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Archive for April, 2015


Waiting Patiently for God

 

Don’t Give Up before the Miracle Begins—AA Slogan

 

Father,

You’ve brought my soul out of bondage—

Out of the shackles of my

Self-defeating alcoholism for a purpose,

Which is beyond my capacity to fathom.

In the blindness of my pain and distress,

Which have filled my days and nights,

I have implored You relentlessly,

Insisting that You ease my pain

And grant me the desires of my heart.

Regardless of my repeated complaints,

Which I’ve audaciously called prayers,

You have never relented—not even a little.

You have never blessed my demands

Nor allowed me to have my own way,

Regardless of my fervent insistence that You do.

Unmoved, You have just gone about the task

Of transforming my heart from the inside out,

Changing me at the core of my being,

Making me a far better version of myself

Than I have ever been or dreamed of being.

 

Now, as my distress and angst have abated

And my painful sorrows have relinquished,

For the first time I can look back

And be thankful that You understand me

Better than I understand myself.

Your plan is better than what I desired or imagined.

As I come to fathom all that You have done,

I marvel at the changes You have orchestrated.

You have strengthened me, made me whole,

And have made me grateful for all You have done.

Having no idea what’s in store for the future,

I gladly give You permission to finish

The work You have begun in me.

Let my petty, whining nature become a memory—

A distant recollection of my childish ways—

As I seek Your will rather than dictating my own,

Amen.

 

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, they shout joyfully together; for they will see with their own eyes when the Lord restores Zion. Break forth, shout joyfully together, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations; that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:7-10)

Jack Watts

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In Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as other programs for addiction, people mark their progress by the amount of time they have been alcohol and drug free. Longevity is celebrated, and it should be. Because I have nearly twenty-three years of continuous sobriety, this means that what I have to say carries more weight than someone who has far less time. Again, this is how it should be. This isn’t rocket science.

Those new to sobriety are taught to pay closer attention to “Winners” in the program than others, and the wise newcomers learn to do so. In the South, we use a chip system to acknowledge our time in sobriety. For those just coming in, they pick up a white poker chip, signifying a desire to not drink for that day. After thirty days of continuous sobriety, another chip is given, followed by a chip for ninety days, six months, nine months, one year, and for multiple years. A blue chip is given for each year of sobriety, and I have twenty-two. When I pick up my twenty-third-year chip, people will clap and congratulate me, acknowledging that my tenure means I have done a great deal of work successfully.

This is the focus of AA. The emphasis is on longevity. There is no recognition given for the quality of a person’s sobriety. By working the program, most do become better people—sometimes much better people—but this isn’t measured. It is just assumed that the longer you are sober, the better person you will become. While this is more often true than not, it isn’t always the case.

If you have trouble with alcoholism, or you are concerned that you might be a problem drinker, what I am recommending is that you take an alternative approach—at least in your mind. From the time that withdrawal from alcohol ceases to be a problem, you need to focus on your character and measure the quality of your sobriety side by side with your longevity.

By doing this, you will enrich your life appreciably. By focusing on character development, rather than just staying clean, you can become the person you want to be. Instead of just assuming your character will transform, which may or may not happen, make character change your emphasis. If you do, the longevity will inevitably follow. You can count on this, and you should.

http://www.mcgeeandme.net/books/
http://sonomachristianhome.com/2015/04/altering-alcoholic-behavior/

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Doing the Next Right Thing

 

Let it begin with me—AA Slogan

 

Father,

When I came to You in my distress,

I wanted You to “make everything better,”

To nurse my bruises like my mother once did

When I was a little boy and hurt myself—

To tell me that I would be okay and that

My pain would vanish and soon be forgotten.

But this is not what You did nor what You intended.

Instead, You made it crystal clear that

I could not nurse my wounds in solitude,

Nor take pleasure in the bitter fruit of self-pity.

Instead, You insisted that I “suck it up” and be a man,

Stretching me far beyond my comfort zone,

Insisting that I be more open, more honest,

And more vulnerable than I have ever been before.

You guided me, leading me to do

The next right thing, regardless of what

The consequences might be, regardless of the outcome.

 

Despite my fears and my desire to hide my circumstances,

Which I masked with a disingenuous smile,

I obeyed, doing the next right thing—one day at a time.

Knowing that following Your will was my only option,

Even when being obedient looked like

A weak and foolish thing to do,

I sucked it up and did what I knew to be right,

Time after time, until doing so became natural and easy.

Father, You know Your plans for me, and I do not.

I cannot see the future nor understand it—not even a little,

But I know that by following my conscience,

Even when it would have been easier to walk away,

Something of value has been created within me,

Which has become an integral part of my character,

And I am grateful that it has made me a better person,

Amen.

