And Drink I Did: One Man’s Story of Growing Through Recovery by Jay Keefe: An underdeveloped, but powerful memoir of addiction and recovery

And Drink I DidAnd Drink I Did: One Man’s Story of Growing Through Recovery

by Jay Keefe


Kindle Edition, 154 pg.
2018

Read: March 2 – 5, 2019

This is one of those books that’s pretty well summed up by the title and subtitle. There’s not a lot more to say, really. But I’ll flesh it out a little — the first two chapters are primarily focused on his pre-alcohol life to gain some insight into his alcoholism. He begins by saying that he doesn’t know why he’s an alcoholic, he doesn’t know what made him one — moreover, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he is an alcoholic. That doesn’t stop him from thinking and writing about his childhood — not in an effort to justify or explain away his alcoholism, but to understand it. He explains some early emotional experiences, as part of this — and even his earliest memories of OCD.

This might be the closest I’ve gotten to understanding the compulsion’s sensation:

I didn’t feel right or complete until I had done specific tasks.

Even after I did them, there was still a lingering sense that something was off. When people ask me to describe it, the best I can do is to say it’s like an itch that can’t be scratched- kind of like when the top of your mouth tickles, and you use your tongue to scratch it, but it doesn’t really help because your tongue just isn’t the right instrument to scratch an itch.

It’s like that.

Kind of.

Then he explained his initial drinking experiences and how alcohol made him feel. It reminded me of a similar passage in Mose Kasher’s memoir of addiction.

I always felt a void and had no idea how to fill it.

Alcohol filled that void perfectly.

It took me out of myself.

I could relax. . . .

Alcohol quelled the OCD too.

I didn’t clean when I was drunk.

It didn’t bother me that things weren’t in their place.

I didn’t sweat the small stuff, so to speak.

And I knew I wasn’t sweating it. That was the beauty of it.

It’s so easy for people — especially for non-addicts — to pin drugs and alcohol use and abuse to people who are partying or having a good time and can’t stop. For Kasher, it was about feeling normal; for Keefe it’s about quieting the OCD, about not having the self-doubt and insecurities that plagued him. It’s about self-medicating. Addiction’s never more understandable to me than when I hear someone talking like that — who wouldn’t want that experience? Forget about feeling good, just getting to neutral — no problems.

Anyway, from there Keefe spends a few chapters talking about his experiences drinking — at one point he says that other addicts’ war stories never impressed him, and initially you get the feeling that’s hypocritical because he talks a lot about some of the stupid or out of control things he did while drinking. But he never glorified the experience, he never celebrates what happened — it’s just a list of things he did. Like reciting the tasks (largely routine) at work you completed one week. More than once I found myself wondering how Keefe is still living — and he probably did, too, while writing it.

He then talks about his early days of recovery — his early 12-Step days and when it started to work for him, and how that changed his life. How being sober didn’t fix all of his problems, and how he still has impulse control issues and what he’s done to minimize the problems that causes him. Then he discusses his current circumstances, with a few years of sobriety behind him — how he’s doing, what he’s doing with himself, and that he’s still an alcoholic, living in fear of stumbling.

Those last couple of chapters, in particular are really powerful.

I’m a little of two minds about this book — you can see from what I’ve quoted how this book reads. Paragraphs that are 1 or 2 sentences long (there are some that are a little longer), some aren’t even complete sentences. The book largely reads like a very detailed outline — at best like a good first draft. Also, the timeline’s a little fuzzy and his knack for not using names all the time when talking about his life doesn’t help keep things clear.

None of that keeps the book from making an impact. It’s moving, it’s powerful, and you have a very real sense of what he went through. So Keefe’s not Tobias Wolff or Frank McCourt — who cares? The book accomplishes what he sets out to accomplish, is insightful, touching and inspiring. That’s good enough for me.

