Where does the name Tabor House come from? It alludes to the name of the mountain upon which the transfiguration takes place. But what is the transfiguration? Its from the New Testament ( Mt 17:1-9 ) and refers to an event where Jesus having taken three of His disciples up the mountain suddenly appears as if in a vision above the mountain talking with two characters from the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah. For a Jew Moses symbolizes The Law, for a Christian, Jesus comes to fulfill The Law, for a Jew Elijah symbolizes the prophetic writings, for a Christian, Jesus is the fulfillment of all prophecy. We understand by this NewTestament. account that to be transfigured means to go through a metamorphous, His face became as bright as the sun and his clothes a dazzling array of light. The timing of the transfiguration of Jesus marks the culminating point of his public life, His baptism marking the beginning and His ascension, the end. It is at a point at which His public ministry is acutely heightened, the reason, the purpose of His life is clear. He is about to undergo a sufferance unlike anything that might be imagined and so it is a time of strength, of encouragement and of consolation. The journey up Mount Tabor is a precursor to a later journey up Mount Calvary and then later again up Mount Olivet, three significant moments in time and space where the nature of a humility is at its most profound. The apostles too who are witnesses to this event, though not yet in a position to fully comprehend what is taking place (are we ever really in that position?), will later be strengthened by the event in their own times of trial and difficulties. They are given an opportunity to share something of the promise that comes from discipleship, they are given a preview of the glory, the transfigurement of a heavenly promise. Their faith in this promise is aided by the heavenly vision and by the locution, the voice that speaks “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased…listen to Him” Here we are given a direct hit by The Father, a proclamation of the nature of Jesus and a command to LISTEN TO HIM. The quieter we become the more we will hear. Our faith is nurtured through our senses, especially by what we see and what we hear. Though changed in a sense Jesus is still recognizable, he is not disfigured (yet) but is transfigured. If the former relates to an appearance that has been spoiled or misshapen then the latter can be defined as being glorified, spiritualized, elevated.
Where does the name Tabor House come from?
It alludes to the name of the mountain upon which the transfiguration takes place. But what is the transfiguration? Its from the New Testament ( Mt 17:1-9 ) and refers to an event where Jesus having taken three of His disciples up the mountain suddenly appears as if in a vision above the mountain talking with two characters from the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah. For a Jew Moses symbolizes The Law, for a Christian, Jesus comes to fulfill The Law, for a Jew Elijah symbolizes the prophetic writings, for a Christian, Jesus is the fulfillment of all prophecy.
We understand by this NewTestament. account that to be transfigured means to go through a metamorphous, His face became as bright as the sun and his clothes a dazzling array of light. The timing of the transfiguration of Jesus marks the culminating point of his public life, His baptism marking the beginning and His ascension, the end. It is at a point at which His public ministry is acutely heightened, the reason, the purpose of His life is clear. He is about to undergo a sufferance unlike anything that might be imagined and so it is a time of strength, of encouragement and of consolation. The journey up Mount Tabor is a precursor to a later journey up Mount Calvary and then later again up Mount Olivet, three significant moments in time and space where the nature of a humility is at its most profound. The apostles too who are witnesses to this event, though not yet in a position to fully comprehend what is taking place (are we ever really in that position?), will later be strengthened by the event in their own times of trial and difficulties. They are given an opportunity to share something of the promise that comes from discipleship, they are given a preview of the glory, the transfigurement of a heavenly promise. Their faith in this promise is aided by the heavenly vision and by the locution, the voice that speaks “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased…listen to Him” Here we are given a direct hit by The Father, a proclamation of the nature of Jesus and a command to LISTEN TO HIM. The quieter we become the more we will hear. Our faith is nurtured through our senses, especially by what we see and what we hear.
Though changed in a sense Jesus is still recognizable, he is not disfigured (yet) but is transfigured. If the former relates to an appearance that has been spoiled or misshapen then the latter can be defined as being glorified, spiritualized, elevated.
In reference to this house we too are reminded of a call on, and a purpose for, our lives. Lives previously bent on destruction and selfishness, lives that had become disfigured. Wrecked and ravaged under the weight of addiction we are called to undertake a journey that necessitates metanoia, that necessitates change. It promises us suffering as a means to liberation (pain being a touchstone to spiritual growth), it promises a serenity, a peace, a satisfaction and sense of fulfillment never before dreamed of and certainly not experienced in a bottle or a needle. We move from selfishness and self centeredness to a selflessness that puts our God and our brother first, we move from self will run riot to a place of maximum service to God and our fellows. This is the essence of being a Taborite, this is what it means to live in this house, this is where we get the name from and why we are here. Please pray that the words might leave the page and be enfleshed in all our thoughts words and deeds and that through faith, works, perseverance and His grace, we might experience the fullness of our divine inheritance and enjoy our own transfiguration in and through our own Tabor experience.
PRAYING...... Here is a musical link for you!
