“Thy will, not mine, be done.”

I awoke four times in the middle of the night to pee. 

One o’clock, two o’clock, three.

Woke up the last time at 4:04. “Sorry, go back to sleep.”I said to my wife as she rolled out of bed, heading for the door.

Too early to think with a head so foggy, only five hours of sleep – I still feel groggy. 

Yet after she got up and quietly closed the door, I thought briefly of hitting the floor. Instead, my mind took off. The starting gun had fired. Why does my mind do that, when I’m so very tired?

I made some coffee and began to think, my mind wandered off in self-will- to that dangerous neighborhood, where thoughts usually stink.

I paused, sipped my coffee, and grabbed my phone. Not for Facebook, email, or reading. No. Instead I began to write a few words- in search of a meaning.

Why was I awake at this cold dark hour? Perhaps it was to be still, let go of self-will and ask God for help; to do what I know works best- to turn my day over to my higher power.

Yes, that’s what I believe, because things happen for a reason. Even if I don’t know why, I’m beginning a new season. Christmas is over and the new year draws near. I’m practicing living without any fear. 

It starts by me asking God for courage, guidance, and strength. In a morning prayer where I let go, turn it over and say, “Thy will, not mine be done.” 

Happy New Year all! Now let’s have some fun!

Longing for a white Christmas and a holiday of joy

Christmas is supposed to be a joy and a celebration right? Then why does this time of year have me all knotted up?

I long for the memories of a white Christmas past.  Like the story I shared in my book…

White Christmas

It had snowed like crazy in the middle of the night. The branches of towering Ponderosa Pines that lined their property sagged under the weight of the snow. The five ton granite boulder that sat outside the dining room window, looked like part of a gigantic snowman. A blanket of virgin white snow surrounded the ground and patio outside the cabin. Untouched—it was calling our name. The gifts would have to wait.

My brothers, two cousins and I couldn’t wait to make tracks and have a snowball fight.

After we pelted each other a few times with snowballs, my Grandma Pauline beckoned us inside to breakfast and then to open gifts. We inhaled our bacon and eggs and pancakes and took turns shredding open our gifts. All the boys got Pogo sticks and my cousin Sheila got a bike.

“Let’s make a snowman!” Aunt Bonnie suggested to my mom…

Kelly started to make a snowman, but thought it would be better to chuck a big snowball at Seth—“Snowball fight!” Kelly cried out as he pummeled Seth in the back.

We laughed and giggled chucking snowballs at each other.

My cousins, Michael and Sheila, joined in, while my mom and aunt finished their snowman. They had already made arms with branches and put a carrot in the middle of the head for a nose.

“Hey, want some coal?” my grandpa asked as he handed them two lumps of coal—he had disappeared a few minutes earlier get some from the big sack that sat near the pot belly stove used to heat the upstairs bedroom area.

That was one of the best Christmases ever!

I have been blessed with so much. More than I ever imagined as a teenager. Then why do I feel empty inside, like something is missing?  Perhaps its tough because I miss those who are no longer here to celebrate the holidays and life: my dad, my grandparents, and my brother, Seth. Perhaps it’s residual feelings  I’ve held onto like this story of my early teens that  I shared in Beyond Recovery

Lost Christmas Joy

I have spent many years trying to get past my hurt and anger, primarily toward my father for leaving us. As a kid from a broken family, it was hard to not hold a grudge. Especially when the rent was due, my brothers and I had to wear hand me downs and needed new shoes, and there was barely enough food in the fridge. Early on, there were times when we’d open the cupboards and they were practically bare.

People step up when needed—my dad’s parents always gave my mom five hundred bucks at Christmas so we could get clothes. I took on more responsibility. Her boyfriend helped with more firewood. We made do. We survived. However, winters were difficult for me, especially around Christmas time. What once brought me great joy with food, family, presents, and at least one snowball fight, became a day I dreaded. Most of this was perpetuated by an overwhelming lack of gratitude and focus on what we didn’t have rather than being grateful for what we had. We could only afford a small four-foot tree that we propped up on a coffee table to make it look bigger. To make matters worse, our sole heat source was a wood burning stove upstairs and a toxic kerosene heater downstairs. We had no money for firewood, so my two brothers and I cut bay trees that were so green they hissed when we tried to burn them. Pat, my mom’s new boyfriend, would collect scrap lumber he found in dumpsters for us to use as kindling, and my grandpa let us use the discarded oak parquet tiles from his work. Those would burn hot enough to get the green bay going, but the tar backing and finish made some nasty smoke while the fire was starting.

