It’s never too late to say, “I love you.”

Those three words have the ability to change someone’s life, or, at least their day.  They are three of the most important words to a child’s ears.

wp-1464277254498Simple loving acts of kindness can also spread joy. Watch how much another lights up when you smile at them. Or when you show genuine interest in another or listen intentionally.

Though all are free, each requires a conscious effort to intentionally take our eyes off of ourselves and put them onto another for a moment, without expecting anything in return.

Yet, often what we get back in terms of joy is invaluable.

 

Two nights ago, while on Vacation in Maui, I stood at the sand shower by the pool hosing off my sandy feet. A small toddler walking with his mother paused for a moment to watch. He was clearly fascinated by what I was doing. I looked at him, then his mom. “It gets the sand off,” I said to the little blond boy, pushing the button and dangling my feet beneath the light spray.

“Wanna try it?” I asked, smiling at him.  He hesitated for a moment then stepped closer. He balanced on one leg and placed his tiny foot under the shower. Beaming, he looked at me for approval. “Good job. Pretty cool eh?”

He beamed and stepped back as I rinsed my other foot. He then moved forward again to do the same.

This was a moment, frozen in time, which I will probably remember for the rest of my life. Will the young lad? Perhaps.

The point is, life is too short to miss opportunities to spread joy; to be loving and kind.

It also made me miss my own son and my dad.

In February of this year I delivered a five-minute talk about my memoir, Beyond Recovery.

My goal wasn’t to convince anyone that they need to get sober. No, my goal was to share that it is OK to let people know you love them and that forgiveness is one of the most powerful ways to do that.

Several close friends and family sat around a long table listening intently as I began reading an excerpt from Beyond Recovery entitled Second Chances. As I scanned the audience, I noticed others leaning in. Some even had tears welling up.

I never really know what will reach someone. Each time I practice telling my story I have to try a few things before I know what works.

I took my seat after answering several good questions then listened to a few other speakers.

When the event was over, the soundman approached me as I began to leave.

He asked if my dad had always said I love you. I paused for a moment, “Yeah, I guess so.”  I replied.

“Why do you ask?”

“Because mine never did,” he said, eyes looking away…

He talked a bit about it. I listened, but didn’t press. I sensed that it was still a sore subject.

He thanked me again for sharing a piece of my story—said it touched him.

“You made my day. Thank you!” I replied, shaking his hand.

We all yearn for two things: Love and Acceptance

Father’s day is this Sunday. Even if your relationship is less than perfect with your father, I encourage you all to let him know you love him. If he is no longer here, perhaps you could write a love letter. Trust me; it will change your world.

If you are a dad, most kids will always love you.  It’s OK to say I love you to them. They need to hear it. If you are a single mother encourage your kids to talk to their dad, if possible.
My hope and prayer and goal by sharing a piece of my heart, that you too will find that which you seek. Sometimes you have to give it before you receive it.

Here’s the excerpt I read.  You can order Beyond Recovery through any local bookstore or on amazon

 

Beyond Recovery A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness

Chapter 25
Second Chances

 

Miracles and Milkshakes

Whether you believe there are no mistakes or not, I do. I have seen things happen so many times that seemed wrong or painful or didn’t make any sense. When I looked within, prayed, or talked it out with another, I learned to walk through whatever it was that was causing me agony inside. I came through. I survived. …

Miracles happen every day. So do tragedies, I wish I could say the story ends here and we all lived happily ever after…that’s only in movies and fairy tales.

In October of 2005 I got a call from my mom …

“Your aunt called and said that your dad is very sick. You should go see him,” she urged. “He’s at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.”

Shit. Here we go again. Another hospital visit. Why me? Why now?

“Okay. I’ll stop by after work.”

My heart pounded as I parked the car.

Is it too late? What if he’s going to die? How am I going to handle this?

Suffocating from the ‘what ifs,’ I said a short prayer.

“God, please grant me the strength and courage to face this situation. To accept it for whatever it is. To come from a place of compassion and let my dad know how much I love him.”

I walked into the hospital and asked the receptionist which room he was in.

