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

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.