Thursday, March 25, 2021

From Addict to Advocate: Marilyn Davis' inspiring story!

Overview of FINDING NORTH, A journey from addict to advocate

New in recovery, a chance encounter with Gray Hawk, a 74-year old Native American, showed alcoholic Marilyn Davis that healing would include looking within, taking Steps, and creating a house of healing for other women.

Today, Marilyn is a Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist, recently celebrating 32 years of abstinence-based recovery. From 1990-2011, she opened and managed North House, an award-winning residential facility for women.

Before reaching this milestone, she was a desperate woman on drugs, managing rock bands at night, pretending to be okay, but ultimately giving up on herself, losing her husband, children, family, and friends due to her addiction.

This book is that journey! To purchase the book on, and to find reviews of the book, go to: Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate: Davis, Marilyn L.: 9781735971520: Books

By Marilyn Davis


Lying in that detox bed, smelling myself — that combination of alcohol leaching from my pores, and the rancid, stale stress sweat, I knew that I wasn't fooling anyone.

I was hurting, wanting to jump out of my skin, but trying to maintain a facade of okay.

But I had been stripped of everything that made me look okay —my textbooks to indicate I was a student, the leather planner that proclaimed I was a busy, organized person, and the one thing that held everything in place, my Xanax.

I felt exposed, raw, and vulnerable. There was no way that I could pretend to be okay, or convince anyone that the college had made a mistake in sending me to treatment.

It was 3 AM, mostly quiet on the unit, except for the guy next to me who was snoring. I envied his escape into sleep as I couldn't even close my eyes. When I did, all I could visualize were the faces of those I loved and had harmed.

With no distractions from my racing thoughts and guilt, I did what I'd done for years; I grabbed a book. Dr. Benton had given me a copy of Alcoholics Anonymous and suggested I read it as he gave the charge nurse my textbooks and planner, and told her, "She won't need these other books while she's here."

Three sentences into the Foreword to the First Edition, I started crying. Those tears were for the pain—the physical, but more so because I was reading that people like me— other addicts were recovering.

I no longer questioned my assessment earlier in the month — the therapist was right; I was an addict, and I needed to find out just how I had become one.

 Chapter 1

 I couldn't eat the morning of Family Focus, the day when our families came to confront us with all we had done wrong. I was apprehensive since my parents were participating in what everyone else said was a time to air the families' dirty laundry. I did not doubt that my mother would bring up everything I'd done wrong since grammar school.

I'd learned to dread her scathing criticism and disapproving looks. Her preferred approach was the, "Then there was the time you did...", followed by all the slights, disappointments, bad behaviors, and wrongs I'd ever committed throughout my life. 

Given that the families had permission to vent, I wasn't sure I could endure a public rebuke from her, but I was also proud that I didn't take the easy way out and not participate like some.

Thirty years ago, the clinical approach to curing addiction was to “peel the onion,” removing layers of denial, dishonesty, and illusions that we addicts had created to protect ourselves from criticism.  While this was usually done by a caring clinical professional, at Family Focus, all of our flaws would be exposed by angry, disappointed, frustrated family members.  While I could understand the rationale for breaking down my denial and illusions, I also knew that stripping away any defenses I’d created for myself regarding my addiction would leave me feeling vulnerable.

Most of our families had tried to intervene on us in the past, screaming at us to stop using, withholding money, or threatening to take our children away if we didn't get help.

But most of us could not or would not look at the reality of our lives. 

The severity of our addictions, the harm we had caused our loved ones, the time wasted and money squandered, was too much, so we left unpleasant encounters with our families or dismissed what they had to say.

Too often, though, looking at the reality of our lives, the severity of our addictions, the harm we had caused our loved ones, the time wasted and money squandered, was too much, so we either left unpleasant encounters with our families or dismissed what they had to say. Unfortunately, for some, this type of exposure was too much to absorb and process. The natural inclination of fight or flight kicked in, and people left treatment rather than face what they had done in their addiction.

 Chapter 2

 Our group of recovering addicts started out as eight for Family Focus, but then two left, so it was the six of us who filed into the room, lining up, as one participant said, “like lambs to the slaughter.” 

About 25 family members were sitting in the circle, with an empty seat between them so that we could sit with our respective families.

I saw dad, who smiled, stood up, and hugged me, but mom wasn't there. When I didn't see an extra empty chair near dad, I realized she wasn't using the restroom; she hadn’t come. 

I was disappointed, but not surprised.

Not having my mother there that day made me realize how often she was absent, distant, or unavailable throughout my life. Mom had found ways to miss my track meets, softball games, and graduation. If I was candid with myself, besides not being there at important events, she was emotionally absent for most of my life.  

