Monthly Archives: October 2016

The View from a Barstool

Sitting at a crowded bar in a hip brewpub in a foreign city sounds like a dream for some people. A monster selection of drinks on tap. A menu full of trendy, overpriced food. People shoulder to shoulder waiting to place an order. The music over the speakers reeks of the British invasion. Regulars who were sitting next to me when I came in have cashed out and gone home for the night, paying regards to their favorite bartender before she heads off on vacation. Alone in unfamiliar territory, I am able to find comfort in this environment. Even with nobody to talk to – nobody to carry on a conversation with – I am surrounded by people. And people make me comfortable. This place helps me feel at ease, at home.

But for many of my friends and others, this place is a nightmare. It’s a reminder that days gone by were a living hell. A reminder that while drinking was once an escape, a comfort, a measure of normalcy – it is now little more than a path to certain death. Too many nights exist in the past where you remember going into the bar but don’t necessarily remember coming out. You would drink to feel nothing. Drink to feel something. Drink for drinking’s sake. But mostly you would drink because you could not stop. You didn’t enjoy it anymore. You don’t enjoy it anymore. You simply understand that despite any desire you may have to do so, you cannot stop.

No matter how much you’d like to fix your marriage or repair the relationship you have with your kids, you cannot stop drinking. Hell, those are some of the reasons you started drinking in the first place. Or so it seems.

What underlying trauma is at the root of your addiction? Do you have a genetic predisposition to addictive tendencies or compulsive behavior? What makes you drink, me eat, another person gamble, your cousin do drugs or your neighbor look at porn and masturbate incessantly? Something does.

We’re all broken. We’re all searching for answers – for something to fix us – for something or someone to solve all of our problems.

This is where I’d usually talk about Jesus, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to recognize that sometimes we need to sit with the knowledge that we are not alone. We must come to a place where we recognize that alcohol is not evil, but it is deadly for some people. Food is a necessary component to our daily living, but some are plagued by eating as a means to cope or not eating to achieve a perceived ideal or managing what they eat due to errant personal perceptions such as body dysmorphic disorder. Some people can bet the ponies or play the lotto without racking up tens of thousands of dollars in gambling debt.

Where I find comfort, others find nothing but heartache. But this disease, this spiritual disease that affects all of us, knows our strengths and our weaknesses. While the base malady may be spiritual, the consequences we suffer are also physical, mental and emotional. Our spiritual disease has the potential not only to kill us spiritually but also to bring about emotional death, death of our mental faculties and ultimately physical death. If we don’t find help, we will die.

It just so happens that as I was getting ready to cash out, the gentleman next to me and his wife struck up a conversation. I stuck around a fair bit longer than expected. We talked about work, life – even politics (fortunately that was on a broad scale and not directly related to the current presidential race). Nice people. It just goes to show you that life can be found in a place where some people go to die. We don’t have to avoid everything we like to do in order to honor our brothers and sisters, but we should have a certain level or respect for them. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. 1 Corinthians 8:9

While everything I know about recovery tells me that sitting on a barstool alone is a sure sign of addiction, sometimes we just need to go someplace where nobody knows our name.

– Alex Walker

Finding Peace & Joy Through The Serenity Prayer

If you want to live a sober life; if you would to live a life that’s not consumed by worry; or if you just want to live a joyful and peaceful life; then you have to get in touch with the Serenity Prayer.

The problem is if you just pray the part of the Serenity Prayer most people know (verse 1), you are begging God to give you something that you have not prepared yourself to receive.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Serenity Prayer, Verse 1

Verse 1 of the Serenity Prayer presents you with the desired results of recovery without presenting you with the spiritual steps to get there.  Those steps are contained in verses 2 & 3.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Serenity Prayer, Verses 2 & 3

The key to being able to “accept the things I cannot change” is learning to accept “hardships as the pathway to peace”.  We all want life to just be easy and peaceful, but deep down we know that those two things do not go together.  When we go through hard times and try to find peace and hope, we seek out someone who has been through even tougher times to guide us through.  When we hit rock bottom, we find Christ to be the solid rock that cannot be shaken, who will never give up on us.  This discovery gives us the ability to live in peace by accepting the things we cannot change because we know there is an all-powerful God who is wrapping us in His all-consuming love.

The key to finding the “courage to change the things I can” comes from “trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will”.  Once we have surrender, we no longer have to fear failure.  The fight is in God’s hands.  He may lead us to an external victory that the world celebrates with us or he may lead us through hardships that ultimately help us win more internal peace.   The only thing we can change is our perspective.

Be warned: change your perspective to one of actively trusting God to make all things right is not as easy as it sounds.  Trust is not trust until you follow God down a path that you would never choose on your own.  So long as you agree with everything you do, you have not surrendered to God.  You are simply using God as a cheerleader for your best thinking, some which is pretty good and some of which is quite bad.  Once you accept God as God and follow God’s lead on God’s terms, then you will know what it is to trust and in so doing you will find the courage to change the things you can.

The key to ultimately finding the wisdom to know the difference between what you can change and what you cannot is having realistic expectations about life.  By trusting Christ you can realistically expect to be reasonably happy in this life filled with hardships and “supremely happy with Him forever in the next”.  When we learn to expect reasonable happiness in this life we make wise decisions even when life gets hard.  When we learn that supreme happiness really is a realistic promise to expect God to fulfill in the next life, we find a serenity that nothing in this world can take away.

Praying the first verse of the Serenity Prayer without the second and third verses is like setting out to work the 12 Steps and then skipping from Step 2 to Step 12.  If you do that, it’s just not going to end well for you.  But if we learn to pray all of the Serenity Prayer and work all of the 12 Steps, then we will learn how to receive the gift of peace Jesus gave to his very first followers to live when he told them “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).

-Wil Cantrell
June 23, 2016