I’m grateful that our home was not condemned. It had been built as a summer home and had no insulation. There was no bathroom downstairs and the single wire, ungrounded 110 amp electrical almost killed me; I was taking a bath one day, and while standing in a tub full of water, reached over to turn on the electric heater—bad idea.

 Our roof was shot. It leaked like a sieve, and we had no money to get it repaired. Instead, we stapled plastic sheeting to the ceiling to collect the drips, then poked in the low spots and placed buckets underneath to catch the drips in four spots instead of twenty. If my dad were still around, we could have fixed all these problems. But our limited resources stared us in the face anytime we needed repairs, new clothes, or saw how many presents our friends and relatives got at Christmas. How could a mother not feel resentful about the lack of child support? How could us kids not be pissed about a father who was not there to take us to baseball, basketball, or soccer games? I missed my dad. It sucked.

I don’t share this to be a downer. I  share it to let others who may also wrestle with joy and  discontentment around the holidays, know they are not alone. On one hand I want to be cheerful yet on the other,  I wallow in grief over family members, and sometimes feel all alone.

The struggle is real. Talking helps, so does writing it down. I figured if maybe I shared a little of my heart, it may help another realize that they are not alone.

So what do I do to get out of the holiday blues? I try to smile more. I give more. I try not to think so much about myself. I give more hugs. There’s something magical about smiling at someone that lifts their spirits and in turns lifts mine. Hugs do the same thing. Physical contact is known to improve mental  well being and health.

So for the next two weeks I am going to try and smile more and give more hugs.

 

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Oh Tenuous Life, Fly Away Cary, Fly Away.

Today I reconnected with some old friends from my youth. We gathered to pay our respects and say farewell to yet another “valley kid”, Cary Smith, who had been taken far too young.

The more days I walk the face of the earth, I realize how very tenuous life is. I am also reminded of how insidious the disease of drug addiction and alcoholism is. It is truly “…cunning, baffling, powerful.” Though I don’t know the exact circumstances leading to the demise of my childhood friend, I do know how easy it is to fall prey to addiction.

But that’s not what I remember about him. I remember that he always made me laugh and made me feel welcome.

When I was still partying, I recall showing up to a party feeling incredibly uncomfortable. I was shy. Booze helped me overcome that, but so did my friend Cary. With sweaty palms I scanned the room looking for someone I could talk to. There on the deck, Cary stood sipping a beer. “Langwell! What’s up?!” he shouted, waving me over.

“Have a beer,” he said, handing me a kegger cup.

Instantly, after a beer and my friend reaching out to make me feel welcome, my anxiety dissipated.

That was many years ago. I hadn’t seen him in well over 30 years. When I read his obituary two weeks ago, I felt raw.  He, too, was fifty-two. It could’ve been me.

Now, I stood alongside the stables at Dickson Ranch in the crisp fall air, swapping stories and catching up with some friends whom I had not seen in over 35 years. Unlike the parties of 30 + years ago, I felt at ease. I didn’t need to drink.

As I was getting ready to leave, my friend PJ asked if I had a copy of my book that he could buy. As I handed it to him he asked if it was going to make him cry. “Yes.” I said, choking back my own tears.

We hugged and said goodbye.  I drove away with tears in my eyes. Ten minutes later, as I traveled along Nicasio Valley Road, I reflected on the loss of my own brother, and others and thought how grateful I was that I have been forsaken. Just then, I looked up to see a white car speeding toward me at at nearly eighty miles-per-hour on the wrong side of the road. I slowed, breathed, and let out a sigh of relief as the driver safely passed back onto the right side of the road.

What if I hadn’t looked up?  I could’ve been another statistic of yet one more “valley kid” taken “too soon.” But today was not my day.

My thoughts turned immediately to my friend who had passed. He is suffering no longer. I pray he is now at peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Gratitude List

Years ago, in early recovery, when I was in the midst of feeling sorry for myself because something didn’t go exactly as I had planned or because I was having a hard time finding work or a date, I got on this negative track–The “pity pot” as many in recovery refer to it.

It wasn’t just an internal state, I wanted to share my negativity with the world. I wanted a “pity party.”

I wasn’t thinking about drinking, I was just unhappy. I wanted more. But then again, I didn’t know what I wanted. Needless to say, I was a bundle of raw, unbridled emotions, mostly about me; selfishness and self-centeredness is a common condition of many addicts and alcoholics. I was no different, but I thought I was. After all I had six months of sobriety I shouldn’t be feeling like this right?

I felt like I was like being in a deep pit with muddy walls. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get out of that pit of despair. I called my sponsor to whine. He asked me point blank, have you written a “gratitude list”?