She gave me the number and pointed to the room. I walked down the dimly lit hall. It was quiet. The room was dark. My dad lay in a hospital gown. He’d lost forty to fifty pounds since I last saw him three years earlier. Salt and pepper stubble covered his gaunt face. He looked very frail.

Our eyes met. His warm smile melted away all the pain and hurt and anger of the past thirty-five years.

My heart glowed with his beaming smile. He was truly delighted to see me. In that moment he showed me what it was like to let go of the past. In that moment, despite his body giving up, he was radiant.

His smile filled my heart with so much joy. I was so, so glad it wasn’t too late. I really don’t know how I could’ve handled it if I was too late.

“Hi Dad!”

“Shawn,” he chuckled, “you look good!”

“Thanks Dad,” I said, giving him a hug. “So what’s going on?” I asked, trying to be strong.

“Some infection…they don’t know.”

“Wow. You’ve lost a lot of weight,” I remarked, feeling a little uneasy and very concerned about his health. His smile didn’t match his body. But he was at peace—I could see it in his warm brown eyes. He’s letting go, I thought.

The stubble on his face reminded me of all the times he’d given me a hug and a kiss goodnight as a kid. I felt safe. I looked up to my dad so much as a young child. I could brag that my dad was a fireman! When he left us, all that changed. The love I felt was replaced by anger and hurt. He had abandoned me and my two brothers, and I let it imprison me. I drank over it so I wouldn’t have to face the feelings. But now, the love we shared for so many years was stronger than ever. It enabled me to push through the layers of resentment, like a seedling reaching for the sunlight in spring.

As I held his hand, I felt all that love come rushing back. Fond childhood memories rushed forward. After baths as a child, he would dry my hair by vigorously rubbing it with a towel. I loved that. Now, as we talked about life and how much I loved him, once again, I asked for his forgiveness for all the anger I had held from the past.

Without thinking about it, I began to rub his head—a comforting gesture he had done for me so many times as a kid.

“Dad, I love you.”

“Ha!” he chuckled. His eyes expressed peace, love and care. “I love you, too, Shawn. I’m sorry we lost Seth.” His voice trailed off a bit. (We hadn’t really talked about the loss of my brother since the time several years earlier. I had made amends with this as part of my recovery.) Still, his words touched a piece of the wound that still existed.

“Please let Kelly know I love him, too,” he continued. “Even though I never got to see you boys much, I thought about you often. You were always with me,” he said, holding his hand close to his heart, smiling. Tears streamed down my face. “I know, Dad. I know. It wasn’t easy, but we all turned out all right.”

“Yeah, I’m proud of you, Shawn.”

I wiped the tears from my face. “Thank you. I love you, Dad. Is there anything you’d like?”

“A milkshake,” he replied quickly with a childlike smile.

“A milkshake?”

“Yeah—chocolate.”

I smiled at the simplicity of the request.

“I’ll get you a milkshake the next time I come back, okay?”

“I’d like that.” We hugged and said our goodbyes.

That was the last time I saw my father. He passed shortly thereafter.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t make it back to get him his chocolate milkshake. I feel a little guilty. I could’ve just gotten it that day. I guess I’ll just have to wait until I see him again. Now, every time I have a milkshake, I think of my father. I imagine us sitting on a park bench watching the ducks, sipping on a milkshake together. Somehow, that helps assuage my guilt. I feel blessed that I got to say goodbye. This experience also serves as a reminder to make peace with those closest to us—to cherish the time that we do have. Our life on this planet is so very brief. Depending on your beliefs, there’s plenty of time for milkshakes in Heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exposed – Local Author Gets Real

Public speaking usually tops the list of things most people fear.

I’ve found that when I do that which I fear most, confidence and joy typically follow.

The first time I had to give a talk in front of a crowd I was in grammar school. I hated it. I was mortified.  Filled with anxiety and worry that I would suck, I stood there with sweaty palms wondering if I would have anything worthwhile to say. Would I stumble over my words, and saying lots if “ums” and “ahs”? That was many years ago. Despite all my fears, I lived through it.