 

 

Behold, I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; when He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:8-10)

Jack Watts

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Abandoning Hurtful Ways

 

God will never give you more than you can handle—AA Slogan

 

 

Father,

You know how badly

I have been mistreated

By those who should have nurtured me

But have done exactly the opposite,

Taking advantage of my trusting nature instead.

I’ve expressed my outrage and indignation

To You so often that I’ve lost count.

This affront has wounded me so deeply that—

Out of my pain—I know I have hurt others,

Which I’ve sought to justify but cannot.

I fear I have become like those who have hurt me,

Injuring the innocent—just like I have been wounded.

Father, I acknowledge that I have done this,

And I am becoming someone I don’t want to be.

I don’t want to be like my abusers,

But I admit that I have been,

Despite my insistent denials to the contrary.

Forgive me, Father. Heal my wounds,

And restore gladness to my troubled soul.

As a conscious act of contrition, I choose to renounce

My self-serving ways, which have been so destructive.

Despite my pain, anger, and disquietude,

I make a commitment to abandon my malice.

To ensure that I fulfill my resolution,

I will need Your strength and guidance.

Reach down and touch me, Father.

Help me bridle my sharp tongue.

Keep my feet from stumbling.

Transform my wandering heart.

I need Your help, Father. Without it,

My resolve will be short lived, amounting to

Nothing more than an empty promise,

Amen.

 

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:30-32)

Jack Watts

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Father,

I know who I am.

My past is ever before me, weighing me down.

I see my shame and cringe at the things I have done.

O, how I regret my greedy willfulness,

And how I have hurt other with no other

Purpose than to enhance my pleasure.

My sin is ever before me,

Grinding me down and keeping me

From being a better version of myself.

Is my remorse to be my lot in life forever?

Or, can I finally divest myself of the poisonous

Attitudes that have made my life a wasteland,

Filled with purposeless self-destruction?

 

In my heart, I know the answer,

But I have difficulty letting go of my guilt.

In my head, I know You have forgiven me,

But in my heart, I have refused to accept

Your forgiveness—not completely.

Father, I need You to change my heart—

To renew my spirit, so that I can

Be free from the shackled of my past

That have tied me to my repeated failures.

Create in me a clean heart, Lord,

So that I can smile at the future—

No longer be hobbled by my transgressions,

Amen.

 

Jack Watts

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As we seek to do God’s will daily, which is essential to maintaining sobriety, we must also think about the future. After all, planning ahead is an important part of life. To be sure, there are times when all a recovering person can do is make it through the day. I understand this, but days like those usually occur early in sobriety.

Once the desire to drink is no longer a daily obsession, the recovering alcoholic can actually plan for the future—free from the debilitating behavior that created and perpetuated alcoholism.

Even better, we can be free from alcoholic thinking. We can recognize that in Christ our capacity to produce good behavior has greatly increased. We are no longer creatures of the night—tossed about by self-destructive cravings that bind us to failures of our past. We are becoming much better people than this. Thus, we can actually come to the place where we ask God about His plans for our future, rather than repeatedly begging Him to forgive us for our past behavior.

Instead of continuous failure, we can look forward to living an honorable life filled with worthwhile activities. We can actually think about how we can become the person God intends for us to be. When we reach this point, which takes a while but is more than wishful thinking, the principles of sobriety will enter our souls. This is what makes our natures truly sober—not just our behavior. When this happens, and it will, fulfilled in life can occur.

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Father, I know who I am.

My past is ever before me, weighing me down.

I see my shame and cringe at the things I have done.

O, how I regret my greedy willfulness,

And how I have hurt others with no other

Purpose than to enhance my pleasure.

My sin is ever before me,

Grinding me down and keeping me

From being a better version of myself.

Is my remorse to be my lot in life forever?

Or, can I finally divest myself of the poisonous

Attitudes that have made my life a wasteland,

Filled with purposeless self-destruction?

In my heart, I know the answer,

But I have difficulty letting go of my guilt.

In my head, I know You have forgiven me,

But in my heart, I have refused to accept

Your forgiveness—not completely.

Father, I need You to change my heart—

To renew my spirit, so that I can

Be free from the shackles of my past

That have tied me to my repeated failures.

Create in me a clean heart, Lord,

So that I can smile at the future—

No longer be hobbled by my transgressions,

Amen. —Jack Watts

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Father,

I have walked the wrong path for so long,

Often hurting others and causing them pain.

I deeply regret my actions and self-serving ways.

Now, with Your help, as I try to straighten out

All that I have done that has been so destructive,

I want to get past this phase of my recovery

Quickly and easily, but I know life doesn’t work

This way; nor is it a good idea that it should.