Its 2am, May, 2004, and the house is quiet, there is no A/C and the room is warm and muggy. I'm winding down after a long day and a late night with our computer tech, Don...we're finally on-line again, thanks to this faithful friend of Tabor. I'm writing now as it takes me a little time to wind down and the relative silence has reminded me of how noisy it has been around here of late. After a gray, rainy patch I'd usually be chomping at the bit for some sun but it seems that the warm weather over the last few days has brought a barmy atmosphere into the local community. The last few days has seen lots of cop cars flying around, visitors to the local crack house have been plentiful, our string of local prostitutes are more visible (and in more ways than one), than they usually are and our third shooting (in one square mile) over the last 6 months took place yesterday. The image of the black girl hanging from the 3rd story fire escape yesterday after being shot to death by her lesbian ex-lover will stay with me forever, the sight of a prostitute being spat upon continually by one of her 'clients', as she walked up the street at 6:30 this morning prior to business, will stick with me too. The sight and sound of the three guys beating up on one man over the weekend will remain also, what are we to do with this 'stuff'? Where is the dignity that we talk of so freely throughout the website? What are the answers to the many questions that are posed when trying to 'deal' with such living problems. There are many and varied ways to unravel the social and psychological fall out that is being manifest here. There are questions of ethics and morality, of race and politics, there are questions of economics, of genetics, of education and religion, on and on we could go, but how do we deal with this on a personal level? WWJD?
He would probably do much more than I could ever do, He would probably hang around here, because it is for reasons such as the aforementioned that He comes into the world...and this is very much the world, perhaps not your local world but never the less it is the world. More than anything Jesus would love, and so I pray, and I ask you to pray for the ability to respond to His Love, for the ability to love others as He Loves us, for compassion and charity, for perseverance and the courage to be Christ like,in our thoughts, our actions and our deeds. I believe I am called to this as, I believe, you too are called, this Love is our primary vocation. I may not be called to save the crack addicts who are active in their addiction and not wanting help, or the prostitutes and their clients who are not looking for a way out, nor do I pretend to be a social superman with all the answers, or even many of the answers, but I do believe I am called to be a better man/woman. A better husband/wife, a better family member, a worker, a friend, a better sibling or child. I believe I am called to be a better friend, I believe I am called to a higher love, I am called to change, to repent, to convert, to heal and be healed, I believe I am called to grow and to nurture the growth of others, I believe there is an awesome plan that nobody else can fulfill. I believe in You Lord and I believe that You possess ALL the answers to our unsolved mysteries that may not be fully understood until the promise of everlasting life through You has been realized and so I ask for Your help to live these mysteries of life in Your Love today. I ask You to bless this house and all who enter here especially the guys who come here that they may grow in Your love and meet the demands of their own personal calls and experience the fullness of their divine inheritance through a sober life in You.
Reflections On Community.
I believe Thomas Merton once said man cannot live in community if he is unable to live alone and that man cannot live alone if he is unable to live in community. Unfortunately there is no context here though there is a link to follow for more of Merton's writings if you so desire, (click here), but my take on Merton's thought is based upon the context of my life. My life in the Tabor House, life in the friary, life in the hermitage, life in the lay community, life in the university campus, life on the streets and family life...my whole life has been based on communal living! Whether you are single or married, priest or nun, eremite or cenobite, Buddhist or Muslim, black or white, young or old, whether we are philosophically inclined or intellectually bankrupt we are all called to a life of community. We are not called to be solitary beings we are called to be relational and that involves a significant other.
Martin Buber, in his book, 'I Thou' refers to that 'significant other' relationship in terms of loving God, our neighbor and ourselves. Living in community whether it be in a house of men, a church body, a political body, a body of fellow employees, even as members of a gang or a particular club, suggests that we are all innately looking to be loved and to love, and community alone helps satisfy that desire in a way that nothing else can. Communal living by nature forces the envelope. It provides us with challenges, with opportunities, it can force us to love. People we live with, people we are committed to in an intimate way act as a mirror and reflect both our gifts and our gaps. It provides us with an opportunity to commit ourselves to the life of another. To spend freely of our time, our talents, our abilities and our energy in helping another person and in being helped by another when our own resources are low.
Life at Tabor has provided much of the aforementioned communal necessities. I am able to witness as well as take part in the lives of the men I live with, and this privileged position has afforded me much grace indeed and for that I am, more often than not, amazed and filled with gratitude. However, the 'blood sweat and tears' lived out reality is not nearly as 'Hollywood' as a piece of writing on a web site might make it sound. The truth is that I find it hard to get over my selfishness and to commit myself to the needs of others...especially when Id rather do something else, or be somewhere else. Oftentimes the opportunity to love seems to rear its head at inopportune moments. Moments that appear most inappropriate and in ways that are not too comfortable. Whether it be early in the morning when you are trying to pray or to read or to be quiet or simply to be left alone, whether it be right in the middle of something, whether it be in the shape of a leaky roof, or a sewage pipe break, or in the shape of another broken or lost item of necessity, whether it be in the face of another's defiance or laziness. It might be in the face of misunderstanding or confusion, it might be in the face of personal frustration, on and on you could go with reasons behind the belief that communal living is hard, it is not Hollywood, but, for the times when you are able, by Gods grace to pull it off it is awesome. The fruits are phenomenal and the rewards are unbelievably satisfying. If communal living acts as a mirror for our gifts and our gaps then we must be thankful for the agents that are used to reflect the truth of who we are and help us to both share the wealth as well as iron out the creases. Communal living might be difficult because we are indeed by nature a selfish people but the growth that comes from these types of committed relationships truly brings about a change that we are absolutely in need of.