Last Thursday, before delivering my first truly public talk about my memoir, Beyond Recovery: A Journey of Love, Grace and Forgiveness at Many Rivers Books in Sebastopol, I was a nervous wreck.

Shawn Langwell - Many Rivers Book Reading - Sebastopol - 6-1-17

Shawn Langwell – Many Rivers Book Reading – Sebastopol  6-1-17 Photo: Dale Godfrey

As the hour of reckoning drew closer, I psyched myself out wondering if anyone I invited would show. Most did. I was thrilled when the founding pastor of our church arrived. I had prayed all day that he would be there. I smiled and gave him a big hug, and thanked him for coming.

Later, as I began my talk though, I was afraid I’d drop a few cuss words and worried that I might mess up. I also wondered how the mixed crowd would accept or reject me talking openly about my faith, my struggle, and my recovery journey. How would they receive my stories of love, acceptance and forgiveness? Would they even know the inner terror I was feeling?

It didn’t matter, I had chosen to do this. I was committed and went for it.

Was it the best talk I’d ever given? No. Far from it. It did, however, give me that extra little bit of confidence to do things a little different next time. For example: I need to practice a little more, be lighter, and share from more from my heart in the beginning of my talk and not rely so heavily on my notes. I believe this will help me connect more  and build a stronger relationship with my audience.

Perhaps I am being too hard in myself, but the point is, I am walking through uncharted territory which is scary and exciting.

I have found that the greatest growth happens when I stretch my comfort zone and venture out into the unknown.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

-Henry David Thoreau

 

 

 

Want to turn doubt into confidence?

Are you ready to trust yourself, feel safe in following your intuition, get doubt, fear and confusion out of the way, and get to living the dream life you’ve been working toward?

Can you allow yourself to dream right now?

Imagine feeling safe, confident and excited about following your gut instincts. Imagine turning your intuitive feelings into tangible action and watching your dreams turn into reality.

My colleague Darcy has the solution for you!

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Join her Free 5-Day Challenge where she will show you what she has done to turn self doubt into self trust, create results toward that dream life you know is possible by following her intuition so you can do the same in your life.

I know you will get a lot from her.

Here’s the FOCUS!

How to Finally Trust Yourself & Your Intuition so that you can turn your dreams into tangible results now, regardless of what you’ve been through or already tried.

What you’ll get from this Free 5-Day Challenge:

  1. Why now is the perfect time to put fear to the side and take the leap of faith on your dreams
  2. Uncover the skills and abilities you already have that completely qualify you to start trusting yourself first and foremost
  3. Identify what has stood in the way of you really trusting yourself so you can turn doubt into trust and confidence
  4. Define your dream life in tangible ways and begin taking action to live it now
  5. How to develop your intuition and understand the subtle messages your inner voice is sending so you can turn your dreams into tangible results with confidence and joy and discover how others are enjoying the fulfillment that comes with becoming successful—and how you can too!

Join the challenge now

My intention is that this is landing in your inbox at just the right time. Also, as a bonus, when you sign up for this challenge you will automatically be included in a web interview series that I will be featured in! (Details to come in July)

Join the tribe & let’s get you the results you’ve been waiting for.

Join the challenge now

See you there,

Shawn Langwell

Vulnerability takes courage, so does creativity.

Why is it so hard to be ourselves?

Have you ever thought, what if so and so knew that about me, what would they think? What if they knew I was judging them, or didn’t like them?

Letting down our guard is risky. It takes vulnerability. How do we respond when we are in a funk but someone asks us, “How are you?”

“Fine. Doing fantastic. Never Better.” We smile our best smile, hoping they don’t see through our facade.

“How about you?” We may ask, merely out of politeness, really not giving a rip about the other person because deep inside, we’re really not fine. We may be struggling to make ends meet. The car might have just broke down. Or, while rushing to get to work on time, we spilled coffee on our shirt when we slammed on the brakes not seeing the back up in front of us. Then, we do our best not to get more angry, even though we want to scream, ( Sometimes I do – It’s safe in the car with the windows up and the stereo blasting!) as we crawl along the 101, stuck in traffic for an hour and a half  to drive a mere eighteen miles!

