March 7, 2006
Dearly beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As I return to work this morning, having returned from the Caron Foundation treatment center in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, last Thursday, I am so very grateful: for your love and prayers and notes and kind wishes over this past month, for a supportive family, for the gift of a meaningful life and ministry, and mostly, for a loving, forgiving and sustaining God whose presence I've felt every step of the way.
I return to you in a very good place indeed -- refreshed, focused, clear-headed and happy. The education, personal insights and tools for the journey ahead which I received in treatment empower me for the future. The unimaginable grace given to me by God fuels my passion for bringing that Good News to all who are desperate to hear it. And my learnings about what makes for REAL community -- which I experienced as part of my treatment -- will inform my ministry for years to come. How could I not be grateful?
A common reminder during treatment was taken from the instructions given by flight attendants on every plane, describing what to do in case of a loss of pressure in the cabin: put your own mask on first before attempting to help others. Not a bad reminder for clergy. I will be taking steps to continue my own recovery over the next weeks, months and years. In addition to attending 12-Step meetings (perhaps in some of your congregations), I will be working with an "addiction coach," daily for a month, then regularly for a year. These commitments will obviously take time in my schedule, whether at home or when I'm traveling -- but they are essential to my continuing recovery, health and well-being. In the end, the new life they promise will allow me to be present with you and to serve you MORE fully.
Thank you also for your support in my being open about this struggle. I knew it was central to my own recovery to be honest about this with you and with the world. So much of my life and ministry has been served well by that kind of openness, it would have seemed inconsistent to attempt to hide it. While I am no longer embarrassed about having this disease, and while I will not be hesitant to discuss it with those who want to know more, I am also VERY aware that I'm a mere babe in the woods when it comes to addiction and sobriety. When approached for help, I intend to refer people to those wonderful witnesses to health and well-being who have been sober for a long time, and whose wisdom about this disease is far deeper than mine. My own sobriety needs to be my focus for now.
On the other hand, I will use any appropriate opportunity which comes my way to sound the bell of hope for those desperate to hear it. If my talking about my experience brings even one person to deal honestly with their addiction and to seek help, it will have been worth it.
Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your expressions of love and support. My cup runneth over. Please keep me in your prayers in the days ahead, as you are always in mine. Glory to God "who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine."
Your brother and bishop,