—–

3 Stars
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion, which is what I provided.
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Saving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of Dort by W. Robert Godfrey: A great Intro to the Canons of Dort and a valuable tool for study

Saving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of DortSaving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of Dort

by W. Robert Godfrey


eARC, 265 pg.
Reformation Trust Publishing, 2019

Read: February 3 – 10, 2019


I’m halfway inclined to just copy and paste the Table of Contents here and say, “If you want to know about any of this, here’s where you start.” Slap a nice little graphic with some stars on it, and we’re done. But I’m not that lazy. This is a historically-based study of the Synod of Dort’s major product — the Canons of Dort (although it does look at some other concerns), the defense of the Reformed doctrines in answer to the challenges of Jacob Arminius and the Remonstrants that took up and furthered his cause following his death. The Canons gave us the so-called “5 Points of Calvinism” and are often misunderstood because of that and as mischaracterized as those points themselves. If this book only helps people stop doing that, it’d be well worth the effort (it won’t, but it’s pretty to think so) — but it’s so much more.

There are four parts to this book — any one of which can be read independently from the others. I’m not sure why you would do that, but they’re self-contained enough that you don’t have to.

Part I focuses on the historical and theological context for the calling of the Synod, those who attended and the topics it would address. Godfrey is a Church Historian and former History professor, this is his bread and butter, and you can tell that from these chapters. You also get the impression that he could’ve written a book about the same length as this one just on the historical matters without breaking a sweat. This isn’t the best part of the book, but it gets things off to a great start.

Part II is a “Pastoral” translation of the Canons prepared by Godfrey for this book. I’m not familiar enough with other translations to really have much to say about this. I’ve read others, but I don’t have them committed to memory. Besides, I don’t know Latin well enough to evaluate the translation. But I can say that this was a clear translation, it didn’t read like something written in Latin for experts, but something written to help me and other Christians to wade through some weighty topics. As the problems caused by the Remonstrants were in the churches more than in the academy, the language matched that.

The heart of the book is in Part III, An Exposition of the Canons of Dort. Godfrey beings with some observations about the Canons as a whole — how they’re structured before he dives in to the Canons themselves. In addition to the errors of the Remonstrants, the Canons address other issues related to the doctrines involved, providing a resource for believers for generations not just an answer to their contemporary problems. The pastoral focus of the Canons — and Godfrey — is evident throughout the Exposition, he’s frequently talking about comfort, encouragement, and assurance. It’s not just an explanation and defense of the Reformation and Protestant teaching, it’s an aid and comfort to believers.

It may come as a surprise to see what Godfrey points out as a result of compromise, and the reasoning behind those things that needed no compromise. The behind-the-scenes portions of the book are as interesting as the exposition (giving an indication to those of us who didn’t sit under Godfrey’s Church History lectures that we really missed out on something). Godfrey also points out how the Canons weren’t as successful in some ways as they wanted to be — not as a failure, just that some of their goals were out of reach of the assembly.

Some of this section gets repetitive — because each Head of Doctrine is complete in itself, capable of standing alone — so similar points are covered repeatedly. Godfrey’s exposition both points that out and is written to keep the repetition from being dull, but instead an indication of the importance of the various points. This section is so helpful that I really can’t do justice — my copy is full of highlighted lines/paragraphs. I will be returning to it often, I know that. Concise, clear, insightful — everything you want in this kind of study.

The remainder of the book is Appendices. There’s an outline of the Canons, an explanation for the pattern of each head of doctrine (very similar to the same idea in the Exposition) and a handy guide to the relation of the positive articles to the rejection of errors. The last appendix is a new translation of the Synod’s provisional position on the Sabbath, giving some insight into the relation of the Synod’s stance to that of British Puritanism. The largest, and probably most helpful (and maybe controversial) is an extended look at Arminius and his overall project. Godfrey takes a position that argues against some recent scholarship (as I understand) and insists that he wasn’t a moderate Reformed churchman, but someone seeking to overturn segments of the church’s teaching and introduce serious Pelagian error.

