gratitude_list

Life:

I am grateful that Jesus saved my life seven times.  I had two car accidents and one motorcycle accident that were near fatal.  I had two grand mal seizures as a result of over-dosing on crack cocaine.  I had two violent encounters with people on the streets who wanted me dead.  I narrowly escaped losing my life to these lunatics.  So yes, I am grateful for my life and all the blessings that Jesus has given to me.

My life today is rich and abundant and filled with hope and promise.  Contrast my life today with the fear, despair, anger, rage and burning loneliness that I carried every day of my addictive life and you can see what a relief and what a joy it is to be free of chemicals and the addictive lifestyle.

Physical health:

At the end of my addictive journey I was sleeping in a utility closet in an alley behind my favorite bar.  My health had deteriorated quickly.  I had pancreatitis from alcohol poisoning, I had lost 35 pounds and I had contracted Hepatitus C from sharing needles.  I was very weak physically, I had dizzy spells and my thinking was confused.  I was getting very little sleep, so my body could not repair itself.

Today, my physical health is good.  I am free of Hepatitis C after a special 60 day treatment.  It is a miracle that there is no trace of Hepatitis C in my body at all.  I am back to a healthy weight, I have a healthy diet.  Jesus has restored my body.  Yes, I am grateful to be physically healthy.

Mental health:

After 28 years of addiction, my mental health had deteriorated to the point of lunacy.  I was insane and completely controlled by the disease of addiction.  I was on a fast moving train with a one way ticket to death and hell.  Ever since I was in high school, I suffered from manic depression.  In high school I did not even know what manic depression was, and I did not even know that I had it.  I began using marijuana and alcohol to help me feel “normal”. I was self-medicating and did not know I was doing this.

My manic depression and my addiction started in high school and just kept on getting bigger and bigger until they controlled my life.  I was what they call a functional addict.  I was achieving perfect grades and I was an athlete in several sports.  My mania helped me to achieve all of this, but later I would pay a terrible price.  I had a nervous breakdown after graduating from college where I also achieved perfect grades.  The manic depression was gaining in speed and my mental state was compulsive, reckless and volatile.  I developed a hair-trigger temper and could be physically dangerous.  Whatever thought came into my head, I just did it without thinking about the consequences.  I was out of control and it only got worse.  When you combine addiction with manic depression, you have the perfect storm for disaster and tragedy.

For the last 18 years I have taken lithium carbonate to treat the manic depression and I have had no problems.  I went to thirteen treatment centers over the 28 years of my addictive journey and one of the top reasons is that I was NOT treating both the addiction and the manic depression.  They must be treated simultaneously or no sobriety can be found.  So yes, I am grateful to have my mind back.

Emotional health:

Drugs and alcohol retard our emotional growth, because we are depending upon a chemical to handle the emotional ups and downs and pressures of becoming an adult.  Our emotional maturity is stunted.  Whenever I was facing something that was emotionally stressful or painful, I would run to the chemicals for relief.  It got to the point where I could not function or cope with life without the chemicals.  Eventually, I no longer controlled the chemicals, they controlled me.  When I was frustrated or insulted or threatened, I would explode into either a physical or a verbal assault on whoever dared to cross the line that I had set in my mind.

Today, I am still very much passionate and intense, but my outbursts of anger or rage are getting fewer and far between.  The emotional storms of the past, which caused relational damage and broken relationships, are rare.  When I do make mistakes or hurt other people’s feelings, I am quick to recognize my character defects and I can apologize and repair the damage.

When I was an active addict, I could not keep any of my promises.   I always had good intentions, but I could not keep my word.  Today, when I make a promise I get great joy when I complete that promise and I hold my word as sacred.  Sobriety has restored the loving, generous heart that I was born with.  Yes, I am grateful for having much improved emotional health.  There is always room for improvement, but I know that I am on the right path.

Family health:

When I was living on the streets, I had isolated and separated myself from my family because I wanted to use drugs and alcohol in peace.  The effect of my disease of addiction was to hurt everyone I loved and to deny the love that they had for me.  My family members had all been through the disease of addiction with my mother, and now it was happening all over again with me.  I damaged all of my relationships so that I could push people away and continue my affair with chemicals which had become my best friend and lover. 

