Monday, April 16, 2012

Food, Faith and Freedom

On January 18, 1999 I was release from the Montana State Prison after completing a 2 year stint for bad checks and forgery. The first thing I did upon my release was to find some non-prison food and thoroughly enjoy it. 

It wasn't lobster. 

It wasn't filet mignon. 

It was McDonald's - a Big Mac, Diet Coke and french fries to be exact. 

To this day, it is one of the most memorable meals I have EVER eaten. I remember the saltiness of the fries, the smell of the hamburger as I opened the bag, the sheen of the table as I slid into the booth, the coldness of the soda as it passed from the straw to my tongue. It remains as visceral and stark as if it happened this morning.

Until recently, no food has ever had such an impact upon me...

I found freedom in food.

Whenever I meet someone who has been in prison for a substantial length of time, I ask them "What was the first thing you did after you were released?" Almost 100% of the time and without a moment's hesitation they will reply "I went to get something to eat."

They find freedom in food

Now I don't have any quantifiable data to back up my observations and I am not a psychologist in any stretch of the word, but this seems to align perfectly with food being a central part of the base level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Fast forward to late summer 2011.

After my latest sad attempt to find acceptance through deceit and dishonesty, I found myself drawn to a church in Denver called House for All Sinners and Saints, hilariously abbreviated HFASS. Now I don't call myself a Lutheran. Depending on who you ask, I may not be a Christian. What I do count myself is a Child of G-d and that is how I approach my involvement in this community that has embraced and accepted me.

As an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) affiliated congregation, HFASS practices open communion - that the invitation to Lord's Table is between Christ and the individual and no human may interfere in that sacred exchange. This  idea - that even clergy presiding over the Eucharist doesn't have the authority to deny the children of G-d an invitation from Heaven - was quite revolutionary for me.

I am no theologian and I don't have a fancy seminary degree. 

I study rocks, possibly the farthest thing from theology.  

In my experience, the Eucharist boils down to this: eat and be free.  

At roughly the same time this concept began to intellectually take hold, Occupy Denver sprang up. Because I am a whore for a cause, I went down to Lincoln Park to see how I could become involved. Almost from the first day I found myself assisting with preparing, cooking and serving food to the Occupiers. What grew out of this came to be known as The Thunderdome - a free kitchen serving mostly organic, lovingly made food.

We served free food to free people.

Our unofficial slogan was "This Is What Democracy Cooks Like."

The Thunderdome was open 24/7/365. Anyone, regardless of race, class, orientation, gender, appearance, affiliation, religion could come eat at anytime. We treated people with dignity and respect. Our little food stand became the heart and soul of Occupy Denver.

Then one night, when the air was crisp and the moon was high, they came for us.

This is a theme. It is a thing

Across the US, wherever people are giving away food to others, those in power seem to have a problem with it.

This is nothing new

One of the main reasons Jesus Christ was put to death was because of his disruptive influence to the Roman Empire. He was called many of the same names as Caesar - King of Kings, Son of God, Prince of Peace. He did many of the same things as the Emperor - looking after the population, healing, providing comfort, performed exorcisms. 

Jesus Christ also fed people.

The night before His Crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples ‘This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me.’ This links directly with His teaching in John 6:35 where Jesus teaches "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry."

For what it is worth, that is my totally non-official non-treatise on my faith, my food and my freedom. 

Be well, do good work and keep in touch. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

To Infinity...and Beyond

My brain is no longer a volatile mixture of booze, cocaine and insanity. The booze and cocaine have been removed and by the grace of G-d, the insanity is down to an almost tolerable level.

One benefit of this decreased volatility is my increasing ability to notice things that had previously escaped my attention.

Things like patterns of events and synchronicities that have been popping into my world.

Antecdotes and experiences others relate to me - both in and out of the rooms.

Running into friends, classmates and others right at the time I happen to be thinking of them.

Messages in books, on signs and overheard in conversations that oddly coincide with ideas, concepts and things I am wrestling with.