In this anniversary year, I know this will not be the only book about the Synod released (I have another pre-ordered, and am sure I’ll pick up others) — but I can’t imagine that it won’t be one of the better. It is well-researched, careful, encouraging and pastoral — this is not dry and dusty history, nor dry and dusty doctrine. This book, like the Synod it focuses on, seeks to defend, protect and further the cause of the Protestant Reformation, the Gospel itself. As such, it succeeds and you’d do well to study it.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Reformation Trust Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

Baptism: Answers to Common Questions by Guy M. Richard: A Solid and Encouraging Introduction to a Complicated Topic

Baptism: Answers to Common QuestionsBaptism: Answers to Common Questions

by Guy M. Richard


eARC, 129 pg.
Reformation Trust Publishing, 2019
Read: February 3, 2019

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book on baptism — it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a new one published, too (but maybe I stopped paying attention), so when I saw this on NetGalley, I had to take a chance. I’m very glad I did. Richard discusses in his introduction that questions about this sacrament are some of the most frequently asked to Presbyterian (and, I assume, Reformed) pastors. Sadly, they’re usually asked when pastors can’t give the kind of answers they should — at least based on his experience.

He begins looking at the meaning of Baptism — both the Greek terms translated as “baptism” and the sacrament. He does so very well, covering all the bases. Following that he moves to the method of baptism — how should the water be applied? Once he’s finished with these matters he moves into the more complicated question — who should be baptised? He begins with the “household” baptisms in the New Testament before turning to the objections and arguments of Baptist and baptistic brothers. He not only examines and explains them fairly well, he responds to them in an irenic manner, but not giving an inch to them.

The conclusion, “What Can We Take Away from All This” is just fantastic. Richard’s meditations on how our baptisms should shape our lives and our faith, to build our faith and give us assurance. It’s easily worth half of whatever you pay for the book, and maybe more.

This is probably not a book that will convince any detractors. It may not be enough to convince the earnest seeker. But it will explain the basics for each topic considered. It will demonstrate the systematic and biblical basis for Richard’s positions exists and they aren’t mere tradition. These are outlines to be filled in with further reflection, reading and research by the reader.

Along those lines, each chapter could really use a “For Further Reading” to help the reader get deeper into the topics covered — or one at the end of the book. But I do think as each chapter is so topic-focused, it’d be very helpful. As good as each chapter is, they are just an overview. Not every reader is going to want to go deeper into, say, the mode/method of baptism but they might want to spend more time on the meaning of Baptism, or his response to Baptist interpretations of Jeremiah 31. For example, I think I agree with his differing from Murray on the former — but I’d like to read more about that, if it’s possible.

Richard’s tone throughout is gracious, kind, yet unbending. It’s not easy to putt off in print, especially on a topic like Baptism. There were many times he could’ve gone for the jugular, rhetorically speaking. He never did, trusting that the arguments would carry the day. And, in my not so humble opinion, he’s right to trust that.

Gracious, encouraging, thorough and easy to read — this introduction to “the waters that divide” Christians is just what you want in a book on this topic. But more than those, it’s deeply biblical in nature. Richard’s focus in bringing the light of the canon to this topic, and he succeeds there. I strongly encourage you to read it.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Reformation Trust Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

Death Valley Superstars by Duke Haney: Cautionary Tales about Hollywood

Death Valley SuperstarsDeath Valley Superstars: Occasionally Fatal Adventures in Filmland

by Duke Haney
Kindle Edition, 306 pg.
Delancey Street Press, 2018
Read: January 2 – 16, 2019

Duke Haney, actor, screenplay writer, novelist, essayist, has delivered a well-written collection of sixteen essays revolving around some of those impacted by, affected by, corrupted(?) by, shaped by Fame — that fleeting authority and celebrity bestowed by a chosen few in the Hollywood system that has captured the American imagination and attention since the 1900s.

The quality of the writing throughout was pretty consistent, as was the voice, etc., etc. But my own interest varied widely from piece to piece. I think that’s largely on me, not Haney. But then again, maybe Haney shouldn’t have picked topics that have been done to death. I’m not sure that the universe needs another essay/reflection/biography/anything about Marilyn Monroe, Lee Harvey Oswald, or Jim Morrison. It certainly doesn’t need any further effort to celebrate Hugh Hefner.

