3rd Year Reflections




What I learned:
I’ve often said that I experience more “church” in my recovery meetings than REAL church.
I’ve also found that the recovery groups lack in ways church excels.  The methods of salvation for both institutions have many similarities.  For example, there is a statement of belief in something greater than ourselves.  There is the essential experience of some kind of confession where-by we vulnerably lay out our true selves before God and one another.  There is a period or reconciliation with those we have wronged.  There is an emphasis on prayer as a way to stay strong and continue on our journey of faith.  And there is the importance of passing the message of “salvation” onto those who suffer.

In many ways, the recovery groups far exceed church.  Prayer and confession (admitting our wrongs) seem to be more relevant in those who strive for salvation from their addiction; but an emphasis on belief and passing on the message of grace appear to surpass the recovery groups.  Of course, every church and recovery group are unique in their own identity, and my experience is limited to the churches I’ve been a part of and the recovery groups I’ve plugged into.

I think both institutions would deepen in their impact in the world if we reach out to one another and learn what we can with the purpose of taking these practices to heart.  Although lately my attendance to the recovery groups I’ve attended is sparse, I have learned the seriousness of prayer and confession for my own healing from addiction and all the other ways I am broken.  Practicing my faith as a Christian and passing on meaningful steps to my congregation has not only kept me from self-sabotage for three years, but I pray it has also made me better at walking with others on their own faith journey.

I’m grateful for the teachings of Jesus and Bill W. as they continue to inform me and transform me.  My prayer is that I pass on these steps in a convincing way to my congregation and together we are transformed and healed from all our kinds of brokenness along the way. The goal being that we share healing Love and Light in our corner of the world.  

The Most Dangerous Combination


Boredom and Anxiety.  Two things that make me want to fall off the wagon.  My non-addict friends and family are drinking far more than usual as we're all shut-in with this Corona Virus pandemic.  They joke about having cases of wine delivered to their home since they're not supposed to go out.  Did you know that wine is essential?  Did you ever imagine that like pizza delivery, there could be booze delivery?  I didn't see that coming.

I'm grateful that I don't live alone, cause if I did, no telling how far off the wagon I would fall.  I'll have three years of sobriety on April 24th and I'd like to keep it that way.  Anyway, this shut-in business is taking a toll on everyone, most especially my alcoholic and addict friends who don't have meetings to go to.  They're trying to do Zoom meetings, but it's just not the same.

Anyway, along with all your prayers for those who are getting sick, and those whose mental health is being challenged, and those who are running out of ideas to keep their kids busy, let's also include all those addicts out there who are on the brink of losing their sobriety due to the most dangerous combination:  boredom and anxiety.

1,000 Days!


On Sunday, I will reach the 1,000-day mark of sobriety.  Yeah! With the help of God! Unfortunately, there’s no coin for 1,000 days sober!!

But I’ve been feeling guilty about how I’ve been “doing” my program.  I’ve talked to my sponsor only a handful of times in the past 3 months, and not in any kind of depth.  I haven’t been attending meetings complaining, “I’m too busy!”  When I need to drag myself out of the house after dinner for a night meeting, I find myself just not wanting to go out again.  I want to be in my pj’s, have dinner and watch the end of the world (the news.)

So, guilt has been my main emotion when reflecting on my recovery.  Yesterday my sponsor called me.  I’m glad she did because as each day that went by without touching base felt a little more awkward knowing I wasn’t doing what I was “supposed to do.”  So, I was relieved when she called me to check in. I immediately shared with her my guilt, and she responded in a way I didn’t expect.  She said, “everyone has their own way of doing recovery.  You need to find your way and if it works, GREAT. All I can do is tell you what has worked for me.”    With that, relief washed over me.  I was given permission, which surprisingly is what I was looking for, to do my program my way.  

In reflection, it reminded me of church, yet again.  People will come to me feeling guilty when they haven’t attended worship due to a variety of reasons.  And I respond with the same answer to each person: “You’re on your own journey.  You need to do what is right for you.  We’re always here when you need us or want to join us on a regular basis, but remember, “no matter who you are or where you are on your faith journey, you are loved by God and welcome here.”

