Proudly Red, White and Blue

Those who know me may guess correctly that I was challenging as a child.  I challenged authority, rules and dogmas.  I’m a part of the “should be seen but not heard” generation and in our house, voicing an opinion contrary to Dad’s was not a smart move.  Especially at the dinner table.

One night early in my teenage years (read:  belligerent, rebellious and pre-alcoholic), the end of the Vietnam War was in the news.  I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but the bottom line was, I announced that I thought war was stupid and I was entertaining the idea of moving to Canada.

Under the glaring lights of my father’s eyes, he responded with five words, “Let me help you pack.”

Flash forward 35+ years to the present.  I finally have an understanding of my Dad’s patriotism.  As an old Navy man, I’ve always known that his love of country runs deep, but it’s more than that.  His collar may be as blue as his politics and his neck may be a slight shade of red, but it’s more than that.  In his straight-up, no-nonsense day-to-day life, he’s much more like Archie Bunker than Donald Trump and maybe that’s the point.

My father is an American, for better or for worse.  I’ve never asked him, but my guess is that he doesn’t support war.  But defend his land, his country?  Lend a hand to a soldier or a veteran?  Hell, yes.  With everything he’s got.  After all, he’s an American.

In honor of Veteran’s Day, and my dad, I’d like to unequivocally state that I no longer want to move to Canada.  After all, I’m an American.

Long Live VIA (Validation, Inspiration, Appreciation)

Like most everyone, I’m a sucker for a feel-good story.  I love stuff that causes me to think of drooling babies and puppies, stuff that reminds me of the old days of drinking sweetened iced tea, eating Moon Pies and listening to baseball on the transistor radio.

I’m exaggerating for effect, although I am old enough to remember those things.

Today has been a feel-good story day.  A lingering, long-overdue lunch with a dear friend and colleague highlighted the day.  She and I run at breakneck speeds trying to conquer the world so slowing down for a couple of hours, sharing a meal and talking about the things which fire our passions is a rare treat.  I experienced Validation, Inspiration and Appreciation during lunch and hours later am still smiling about our time together.

More VIA arrived in the form of excellent customer service at my regular car place.  Can I give a shout out to Christian Brothers Automotive?  Each time they service my car, I think, “Wow, now that’s the way customers should be treated!”  When was the last time you gave a mechanic permission to “do a once-over” on your late-model vehicle before you made a 1,200-mile trip and all he did was replace two bulbs?  Free-of-charge?

Finally, I spoke with my sponsor a short while ago (a great way to wrap up anybody’s day) and once again got some VIA. 

Validation.  Inspiration.  Appreciation.  Like so many other elements of my life, in order to keep VIA close by, I must give it away.  That’s definitely not a problem when the reward is a day like today.

Are there other VIA stories out there?

Life is a Song Title

Lyrics from old songs play in my head this morning–Maureen McGovern’s, “There’s Got to be a Morning After” and Eddy Arnold’s “Make the World Go Away,” most recently made popular again by Martina McBride.

Those two songs were my mantras in my drinking days.  I’d reach a point in the evening when I knew I’d crossed a line–or multiple lines–and all I could do was pray for daylight.

I’d get myself into situations that happened “to me,” (oh, poor me!) and I whined to anyone who listened about my sad, sad state all the while mentally slapping the back of my hand against my forehead.  Make the world go away . . .

I was the strange drunk who could be a victim and still take responsibility for everything.  I tried to draw attention without being too obvious.  Please, feel sorry for me but watch me rebuff your attempts to help.

Those were insane times that extended into sobriety.  I didn’t know anything about healthy relationships and I certainly didn’t know how to care for myself on an emotional and spiritual basis.

Today, when I’m on the beam, I know better.  “There’s got to be a morning after” is a more positive refrain, as in, hang on and believe that tomorrow is a new day.  The morning after no longer represents a time to discover the wreckage of the night before but a time to believe that God is all about do-overs.

For me, the morning after is a mental switch from “Good God, it’s morning,” to “Good morning, God!”

As for making the world go away, that has become a meditative practice of turning inward to the still, small voice and away from the chatter and clamor of the outer world.

I used to cry out in frustration and desperation to be left alone–make it all go away!–now I welcome my alone time with the Spirit who guides me.

