What do you say to someone who’s hurting?

What do you say to someone who’s hurting?

In the wake of the tragic wildfires, I am a bundle of mixed emotions. Me and my family were spared from major loss, but thousands of others were not. At last count over 7,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. Over 43 are dead. Many families lost everything.

In many respects, we are all hurting from this.  How do we process our feelings? How do we cope?

I’m not a psychologist nor a counselor and therefore I am not qualified to give any specific advice.

I do however, know that I have to process my own emotions and do what I can to help those who need it.

Here’s what I can offer:

  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Listening

Offering food, clothing, shelter and financial support are also helpful.

Yet even then, I am left with a sense of grief. How would I handle it if I lost everything? I don’t know.

A couple things that have always helped me in past personal crises are writing— journaling about my thoughts, and emotions, talking with others, counseling, and trying to offer help to others.

I was given two opportunities to talk with people in the midst of these devastating fires.

Last Saturday I had a book signing at Barnes and Noble. In some ways, it felt selfish to promote my book, but I quickly realized that I was there for another purpose—to offer encouragement and guidance to those who had family members suffering from drug and alcohol addiction and also to offer encouragement about the fires. I was able to listen to their stories and offer suggestions. Many of them also bought my book. Beyond Recovery: A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness.

B&N

Two days later on Monday, I was scheduled to do my first live radio interview by phone on KZSB – 1290 AM in Santa Barbara. It was largely unscripted and conversational. Granted, I had a framework for the program including talking about the fires, ways people can help, and, of course, my recovery journey as it related to my book.

The interviewers, Ed Giron and Maria Long were both gracious and kind and asked some really good questions. Ed at one point asked me what advice I would have for those that don’t think they are ready to stop drinking or using drugs and a follow up question about what I would suggest for those who really don’t think they have a problem. I paused before answering.

You see, my experience has been that sometimes we may think we are ready to stop drinking, using, overeating,etc… and may  even go to a meeting or seek counsel, only to return to our old addictive behavior(s). Other times, we feel we still have control and therefore have no need for any solution. If you want to learn more, you can listen to the whole interview here:

In summary, I suggested that for those who don’t think they have a problem with food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, etc., —they may not. However, if they are causing an individual pain and affecting their relationships they may want to seek help. In response to Ed’s question about those who think they may have a problem but are not yet ready to change or seek help, I expanded a bit more but, in a nut shell said that the first step is admitting that one has a problem. Then an individual can follow the 12 steps or work with a counselor or another program to find a solution.

The bottom line though, for me and millions of others, is that the solution must come from a power greater than ourselves. We are not God. And no matter how much we think we are in control, ultimately, we are not.

That brings me back to the current state of my emotional and spiritual development. I rely on prayer and meditation to help me stay centered. I have a sense of faith. I call my higher power God. I have witnessed hundreds of miracles in my short lifetime and trust that even in the wake of these horrific fires that most of us will survive. In some respects, we have become closer as a larger community and stronger because of them. That is not to placate, minimize, or sweep away the pain they inflicted.

My heart goes out to all who lost it all. I too have lost so much in my life—jobs, health, brother, family, broken relationships. In the midst of it all, I always found hope.

My prayer for all is that we find the courage to process our emotions and continue to grow in love and kindness for each other. May we become more unified as families, community, country, and world. May we realize that we are truly never alone. That at the end of the tunnel there is always light.

Shell Beach - Pebble Beach Trail Inverness, CA

Shell Beach – Pebble Beach Trail Inverness, CA

Love,

Shawn

Find our more at

www.shawnlangwell.com

There is Hope in Every Storm

Beyond the Storms of Life—there is Hope.

The storms of life are inevitable. Hurricane Irma and Harvey have wreaked havoc on the Gulf and East Coasts. Millions are still without power. Clean drinking water is in short supply. Natural disasters abound throughout the world.
But, what about the storms closer to home? The ones we see—homelessness, drug addiction, physical maladies. How do we ride those out? What can we do? How can we help? What about the mother who just lost her son in a car crash? Where’s hope in those storms? Where do we turn to? Or the young family whose primary bread winner just lost his job; the husband and wife struggling to find connection; the middle age child of aging parents who have fallen and are battling the early stages of dementia?