I recognize this. I understand that the way back

Will require as much concerted effort

As I am capable of mustering.

 

But I want more for my life than just getting beyond

All the pain and suffering I have caused others.

I want my life to be filled with love, joy, peace and kindness.

With Your help, I want to learn my life’s lessons

From all the pain I created, so I will never do it again.

I know that, with Your help, I can make amends

And finally set the record straight with others.

Allow me to feel the pain and heartache I have caused,

So that I can grow from this and become a better person.

Father, allow my future good to far eclipse

The willful and callous destructiveness of my past.

Walk with me, Lord, side by side, and help me

Begin a bold new chapter in my life,

Amen.

Jack Watts

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In the weeks and months to come, I will be writing about addiction, but not just about what it is or ways to stop it. That part is important, obviously, but it is also elementary. Although each addict must take life one day at a time, it is equally imperative for every alcoholic to realize this: There is more to life than living not to drink. If you simply exist from one day to the next with no higher aspiration than making it through the day without drinking, then your problem is greater than alcoholism. An expectation such as this creates a very low bar for fulfillment. Life has much more to offer, and God doesn’t want you to miss out on all of the richness awaiting you. To think of grinding out your days—just doing your best to stay sober—eventually becomes negative and self-defeating.

At the beginning of sobriety, when the physical craving for alcohol is still a major issue, taking things one day at a time is all a recovering person can do. That’s a given, and it is absolutely necessary. During this phase, frequently all an alcoholic can do is take things an hour at a time—perhaps even less than that. When this time passes though, and it does, so should the limitations of an alcoholic’s expectations. Unfortunately, for many this never happens. They become stuck in their alcoholic mindset and continue to live day-to-day, never moving beyond their original problem. Consequently, they limit their worldview and their vision for the future. Believing they have little to offer, based on their past behavior and experiences, many in recovery continue to believe their potential for achievement remains low, but this isn’t true. It is exactly the opposite. Unconsciously, alcoholics allow their past failures to continue to define them. Although it doesn’t need to be this way, and shouldn’t be, it does.

In recovery, our aspirations need to be much higher than living not to drink. We simply cannot allow our past transgressions to define who we will be for the rest of our lives. This simple truth should be obvious, but recovering alcoholics miss it routinely. Weighed down by shame and guilt, they never free themselves from the bondage alcoholism has placed on them. For them, being an alcoholic becomes a permanent limitation, rather than a significant but temporary setback. Although alcoholics can never drink again—not under any circumstances—this is their only limitation. Nevertheless, because of the shame of this one handicap, they put a lifetime burden on themselves, carrying it around like Jacob Marley carried his chains.

This is completely unnecessary, and it is certainly not God’s will. Most people are ashamed to admit they are alcoholics. This is why the word “anonymous” is part of the name, but there’s an unintended consequence that comes from this. The stigma of admitting openly that one is an alcoholic continues to shame people for years after they become sober—sometimes decades. They think that remaining in the shadows is a good idea, but it isn’t. What it does is solidify their problem and make it a lifelong issue—one from which they never fully recover.

I realized the enormity of this problem when I wrote my memoir, Hi, My Name Is Jack, which is the story of my family and of my recovery. Essentially, it’s a massive fourth step, but it was much more than this for me. When Simon & Schuster published the book, it was my open, public admission that I was an alcoholic. There were those who thought I was wrong to have even written it, but I published it anyway. Although it was difficult, it freed me from my past like nothing else ever has, including counseling and thousands of AA meetings. —Jack Watts

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Father,

Having wasted so much of my life pursuing folly,

At the core of my being I have felt so ashamed—

So unworthy of Your love or of the love of others.

I believe You have forgiven my transgressions.

You have said so in Your Word, but this doesn’t

Seem real to me—not after what I have done.

I know that I have allowed my past failures

To cloud my thinking and my judgment,

But I’m tired of living like this—

Of spinning my wheels, getting nowhere.

I don’t want to live like this any more; I can’t.

Since Your forgiveness has freed me

From the debilitating guilt of my past,

I want to accept what You have done for me—

Without reservation—once and for all.

I want to be free—to be able to enjoy

The abundant life You desire for me to live.

To make this real, I ask that You

Forgive me, for I have fallen short

Of being the person You intend for me to be.

I accept Your forgiveness, which I do not deserve,

But which You have generously provided.

Since You have expunged all of my misconduct

For eternity, so will I. Thank You for freeing me

From my past, allowing me to walk into the future

Unencumbered by my painful, debilitating memories.

Thank You for restoring me to wholeness,

So that I can become the person You want me to be.

Out of gratitude, I will make myself available

To help others who have strayed

And wandered far from the path of Truth,

Amen.

http://www.mcgeeandme.net/books/

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