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Friday: Episode 1 – Spooked !

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Have you ever loathed someone with every fiber of your being ?

Sobriety brings with it a myriad of emotions, vying for purchase. And all those emotions are running through my head since I left the meeting I spoke at last night.

There are (not so) sober men in the rooms, that I loathe will all of my being. I hate them as much as I hate addiction. Sitting in the chair, looking out at the room, trying to speak coherently and honestly, watching people react to what you are saying, and seeing someone you loathe with all your being SLEEPING in his chair, playing with his water bottle, fucked with my brain.

I invited several people to come hear me speak, and that spooked me too. At some point I looked at our Matron of our meeting, sitting in the front row, and I sensed she was tapping at her watch, which threw me into fits of “shit, I need to wrap up,” it might have been that, or it might not have been that.

I had a script in front of me, and still, I was all over the place. In the end I feel like I really did not carry the message honestly, because I was all over the place mentally.

I can’t go back and change anything about what I said or did not say.

I’ve heard a long sober woman talk about the fact that in one moment she is the most resentful and angry woman, while being the most grateful and happy woman, all at the same time. All those emotions vying for attention, in that moment.

The Third tradition speaks about the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking, and nobody has the right to tell someone to leave.

Right now, I want to haul off and speak some not so sober words to a particular man in the crowd. I want to tell him how much I hate him, how much I loath his existence, and his presence in the same space I sit in.

It is like a malediction.

I cannot stand disrespectful people. I’ve known for all of my sobriety how much I hate certain people in the rooms. They make we want to spit. And say things that are not so sober.

As a gay man, there are certain heterosexual men who just make my stomach turn. I won’t break bread with them, I won’t go to the same meetings as they do, and I sure as shit do not call them fellows.

I strayed off my script because my sponsor said that I needed to stick to my story as it relates to alcoholism. Some of my script went well outside that requirement.

Figuring that I was going long, I cut short an entire section of my share.

In the end, I got good marks from my friends and the members of the group, which meant I had hit my mark. Being that the last time I spoke in front of a crowd was six years ago on my tenth anniversary.

So why do I feel so fucked up and angry ?

I felt very intimidated sitting up there, talking to people who did not care for anything that I had to say, yet they were sitting in the room with us. I might not be 20 plus years sober, but I am sure as shit not like any of those men I loathe.

Fuck Me ten ways from Sunday …

Thursday Episode 1 – Harmonization

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Years ago, when I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, I started drug regimens very slowly. Over those years, it seemed the drugs were not working as well as expected.

What we did not know then, was that having dual diseases meant that both sets of drugs had to harmonize, so that both regimens worked on their associated problems.

Together.

Last fall, Dr. George changed up my Diabetes medication and added Trulicity to the mix at a low dose. Trulicity is a once a week injection. I began to loose serious weight, for the first time in over twenty years.

In February when I saw him again, the numbers were still too high. I then went to see Dr. Chris, and that day both he and Dr. George were in the same office. They had figured out, for the first time since I got sick, that the drugs were knocking each other out, one for one, thereby negating the effectiveness of the drugs across the board.

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Dr. Chris took away a few drugs, and added new ones, on single dose daily dosing. Dr. George upped my Trulicity to a higher weekly dosage as well, he tweaked my other diabetes medications also.

I had lost ten pounds by the February medical check-up. In March, my friend Joe introduced me to the KETO diet. Which I jumped on furiously.

I have lost a total of thirty pounds so far.

In the words of the Divine Miss M … I Look Good !

Today, I was up at 6 a.m. to make my trek up the hill to the General to drop labs.

Three months of new drugs, one intense diet that has totally changed the way I live, and a lot more healthy living, we will see just how good this harmonization test worked.

If it was successful we will have found a new way to treat dual diagnosis patients with HIV and Type 2 Diabetes.

Let Us Pray …

Wednesday: Ready to Rock and Roll

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The sun is shining. The city has been basking in Summer like weather for the past couple of days. Days of sun, are going to turn into days of rain tomorrow, and on through Monday and Tuesday. UGH !

Tuesday and Wednesday are my off days. Off days, are reserved for chores, laundry and cleaning. Yesterday I cranked all morning to get all my chores done, so that I had the rest of the day to sleep.

It pays to have the BED of DEATH …

Once you lay down, there is no getting up, it’s so GOOD.