Marilyn Davis is the editor-in-chief at two blogs, and She is the author of Therapeutic Integrated Educational Recovery System.  In 2008, Brenau University created the Marilyn Davis Community Service Learning Award, ongoing, to honor individuals working in recovery and mental health. In 2010, Marilyn received the Liberty Bell award, given to non-judges and attorneys for contributions to the criminal justice system and communities. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Hawks Soaring Overhead and Hooting with Owls!

My dear friend Kellie Meisl was taking a walk a few days ago when she realized that a hawk was circling overhead. Then she realized there were three hawks! She stopped and snapped this photo. Kellie keeps an amazing blog at If you visit her blog, you will see a marvelous video in which she becomes an "Owl Whisperer!":

She writes: 


I've been communicating with Owls. This is a clip of one of our conversations:

"On a hike a couple of months ago now, I heard an owl hooting so I hooted back. To my surprise it came to me, a Barred Owl, I saw it as it swooped in silently landing in a nearby tree. At the time I wasn't able to snap a shot of it, as it was obscured by the evergreen. 

Then, on my late afternoon walks I began to hear the owl at the same time, and in the same location, So, one day I decided to hoot again and sure enough it came and alighted in a nearby tree. This time, it left me a feather."

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Sanctity of Silence!

By Kathy Joy Hoffner

Some of the most persuasive people I know are the quiet ones. 

Quiet people are a stabilizing influence in a world jangling with noise.

A Spanish proverb says it like this: 

"Abre la boca solo si lo que vas a decir es más hermoso que el silencio!"

(“Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is more beautiful than the silence.”)

Silence helps us understand ourselves. We can be fully present and connect with others. 

When we are stuck or confused, silence brings us little epiphanies.

Silence can be a life-long friend. But we need to pay attention to it. 

For some of us, solitude is water to a parched soul; we must have it. 

For others, solitude is too deep, too sad, too isolating. 

But it can be a shared place for hunkering down and listening.

“Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence.”


Silence is a patient friend. Waiting always, watching over your comings and your goings, hoping you will join the hush and wonder.

Here’s what happens during just one minute while you remain quiet:

>> 255 babies will be born 

>> Your Heart will pump 83 Gallons Of Blood

>> A hummingbird will flap its wings 4,000 times

>> 31,600 tons of water will flow over Niagara Falls

>> 1,800 stars will explode

>> 4,500 McDonald’s burgers will be eaten

>> UPS will deliver 11,319 packages 

>> 243,000 photos will be uploaded to Facebook

>> Americans will Eat 21,000 Slices of Pizza

>> 4,310 people will visit Amazon

>> Twitter users will send 347,222 tweets

>> Uber passengers will take 694 rides

**Research from Pawan Patar at www.

If this much happens inside the space of 60-seconds, then maybe you can take a little break.

It’s pretty obvious the world will keep churning if you step away from it.

Take a pause for you.

Notice your own breathing.

Consider the hummingbird, who flaps and grabs the nectar.

We, too, can join that dance.

We, too, can taste the wonder and the sweetness and come back for more.

We, too, can rest a minute and enjoy the quiet.

Kathy Joy Hoffner is the author of a four-book series called Breath of Joy.  She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and communication from Messiah College, in Grantham, PA. and has just published a new children's book, called "Will You Hold My Story?"

To purchase the book, go to Do it today! 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Guest writer: WHEELS OF MY LIFE by Al Stumph

 Writer Al Stumph, of Chatham, New York, resigned from the Maryknoll priesthood while he was a student in Hong Kong. In his wonderful new book, "Wheels of My Life," he writes about all the cars, trucks and motorcycles he has known in his life. He counted more than 50! Here is an excerpt from what Al calls his "biomythography," a literary term coined by poet and essayist Audre Lorde. The term combines history, biography, and myth-making. Enjoy this excerpt (in which Al converses with one of his cars) and then go to and order his book today!


“Car, I’m a mess sexually, a 28-year-old virgin.” 
“That’s a mess?” 
“I think so, but I’m completely messed up, socially, mentally, spiritually, you name it.” 
“Um, Let’s see.” 

As recorded earlier, in October 1969, sixteen months after my ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood, I resigned. I was a student in Hong Kong when recent pronouncements from Rome, my disagreements with the local bishop, the wrongness of five hundred years of paternalistic missionary work in China, and certainly my sexual interests, all combined to drive me from the priesthood. I became homeless, unemployed, and with no means of transportation other than my legs. 

Aimless, I hung out at first with friends in Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Seattle. Eventually I returned to my parents’ home in Indianapolis. There, I concluded, “More than a place to live or a job, I need a car. Driving helps me clarify my thinking. Without a car of my own, I feel naked and vulnerable.” 

