From the Psycho Ward to Taylor Made Retreat

Growing up in a small town in Oregon, I promised myself I’d never touch alcohol because people forget to come home when they drink that awful stuff. At a party, I saw my friend’s father kissing a woman I didn’t know in our front hall closet, and I thought, “Jeepers, alcohol even makes you forget who you’re married to.”

I completely changed my mind when I was 18 years old and found the champagne fountain at my sister’s wedding. My relatively short drinking career of 13 years ended in Athens, Greece. I called myself an “International Beatnik” but I was actually a wino suffering from liver damage, DTs, Convulsions, Insanity, a broken spirit and a padlocked heart. I awakened from a 5 day coma during my 3rd visit to the psycho ward to see my Dad sitting on the side of my bed and a Greek policeman stationed at the door. The police found drugs in my flat and I was deported. I was 31 years old.

Dad escorted me to Palm Springs, CA, where he and Mom were spending the winter. I had a lot of trouble walking and talking. Here I was with a MA in Speech Pathology and I couldn’t even string a sentence together. Miraculously, I ended up in an 12 step fellowship soon after our airplane landed and I haven’t had any alcohol or any sort of drug since January 12, 1969. It’s been a wonderful 50 year journey from darkness into light. The Twelve Steps saved my life and my sanity, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful. My special interest has been practicing the various methods of meditation. I’ve studied with some very enlightened beings.

There were no treatment programs for alcoholics when I was new to the 12 steps. We had sponsors who guided us through the 12 Steps, and we had each other. If anyone went back to drinking, all of us cried together because so few people ever made it back to the 12 steps. This year I’ve been fortunate to spend time at Taylor Made Retreat, leading a meditation class. It’s a wonderful way to give back what I’ve been given. And it’s really fun to see the 12 step program working on all sorts of people from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences. As the Big Book of AA says, “The alcoholic is like a tornado, roaring his way through the lives of others.” Taylor Made Retreat teaches the way of patience, tolerance, kindness and love.

Taylor Made Retreat’s founder, Lowell MacGregor, his staff and volunteers do an outstanding job of using the 12 Steps as a design for living. The newcomer is truly reborn in body, mind and spirit. Old ways of experiencing life fall away. A man I met the day he left prison for TMR is a different person now. He and the other clients are busy working their way through the 12 Steps and helping others by setting up chairs for the community AA meetings and making visitors feel welcome and appreciated.

If you visit Taylor Made Retreat, you may feel the consciousness of love and peace like I do every time I walk through the door or explore the beautiful grounds. Taylor Made Retreat is a sanctuary in the middle of our fast paced world. I feel so fortunate that it’s only a few minutes away from my home in downtown Portland.

Patty L. ♥️

Pause

Patience and stillness are hard for me. Much to my chagrin, they are foundational tenets of the “big book” of Alcoholics Anonymous: “…we pause when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action.” 1 (Whom we ask is sure to be the subject of many future blogs, so I’ll just stick to the ‘mindful stillness’ and ‘quiet mind’ thingamabob I’m trying understand.)

I have spent the last 18 days clean and sober. While I feel healthier and stronger today than I have in two years, I have only just arrived at Taylor Made, a Spiritual Retreat Center and can’t quite suss out why we would leave the magnificent Portland property on which the spiritual recovery home sits to attend an AA meeting four hours away in Sedro-Woolley, just outside of Seattle. So, I pause. I learn that Lowell will be their meeting speaker. And since he owns this addiction treatment house, we go. Lowell is rather impish for a sage. His eyes twinkle, as if he has a great secret to share (he does, but I don’t know that yet at 18 days.) He’s a cross between Peter O’Toole, Bill Clinton, and the Keebler Elf. And while that may sound silly & unconventional, he is brilliant and inspirational. He also promised snacks.

I am now sardined in the back of a Chevy Tahoe. I become anxious, so I pause again. Though I am 5’11” and have an athletic build, rehab recovery, it seems, is not for the meek. I’m speaking both figuratively and literally, as crunched next to me is a fellow addict measuring approximately 6’6”. But as I said, snacks. I wonder if this is always how addiction help looks. I also ponder if this how yogis get their limber start, but this musing is cut short. Pause… for snacks.

 

Laden with lattes and gummy bears, we hit the road. We steal time on Seattle’s giant Ferris wheel after lunch on the pier. We look like a normal group of friends. I realize, because, we are. Pause again. Looking out over the city, its harbor, with Mount St. Helen’s picturesquely befogged in the distance, I relax into gratitude.