On the other hand, the pieces about Sean Flynn (son of Errol), William Desmond Taylor, Christopher Jones, and other people that I’d never heard of were fascinating. I learned something, I was introduced to people I’d missed out on. They weren’t slightly different takes on worn-out ideas about legends that have had dozens of books written about them.

Better yet were the pieces that were about his life — encountering Elizabeth Taylor as a youth, working on various films, his nude scenes, his crush on (and seen in retrospect, stalking) of a noted actress, the encounter with the lady on the bus talking about the video store they both frequented, even the part of the Jim Morrison essay about his quest to hire a psychic (it shouldn’t be that hard in L.A.) to do a séance in a hotel room Morrison lived in. He’s really his best — and most entertaining — subject (although when the subject of an essay is someone else, Haney tends to talk about himself too much). He doesn’t come across as someone trying to gloss over mistakes, missteps, or embarrassing moves — in fact, he seems to revel in them. These are honest (seeming), frequently funny and charming.

I have no doubt that there are plenty of people out there who will invert my rankings, or dispute them all together. And they’d likely be right to do so (I doubt they’d convince me, but you never know). Most collections I read are pretty uneven. This isn’t the case with Death Valley Superstars, I think the quality is consistent — it’s just my own reaction to the chapters that are varied. I’d wager the same will be true for other readers.

If nothing else, I think the above summary rundown demonstrates the variety of pieces in this collection — and I didn’t make mention of all of them. One thing that is fairly consistent is the takeaway from the collection as a whole — fame is fleeting, but its effect on the lives of the famous (and those near them) is long-lasting, and rarely pleasant or beneficial. Really, the whole book can be seen as a collection of cautionary tales with a persistent message — stay away from Hollywood.

I didn’t love this book, but I really liked parts of it, and am glad I read it. I can easily see many readers wondering what was wrong with me, however, and eating this thing up.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion, which is seen above.

—–

3 Stars

✔ An essay collection.

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GUEST POST: Action! by Anmol Singh

Sing was kind enough to give me some excerpts from his book to share, this is 4 of 4. I don’t think anyone would take me seriously if I gave my take on this book, if anyone’s going to convince you to read this book, it’s going to be Singh himself, so I’m going to let him — make sure you read them all!

Are you acquiring the patience, self-discipline, and knowledge we’ve talked about in previous blogs? Those qualities are critically important to your success But the truth is, all the self-discipline, knowledge, and patience in the world won’t get you to the finish line. Only action can do that. Are you ready for action?

It’s such a simple concept. And yet people resist taking action on even the smallest of things. Why? Mainly, it’s the Fear Factor. Fear of what, you ask? Think about how many of these fears are getting in the way of your success every single day.

Fear of:

  • Looking bad in the eyes of others
  • Being rejected
  • Making an irreparable mistake
  • Creating even bigger problems
  • And above all, fear of failure

The fear of failure is the #1 cause of failure. Think about that for a moment. You have a goal. But you never get started working toward that goal because you are so afraid you’ll never make it. It’s easier to do nothing. Well, guess what? You failed before you even started!

(If any of these ideas sound like concepts you’d like to explore further, you’ll find an in-depth discussion in my new book, Prepping for Success, available on Amazon on (date).

Here’s the big takeaway: your inbred fear of failure demonstrates itself in your life every single day. It’s called overthinking or “analysis paralysis.” Do you notice that you continually have difficulty making the decisions that will move you toward the success you seek? You’re getting bogged down in the swamp of decision fatigue. It’s exhausting to keep researching, analyzing, and thinking and never arriving at a conclusion. Not only does this decision fatigue inhibit your ability to clearly assess your career and business decisions, it also makes you more likely to sink into bad personal habits, like eating unhealthy foods, skipping the gym, and scanning Facebook or the Internet news feed rather than working on a pet project or learning a new skill. In other words, over-analyzing a decision makes it much more difficult to make high-quality, long-term choices later on.