Recent New Updates

I am so very tired of politics on the telly.

I’ve changed up my home page to the BBC a while back, so as to change the messaging coming at me on a daily basis. I am more interested in what is going on overseas, than I am in what is going on down South.

Any senseless killing of any innocent is a tragedy. The killing of innocent young people is abominable. There is no joy, blessing or eternal inheritance when you kill innocents.

If you kill an innocent, there won’t be 72 virgins waiting for you on the other side.

PERIOD !

We are reminded, once again, to be VIGILANT, where ever we live. Be mindful of your surroundings. Be mindful of your fellows in public places, and most especially on the TUBE or the METRO, BUS or any other public transportation.

You are the best eyes law enforcement has, on the ground, in real time.

You might be cranking your tunes on your head set, Just pay attention to what is going on around you, as concert and events begin to crank up for the season.

If you see something strange, SPEAK UP.

If you see someone strange, PAY ATTENTION.

No city is totally guaranteed safe. Those fuckers always find a way to undermine our security. Go about your daily life, just a little more VIGILANTLY.

This afternoon I sat with my new sponsor to go over my script for tomorrow night’s meeting. I am speaking.

We are Ready to Rock and Roll people.

It is going to be great.

Tuesday: Sorrow in Manchester

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Last night, as I arrived at home, I learned of the great tragedy that struck the city of Manchester. The tragedy of terrorism is abhorrent, when it is visited upon defenseless young people, the tragedy is only magnified times ten.

It has been said that Terrorism’s greatest effect is when it is visited upon young people. And we have seen this kind of tragedy before, namely in Orlando last Summer, and many locations in Europe and beyond.

It pains me greatly, when the victims of such tragedy is visited upon young people, because, in that actions an entire generation of bright minds and souls are snuffed out indiscriminately.

There are no words I can speak, that will console or make this better, other to say that my heart is broken, once again.

The loss of ANY life is devastating. The loss of young life is unconscionable.

Eternal rest, to those young people, and may perpetual light shine upon them.

My heart is broken and we are all shattered over this senseless crime of terror.

Monday: See the Ball, Be the Ball …

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I once heard someone say that during an interview. And in tonight’s story, “Building a New Life,” You get to read about how our man “saw the ball, and became the ball.”

After a life of self-abuse, immaturity, and several attempts at sobriety, via rehab institutions, he finally finds his way to us. And you’d think that somewhere on his route to us, he would find the key, the desire, and the will to get sober.

He does not.

Finally, after admitting defeat, he finds his way in.

They say, well, it was said to me, this time around that:

“At the time we begin drinking and using, for most of us, that begins very early in life, that we stop growing emotionally and mentally, AT the age we began consuming.”

Most people, who enter the rooms, at whatever stage they enter, are stuck somewhere on the emotional and mental timeline in their lives. If we stick and stay, like we remind our folks, we begin to grow up, be it ever so slowly.

When our man came in, he was a disheveled mess of a human being. But what he saw, changed his life for the better. It is said by many, that on their first entrance to the rooms, they witnessed people, well dressed, happy, and laughing among themselves.

For most of us, this was jarring, to say the least.

Our man saw men, well dressed in suits. I imagine that he was not a “Man in a suit, just yet.” He just wanted to be a man in a suit. There is a metaphor there.

I know, from the read, that our man wanted to clean up his life and his person. That does not happen overnight either. We first have to put down the substance, and gather ourselves together to make that walk into the rooms, with whatever self-respect and dignity we might still have.

Eventually, over time, our man does become, “That man in a suit.”

I know, for me, that it took a very long time to figure out who I wanted to become in sobriety. I had past examples of men I wanted to be like, (read: Todd). In the rooms, this time around, I found men, whom I came to respect and admire.

I’ve always said that, getting sober this time around was a scientific study of people; Situations, Decisions, Choices, and even Bad Choices. I brought to myself everything that I saw that was good, and made them mine. Everything else I left.

Like our man who saw the suits, and wanting to become a suit, he worked hard to become “that man in a suit.”

There are many layers to this achievement.

One, he had to figure out who he was, when he walked into the rooms. That takes time. He got into service early on, which will save your sobriety, if you do service early on.

Two, he had to find a sponsor and get into The Work and the Steps, to figure out where he had gone wrong, what led him to drink, and to clear away the wreckage of his past.