To protect ourselves we don masks. Sometimes, they are necessary. After all it’s probably not a good idea to waltz into the office and dump our crappy day on everyone else. Instead, we arrive at the office with a painted Monday morning smile, “We’re fine.”

We pretend to be OK even when we had a lousy day. I get it. If we really aren’t doing fine, we don’t want to bring everyone else down especially if we are having a really shitty day.

Now I am making an assumption that we have all had to put on a happy face from time to time even if we really didn’t want to. But somehow we have to deal with that stuff inside that gnaws at us.

That’s why I am grateful that I have a couple close friends and a community that I can go to when I am walking through some challenges.

My struggles today are gold-plated compared to what they were 30 years ago. Nonetheless, I find it incredibly helpful to talk with others whom I trust to walk through some of the stuff I am going through. Case in point, I am in the midst of putting together my next book  on goal setting. Yet I keep getting stuck. My friend suggested I map it out. How ironic that the book I am writing is about planning and walking through fear, change, and setting goals, and that I have to apply what I am trying to write about BEFORE I can write about it.

So yeah, when I’m going through change and out of my comfort zone, I get cranky. Today is one of those days. It will pass.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Creativity Takes Courage.”

So does vulnerability. For now, I’ll keep on keeping on.

Hope you days are good and filled with joy.

More to come soon.

Shawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the spring tide wash away the past – How to do a 4th step.

(The fourth installment of a series)

As we move further away from the cold and damp of winter, the sun begins to shine, and the air becomes fragrant with the early blossoms of spring. Sparrows, finches, and doves  work diligently to prepare their nests for their new chicks.

Spring is full of all that is vibrant and new.  It is full of life.  A time of Easter and baseball, and, for many, it’s also a time of spring cleaning.

We throw open the rain-stained windows letting fresh air in. Old toys and clothes are hauled away to a local charity. Gardens are planted in anticipation of a bountiful harvest of juicy tomatoes and fresh, home-grown, organic vegetables in late summer.

It’s also tax season. For many businesses this is a time to take stock in what has happened over the previous year and set budgets for the new fiscal year. Some business owners may look at ways to improve their revenue or cut expenses asking: Are we better off this year than last? What do we need to do differently to change, to grow? Where can we improve? What new opportunities are there? Challenges? How about our people? Are we pouring into them, training and equipping them  to benefit all stakeholders?

The nice weather may inspire a fresh start at new year’s resolutions that were quickly kicked to the curb through the last of the winter doldrums. Ones to work out, eat better, or plan summer vacations. Every day we have a fresh start, the key though is to start.

Did you know people spend more time planning a vacation than planning out their goals for the coming years?  It is no secret that many successful people have a healthy perspective of their strengths and weaknesses, and are what many call, “self-aware” and  diligently set and achieve goals. For those with lasting recovery, it is no different. There are steps to follow if one is to achieve lasting sobriety.

In previous blogs, I have written about steps one, two and three.

The First Step: A Journey of a Thousand Miles
The Second Step: Came to Believe
The Third Step: Made a Decision

The steps need to be done in order to the best of your ability, before attempting the next one.

Today, I am going to talk about the 4th step:
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Like spring, the fourth step for those in recovery represents a fresh start – a way to look at the underlying causes and symptoms of our addictions – the things we “drank and used” over.

You might be wondering what a fourth step is – what does it mean and what does it require?

There’s a simple plan to properly complete a fourth step. The entire process is outlined on pages 63-71 of the basic text for AA, 4th step

In summary, to start, one makes a list of their resentments – people, institutions, and principles –  that they are angry about. In addition, it is imperative that the inventory  include sections that outline and list our defects of character, fears and sex conduct.

For those new to the 12 steps or not in recovery this may sound like an easy task right? I mean how hard can it be to make a list of some of the things that piss us off or that we are afraid of? Well, that’s usually the easy part. The more challenging part that many don’t want to address lies deeper – taking an honest look at our character defects, or sin, and our sex conduct along with trying to look at the seeming cause of, and our part in, each situation.

