Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. – Matthew 18:15-17
Although these reparations take innumerable forms, there are some general principles which we find guiding. Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be. We may lose our position or reputation or face jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We must not shrink at anything. – A.A. Big Book p.79
About 18 months ago I was teaching religion classes. I was writing and posting on an increasingly popular blog. I was “Tweeting” like mad and most people had this image of me as a sort of theologian wise in years beyond my age. I was funny, a bit sarcastic, and even a little offensive.
At least that’s what I believed was the case.
No one knew what I knew. No one could see what was happening in my life below the surface. My image online was an avatar, a persona, a fabricated version of myself. I don’t discount that I may have uttered wise things here and there that may have been helpful. As the corpus of the Bible shows us, God seems to work through just about anything to get a message out. Nevertheless I was a sham in many respects.
While I was often arrogantly spouting forth spiritual wisdom and the occasional linguistic effluvium I was an alcoholic, cheating on my wife, and creating havoc with an unmanaged mental illness. From my youth I was a confused person with extraordinarily low self-esteem and rarely woke up glad to be alive. Somewhere after 9-11-01 my date with reality officially came to an end and the snowball of an unmanaged life slowly began to form at the top of a mountain. I resented the church, pastors, successful writers, people giving presentations, others getting jobs I wanted, and many other things to which I felt entitled. Of course I didn’t want to do the work to earn these things. What I would later learn is that self-centeredness was my major problem. The problem is that I had no clue what was really happening.
As my then unknown manic-depression got more out of control I simply drank more alcohol because it silenced the voices. Getting drunk caused other problems like hypomanic episodes. When I was hypomanic I was unfaithful in my marriage. Then I would get depressed and drink to anesthetize myself. And back around the cycle again. This was happening all while I was fronting flowing spiritual wisdom – hypocritical at best. Here I had a little piece of the American dream and I was doing my best to sabotage the whole thing. The sad part is that I didn’t even know it, or maybe chose not to admit it. The point is I didn’t correct my behavior. I merely wallowed in self-pity and resentment.
I started to hit bottom the end of 2010 and would admit my problem after a brush with suicide in late January of 2011. The tiny snowball that formed in late 2001 was now massive and crashed down on me and those around me during the first half of 2011. Only later would I honestly see the extent of the wreckage I caused in my past. Through that first year of abstinence from alcohol I kept messing up. It was only when I came to a full stop a few months ago that I saw some daylight.
I got a great job close to my kids after spending a year of applying to and interviewing at places as far as 5 hours away from them. I finally got the right pharmaceutical cocktail along with the right therapy to manage my manic-depression. I finally began to put into practice the full weight of my spiritual program of recovering from alcoholism. I finally responded to a calling to join the Eastern Orthodox church which had been a bug in my ear for well over a decade.
I am more present and serene around my amazing kids. I am trying to be the best ex-spouse I can be. I need to make progress in all aspects of my life and I consciously try on most days. This is all a series of major changes from the self-centered and literally pitiful shell of a person I was.
I have made amends with many people already. The question was how to make amends to people who had followed me on Twitter, read the previous version of this blog, and even retweeted or referenced my writing in the past. These are the people I didn’t know or of whom I was not aware I may have harmed somehow. The truth is I still don’t remember a whole lot of what I did while drunk or when having an manic-depressive episode. This may or may not reach them. I am not posting this as part of some popularity stunt.
After seeking counsel how to make amends to you who is reading this and to who has known me or heard of me from some indirect manner, this seems appropriate. If I have ever harmed you or offended you in anyway while drinking, manic, depressed, or in any other way, I ask now what I can do to set things aright. I may not be able to do anything. I accept the consequences of my behavior. However, if there is anything I can offer to you, please let me know.
What I can truthfully say today is I am seeking spiritual progress. I am accepting what I was like and who I am today. Life has a lot in it for which I am truly grateful and don’t deserve at all. I may still mess up and will. I am not perfect nor will I ever be. What I will not do is hide from my faults by resorting to the dishonest and manipulative ways of my past. I pray that those masks have been shattered and I can accept things for what the truly are. There’s a lot of beauty in the world I don’t want to miss.