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Posts tagged "AA"

Five Years of Grace and Bad Coffee: Sobriety and Holy Week

Five Years of Grace and Bad Coffee: Sobriety and Holy Week

On Tuesday night of Holy Week, I sat under fluorescent lights at a plastic folding table and gripped a styrofoam cup of bad coffee. Around the room sat men from all walks of life. Respectable businessmen, craftsmen and laborers, men living in a residential rehab or halfway house, and me: a young clergyman who looks like he has it all together.

At that meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, I received a small metal chip (“heavy metal” as we call it in the program) signifying five years of continuous sobriety.

I’ve written about my recovery before in the Food and Drink Issue of The…

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Grace in the Age of Fentanyl

Grace in the Age of Fentanyl

“[Karl] Marx famously called religion the opiate of the masses, but these days opiates are the opiates of the masses.”

That’s the first variation of this observation I came across last week, via Tim Kreider’s new I Wrote This Book Because I Love You. The second run-in occurred a couple days later, toward the middle of Andrew Sullivan’s mammoth “The Poison You Pick” essay in New York Magazine. He writes:

“If Marx posited that religion is the opiate of the people, then we have reached a new, more clarifying moment in the history of the West: Opiates are now the religion of…

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What Russell Brand Used to Think of as Happiness

On the Mockingcast this past week, we talked a bit about our favorite books of 2017. For me, Russell Brand’s Recovery was right up there, in part because it’s so funny but mainly because it cuts through so much of the baloney (read: reactivity) surrounding the G-O-D question these days and grounds it in the reality of lived experience and desperation. Here are a few more cases in point:

I have heard 12 Step support groups referred to as a cult and it could be argued that any group with a system of beliefs is a cult. In working a 12 Step program I don’t feel like I’ve joined a cult, but that I’ve been liberated from one. The cult that told me that I’m not enough, that I need to be famous to be of value, that I need to have money to live a worthwhile life, that I should affiliate, associate and identify on 
the basis of color and class, that my role in life is to consume, that 
I was to live in a darkness only occasionally lit up by billboards and screens, always framing the smiling face of someone trying to sell me something. Sell me phones and food and prejudice, low cost and low values, low-frequency thinking. We are in a cult by default. We just can’t see it because its boundaries lie beyond our horizons. (pg 67)

When my last great romance combusted and I came fleeing from the inferno, looking for comfort and peace, it is to this community, assembled around the mutual wound, that I turned. Every time I reinvest in the material world as a potential source of happiness I am able to return to them when it fails. When religions talk of idolatry, I feel I know what they are saying; when I make something else,… my symbol of the divine, I get in trouble. If you take away the bombast, the sense that these edicts are being bellowed down from a purple cloud, ‘Don’t get too wrapped up in relationships or money’ sounds like the sort of thing a grandparent might say. I have an inclination to make these things my salvation. (pg 101)

What I used to think of as happiness was merely distraction from the pain. (pg 218)

How do you stop yourself from milking [a] situation for spiritual credit? Of course there is no such thing as spiritual credit, as soon as credit is sought you are in the domain of the ego. So even by writing about it the purity is compromised if not undone. How do you avoid making it about the result? You just do your best and let go of the outcome. It’s easy to become snared on each of these points. In the end, you just try your best. (pg 235)

Can Love Survive Addiction and Co-Dependency?

This is a serious honor. We’ve received permission from filmmaker Kurt Neale to post his incredible new documentary, Ask: Can Love Survive Addiction and Co-Dependency?, here on Mockingbird. As you’ll see, he and his crew have given us an enormous gift, not just to those of us who’ve experienced the fearful realities of addiction and co-dependency, but to anyone who has drawn breath in the world described in Romans 7. Not to mention anyone who’s come into contact with what Andrew Sullivan calls “this generation’s AIDS crisis”. You could almost call it Grace in Addiction: The Movie. That is, the whole thing brims with honesty and humanity and compassion and, yes, real hope–the Polyphonic Spree is just icing on the cake.

Naturally, the film contains mature subject matter and language. Viewer discretion is advised.

P.S. As you’ll see, this is a work of art ideally suited for discussion. If you’re interested, I know Kurt and co are open to arranging screenings around the country. You can contact him via his website.

P.P.S. If it all sounds a tad on the heavy-side, fast forward to minute 1:19 for a hilarious Easter egg.

Learning About the Gospel from Self-Help, AA, and Tony Robbins

Learning About the Gospel from Self-Help, AA, and Tony Robbins

The following comes to us from Bill Walker.

