Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Good Reviews Keep Coming

The response to God is at the Meeting has been wonderful. There are seven reviews on Amazon and another on the WestBow web site. That site is www.mauricec.com. So now in addition to the blog, there is a web site. Thank you to those of you who have accessed either one or both sites.
My interest in this project is not for my ego. There is a need for any aid that works to help those in need find a solution to their addictions. Many of my inmate pals have appreciated a simpler explanation of the Steps. While most of them are quite intelligent, their reading comprehension is poor as their education is often abbreviated or even non-existent. The following is a real, current situation that is unfolding.
A gentleman, not yet 40, got out of prison about 4 months ago. He spent 20 years behind bars. If he gets caught violating his probation, he will face another 20 or more in prison. He gets to one meeting a week. He has a weekly UA and he ran the risk of failing the test a few weeks ago. Those of us who have had the blessing of sobriety for some time wonder why he would ever consider taking a drink again. How could anyone run the risk of a day in prison, much less another 20 years. Knowing the pain and grief they would cause their families with another incarcertaion, how can they chance another drink? But alcoholics and addicts do, if they don't get help. Those of us who are sober ought get on our knees daily and give gratitude to God for our reprieve.
Add this man to your prayers please. He is playing with fire and doesn't seem to know it.
One of the fellows from the Wynne Unit, who I wrote about in the book, was released from Huntsville two weeks ago. He is home now. While incarcerated, he improved his skills as a welder and had a job lined up before he went home. This is a great kid. He paid a heck of a price for whatever he did, but went home with confidence knowing his dad, his brother and his sister-in-law all attend A.A. meetings in his home city. I have no doubt he has been blessed with the gift of sobriety. Hopefully he will be going into prisons in his area to pass along the message he has received. The Texas Department of Corrections, encourages ex cons to go back into the system to demonstrate that sobriety works. While there are volunteers like me, the incarcerated really listen a lot closer to one their brothers who is successful in the free world.
Many of the prisoners tune into FM radio station KFPT Houston, on Friday evenings.  They take a radio blog and broadcast it over the air for two hours every Friday evening. The first hour of the program usually consists of an interview with someone involved in the problems of incarceration. The second hour the host takes calls from family and friends of the inmates in the Houston area. The callers get up to two minutes to "call out" to their son or daughter behind bars. The inmates love to listen to the show, especially those who never get visitors. Sadly, there are a lot in that category. I sent a copy of the book to the people who run the show, and there is a realistic chance I will be invited to review the book during the interview hour. In any case, I will try to get into the call que to say howdy to my friends. The only bad part of this process is that it lasts past my bed time.
One of my younger brothers has a good friend, a judge, who runs a alcohol and drug court in Pennsylvania. I have been invited to address the members of the current court class as a result of the book. So, in early June we are off to Harrisburg, PA, after attending Founders Day in Akron, Ohio.
Those of us in the Program are asked to carry a message of hope and recovery to the man or woman who still suffers. We all know there are way too many sufferers. We do what we can and leave the results in God's hands. So pray to be encouraged in the 12 Step work you do. I know I am not telling you anything new, but when we stay involved, for the benefit of another, we get to see the miracles up close and personal.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Feedback from Prison

While writing the book, God is at the Meeting, I truly wondered if anyone would read it.  I committed myself to the project, but needed to be pushed along the path from time to time. While the editor and proof reader encouraged me, I still wondered if I was being too full of myself.  The best encouragement I received was from the men in prison at the Wynne Unit in Huntsville, Texas.  I mentioned to them that I was considering writing a book and they seemed more than interested and would ask from time to time how the effort was coming along.  Their continued interest was the motivation needed to finish the job.  I want to give you some feedback from some of them now that the book has been around for a few months.
About a month ago I ran across a fellow at a meeting in Willis, Texas.  His face was very familiar to me.  I couldn't put a name to him, but I knew we met somewhere before.  That somewhere was in the Montgomery County jail where he had attended the A.A. meetings.  When he saw me in Willis he said with big smile, "I have been looking for you for six months."  He reminded me of where and when we met more than two years ago.  He listened at the meetings and told me that, as a result of the meetings, he decided to take the program seriously and to go into a treatment program as soon as he was released from jail.  Now this is not a one and only jail sentence for this man.  He has been in countless jails in numerous states.  He honestly can't remember how many jails, the number is well above 30.  Today he is a new man.  He attends meetings regularly, reads his materials and has been clean and sober for more than two years.  This man, who used to live on the streets and called the underside of bridges home for a long time, today has a good job, has received a few raises and promotions and is supporting himself and his mother.  Yes, his mother who had bailed him out of jails from California to Florida.  She is in her eighties now and lives with him.  They are buying a home together and he is honestly looking forward to caring for her.  I wonder how many countless nights she prayed and cried over him.  Finally she has a son who can love her and care for her.  If that ain't a miracle, I don't know what to call it.
Last week at the Wynne Unit I was sitting at a meeting and two of the guys I have known for a long time came and sat with me and said that they had to talk to me before I left for home.  One of them, a young man from Pampa, Texas, I have known for quite some time.  He was in and out of the A.A. meetings for a long time and never seemed able to sit still for long. He read God is at the Meeting.  He told me it changed his life.  He said he couldn't tell me how much it helped him and that now he has answers to who he really is, why he lived the way he did and now has a new path to take in life.  His mom is an alcoholic.  He was able not only to recognize her in the book but himself as well. He might be getting out soon and I expect to see him at a meeting when he does. Today he is looking forward to the day of his release and now believes he knows and wants to do what is necessary to stay sober. This is a young man who has a lot to give. His ears are open today in a way they have never been.  He is growing closer to his God and has begun attending church for the first time in his life.  Lots of folks skip the church and God idea, but this man has chosen to embrace both. 
Just after I talked with that young man, another fellow came and sat next to me.  I have known this guy for quite some time too. He has spent more than half his life in prison and has no reasonable chance of ever getting out. We have had numerous conversations and he was one of the first guys to tell me that prison life is all he has and may be all he will ever have. He told me once, "this is my life, these folks are my family, it's all I will ever have."  He gave up any hope of living outside the walls.  I don't know his crime.  It is none of my business.  His life sentence is a pretty good indication of what he did as a young man.  He is in his 50s and has been in 26 years.  This fellow is is tough.  He told me the last time he tried to do his fourth and fifth Steps he almost had a nervous break down.  I told him that wasn't necessary and we joked about it later. 
On this night, when he sat down he looked pretty intense.  He had finished the book some time ago and he began to talk in a way he never had talked to me before. He started with "I think I made a big mistake."  I asked what he was talking about and he continued with the following.  For twenty six years he has been telling his mother, his girlfriend and his niece that he was innocent of his crime. He has manufactured lie after lie to keep his falsehood going, and now he finally told them the truth.  His tears started to flow and he went on to say how freeing the truth is. He finally has the capacity to be honest. The Twelve Steps were taking hold of his heart and he was amazed how that changed his relationship with his Higher Power.  Now this is a hardened criminal, crying openly, probably 50 other inmates around us. God is doing for him what he could never do for himself.  He has carried and been haunted not only by his crime, but by the 26-year effort to deceive the one he loved the most about his guilt. I tried to assure him he didn't make a mistake in telling the truth.  While it may hurt his loved ones for while, they will come to believe his new-found honesty is indeed the best policy
I am hesitating in writing about these men and telling their stories because I don't want anyone to think I believe I had anything to do with the changes in these guys' lives.  All I did was what I felt God asked me to do.  Write about my experience in A.A.  That is all I did.  God does the rest.
We hear at meetings all the time about how folks who do some simple work to help another sick man or woman receive the reward of continued sobriety. What was freely given to them they give to another.  They claim no credit, they simply carry the message.  Today, arrogant s.o.b. I have been most my life, have the privilege of sharing  with men who never had half the blessings I have had.  I hope to spend the rest of my "retirement" sharing the gift of A.A.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Honesty is the Best Policy

