All posts by hopeservicefellowship

Choice, not chance, determines destiny

“We must never be blinded by the futile philosophy that we are just the hapless victims of our inheritance, of our life experiences, and of our surroundings  — that these are the sole forces that make our decisions for us. This is not the road to freedom. We have to believe that we can freely choose.”  Source: As Bill sees it.

If we leave to chance what happens to us, we soon discover we are like the ship without a rudder. We  can continue to go in circles and get caught up in the deadly  downward spiral of helplessness or we can make a decision to choose, finding  a way out of our despair.  We discover that we can choose–we can admit that what we have been doing is not working. The staying in bed with the sheets pulled up over our head; the continued beating up of ourselves with the “what if’s, the “I should have done this or that,” and all the other negative self-talk that has me immobilized.

When I made the decision, when I chose to do something about my desperation, I found a group of people just like myself. We all chose that group because we had lost all hope. The group gave me hope. I too could get better. And we had to face the fact that if we didn’t deal with our depression now and make  the choice to feel differently, we would continue to go down that slippery slope that would lead us to who knows where.

Today, take a look at the Twelve Steps (see site menu) , go down the list, one step after another and see how this climbing out of the pit of despair works. And then, if you have a copy of Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition, you can read the real life stories of persons like you and me who made a choice to live — made the choice to use the same program of recovery that has freed a world of  people from their prisons of depression. Don’t take a chance–make a choice –save your life. Choose freedom!

Belling The Cat

“The mice once called a meeting to decide on a plan to free themselves of their enemy, the Cat. At least they wished to find some way of knowing when she was coming, so they might have time to run away. Indeed, something had to be done, for they lived in such constant fear of her claws that they hardly dared stir from their dens by night or day.  Many plans were discussed, but none of them was thought  good enough.

At last a very young Mouse got up and said:

“I have a plan that seems very simple, but I know it will be successful. All we have to do is to hang a bell about the Cat’s neck. When we hear the bell ringing we will know immediately that our enemy is coming.”

All the mice were much surprised that they  had not thought of such a plan before. But in the midst of their rejoicing over their good fortune, an old mouse arose and said:

“I will say that the plan of the young mouse is very good. But let me ask one question: Who will bell the Cat?”

The moral of the story: “It is one thing to say that something should be done, but quite a different matter to do it.”


In our work, I’ll do it when I feel better (2013), the moral of the story there is pretty much the same as  in  Belling the cat.  We tell ourselves that I’ll bell the cat of my addiction , which is killing me, only when I feel better. Of course, it never  happens. I never feel better.  I tell myself that I can’t even muster up  the energy to even begin the process  of taking on my sadness and those deadly feelings of helplessness.  But bell the cat I did! I knew that either I start helping myself out of the pit of my despair or lose my mind. The “cat” in my fight  had me physically, mentally and spiritually  immobilized.   Only because I had hit the wall did I begin to do something. I admitted that there is a problem and I had to DO something!

In the 1st Step of Depressed Anonymous which tells us quite directly and without equivocation  “We admitted that we were powerless over depression and that our lives had become un-manageable.”  OK. There you have it. I began to tie the bell around  the  old cat’s neck! That is the first step–to admit –and then to do something about it. It’s the beginning of a personal movement toward health and peace. But as we all know, this mouse (me) is never alone. I have a whole group of folks just like myself who have tied the ribbon around their addictions. Taking one Step after another we all have found a way to live our life without fear and depression.

For more information please read Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville and check out other books/ literature at Visit the Store at our site.

A Zen byte

“It is possible to live life fully throughout life, and if that is accomplished, death need not be feared. An ancient anecdote of Zen literature is most illustrative here. A novice asked a Zen master, “What is death?” To this, the master responded, “I do not know.” “But you are a Zen master.”  To this, the master responded, “Yes, but I am not a dead Zen master.”

Source: Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer, Kenneth R. Pelletier.