The kind of religion many people in America grew up with went something like this: do or believe these things in order to be “right with God.” But as experience will show, following either of these directives tends to lead to greater frustration, disillusionment and anxiety. “Am I really good enough?” “Am I really saved?” This encounter with church or Christianity for many did not enable a more joyful, tranquil and abundant life. It did the opposite. Sometimes it told folks they had to vote Republican. In other instances, it made them feel…

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AA and Free Gifts, from Lewis Hyde

AA and Free Gifts, from Lewis Hyde

Here is a timely excerpt from Lewis Hyde’s classic, The Gift.

A gift may be the actual agent of change, the bearer of new life. In the simplest examples, gifts carry an identity with them, and to accept the gift amounts to incorporating the new identity. It is as if such a gift passes through the body and leaves us altered. The gift is not merely the witness or guardian of new life, but the creator. I want to speak of “teachings” as my primary example here. I do not mean schoolbook lessons, I mean those infrequent lessons in living that…

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Richard Rohr Goes to an AA Meeting in Albuquerque

Richard Rohr Goes to an AA Meeting in Albuquerque

America’s favorite Franciscan dropped a doozie of a daily meditation the other day, one too relevant not to pass on. It is drawn from his book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. Here’s the lion’s share, but you can read the full text here, ht JE:

The spirituality of the Twelve Steps is another important part of my wisdom lineage. Although I have never formally belonged to a Twelve Step group, I have learned much from people who are in recovery. I truly believe that the Twelve Step program (also known as Alcoholics Anonymous or A.A.) will go down in history as…

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Any Woman's Blues

Any Woman’s Blues

Literary portrayals of Alcoholics Anonymous are notoriously difficult. The primary challenge being, how do you write about “the program” without sounding either corny or patronizing. It doesn’t help that word people have such an allergy to the slogans and platitudes that populate AA. Anyway, I’m always on the lookout for effective depictions, and recently had to opportunity to ask someone who knows about such things if they were aware of any good ones–other than Infinite Jest, that is. Her answer surprised me. She told me that if I hadn’t read Erica Jong’s Any Woman’s Blues, I should consider it, that…

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Another Week Ends: (More) Addiction, Infidelity and Death, and Music to Get You Through It All

Another Week Ends: (More) Addiction, Infidelity and Death, and Music to Get You Through It All

1. This week, The NY Times made the astute observation that the new buzzword, “moment,” reflects something significant about the human condition. You need only glance at headlines to see how the word is being used—as far as media coverage goes, a “moment” is usually something trending, anything that garners fifteen minutes of fame. It could be a celebrity or a musical group; there are election moments and hurricane moments and Kanye moments. The article explains:

No nexus of events is too large or heterogeneous — no geopolitical weather too swirlingly turbulent — to avoid being reduced to the…

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God As Heather Kopp Doesn't Understand Him

God As Heather Kopp Doesn’t Understand Him

Happy to report that we’re in the midst of putting the final touches on the Forgiveness issue of The Mockingbird magazine (should be out at the end of June). One of the last elements to be added is “On Our Bookshelf”, which is exactly what it sounds like, a short list of what’s been making the rounds internally. Anyway, one of my selections this time around is Heather Kopp’s Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk, which I’ve been greatly enjoying. The subtitle kind of says it all. It’s a superbly written account of what happens when…

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All The Things David Foster Wallace's Parents Said to Him

All The Things David Foster Wallace’s Parents Said to Him

I’ve been making my way through Conversations with David Foster Wallace, and as expected, it’s chock-full of interesting exchanges. You also get to witness a certain evolution in his thought. Anyway, three favorite quotes thus far would be the following. The first comes from an interview with Salon in 1996, post-Infinite Jest:

“It seems to me that the intellectualization and aestheticizing of principles and values in this country is one of the things that’s gutted our generation. All the things that my parents said to me, like ‘It’s really important not to lie.’ OK, check, got it. I nod at that…

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D.G. Myers on the Art of Dying

A powerful (and very Holy Week-appropriate) reflection on death came from literary critic D.G. Myers, who faces his own mortality in the throes of prostate cancer. This was originally uncovered by our friends over at The Dish.

tumblr_kvtcvdVG4q1qzkyblo1_500Dying is the problem, not death. As an Orthodox Jew, I believe with perfect faith in the resurrection of the dead, but until that happens, death is the termination of consciousness. No peeking back into life. I won’t get to keep a scorecard of who is crying at my funeral, who is dry-eyed, who never bothered to show up. If I want someone to cry at my funeral, I need to patch things up with him before the last weak images flicker out.

In the past few weeks I have been approaching ex-friends whom I have damaged to ask their forgiveness. I’ve been behaving, in short, as if dying were a twelve-step program. Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Not that I mind having enemies. One person whom I approached recently accused me of “basking in self-importance,” which is one possible way, I suppose, of describing the tireless knowledge that death is near. But there are other persons, including some with whom I have had very public fallings-out, whom I don’t want as enemies when I pass away. To die without accepting responsibility for the damage I have done to relationships that were once meaningful to me would be shameful and undeniably self-important.