This past week I was able to put these newfound observational capacities to use.

For two months, I have been attending classes at Metro State here in Denver where I am studying Geology. Part of my science curriclum involves a math class wherein we are learning about various types of infinities - big infinities, small infinities, etc.

Continuing on...

Within the past week, I attended several different meetings wherein someone seemed to invariably say something to the effect of "I don't have that much time in the program..." This statement strikes me as odd and self-defeating for two reasons:

1. AA by it's nature is not competitive, but rather collaborative, and
2. You only have as much time in the program as you have. (If that doesn't make sense, please bare with me, and it might.)

So after hearing this so many times, I felt it necessary to share on it and what follows is an inexact retelling of that share:

I haven't attended school or taken a math class in 15 years so when I try to understand why I need to know about infinity to work with rocks, I become confused. So I don't try to understand it. Rather I just attend the class, do the work and see what comes of it. Now I have learned there are different levels of infinity. There is the infinity that you see when you look up at the night sky. That is a big infinity. Them there are the infinites that exist between numbers. Those are small infinities. Those are the infinities between numbers like 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. We can chop up the space between numbers into smaller pieces and get numbers like 1.5 and 2.7 and 10,685,392.1678. We can keep chopping until we get numbers like 1.05 and 1.005 and 1.0005 and 1.0005 and 1.00005 and infinitum...

What this means is staggering to me: the difference between 1 day do sobriety and 2 days of sobriety is the same as the difference between 1 day of sobriety and 10,000 days of sobriety and that is infinity...

If I haven't drank or drugged today I have 1 day of sobriety and infinite sobriety...

Such is the weird and wondrous nature of my journey into a spiritual solution...
Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Turning Point

Yesterday something happened.

While it was not what I had wanted to happen, I was moderately ok with what did happen.

In the past, my first reaction would have been to attempt to exert some sort of ham handed control over these events, circumstances, trends and the people ancillary to them.

How did that work out?

People ended up hating me.

Courts locked me up.

Not one person involved came out better for the situation.

One of the things that I am learning since coming into the rooms of AA is that I don't have any control over people, places, and things and when I think I do, the results are only negative.

Yesterday marked the first time on my journey into sobriety that I didn't engage in the aforementioned behavior which for me, was revolutionary.

For a single moment I stopped and did nothing.

For a single moment I was just there with my circumstances.

For a single moment I just existed with all of it.

What I did was acknowledge it for what it was - a court ruling. Then I finished my coffee and made a few phone calls to people who I thought should know. They summation of those conversations went something like "Well that sucks. I hope you are OK and we are here for you."

This is a single court ruling in one of many misdemeanor cases in the unfortunate history of a single human, one of billions that currently suck oxygen on a tiny blue planet orbiting a small yellow star in the backwaters of a typical galaxy in the expanse of one of an infinite number of realities that exist in the mind of G-d.

I am nothing special.

There will be those who claim that I am a terrible human being and should have all manner of terrible thing done to me as a result.

They are probably correct.

Or not.

They are is free to voice their threats and opinions and thoughts and views.

In that same freedom, I am able to acknowledge those things for what they are: ones and zeroes stored on computers.

They are nothing more.

It only has power over me if I let it.

In the words of our Serenity Prayer: "May G-d grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

Truly the only thing I have the power to change is myself.

G-d, please give me the courage to do so.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ten Minutes Of My Thoughts...

What is that bird looking at?

That squirrel across the street is eating a giant pine cone. He makes it look REALLY good, like it's a corn dog or something.


This chair smells like cheese.

When I die, will I want to to be stuffed, mounted and put on display like a trophy moose?

Pleated pants are beneath human dignity.

It's funny to think I have any dignity.

If we can teach a parrot to talk, why can't we teach a monkey to talk?

Most of my friends are drunks, hookers, felons and cokeheads. Thank G-d for that.

Pigeons in the street are called vermin and people hate them. Pigeons in fancy restaurants are called squab and sold for $50 apiece.