The disease of addiction wants us to be alone and isolated, away from the love of family and friends so that it can complete its ultimate goal: our destruction and death.  Resentments and anger raged inside of me and in my family.  The disease had started a war among us, and I was the bad guy.  My addictive journey started back in high school and it gained in strength until I was homeless, destitute and full of fear and loneliness.  Each family has distinct roles like the “hero” or the “scapegoat”.  I was the scapegoat.  I was the one in my family they could point to and say to themselves, “I am doing so much better than Bob.”  As the years of my addictive nightmare progressed, I became the “scapegoat”.   When I was in high school and college getting perfect grades, I was the hero.  Several of my family members turned their backs on me and pretended I no longer existed, or perhaps they were just terrified at my life and did not know how to help.  Or maybe for them, turning away was just the easier way to deal with me.  Through my addiction, I created all of my problems, including relational divisions in our family.

 Nobody knew what to do except my mother and my brother Chuck.  My mother had been sober for years and she knew that love was the answer.  My brother Chuck and his wife Beth took me into their home several times and helped me to heal my broken heart and crushed spirit.  Love is the answer.

After 18 years of sobriety and freedom from chemicals, my family relationships are beginning to heal, slowly.  People have long memories and the hurt that I caused them will not go away overnight.  Overall, I feel like there have been miracles of forgiveness and the restoration of love and respect in our family.

Yes, I am grateful for the progress that has been made in restoring my family relationships.  Jesus is the Great Healer and He has been busy helping our family.

Spiritual health:

During those 28 years of painful addictive hell, I had no peace in my soul.  I was at war with myself and I was on a self-destructive path that had one end.  It was like buying a ticket for a fast train that promised flowers and beauty, but brought you only terror, pain and misery.  The train starts at point B and ends with death.  I had a relationship with Jesus when I was in grade school, and up to my sophomore year in high school when I started using marijuana and alcohol.  My prayers stopped and I felt separated from God.  One important point:  Through my addiction I separated myself from God.  However, God never leaves us and as Saint Paul writes,

From the Bible:  Romans 8:38-39 New International Version

3For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“I soon became alienated from my family and spent all of my time with my using friends.  In the end, I learned that none of my using friends truly cared about me at all.  They just wanted to have fun and get high.

I got sober in 1998 and God has blessed me with 18 years of sobriety.  I have found a great church that has great music, powerful messages from the pastors and opportunities for volunteer work.  I have gone on two mission trips with the church, to Nicaragua and Peru.  We worked with the children, who probably taught me more than I taught them.  I have a set time to pray and to meditate and in this quiet time, I read a chapter from the bible and I read the “Jesus Calling” book and the Twenty Four Hours A Day book.  The messages in these readings are powerful and they help to positively feed my spirit.

Jesus has been calling me home all of my life.  He has forgiven me and he loves me.  He will guide me for the rest of my life and someday I will see Him face to face in paradise.

If you are interested in my full story, I have published a book:   “Saved By The Prince Of Peace—Dungeon To Sky.” 

You can order the book on my website which is:  dungeontosky.com    

Peace and Blessings to you.                           

About The Author

Robert J. Allison lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his wife Rochelle Allison. Robert survived a 28-year battle with chemical dependency, including 13 chemical dependency treatment centers and homelessness. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and began his new life of faith and contented sobriety. Robert has been blessed with 18 years of sobriety and with his new freedom he now is helping other addicts to find peace, faith and the priceless gift of sobriety.

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All of us live in a society that values action more than quiet times.  We are rewarded by employers and our families for what we do and what we accomplish and we are judged accordingly.  A high or excessive drive is admired and encouraged without looking at the cost to ourselves, our families and our physical and mental health.

We have become a world of “human doings” rather than human beings.  All of this chasing after money, power and material things has left us exhausted, spent and damaged.  The enlightened people have learned to draw a line between the pursuit of materialism and the pursuit of spiritual growth.  Like the Bible says, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”

Many people are groomed, trained and encouraged to be aggressive and to become rich and powerful.  They learn the ropes as they progress through high school, college and graduate school.  This is their rite of passage and their ticket to the game of success.  The problem is that they are told many lies along the way.  The lies are intended to control their behavior and to discourage independent thinking.

For example, I was told, not directly but by expectations that were established by my parents, that I would receive love and respect if I performed well in school and work.  If I failed, then the love and respect would be taken away and I would be alone.  I learned at a very young age to chase success and to achieve it at all costs.  I was guilty of not stopping the fast moving train of success that I had agreed to jump on, and think about what I wanted in my life, what my goals and dreams were.

I was told to graduate from high school, then college and then graduate school.  After that, I was to secure a high paying job in a fortune 500 company that had a prestigious name and reputation. Finally, I was to get married and have children while becoming powerful in my field.  There is a nauseating quality to this kind of chasing.  The chasing means nothing and ultimately, it is empty and meaningless.  So what happens after you find and possess the pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow?  What comes next?  More emptiness.

