Category Archives: Spiritual Heroes

The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs

Viktor E. Frankl, in his esteemed book, Man’s Search for Meaning, shares with us how we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward.

As I was faced with my own depression, I was able over time to restore sanity and meaning to my life. Eventually, I have learned how to help others who are depressed, cope and come out on the other side of a life lived without meaning. For me personally, I found that essentially, by sharing my own story with others, they found that there was hope. And as they shared their story, they found strength, telling others who they are and what brought them to the point of seeking help.

Having spent time in Nazi death camps, during World War II, Frankl shares his story about spiritual survival. Many of those who faced death in the camps gradually lost faith in a future. They felt that there was nothing to live for, believing they were destined for death anyway.

His book, and his story, inspires us to look at how meaning gave hope to his own life and now my own. The struggle with depression, coupled with that sense of helplessness and hopelessness, brought to life a great awakening when I discovered that there is hope. We can live without depression. Not only have I had a spiritual awakening, I now am able to lead others on a path where they too, can find what I found. I found a spiritual program of recovery, that actually came with tools that gave me answers to my life’s questions. Not only did I learn how to thrive in the present, but to continue thriving day after day.

I am now able to share with others, how the meaning for my life comes by helping others find meaning for theirs. When you thrive, We thrive.

So, become aware, get motivated, gear up for action, and maintain a gratitude for how your own meaning for life is sustaining your hope everyday.


The Fox And Sour Grapes

Leaving Loneliness Behind

Our skills in relationships

“Being lonely requires some special skills, and you who are lonely have perfected these skills. There is the “sour grapes” skill. You remember Aesop’s fable about the fox who saw a bunch of ripe grapes hanging high on a vine. He jumped again and again, trying to reach the grapes, and each time he missed. Finally, he went away, saying to himself, ‘Those grapes are sour. I didn’t want them anyhow.’

Like the fox, whenever you see something that you might do which could make you less lonely- such as joining a club, taking up a hobby – visiting friends you can quickly and efficiently see that the grapes are sour – that the club is full of snobs, the hobby a waste of time, the friends are boring. Unlike the fox, you don’t even make a few jumps. You can know that something is not worth doing, so you don’t need to try.

One popular form of ‘sour grapes’ is the ‘aren’t those people ‘ridiculous’ skill.”

We can always have the time to do something that is important to us. We simply not do something less important. But every kind of work can be expanded, to fill all the time available, so when we are asked to do something which we wish not to do, we can say, very virtuously, ‘I’d loved to do that, but I haven’t got the time.’ This is a skill which lonely people polish to perfection.

Thus, if the skill that you use in relationships are aimed at scorning, limiting and avoiding relationships, you have cut yourself off from other people through a fear of other people.

Copyright Dorothy Rowe 1991: Breaking the Bonds: Understanding Depression, Finding Freedom. Fontana – an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. London. UK. PAGES 246,247,249

Be kind anyway…

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be Kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true friends.
Succeed anyway.
If You are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good that you do today, people will forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best that you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you have anyway.
You see, in the final analysis. it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

– Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I think I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree

“Trees” by the poet Joyce Kilmer has always been a favorite of mine over the years. At one time I could recite the poem by heart. It ranked near the top of my favorite poem list, only to be topped by Psalm 23, the Bible’s Good Shepherd Psalm.

I always thought that Joyce Kilmer was a woman – wrong – he is a man. Now that was sort of a surprise. Anyway, being a country boy from rural Indiana, trees were part of our lives, and much of our hunting experiences. Squirrels lived in trees. We hunted squirrels. Trees were all sizes and all kinds. Lots of trees. My Grandpa, could name any and all trees that were part of the Southern Indiana forests. Trees were so much of his life as a child and young man. We learned how to tell the kind of a tree just by looking at it’s bark. Yes, beautiful trees.

Now, during this pandemic I knew I could not sit self-quarantined at home 24/7 (not until middle of March did I begin to realize this might go on for a spell. I was right). I decided to write a book. I did write a book and it has kept me busy all these months. I hardly go anywhere, maybe for some groceries or walk around a neighboring park. I have been visiting with friends on one of our 12 Step ZOOM and SKYPE meetings. I kept in contact that way. So, now I am about ready to finish up the book and get it ready for publication. So I didn’t waste my time. I have something to show for it.
But my latest effort has been to take up the pencil and learn how to draw trees. Thank you Joyce Kilmer. Not just stick type trees. Trees that are beautiful and have leafy branches and the limbs are well shaded and all so perfect. My wife bought me some great Walmart $1.98 special colored pencils. I was excited. That is, until I tested out my innate, so I thought, ability to draw. Well, it hasn’t turned out so good. My trees just don’t come alive like the ones shown on the Computer screen.