Over the course of my time in this house and throughout the course of other writings on this site I have alluded to the many ways God has used people to turn me around, to bring about my own necessary conversion. I can relate to you the chats I have had with the men. I can tell you of their internal and external struggles. I can tell you of their perseverance, their trips to the prayer room, their coming from and going to meetings, their journeys into church groups, their struggles with money, with women, with politics, with employment, with family-life, with their past, their present and their futures and of their spiritual, mental and physical battles. it can be exhausting, draining, frustrating but it can also be hilariously funny, inspiring, moving and life-giving. This is the reality of trying to live in recovery. Alcohol is merely a symptom of our 'ism'.
Living with alcoholics and alcoholism can provide moments of tragedy as well as moments of comedy. These may seem strange bed-partners but they almost appear inevitably linked in the process of conversion. on the one hand we are so self important and on the other hand we are so lacking in self importance. The ways in which we view ourselves are at times to be both pitied and laughed at. Many of the men here (and, in my opinion throughout the world) can grasp the importance of loving God and then grow into the idea that is also important to love our fellow man, but soooo many of us struggle so much to love ourselves. We need a yardstick, an accurate framework, a reference point by which we might not be too soft or too hard on ourselves, that reference point is community, communing with God and with others. By nature of our very existence we have a place in space and time therefore we must recognize that we are a part of and are connected to the whole of creation, to those that have gone before us and to those that will follow. We are called to be a member of, and to make a difference in, the world in which we live and the world to come. We are indeed relational beings. We are indeed called to live with and to love God and our fellow man and by doing so we are provided with the necessary means by which we might truly recognize who we are, who we have been, and who we are called to be...and this is the greatest fruit of love.
Communal living means responsibility, commitment, spirituality, courage, perseverance, accountability, patience, wisdom, understanding, forgiveness, humility, obedience, chastity, charity, to deny the fact that we have the ability/ies to live in community is to deny the very nature of our existence and to block the fruits that come from the aforementioned, those being dignity, integrity, contentment, peace, joy, satisfaction, fulfillment and love. Ultimately love is the key!
While I have not yet found that perfect community with which to belong (for I am not yet perfect), it is not so important, for I believe and I pray that a time will come when the perfect God will take care of business on that issue. Until that day I will strive to follow His example and try to do the best I can using the many tools that are offered, for He surely must be the source of all my other communal relationships and the ultimate goal of every relationship I can ever have. Let us pray for one another that we might remain faithful in our efforts to love today and every day.
There is a fragility or vulnerability that comes to men and women who suffer from addictive or excessive tendencies. I often say to the guys that sobriety needs to be more acutely defined. A relapse does not necessarily mean a guy has picked up a drink or a drug for there are so many other things we can pick up in order to escape the 'pain' of our reality. Over and over again we are called to live responsible lives and over and over again we appear to seek out easier and softer ways by which to escape our response and fulfill our need to be gratified. We can get lost in the alcohol or drug part of our ism easily enough but there are plenty of other symptoms that can much more subtly destroy us. Gambling, money, power and sex are simply a few of the thrill seeking, adrenalin pushing, ego-inflating approaches that are regularly exercised within the stages of so-called recovery from alcoholism. Physical sobriety therefore is only a beginning. Somewhere along the road we have been given a conscience and in accepting this fact we are called to make fresh judgments on our behavior, we are called to use our senses, our rational, our faith, (physical, mental and spiritual) so as to embrace a new way of life that involves a moral conversion. Oftentimes desirability and capability are on two opposite ends of the spectrum, we need them both in order to secure some life changes. The first is not too difficult to come by but the second can take hard work, (or, as step 6 readers might note, "a persistent and determined effort").
On the third step in the 12x12 we are told that "the love of God and of man we knew not at all" but that there is a change alluded to later on in the 6th and 7th steps of the same book, where we are told that a new outlook with regards this aforementioned two-fold love has begun, and that this change comes about as a result of practicing the principles of a spiritual program and particularly from surrendering our lives to the care of God (as we understand Him).
What are the practicalities of change? How can we be rid of character defects? What must we do and what must we stop doing? The how's and whys of it are not to be concentrated on here because of the varying specifics of each individual and his or her own relationship with a Higher Power but there are some solid absolutes that have been tried and tested throughout the ages and these might be good yardsticks by which to nurture, maintain and measure our physical, mental and spiritual growth. What we want to do in this article is to concentrate on one specific area and look at practical ways to stem the tide, heal the gap and change our way of thinking and acting.
I was told in early sobriety that if you take a drunken horse thief and lose the booze you are still left with a horse thief. Once we lose the alcohol part of our alcoholism we are forced to face the areas of our lives that are not conducive to our aspirations of betterment in all other areas of our lives. One such area that seems more difficult to overcome than any other is sex and sexuality. We are told that alcohol is not the problem for the alcoholic, drugs are not the problem for the drug addict and so on, but that the problem lies in self, "selfishness and self-centeredness were the root of our troubles". If this is true can it be applied to other relationships, intimate relationships, sexual relationships, did we love her/him or was it lust? A man recently told me he did not know whether or not the sexual intimacy between he and his wife was love or porn? A good friend of some years with a one-time holy zeal has found himself depressed and overcome by an insatiable desire for pornography, he doesn't know where to turn or how to stop, he feels like this addiction is killing all the otherwise good areas of his life. Another man having problems with his marriage described his ideal partner as just that a partner, a friend and companion but described the reality of seeing his wife as " little more than a whore" for him. Does that sting you?, it should! But unfortunately that mentality is prevalent throughout our society today.