And Three, he had to figure out who he wanted to be. What he wanted to be was “That man in a suit.” Well dressed, well put together, and Mature …

In the beginning, it might have meant something to him, to get dressed, when he went to a meeting, like the men he saw, when he walked in.

90% of feeling good, is looking good.

He walked in and saw something that appealed to his better nature. He dressed the part, hoping, that at some point in his journey, he would fully inhabit, “That man in a suit.”

When I came in, I had already made the decision that I was ready to grow up and become a man, now. THEN, I had to figure out what that looked at in real-time, in watching the many men, I came in contact with, in the rooms.

I wanted to be grown up. I wanted to be responsible. I wanted to be a man.

I saw the ball, and I started acting like the ball, at over time, I became the ball.

This runs along the lines of “Acting as if…”

The visual I am talking about now is a much better example of acting as if.

I’ve been through many incarnations of myself over the years. Looking good, was the first stage of becoming good. Responsibility came second. I walked into a room, and I joined that group … Tuesday Beginners” right off the bat, on that first night.

The first thing they said to me is “do service.” I did service. I still do service to this day.

I wanted to be part of, and to “Become.”

You can’t become, if you don’t engage.

It wasn’t a suit that I was after. There were men, in certain meetings, who had a certain dress code, for their men, at that specific meeting.

I know when the Elders walked into my life, dressing the part, was part in parcel of becoming part of.

First we get into the rooms. We find a focal point. We meet people we want to be like. We clean up the wreckage of our pasts, then we are ready to begin building.

My education, at the beginning, was just to get settled and build my foundation.

At eleven months, my manhood appeared. I made a crucial decision. The rest, you can say, is history. All the goodness, all the badness, all the pain, and all the struggle, made me the man I am today.

The one CONSTANT in my life IS the rooms and SERVICE.

They told me that if I put anything before my sobriety, that would fail. I began to build infrastructure of meetings, people, sponsors, etc …

I still have that framework in action to this very day.

Shit happens in life, and it ain’t all rosy and happy, all the time. In all seriousness, over the last year, I have been in the emotional and mental wringer, to be honest. And watching my friends, or people I considered my friends, react, to my distress, has been an eye-opening experience for sure.

Not everybody is your friend, especially when time get tough.

But we persist !

In the beginning, I had just a simple idea of what I wanted.

Simply, I wanted to grow up and become a man.

How to get there was the challenge. Like our man, in the story tonight, he connected to something that spoke to his better nature, and he latched on.

Sobriety, takes time. A LOT of time.

Eventually our man became “That man in a suit.”

With all the love, adoration, respect and dignity, that that SUIT bestowed on him.

90% of feeling good, is looking good…

Friday : You’re a Douche bag !!!

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Today we talked about the survival of the fellowship.

Clearly, our first duty to A.A.’s future is to maintain in full strength what we now have. Only the most vigilant care taking can assure this. Never should we be lulled into complacent self-satisfaction by the wide acclaim and success that are everywhere ours. This is the subtle temptation which could render us stagnant today, perchance disintegrate us tomorrow. We have always rallied to meet and transcend failure and crisis. Problems have been our stimulants. How well, though, shall we be able to meet the problems of success ?

I wonder out loud, quite often, to my friends that, “Is anybody listening ?” Are people really that stupid ? Does anyone take into consideration that the words we speak really do matter, and that if you follow these very simple suggestions,

“You won’t have to drink today !!!”

I don’t know what more I can do for the men and women I work with, then to continue repeating the same refrains to them, because, right now, they are not listening.

Yet my phone rings daily, with the drama of the day …

It is beginning to wear thin, on my very last good nerve.

Conflict is something that happens in the rooms. I know, from conflicts past, that if conflict happens, that I just keep my mouth shut, walk away, find a meeting to do service in, and wait for God to work His miracles, in the universe.

Recently, God has been bringing the douche bags into the Friday meeting, one by one.

I talked last night about saying words, that may well fall on deaf ears. I talked about letting people slide, when they piss us off, or do something stupid.

All day, the rat has been on his wheel in my head, thoughts about people, places and things, that really have no bearing on my life today. I am going to be in the hot seat next week, and I’ve been working on my script … Yes I use a script, because my memory is not what it used to be, and the last time I spoke it was a HUGE shit show. And I am not going to stand up in front of my home group next Thursday and be a douche bag myself.

