happened to me this morning. As I slowly closed my Big Book I suddenly realized that a chapter in my life was also closing. As this realization sunk in waves of emotion rolled over me and crashed against my normally tough exterior shell. Despite myself and against my wishes, tears filled my eyes.

You see for an entire year now an “old timer” (35 years sober and actively working a daily AA/spiritual program) has been Skyping with me on a weekly basis for the purpose of studying the Big Book. Yes I have a sponsor, yes I work the Steps with my sponsor and sponsees and yes I have read the book several times, but I wanted to do this study in addition to the other action I was taking in my program. Now when I say study I mean STUDY!  Not just passively reading the book together, but actively debating, discussing, and dissecting line by line, word by word.

So why the emotion and why big the deal?  Well maybe because it took entire year, it changed my life and now it is over.  For an entire year he pushed me, he prodded me and he provoked me. For an entire year he challenged everything I thought I knew. For an entire year under his guidance the Big Book came alive in a new way, it has become real, accessible and more relevant in my life.  For an entire year through thick and thin, high and low he gave me the priceless gift of his time, his wisdom and his experience. For an entire year he put up with, was persistent and patient with the sick, self-centered, little alcoholic punk that I am. For an entire year he gave—himself.

Apparently I still have a lot of growing to do because as I closed my book and it hit me that we were completely done my first thought was “I want more!” Thankfully that thought was quickly dislodged by overwhelming gratitude for what this old-timer had given me. Promptly I then tried to express my gratitude, but of course did a completely inept job at doing so—how do you thank someone for such a gift anyway?  As customary the old-timer gruffly brushed my thanks aside and barked at me in his usual fashion, “don’t wallow! Go give it away.”

Funny thing happened to me this afternoon. A young lady just a few short months sober, who has a sponsor, who has worked the Steps and yes who has read the book dropped by my house and said, “I want to dig deeper into the Big Book. Will you go through it with me?”