Friday, December 23, 2005

Traveling reflections

I started this post about 2:30 AM Eastern on Friday...I guess the Revised Common Lectionary would say this is the 4th Friday in Advent, or Christmas Friday, perhaps. (If the day Christ died is Good Friday, is the Friday before Christ was born Bad Friday?)

More to the point, when I started writing was about 8 hours after the start of my four-day Christmas break. Then my sister came in and found me asleep in the computer chair - so now it's mid-day Friday in Ohio.

There are people at my job who are going to be working over the weekend - either in preparation for one client's payroll year-end or trying desperately to prepare for the go-live week for another client. Some will physically be in the office; some will be dialed-in from home. But I asked if I would be needed - either in person or remotely - given that I'd planned to head to Toledo. And my new boss said, "No, we're not going to be working on anything you can help with at this point. Go ahead and go."

The growth in my life is that I didn't say, "Are you sure you won't need me?" Instead, I just said, "Cool...thank you," and went on my way.

I'm hoping that God will help me kill the part of me that is insistent on being the people-pleaser on this new job. I'm slowly "coming to believe" that they hired me because I'm acceptable, just as I am. I can do what I can do - but I'm trying to give myself the freedom to not have to be Superman or Dudley Do-Right for my employer.

In positions past, I have always felt like I was always playing catch-up - never quite sufficient to the task or the role. Today, I know that anyone who really did feel like they were "sufficient to the role" in whatever organization I was in would either be egotistical in the extreme or completely delusional. So today, when my inner insanity wants to ante-up to that table, I can simply say to that annoying voice, "Uh-UH...homey ain't gonna play."

"Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly..."

Last Thursday I gave a "lead" at one of my home AA groups. In the community of recovery, a "lead" is AA-talk for time when I can share my experience, strength and hope about my life in recovery. The AA text says that "our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now." It's not "a speech" or "a talk," not exhorting or evanglizing or promoting, but truly "sharing" where I am, and some of the high-points and pot-holes in getting there. I guess the easiest comparison is not "You shouldn't drink," but "here's how I live sober today...however broken that might be."

(An aside for the folks in recovery - I often hear this instruction from the "Big Book" said as "...what IT was like, what happened, and what IT's like now." When I hear that, I'm always reminded of a friend who says, "Hell, boy, it don't change. I can get a quart of it any time I want! Only the first half of it changes...I change, and as a result, living in a world with it in it is a much easier place in which to live.")

I try to do this close to my sobriety anniverary every year. But the process was kind of humbling this year, on a number of levels. After all, for my 12th anniversary, life was pretty wonderful; it was my last year at Sprint before heading to Chicago in August. I had a good job, a pleasant, warm, safe living arrangement with a dear friend, and all the benefits of a mid-size Midwestern city: free parking, cheap beef, available public restrooms, wide open short, life was very good.

Year 13 was in the middle of my first year of seminary, and even though there was a question of whether I'd be able to go forward, life was good, for the most part. Year 14 was a time of desperation - I'd been emphatically told that I wouldn't be able to go forward in ministry, I'd finished the most devastating six months that I'd ever had in sobriety (financially), and I was reeling from wrestling with issues of self-worth, identity, faith, and what seemed at the time to be a spectacular failure of discernment. I had a new job (30 days old) after an extended time unemployed, and I was desperately trying to get them to like me enough to make me full-time (which they never, ever did). At that point, I had to be content with the fact that I was, as a friend says, "sunny-side up, suckin' air, sober" - and that for the forseeable future, that had to be enough.

At year 15 it was different. I'd hoped that by the time I was 15 years sober, I'd have had most of my past cleaned up, and be very solidly anchored in the career of my dreams. Having to truly come to terms with the death of my ministry dreams, with having to move (but not really having the money to do so), and that once again I was starting life over (and once again behind the 8-ball, cash-wise) was a series of annoyingly humbling realizations. I really, really wanted to say, "Hey, folks, everything's fine" when it was anything but.

Instead, what I remember talking about was gratitude, the 12th step, and the fellowship. How working with my three young sponsees has given my joy, hope and encouragement when I couldn't find it in my own living situation. How God manages to use me in seemingly powerful ways, despite not wearing a clerical collar. And how no matter how many challenges I get today, if I go to bed sober, I'm a winner. Because the simple truth is that drunks drink, and junkies use - unless there is a miracle.

So I left at 5:30 last night. I could have left straight for Ohio then; perhaps sanity would have encouraged that. But one of my sponsees was turning six months sober, and I wanted to give him a card and a hug and be there for the 7:00 meeting. So I didn't leave there until 8:15, stopped home and picked up the suitcases and packages, left about 9:20, and had a particularly slow but peaceful drive (darn them Highway Patrol folks...), and got here about 1:30 AM CT, 2:30 Eastern - safe, sober, undented...and now we're full circle.

So even though it's Friday morning, it's still Christmas Day for me. I've received a gift of life, of sobriety, and of love from my God, my family and my friends. And there's a whole bunch of people in palatial estates driving Hummers and dripping with "bling" that can't say that.

Topics that are half-started thoughts include Lutherans, Methodists and what "church unity" means; what it means to have a gift-less Christmas; and my Christmas-music playlist. But for now, we're having Tony's Ribs (yay!) in Findlay with both sisters and their husbands tonight, Christmas eve with Sue's in-laws, and a variety of options for Christmas Day. is good. Thank you, God.


AnotherLostAngel said...


Glad to see you made the trip in one peace. Thank you for sharing your life, thoughts, and struggles with me. I have been around hyde park AA for 13 or 14 years, I guess. And I have seen many of the same people for a long time...and have seen many come...and many go...some die...some drift away....and I can tell you unequivically that your presence has been a gift and blessing to all of us here.

Enjoy the Yule.


Chas said...

Just wanted to say 'hi', from another ragamuffin. And Merry Christmas.

Sanford said...

Powerful post, Brother, straight from the heart. I love your blog because you are totally honest about your life. Happy Christmas, Brother, and may God help you walk the path to salvation.

Anonymous said...

God Bless, Steve. I{m on vacation visting. We have more family around than I would have known how to handle. It is much easier sober.

Poor Mad Peter said...

Travelling mercies, Steve man.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Steve!

I haven't caught up on your blogs for a couple of months, but I know you and the big heart that the ramblings come from. Over the years you have sponsored many young men, with your start at the "Little House" to your current abode in Chicago. Your talent and compassion is boundless and the sponsee's success from your example is great. Just the role that you dreamed of when you thought that you needed that collar. Had the good fortune to meet another man, "NY Bob" on a sober cruise last year. He was on a very spiritual journey and writing and speaking extensively on "spirituality" in the programs context of 12 steps and traditions. When I return to K. C. from visiting Tulsa where my son's family live, I will forward NY Bob's writings that I have stored in my computer to you. Someday, I hope to be in the company of the 2 of you discussing this important facet of our sober lives!

Enjoy your too brief stay with your sisters and have a safe journey back to the windy city.

Barry Galiger from the "Little House".

Hope said...

I love your honesty about your humanity. You continue to encourage me in my own journey by sharing the reality of your own. I've been sober nearly 18 years but haven't been to a meeting in many. I was always worried I'd get found out for wearing such a heavy mask at meetings....I could never talk from the heart...I was wanting to be somewhere else on the journey than where I was. Your writing encourages me to simply be where I am on the journey; thank you.