We can blame television, the media, advertising etc, we can blame the music industry, liberal politics, legalistic religion, we can always find blame with the world in which we live until we start taking responsibility for our free will, for the decisions we make and the choices we take. Once we begin to do that, to align our thinking with our aspirations for good we are on the road to happy destiny, we need to order our nature, we need to stem the tide of perverting our instincts and desires by doing the right thing and by not doing the wrong thing. We need to grow up, to mature and realize it is not about feelings anymore, whatever makes you feel good doesn't work for the alcoholic or drug addict, we've been down that road and it got us in a lot of trouble. What kind of relationship do I want with another? Is it about selflessly loving another or about self gratification? What is the point of sex anyway? Do you realize how many of us have problems with masturbation, with infidelity, with porn addictions, whom are we looking to satisfy? We do it because we want to belong, we want to look cool, we don't want to be alone, we want the thrill, the fantasy, we don't want the reality! We do it because our self esteem is low, we lack confidence, we feel hurt, we have been abused, we have no role models, no teachers. We do it because we hate ourselves or at least don't care about ourselves, we need money, we need excitement, we need to feel loved to feel connected. Every day I watch the guys pull up and leave with the local prostitutes, do the local police see what I and everybody who lives here sees? What about their mothers their brothers, what about the kids??? Why are we doing it? We do it for many different reasons but primarily because the love of God and fellow man we really do not know at all.
Nobody views sex as a gift anymore, if it is a gift who is the giver? In my opinion sex is the most perfect expression of human love and therefore should remain within the secure and intimate confines of a sacramental marriage, so awesome is this gift. Love requires order, patience, tolerance, maturity, understanding, commitment and selflessness whereas lust demands satisfaction, immediacy, irresponsibility and selfishness. Chastity is the key ingredient to distinguish between the two definitions and as we can see from the link chastity derives from an attempt to live a virtuous life, which we as recovering alcoholics are allegedly to trying to do anyway, right? To live a chaste life means to have the type of loving relationships that include respect, patience, understanding etc. To live this way means there are individual do's and don'ts. We must work them out, there are some obvious areas we might want to avoid and other more subtle areas that need to be worked out, (we don't watch porn but we also have to be careful about R-rated movies, or even commercials on the T.V.). There are things we can do, places we can go, books we can read. If we really desire the ability to remain faithful to such a life we will need to discipline ourselves. The old adage, "you are what you eat" holds true if we are to maintain a poor diet we will remain unhealthy but if we change the diet it might take some time to reap the rewards, to see the affects, but they will indeed be worth it ask Subway Gerard! With alcoholism and other addictions we are told the illness is threefold, physical, mental and spiritual, therefore we can accept that we are at best stunted in these areas of growth, we are immature, we need to grow up! If this is true of the illness so too is it of the recovery. Sex addictions will kill us in a threefold way and so we must apply spiritual, physical and mental principles if we are to embrace chastity and selflessness and turn away from selfishness and self-centeredness.
Hopefully this reflection might at least give you some pause for thought, if you are struggling or require further reading I have posted some good sites for further study at the top of the page, (there are many more). The main purpose for the recovering alcoholic is to stay sober and to help the still sick and suffering, let us pray for a release from the obsession from all those areas of our lives that deprive us of a truly holistic recovery and strive for betterment in all our affairs. The desire to become a better man/woman means just that, we must strive in every area of our lives to turn this desire into capability. Failure to do so means little more than physical sobriety, non qualitative sobriety....frankly I'd rather be drinking!!!
Dignity Once Lost, (Now Found)
As we have alluded to on countless occasions throughout the site but without much in the way of any substantiated claim, we believe there is something of an innate dignity in man that is lost due to the (selfish) nature of addictive tendencies and actions. There is reason to support such a claim in the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous as well as in many other helpful resources that pertain to the broken nature of the human condition on all levels (physical, mental and spiritual). We have provided you with a number of these good resources at the bottom of the page which can be used for further study, but for our purposes this little reflection is meant simply to pique your interest and to arouse such questions as “Who am I and who am I supposed to be?"' "What went wrong?", "Why am I not happy?", "What's wrong with me?”. The process of understanding a loss of dignity is inextricably linked to a greater understanding of identities, (mine, yours and Gods), and to an understanding of the necessary relationship that links those identities.
What is dignity, where does it come from and what does it mean? Lets see what brother Webster can tell us:
Obviously our dictionary brother seems to connect the idea of human dignity to a sense of elevation, of grandeur, of truth, but I like the connection to worth, (again see dictionary link) for in reference to alcoholism, self-worth is often warped at best, self esteem, self knowledge and self respect can be bent out of shape too. Therefore the restoration of dignity implies a need to re-evaluate. In the program of A. A.. (link), we are given the opportunity to take a closer look at ourselves, to take inventory, to rediscover the truth about ourselves, our fellow man and our God, to accept the reality and not chase the illusion. We, as recovering alcoholics and addicts are invited to, ‘Thine own selves be true’, we are invited to follow suggestions and to be open to a new understanding of worthiness…how does this happen? What is truth? What is worth? Boy, has relativism really killed off our abilities to be responsible! We need to find a way to answer these questions.
