Critically-Acclaimed Memoir of Dispirited Alcoholic-Turned-Minister Evocatively Underscores The Transformative Power of Faith, Hope, Meaning, Goodwill, and Second Chances!
I have had the pleasure and privilege to get to know Dr. Gordon Postill, the author of Called! A Longshot’s Story. It’s a book that should inspire those who find themselves underachieving, hopelessly drifting, or feeling life is meaningless. They can get a second chance!
The former minister of 35 years – the last 24 as a hospice chaplain – is one of my clients and he is a really unique individual. He is living proof that if one is given a second chance, even longshots can surprise others – and themselves.
At age 28 he was drifting in his career and relationships. He becomes increasingly dispirited, feeling irreversibly mired in existential despair, addiction, meaningless promiscuous sex, self-loathing, and jobs ranging from nickel miner to security guard. He also had run-ins with the law. But alas, he heeds a calling to the ministry and comes to find a life of faith and fulfillment.
Below is an interview with him:
- What inspired you to write Called! A Longshot’s Story? On the eve of my open-heart surgery in October 2010 and within a week of my sixty-second birthday, I knew unequivocally that even if I didn’t survive the operation, I had already been blessed personally and professionally beyond measure, no small feat considering how close my life came to being summed up with words such as lost soul, addict, alcoholic, asylum, criminal, and suicide. Five months after my successful surgery, I felt compelled to write with uncompromising honesty about that earlier period in my life when I struggled for years with personal demons such as despair, addiction, and aimlessness before an astonishing call to ministry propelled me forward towards well-being. I fervently hope my “longshot” story will inspire folks, especially those desperately longing for a second-chance, and also prompt a wide range of readers to truthfully examine their own stories and perhaps discover important insights which had previously eluded them.
- What messages do you hope readers with be left with after reading your book? During those periods when your life seems meaningless and no longer worth living and when you feel like you can’t or don’t want to carry on, may you never give up hope that somehow, some day, something or someone will pull you back from the brink and set in motion a process for restoring your well-being and sense of purpose. Alternatively, during those periods when you feel reasonably well-off, fulfilled, and satisfied, may you never forget the transformative difference which your understanding, compassion, and generosity could make to those in great need. Finally, regardless of your current circumstances, truthfully examining your life from time to time will help you remember who you really are, clarify your life’s journey thus far, and enable you to discern how best to proceed.
- Your book is about second-chances and what a person such as yourself could do to overcome his problems or shortcomings to make something of himself. You had struggled with drugs such as LSD and Valium, were an alcoholic and with a long history of alcoholic black-outs, unemployed, living at home with your mother at age 27, and in the throes of a longstanding existential crisis, how did you get your act together? Thankfully, after shamefully flunking out of university following a three-year debauched romp, I had enough resilience and false bravado to hang in there for several years without any sense of meaning or direction as my life quickly devolved. Yet, I also knew my point of no-return was getting close at hand. However, in October 1976, when I was reading my old Sunday School Bible purely from a literary, non-religious perspective, an astonishing call to ministry swept me to my knees, assured me of God’s steadfast, eternal love, and propelled me forward in faith towards a meaningful vocation. However, without the wide array of personal, educational, and professional support which I received over the next four years while pursuing my calling, this wondrous second-chance for a meaningful, healthy life would never have materialized and I soon would have found myself permanently residing in oblivion without any hope of ever leaving.
- You served as a minister for 35 years. Did your book shock some of your former parishioners who didn’t know about your life before becoming ordained? All of my former parishioners were completely shocked, in some cases bowled-over, from reading about my life prior to ordination. Although some of them had realized while socializing with me during my ministry that I never drank alcohol, they had initially assumed this was on account of my profession until I used to matter-of-factly clarify their misconception by briefly mentioning my earlier struggles with alcohol. However, in terms of my story’s overall narrative, everyone was totally amazed and inspired by the fact that I had survived those tormented years but, even more so, by my astonishing call to ministry and the many timely, serendipitous blessings which made my ordination possible, ultimately propelling me towards a life of deep personal and professional fulfillment. Furthermore, some folks after reading my “longshot” story, realized just how little they really knew about other people and resolved to stop making snap critical judgments about them.