If you know that analysis paralysis, overthinking your decisions, is an issue for you, consider the impact this tendency is having on your overall success and happiness.

  • Overthinking impairs your performance. You’re putting too much time and energy into analysis. There’s no room left for action.
  • Overthinking stifles creativity. Creativity demands freedom. If you’re stuck in analysis, you’re not free.
  • Overthinkers are less happy. Of course they are. When you consider the lack of creativity, the information overload, the poor performance we’ve described, it’s not a happy picture for the compulsive analyzer.

People think it’s intelligence that separates the successful from the unsuccessful. However, that is not the case. Action is what separates them, and this is easy to prove. Let’s pretend I have an IQ of 100. Can anyone have 10 times my IQ ? History has shown the highest ever recorded IQ to be around the 240 range. So that proves it’s impossible for anyone to have ten times my IQ or even five times. So how do some people achieve ten times the success that others have? How do some people make ten times as much money as others? One simple reason: the leaders of this world, the successful people of this world TAKE ACTION ! Are you ready?

This was an excerpt from the Book Prepping For Success: 10 Keys for Making it in Life by Anmol Singh, Learn more about the book and get a Copy at www.Preppingforsuccess.com/book

GUEST POST: Life-Long Learning by Anmol Singh

Sing was kind enough to give me some excerpts from his book to share, this is 3 of 4. I don’t think anyone would take me seriously if I gave my take on this book, if anyone’s going to convince you to read this book, it’s going to be Singh himself, so I’m going to let him — make sure you read them all!

Invest in yourself. That’s what you are doing when you make knowledge acquisition a top priority in your life. There’s a billboard-size sign hanging in the workout room at my local gym. It says: “Never Stop Moving.” We should all have a similar sign hanging somewhere, even if it’s just in our minds: “Never Stop Learning.”

(Want to explore this topic in specific detail? We’ll show you how in Chapter 3 of my upcoming book, Prepping for Success).

As you consider your own lifelong learning status, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I curious and anxious to explore new territory?
  2. How do I find out what I need to know?
  3. How do I organize information?
  4. Do I understand the recurring patterns and themes in my life?
  5. Am I a creative problem-solver?

For now, let’s focus on Question #1. Real learning demands a certain curiosity. How curious are you, really? If you want to enhance your level of curiosity, spend a lunch hour or two visiting a neighborhood playground. There’s nothing more curious than a child. How come the slide is crooked? Can I make the swing go higher? Why is the tree losing its leaves?

Somewhere along the line, that unfettered curiosity was bred out of us. Maybe there is a point where we think it’s not grown up or cool to ask questions. That point of view is totally out of sync with lifelong learning. Start now to get your curiosity back. Find a spot in your calendar right now and plan a visit to a neighborhood playground or the children’s reading room at your local library.

Then start asking questions. People like it when you question them. Most people love to share what they know. They feel flattered that you would bother to ask. So ask away. And listen to the answers.

Questioning is the first of seven qualities that you need to cultivate in order to become a successful lifelong learner. The second is to crave knowledge. In order to acquire knowledge, you have to want it more than you want other things. Your learning must take priority over Sunday night football, or a weekend of golf (unless golf is what you crave to learn, of course.)

Third, you must practice. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin America, still works to perfect his listening skills. “Listen more than you talk,” he advises. Bill Gates practiced his perseverance skills when others said he couldn’t do it and he founded Microsoft when he was barely 20. Steve Jobs practiced daily creativity and took Apple public when he was 25.

(If you really want to make progress on the path of lifelong learning, you’ll want to know the other four qualities. Find them in my new book, Prepping for Success)

Once you get started on the knowledge path, you will find resources everywhere. There are blogs, books, webinars, community college courses—the list goes on. As you begin to implement your plan, commit at least one hour every day to studying, listening to CDs or podcasts, writing down your ideas.

In addition to the time you spend with yourself, which is important, reach out. Network with groups in your profession. Attend Chamber of Commerce meetings and look for online meetups. Find someone who has done what you want to do and ask them to mentor you.

