Heavenly Peace

“I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” – – Woody Allen


It is suggested in more than one spiritual discipline that we must die daily to become what we truly are.  Another metaphor is peeling back layers of the onion.  Or Michaelangelo suggesting that in every block of stone lies a statue.  All of these suggest a continuous unfolding of the real self inside, through various programs such as AA.  And as AA states, what happens when resentments are washed away is more exposure of the sunlight of the spirit.  Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly it is promised if we work for it.  Something I’ve learned in thirty years of sobriety is that such growth isn’t always the product of letting go of a character defect in agony.

I wrote a song for my friend Connie once that I simply called “Waltz Like This.”  We attended the same Al-Anon group at the time, and I penned the lyric after watching her go through a particularly painful episode in her life.  My favorites lines were as follows: “Not all secrets are painful, not all mystery is sad – when the house where you lived becomes dust in the wind.” While its true that many awakenings come with the hurt of shedding layers, what I was saying is that not every growth spurt happens painfully.  The song itself is my favorite composition.  I later recorded the song and presented her with a copy.  The lyric was somewhat personal, and she told me that it scared the hell out of her.  Yeah, I sure know how to woo the women.

My old friend Doug once said happily during one of his AA talks, “When I was over here working on this, this over here got better.”  His expression is less cumbersome than mine, and gets the point across.  While I went about my business of recovery for the last thirty years, a few things I wasn’t even thinking about were in the process of bearing pleasant fruit.  To be more specific, I somehow grew a family this year.  As my friend David likes to say, “How did that happen?  I don’t know.”

When I got sober, one of my first orders of business was distancing myself from my family.  Not only was I the only person in recovery in the family, I had pieced together a pretty contaminated idea of what it means to be Mexican.  And so stayed away.  It was not a flippant move. To mingle with my family even years into recovery often meant dealing with instant conflict, shielding myself from attacks.   Three years ago at my nephews wedding my oldest sister laid into me when I was trying to make a joke. She is “born again” to a degree. If I said what I was thinking at the time she would have been advised of a new storage place for her bible.  So nothing’s perfect among us, and there certainly is potential for conflict just like any other family.  But it gradually began happening less and less over the last couple of years.  I truly don’t know who’s responsible for what portion of the healing.  I will stick to my side of the fence, as I think the old adage of “if God seems far away who moved” applies.  The more I let my guard down, the better things seemed to get between me and my other sister and her boys.  And I swear their behavior has changed.  Or was it mine?  Or both? How did that happen?  I don’t know . . .

Year after year I stand at a podium and receive a medallion for whatever milestone of sobriety I’ve reached.  For a lot of those years I’ve cited that I really don’t have much of a family.  I have many times stated that I do believe in miracles, but I wasn’t holding my breath where my family was concerned.  The standoff between us seemed appropriate over the years, and neither I nor they really made any effort to close the gap.  In recent years my sister Barb, even though recognizing my tendency to isolate, began to invite me over for holidays.  More often than not I declined.  I just had too many memories of major conflicts attached to Christmas and Thanksgiving.  As lonely as I was during those holidays, I preferred a heavy heart over spending a day feeling like I was in a meat grinder.  So when exactly things began to change, I don’t really know.  Terminal uniqueness may be my guide here.  But I know I’m not alone in this type of situation.  When I was working on this here, my family life over here was getting better.  Grace is beautiful.  I didn’t consciously set out to better my family life.  The elements and the souls of my kin conspired to produce a single heart.  The feeling defies description.

I have spent at least a little time with my three year old great niece who I get to spoil rotten. (I checked the Uncle’s Handbook. There’s a rule stating I have to do this.) I hope to see her much more often.  I presented her with two big bags of trinkets, some small, some not so small, and she seemed to truly get a huge kick out of it.  I spent Christmas at my nephew Tony’s house along with my sister Barb, and Tony’s two brothers.  The wives of my nephews and the rest of their grown kids were there as well.  It wasn’t until I got home that felt a sense of awe.  In advance I had stated in an Al-Anon meeting that I was really looking forward to Christmas.  I don’t think I’ve ever said that in my life.  While at the gathering I invited two of my nephews and my sister to come and see me get my thirty-one year medallion in February.  Christmas with the family, the ceremonial invite – these were not even thoughts in my head as recently as a few years ago. The sometimes blaring music from my nephew’s stereo belied what I felt inside.  The warmth, the peace was almost palpable.  I have died daily.  And feel so much closer to heaven.