It is far easier to offer help when we see a storm. What about the storms in the inside? The ones we hide? How do we ask for help we are holding on by a thread barely keeping it together and ready to crack from carrying the load of financial responsibility, compassion and care for our aging parents?

How do we find hope in those circumstances? Where do we turn to for help?

How do we find the courage to share what’s going on with us and not be fearful of what another may think? How do we find courage in becoming vulnerable? How do we navigate the storms on the inside when we are worried that we are failing? Not good enough? Where or to whom or what do we turn when our insides are a mess?

I find it in prayer and asking for help. Like the Nike slogan, I just do it.
I have survived many storms in my life. I’m sure you have too. As a recovered alcoholic and drug addict I discovered I could not get sober on my own. I had to rely on a power greater than myself, God. For the grace of God I have been sober for over 30 years. I don’t say that to brag. I say it because I did what I am talking about in this blog. It is an ongoing daily battle between my will and God’s will. Suffice it to say, when I let go and Let God my days are nearly always better. I am not as worried in the inevitable storms of life. I have Hope

Let our willingness to ask for and accept help or spiritual guidance through each storm be a reminder that there is always hope. Let us become willing and hopeful to look for and find a path to safety.

We can never give up hope.

Hope alone is not enough. We can’t solve all the world’s problems. Sometimes we can’t even solve our own.

Even when we think we can do it alone. We need each other. We need to ask for help. To ask for help sometimes requires a leap of faith. It also requires humility—the leveling of our pride not as a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of strength.
Asking for help takes courage. It requires strength. Ironically, it also requires surrender. By surrender, I mean humility—relinquishing control that we can of our own volition, fix any situation.

The good news is we are not alone.

We can’t fix it, change it or make it go away on our own. We are not God.
Certainly, we can do our part to change, love, support, others and ourselves—emotionally, physically, and financially but we cannot solve it alone.

I am writing this because I have wasted too many hours worrying about how I could solve a situation and what I could do to get out of a mess. Alone, it’s too much work. It’s exhausting.

My prayer is that I seek to understand, to listen and to hear the cry of help from the souls of others so, I may in some way offer a word of encouragement; a word of hope. And that others who love me, see through my masks of “I got it all together” and “I’m fine”  and offer an empathetic ear or to carry my pack and walk through the storms of life WITH me.
For those who may be experiencing a storm of their own, please know, you are not alone. There is hope.

Without hope we are nothing. Without love we are lost.

I’d like to thank Rev. Theon Johnson III, Associate Pastor at Glide Memorial Church for his message today—The world is hurting and your message of hope reached my heart and soul today. It inspired me to do my part to carry it a bit further.

May I remember this day always and draw upon it when I’m in a storm. May it be a beacon to guide me to safe shores.

Thank you!
We are all blessed, indeed.

Love,

Shawn

To find out more about my journey of victory over personal storms, you may like,

Hope Book

http://www.shawnlangwell.com

Do you occasionally suffer from What-if Syndrome?

What-if syndrome is that gnawing, nagging, often unnecessary feeling that, if left to run wild, can turn into a raging torrent of fear paralyzing us from action. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have all experienced it at some point.

For me, it usually comes up around money issues. What if I don’t close that deal? What If I don’t make that goal? Then what?  Will I have more money than month? How will I pay the mortgage? The car payment? The credit card bill?

Deeper than that though, what-if syndrome may lead to feelings of inadequacy that cause us to doubt and question our worth— Will I fail? Am I good enough? Or feelings of pride— What will others think if I don’t get my kids new clothes for this school year? How will my kids feel if they have to go to a different school?

 In a word, what-if syndrome is worry. At its root, worry is a form of fear tied to our belief system and lack of trust.

Peanuts

I have lived through my share of worry over the years and have pushed through it with faith and effort to keep it at bay. It was not easy, but when it came to my addiction to drugs and alcohol, it was a matter of life and death to overcome it. I had a big enough reason why to motivate me to do something about it.

Like many things in life, it takes diligence and practice to:

a) Recognize worry or a problem when it comes up and
b) Become willing to learn some new skills to address our problems so we don’t stay stuck in them for too long.

I’ll be honest. Right now, I am wallowing in a little self-pity. For the past two and a half years, I have been riding a high from my efforts and blessings at work. I have managed to triple the sales volume for my territory in less than three years. I have written and published a book and managed to make time to work with other recovering alcoholics as a sponsor and mentor volunteer leaders at my local church.  Life has been good.