I feel the same way about my AA family, even though I don’t see them very often.  I always feel that their message to me is, “No matter who you are or where you are in your recovery, you are loved by your Higher Power and welcome here.”

For me, this is just another way that AA is church. 

Filling Holes


It's been a while since I shared with your my journey.  That's because my recovery has been dwindling.  No, I'm not drinking or using, but I haven't been to meetings in a long time, and I've been experiencing some disappointments that have left holes in my life.  As I'm not working my program, I fill my life not with the things that bring me peace and health, but I fill the holes in my life with obsessions.  Maybe this is my bi-polar condition acting out, maybe it is my addictive behavior.  Whatever it is, these holes yearn to be filled.

My latest obsession was my application to the Lilly Foundation for a four month sabbatical.  I applied last year, didn't get it, got feedback and was convinced that this year, it would be awarded to me and I would spend those months with Ken on the Camino and then some months in Prague.  I was so convinced that I practiced Spanish, I make my list with REI, I got all the books I could get my hands on that had to do with the Camino or Prague.  I was obsessed and I was convinced I would be awarded this opportunity to travel the world.  Then last week I got the letter that said, "Thanks but no thanks."

In the past, the old Susan would quickly fill that deep hole of disappointment by drinking and smoking pot.  That would make the pain and sense of rejection go away.  At least for the moment.  But since that is no longer an option, I find myself a bit frantic, wondering "What am I going to do to distract myself from this huge blow?"

  Last night I went to an AA meeting for the first time in months and realized that my meetings, my program, my relationships with other alcoholics were not in play.  I may not have been drinking these months while I obsessively planned for something that was not going to happen, but I was behaving in a way that is described as a "dry drunk."  I realize that if I was working my program while I waited for word, I would have been living in the present instead of the future.  I would have been filling  life's disappointments with friends, fellowship and my Higher Power instead of dreams for tomorrow.

It was a good wake-up call last night as I listened to folks share how they've let go of their resentments.  I certainly resent that I did not get the Lilly.  I was convinced I turned in an excellent application and clearly the Lilly folks missed the fact that I'm so awesome!

Well, live and learn.  Stick with the program.  Take one day at a time.  That's what they say and that's what I need to start doing again.


Remembering Birth. Remembering Death.


It's been two years since I checked into Betty Ford/Hazenden Treatment Center. Two years of sobriety, two years of living in recovery.  I never imagined.  But I feel that way every day.  I just never imagined I'd ever go for any time without drinking.  Yet here I am.  Today is actually the day after my birthday, and it's actually a somber day.  Last year, the day after my birthday, the daughter of one of my parishioners died from alcoholism.  She was only in her 40's and she left 2 small children behind.  As I sat with her and her family and prayed with them on her last days, it was not lost on me that she was me.  Why am I the one praying over and not the one being prayed for?  How is it that I escaped her fate (at least as of today.). A day after will follow every birthday I have, and that day will be the anniversary of this young woman's death.  On my birthday, April 24,  I celebrate by adding another butterfly to my arm.  The day after, April 25,  I remember what I am avoiding...  One day at a time.

Holy Week Will Never Be the Same


This is the season of death and new life.  It is my birthday season.  The  death to my disease of addiction and birth to a new way of living.  From darkness and despair to hope and renewal.  It's Good Friday today and although this is not the actual day I hit bottom (as the date of Good Friday changes from year to year), it is the day I remember my bottom.

Leading the Good Friday sacred service stoned.  That's what I did two years ago.  That was when my heart groaned with my deepest prayer of surrender.  That was when I finally completely truly let go of any illusion of control.  Good Friday will never ever be the same for me again.  Each year, as I lead this solemn sacred service where we turn our attention to the deepest death, darkness, and despair that humans can face, I will remember my own death, my own darkness, and my own despair.  I will forever more be able to make the connection from my deepest pain to Jesus' deepest pain.  I will forever remember that in that darkness, the Light never left.  In my despair, Christ comforted.  In my hopelessness, Jesus sat with me.

Holy Week will never ever be the same for me.  Because now I know that Easter always always always follows Good Friday.

