Monthly Archives: December 2018

Straight to the bone

Beauty is only skin deep. But ugly goes straight to the bone. – Fred Sanford


Charlotte dragged me kicking and screaming to the 8:00 Sedona meeting today. I have yet to find my niche in the program, but I am certain that God has His plans. People were genuinely delighted to see me, and I got many warm hugs. Since I didn’t bring my writing board, I just smiled as best I can these days and nodded goofily. It’s a struggle letting go of my need to be witty and pithy.

The trip to Detroit is scheduled, but for a number of reasons I have elected to come home as soon as the speech prosthesis is placed (or “the thing” as I will refer to it for the sake of brevity). I plan to work with my speech pathologist (SLP) at Mayo as soon as I get back. I am not getting my hopes up. As the SLP in Detroit reminded me, people who have lost their tongues have a much tougher road than simple (?) laryngectomies. As usual, Charlotte’s hopes are higher than mine, but she handles disappointment better so I can live with that. My motto is “no appointment, no disappointment.” I would rather that “life on life’s terms” exceed my expectations.

The topic of the meeting turned to the joy of sobriety. For as unhappy as I have been feeling lately, I have never lost my joy. Happiness is based on happenstance. Joy is based on the love of God that underlies everything. I have never lost that. To paraphrase Mr. Sanford, “Happiness is skin deep. But joy goes straight to the bone.” How anyone can live a joyless life is incomprehensible to me. I couldn’t do it. It might be argued that my faith in God arises out of a deep need to find purpose and meaning, but that just begs the question. If God draws me to Himself by making me keenly aware of how bereft of joy life would be without His love, then He has achieved His purpose. As I once said to an early AA mentor, “If this is a myth, then it is the most benevolent myth imaginable.” I recently saw Jordan Peterson responding to the question as to whether or not he believed in God, and after a couple of attempts to express it, he said simply, “I act as if God exists. Now you can decide for yourself whether that means I believe in him, so to speak.” A page out of our book, to be sure.

Lest any of you think that the preceding implies a wavering in my faith, let me be quick to reassure. I have always been a skeptic and doubts have always crept in. I had to build a faith that could encompass doubt or it would be no faith at all. One thing I can say with absolute certainty: I made a decision at the age of thirteen that God did not exist, and twenty years later my life could be charitably described as a heap of stinking, smoldering rubbish. So at age thirty-three, I made a decision to “act as if” God existed. Thirty-seven years later the results continue to affirm that living my life on that basis is overwhelmingly the better of the two. I see no reason to reconsider. Neither would Pascal.

So I face this new year with the same profound joy that has brought me this far. I may or may not be “happy,” because I can’t predict what will “happen.” But I can say with certainty that my joy will carry me through, as it always has. So to each of you,  I wish you a joyful new year. Let’s live it to the bone.



Filed under Uncategorized

A New “Advent-ure”

I am reposting an earlier post from the old friday600 blog that is a good jumping off spot for something I want to discuss today.

First, the original post.

The missing preparation

It has been pointed out to me more than once (let’s just say a lot more than once) that I tend to over-think the Program. I thought about that a lot. But at the risk of confirming what everyone already (rightly) believes, I would like to share something.

It occurred to me pretty early on that there was a definite structure to the Steps, something that may have been unconscious to the writers but jumped right out at me. Here’s a chart that I would like to use as the basis for this post.

Honesty (fact-finding) Open-mindedness (preparation) Willingness (action)
   Step 1 (admitted)    Step 2 (came to believe)    Step 3 (made a decision)
   Step 4,5 (made an inventory, admitted)    Step 6 (became willing)    Step 7 (asked)
   Step 8a (made a list)    Step 8b (became willing)    Step 9 (made amends)


The first nine Steps have a recurring set of actions that line up almost perfectly with the three essentials, Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness. Let me start by explaining each of the columns:

  • Honesty: These are Steps which are all about fact finding, soul searching, reflection, etc. They are inward processes that are necessary in order to move forward at each stage of the Program. In Step One, we “admitted” that we were powerless over alcohol. Or as it is stated elsewhere, “We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics.” This is our first attempt at self-searching. We later extended this in Steps Four and Five to an examination of all our defects with an admission of them to God, ourselves, and another person. Then in the first half of Step Eight, we again took stock of the harm we had done others. In fact, the Big Book says we already had this list, that we had made it in the Fourth Step.
  • Open-mindedness: These Steps are all about changing our way of thinking in light of what we have just discovered. They all describe an inward process of preparation for the action to come. Step Two is about changing our thinking about whether or not AA can actually work for us, if a Higher Power can in fact restore us to sanity. In Step Six, we take the information we have learned about our defects and shortcomings and seriously consider if we are ready to give them up, to be changed in ways we can’t predict. The second half of Step Eight confronts us with the very difficult task of forgiving others who have harmed us and receiving forgiveness for the harms we have done them.
  • Willingness: Finally, we are called to take specific actions. We “make a decision,” we “humbly ask,”we make amends.” These are actions that we are now fully prepared to take, without reservation, knowing that we are doing the will of our Higher Power.

It has been my experience that people get hung up by trying to go from Honesty to Action and neglect the very essential process of preparation that comes between. I believe “Easy Does It” is an admonition to focus on the middle process, the preparation needed to really take the right action. And it is the process that is at once the most beneficial and the least practiced aspect of the program.

Why bring this up now? Today is the First Sunday of Advent, a time of inward preparation as we look forward to the Lord’s coming. It happens again in Lent as we prepare ourselves for the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. Raised in an Evangelical Protestant home, the concept of a liturgical calendar was pretty foreign to me. But it has become a great source of discipline and focus for my disordered spiritual life. And I think it verges on being a universal principle. The Lord Himself went into the desert for forty days in preparation for His earthly ministry. Likewise, John the Baptist preached a gospel of repentance and conversion in preparation for His coming.

Is it possible that part of our problem in fully internalizing the truth of our Christian faith is that we take too little time to prepare the soil? Does the seed of God’s word fall on unprepared ground?

So as we look forward to the joys of Christmas, take these next few weeks to meditate fully on the unimaginable fact of our Creator taking the form of a human infant so that we might one day share in His divinity. And when that joyful night arrives, let our hearts be fully prepared to receive the unspeakable Gift that God is offering us.



Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Recovery