Well the New Year has started, and I should get started too. 
First, happy New Year!  Have you made resolutions?  I'm not a resolution maker, but if I were, a good one for me would probably be to resolve to keep the TV off the news channels.  The BS I hear on the "news" amazes me, but maybe it shouldn't.  Back in the old days before I found AA, honesty was hard to come by.  I was a master of BS.  I could always come up with reasons, excuses, mitigations to explain my self-centered behavior. I pray those days are over.
There will never be perfect honesty; that perfect stuff belongs to God.  But a good run at being honest is required by all of us who want to stay in recovery and in the doors of AA.  In Chapter Five of the Big Book we are clearly told that honesty is the starting place.  If we don't have the capacity to be honest, our chances of recovery are less than average.
It is hard for me to write about honesty.  During my drinking years, I used my silver tongue to get me out of many messes.  My alibis and excuses were always so convincing.  But today I try to live in the real world.  I don't run from reality, I embrace it.  I do my best to see things for what they really are not what I want them to be. 
We all need to be willing to see ourselves for who we are, and not as some character we've made up to convince ourselves and the world that we are okay. Once we can accept ourselves for who we really are, the need to convince everyone that we are something different can slip away.  When that happens, we may find that the freedom to just be ourselves is liberating.  No more need to keep up a false front or try to remember exactly what we told people about ourselves.  No need to pretend anymore!
Every time I think about honesty, I go back to the Fourth and Fifth Steps.  I, like you, in the previous Step, turned my will and life over to the care of God. I no longer get hung up on who God is. I like the idea of being in His care.  But until I really incorporate the Fourth and Fifth Steps into my life, I have little or no knowledge of what my will and life are.  When I took these Steps the first time, I learned a lot about myself.  I found I was resentful, fearful, angry.  With the help of a sponsor, over time I learned why I had these defects of character. I was hiding from myself and everyone else.  In time I learned why I was hiding.  I was trying to keep everyone from knowing how I truly felt about myself.  I learned why I carried old ideas about myself even into adulthood. I came to realize that most of the things I learned about myself as a young man were wrong. 
After studying these vital Steps, I know  many of the lessons I learned as a youngster were wrong.  I no longer have to hide who I am, in fact I can learn to truly like who I am.  I am designed, made, loved and accepted by my God.  If I am good enough for Him, I can learn to be good enough for myself.  In fact it is an insult to God to be self loathing. That acceptance starts within the meeting places of AA..  The acceptance is expressed in the words of the Steps and I find especially after Steps Six and Seven, that no matter what I did, I am forgiven and loved by God.
When we accept this reality,weI can begin to live it. We will find we have no need to be anything but who we are.  We can be honest.  We can accept that we are children of God. The more we live in this truth and honesty, the better we can attempt to do His will in our lives.  And that is what it is all about, doing His will as best we can.
I urge you to let go of the old ideas of who you think you are.  Let go of the old anger, fear and resentments.  Throw away the idea of having to hide the real you from the rest of the world.  Know that God made you and He loves you.  If God loves you, you are worthy of the love of others. God is your buddy. 
So, start the year off with a resolution that will bring peace to your life - resolve to stay close to God this year, and the next and the next.  If you are having trouble finding this place of peace in God, contact me, contact your sponsor, contact your pastor or priest, get back into your regular AA meeting.  I think you'll find folks will be overjoyed to help you in any way they can. 
May 2012 be your best year yet.