There are so many questions and important goals to think about and they do not include power, money or material things.  What happens to us after we die?  Are we eternal spiritual beings hidden inside of physical bodies?  Who is God and what is my relationship with him?  How do I develop a relationship with God, the Creator of the Universe?  Is there a secret unseen battle between good and evil raging within me?  How can I keep my focus on spirituality and my relationship with God when there are so many distractions, demands and temptations in our world?

Each of us has free will.  Don’t we all create most of our own problems, and then feel sorry for ourselves or blame God for our misfortune? Each of us can choose to strengthen our spiritual life, or we can choose to ignore it.  In the end, chasing money, power and wealth can leave us feeling empty inside, because our spirit is hungry for spiritual things, not material things.  Our souls cry out for God and only God can satisfy this thirst.  Given the fact that our eternal lives are dependent on what we focus on, it makes perfect sense to keep our eyes on God.

The November 12th  reading from the “Jesus Calling” book opens our eyes and refocuses our attention:  “My kingdom is not about earning and deserving; it’s about believing and receiving.” In the spiritual realm, we cannot do anything to earn God’s love and approval.  All of us have sinned and have fallen short of God’s perfection.  None of us deserve forgiveness or acceptance from God.  We cannot earn our way to Heaven.  If a man does a thousand good works, and has no faith and does not believe in Jesus Christ, than it profits him nothing.  When we open up our hearts, minds and souls to God’s presence, love and forgiveness, then we receive the Truth and the Truth sets us free.  Salvation is a free gift from God and all we have to do is accept it.  We are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ, not by good works.  However, our faith will lead us to love and to help others and that is very good.

One last point from the November 2nd reading from the “Twenty Four Hours A Day” book:  “Keep yourself like an empty vessel for God to fill.  Keep pouring out yourself to help others, so that God can keep filling you up with His spirit.  The more you give, the more you will have for yourself.  God will see that you are kept filled as long as you are giving to others.  But if you selfishly try to keep all for yourself, you are soon blocked off from god, your source of supply, and you will become stagnant.  To be clear, a lake must have an inflow and an outflow.”

If all we focus on is accumulating wealth and power and fame, then we most likely are not focusing on giving to and helping others.  It’s O.K. to work hard and to achieve success in our work, but to ignore the spiritual power and wisdom of giving is an eternal mistake.  Peace , Love and Blessings to you.

About The Author

Robert J. Allison lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his wife Rochelle Allison. Robert survived a 28-year battle with chemical dependency, including 13 chemical dependency treatment centers and homelessness. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and began his new life of faith and contented sobriety. Robert has been blessed with 18 years of sobriety and with his new freedom he now is helping other addicts to find peace, faith and the priceless gift of sobriety.

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When I was living outside on the streets in Denver, Colorado for one year, I became numb as a defense mechanism to protect my self from the horror of my situation.  In one year, I had experienced, as a result of my own distorted decisions, many trajedies, accidents and spiritual nightmares.  There was violence on the street when my life was directly threatened.  I carried the burden of unending fear and an all-consuming loneliness coupled with an anger that had escalated into pure rage.

My spirit was crying out for relief and escape from an evil presence that pursued me every day and every night.  There was no escape.  I can remember like it was yesterday the night 18 years ago, when I walked out of the bar and saw snow coming down hard and fast.  I immediately became fearful and angry because I had no place to live, and no shelter from a winter that had arrived.

I started searching for some place to get dry shelter out of the weather.  After a few days, I found an electrical utility closet in a alley behind my favorite bar, where I had been drinking for the last year. I opened the door to the closet using a plastic comb and I could lock it from the inside.  The closet was very small, too small for me to stretch out my legs.  I was happy to have a safe place off of the street.  I got my money hustling on the streets by pan handling and shop lifting.

There was no heat in the electrical closet.  One night in January, the temperature was extremely cold, and I woke up at 3 am with pain in my joints and a cold that had penetrated my bones like a dull persistent painful ache.  I learned that I must put down two layers of card board on the floor of the closet or the concrete would suck out all of my body heat and I could die of hypothermia.  When I first arrived in Denver, late at night, I saw people sleeping on the heat vents on the sidewalks.  These vents were exhaust vents from the big buildings.  I told myself that I would never resort to sleeping out in the open unprotected from lunatics on the streets.  I ended up spending a few nights on the vents.

I experienced violence on the streets and I often dreamed about people chasing me and wanting me dead.  I became a thief and then one after one, my morals and beliefs came crashing down, as I did things that I swore I would never do.  I experienced several county jails and a hospital due to a severe car accident.  I lost the car and had to walk thereafter.  I joined a caravan of walking homeless people and we walked all over the city in pursuit of breakfast, lunch, dinner and hot showers.  There were charities that provided food, clothing and medical support for homeless people.  I was like the walking dead. 