I wanted to nap for a few hours and my brain was on overdrive, and that fucked up the entire day. I took a shower and headed out to do set up. When I finished, I called my sponsor and told him I was in the weeds. I only asked him to work with me last week, so the ground rules have not been spoken, and we need to do that and talk about next Thursday while we are at it.

He does not agree with me on a script. That’s ok. I’m not going to get up there and fuck it up for sure, in any case.

I talked tonight about degrees of separation.

The people in the rooms, are in our lives, in degrees of separation. The closer you are to me, the more likely I am to tell you when Yes, You Are A Douche Bag.

The further away you are from me, I will let you slide. There are people who rub me like spiritual sand paper. They can go fuck themselves. I already know You Are A Douche Bag, and I want nothing to do with you.

On the way home, I was talking to a friend about negativity and people who have no bearing on our lives today. And he asked how did I cope with assholes and elbows ?

It has taken the whole of my sobriety to figure out how to let go of people who are assholes, namely family, who are total Douche Bags. The less time I spend thinking about them the better. I used to ruminate at great lengths the depth of pain these people HAD caused me in the past, and I used to allow that pain to infect my daily life, for a long time.

Bob calls this the hostage theory … His theory was that he was adopted. Then he used to use Well, I’m Gay … It was one thing after another.

I don’t have any more hostage stories to tell. And nobody wants to hear them either. I don’t want to listen to myself, dredge up all that old bitter shit …

Ugh, the drama of it all.

The less time and personal emotional power I spend carrying people, places and things that have no impact on my life today, the better.

If we carry around all that shit baggage, and we spend hours upon hours of our days and nights ruminating over that shit, that’s a lot of personal mental energy spent WASTED.

Do you know how long it took me to get that ? Having heard Bob talk about this more than five years ago ? And I listen to him often, because he’s on my pod cast player.

UGH… I’m so tired.

I hate sitting in a meeting knowing one of my former douche bag sponsees is sitting in the room trying to ignore me and not talk to me. But he came with a friend, who I haven’t talked to in seven months, who rang my phone at 11:30 last night.

Oh, Hi, How are you ? It’s been so long, we need to catch up. What have you been up to ? I wanted you to know I started going to other meetings. He came to Friday meeting last week, because my best friend took his five-year chip.

I gave him that piece of advice – going to other meetings, more than ten months ago, and he finally got around to making that work.

Douche Bag !

Working to stay sober. I’ve done what I’ve always done, when conflict happens. I shut my mouth, I walk away, I find another meeting, and I do service.

I don’t get it that people who know me, for more than a few years, seem to think, that keeping it simple is such hard work !

I’ve done the same thing I was told to do when I came in. I took to heart every piece of advice given to me, and I still do those things today, like clockwork.

My life is built around my meetings and doing service.

How difficult is that ?

Not Very.

Yet, there are a handful of friends, who did not heed that advice, and over the past seven months, have gone back out and drank again, and used again. One of my friends took a chip tonight, and he just does not get it.

It’s not complicated.

Pick up the phone, talk to someone, get to a meeting, do some freaking service for God’s sake. It’s not complicated.

Obviously, people are not listening to anything lately.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

You’re a Douche Bag …

Thursday: Finding Peace Within

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Romeo Dallaire – in the hills of Rwanda. A place he speaks of warmly, as the place he would go, amid all that carnage, to find inner peace.

The first order of business, is to take care of ourselves.

Lately, some of my friends are beginning to find that they have overextended, over compensated, and spent themselves giving to people, who have taken advantage of them, and did not take into consideration what “their” friends have been doing for them all this time.

I’ve said recently that when the sun rises, the first order of business is Me. It begins with me and it ends with me. Everything else in between, comes as it comes. I know better than to over extend. The lesson about becoming a man, for me, was learning how to put the needs of someone else’s, (read: My Husband) before my own.

A certain number of my friends, the chosen few, also hold that place in my heart. They all know that I am at their service, should they ever call upon me. If I give it all away for free, and walk away empty and overextended, then I have not learned the lesson.

For the last little while, I have been up early, and my daily routine has gotten sharper and I do what needs to be done, which frees up the rest of the day to be able to be present for my friends, at any given hour.