- As a minister you discovered the resilience of the human spirit and discovered the beauty of people, including a generosity of heart. Is there hope for humanity? In no small measure, those entrusted to my pastoral care as well as my beloved, late wife Robin have been my greatest teachers about what really matters in life: faith, hope, generosity of spirit, compassion, respect, forgiveness, resilience, reconciliation, selflessness, and love readily come to mind. As a result of my countless, embedded pastoral and personal experiences of God’s Grace from over the years, I remain hopeful that enough folks, including myself, and our future generations will undauntedly and selflessly band together and help mitigate the growing unjust, discriminatory, and inhumane inequities which are currently oppressing billions of folks around the world and also that we’ll do everything possible to avert the fast-approaching, horrific ecological calamity which would destroy life and our planet as we know it.
- You had help in your life’s transformation. Do people realize others can help them improve their life? Knowing that I needed help and that others could help me, being willing to ask for help, and having ready access to whatever resources could help me were all key factors in my personal transformation over the years. Throughout my ministry, I’ve seen that most folks know that help from others in times of great need would certainly benefit them. However, the key issue for them as it was for me, is whether or not they realize how much they really do need help. Once folks realize this fact, they usually reach out for assistance and their lives improve significantly. Yet sadly there is another group of folks who struggle their entire lives with major issues such as depression, addiction, and hopelessness who either don’t’ realize how much they need help or are unable, for a variety of reasons, to reach out for assistance. My heart breaks for them.
- How do you help others reflect truthfully on their struggles and show them how to deal with their personal demons? If folks felt that I genuinely cared for them, that I was truly there for them regardless of whatever troubling aspects of their lives they might choose to share with me, that I wouldn’t be judging or trying to “fix” them, and that I would support them within their own spiritual traditions without having a religious agenda of my own, there was a very good chance that they’d come to trust me enough to begin revealing some of their personal demons and whatever else was weighing heavily on their heart. This kind of transparency, in and of itself over the course of a few pastoral visits, invariably went a long way towards unpacking and lifting some of their torment. Throughout my ministry, I consistently found that if given the support they need, most folks will discover their own answers about how best to reclaim their well-being and peace of mind.
- What lessons have you learned about death? My 35 years of ministry as well as the recent death of my beloved wife Robin at age 67 have brought me face-to-face with some undeniable, often devastating realities about death which include: death is a certainty for everyone; death is completely inclusive; death does not discriminate as to one’s age, sex, gender, race, socioeconomic circumstances, political/personal beliefs, religious or spiritual traditions, personal life resumes; death will happen to all of us on its own terms whether we acknowledge it as part of our normal life cycle or not. That being said, over the past forty years death has become my greatest teacher about how to live my life. As I’ve grown more accepting about the certainty of my own death (no easy feat and far from finished), I’ve become more capable and motivated to live my life with intention, focused on what really matters, before death comes for me.
- What lessons have you learned about life? Everyone suffers, some suffer more than others. Life is not played on a level playing field. Never give up hope even when engulfed by seemingly irreversible hopelessness. Seeking and accepting help in times of great need is of utmost importance. With God’s Grace and the lovingkindness of others, we can be rescued from oblivion, restored, and propelled towards well-being. Never underestimate the positive or adverse effect our words, actions, and thoughts can have on others, including ourselves. Living with attitudes such as love, hope, generosity, compassion, equanimity, forgiveness, and gratitude lays the foundation for a fulfilling life. Expanding the scope of those for whom we really care is a life-long process which lies at the heart of a life well lived. A keen awareness of our mortality can help us stay focused on what really matters. Living our lives with loving intention benefits others, yet no one more than ourselves.
Dr. Gordon Postill resides in Boston, Massachusetts. Please visit www.gordonpostill.com to learn more.
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