So many times I hear people talking about how our modern world is basically absorbed in a “culture of death.” Sadly, so many persons, are occupied, almost phobic about growing older, looking older and being older. More thought is given to death than to life. So much time is spent on looking at the ” what if’s”, than seeing the “what is.”. We all are not automatons, going about life in a daze   We all  have the ability to look inside, take a deep breath and begin to take  responsibility  for our lives. Even though we might feel helpless and hopeless it doesn’t mean that we are. How often have I heard that language creates our reality and the language that we use in our self-talk, creates an illusion that there is no hope. And my self-talk tells me that all I have is today–yesterday is gone forever –tomorrow is not here yet, and so all I have is this 24 hour period of time. Do I make an investment in my today, so that what I do today, pays off in serenity and happiness for the 24 hours to come or do I stay frozen in my fears and isolation.

Frankly, what has worked for me and still works for me is to stay in today and say daily the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference…just for today!

Depression is the ultimate state of disconnection

“…Depression is the ultimate state of disconnection, not only between people, and between mind and heart, but between one’s self image and public mask, writes Parker J. Palmer in  Let you life speak.

“Then”, he continues, “there were the visitors who began by saying “I know exactly how you feel…”  Whatever comfort or counsel these people may have intended to speak, I heard nothing beyond their opening words, because I know they were peddling a falsehood: no one can fully experience another personal mystery.  Paradoxically, it was my friends emphatic attempt to identify with me that made me feel even more isolated, because it was  over identification.  Disconnection may be hell, but it is better than false connections.

Having not only been “comforted” by friends but having tried to comfort others in the same way, I think I understand what the syndrome is about: avoidance and denial.  One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another’s pain without trying to fix it, to simply stand respectfully at the ends of  the person’s mystery.  Standing there, we feel useless and powerless, which  is exactly how a depressed person feels – and our unconscious need as Job comforters is to reassure ourselves that we are not like the sad soul before us.”——————————————————-

Comment.  It is extremely important for others to understand that not only is the person depressed feeling useless and powerless, so to is the person who is in the company of the person depressed. It is not hard to understand that this is exactly what happens with all of us when we cannot “‘fix” someone who we know needs help.  Our statements of the false disconnection type, do not build bridges between peoples, but widens the gap between them and us. I know and believe that it is the person who is present to us, as Parker points out, that is standing by, on the outskirts of an understanding  of our pain, and who  continues  to be there without a ” toolkit” to “fix” us.

Stepping Up To Hope

In Depressed Anonymous I have heard members of the group say what works for them is not to fight depression but instead do the dead man’s float — just let go and feel the sadness –don’t run away from it with lots of activity and doing — this can lead to mania — instead, admit our sadness, our despondency and face the feeling.
Don’t fight it and push it down but DISCUSS it –talk about it and see it for what it is. Since depression is a dependency issue it is only when we begin to surrender to the Higher Power or God as we understand him that we make it possible to recover from this experience. We choose to live, feel and think differently.
This approach to depression really works, as the many testimonies in our “Big Book” Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition illustrate. Yes, we know that running away from any difficulty or problem just digs the hole of our sadness deeper. Once we give up our shame or guilt for being depressed–basically our feelings powerless and being isolated –and start to share our story with others, we find our sense of mastery begins to return as our feelings of uselessness begin to evaporate. How often do members of the group, after coming to the group for some weeks, begin to look different–that is, they seem calmer and their faces become softer. The hardness disappears.


Every Sunday after Church my wife and I walk home a certain way and pass a house where a dog barks at us. As we walk along the fence line, the dog continues his barking as he follows us til we leave him behind. The fence restrains him from following us further on our path. And, thank goodness, the dog stops his raucus barking.
Now, what is so strange about a dog barking? Well, actually nothing. That’s what dogs do. They bark. My wife and I just expect this dog to bark at us. And because we have to pass this house on the way home, we just know what to expect. The dog goes nuts when he sees us coming!
This past Sunday we again start the ritual, begin to pass the house, and right on schedule here comes the dog. But, he’s not barking. What? He follows us without barking. My wife and I look at each other. We both know that this dog is supposed to be barking. What happened? Amazing things do happen. We are the same people who do this ritual every Sunday. Doesn’t he know what the ritual is. All dogs know that they are supposed to bark. Not only has he lost his bark, he has also lost his identity of the ferocious dog.
I believe there is a metaphor here that we might use for our own purposes. People expect us to behave in predictable ways. People likewise respond to us in particular and familiar ways. But when we no longer respond in a predictable manner, friends wonder, what’s up with him? Who is this person who always was the “glad hand Charley” now has turned into the isolating and reclusive person who no longer wants us around.
We ourselves. myself included, have at a time in my life, lost my bark, so to speak. It was at that time that I retreated from life and took the defense of depression to lick my wounds. I constructed my own prison and lived there for over a year. My mood had become sullen and responsive to all those who wanted to cheer me up. My thinking turned to thoughts like “what is happening to me”, “who am I” “Why am I wearing this mask of Mister Happy Jack, when I am dying inside. I felt I was losing my identity as well as my purpose in life. There was no meaning to my mental, physical and spiritual life.
Today, my life does have purpose, it does have meaning. Because of losing “my bark” so to speak, I found that my life needed a change. And now, here I am trying to help others “get their bark back.” My depression experience changed my life. The “who I am” now is much different than the “who I was” before my emotional, physical and spiritual crash. I sort of hope that dog gets his bark back, because that is who he is.