I miss Jeremy.

My favorite word to say over and over is "foyer."

My grandmother just might be the secret love child of Nikola Tesla and Mae West.


As a synesthete, my favorite tasting word is sunshine.

There are 4,723 bricks in the wall across from me right now.


No one will ever love me the way I never loved me.

Before I use the bathroom at night, I still check behind the shower curtain for monsters.

Sometimes I wish I would win the lottery. Then I am glad that I will never win the lottery.

I can feel neutrinos passing through me right this very second.


What type of leather couch do I want to get?

Corgi or Great Dane or Bulldog- which is the cutest?

Coffee is a weird word.

My fingers sort of look like knobby sausages.

Finger is a weird word.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Six Months And One Day

Six months and one day ago I was alone, homeless, broke, hopeless, dealing with untreated mental illness and didn't have a reason to live.

Now I am not able to say if I came up with the idea that going to sit in a roomful of drunks, junkies and degenerates was better than stepping in front of an oncoming light rail or if G-d Hisownself was responsible, but either way, I made my way to a meeting.

As I walked to the York Street Club, my mind actively plotted how it would end me were it not satisfied with the outcome of this meeting because anything, including death, was better than what I was dealing with, or rather NOT dealing with. My mind had convinced itself that a meeting was only an hour long, and given the 30 minute walk there and back, it could have me stepping in front of a light rail in time to make the drive time newscast if this AA bullshit didn't seem like it would do anything.

The topic of the AA meeting that I first attended was "What G-d Has Done For Me" and when I heard this I laughed not so silently to myself as I already knew what G-d had done for me.

G-d had fucked me.

G-d had taken from me the love of my life.

G-d had robbed me of my livelihood.

G-d had made me homeless.

G-d had deprived me of my very will to live.

Whether or not this was some cruel cosmic joke or some cruel cosmic coincidence I did not know. Either way I was intent on sitting through this meeting as my mind had decided that was what I was going to do and if it didn't work, well, I had a date with a light rail.

Sitting there in that room of sober drunks and me, I passed judgement on this and derisively mocked that until a large, shiny jowled man sitting right next to me said "My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic." His voice hit me with the force of a lead pipe to the head as I had not noticed him sitting there when I sat down. He spoke tersely and forcibly and without embellishment and while I don't remember everything he said, I do remember his closing words "Like G-d will fuck up my life any worse than I have."

That was six months and one day ago.

In that time I have carried Joe's wisdom with me and "Like G-d will fuck my life any worse than I have." has become a very powerful mantra for me.

In that time I have not drank or drugged.

In that time I have started looking for a job and have even had several interviews.

In that time I have started developing a community of people who care about me and I have cried from happiness because of it.

In that time I have started to live honestly and embrace my past misdeeds.

In that time, three people have allowed me to stay with them from time to time so I am no longer sleeping in an abandoned house.

In that time I have begun to deal with my mental illness by attending group and individual counseling sessions and sticking to a medication schedule.

Please keep in mind that my life, by any measurement, still sucks. I've no job, no source of income, no permanent place to live, rely on public assistance for food and healthcare and still have terrible days that see me sobbing uncontrollably for seemingly no reason at all.

However, what I can say exists in my life where before it didn't is an emerging sense of possibility. This has been given to me by people I have met both in and out of the rooms who have gone down this road, suffered what I am suffering and can give me the experience, strength and hope that I don't yet have.

They can help me match serenity to calamity and know that while it won't get all better right now, what I have gone through and what I will yet go through will someday help someone, somewhere.

Just like Joe's words of wisdom helped me exactly when I needed it.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Alone No More...

A funny thing happened a few weeks back.

One morning I awoke after spending a night of being VERY ill, the majority of which was spent VERY near the loo.

You will be spared the gory details.

Needless to say, after a night of "sleeping" on the bathroom floor, curled in a fetal position using a rolled up towel as a pillow, I was in NO shape to stand up. let alone go out into the world and make my way thereabouts.