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Do you have a roof over your head? A job? Are you sober?”

I nodded and grunted, “Yes.”

He continued, “Then you have a lot to be grateful for. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down all the things you are grateful for. Then go help someone else.”

I did as he suggested and it worked.I got out of my funk.

As I wrote, my attitude began to shift. Instead of thinking about all that I didn’t have, I began to become grateful for all that I did have.

Why am I writing about this? Because the holidays are a time of joy for many, but for some, they are a time of strained nerves.

On the eve of Thanksgiving I desperately want to feel more grateful than I do. Yet I am consumed by negativity. I long for joy; for the company of family over a delicious meal. Instead, I’m consumed by thoughts of all I want to have, be, and do race through my head. So much to do, so little time. Why is there so much chaos in the world around me? I want to retire, but I don’t have enough set aside to____.

My mental pit of negativity could go on and on if I want to keep digging.

Someone once asked rhetorically, “How do you get out of a hole? Stop digging.”

Therefore, I’m going to stop digging and write a gratitude list.

If you’re reading this, I hope you find it helpful.

I’m grateful for…

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Love
  • Sobriety
  • More money than month
  • A fuel efficient car
  • Health
  • Intellect
  • The ability to complete a full sentence
  • The ability to take care of myself
  • Eyes to see
  • Ears to hear
  • Nose to smell
  • Body to feel
  • A wife who loves me
  • Love of my wife, kids, friends and family
  • People who care
  • TP for morning movement
  • Running water
  •  A hot shower on a cold fall day
  • Electricity
  • A home in a quiet, clean neighborhood
  • Education
  • Good bosses
  • Gainful employment
  • Opportunity
  • Faith
  • Compassion
  • Determination
  • Willingness to laugh at myself
  • Warm socks
  • A down comforter
  • Good coffee
  • An I phone to listen to music while I write
  • Generosity
  • Ability to cook
  • Willingness to admit my faults
  • Vulnerability
  • Willingness to learn
  • Insatiable curiosity
  • Ability to read
  • College educated
  • Successful
  • Caring
  • Soul
  • Faith
  • Courage
  • Hope
  • and so, much more…

I feel better already.

In 2013 , I was fortunate enough to visit the actual landing spot of the Pilgims in the town of Plymouth. The featured image is the actual Plymouth rock. Below is a bit of the history and part of why we celebrate thanksgiving.

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Be safe and let your family know you love them.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

How can we be grateful amidst so much hate?

As the winds of change blow through and through, we look around to others and social media for what to do. Caught in the cross-fire of justice and hatred, we each have our own opinions and passion for what we believe to be just and true. When we feel slighted some will rise up and fight. Some may lash out at those whose views stand in direct opposition to our own.

I propose we set our sails into the wind and avoid the craggy shore of the “Alcatraz” of hate and predjudice.

I have been quiet for fear of offending and being subjected to criticism.

I can remain quiet no more.

We all have freedom of speech-freedom of choice.

We do not have to agree.

I am going to share a few opinions that may be in direct opposition to your own.That is a risk I am willing to take. I am not going to discuss political right or wrong  nor where I stand on the spectrum.  I will, however, say my position and perspective, is much the same as the late Martin Luther King Jr.. He fought for justice but was careful to come from a place of love, not hate. He has so many poignant quotes on how to address conflict. Here are a few of my favorites:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend. We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
see more at:
MLK Jr. Quotes
I could write a thousand words and pack it full of quotes of this great man who fought so valiantly for human rights and dignity of the human soul.
His last quote, “What are you doing for others?” to me, is about personal responsibility. It is not about selfish gain nor retribution and justice. It, ultimately, is about being grateful for our own blessings and liberties, and using our resources to help others.
Not everyone wants or needs help. But I propose that everyone wants and needs love and acceptance. We need to be the change we seek. We need to share love.
As we roll into the holiday season, of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I take pause to look back at all I have been blessed with:
Freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom of religion. I am healthy and have more resources than I need– a home, love, a brain, sobriety, faith, and the capacity to forgive. I am blessed with family and friends who love me and  have been able to share their joy as my kids become responsible mature adults; everyone of voting age in our family exercised their right to vote. I am also filled with laughter as my stepson makes goofy snapchats and provides levity to our home to lighten the mood when we occasionally get bogged down in the day-to-day grind of work and responsibility.
I am grateful that I can skim past most of the propaganda and crap circulating on Facebook and other social media. I do my best to sift through the layers of crap, however, I often bristle at how freedom of speech and choice has driven a wedged between friends. I pause when something rubs me the wrong way then feel energized to do something about it. By holding true to my own beliefs of justice and equality, I choose to exercise my freedom of speech and write about it.
My stance is, and likely will always be, what can I do to be part of the solution and not the problem.
My answer is this-love people, where they are even if their view differs from mine.
This is challenging especially since most of my life I have been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, uninformed, arm-chair critic. If I didn’t agree with something someone said or they did something different than what I thought was th “right” way, I would do it, I would speak up; often very loudly and in a condescending way.
I see far too much conflict and spite being slung around on Facebook. People getting worked up about partial truths. It has become increasingly difficult to separate fact from crap. All I want is the truth and justice. Cut the bullshit.
I am not immune to falling into this trap and am guilty of getting worked up over stuff that I have very little information about. Sometimes I will pause and look at something more objectively, but that is a rarity. When I consciously do step back, I can’t help but wonder if there is a powerful force at work instigating division among us all; a force in direct opposition to unity and peace.
Regardless, I get sucked into the fear vortex; worrying about a series of what ifs.
I agree, we need be mindful of being stripped of our liberty and freedom. But I also have a personal responsibility to get the facts straight before getting all worked up over a series future-tripping fears.
Please do not discount what I am saying as being opposed to those who choose to fight for justice. I want justice, but more than that I want the truth.
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” MLK Jr.
What I am saying is that when we are fighting each other as to who is right or wrong, we lose sight of the problem, and in effect, perpetuate it.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” MLK Jr.

