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Naming the Holy Anonymous


Hugh Dowlen

Hugh Dowlen

Year in Medical School:
Class of 2015

Place of birth:
Chattanooga, Tennessee 

Where you grew up:
Chattanooga, Tennessee

College Attended:
Davidson College 

Favorite quote:
"Faith is both the dreaming and the crying. Faith is the assurance that the best and holiest dream is true after all. Faith in something - if only in the proposition that life is better than death - is what makes our journeys through time bearable."
- Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey


Hugh Dowlen 
(In reflection of his time at the Summer Institute for Medical Students at the Betty Ford Center.)

In a fellowship hall eight o’clock marks the meeting’s start
On this weekday service whose creed
Stands alone from an ordinary Sunday morning. Need
To gather, to share, to fight, to love with grace and art.

“God, grant me…” so goes in unison the prayer
Then the Steps, Twelve in number
Just as Judah’s tribes and Christ’s apostles do not encumber
But liberate the hearers of this liturgy, unimpaired.

Free from the bonds of alcohol’s grip, each member
Introduces with pronouncement of profound admission, followed by first name
An identity shaped by the destructive disease, why everyone came
To participate and celebrate, always to be reminded, to remember.

Latecomers enter and partake of cookies and coffee
A Eucharist whose alternative bread and wine
Replace the potent drink of woeful repine
Refreshment to nourish the soul that few venture to see.

Discussion continues, rife with rapt tales of broken lives
And mended, redeemed, made whole – words of power
Concerning fear, the nightly topic, to fulfill the hour.
Stories, disarming in their honesty, detail how the teller, day-to-day, survives.

A collection goes ‘round, and most deposit a solitary bill.
Each group committed to self-sustainment; willing givers, all
Donate a small sum; having received, they answer the call.
And now the chips are offered, alike to well and ill.

The white chip, in whose taking, signifies only a desire to quit
And other colors also, celebrating varying periods of sobriety.
Is it anyone’s birthday? A sober anniversary into a new society;
Joy emanates with hope as new visitors come forward for the pale token, to receive it.

In closing, all join hands in a foreign familiar ring of prayer.
“Who keeps us sober?” asks one of the group, words chosen with care.
The Lord’s Prayer, whose holiness, not unlike the imitable supper; air
Of sacred speech, instead of tangible sustenance, to seal the healing there.


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Last Updated: 09-10-2012
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