As I had a headache and to move any part of my body for any reason left me feeling nauseous and dizzy, I didn't call or text or email or tweet or Facebook anyone regarding my condition. As I have in the past, I was just planning to suffer though my seasonal bout with the flu in the stoic manner that I like to think I do.

The next day the nausea and had abated sufficiently that I was able to call and text and email and tweet and Facebook.  Upon checking Facebook, texts and tweets, I saw that several people had contacted me asking where I was, if I was OK and to call or text or Facebook as soon as I could.

Something was amiss.

This was not what usually happened.

I was not quite sure how to deal with this.

Let me address some relevant background info. The majority of the last twenty or so years has involved me lying, deceiving, cheating or in general being a terrible human being. People that had the misfortune of crossing paths with me usually went away worse for the experience. I would imagine that if you take a survey of my former bosses, friends, co-workers, roommates and significant others, you would find that the majority of them have negative memories of me.

The end result of this has pattern of behavior is that I have VERY few people in my life whom I can say that I am close with.

That now appears to be changing.

People contact me to see if I wish to do things - get coffee, go shopping, take in a movie, eat lunch, etc.

These people know of my past, they know of my misdeeds yet they don't care.

They accept me for me - the good, the bad and the worse.

On pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book of AA , we read The Promises:
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it...Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change...We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
This is happening for me.

I am amazed that people care about me, wish to spend time with me and seek me out for help.

I am starting to know a new freedom and a happiness that comes from knowing that people know about my past and they don't care.

I can see that my attitude and outlook on life are changing in that I am not hiding my past, my troubles and my current situation - underemployed, broke and in recovery.

I suddenly did realize that G-d is doing ALL these things for me because I most certainly am not capable of doing this for myself.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


This is the season of miracles.

The birth of Christ and the lights of Hanukkah remind us of miraculous events that took place so long ago and so far away. 

If you watch the news, read the papers and listen to friends and neighbors, miracles don't seem so common anymore. 

War and violence and hate are everywhere we turn.  

A common reaction to this is to ask "If G-d loves us, why do all this terrible, evil things occur?" People might wonder "If G-d is all good, why are children in Africa born HIV positive?" We question: "If G-d is present in the world, why are people discriminated against or killed because they are transgender or black or gay."

These questions are asked out of a universal human need to seek meaning behind seemingly meaningless suffering. We inquire because as people who need comfort, we will find no comfort if we were not to ask.

In the program of AA, it is suggested that if we wish to find serenity and peace, we should accept life on life's terms. Page 448 of the Big Book reads as follows:
Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation--some fact of my life --unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
When I read this, I am reminded that the G-d of my understanding wants me to have peace and abundance and happiness. But how can I have peace and abundance and happiness in a world filled with evil and greed and hate?

It seems upside down.

Then it hit me with all the force of a frying pan to the face: It is not G-d that is upside down, it is me! It is not G-d's expectations that are weird, it is my view of the world I live in!

This realization took me back to a passage in the Talmud (book of Jewish law) I read several years ago that tells the story of a rabbi whose son fell ill and was at the brink of death when his father's prayers brought him back to life. When he came to, his father asked him what he saw in heaven. The son replied: "I saw an upside-down world. Those who are on top here, are on the bottom there; and those who are here regarded as lowly, are exalted in heaven."

If we flip the question, we flip the answer.

The question to ask is not "Why is there evil in the world?" but rather "Why is there good in the world?"

There is evil in the world not because G-d doesn't love us, but rather there is good in the world because G-d loves us.

When looked at in this way, miracles become commonplace and G-d's grace becomes evident in everyday events. 

The person who finds a job after being on the street for months. 

A trip to the emergency room that turns out to be nothing to terrible. 

An alcoholic or addict who stops using, starts working the steps and begins to experience the promises

We begin to see our Higher Power working in and through these and other situations and we realize that each and every moment we are here is exactly what it is: a miracle. 

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.