The beauty of the program affords us an individual, a personal, understanding of a Higher Power, therefore questions of truth and worth can be answered by spiritual, religious, moral, ethical and even philosophical means, to name but a few, and generally, not by personal relativism or a desire to simply be like someone else. It is so important that we find a way to be ourselves, to take responsibility for ourselves. If our best thinking got us here then now we should have no problem re-examining what I think I should do, and instead ask our sponsors, spiritual directors, our network of friends for their input. We should PRAY PRAY PRAY, we should read the literature, we should make decisions carefully, prudently, we should base these decisions on reason as well as on feeling (so many of us have based so many of our decisions on feelings alone) that’s where you come in….reason, decide, choose carefully! The yardstick with which you are able to measure worth, truth and love will affect the quality of sobriety you achieve, it will also affect the amount of response that is asked of you. If you believe it important to expect respect then it is equally important for you to respect others, if you desire peace it is fair to assume that you should live a peace-filled life…right? If you desire to grow spiritually you should expect to put in some spiritual work, to pray, to read to meditate, to listen. Putting faith in something generally requires action so be prepared for some changes. If there has been a loss of self-worth, then the restoration or renewal of such a thing requires persistent effort, read the chapters on steps 6 and 7 from the12x12.
If we have lost our dignity it is because we have been self-centered, self-absorbed, self-will run riot, if we are to reclaim that dignity, that worth, that esteem, then we should be persistent in our efforts towards selflessness, towards service. The Big Book tells us that the real purpose of our recovery is to be of maximum service to God and to our fellows, I believe that herein lies the secret towards rediscovering an innate dignity once lost through addiction. It is my own personal belief that herein lies the reason behind Alcoholics Anonymous, behind the Tabor House, behind The Church. Our reason for being is to love and to be loved. Love is a selfless act of the will, if we can find a way to manifest this in our daily lives we will have done much to promote sobriety in its most complete definition, we will have gone far in reclaiming the dignity once lost to addiction, and we will have done much in restoring the fundamental principle of our human condition. Let us look to the One who is the source of all and through Him, with Him and in Him, remain faithful to our own personal call. This is holiness, this is sobriety, this is the reason for our being, this is the way of dignity.
Also of interest:
THE QUESTION OF HUMAN DIGNITY by Fr. Thomas Williams, L.C.
THE PEOPLE OF GOD AND ALCOHOLISM by Rev. Terry Richey
Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life) by Pope John Paul 2
On The Dignity Of Women by Pope John Paul 2
A. A. does not simply stand for Alcoholics Anonymous but also for altered attitudes. The word attitude as defined by brother Webster (click here), refers to a posture, or a leaning towards a certain thing, person, principle or place. When we first come into the rooms we are filled with weird attitudes, with selfish attitudes, with bad attitudes and little or no gratitude, what did we have to be thankful for??? We’d messed up our lives, we’d hurt the lives of others, we’d fallen on hard times, lost cash or jobs or homes or simply lost any form of respect, whether for others, for ourselves or for God. By the time we find the rooms we are pretty beaten up all round. If we come to A. A. because we are truly desperate to grow (up), to get better, to begin to recover and to really learn how to live without a drink or a drug, if we come to find a new posture, then we have a chance to be reformed, physically, mentally and spiritually. We have a chance to reshape our attitudes.
rooms we are filled with weird attitudes, with selfish attitudes, with bad attitudes and little or no gratitude, what did we have to be thankful for??? We’d messed up our lives, we’d hurt the lives of others, we’d fallen on hard times, lost cash or jobs or homes or simply lost any form of respect, whether for others, for ourselves or for God. By the time we find the rooms we are pretty beaten up all round. If we come to A. A. because we are truly desperate to grow (up), to get better, to begin to recover and to really learn how to live without a drink or a drug, if we come to find a new posture, then we have a chance to be reformed, physically, mentally and spiritually. We have a chance to reshape our attitudes.
no gratitude, what did we have to be thankful for??? We’d messed up our lives, we’d hurt the lives of others, we’d fallen on hard times, lost cash or jobs or homes or simply lost any form of respect, whether for others, for ourselves or for God. By the time we find the rooms we are pretty beaten up all round. If we come to A. A. because we are truly desperate to grow (up), to get better, to begin to recover and to really learn how to live without a drink or a drug, if we come to find a new posture, then we have a chance to be reformed, physically, mentally and spiritually. We have a chance to reshape our attitudes.
Turning to an attitude of gratitude takes hard work and discipline, patience and perseverance. It takes humility and courage, wisdom and strength. We often need good friends and support, good mentors, good books, good tapes, meetings, sponsors etc… We might need ‘outside’ help, medication, therapy, counseling. Learning to live in a state of thanksgiving (developing the attitude of gratitude) is indeed a tall order for many of us, for once we have gleaned all the vital information we need, we then need to do stuff on our own. It’s like going to school, performing well in school and then not doing our homework when we get out of school, we may well flunk classes or drop out. My mother would tell you the words “spasmodic effort” were referred to in my earliest school reports, “Gerard does JUST enough”…never more than, and later, often less than. Remember our spiritual growth takes persistent effort, that means hard work.
