Apr 20 2015

Paul Williams



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I had an interesting dream a few nights ago.  I was on stage in a vast auditorium with many balconies and elaborate old – world decorations. It was difficult to see.  I was blinded by a powerful spotlight.   I felt a strong desire to get past the formal setting.  I was smiling, trying to block out the light so I could see the audience and let them know that I considered them friends.   A little like a nervous kid trying to disarm the bullies on the playground.  Except, I felt no fear.  I was just trying to connect.

As I stared into the bright light I began to hear a voice rumbling the same question over and over again.   “Identify your self.  Identity please.   Who are you?”

The light moved enough for me to see a policeman or highway patrolman with a flashlight.   Suddenly I was in my car and had no idea where I was or why I was being questioned. “Who are you? Identify yourself!”

Before I could answer I woke up.  Hmmm.  As my old buddy Artie Johnson might have said …”Velly Interesting!”

It’s an interesting question.  For all of us I think.  Who are you?  How do you describe your true essence?  There was a time when it was pretty simple.  I’m Paul Williams and I’m a songwriter.   When asked, most of us offer first our names and then jump to our occupation as the appropriate answer to the question.

These days it just isn’t enough.    Yes, I’m still a songwriter and I sing now and then and act when given the chance.  And yes, an author at last. But, the most profound and rewarding declaration I’ve ever made lie in the words “My name is Paul and I’m an alcoholic.”

No, that’s not the whole of my being, but it’s a substantial part of who I am and more importantly, how I operate today. It’s a statement that was, for me, an entry – level ticket to the land of change.  Something needed to change and it was definitely me.

The recovery process stripped away parts of my life that were destructive and added perspective, principles and a process for dealing with life on life’s terms.  In the process my identity began to change.

Tracey is a great case study in the evolution of an identity.  She never quit moving forward as her choice of art, craft and passion changed through the years.  Her hyphenate gets longer and longer. She’s gone from screenwriter to director to author to blogger to recovery and self help advocate and mentor.  We’re about to add “podcaster”.  She’s gonna need a bigger business card.

It occurs to me that the proclamation of who we are isn’t as important as how we are.  Or more accurately how we behave.  How we affect the world around us on a daily basis.   My first sponsor in early recovery often asked me “How are you treating the world today Paulie?”  The first time he asked I assumed it was a slip of the tongue and said so.  “Don’t you mean “How’s the world treating me?” I asked.  His answer was pure gold. “I can’t do much about the way the world treats you, but I can promise you one thing, if you’re spiritually vigilant about the way you treat the rest of the world everything in your life will get better.”   He spoke the truth. I’m beyond grateful for his navigational nudges, strength and the hope he offered.

I love Oprah’s saying that there’s “wisdom in the wound.”    I’d take it a step further and say that there’s a compass there too.  By identifying what in our behavior needs fixing and being willing to change we find ourselves on a path of pure discovery.  We’re seeking the ways and means to improve our lives and for me that meant people.  Teachers.  Now there’s an identity with some enormous value.

We seek the people who can lead us out of the wilderness or the bar or the drug den or the casino or the wrong bedroom …  and if we’re spiritually vigilant, as we learn we grow.  And in time the opportunity presents itself for most of us to share what we have learned.

So today, in addition to name, occupation and recovery advocate, I’ll identify myself as student and teacher as well.  They are perhaps the most important part of my identity. How do you identify yourself?   What truths have you learned that you’re ready to share with another.

There is unique value in all of our experiences and stories of healing are always worth telling.  Golden knowledge worth sharing.  And when you offer the best of your private collection of wisdom to the world you are operating in the currency of kindness and generosity. Two of the most important elements you’ll find in the sweet land of gratitude and trust.  The place my heart calls home.





Paul Williams

Paul Williams is a singer, songwriter, actor, recovery advocate and has been a fixture on the American cultural scene since the seventies. His book Gratitude and Trust is now available.