Currently, however, I am facing a less than ideal sales month and fighting worry while also trying to find the desire to complete my next book on goal setting.  I am dealing with the very challenges I want to write about overcoming.

Is this an accident? I think not. I believe that this is a wake-up call. In a sick twisted way, I am having to practice what I want to talk about.

I am grateful that I now recognize what is going on and how I feel but that, by itself doesn’t change anything. I have to change. So what do I do?

Over the years, I have acquired tools, primarily through AA, on how to cope with and conquer worry and fear. The basics consist of three steps:

1) Identify the problem.
2) Ask for God’s help. (Surrender)
3) Pray for the willingness to allow God to help me.

The short version, which, to outsiders may sound like a cop-out is, I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let him.

But, it doesn’t stop there. I have to do my part, which usually requires work. In most cases that work includes changing my thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes about my current situation. This process takes time.  It starts with humility and honesty and taking a deep personal inventory of what is bothering me. I need to look at my part—what I can and cannot control. That is but a beginning. I don’t have the space to do a deep dive into this right now. I talk about it more in my book, Beyond Recovery A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness. And I will unpack it even more as one of the blocks in my upcoming book on goal setting. If you want immediate answers or help, there are countless coaches, mentors and counselors well qualified to help.

For now let me give you a personal example of how worry has come up in my life and how I have processed and overcame it.

In very early sobriety, my biggest worry was whether I could go twenty-four hours without a drink. I had tried on my own countless times, with no lasting success.

Then, after several months of practicing the program of AA, drinking was no longer an issue. Instead, I had to face the feelings beneath the surface that I was running away from with drugs and alcohol. Without booze or drugs, I needed to find a new set of tools in order to cope with my feelings.

I found help in the twelve steps of AA. I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober, one-day-at-a-time and quickly realized that when I worked the steps daily, my days got better.

Yet some things continued to come up—usually feelings around scarcity. I believe these were tied to my belief about not having enough and feeling uncomfortable in my own skin as a teenager.

I was raised in a middle class family until my dad left when I was thirteen. Through my first two years of my high school I had to deal with having very little, money was tight.  I recall my freshman year wearing red Toughskin jeans and a hand-me-down shirt from my older cousin. I was mortified. I felt so out of place. All I wanted to do was belong.  

Adding  to my anxiety was the fact that I went from a small class of forty students to a high school with over twelve-hundred, I was out of my comfort zone.

My solution then was to pour myself into schoolwork and making money. I soon had a job to earn money for new shoes, pants, and shirts I liked. I received praise and recognition from teachers and peers for being smart. In other words, my entire sense of self, how I felt, was dependent on external things—money, clothes, grades, recognition.

I am now realizing how much of my identity is still attached to external factors and how much more work I still have to do to find peace within; to tap into my higher power and be willing to walk through temporary fear, worry, doubt, and insecurity.

I have a feeling that I am not alone. I am sure many of my recovery peers can relate to some of this, perhaps others as well. I know I must overcome this mental block so I may confidently speak about it in a goal-setting book. My guess is that is exactly why I am facing this right here, right now.

I have a higher power. I have faith. God has never let me down before, but I have noticed that sometimes he gives me a challenge as a wake-up call for something he wants to work on in me. So what do I do?

Experience has shown me that what I need is willingness and courage. Along with that, I need to trust that He will show me a way out—He always does, sometimes though, it takes awhile for me to see it. The other thing I need to bring to the table is vulnerability. I need to be humble enough to ask for help, from others and from God. Before any of that though, and most important, I need to know what the problem is—my negative beliefs and what I have bought into, and become willing to develop a new way of thinking to overcome them. What results is greater confidence for the next time I have to face a difficult situation. With practice, I learn to not stay in self-pity so long and more quickly focus on the solution. Sometimes though, I need to sit with it for a bit to look harder at what is beneath the surface so I can better get at the heart of the problem.

In short, I need to do the work, and leave the results up to God. That principle was taught to me in early recovery and it still holds true today. To conquer worry and fear requires faith and effort.

There is no quick fix, and it will not magically disappear. The good news is that we can overcome worry when we apply faith and effort.

