Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"Barney" People

I have a confession to make. For me, watching old reruns of The Andy Griffith Show is a spiritual experience. It's not as goofy as it sounds. There are actually churches that do Bible studies based on the show. At this particular time of my life, living in the house where I grew up -- and where my father died -- I find it strangely comforting to spend some of my evenings in Mayberry on TV Land.

Indeed, I live alone with ghosts. They may be only in my mind, but they seem very real. I'm following in my father's footsteps, now, by staying sober. Like many recovering alcoholics, I get a lot of support from friends also in recovery. We share our stories, and we often laugh at all the common themes.

It seems, to this Andy Griffith fan, that there are basically two kinds of folks. There are "Andy" people, and there are "Barney" people. The "Andys" are self-confident, secure in their egos, comfortable in their own skins. The "Barneys" are always full of bravado, trying to prove themselves, but shadowed by self-doubt. Recovering drunks are almost always "Barney" people.

Oh, we're not all as funny as Barney. Some of us aren't very funny at all. But, like Barney, we're full of blarney. We've all just endured eight years of a recovering drunk: a classic "Barney" guy. Now we seem to have elected an "Andy." There's a new sheriff in town, and I think we can all see the difference already.

For years, we strutted and blustered around the planet, issuing macho ultimatums and telling people they were "either for us or against us." We proclaimed that our "mission" was "accomplished" -- and then the war went on and on. Our new "Andy," in contrast, goes abroad making friends, settling disputes and smoothing ruffled feathers. He understands that God can love us -- and everybody else at the same time. And Barney can keep that bullet in his pocket where it belongs.

Coming out as a lesbian was also, for me, a highly spiritual experience. And it was transformative, because it showed me just how powerful honesty can be. God loves me as I am, and I can see that now. Andy always knew that God loved Barney, which is why, for so many years, he so gently and compassionately put up with all those crazy antics.

Being "out" helps transform our inner Barneys -- our insecure egotists -- into Andys. Very much the same way that sobriety does. Gradually, we come to realize that we are loved, and accepted, as we are. "If God is for us," as Scripture says, "then who can stand against us?"

There's a reason why so many of us turn to alcohol or drugs to sustain us. We're filled with insecurity, loneliness and pain. Many of us feel that no one really understands us -- or would love us if they did. But God is the Ultimate Andy. God knows us, and accepts us, inside and out.

I couldn't stay sober without God's help. In fact, without it I couldn't accept myself at all. But I'm done with booze, with closets and with being Barney. And so -- thank God -- is the country. There's a new sheriff in town.



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