Wherever you are in life right now, you can get where you want to go if you are willing to invest in yourself. Invest in your health, your relationships, and your education. Believe in yourself because you are worth it.

This was an excerpt from the Book Prepping For Success: 10 Keys for Making it in Life by Anmol Singh, Learn more about the book and get a Copy at www.Preppingforsuccess.com/book

GUEST POST: Self-Discipline by Anmol Singh

Sing was kind enough to give me some excerpts from his book to share, this is 2 of 4. I don’t think anyone would take me seriously if I gave my take on this book, if anyone’s going to convince you to read this book, it’s going to be Singh himself, so I’m going to let him — make sure you read them all!

Self-discipline. Sounds hard. Boring. Takes forever. Maybe all of the above are true on occasion. But self-discipline is one of the necessary keys to your success in life. So what exactly is it and how do we acquire it?

Speaker/comedian Andy Andrews defines it like this: “Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t necessarily want to do, to get a result you would really like to have.” So it is, in every sense of the word, an inside job. Nobody can do it for you or to you. Rather, it is a combination of commitment and hard work, often over a long period of time, to get where you want to go. It all starts with your ability control your thoughts and actions through discipline. This means managing your thoughts, your behavior, your personal habits, and your emotions. You must keep all of them in check. Does that make you into some kind of unfeeling robot? No, definitely not.

Your self-discipline starts when you learn how to create a personalized set of habits that will enable you to keep moving ahead when the going gets rough. Is it easy? No. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and everyone would be ragingly successful. As you look around you, you are well aware that’s not happening.

Consider this contrast: in one month, 2,800 people searched the Internet for “self-discipline.” More than 200,000 searched for “fun.” So most people would rather have fun, that quick hit of instant gratification, than go through the lengthy and sometimes painful process of controlling their thoughts and actions and sticking to a job until it is complete. Because after all, isn’t it easier on a cold, dark morning to hit that snooze button and catch an extra hour of sleep that to roll out of bed, make a cup of coffee, and do some inspirational reading? The choice is yours.

Most successful people are long-range planners. Consider these contrasts.

  • Short term: grab that beautiful outfit on sale at your favorite boutique. Long term: pay off your credit card debt.
  • Short term: grab a cigarette to help you relax. Long term: breathe deeply and get healthy.
  • Short term: join the office gang for happy hour after work. Long term: save a few bucks and fatten your savings account.

You get the picture. And you probably know which actions you would be most likely to take.

Whether or not you choose to develop self-discipline is strictly up to you. But before you decide on your next move, consider what NOT having it could be costing you. Listed below are just a few areas of your life where having self-discipline brings success and not having it leads to discomfort, unhappiness, and possibly outright failure.

Self-discipline means looking at the various aspects of your life and quitting activities or habits in those areas that are producing unhappiness and outright dysfunction. Consider how you are functioning in each of these areas of your life right now.

  • Finances
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Important relationships
  • Job and career
  • Spiritual life

It’s entirely possible that you are functioning at peak performance in some places and not in others. For example, many people are so focused on their job, their career, building a business, producing an income—that they are neglecting their health and their important relationships. Right now you can choose to bring things into better balance. You can see the areas where you need to change and begin to develop habits that will bring your whole life picture into clear focus.

The secret to successful change and habit-building is to begin with micro-changes. Let’s say you know your work is consuming the majority of your energy and you’re neglecting your significant other. A micro-change might be to sit down together for a glass of wine one evening a week. Devote all your attention to the other person. Don’t discuss your work, or theirs. And here’s the REAL secret: be consistent. If you’ve promised yourself to do this once a week, do it no matter what. Don’t do it once or twice and then go back to your old ways. That is not habit forming!

An organized life is a disciplined life. Do one small thing each day to improve your personal and business environment, your health, your relationships. That’s all it takes. Before long, you will have become a self-disciplined success.

This was an excerpt from the Book Prepping For Success: 10 Keys for Making it in Life by Anmol Singh, Learn more about the book and get a Copy at www.Preppingforsuccess.com/book