Thank you for listening to what I am struggling with in this moment and how I am dealing with it. I know this too shall pass.  I know I am not alone. I hope that some of you have found this post helpful.

If you want to learn more about my story, please pick up a copy of Beyond Recovery, A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness on Amazon or at any bookstore or smashwords.

Also, if you’d like to be kept up to date on blogs, events, or one of the first to read my next book, please sign up on my email list or follow this blog.

Thank you all for being a part of this journey.

Love,

Shawn

P.S.

If any of this has hit a chord, here is a promise—one of never being let down or alone which has been around for over 2,000 years.

Over the next few days God (your higher power) is going to show you how your worry can be replaced with confidence.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

Matthew 6:25-32 NIV
http://bible.com/111/mat.6.25-32.niv

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 NIV
http://bible.com/111/isa.41.10.niv

 

 

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.

Came to believe…

When I staggered into my first AA meeting in July of 1986 I didn’t know what exactly to expect. I had a few friends who’d managed to stay sober but knew nothing about what it took. Like many before and after me, I heard the word God in the reading of the steps  at that first meeting and immediately bristled. Why? I don’t know. I was not brought up with any religious background and really had no reason to be afraid of the word God, but, nonetheless, it bothered me. In fact it bugged me so much that I went back out and tried to control my drinking on my own for another three months after that initial meeting.

On sheer will power, I managed to string together a few days of sobriety but, inevitably I started up again. I quickly realized that my own will power was not enough for me to stay stopped. I had to find a power greater than myself. I found that in the second step of AA:

Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

The founders of AA understood the varied dynamic of people’s spiritual, religious, agnostic, and even atheistic leanings and address it in great length in the basic text of 12 step recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, aka the “Big Book.”

In fact, they discovered that those who managed to stop and stay stopped had a common thread-spirituality. This was baffling to many in the medical community at the time.

As I mentioned in my  previous post, I had no problem with the first step when I finally had been beaten. I knew I was powerless over alcohol and that my life was unmanageable.

But, when it came time to work the second step, I struggled.  Even after reading “More about alcoholism” and “We agnostics” in the AA “Big Book,” I didn’t know if I could “get it” and worried I would drink again. These chapters address very real concerns for those struggling with a concept of a higher power. My sponsor at the time said that I didn’t have to fully explain it or even understand it. Rather, he asked me to address this short question from page 47:

“Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?”

When I was willing to believe, my life began to change.

At first my higher power was a doorknob-something to focus on besides the floor, when I sat in a meeting.

After a month or two, I began to feel better on the inside. The mental obsession to drink began to wane. Soon my eyes lifted up from my shoes or the doorknob and I began to witness the “lights go on” in other newcomers who came in after me. I saw them smile. I listened to their stories and those of others and identified with what they were going through. In the meetings, many AA’s talked about a “Higher Power” or spirituality as the key to their sobriety. I listened and began to believe that this “Higher Power” would work for me too.

As a reminder to the steady stream of newcomers in meetings, one old-timer used to say,”If the word God frightens you, a bottle of booze will scare you right back.” His statement always got a chuckle, but it was true. It took me awhile, and the word God scared me away at first, but I had nowhere else to go. I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober, even if that meant developing a better understanding of the spiritual experience necessary to stay sober in AA.

Today, I honor my faith daily. I nurture it and maintain constant contact with my higher power whom I call God. It has become a regular part of who I am.

The benefits are clear:

Not only has the obsession to drink been removed, but when I maintain and grow my connection with God, my days are good. When I don’t intentionally practice a spiritual way of life, I drift along in self-will. I quickly become selfish, self-centered, and self-seeking and my days turn to shit in a heartbeat.

Getting sober is not an easy task. It takes work. You may think that after thirty years of sobriety it is automatic for me to be nice and “spiritual”. Hardly. I have days where I am a complete asshole. Fortunately, I am much quicker to recognize it and change my attitude and when I don’t, I have a wife who is not too shy to let me know.  Like anything worthwhile, I must practice spiritual living daily. When I do, I am filled with joy and gratitude and life doesn’t seem to be such a struggle. Today I choose to be happy, joyous and free.

For more on my personal journey, check out Beyond Recovery: A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness.

Peace.

Shawn

Expect a miracle, every day.