Facebook Wars

“Everything is for your benefit.” – – A Course In Miracles

In her recent book “Blowout,” Rachel Maddow tells the story of a brazen hacker who went by the pseudonym “Guccifer” (“the style of Gucci and the light of Lucifer) who tapped into the email accounts of Colin Powell, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and others.  Just for fun.  And to become famous.  His shenanigans began in 2013 and lasted til his apprehension the following year.  His base was Transylvania and he bore no political affiliation, and his actions didn’t seem to cause any lasting damage.  However, the ease with which he hacked into accounts and caused turmoil didn’t go unnoticed.  Particularly by the Kremlin.

Maddow goes on to describe a sort of “think tank” created by the Kremlin existing for the sole purpose of creating bogus Facebook accounts. And becoming versed in and preying on every weak spot in America they could possibly unearth.  So what was once considered “social media” began to get more and more contaminated.  One would have to live under a rock these days to not notice the divisiveness in our country no matter what your political affiliation.  And still I’m talking about a different type of Facebook war.

In the last week, I have un-followed three people from my FB page due to content they posted.    What I was getting tired of was repeated posts of stories originally printed one, two and even three years ago.  Let me make this perfectly clear (pun intended): I am no Trump fan. Even so it bothers me to see folks reaching back that far to post stories that are very old news.  It seems to do little to resolve tension and divisiveness in the air.

Solution?  How about not logging into Facebook. (blush) Yeah, I’ve thought of that.  It’s an addicts paradise.  What better place to go and ignore whatever may be going on inside with juicy stories about others.  And events that we don’t agree with, to say the least.  And daily political turmoil.  I’m in no way advocating being ignorant of current events in a messed up world.  What I’m suggesting is that there’s a middle ground between being informed and staying emotionally balanced.  And I’ll be the first to admit that some days it’s a very difficult task.  It’s made even harder for me when I play too long with a social media tool that has become weaponized.

The late Ken Wapnick helped to edit A Course In Miracles with Helen  Schucman and Bill Thetford.  The Course is big on projection, forgiveness, and the enormous presence of guilt in every human being.  Wapnick used to suggest that the reason we like “bad guys” in the movies is because they would get their just whatevers in the end and we could walk away satisfied and maybe even happy.  What he further suggested is really going on is that we’re projecting our guilt onto an on-screen villain, thus supposedly clearing it out of ourselves and onto the offending character.  Presto! Guilt free!  Not so fast.

Anyone who has been in a human body for while knows that the projection dynamic doesn’t work very well for permanent change.  And where are we but in a real life “movie?”  The movie will end one day.  And nobody gets out alive.  As far as I can tell the objective is to leave as clean and peacefully as possible.  The projection dynamic is prevalent today.  No matter what your political, religious, or ethic viewpoint, there exists a smorgasbord of targets in the world.  It can be very difficult to remember that the origin of whatever discomfort I feel is inside, rather than on the bullseye I’ve placed on a person, place or thing.

In 1993 a group of varying size (between 800-4,000)of TM Sidhas put together what they called a meditation project that lasted for two months.  A study focused on the period between July 7th and July 30th, in which the crime rate in Washington D.C. was reduced by as much as 23%.  Before the project, the Chief Of Police was asked what would reduce crime by 20% in his town. His answer?  “Twenty inches of snow.”  My friend Rose does an astonishing amount of work on behalf of nurses in her role as President of the Minnesota Nurse’s Association.  If you’re a FB friend of hers, you will see regular posts of her flying around the country from one event to another, working tirelessly to effect change in a terribly unbalanced industry.  She is a shining example of activism, and obviously she makes a difference in the world.  That is one way.  In a conversation I had with her a few months ago I suggested that there is another way.

About two years ago I told my Alanon story at an Uptown Pin Night, to be followed by an AA speaker.  After I finished I sat down and was blind-sided by a huge hug by the AA speaker on her way up to the podium.  As she began her talk she looked my way and said, “I was so nervous and you relaxed me.”  I say this not to toot my own horn, but to remind myself that there are people I know who affect my world just for the fact of their calm presence.   We all know somebody like that.  They spend a considerable amount of their day focusing inside themselves. This can do much to affect world change, probably more than any of us thinks.  There may be revolution of such folks occurring right now that we don’t hear about due to the focus of news being everything “bad” in the world.  It may in fact be what’s causing such a huge shift in the world, who knows? I know it doesn’t get caused by inundating social media with attacks.  One Course In Miracles lesson is “I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.”  A tall order, but at least for short periods of time, doable.

I miss Facebook being a harmless little fun page where I could send friends messages or look at upcoming events or games.  It’s one thing to post an occasional opinion or political story, It’s entirely different to be obsessed with them.  My solutions are simple. Get off Facebook, or remember that everything exists to be forgiven.  It’s not personal, and it is indeed for my benefit.







