Tag Archives: Redemption

Christmas presents

12-Step Christmas

This is an expanded version of material originally prepared for my memoir Masterpiece (A Love Story).

(A four-minute read – read part II here)

Collecting garbage

By my early 40s, the world of weed was just too spooky. Maintaining a respectable image while simultaneously patronizing drug dealers became difficult. The dread of being busted was balanced uncomfortably with the fear of running out of weed. I carried an intense level of denial. Eventually, the pot did run out and booze took over. It was legal, easy, cheaper.

Where marijuana was a spirit guide, alcohol was a balm, a saviour, and finally, my master: the only thing I truly cared about. Even my sense of self-preservation was subservient to the need to drink. I lived to drink, and ultimately, drank to live.

Within ten years, I crashed onto the floor of a seedy motel room and began the return to life. I had to unlearn lies before accepting truths, undo evil consequences before accepting fresh ones and unburden myself of baggage before packing a new kit.

Doing the work presented by the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous was like getting through a busy Christmas shopping season. For many of us Christmas is jolly and joyful, but it can also be full of rush, pressure, expectation, a need to perform, and an undercurrent that something is not quite right somehow, as though Santa is about to drop the other boot.

12-Step Christmas

The softening of my heart was a 12-Step Christmas. It was messy and demanding, even while liberating. It centered on the greatest gift I could have given myself, the gift of forgiveness. The more time I spent drunk, the more the perceived wrongs done to me piled up.

When I got sober, I could finally smell the stink of them. They had to go.

I resisted the idea that I could only get rid of them by getting even. There’s no value in getting even, only in getting free. It’s a simple act; not always easy, but it changed my life.

Forgiveness of others can be a difficult, demanding and painful thing. I know. Some of the grudges and resentments I found myself with I’d borne for years. I needed to unburden myself.

Let’s consider them as a ‘burden’ because that so well illustrates what the unforgiving soul packs around. Unforgiveness itself is literally that: a burden, a drag, a friction. It keeps me weighted to an unhealthy past instead of releasing me for a better future.

An uncomfortable picture

To illustrate, imagine yourself walking along having just finished all your Christmas shopping in one go.

On your left shoulder is a very large bag, the long strap of which is over your head to keep it from slipping away. Your arm hangs out over its bulk in an uncomfortable arc. The hand of that arm grips another shopping bag, this one hanging low and heavy, outboard of your knee.

These stuffed satchels would have you tipping hard left if it weren’t for the oversized weighty sack you desperately clutch with your right hand as a counterbalance. Meanwhile, you’re kept from being hunched over by the giant rucksack resting heavily on your back.

That one appears to keep you above the center of balance, but it’s an illusion. In reality, it weighs you down even more, creating additional pressure.

This is the picture we need to see when we choose to bear a grudge or carry a resentment. Grudges are heavy things, and they get heavier over time; their inertia grows. It’s as though gravity increases where they are present. They are truly weighty matters.

This is an expanded version of material originally prepared for my memoir Masterpiece (A Love Story).

Read part II here

Alan, 1972

Repetitive Idiot Child (Part Two)

(A five-minute read)

This essay was taken from material originally developed for my memoir, “Masterpiece (A Love Story),” now on sale.

[Read Part One here]

As a teenager, I was willful and self-indulgent and on a desperate search for meaning, which led me to seek many illicit things. I chose a path of self-destruction and was blind to my folly, like a lamb that gets its own ideas.

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All the neighbors were involved in the fun. Their fun, at my expense. The phone rings: ‘Your lamb is caught in the fence again.’ I am 12 miles away at work. The phone rings: ‘Your lamb is caught in the fence again.’ I make a call to see if someone else can make the trudge. Quickly, I have had enough of this lamb with the misshapen horns.

At first, I thought Dippity would somehow get smart and realize that when she sticks her head through the fence, her horns get caught every time. Yes, well this is a sheep we are talking about, and ovines are not known for their problem-solving ability.

More fool I.

I briefly considered the plastic Elizabethan collar I had in case I ever needed to treat an injured dog. Nope – too flimsy for a lamb. Then the household engineer remembered a friend’s brilliant idea involving a short length of PVC pipe and duct tape. Thus, the “Ovine Curb Feelers” were born. The firmly anchored PVC stretched horizontally from one horn to another, jutting out far enough on both sides to make fence-trapping impossible.

When Dippity was released with her new fashion accessory, it was clear she knew something was wrong. She shook her head. She ran in circles. She was immediately shunned by the rest of the ewes, lambs and yearlings. This is because sheep, remarkably, have an acute ability to remember faces. For example, every year after shearing, a newly-shorn ewe returns to the flock, only to be stared at by the others as though they had never seen her before: ‘Who in the world are YOU?’