Resting is part of my routine. Every day, one way or another.

Nothing pleases me more than having a few hours of down time to nap. I shut off my phone, I crawl into bed, and I sleep. Many of my friends don’t have that kind of luxury, however I encourage them to make time to just stop, drop and rest.

One of the things we learn in sobriety is to be gentle with ourselves, to be kind to ourselves, and to remember our spirits (thank you Oprah). If there is not time in every day to find peace within, how can you offer that kind of peace to anyone else in your life?

I had lined up a speaker for tonight’s meeting. On Monday night, he told me that he had to cancel, but he offered one of his sponsees to speak in his place. I said that was fine.

It is good practice, I think, to put people in the hot seat, so that they can hear themselves talk about where they are, in this thing we call life. My man tonight, said to me that he had spoken at St. Matthias, a year ago, and did not think he had anything worthwhile to say. I encouraged him to get up there and talk anyways.

He did just that.

There are many people in the rooms. Every single human being came to the room, with collateral damage. There are a handful of men, who worked their ways up into some serious positions in the community. Either by wealth, education, family, or addiction.

I know of just a few men, who are similar to my man tonight.

Coming from an Italian home where image was everything, and working his way up the proverbial education, work, and money ladder, to the pinnacle of PhD, a beautiful wife, home, and cars in the driveway, the fall was catastrophically deep.

We all know men and women, who had it all, by the looks of it. Many of them had a really hard time keeping up appearances at the bitter end. It takes one serious human being not to kill themselves, after surviving a fall like my friend’s fall.

I’ve said before, that everyone comes with a story. At the end of the day, it is all about humility. I am a pretty good judge of character. As I sat in the chair tonight, some of our guests, do not rank very high on my respect meter, by their own doing. There are just some people who rub me wrong like spiritual sandpaper.

And and my guy got up there and spoke from his heart, and as I watched my fellows, twitch in their seats, there are those few, who just shut off, and pay not a moment’s attention to what is going on in the front of the room. They are only concerned with what is going on between their ears, and how good they look, or how good a hockey game they can talk up.

There are some men in the program here, that I just cannot stomach, even on a good day.

When I sit in the chair, and I bring people to speak, there are those who just have contempt for anything that I do in the rooms, to this day. Which is why I stay well away from those certain members. I don’t go to their meetings, I don’t go out of my way to be kind, or even speak to them. I sat in the chair tonight, and most people know my name, and greet me warmly, and have good things to say.

Then there are those, who don’t give a damn who’s in the chair.

Over the many years I have been sober, Mama has encouraged me to always take care of me, and not allow people the ability to stir my inner peace. It has taken a long time to get where I am, and over the last year, I have told some serious time holders to go fuck themselves.

I know who I want to have in my life, and what I will take from them, and make my own, then there are those who are thorny bushes who only exist to prick us and make us bleed. Sad but true. There are some people who we know we need to stay away from, because I have watched them, and I’ve listened to them, over the years, and I know the way they treat me in meetings, on retreats and in group dynamics.

I know that my friends see these observations themselves. They are sitting in the same rooms with me, so I am not wrong in my observations. I have really great friends, who care about me and love me. I was thinking on the way home that:

I just want to be loved. I just want to be included. And I just want to be respected.

We are taught, in the rooms, that we must be cognizant of other people’s struggles, and not judge them for where they are on the continuum. We are taught to respect everyone. And offer the shoulder, and to give people the benefit of the doubt.

And I do that.

I know today, that there are those who do not get what I am told to give them.

Living with AIDS for so long, I learned certain self-preservation lessons. Which I still employ to this day. I will give you all those things that they tell us to give you, until you do something uncharitable to me, or you disrespect me, or you treat me less than, in any group or meeting interaction. Or you shoot your mouth off in stupidity.

I have no room for disrespect, indignity, and unkindness. There are a handful of heterosexual men in the rooms that I just won’t give the time of day, because of words spoken, or actions made, in my presence.

I will give you what I am supposed to, from the get go, until you break one of my nonnegotiable. After that, you are on your own. I won’t have anything to do with you.

Sitting in a room, and watching certain men, disrespect other men, who get up to the table and speak, just makes my blood boil. We can see you, standing up in front of the room. Behavior like this does not go unnoticed.