When You’re Hit By a Train…


It’s been about a month since the United Methodist’s 2019 Special General Conference.  I don’t know if you know, maybe you do, maybe not, but my beloved denomination that I purposefully joined because its central theme is GRACE, voted to be as UN-GRACE-FILLED as it gets.  General Conference ruled that the United Methodist Church believes that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (BULLSHIT).  The church chooses to not ordain people from the LGBTQIA family.  The church chooses to BRING TO TRIAL, those bishops, district superintendents and clergy who do not abide by the rules.  That means we are forbidden to preside over same-sex marriage.  

When this happened, the rug was pulled out from under me.  It was worse than when Trump won, and Hillary lost.  Except when I woke up from a good night’s sleep knowing that we were going to have our first female president (IT’S ABOUT TIME), on November 5th, and found out we voted for a misogynistic, racist fool, I fell into an abyss and stayed drunk and high for the next six months.  This time, I had to endure my pain, disappointment, anger and distress without anything to remove me from that reality. The name I have identified with (United Methodist) is no longer the name I want for myself. A piece of me died.

Now I have shame. Shame of being a part of a mean-spirited institution and I’ve been pondering leaving.  But I’m also seeing clergy and laity from all over the globe rising up and defying what happened at General Conference.  The middle finger is being lifted high by thousands (maybe millions?) of United Methodists throughout the world.

This gives me hope.  And I didn’t drink.  That also gives me hope!

Broken and Divided


Yesterday I witnessed and experienced a kind of trauma.  My beloved denomination is at an impasse.  For the last 4 days delegates from all over the world convened in St. Louis to decide the position of the United Methodist Church concerning human sexuality.  55% of the delegates voted to exclude those in the LGBTQ community and 45% voted to include all God’s children unconditionally into our church.

As someone who sides with the minority, I experience great grief at how United Methodist’s define themselves and their beliefs.  I am ashamed to call myself a United Methodist.  That causes me great grief because I feel like I’ve lost a piece of my identity.  

This blow is the most difficult thing I’ve had to face in my 22 months of sobriety.  Goodness gracious how I wish I could join my colleagues and commiserate over a few bottles of wine.  How I wish I could smoke a bowl and let the stress and anxiety fall away and give me some respite.  But alas, I’m living a new life now and that is not how I respond to life on life’s terms.

So, the past few days have been filled with calls to my sponsor, an appointment with my spiritual director and meetings.  Last night I entered a room filled with old-farts and the smell of bad coffee and I listened to what these men had to say about faith.  Little did they know the hurt and heartache I brought in, little did they know that I was experiencing a crisis of faith, little did they know how much I needed to be reminded about the healing power of faith. 

And I realized once again, this is church.  Just like those old-farts were waiting for me to come and share bad coffee along with our deepest desire to stay sober, my local church waits for anyone to come in share some not so bad coffee and our deepest desire to know love and share love. 

Once again, I’m reminded AA is church and church is AA.  

E.G.O.


People in recovery talk a lot about ego.  We recognize that our ego's are our downfall.  I heard the greatest acronym for ego.  E - edging. G- God. O - out.  When our ego is in play, we are edging God out of our lives.  We are not letting go and letting God, but rather we are clinging to our own wants and pushing God out of the picture all together.  It's important for me to remember that when my ego is running the show, God isn't, and that always leads to problems.

Old-timers Never Forget


There's a meeting at noon everyday in Vancouver called "Miracles."  It is always an amazing meeting filled with a ton of old-timers (that's people who have decades of sobriety).  The thing that always amazes me about these old-timers is that when they share, they always share a little bit about what it was like before they got sober.  In some cases, these stories are over 30, 40, even 50 years old!  What astounds me is how they remember those stories.  I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast this morning, I can't imagine how I'm going to remember my drunk days thirty years from now.  And yet, I think that the reason these old-timers have time is because they don't forget.  They make an effort to remember.  Going to meetings helps us remember.

I think that folks who end up losing their sobriety do so because they choose to forget.  Who wants to remember all this embarrassing shameful horrible times?  Not me.  If I had it my way, I'd want to wipe those memories from my mind all together and pretend they never happened.  And yet, if I forget, don't I run the risk of repeating history?

As much as I don't like it, I think I do need to remember those dark days.  Doing so will keep me living day to day in the light.