I’ve learnt a lesson here. Try new things, and if you feel you are not successful – give it up! But seriously, I intend to get back to the trees some other time. I think I will use my camera and take pictures of trees. At least what I end up with are pictures that look like trees. Not stick trees.

One final thought. I at least proved one thing to myself. I don’t have to always be perfect and succeed at everything. Life is like that. We at least know that God has given me another day – another 24 hours – to give thanks for. I don’t have to be a great poet, writer, or artist. But I can be a man of gratitude for all of God’s blessings. In my book, trees point my thoughts heavenward to God who made all creation and is an expression of his love for you and me.

My favorite tree is an Autumn Blaze Maple. What is your favorite tree?

Hugh Smith © 2020

Am I good enough?

The foundation of our prison of depression is our belief that, No matter how good I appear to be, I am bad, evil unacceptable to myself and to other people.

We can go through life being very good, and so keep our sense of being bad, or not being good enough, well hidden from ourselves. But being good at being good means working very hard, and as we get older we lose the resilience and strength of youth.. We get tired. We do not get as much done. Our list of mistakes and wrong directions gets longer. When something happens to shake our self-confidence we can no longer trust our ability to be good at being good. We can no longer ignore our sense of being essentially bad and unacceptable.

The reason that we as children so readily accept our parents teaching that we were bad and had to work to be good was that, harsh though this teaching was, it contains a promise. If you are very good, nothing bad will happen to you. We believed it. When bad things did happen to us, we blamed ourselves. We had not been good enough, so we worked harder, tried to achieve more, to do things better, to put other people’s needs before our own. Secretly this belief gave us a sense of power. Through our own efforts we could control the system of rewards and punishment that governed the universe. Instead of feeling helpless, we felt guilty. Instead of saying, ‘There was nothing else I could have done in that situation, given the information and experience I had,’ we said, ‘I ought to have done better,’ and persuaded ourselves that we were stronger and wiser and better informed than actually we were. By feeling guilty we could feel that we were both virtuous and not helpless.

So we lived in a world of illusion of our own making. Then one day a terrible disaster fell upon us, and we cried, ‘I have been good all my life. Why has this happened to me?’

We found ourselves contemplating, or trying to run away from, a truth which our parents had hidden from us.’

The Successful Self. Freeing our inner strengths. Dorothy Rowe. Page 199.
Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Ky.

There are always alternatives

“The prison is the way we define the parameters of our lives. We do this in a way that we leave ourselves with only one outcome. We say “I have no choice”, when what we mean is that the alternatives are unacceptable. We refuse to accept that that there are always alternatives, because if we do accept this , we would have to acknowledge that we have made a choice. We would have to acknowledge our responsibility for ourselves.” Rowe continues, “Our willingness to hand over to other people and organizations the responsibility which is ours (just as the color of our eyes is ours) stem from our inchoate desire to sink into the mindless bliss of being totally cared for, totally supported, our original wanting and getting everything. We do not want to accept that, just as our sense of time is ordered to perceive time only as progressing, never as standing still or going backwards. No matter how great our longing, we cannot return to the womb of the Garden of Eden.” Pages 333, 336. Dorothy Rowe. Wanting Everything: The Art of Happiness. Harper Collins, 1991. London.


It’s my belief that when someone is depressed and seeks out help for their depression, the first person they think of seeing is their physician (if blessed enough to have one) or psychiatrist. They also may consult with a counselor or psychologist. This I think is the normal route one would take. These are some of the routes a person might choose. But for most persons depressed they either suffer in silence, talk with a friend, or just go it alone.

In the past (recent past) there is an alternative way to get help and this is the self-help way. Most mental health practitioners in the past would see a client or patient on a one to one basis. Possibly, they would involve them in a group therapy program directed by a therapist who would lead the group. All fine and good. But then there appeared the Depressed Anonymous mutual aid group. Not a therapy group per se, even though many therapeutic benefits would accrue to the participants. So, what we have now is a peer to peer support group. It is people who have the same disability, and need that special feedback from a group of people and a sponsor who talk the same language of those who live with the pain and isolating behaviors that have kept them depressed.

Mutual aid groups are truly an alternative whose time has come. Not only because this process of group works well, it is also a strong support for those persons who have always heard “to snap out of it” in reference to their depression and now have the necessary tools to leave the shackles of depression. “If others can get free,” they say, “then so can I.” And, now they know. They are not alone.