Funny how the meaning of these two musical phrases has evolved as I have matured in my recovery life.

Thank you, God, for the gentle peace of learning to listen to my soul.

Josh and Me

Josh who?  Josh Hamilton, the tattooed Texas Rangers centerfielder, who hit a solo home run in Game 3 of the World Series now being played on hallowed ground in Arlington, Texas.  I am hoarse from screaming and my shoulder is a little sore from waving the rally towel. All worth it for my newly adopted team.

From Nolan Ryan (who I used to watch pitch) and Ron Washington down to 22-year-old Nefti Feliz who shut down A-Rod and those damn Yankees and who wrapped up the Rangers first Series win by pitching a lightening striking 9th inning in Game 3, these guys are classy and professional and such little boys playing the dream games of their lives.

Props too to Mitch Moreland for his three-run shot, but it’s Josh I love.  I wore his T-shirt to the game.  Well, not his shirt, but it did have his name on the back, like about 50,000 other fans.

Josh could easily attain hero status among baseball fans for his Phoenix-like rise from the depths of addiction to play on one of the grandest stages in all of sports.  But to me, Josh is simply one example of the promise that recovery from addiction holds.  When he put down the drugs and surrendered to their destructiveness in his life and in the lives of those who love him, he created the opportunity to get his life back.

With a little luck, a whole bunch of hard work and the infinite grace of his higher power, Josh got his life back in a Texas-size way.  While most of us don’t get to experience that kind of fame and fortune once we surrender to our own beasts, we do get to experience Josh’s sense of satisfaction for a sober life well lived.

Josh also knows that to keep his precious gift of sobriety, he has to give it away.  My organization, The Partnership at Drugfree.org (drugfree.org), receives the benefit of his giving.  Josh blogs for us and shares his inspirational story of recovery.  On a side note, we also partner with Major League Baseball Charities to deliver Play Healthy (drugfree.org/playhealthy), a comprehensive education campaign around performance enhancing drugs.  It was incredibly cool to see our banners stream across the LED screen at Rangers Ballpark and then to see our crumbling Statue PSA on the stadium big screen. 

Josh gets doused with ginger ale instead of champagne after championship games.  He looms large in the spotlight and is adored by many, including this baseball fan.

But I guarantee you, that at some point last night, in a quiet and alone space, Josh also took the opportunity to humbly and honestly give thankful praise to the god of his understanding.  Minus the locker room camaraderie, the glare of the media lights and the roar of the fans, Josh was just Josh, a grateful recoverying addict. 

Josh and me.  We share the disease of addiction.  The thread that binds us, in fact, binds all of us, is our conscious awareness of what it means to play our individual games of life.

Ultimately, winning or losing is either exultation or disappointment.  But how we show up to play our game each day is the ticket to whether we truly win or lose.

Dusty Coffee Cups

At a meeting last Sunday, I stepped out the ladies room and lingered at the announcement board, reading about upcoming spiritually-themed conferences.  One could spend every weekend participating in these events, and indeed many do.  I know that when I attend retreats or 12-step conferences, I always grow through reminders of how I used to live.  There’s nothing quite like the language of the heart.

As I stood there reading, my eyes wandered to the peg board wall of coffee mugs, a prerequisite for any meeting hall.  Practically all the pegs held a stained mug, some of which fastidious group members had stuffed with a paper towel, presumably after cleaning out the inside.

Then it hit me.  Many, if not most of those cups were covered in a light coat of dust.  Their owners had obviously not sipped coffee from them in quite some time.

A 12-step member not using his or her mug at a meeting could mean she’s off coffee (a really weird concept), or maybe using a Styrofoam cup.  But it more likely means she’s not even there.

That thought makes me sad.  Over the years–and even recently–I have been that person, the infrequent attender.

When I’m not in meetings, I can’t hear long-timers say things like:

“I might as well be drunk.”

“Remember the Golden Rule:  When doing an inventory, it’s best to compare your present with where you’ve come from, not to where you think you should be going.”

“We are all fish out of water.  God is the ocean in which we should throw ourselves.”

Plus, if I’m not going to meetings, how can I do the white glove test on all those coffee cups?