I turned to my trusted, knowledgeable-about-cars friend Bill. He recommended the ’69 Buick Opel Kadett, a subcompact imported from Germany. “Al, it’s compact, reliable, inexpensive to operate, and favorably priced when compared to similar American cars. Best part, only people cheap like you ever consider them. You’ll love it. They’re made for you.” 

As we walked to the far reaches of the dealership lot, the salesman chattered on. “I think you’ll like the Opel. It’s one of my favorites. There it is. Wadda ya think? Let me dust off that seat.” 

I kept silent, studying the car. Blah. Prosaic. Practical. Bill was right. The Opel and I were brothers, soulmates. Misreading my silence, the salesman played his trump card. “It may look tame, but this one has dual carburetors, plenty of power for climbing hills and passing.” He handed me the keys. “Take a drive around and we’ll talk back at the showroom.” 

The Opel, apparently not driven for a few weeks, stumbled to life as I turned the key, a shake here, a sputter there. Then I felt the driver’s seat embracing me. My fingers came to life on the wheel. Before we pulled away from its parking space I knew for certain that I had found my companion. No longer the Opel, or just transportation, she had a name, “Car.” Car would stand by me, reassure me as I shed my identity as “priest.” We’d not simply be hunting for a job and housing. We’d be exploring new vistas together. 

Car and I set out from Indianapolis for New York. Our destination was the Yonkers home of my classmate and rent-a-wreck partner. Jim had offered to house me for a few weeks. 
I floored the gas pedal as we merged on to the Indianapolis beltway. Car reacted with a burst of speed, and an exclamation. 

“Easy on the gas, Al. This is a two-day trip. We’ve got plenty of time.” 

“I know, I know, but I wanted to get us in front of that eighteen-wheeler. Your dual carbs made that easy.” 

“Thanks, Al. Your wish is my command. Sit back, relax. I’ve got everything under control. I70E is just a couple miles ahead.” 

“Car, it’s a beautiful autumn day. My new life’s beginning. I can’t wait to see what’s next.” 
“Yet, Al, your tone seems a little anxious, like you’re not sure of yourself.” 
“Well, maybe. I don’t know where I’m really headed. Right now, I just want to get to Jim’s place. We’ll see what happens then.” 
“So, Al, you’re on this new path, but no idea where it leads, you’re feeling unsure.” 

The highway curves left, and I removed my foot from the accelerator. I’ve always been a cautious driver. 

“Yeah, Car, I’m feeling unsure. I’ve always been taken care of, food on the table, very comfortable housing. Now I’m on my own.” 
“You’re scared you might not be able to take care of yourself.” 
“And, Car, you’re beginning to sound a lot like Carl Rogers doing his client-centered therapy thing.” 
“Well, what do you expect, Al? That’s the psychology/therapy you were trained in. I’m mirroring you. I’m in your head.” 
“Fair ’nuff. Let’s turn on the radio.” 

For the next hour or so, Car and I enjoyed music from the radio and exchanged brief observations about the color of autumn leaves and the aggressive and dangerous driving behaviors of others on the road. We stopped for a break at Stuckey’s, and I picked up some coffee. Before we got back on the road, I’d decided to encourage Car to play Carl Rogers some more. 

“Car, why didn’t I try to strike up a conversation with the good-looking woman in the coffee line with me? I’m a 28-year-old guy with almost no idea of how to approach women. I’m so stupid.” 
“So, what makes you different from other young men?” 
“Twenty-eight years of thinking and living celibacy. Well, that’s not quite true.” 
“Tell me what you mean, Al.” 
“OK, I’ve known Kathy for more than five years. She’s in Albany, New York and our letters while I was in Hong Kong prove our love. But then we lived on opposite sides of the globe. What happens now?” 
“Al, I see some drives to Albany in our future.” 
“Yeah, Car, but then there’s Bernadette. She’ll be emigrating to Toronto soon. We really fell for each other in Hong Kong. With her, I came within an inch of violating my celibacy. Actually, looking back, I don’t know what made us stop.” 
“You’re thinking drives to Toronto might be in our future, as well?” 
“Sure, Car. That’s what I’m thinking, but I don’t know how to relate to either of them now that I don’t have to keep a celibacy promise. They’re both much more sexually mature than I.” 
“OK, you’re afraid of failure.” 
“Well, yeah, Car. For your information, they also know about each other. I’ll be caught in the middle if I’m not careful. And what do I do about Nora, Lucilla, Julia, or women I’ve not even met yet, like that one who just pulled her Mustang in front of us? Kick in your dual carbs. Get us into the left lane so I can get a better look.” 
“Al, you are acting like an adolescent.” 

I paused, measuring Car’s words. “Yup,” I thought. “Yup.” 

When we did get to Jim’s place in Yonkers, by the second evening I was ready to settle in. I got the floor because Bill H., a classmate also leaving the priesthood, had arrived first and claimed the guest bed. Car got the street. 