Miracles happen all the time. Regardless of whether we choose to call them miracles or chalk them up as mere coincidence, one has to admit that some things are beyond logical explanation.

I have experienced so many miracles in my short time on this planet that I literally could write a book about them. Perhaps, someday I will.

One that comes to mind was on a trip to Disney World fifteen years ago. After months of planning and preparation, the big day had arrived. My first wife, son, and I boarded a plane and flew to sunny Orlando. Even though I was a little edgy from not getting to smoke for nearly five hours, my excitement overshadowed my nicotine withdrawals, or so I thought.

We climbed into our rental car and began our way to the condo in Celebration, FL. That’s where things started to go sideways. I was aware that there were several toll roads in Florida and had packed change to pay for them. What I didn’t realize though, is how many there were from our short drive from the airport to the condo. It seemed that every mile or two I had to reach for more small bills or change.

Most of the toll booths were unmanned and required you to toss change into a scoop. Somewhere around the second or third one I started to get frustrated and was running out of small bills and change.

With my wallet in my lap for easier access, I approached yet another toll booth. This one required me to toss coins, not bills. I was out of change and had to pop the trunk to get more change  from my luggage. I grabbed a handful of change, shrugging my shoulders at the driver behind me, then dropped some in the big scoop before getting back into the car to pull away.

It wasn’t long before we approached another toll booth. This one required bills. I reached down to pull some singles out of my wallet and it wasn’t there. I panicked. I asked my wife to look on the floor. It was nowhere to be found.

A line of cars began to form behind me. My blood sugar was crashing. I was tired and wanted a cigarette. I felt so helpless.

Now what?!, I thought. We came all this way and now I’ve lost my wallet. This is a disaster. I am a F**K up. How could I be so stupid? I probably dropped it on the ground at the last toll plaza. How do I get out of this? 

“Dammit, I lost my wallet” I cussed. “I have to go back,” I said to my wife. So I blew through the toll crossing,  flipped a dangerous u-turn to head back to the previous toll gate.

I parked the car on the shoulder and searched anxiously for my wallet, but, it was nowhere in sight.

I began to sob. Once again I had let my family down. My irritation and impatience had gotten the best of me.

“Now what?” my wife asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, wiping the tears from my eyes.

We found a diner, ate something, and got cash using her card. Shortly after we ate, we checked into our condo. As soon as we got inside, I grabbed the local phone book (this was before smart phones and the internet) to look up the local police dept.

Long story short, a miracle happened. As it turned out, a woman behind us had spotted me dropping my wallet, picked it up, and turned it into the local authorities. She happened to work as a nurse, mere blocks from our condo and, fifteen minutes later, an officer came by to return my wallet. Nothing was missing.

Miracles do happen.

Three days ago I received a text from my half-brother, Tyler, whom I had not spoken to in over twenty five years. My step-sister, Lori had reached out to me a year or so ago on Facebook and was instrumental in reconnecting me with Tyler. They both had read my book and Tyler sent me a text the day before yesterday thanking me for sharing some of the family history that he was not aware of. He also sent me a text asking for my opinion about “something.”

Now, my mind was reeling with all the what-ifs that he may want to ask, not to mention what I may say to a brother I barely knew.

Sometimes we have to take a deep breath and trust that the right words will come out and walk through any fear or apprehension and make the call. So I did.

We started talking and within minutes, I felt connected. I felt like I knew him. He is my blood. He is my brother.  We chatted for a bit, before I asked what advice  he needed. Tyler said mentioned that he has a friend  who is struggling with addiction and wanted to know what to do.

I shared what I could  from my experience and suggested that he offer to take him to a meeting. And, if he doesn’t want to go that, “all you can do is love him, but maintain your own boundaries.”

“I don’t want to enable him. I may have to give him some ‘tough love’,” he said. I smiled. He knows a little about this stuff. How cool, I thought.

Folks, this conversation and the re-connection with my brother is a miracle. So is the fact that my primary purpose of writing Beyond Recovery was to help at least one person. It appears to have done that.

Tyler and I will plan to hang out in the months to come as soon as this nasty storm passes.

In the meantime, may we all face the storms of our own lives with the quiet confidence that there is something far greater than us guiding us, watching over us, and protecting us. We need only trust in that power and learn to expect a miracle everyday.

Love,

Shawn

“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!