It is easy for the simple things like making a shopping list, or cleaning out our garage, but for the things that cause us pain, shame, or guilt or which evoke some form of emotion, even making a list can be a challenge. Those are often things we don’t want to look at, let alone make a list of to later share with a trusted friend or pastor. We procrastinate and find a hundred other distractions to avoid taking an honest look inside at what the root causes of our inner turmoil.

I was no different than many in early recovery when it came to starting my fourth step. I balked. Why? Because I thought I was alone. That nobody could understand what I was going through. I was ashamed and full of fear and guilt. I was also worried about telling some of my secrets to another, but was reminded by my AA sponsor, that that comes in the fifth step and that I only had to complete an inventory now.

For alcoholics this is a life or death step. As the AA big book says, “Resentment is our number one offender…” Holding onto resentments leads us to drink and, for us, to drink, is to die.

Therefore, for the alcoholic, completion of this step, as well as the eleven others, is critical to not only lasting recovery, but to life.

There is a specific format and instructions on how to do this in the Big Book.  As with all the steps, counsel with a sponsor (someone in AA who has already worked these steps) is highly recommended.

You’ll want to get a notebook and create four columns. The headings should be as follows:

  • Resentments (broken out into three sections)
    People, Institutions, Principles
  • Fears
  • Character Defects (Flaws)
  • Sex Conduct

Here’s a sample outline:
4th step outline

Be mindful however that the list as discussed above is only part of the solution. The complete solution as outlined in AA, is found by reading through the Big Book and working all 12 steps, with a sponsor, and developing faith and trust with a power greater than ourselves through the fellowship of AA.

The solution is spiritual.

I know I cannot get sober of my own will power. That I found, was part of the problem that keep me out there so long. I can’t merely work my way into sobriety. Don’t get me wrong, it takes effort. But for the mental transformation to bring about lasting sobriety,  I had to get to a place of surrender as I have already discussed in previous blogs; to admit my problem, come to believe in a power greater than myself, which  I call God, and becoming willing to turn my will and life over to that power greater than myself.

By design, the spiritual solution and concept of a higher power is open-ended to enable alcoholics of any faith background, or none, to get sober if they want to.

As Maxine, an old-timer, used to say at virtually every meeting, “if the word God frightens you, a bottle of booze will scare you right back.”  She also would make it clear, that, “if you don’t do your 4th, you’ll drink a fifth! ”

Those words saved my life on several occasions. Usually when I was stuck in feeling sorry for myself agonizing over a new resentment that had surfaced. I knew I had work the step and pray to have it removed. I did the work, and left the results up to God. It worked.

The good news is for the fourth step we need only make the list and take a look at our thoughts, attitudes and actions and be willing to change. Faith is what relieves us alcoholics from the deadly grip of the spiritual maladies we’ve outlined in our fourth step; we see what the problem is, admit it, become willing to give it to God, and move on to the next step.

Don’t quit before the miracle. The miracle of recovery happens in the next step.

Know this, you’re not alone. Chances are high that we have a few things in common.

If you’d like to learn more about my own personal recovery journey, of pick up a copy of my book.

Thanks for stopping by.

God bless,

Shawn

One step at a time…

Two weeks ago I took I took a much needed day off to recharge. I had pushed myself to exceed my sales goals at work over the past several weeks and was rapidly reaching a point of burnout.

My idea to unwind was  to take a 10-12 mile hike to Alamere Falls along the Palomarin Trail of the picturesque Point Reyes Seashore in West Marin.

Ironically, I had been talking about making this hike for a long time, but never made it a priority to actually do it. I looked at pictures, maps, and blogs to plan my trip, but always found a reason why now was not a good time. Then the rains came. Which meant even more water to feed the falls. But the trail would be too muddy to hike, I rationalized, while sitting at home wishing I could do it.

One night I saw a picture on Facebook of my friend standing in front of the falls with the most joyful smile.