When we reach Sedro-Woolley two hours later, it hits me that I feel connected and care tremendously about this van full of giants. This isn’t a typical treatment center. And these are not typical giants. Pause. That thought is quickly replaced by an even nuttier realization that I haven’t used drugs in almost three weeks. Big pause. I haven’t been around people much lately, so when we meet Len and the other “old timers” who populate the small clubhouse AA potluck gathering, I feel something akin to blessed.

Len in his 70’s, who can deadlift more than I, has 51 years of sobriety. Brenda, who is hilarious and came along to meet us all, has 28. Lowell, who literally partied like a rock star for decades and gave it up 29 years ago, slayed as speaker, btw. I have 18 days. But… I have them. I have Taylor Made Retreat. I have a little more hope than I did yesterday. Pause. And I have snacks.

Danny G.

2019: Bringing Lightness into the Dark

Morning sunbeams peek through the grey Pacific Northwestern sky bringing nourishing light to the lush natural ecosystem of plants surrounding the Mansion on the four and a half acre estate at the Taylor Made Retreat center. Light is critical for the renewal of life.

The beginning of a new year often represents a time of reflection and renewal, today I am awe of the transformations happening here a the Taylor Made Retreat in just a few short months. Hope and healing are being streamed like a giant flood lamp into the lives of the residents and community of volunteers who chose to come and spend time sharing their experience with us.

Many of the residents have had their own light nearly extinguished due to prolonged drug and alcohol abuse. Substance use disorder is an insidious disease that often cuts people off from from the sunlight of the spirit, from their families, friends and their ability to fully participate in life. The disease often robs suffers from their dignity, hope and perhaps even the ability to differentiate the true from the false. But each day at the Taylor Made Retreat brings a new chance for renewal. At the Taylor Made Retreat, we present steps out of this darkness and into the light of recovery.

At the Retreat, we aim to help people break out of the isolation of their disease by providing more than education about the problem, we help residents find the solution through a sober community and a design for living based on the twelve steps. The community begins inside the house.

Walking into the Taylor Made Retreat for the first time, visitors and volunteers comment that there is something special happening here, that it feels more like “home”. Volunteers and experts show our residents how to live sober using their personal experience in long-term recovery applying the 12 steps in their own lives. They share time with the residents and form relationships, talking over a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by our chef, or attending an outside meeting or social activity together. Visitors, residents, graduates, and staff are all working together inside and outside the meeting room sharing their time and a common goal — recovery from our insidious disease.

I am profoundly moved by all that is taking place here and am honored to be a part of God’s plan as He uses us to furrow the field for those to come. Seeing the light come back into people’s lives is truly a gift. Witnessing individuals recover from a seemingly hopeless state, the restoration of families, renewal of hope, and the re-centering of lives on a new path with a pervasive sense of love washing over all who come here. I’m excited to see what unfolds.

In love and service,
Lowell

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Taylor Made Retreat Big Book Study Group

Most mornings at Taylor Made Retreat start out with a two hour AA Big Book study group of Alcoholics Anonymous, the so called “Big Book.” Some of you perusing this website won’t have much of an idea what that might be like, so I thought I’d give you an example of a fairly typical day’s study. This is a bird’s eye view of our group from Wednesday March 20, 2019.

That day’s study centered around Chapter 1. This chapter is “Bill’s Story”, the story of how one of AA’s founders, Bill W., bottomed out in his alcoholism and came to acquire certain information that led to his sobriety and the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. For the purposes of today’s blog we’ll focus on the time just prior to Bill’s last visit to Town’s Hospital, the sanitarium where Bill dried out after his last run, pages 8 through 16.

Some of our newer guests were working on their First Step, “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.” We used Bill’s gradual progression into deeper and deeper states of hopelessness and despair to explore examples of Bill’s powerlessness and unmanageability. Group discussion was used to help clarify, through personal examples, the differences between powerless and unmanageable.

Other guests were working on Step Two, “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” For those people we used the visit of Ebbie T., one of Bill’s old drinking buddies, to explore the beginnings of Bill’s spiritual awakening as influenced by Ebbie’s obvious change in behavior, in that he was sober. As Bill struggled with the sharp difference between his own despair and Ebbie’s joy at being sober, we used the discussion between the two men as a jumping off point to explore our own current state of being able to use a power greater than ourselves to restore us to sanity.

By studying the experience of the AA founders as described in The Big Book and looking for the similarities in our own lives, we establish and develop identification with both the problem of alcoholism and with the solution found in the AA program.