 

By coming at the challenge with hate and not love, we will NEVER  find peace.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” MLK Jr.

Do not get me wrong, I am just now beginning this process. It takes a concerted effort to hear “both sides” of any position. It does NOT mean I have to accept to agree with the opinions of others. It just means that I have to be mature enough to listen.
I am blessed beyond belief by a large group of friends who are looking to solutions and getting their voices heard and doing so peacefully.
I also have a group of close friends who I can count on to lift me up when I feel down. I have a wife who lives me unconditionally. I have dreams and goals and  hopes and dreams. Many have already become a reality, like writing and publishing my first book, Beyond Recovery A journey of Grace,Love, and Forgiveness. Beyond Recovery
I am eternally grateful for those who’ve gone before me and those who choose to rise above hatred and yield a sword of love in an effort to maintain and further promote peace.
I have dedicated my life into the service of others and, if in some small way, this piddly blog helps to light a fire under your own ass, then go out there and love someone. I guarantee you will feel better.
Love, Shawn

Today is a day I will remember forever. It’s Release Day for “Beyond Recovery”

Today is a day I will remember forever; 11-11-16. After 2 1/2 years writing, editing, agonizing, fighting off self-doubt and insecurity, and then asking for advice from my author wife, and other key friends, I have finally come to the finish line…Today marks the is the official publish date of my very first book, Beyond Recovery a Journey of Grace, Love and Forgiveness.

The outpouring of support from family and close friends has been tremendous. Many have already pre-ordered their copies-Thank you!

Despite all good intentions,  as the release date approached, I’ve had to distance myself from a sea of inner and public negativity, doubt and insecurity,  as powers of the universe  seemed to throw me curve balls as I neared the completion. Despite theses challenges,  I have  managed to lean on a solid group of friends to help get me back to center. In a nut shell, I found the grace, love and forgiveness that are a common thread in the tapestry of tales and experiences included in Beyond Recovery. I  was, once again, reminded that life is a dress rehearsal and about progress, not perfection.

There is so much in this book. It’s not just a memoir about a recovered alcoholic, its about things I have learned the hard way; life lessons if you will. My hope is that through some of the stories I share, may in some way, offer a modicum of hope for you or someone you love.

Writing a book about my sordid drunken past and my journey through recovery and then sharing it with the world is something that, as my good friend JB, said, “is a little ballsy.”

I agree. But I wouldn’t be here if not for courage. It took courage to be willing to say I had  problem with alcohol in the first place. It took even more courage to ask for help.

One thing I have learned over the years is that the sweetness of life happens when we take a chance on our selves and face our inner demons and move forward anyway.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please leave a review on Amazon.

Today is a day to be grateful, thank you!

Here is where you can get it for now.

Kindle: www.amazon.com/dp/B01N3O30PH

 

 

 

 

 

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BREAKING THE CHAINS THAT BIND US

Thirty years ago I began a journey of healing-one that would forever change the outcome of my life. I made a decision to stop drinking and seek help.

Before any problem can be solved it needs to be identified. At the ripe age of twenty-two I succumbed to the fact that I was powerless over alcohol and drugs; of my own will power I could not control my consumption, no matter how hard I tried. Continue reading