Real Love comes Through the Door

I knew I had a “broken picker,” meaning I had no talent for picking a healthy partner.  So when Mercy brings real love into your life it takes you by surprise.  That’s how it was for me in 2004.  My licensing exam was about a year off.  I was a lowly intern and had been gathering training hours in Stockton, CA.  I left a fairly menial social worker position for a “real therapist job” in Sacramento–an upgrade in title with the salary about the same.  I was hauling boxes out of my office to the car and it was getting dark.

I thought everybody had gone home.  I was almost done; just a few more boxes.  I had turned in my keys to the office manager, so all I had to do was lock the door behind me and be on my way.

I walked back to the building to get another box, but was shocked to find the door had swung shut!  Now I’d have to call the office manager to let me back in.  However, just then a bright and shining face appeared through the glass.  It was Arleen from Marketing and she was still in the office! 

When she opened that door my life was changed.

“Hi,” she said warmly, “would you like some help?”  I wondered for a second if she meant help with my life.  No, she must mean with the boxes, I thought, but as a matter of fact my life did need lots of help.  Arleen, I would come to learn, is someone who’s always at the right place at the right time.

“Yes, I would like some help,” I said.  We got some dinner and after that we started dating.  I had recently surrendered my addiction, was attending recovery meetings, had a sponsor, and now my first ever healthy relationship found me!  To think, if that had not happened, I would have collected my things and left her behind.  I didn’t because of Mercy.  The first Promise (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 83) of the Twelve Promises states, “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.”  It’s true!

We eventually fell in love and got engaged, married and moved to Wisconsin.  If that sounds weird, moving from California to Wisconsin, that’s okay, because it did to everyone else we met.  But for us it was the greatest good fortune and still is.  What followed was an amazing spirit of hope and a sudden shift toward healthy change, reconciliation, surrender, acceptance and forgiveness.  In short, a new life.





Grace and Mercy in Therapy

Ellen’s Story

“This should not have happened,” Ellen said to me, and I didn’t disagree, because it made no sense that she was scornfully tossed aside by her husband of twenty-three years for someone he met at work.   I had been seeing her for four months, helping her through the stages of grief following the loss of her marriage.  Ellen was a survivor, a strong person who refused to waste her life living as a victim.  Her former husband was addicted to drugs and sex.

“I gave that scoundrel my heart and soul; we raised a wonderful daughter and son.  I gave up a career and stood by him all the way for all those years.”  She was fuming, sitting in my office, eyes burning with homicidal rage and righteous indignation.  Then she did something I didn’t expect.  She laughed.

“And you know, I should have seen it coming,” she mused.  “Before me, all his relationships were pitifully unstable.  Just before we got engaged he told me, ‘You’re different from the others, Ellen.  You wouldn’t desert me like they did.’  And he was right—I never would have. ”

In those four months Ellen had screamed and swore and cried and by this time had recovered her self-esteem.  It was perfectly absurd that she was tossed aside when she had such a golden heart. Yet, the Grace bestowed on her was her children.  She told me that bringing them into the world was more than compensation for her disappointing marriage, which she survived.  She would remarry, this time to a wonderful man who was truly worthy of her.  I believe many times people overcome profound traumas and tragedies through mystical events of Grace and Mercy.

God’s Mercy imbues a special kind of meaning to anything.  In fact, in ordinary human experience, when we choose to inject the God into a story or event, it often elevates it to the extraordinary.  “God, I can’t believe that actually happened to you!” is exclaimed without consciously thinking about God, but nonetheless God belongs in the mix of ideas somehow, because there’s something mysteriously wonderful or amazing about those special, mystical events.

You may have a very vague, almost non-existent and even unflattering concept of God; yet the word “God” will promote itself in our minds in these numinous experiences of life.

“God, that was close!  An anvil dropped down out of nowhere and almost flattened me!” is a statement that raises getting that close to death, but yet somehow eluding it, to something incredible or miraculous.

Those kinds of situations I have re-worked from real cases with real people I have treated to share with you, my reader.  I hope you will add your own stories of life’s miracles to them as we go.  And if you haven’t had a miracle happen to you lately, if you need one, they are available to you, because no one is excluded from God’s amazing Grace and Mercy.

Therapist Needing Therapy

Before I became a marriage therapist and addictions counselor I realized I needed therapy myself.  I am an adult child of an alcoholic and had a bad case of toxic shame from growing up in my alcoholic family, during which I developed two addictions: relationship and food addiction.  This scenario isn’t unusual, if you talk candidly with many therapists.  Out of our personal life dramas we were called upon to help others resolve theirs.  I was to find I needed two things even more than therapy: to believe in myself and to find God again, from the inside.  Rich foods and silly romances made very poor gods.

I also needed to learn what a healthy relationship is, because I didn’t know.  After many false alarms of the heart, the Grace of all Graces came when I met my wife, who supports my recovery but isn’t in recovery herself, simply because she doesn’t need to be.  It’s amazing to me that some people in this world don’t need recovery.  I know I tried to pretend I didn’t need recovery for a very long time.

My clinical specialties are amazingly harmonious.  Relationship issues always come with addictions, which entail psychological and emotional problems without fail.  Out of this work of twenty years, I am humbled and appreciative of two spiritual forces integral to successful outcomes in therapy, which are Grace and Mercy.

Like all therapists, I earn my livelihood by listening to people, asking questions and drawing conclusions from what they reveal.  Then I try to help them make things better for themselves.  That always involves choices, but it all begins with Grace and Mercy.   If Grace and Mercy enter the therapy office with me and my clients, or are there when we walk in, a successful outcome is assured.  Of course, skillful assessment, treatment planning and the right interventions are always components of therapy as a behavioral science, which usually for me come together intuitively, even mysteriously.  Invisible spiritual forces do underlie our material lives.

In both my personal and professional lives I wish to be an influence of Grace and Mercy, so that those brought into my sphere of influence can reach out and be touched by them. Please tell me your story.  I can’t do therapy from a blog, but I can be a witness to your truth and validate your experience.  We are all trudging the Road of Happy Destiny in recovery.