I have to do this soon, I thought, but never set a date. Another few weeks passed, followed by even more rain. Then, one evening, I saw a picture of that same friend standing atop the Andes in Ecuador. He looked at peace-happy. He had made a monumental climb. One that undoubtedly required, planning, conditioning, and time to acclimate to the altitude, but he didn’t give up, he had persisted.

When I saw that, I became even more motivated to make time to hike to the falls.  I finally reached the point where I wanted it bad enough-it looked just too beautiful to not experience first hand. I picked a date and committed to making it happen. Sure, there was a bit of envy and jealousy associated with seeing my friend’s glorious outdoor excursions, but I had to do this for me.

Several more storms pounded the Northbay over the weekend prior to my planned date.  I worried that I may have to change my plans. Fortunately there was only a 30% chance of rain on the Monday I’d be making the trek.

The morning came, I packed some rain gear, a delicious salami, prosciutto, and mozzarella sandwich,  Jalapeno Kettle chips, and a bottle of sparkling water and set out for Bolinas.

As I glanced at the trail map it looked a little daunting- 14 miles to the falls it said- it would take an average of four to five hours. I paused and told myself, you can do this, and stepped onto the trail.

A couple miles in my legs started to get sore. I had not hiked for more than 10 miles before and second guessed whether I was in shape enough to do this. Before long, though, I could see the Pacific ocean. It was a spectacular view and motivated me to press on.

Just past Bass Lake the trail wound through some woods. I stopped, looked up and heard nothing except the trees whispering and a few birds chirping. I held my hands to the sky and thanked God for the silence. Chills overcame me. This is what my soul craved, I said to myself.IMG_1120

Feeling recharged I continued on, winding my way out of the woods, along a narrow path, to an incredible overlook.

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The air was fresh and alive with the early signs of spring. Step by step I kept going. Much of the trail skirted the coast. I paused occasionally to drink in all its natural beauty.

Soon, I found a perfect spot to have lunch.

Eventually, I made it to Wildcat Camp, used the facilities, then backtracked along the beach. As I walked along the gravely shore, I noticed the tide coming in. For a moment, I wondered if I would  be stuck, but I could see the falls in the distance… Keep on…don’t quit before you finish, I thought.

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As I made the final steps to the falls I was overcome with elation. I felt the coarse sand  between my toes as I sat in stillness, allowing the calm cascade of the falls to sweep away any stress I had felt over the previous weeks and months. A seal bobbed its head and looked briefly toward the shore before swimming on in search of a tasty snack.

I love goals. I have always found them to be an exciting challenge. This one may not seem like a big deal for some, but for me it was. I was not nearly in as good of shape as I thought, but I made it.

Here’s to many more  waterfalls, waves, and sunsets. To open grassy fields and fresh, clean air. To letting go and letting down your hair. To leaving the stress behind, without a care. Here’s to dreamers everywhere. May you set your sights on high and take the first step to your dreams and goals, and listen to the silence with a sigh.

May we all remember to take the time to stop and hear the roar of the falls or the crashing waves in our ever increasingly busy lives.

Love ,

Shawn

Made a decision…

Everyday we make hundreds of decisions – choices. In fact, according to various sources on the internet we make an average of 35,000 decisions EVERY Day; over 276 involve food. Not all require a grand analysis. Many are routine like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. These simple choices have become so automatic they require little, if any thought, for most. Others, like deciding which is the fastest way to get to work, or where you would like to take your next vacation, require some analysis, planning, and weighing of pros and cons.

When it comes to recovery, the road map for many recovering alcoholics and drug addicts is laid out in the first 164 pages of the AA big book. There are 12 steps to follow.

Like many important decisions it wise to seek counsel and/or feed back from someone with experience regarding the choices and actions that need to be made. In AA that counselor is called a sponsor. A sponsor in AA is someone to  guide your through the 12- step program of recovery. Yet even with resources and support at our side, many stubbornly declare, “I can do it on my own.” My response is, yeah you could, we have have the freedom of choice, but the odds are slim to nil that you will stay sober if you don’t seek help, not only from a sponsor, but also from a higher power.