My spiritual state had deteriorated to the point of bankruptcy.  I felt separated from my true self and I had become a raving lunatic flipping off the world with hate in my heart.  Pain was at the center of my being and it had overwhelmed my spirit and my emotions.  I felt like a wolf that had been cornered, put in a cage and cruelly taunted.  I was ready to explode in anger and rage at the drop of a hat.  I had become an injured animal, ready to attack.  My spirit was crushed.  My confidence was gone and I felt lost.  The condition of my heart was like Hiroshima after we dropped the nuclear bomb on that poor city.  I became devastated spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically.  I had contracted hepatitis C and pancreatitus.  I had lost 35 pounds and I was extremely weak.  I was sick every day and getting worse. 

Because of all of this pain, mostly self- inflicted, I chose to become completely numb.  I did this to protect myself from my pain and the horror of who I had become.  18 years later, this numbness has subsided, but it is still deep inside of me, and it rears its ugly head when I am under stress.  Any time that I start to think about my past, a lightening quick protective wall descends to block me from my past.  This wall prevents healing.  The wall is no longer needed and it is no longer my friend. 

I knew several people who used to drink with me on the streets that lost all of their hope, and it was not too long afterward that they died.  I was stumbling towards the edge of a high cliff, about to give up hope until I said the most important prayer of my life:   I prayed, “ Jesus, please help me”.  In three days, with the help of family and friends I arrived at Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota to begin nine months of treatment for chemical dependency.  This was the beginning of my new life of freedom from chemicals and a new way of living.  I have been sober for 18 years by the grace of God.  I met my wife after being sober for four years, we bought a house and have two West Highland Terrier dogs and I have returned to my true self.  I do public speaking about addiction and recovery at high schools and chemical dependency treatment centers.  I am now a walking, talking miracle thanks to Jesus Christ.  I remain very grateful for my sobriety and I am passionate about helping others.  The person I became in Denver during my homeless days is gone forever.

Today, I went to church and met with a priest to do confession.  I was very nervous because I had not gone to confession in twenty years.  By the grace of God, the priest was great.  He was a good listener and he could read between the lines.  He told me that he was impressed with the quality of my confession and then he invited me to meet with him at the church.  I did not feel judged at all and I could feel the love of Jesus.  He told me to go out to the church benches and just sit for 10 minutes without speaking.  He said, “Just sit and be quiet for ten minutes and invite Jesus to be with you”.

I did this and I began to feel calm, and there were some small tears that welled up in my eyes.  I felt listened to and I felt loved.  However, I could feel that steely numbness holding me back, not allowing me to feel the pain of the past.  I guess in many ways, I am still numb after all of these 18 years.  Progress not perfection.  Sin separates us from God, but today my sins were forgiven.  May you find love and peace!

 

About The Author

Robert J. Allison lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his wife Rochelle Allison. Robert survived a 28-year battle with chemical dependency, including 13 chemical dependency treatment centers and homelessness. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and began his new life of faith and contented sobriety. Robert has been blessed with 18 years of sobriety and with his new freedom he now is helping other addicts to find peace, faith and the priceless gift of sobriety.

group_therapy

This is one of the greatest mysteries and greatest truths in the world: The more we give, the more we receive.  But the miracle is much bigger than that!

Our efforts to help others activates God’s power in our lives.  Let’s say that we help three people with our time, our money, our love and our encouragement.  We may think that all we have done is help three people, but that is only the surface of the spiritual power that we unleash when we give of ourselves to help another person.

Each of those three people have received your love, your time, your money and your encouragement.  Guess what often happens?  They have been loved and encouraged by you and there has been a spiritual shift in their thinking.  They now have a desire to reach out and help others who are struggling with life and need a helping hand.  Let’s say that each of the three people that you helped go out and help just one other person.  Now your three people has grown to six people who have been loved and helped. 

The equation does not stop there. Each new generation of people that is loved and helped creates more and more people that are helped.  Potentially we could see an exponential number of people.  It is possible for the numbers to double after each “Love and Help” event.  For example, three people turns into six people, then 12 people, and then…..24, 48, 96,192, 384,768, 1536, 3072, 6144, 12,288, 24,576, 49,152, 98,304, 196,608, 393,216.  This is the power of God expanding our small efforts into miraculous results.