Next week, I am in the hot seat. I’m the one who is going to be standing up there, knowing that there are some folks in the crowd, that just rub me the wrong way.

FUCK !!!

This past year has been the hardest year. Number 15. My guy is in the same space I am right now. Fifteen, seems to be a pivotal year for many. The word vulnerability has come up more than once over the past few weeks.

Being vulnerable, does not necessarily translate into kindness from others. Especially from those men and women, who have lots of time, but are not necessarily sober.

Once you speak word, you can never take them back.

My father said those words.

People shoot their mouths off all the time. And we are just supposed to let them slide, for the simple reason, that the are IN the rooms, right ? People are ignorant, all over the place. People are indignant. People do not treat each other equally, or respectfully in many places. And we are just supposed to let them slide, for the simple fact that;

“they are in the rooms, and are just “not there” yet ?

I just know, today, in my sober journey that, NO, I’m not gonna let you just slide, for the simple reason that you are in a room. That “NO” becomes more indignant, the more time you have under your belt. It seems to me that lengthy sober time gives someone the credence to be an asshole. That’s been my observation over the last five years or so.

But they are IN the room, so you must cut them slack.

No I don’t have to cut anyone any slack, in my book.

I’ve fucking pounded the pavement, wore my heart on my sleeve, given it everything that I’ve got, just to be able to say, with some certainty, that I am sober …

To the best of my ability.

Long sober time, does not necessarily make you sober.

Inner Peace is necessary when there are buzzards in the room for sure…

Wednesday: Time

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There are 24 hours in a single day.

I’ve learned from some learned men about the importance of making sure that you maximize your time, each day, and that one does not waste time on projects, people or things that aren’t going to best utilize your time or efforts.

I have a certain routine that I follow, on any given day. I’ve said before that I do not “block” anything in the morning, unless of course that involves labs or my doctor.

That does not mean that I won’t block time for someone or do a job in the morning, if someone needs my help, or the situation at that moment requires I be present.

As a rule, my mornings are mine. On certain days, Tuesday and Wednesday, my off days, I have a large block of time that I use to nap in the afternoons.

I told a good friend of mine, recently, who is battling a serious health issue, that, in the beginning of a major illness, we have to recalculate our time, based on the ability our body has to do something.

AND we have to rest, often. Which for him is what he really needs to do right now and not push the accelerator too hard, right now.

Pushing a body that is infirm, to the degree my friend is infirm at the moment, is not suggested. Because, there are times that he feels good, and figures he can overcompensate, and push his body beyond its abilities, and ends up flat on his back, not being able to get out of bed.

If we do not take care of our bodies, all the time, when the chips are down, we are forced to learn just what our bodies will or will not do. And that is a huge rude awakening for many.

At this time in my life, approaching fifty, I can dictate what I will or won’t do, on a daily basis. I have a schedule I follow. I have chores to do at home. There are jobs that need to be done, on the odd occasion. Then I have my three meetings a week.

I sponsor a number of folks, and I always have to be prepared when my phone rings.

I know today, what I will expend energy on. I will never say no to a friend who calls and asks me to be present and/or help them with something. But once again, time is money, and wasting my time, is not something I enjoy.

Case in point … Someone needed my help today. Early.

Last night, I re-ordered my schedule and set my clock for an early rise. Knowing that I would be out of the house, for an extended period of time, I had to re-order my daily schedule of chores. I rushed out to the grocery store to do my daily shop, and get back home because I needed to hit the Orange line, down the hill.

I do my shop, I walk home. Halfway home, I realize that I did not charge my Metro Pass with tickets. Which means I have to go back to through the mall to get tickets, because I won’t use the machines in the stations for small number ticket purchases.

UGH …

The other night, when today’s job was arranged, my friend had a morning appointment up town, and the she was supposed to call.

I waited, and waited, and waited … I sort of figured out that the morning would be a wash out.

An hour later than usual, my phone rang. My friend had realized that her appointment wasn’t this morning, but tomorrow morning.

I got dressed and walked back to the mall. Because of Montreal’s 375 birthday today, the city is all lit up and polished and there were events going on all over the city throughout tonight. I was not sure if buses were free, which is why I needed tickets.

The Metro – was free all day.

I got on the train going uptown to change over to the Orange line one stop up. While the train was in motion, my phone rang in the tunnel. My friend tells me that they have shut down the orange line and evacuated the Vendome Station.