We need God, we need our neighbor (friends, sponsors, church folks, support groups, positive influences) but we also need to learn how to be by ourselves and therefore to learn how to be alone. In the silence of our minds and hearts we can cultivate this new direction, this new posture, this new attitude that we have gleaned from the influences mentioned above. We can follow the guidelines we have learned from the company of others, from the books we have read, the tapes we have listened to, the meetings we have gone to etc etc…Once back in our homes, in our rooms, we manage our time carefully and direct our energies in the same way. We enter into a state of prayerful reflection, we invite God into the silence, we let Him guide us, reveal to us, strengthen us, direct us, we let Him become the measuring stick for how we should alter our attitudes, shape our ideals, ethics and morals. We then prepare to put them into practice in the things we say and do and think, in the places we visit and with the people we meet.
Do you remember the movie My Fair lady ?…the rain in Spain…falls mainly on the plain, well, as I write it’s coming down pretty hard here right now!!! Mid-Summertime in Trenton has been pretty wet these last few years, it reminds me of Manchester (UK). Alcoholics are amazing people the harder the rain falls the more I here comments like, its all good, or I hear people talking about the sun shining on the inside, the farmers must be happy, good for the plants. I asked Vinnie what he thinks of the rain he tells me “it works for me…as long as I have no place far to walk”…don’t you just love ‘em? These are altered attitudes. Putting a positive spin on things, looking for the good despite the seemingly bad, re-focusing on things we can be happy about, hopeful about. If we can do this with the weather then we can try the same principles when it comes to relationships. People might be more unpredictable than the weather, we might oftentimes find ourselves blaming them for this rainy day feeling, but if we could only stop for a minute and look a little bit harder at the possibilities, take a second opinion or find a way to simply accept the rain then we can go forward in peace and in love. We can go on in the direction we were meant to travel and not get waylaid or diverted by the distractions of the day as they enter our lives, (people, places, things). This is a new way for many of us. Attitude adjustment means change and change means work, discipline, effort and all the other things that self-centered and selfish people love to do. If we take as much effort in bringing about the necessary posture we need to receive the grace of God as we took to maintain the devastating behaviors of the past, we will certainly change much...and change we must !!! My own experience has led me to believe that once we enter into the realm of the Spirit, thepromises (pg 83), as they have been laid out for us in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous certainly do come true.
Well, here we go again, it has been a while since I last wrote, (check the archives) warning all of the problems that can be associated with the oncoming summer. Since that time much has happened. There have been those that have gone out, picked up, jumped off the wagon, jumped back on it, some have disappeared, perhaps never to return, while others are no longer alive and have family members and friends questioning the nature of our existence. Even as I write I receive a call asking me to pray for the soul of Pat M, a 30 yr old who died of an overdose last night. It has indeed been an event-filled summer.
I’m not saying that summer is the reason in itself behind the alcoholic/addicts’ slip. If that were true we would be looking at seasonal adjustment disorders as the problem and not the ‘ism’. We are reminded constantly that alcohol, and for that matter drugs, women, men, money or any other created thing, (people, places and things), is not the problem…we are the problem. We might better belong to ‘me’aholics anonymous. The 'ism' might better be referred to as original sinism. For the alcoholic or addict, the drink or drug or gamble or porn etc are only symptoms of their decease. I’m sure if you look at your own life, whether you belong to a 12 step program or not, you can find chinks in your armor that might easily enough point to the possibility that we really do have clay feet.
I believe the answer behind why and how and when and where we slip lies in the old adage that, “pride comes before a fall”, we are a stiff-necked people. The experience strength and hope of those recovering in the rooms of 12 step programs all seem to concur. The many 5th step ‘confessions’ that have been heard, constantly point to pride as a root cause for the manifestation of the alcoholic/addicts’ lived out addictive or sinful tendencies. The individual 10th stepping that has been done in the privacy of a mans heart and home have all pointed to ego, to fear, to power, control or lack thereof as the reasons behind why we do what we do. Pride seems to be the root from which all other forms of malefaiscence spread. Selfishness and self-centeredness is the root of our troubles. We had become (and can become again) self-will run riot!!!
Talking with Tommy a 23 old man, at 7am on a Monday morning in mid-September, he tells me, the reason behind his slip earlier in the summer was based upon a lack of purpose. That slip resulted in a stroke and his reason for returning to a program of recovery is now based upon a fear of dying. This is a good start as it implies there is something worth living for. Fear of death will not keep us sober, we must explore further the reasons why we want to live, then investigate and embrace our reason for being. Tommy is one of the ‘lucky’ ones, there are many who don’t make it back at all, alcoholism and addiction are killer illnesses.