When we have spiritual courage to reach out and help another person, God changes us and rewards us.  He gives us power and even more opportunities to love and help people.  The more we give, the more we receive.  Every human being on the Earth is connected spiritually to all human beings.  That is why if we hurt one individual we are hurting all of us.  The phrase, “What goes around, comes around”, speaks to this truth.  Every single action, thought and prayer goes out to the world like fast moving ripples caused by us throwing a stone into the water.  The “stone” that we throw is our actions, our thoughts and our prayers.  We do not live in a vacuum, all of us are connected

I have one negative story regarding my connectedness to others and one positive example.  First the negative.  I was living in a small apartment in Racine, Wisconsin and one day I woke up with the idea of running off to Denver, Colorado.  I told myself that before the sun went down, I was going to be gone, driving down highway to a new life.  I took only some clothes, some food and my dog Princess.  She was a beautiful Husky mix who one day would save my life.  I had been dealing with severe manic depression for years, and it was not being treated.

There are several different types of manic depression.  I had mild depression, but I had severe mania.  Mania is defined as, “a highly excited state”.  Basically, my mind was going 100 mph all of the time. Whatever thought came into my head, I just did it.  Imagine how hard it would be to stay sober with a mind like this!  I went to 13 chemical dependency treatment centers, largely because I was not taking lithium carbonate for manic depression.  I also went to those 13 treatment centers so I could use them as an oasis or break from street life.  I almost lost my life five times during my drug using days. I had two car accidents, a motorcycle accident, three grand mal seizures from over-dosing on crack cocaine and several experiences of violence on the streets.   On one occasion, I was attacked by three people intent on killing me.  The three men encircled me and one had a crow bar.  It is only God’s love that allowed me to escape death.  As I was surrounded by these lunatics, I felt a calm and I felt time stop, like it was in slow motion or someone hit the pause button on the TV remote.  I heard a calm, powerful voice that said, explode now!  I exploded with a primal scream and broke free of the hate-filled men and I scrambled up a small hill and into the light of a Shell gas station.  I was safe and free.

I take responsibility for my countless poor choices and the effect that has had on people.  I was homeless on the street in Denver and I had lost my car.  My dog Princess saved my life down by the Platte river while I was sleeping at three o’clock in the morning.  You can read my book, “Saved By The Prince Of Peace–Dungeon To Sky” for the complete story.  Princess and I were asleep when I felt a sharp jerk on the thin rope I had tied to Princess’s collar and attached to my wrist.  I stood up asking Princess, “What is it Princess, what do you hear?”  She began to growl intensely and she was staring into the woods.  The next thing I see is a man wearing a bright white hockey mask and moving quickly towards us.  At this point, Princess became furious and she broke the thin rope attached to my wrist. The man with the white hockey mask came into view.  Something was shining in his waistband.  As he approached us and was about twenty five yards away, he pulled out two large butcher knives from his belt and said menacingly, “I’am a skin head, and I’am gonna  kill you now!

Just then Princess lunged at the man and she began darting in and out, biting his ankles.  He held the two knives up high, ready to stab Princess on both sides of her ribs, but Princess was lightening quick and he missed.  I made a decision to run because I knew that with two butcher knives, I could not defeat him.  While Princess was attacking his ankles, I ran up the river embankment and then I called to Princess and she flew up the hill and joined me and we ran for two miles down the river and found a safe place for the rest of the night.  The thought that somewhere out in the darkness was an evil man with two butcher knives caused me not to sleep. 

I hurt many people by my drug use and my selfish behavior.  I ended up losing my best friend, Princess.  She was stolen and I never saw her again.  My actions and thoughts hurt all of my family members.  The stone that I threw into the water was full of pain, disappointment, worry, fear and anger and this is what I sent to my family when I made that decision to run away to Colorado.  I mostly hurt myself.

Here is the positive story.  My wife and I have volunteered for  “Feed My Starving Children” which is an international organization that packages and distributes food for the poorest of the poor.  There were approximately sixty volunteers who donated two hours of their time and labor to produce as many packets of nutritious food that we could.  At the end of our two hour shift, we had produced enough food to feed 4000 people for one year.  So our work and our time went out to 4000 people all over the world and gave them the gift of food.  The people who receive the food only eat once per day and without our food packets, they would not have eaten at all.

Yes, all of us are connected to one another and not just for today, but forever!

 

 

About The Author

Robert J. Allison lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his wife Rochelle Allison. Robert survived a 28-year battle with chemical dependency, including 13 chemical dependency treatment centers and homelessness. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and began his new life of faith and contented sobriety. Robert has been blessed with 18 years of sobriety and with his new freedom he now is helping other addicts to find peace, faith and the priceless gift of sobriety.