I pray everyday that who I am, and what I want is always to be found in doing God’s will—(more about this later)–and by doing that, I gradually through prayer and meditation learn about God’s will for my life. God truly becomes my light and my source of guidance.
A life model that best fits all living organisms in this universe and which all living organisms possess are these five characteristics: identity, autonomy, competency, interrelatedness with other living organisms and the ability to replicate themselves. All living organisms have these common and same universal characteristics.
Why is this relevant now? First of all, we all experience having an identity –that is, we have a genus and are part of a particular species as humans belong to the rational animal species. As a rational organisim we can make rational choices so we are the sub species. Our own name and by belonging to a particular human family gives us an identity.

The next characteristic is that we experience a personal autonomy – – this means that we are a stand-alone being–no batteries needed–we can operate by ourselves–we are not connected to another physically–excepting at birth by an umbilical cord.

The next characteristic is that we all have a certain competency –namely, we are able to think rationally–at least on most days. We all have talents and special gifts. Take our fingerprints for instance — we are so unique that our fingerprints separate us from any other human being in this immense universe. We are the only ones in the universe that have these unique set of prints. The unique and particular swirl of the fingerprint makes us unique and unlike any other rational being.
Competency is a big issue in relationships as to who I am, what I want to do and who my God is. If I feel worthless and valueless, unacceptable to myself and others then of course it follows, that I will not possess any sense of real competencies in my personal life.

The final piece that goes to make up this mosaic of who we are is that all living organisms are related to all other living organisms. We are interconnected with every other living being on this earth and what we do affects other living creatures. Case in point: In our world today with its emphasis on climate change and how everyone is in the same boat we believe that everyone needs to grab an oar and work collaboratively to see how we can all assure our common survival here on this planet earth. Pope Francis recently points out in his letter to all the people of the earth, that we all share a responsibility for our ” common home.”
It is said that if the small plankton at the bottom of the ocean would disappear, then all life that feed on the plankton, and depends on it for its own survival, they would die and the organisims that depended on the next layer of life would then die and so up the chain of living organisms that make up the vibrant life of the sea. Interesting how we all our dependent on the Plankton?
So, to determine who I am, what I want and who is my God is very much dependent on who I say I am, who I think I am with my own identity, autonomy, my own sense of competency and my ability to relate to those in my environment.
Tomorrow we will discuss these five characteristics of interrealtedness of all living organisms and compare them to what is our real self as compared to what we want to be, our ideal self.

SOURCE: Shining a light on the dark night of the soul retreat. (1999) DAP. Louisville. Page 4.

The Vital Spiritual Experience

The Twelve Steps are the essential beliefs and at the very core of Depressed Anonymous. The Depressed Anonymous recovery program, modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous which originally developed to help men and women to deal with their addiction to alcohol, one day at a time.  The Twelve Steps have been found to be a potent means of recovery for those who desire to free themselves from their compulsions. The Twelve Steps are basically a program of letting go of our compulsions and handing our will to the  care of God, as we understand God.  Essentially our program is a step-by-step way to change not only our addiction but also our way of lifeChange happens when we choose to change.  The fellowship of the group and our desiring to make change in our life is what provides our life-giving spiritual experience. Many people get organized religion and spirituality mixed up and Depressed Anonymous achieves strength from a spirituality without set creed, dogma or doctrine.  All the program asks of a person who come to the meetings is only to have a sincere desire to stop the compulsion of sadding themselves… “Copyright(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition.(2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Page 94.