So when Dippity appeared before the befuddled staring crowd, antennae akimbo, and began shaking, stamping, circling and spinning, the stampede was on. She ran to join them. They ran away. For comfort, she ran to her mother, Sera. Sera ran away. Dippity ran faster. Sera ran faster still.

Dippity stopped and started. The others danced away. She stopped, confused. Bobby the Guard Llama came over to investigate, bowing on his long neck for a closer look. Dippity shook her head as if to say ‘Stop staring at me, Bub’, and ran off to join the flock. They scattered again.

Eventually the flock got over it. As a bonus, Dippity was weaned in the bargain.

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God slapped an outsized accessory on me during an encounter with Him in 2003. I walked into this in great psychic pain. I walked away stone cold sober and eager to know more about this God who saved my life. The outsized accessory was His Spirit. It served the same purpose as the PVC pipe I put on that lamb. It brought an awareness that I was no longer my own master.

Dippity had no choice. I used mine to surrender. Oh, it wasn’t done happily, nor willingly, but it was done. God now had the ability to turn my head the way He wanted me to look, which then caused me to follow.

I had been told years before in driver’s education never to stare at an accident or a slow-moving vehicle, or a pedestrian on the side of the road – I will have a tendency to steer into it. Life is exactly like that. I turn aside toward the things I fill my vision with: an escapist lifestyle, my victimhood, the illusory pleasure of a pornographic image, that greener grass on the other side, or God Himself.

My choice.

The day came when I was no longer fence-trapped. My days as a lost lamb ended. But not before the Shepherd came to find me and I let Him carry me home.

To read more about my journey, you can buy my memoir, Masterpiece (A Love Story) in eBook and paperback.

A black and white lamb

Repetitive Idiot Child (Part One)

(A four minute read)

This essay was developed from material originally developed for “Masterpiece (A Love Story, a memoir about recovery from sexual abuse.

At age 15, I was about to descend into a lifestyle of drug use, alcohol binges and sexual perversion. The only thing that mattered was how I felt; I was blind to the consequences of my actions, and the destinations of my desires. Like a lost lamb, I was dumb and helpless before the traps set ahead of me. I needed a Shepherd, but had forgotten mine.

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When your own mother runs from you, something’s wrong.

The child’s name is Dippity, and she is a five-month old Jacob ewe. Dippity has a problem, and that is the configuration of her horns. They jut backward from her skull at dual 45-degree angles – 45 degrees out and 45 degrees up. It is the perfect combination to make her continually fence-trapped, a feat she mastered quickly and soon managed at least once a day.

I became alerted to this phenomenon through repeated and vigorous bawling.

My Christian faith grew during my years as a sheep farmer, in the years after I got sober and began to follow God. The biblical truth that sheep become like shepherds and shepherds like sheep became real to me. The sheep knew my voice,1 but I also knew theirs. This was a flock of Jacob Sheep, which are vocal, and their voices are quite distinguishable from one another.

So when Belle is complaining about breakfast being late, I know. When Marian wants to assert her matriarchal dominance, I nod in agreement. When Dippity wants to be rescued, I sigh, pull on my boots, and make one more annoying trek to the upper pasture.

Woven field fence is a wonderful invention. It comes in large rolls and is relatively easy to install along a line of metal T-posts. The square spaces between the vertical and horizontal wires are small at the bottom, and become larger toward the top. At the height of Dippity’s head, about two feet off the ground, they were just the right size for her to work her noggin through a hole in pursuit of the always-greener grass on the other side, grass which she can see, but never reaches.

Her horns are just short and flexible enough to follow her nose, snap through, and then prevent a return. When the grass turns out to be unreachable, the bawling begins.

The first time this happened I was nestled snug in my bed enjoying a good book. I was ready to snap off the light for a long late-winter’s nap. It was very dark. It was cold. It was raining (it was April in Oregon). I rose, dressed, pulled on the boots and a slicker, and trudged up the hill to see what was the matter. That’s what shepherds do.

At the time, the fence-trap problem seemed like a fluke, and didn’t merit a second thought. Two weeks later, it became more than apparent this was a pattern of behavior that would never change.

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Unlike a lamb, I have free will and my behavior can change when I want it to. But just like a lamb, I also need help. When I am fence trapped, I need my Shepherd to come along and free me.

1. John 10:27-28

[Enjoy Part Two here]

Masterpiece (A Love Story) is now on sale at a special introductory price. Read more about it..