A dis-ease of the spirit


In his voluminous work THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLIA first published in 1621, the  author traces the historical understanding of melancholia or depression as we know it today.  Already back in the 16th century this alchemist and physician rightly spoke about depression  being a disease of the spirit and that a spiritual solution need be sought for relief.

Paracelsus held the conviction that God has to be part of the healing as melancholia for him was a spiritual disease and so needed a spiritual cure. And now the insight and belief put forward by Paracelsus in the present time is being echoed in our own time by Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and all those who are availing themselves of the spirituality of the Twelve  Steps. All members of Twelve Step fellowships who are acknowledging  the importance of a belief in a power greater than themselves have the guiding star of hope and meaning in their daily lives.”


The experiencing  of those dark symptoms of depression and the hopelessness that they present, can best be understood as a painful dis-ease of the human spirit. The human spirit is filled with anxiety, a hollowness and a lack of purpose or meaning.  It is this dis-ease of the human spirit which  is the impetus   to seek  a remedy that will bring an equilibrium of meaning and purpose back into one’s fragmented life.

How often has David Karp, sociologist at Boston University writes about the  number of participants in his study of depression, who speak about the benefits of a spirituality in their quest for a remedy to their sadness. The author of Speaking of Sadness was surprised at how many of his interviewed  respondents  gave credence to a  spirituality of their own  and how it buoyed their spirits and  was a source of light and hope amidst the darkness.

Bill W., also depended on a Higher Power for help in  bringing sobriety into his own downward spiral of alcoholism  and saving his life.  He makes   no apologies for his belief in a Power greater than himself.   And like Paracelsus, as mentioned above,  saw that  the cure for melancholia, a  spiritual dis-ease,  as that of a faith in a Power greater than oneself.    As  stated in the 3rd Step of Depressed Anonymous  “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God to be.”

For me personally, it was only after I had hit bottom with no where to go but up, that I admitted my life was out of control and I prayed to God to help me. That is when  I walked into a 12 Step Group meeting and found what I was looking for. Help and wholeness.




SOURCES:   Copyright (c) I’ll do it when  I feel better. Hugh Smith (2016) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. pgs. 84-85.

Copyright (c) Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression (2017) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

Spiritual Kindergarten


“We are only operating a spiritual kindergarten in which people are  enabled to get over drinking and find the grace to go on living  to better effect. Each man’s theology  has to  be  his own quest, his own affair.”  Letter. 1954.


“When the Big Book was being planned, some members thought that it ought to be Christian in the doctrinal sense. Others had no objection to the use of the word “God,” but wanted to avoid doctrinal issues. Spirituality, yes.  Religion, no. Still others wanted a psychological book, to lure the alcoholic in.  Once in,  he could take God or leave Him alone as he wished.

To the rest of us this was shocking, but happily we listened.  Our group conscience was at work to construct the most acceptable and effective book possible.

Every voice was playing its appointed part. Our atheists and agnostics widened our gateway so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief.”

A.A., Come of Age.




I am going to take a fearless and moral inventory of myself today and list on paper my strengths as well as my weaknesses, that is those characteristics in my life that might keep me fearful and depressed,

“Step Four and Five really have to be faced head-on if our depression is to go away. Steps Four and Five are all about cleaning house. We must square off with ourselves and begin the rooting out process that will in time, free us from our sadness and our identity as a depressed person. So often a person depressed is afraid, panic stricken really, in facing some issues that were never their fault in the first place.”


I see so many people are liberated from their depression the moment they begin to look themselves in the eye and reflect on  their character defects. These persons are the ones who are not afraid to make a list of all the persons they have hurt by their isolating depression and by the thought that they are unacceptable to others and to themselves. By working Step Five which states  that “we admitted to God, ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” I am assured by another person’s acceptance of me that I will get through this time of pain and hurt.

Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous had a spiritual awakening on night as he truly was at the lowest point in his life and begged God to help him. God’s love lit up the room for Bill and he was never the same after that. He was a changed man. I need to make restitution to my family, my friends, my spouse and to whomever for my withdrawing from life and hiding from my responsibilities. This is the work that is needed if I am to get free of the shackles of sadness.


God, shine the light of your wisdom into our hearts so that you might help us find the way out of our depression and get on with living our  lives the way you would have us live them.  Our fears and anxieties are definitely not the way you would want us to live. You have shown us the way out of our misery by bringing us close to those who once were depressed, but now in recovery, are doing better.”

SOURCES: Copyright (c) Higher Thoughts for Down Days: 365 daily thoughts and meditations for all members of 12 Step fellowships. Depressed Anonymous  Publications. Louisville. Page 224/ November 10th.

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Copyright (c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.