There are those too who have not gone out over the course of the summer, those who have had remarkably enjoyable summers, and those who have not and yet still they remain…clean and sober, alive and with a chance to better their lives one day at a time. For them the summer is over and now the fall is upon us, a time of holidays, a time of change. At the time of writing, I realize I have been through 16 cycles of seasonal change as a recovering addict and alcoholic, I have become aware of the alkie calendar and it is apparent to me that there is no greater way to live than one day at a time. Alcoholism and addiction can be relieved under any circumstances within the framework of this lifestyle. We need not worry about holidays, about seasonal changes, about financial or domestic struggles. We need not concern ourselves with yesterday or tomorrow, we need only to concentrate on the things of today and with the tools of this spiritual program we are able to live sober lives under any conditions. We are free to choose how we might live our lives this day. We are free to manifest these choices into actions that better our fathering/mothering/brothering and sistering. We are free to grow in love for God and for our fellow man, (and love for ourselves). There is a road ahead for each one of us and it is made up of many days, many moments. Let us embrace them all with sober optimism and ask The Lord to help us cherish each and every moment, for this must be a grace-filled time.
Last year we talked about ch, ch, ch, ch, changes, this year we are talking about fall, as in "call before you fall".
Do you remember last years musings, "from death to life". Sure you do, you read it all the time right ? Same kind of idea, different shtick. This years theme is based on the fact that change is necessary but that not all change might be good. Sure the leaves are changing...again!, so is the weather, the daylight, our health, habits, heating bills etc etc... Some of these changes cannot be helped well others perhaps might be avoided.
It is my personal belief that we might learn something from our natural environment, that the birds take off for a reason, animals go into hibernation, leaves die, grass stops growing, the ground hardens and appears to bear no fruit, its as if everything needs to either take a break or take some time off. Farmers of old, and perhaps still today, would leave a field fallow for a year so as to help it regain nutrients etc.
What has any of this got to do with recovery from addiction I hear you ask? Well lets think about it. We get to a place where we are sick and tired of being sick and tired, or we crawl into a 12 step program resentful that addiction has seriously curtailed our abilities to live well and don't seem to have a solution as to how to live without the drugs or alcohol that so nearly brought about a destruction that affects everybody else as well as ourselves. We become either euphoric at a new found freedom or resentful at the fact that there is no more anesthetic to take away the pain of our immediate responsibilities. At some point we are faced with the reality that something needs to change. In the past we might have changed our environment, our geography, our clothes, our drinks/drugs, our friends, the list could go on and on. We found however that the impact of such changes, if any, were inevitably short lived.
Again I'll speak personally now, and while doing so, feel it worth mentioning that having spent almost 19 years in recovery and around recovering persons, I am convinced that the hardest change for us to make is the spiritual one. Changes that seems to make the difference between a quality of clean and sober living and that of the dry drunk oftentimes are linked with attitudinal adjustments, the desire for virtues. Those of us who begin to desire and foster integrity, dignity, courage, patience, perseverance etc do well, more often than those that do not. Those of us who begin to live with an air of humility rather than pride do well, but those of us who embark upon a dynamic relationship with God seem to do very well...that's my personal lived out experience, that's my understanding of the writings in all of our literature, that's my experience watching, talking and walking with others in recovery, as well as with those who do not struggle with addiction but with life. The Winners seem to be the ones who are open to, and get a grasp on, the need for a God that Loves them.
Statistically we are told that the odds are against us, we are reminded again and again that sobriety is a rare and privileged gift. Since I got clean and sober I have known far more people that have relapsed, disappeared, or died than those who have stayed and grown in ways they never would have dreamed possible. The men and women who have become awesome parents, spouses, effective members of society, responsible family and community members .
From Death to Life
It never fails to surprise me when I re-read the musings from the year before , how often we seem prone to make the same mistakes again and again, and yet we continue to view ourselves as being so unique. Someone once said that there is nothing new under the sun, in this case it would seem so, would it not? On the one hand we can coin popular phrases such as "if nothing changes, nothing changes", and on the other hand we can claim our powerlessness over people, places and things. The paradox lies within the idea that in order to be changed we must surrender our will and our lives over to the care of God, in order to transform we must conform, we must reform. At the present time of writing I could note more than 1/2 a dozen deaths since last year caused by alcoholism and drug addiction (that I have known personally) and many more relapses, hospitalizations, arrests, marriage break-ups etc etc etc...Don't kid yourself addictions wreck lives and ruin societies!
So if the problems associated with addiction do not seem to be changing it should not sound strange that the answer to this three-fold malady has not changed either, the solution referred to in The Big Book is a spiritual one. If we truly wish to be transformed, reformed and conformed we should take a lesson from the season and die, not death in a bad sense but the surrender of our vices, our selfish and self- centered ways, the termination of old behaviors, replacing old vices with budding virtues, this may take a winter to root but we shall have a glorious springtime.
Though by no means the finished article, the Tommy that I referred to in last years reflection has experienced some transformation over the course of the last 12 months. In that time he has moved into this house, (he did not live here when I wrote last year), he has secured himself a position as an apprentice electrician and has begun his schooling again, whilst working for a reputable company, he has been able to travel to China and experienced AA in Hong Kong. Tommy has also been able to retrieve his license and now drives legally (and with insurance) in his own vehicle. These are the beginnings of transformation, for him they have been built upon simple principles, don't drink and go to meetings is important, now he wants to secure himself a future, he wants to work towards mature goals and become an effective member of society, someday husbanding and fathering. He has experienced a new love for his parents and siblings and for the people around him. Not too much more than a year ago, this young man lay in a near death state caused by his addictive tendencies and bad choices, now he is attempting bigger changes than he could have dreamed of, changes that will positively affect his life and the lives of the many people he will meet . Changes that would never have happened and will not happen in the future if drugs or alcohol are re-introduced and selfishness and self-centeredness becomes the rule of thumb once again.
