September 25: Catacomb Wisdom

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Catacomb Wisdom You May Hear at the Hope Recovery Festival Next Saturday (Details at the end of this.)

Church sanctuaries held wisdom for me as a boy. It may have been wisdom I didn’t understand, and certainly couldn’t apply to my life, but when I went into the sanctuary of the Durham Community Church, I assumed the Most Reverend Novotny had a pathway to God and therefore some genuine wisdom.

As I grew older, became a Baptist layperson and then a Baptist minister, I found the sanctuary to be more of a stage and less of a font of knowledge. In the words of the non-King Martin Luther, “Sola scriptura” was my watchword—it’s all in the Book, Buddy. The Bible held the wisdom.

Later, I left the church, and while I still like the Gospels and the Minor Prophets, the wisdom I find in the Bible is in Ecclesiastes. Short, pithy thoughts that help me understand the human predicament. Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short, as Hobbes would have it, and that brief essay by Solomon as an old man sums it up pretty well. It does a great job of diagnosing our condition; not so much for treating it. 

Today, I spend more time in churches than I did as a boy or as a minister, although now I’m in church basements more than sanctuaries. Finally, in those small basement rooms I’ve found the wisdom I’d suspected the building held. No, I don’t hang out with discarded crucifixes, portraits of Protestant bigwigs from long ago or aged Torah scrolls. Instead, like the Christians in the catacombs, I gather with other fallen people who are trying to recover their lives. Luckily, these fellow sufferers are carriers of wisdom, always pithy and sometimes funny. Over the years, I’ve collected some of that wisdom, and would like to offer it now. I don’t remember who said what when or why, but below is some true wisdom, at least as this drunk sees it:

  • The means aren’t justified by the ends. The means are the ends.
  • The idea is always to narrow the gap between what we believe and the way we live.
  • If you want to change who you are, change what you do.
  • If you want to quit using, you are going to have to quit drinking.
  • Quitting was easy. Staying quit was impossible.
  • I thought you were normal until I got to know you.
  • I’m not responsible for my disease, but I am responsible for my behavior.
  • I run from those who want me and I pursue the rejecters.
  • What other people think of me is none of my business.
  • Most of my life was a reaction to a reaction.
  • When things go wrong, I don’t have to go with them.
  • I’m just another Bozo on the bus.
  • I kept on “starting over” but I never changed a thing.
  • I violated my standards faster than I could lower them.
  • Relish that wisdom. Bathe in it. Meditate upon it.

And think about the insights available to you at next Saturday’s Hope Recovery Festival:

Who: Hope for New Hampshire Recovery 

What: Hope’s Recovery Festival

Where: Arms Park, Manchester, NH

When: September 30, 2023. 11 am to 2 pm

Why: To celebrate recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions


About this Author

Keith Howard

Keith Howard is former Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery and author of Tiny White Box