“In It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey doesn’t get a new life, he gets new lenses to see the one he already has. May we be reminded of the beauty and goodness of our own story, as difficult and painful as it can be. ” – From ‘Hope and Other Superpowers’

Through my years of seeming exile from the human race, as I wandered the vast, barren wilderness of untreated mental illness, the Higher Power of my understanding intervened on many occasions -reaching His mighty hand into the seemingly bottomless pit of despair, suffering, and alienation to grab me by the scruff of my neck and gently place me back onto a plateu of hope and renewed life.

On this Christmas, I am grateful to an extent that words cannot capture. Grateful to be alive, sane, sober, stable, and living a “wonderful life.”

My Higher Power works His miracles and interventions through other people, events, and circumstances. One of the most profound and early life-saving interventions in my life occurred when I was a freshman in college (before my Bipolar Disorder went off the rails).

It was near Christmas time and I was wallowing in a morass of depression, despair, and self-pity one Friday night in my dorm room, sick for home, alienated, and ostracized for behavior stemming from an illness I didn’t even know I had.

Loe and behold, an acquaintance and neighbor in the dorm dropped by and invited me to a screening of some old B&W movie I’d never heard of. He was a film student, so I assumed it would be about as exciting as the countless hours I had spent waiting on my mother in fabric stores when I was a tot. But hey, it was better than drowning in abject misery.

Talk about a false assumption! The movie turned out to be “It’s a Wonderful Life!” No, it didn’t give me a new life. But on that bitter cold, snowy, depressing night in Columbia, Missouri, when despair was tightening its grip on my heart like a powerful vice, that movie saved my life.

It wasn’t the end of my trials and tribulations of my untreated Bipolar Disorder, or my addictions, or my indoctrinated shame by any stretch of the most limitless imagination. But it was respite from the storm. It was “the flimsy reed” that YEARS later AA taught me was the “hand of God.” It injected some sense of meaning and value into the very depths of my being, throwing a desperate, shame-filled young man with the self-worth of an amoeba a life line.

It sowed a precious seed of hope that, after 26 years of hard work, lots of support and help, and grace, has blossomed into a 24 hour a day faith that has worked under the worst of circumstances.

Today, thanks in part to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra, Donna Reed, Phillip Van Doren Stern, Liberty Films, my friend in the dorm, my Higher Power, and a host of others along my journey, I do indeed have a wonderful life.

One day at a time. By God’s grace.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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