SPONSORSHIP


 As a “progressive Christian” I find myself qualifying my faith to those outside my church so that I can be clear that when I say I’m a Christian I’m NOT saying that I’m a right wing, conservative Christian who supports policy that is not in line with Jesus’ teachings.  I know some of my clergy colleagues don’t say they’re Christian at all; instead they call themselves “Jesus followers” because the name “Christian” is so often misinterpreted by the un-churched world.

I’ve run into that same problem in my AA circles.  My sponsor is not a Christian, but she knows God as Love, just like me.  She’s liberal, just like me.  She has 17 years sobriety, not like me.  She helped me a great deal in my first 18 months of sobriety, but I found myself holding back when I talked to her about my Higher Power. For the same reason I hold back when I talk to the un-churched about my faith, being careful about my language, not using words that are loaded and misunderstood, I found myself being too careful with how I communicated how my Higher Power is working in my life. That’s not good. It’s not honest.

I know that I need to be untethered, free to speak, encouraged to work out how my recovery, faith and call are all intertwined.  So, I lovingly (I pray) told my sponsor, who helped me in ways I can’t even explain, that it’s time I move on.  It was so difficult for me to advocate for myself because quite frankly, one of my character defects is to please people, even if it’s at my own expense.

So, now I’m looking for another sponsor.  I recognize how crucial it is to have someone who is farther along on the path than I am to help me navigate life on life’s terms.  But I also want to be very intentional about who I ask and seek someone who can really hear the meaning of how my tradition’s stories and theologies shape my understanding of how my Higher Power is at work in my life and the life of the world.  I don’t need, nor necessarily want, a sponsor who shares my belief system.  But I also don’t want to have to qualify these stories or these concepts with the person I’m supposed to be most honest with.  I feel like I have to do that everywhere else in the world outside church and it’s exhausting. 

Recovering or Repenting: Same Thing



An article/ad I submitted to our local paper called The Reflector.

My name is Pastor Susan Boegli and I am in recovery from alcoholism.  I wanted to share my thoughts regarding the process of my recovery and the journey toward God.  For me, they’re one in the same.  The word “repent” has a bad wrap.  What comes to mind for many of us is the image of a street-corner evangelists warning those passing by that the world is doomed.  For me, the word “repent” simply means “to change one’s thinking.”  In recovery, I’ve had to change my thinking about a lot of things.  For example, I’ve changed my thinking about alcoholism being a disease rather than a choice.  I’ve changed my thinking that I can only have fun when I’m drinking.  I’ve changed my thinking that it’s possible for me to become sober, with the help of God.  

My recovery requires self-refection, righting where I have wronged others, study of those also in recovery, and a lot of prayer.  My spiritual journey requires an effort to “know thyself,” confession, diving into Scripture and readings from spiritual gurus across the world and throughout time, and of course, a whole lot of prayer.  Sharing my recovery and spiritual journey, and listening to and pondering the journey of others, is what I call “church.”  

You are invited to join us on this sacred journey to a “new way of thinking,” because I believe that how we think effects how we live.  We at Battle Ground Community United Methodist Church strive to have the same mind as Christ Jesus and live in the manner he lived – simply by loving God and loving ALL our neighbors, no exceptions.

500 Days


 It’s been 500 days since I’ve had a drink or smoked a joint.  500 days of being on this twelve step journey toward dependence on God and living a life that is joyful, peaceful, fulfilling, creative, empowering, and more…. I told my sponsor last week and those at my meeting yesterday that I don’t feel any longer that I HAVE TO go to meetings.  I’ve shifted into the grateful feeling of I GET TO go to meetings.

I have come to realize and experience that this journey of recovery is pulling me deeper and deeper into a spiritual health that I knew existed but didn’t ever believe I would have the good fortune of experiencing.  Last night I shared in a meeting that I truly wish everyone was an alcoholic so they too could embark on a program like this one.  I wasn’t serious about everyone being an alcoholic of course, but I am serious about the blessing that this journey is and how I deeply wish everyone had 12 simple (but super hard) steps to growing closer and closer to their Higher Power as they understand Him/Her.

It’s true, I am on what AA’s call a pink cloud, but for now, I’m just soaking it all in. So taking one day at a time, I am looking forward to writing my post when I reach 1000 days… God willing