If we are to to be transformed we must learn that our lives are a gift from God and that they all have a purpose. While this may be true and never change, each individual has a unique opportunity to freely respond in his or her own way. It is ultimately our own responsibility to follow a path. The A. A. path is one of selfless, tireless, sacrificial action for the love of God and our fellows, this is the key to personal satisfaction and ultimate fulfillment, this is the sure way to become happy, joyous and free. It is about soooo much more than simply putting down a drink or a drug, it is a complete surrender and takes a persistent effort. Let us pray for one another as we attempt this heroic adventure and encourage one another to persevere in all our holy aspirations, one day at a time. May He bless each one of us with all the gifts we need this Fall (and throughout our live) to be transformed from death to everlasting and abundant life, Amen!
As we enter the month of May and I reflect on the fact that we are almost halfway through another year, I am aghast at how time flies....thats right I used the word aghast! Either I am getting older, having a lot of fun or am simply so busy that I cant keep track of time. The first one probably sounds about right, the second one...well its not boring but I want to write about the last one. When we get clean and sober, we get busy, ironically there are so many more things we can do and can get done now we dont have to spend sooo much time and energy feeding our addictions. The irony lies in the fact that we can just as easily get addicted to being busy, oy ve !
Will it ever end? As a practicing Roman Catholic and a recovering alcoholic I oftentimes refer to The Good Book as well as The Big Book. Both recomend the "One Day At A Time" regiment, and this seems to put our rapidly passing time problem into perspective. "Be Still and know that I am God", now theres a phrase! In the stilness we can recognise the passing of time, the giving of talents and observe the beauty of the moment...no matter what is going on around or even within us. We, in the 12 step world are blessed with a program that works....a One Dat At A Time program. That means new day, new start ! (St Francis said at the end of his life to his sorrowful brothers, "let us begin again for up to now we have done nothing"). Springtime is a great opportunity to begin again, spring means renewal and rebirth. It is a great season to contemplate our daily lives. At Tabor House we want to restore the dignity previously lost to addiction and in order to do that we must re-commit every day to better ourselves, mentally, physically and spiritually. If we succeed in this endeavour we will fly beyond simple abstinence, we will truly begin to enjoy a new quality of life, a new peace that surpasses all understanding, a new freedom in Him who has saved us...a new springtime...thats what its all about.
Easter is a time for profound reflection The promise of resurrection is not new for alcoholics and addicts in recovery, in fact for the still sick and suffering it is the one thing that is hoped for beyond all others. We want to change, we want to get better, we want to be transformed, to start again. As Christians around the world contemplate the Easter mystery, the idea of receiving new life is celebrated thoughout this global community of believers. While Tabor House is not a specifically Christian organization, we hope and pray for all our Taborites, past, present and even future, to experience the new life that is being offered. It is our prayer that Tabor can continue to promote a holistic and wholesome recovery from addiction that transforms the individual into an effective witness of The Gospel, an effective member of society.
This Easter we celebrate the stone rolled away from the tomb, we celebrate the new and transformed appearance and we celebrate the commission to go out and pass this message of hope and new life to all who desire and need to receive it! May God Bless You All this Easter and every day of your new lives,
If you have recently visited our facebook page, you will notice the background header claims, "Its All About The Journey". This is taken from a sign that hangs above the stairs into our basement. But this is not symbolic of a "downhill" journey. In Tabor House, the basement holds the dining table, the TV room, the laundry area, the work-out space, the computer, my office and (most importantly), the Prayer Room. Thats a lot of journeying! There is a lot of community action in the basement. Our journeying is not simply figuring out a way to abstain from drink or drugs, it is moreoften about living and loving relationships. We rarely journey alone.
We need companions, (literally translated....bread-sharers).
That being so it is important for men and women in recovery to learn from the Catholic tradition of Lenten disciplines and to follow a new way of life by implementing new measures, new efforts. Simply giving up stuff wont do it, its not a bad thing to do but we often "give up" stuff that we should not have been doing in the first place...we give up stuff that was bad for us to begin with... usually! I am not advocating not giving up stuff thats bad for us, I am saying we should do both, give up stuff thats bad for us and pick up stuff thats good for us! If I dont want to be nice to you....I should overcome my self centredness and be nice. I lose the self part (EGO) and I pick up the selfless (TU) part! Its all about the journey, its all about Love...not self !We are ultimately journeying towards a heavenly reality but that reality is a distant and faint hope if there is no love. Love is The Journey and the Destination. Our Lenten Journey needs to be a concentrated effort, a renewed focus, a renewed Fiat (Yes), and a renewed commitment to Love, God and our fellow man ! This is the only journey worth taking....Nothing else matters! And for this reason, Lent is awesome ! We have a whole season to journey as a community. I pray that you might experience new life in His Love by spreading that same love to the lives you meet,
One Day At A Time, Happy Lent :) gez+