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season was underway. What a festive time to begin a new lifestyle. What a sad time to be unemployed. 

Weekdays, Car waited patiently on the street. I’d take a bus from Jim’s apartment to the subway in the Bronx and then on to Manhattan. After several weeks exploring jobs with, among others, IBM, Dow Chemical, and the New York Times, I got realistic as the year drew to a close and accepted a job selling office equipment in New Jersey. The branch manager there had heard that ex-clergy made good sales people. I’d start immediately after the beginning of the new year.

During the same period, Car and I traveled the Taconic Parkway to Albany to be with Kathy. She and I had long desired this opportunity to get to know each other in ways that we had not permitted ourselves when I lived at Maryknoll. While I was in Hong Kong we acknowledged, through the mail, how deeply we had come to care for each other. Now we were free to explore our feelings fully, and we did, nearly every weekend. 

Car liked negotiating the hills and curves of the parkway and quickly learned the route to a comfortable parking spot in Washington Park near Kathy’s apartment. I wondered if Car had something going on with a friend in the neighborhood. Car vehemently denied any motivation except to ensure that Kathy and I could be together. “Al, your wish is my command.” 

Also during the weeks before my job search ended, Car and I often spent evenings visiting people I knew in the Bronx and Westchester County. One evening I decided to introduce Car to Nora’s red Camaro convertible. It turned out to be a bad experience for Car. 

“Al, how could you take us to Tuckahoe? We’re plain country folk. And Nora’s not for you. She’s much too serious, too intense.” 
“OK, Car. One down.” 

Near Thanksgiving Bill H and I drove Car to Washington, DC, to take part in a Vietnam War protest. Bill invited two former Maryknoll nuns to join us. The next weekend Car spoke out as we drove the Taconic Parkway toward Albany. 

“Come on, Al, what were you and Bill thinking? You know nuns are a pain, including ex-nuns. One, Susan I think, even wanted to eat raw oysters. Ugh.” 
“I don’t need your comments this morning, Car, but thanks for getting us to DC and back.” 
“Al, you must have noticed that I get very excited when we go to Albany on weekends. Kathy’s the one for you.” 
“You’re assuming an awful lot, Car. I’m fascinated by that blond, tough, witty, and vulgar woman who leads the Committee of Returned Volunteers’ meetings. She’s really, really sexy.” 
“And way out of your league, Al.” 
I chose not to take Car into Manhattan for my date with Julia, who had recently immigrated from Hong Kong. It would not have mattered if I had. After that evening I did not need Car’s insight to assure me that a relationship with Julia would go nowhere. 
In the year 2001, Al began doing lawncare and furniture construction to supplement his retirement income. With more reflection time available, he resurrected his interest in writing memoir, essays, and short fiction. He added poetry to the mix in 2017. 

Thursday, March 04, 2021


The Red. Bird. Now at the feeder.

Seeds, wet in black piles beneath. 

Need to breathe. Stay. NOW!! 

How majestic this plump little bird is. 

So red. 

So so cold today. 

Minus nine. 

Hard wind. 

Oh cardinal you and your lime green mate 

strutting here, showing me how to WAIT!! 







BREATH! (oh how easily I forget the breath.)

Full heart. 

Red blood against the white snow. 

What a gift. 

How a 

Cardinal lifts my heart heavenward!

Monday, March 01, 2021

"WILL YOU HOLD MY STORY?" A wonderful new children's book by Kathy Joy!

 Here is Kathy Joy's brand new children's book -- one that will delight any age group! The message is universal!

During her decades-long radio career in the Denver, Colorado area, Kathy Joy was an often-sought after speaker for women's events. In the trenches herself with mothers of young children, Kathy brought a gritty and funny and uncut approach to daily realities.

After relocating to her home area of  rural Pennsylvania with her family, Kathy endured the sudden loss of her husband, Roger, who was only 60  years old.

To cope with her loss, Kathy began to imagine grief from a child's point of view. A big story inside a small person is very hard to carry!

"Will You Hold My Story?" grew out of this realization. The book reveals Kathy's very generous heart for sharing burdens. By telling our stories to people willing to listen with their whole hearts, we give others permission to unload their own weights and worries.

Kathy, who now makes her home in Erie, PA, is an enthusiastic supporter of therapy dogs and dogs in general, as they are such loyal friends, sweet companions and excellent listeners.

As the author of a four-book series called Breath of Joy, and as a social media fan and inspirational speaker, Kathy Joy has found her voice in the world of children's literature.

Kathy -- whose full name is Kathy Joy Hoffner -- holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and communication from Messiah College, in Grantham, PA. She says her favorite semester at college included the study of children's books.

To purchase the book, go to Do it today!