. . . maybe

“Let it begin with me. When anyone anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of Al-Anon and Al-Ateen to always be there, and for that I am responsible.” – – Al-Anon/Alateen declaration.


There is an old riddle that asks the question, “What kind of insurance does a co-dependent person buy, and the answer is “my fault insurance.” Translation: co-dependent types can sometimes take on more responsibility for situations than they really are responsible for.  I was involved in a minor car accident last night, hopped out of my car and (at least internally) claimed full responsibility for it.  Ironically, I was on the way to my Al-Anon meeting.  After the meeting was over I chatted with a gentleman who suggested that I make sure to tell my insurance agent all details of the accident.  After I basically told him “Why would I NOT do that?”  he advised me that in his experience he has friends who have had car accidents who have taken on more responsibility than needed.   “We’re wired that way,” he said. After I started re-playing the accident as I remembered it, I began to question if my original perception may have a chink or two in its dented armor.

I feel awful. I’m doing my best to combat shame spirals.  I’ve taken the day off work to try to sort everything out.  The young lady driving the van I collided with told me she just got her vehicle.  Ouch.  Not only that, it may be time for me to do a 4th step around driving.  I just had an at-fault accident three years ago which just got dropped from my insurance policy.  And I have had one in the not too distant past.  I do believe I’ve set a pattern in motion.  It has not yet been determined whether or not I’m entirely at fault. So I may be jumping the gun, but a 4th step may be a good idea regardless of the outcome of this accident.

12-Step groups provide an amazing (and free) program for self-scrutiny.  But as stated earlier, co-dependents (I’m a member in good standing of that club) can often take on too much.  I remember an author I really liked named Jess Lair, a former psychology professor at the University of Minnesota. I don’t remember a whole lot from his books other than the titles (“I Ain’t Much Baby, But I’m All I’ve Got,” “Ain’t I A Wonder, And Aint You A Wonder Too”) and a recurrent phrase in both books of his that I read: “If it’s wrong, I did it.” I don’t remember what context it was used in, but today it describes a pretty dysfunctional place I sometimes visit.  Gratefully, a fellow Al-Anon member pulled me out of it last night.

I was the five minute speaker for my Al-Anon group last night.  I was still a bit shaken as I talked on the 11th step, and probably gave out way more personal information than I needed to.  Our stories disclose in a general way, y’know? I think what I’m feeling currently is embarrassment from what I said in addition to useless shame garbage that is flaring up.

The inner storm is gently subsiding. I had a calm conversation with the other driver this morning, and  I just talked with my insurance agent who will file a claim.  While the guilty party can’t be determined by him, he did provide some interesting insight.  I told him I was trying to enter the right lane from where I was at last night, definitely had my blinker on, and then felt that sickening “crunch” of metal on metal.  Right after I said that, my agent countered with “Yeah, people are really hard-pressed to let you into a lane these days.”  That didn’t make me feel like a million bucks, but he got me closer to $50. Maybe $75. I’ve done my part other than talking to an adjuster so the result of our little fender-bender is out of my hands.  And I am okay with any outcome.  And I am eternally grateful to my friend last night who kind of reminded me of Robin Williams at the end of “Good Will Hunting,” when he tells the lead character “It’s not your fault.”  So maybe it’s our fault.  We shall see.

My attendance at Al-Anon meetings over the years has been sporadic, thus I don’t know a whole lot of people very well.  A former sponsor challenged me on my unavailability. We soon parted ways (What did he expect me to do? Become healthy?) but for various reasons. When I was speaking last night I felt really vulnerable as I opened up.  Without question, this is about as non-judgemental a group of people there ever was or will be.  I still felt like I was under a microscope. And it didn’t help that several of my attempts at humor were greeted by crickets.  Even so, I’ve long been an advocate of people taking a step or telling their story while in the midst of a storm.  To me, that truly is testament to a person working their program.   And their courage. So there’s that.

On the latter topic, I was at an Al-Anon event two Saturdays ago and was in the process of asking a gentleman to be a speaker at an upcoming Uptown Pin Night, when a friend of his walked by.  She asked “How is your wife?” The gentleman casually answered “Oh, she passed.”  I had no idea.  I asked him when she passed and he said “Last night.”  Good lord.  He had tears in his eyes as he added the date to his calendar.  He had no problem saying yes.  His wife was well known in St.Paul recovery circles, and she was very loved as well as revered for her wisdom.   So is he.  I’m very much looking forward to hearing his story, as I have not up til now.  And to comfort a peer, and tell him how much he has impacted my life.  And to offer consolation.  And for that I am responsible.