As it says in the preamble of the Big book, Chapter 5 “How it Works”:

“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of be­ing honest with themselves…”
In recovery, being honest can be the difference between life or death. Can I be blunt? If you want to get sober, follow and work the steps,preferably with a sponsor. Don’t bullshit yourself thinking you can do it alone. Half measures  will avail you nothing.

In my previous two blogs of this series, I discussed steps one and two:

1-Admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.

2-Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Now, I address step three:

3-Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

What does this mean “a God of my understanding?” It means a power greater than yourself. Something that is not a derivative of your self will.

Why not be more specific? Because the founders of AA wanted to be as all encompassing as they possibly could with respect to varied religious and spiritual leanings. One thing they found to be true was that lasting sobriety required reliance upon a “power grater than ourselves.” In the Big Book they devoted several chapters to  a deeper explanation of this topic.

How does one do this in AA? That is, how do you make a decision to turn your will and life over to something can’t see? That is a fair question and one I struggled with in early recovery.

In my memoir, Beyond Recovery: A Journey of Grace , Love and Forgiveness
I talk about the fear I had at my first meeting. During the reading of the steps I heard the word God and it scared me. I didn’t really have any frame of reference or reason to fear it, yet my own conception of what I thought it meant was enough to scare me away and back to the bottle.

Eventually I found my way home, back to the rooms that eventually became an integral part of saving my life.

It’s funny but it’s also sad how much we fear things we really don’t fully understand. In the early days of recovery there was an old-timer named Maxine who used to say for the benefit of the newcomers in the room, “If the word God frightens you, a bottle of booze will frighten you right back.” In the first 120 days of recovery those words saved me on more than one occasion.

Even though I was doing everything that was suggested: I went to ninety meetings in ninety days (as an over achiever full of fear, I actually went to 180.), I had a sponsor, I read the Big Book, had commitments at meetings and, most importantly, I was not drinking between meetings, even though I still thought about alcohol all the time. i heard others in meetings tell how they were sober; how the obsession  was lifted from them. I was impatient. I wanted to be free from that demon so bad. I longed for the  obsession to be removed from me. There were occasions where I lay on my back at night shouting in my head, sometimes out loud to take it away. I was still operating under self will. My knuckles were white from hanging on so tightly.

Finally the day came when I was ready to do my third step with my sponsor.

The weight of all that I thought I had drank over for so many years; my dad leaving and the multitude of anger and resentment, which I would later discover was just another form of self-centered fear, was weighing me down so heavily I worried if I would make it.

It was a sunny day and my sponsor had suggested we meet on the dusty hillside behind Mt. Carmel church in Mill Valley. I had done the first two steps to the best of my ability but was not confident that I would experience any grand miracle by just becoming willing to believe in this so-called “higher power.” But, honestly, I had no other choice.

Earlier we had read how it works and page 60 of “Alcoholics Anonymous.” Now in the bright sun my sponsor and I walked along the small path behind the church. He told me what we were going to do,”See this garbage can?”  He asked, lifting the lid to the steel can.

I nodded.

“I want you to take all that anger, fear, hurt and resentment you’ve been carrying around like a sack of rocks, and imagine yourself dumping it into this can. Then we’re going to get on our knees, hold hands, and say the third step prayer out loud. Afterward the compulsion to drink will be lifted from you.” He offered with compassionate certitude.

Despite being briefly distracted with worry over what passers by may say or think if they spied two men kneeling  in the dirt holding hands under the summer sun, I did as he suggested. My sobriety was more important. We said this prayer:

The Third Step Prayer
from page 63 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Amen
I spoke the words and let go.
As we stood  I felt a peace wash over me. I had “dropped the rock.”
I felt protected, even if I didn’t fully understand what had just happened.
Being willing to let go was the cornerstone upon which I was able to continue along the path of recovery. That is not to say that the thought to drink was completely removed. That day though, I was given a reprieve from the mental obsession over alcohol.
It stuck. I have gone back to that hillside in my mind many times throughout my life. It symbolizes a safe place of letting go.
The next step would require more than just willingness, it would require deep introspection, faith, courage and work.
I was now at step four, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
Stay tuned for step four.