The word was ABORT the MISSION.

Arriving one stop up, I go back upstairs for the return train, coming back to where I had just departed. The Line stoppage was on the telly, and the audible was talking inside the station.

I got back on the green line and returned to Atwater, where I had started.

I had wasted two hours.

On the way home, I needed to go to The Tire, and get my window prep tools so that I could hang the A.C. in the bedroom. Fifty dollars later, I was ready to do some work.

Got home, changed out, and prepped the window with sealant, and set the A.C. in the window. Once one hangs the A.C. you have to plastic over the window above the unit, unless you have a plexiglass sheet that slides into that space. I don’t …

I bought double thickness window plastic sheets. With a little finesse and a roll of duct tape, the job took me half an hour. I had to fix my drapes, because my rods were strained with the thick drapes we have hanging on the windows.

I blocked the morning off for a friend. And that was a wash out.

While I was working on the A.C. my phone rang, and my friend told me her saga of what went down when the trains stopped running. She was in town, up the road, and was calling to see if I would commit to the morning run all the way across town to see a property, now, in the afternoon.

I told her NO.

My afternoons are devoted to nap time. Unless you are sick or dying, I’m not going to change my afternoon rest time.

I’ve learned over the years, that taking care of myself is something I must do to make sure I am optimal when I need to be. I cannot crank life out seven days a week any more. I drove myself sick at the end of last summer doing that to myself.

There are limits to what I will commit to on any given day.

Time is money, and I don’t make any money with the time I spend working with others. So that translates into personal money. Running all over town is not something I enjoy doing, unless it is for someone or something specific.

Read … Don’t waste my time

Monday Essay: Twice Gifted

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People who drink and drug, seem to forget their mortality, and their sense of well-being, once we pick up that first drink or a drug. I don’t know a single man or woman who has not said, in a meeting, that before they picked up, said to themselves, “this might kill me!”

It might not kill us right now, but given enough time and abuse, we bypass the jails, we bypass the institutions, and we end up Dead in the Ground.

There are warnings out there, from people in the know, that if you abuse drugs and alcohol, you too will eventually die. And usually quicker, when you play the mortality game with the Sacred Temple, that is our bodies.

A long sober lady friend of mine, who passed away last summer, used to say, about herself that, when she drank, in order to attain a certain goal, she would allow a man to “Touch the Sacred Temple.”

How many of us think about that fact ? None really, until it is too late.

I have many friends who tempted fate, with their excessive drug and alcohol use. We number in the double digits on Monday night. In many other meetings, those numbers are quite higher, because some of my long sober friends, tell horror stories about themselves. That is knowledge in the bank, for sure.

My sponsor, for instance, spent the last portion of his using days in New York City, shooting up and having sex. When he met his now wife, he had AIDS and HEP C. They procreated and produced a son who never tested positive. She never tested positive either, and when she learned about this fact, she was none too happy about it.

Imagine what she went through, getting tested over and over for nine months ? I can imagine, because I was on that end of a test myself a number of times, until I had hit that proverbial Jackpot and my diagnosis.

The good thing about my sponsor and I was this … We both ended up here in Montreal.

In the beginning, many years ago, I was treated in Miami for AIDS. And my doctors kept me alive. I was one of the first patients in that medical clinic to receive Phase One Issue drugs that had just come off the pike for use in general community.

That did not last long because of that little small voice that assisted my SLIP.

When I came back, I had fallen out of Florida’s State Medical insurance program, because I was out-of-state too long, and I had to start back at the beginning, which took longer than I had anticipated.

I had done myself in, so I paid that ultimate price.

My sponsor had been here for the entire 35 years he has been clean and sober. He, like myself, found the fountain of eternal life, in the doctors we both have today.

He had a double dose of reality with two major illnesses. HEP C is much more lethal than AIDS is, in the Big Picture. The liver is a serious organ. And if that one goes, the rest of you goes with it.

There is no coming back from HEP C, you are a dead human being.

I watched a very long sober man, when I first came in, many years ago, be well and healthy, living with HEP C. A number of years later though, his fate changed. The HEP C got the better of his body, and in a matter of four days, JUST FOUR DAYS, he was dead.

I saw him on a Sunday, and he was alive. On Thursday of that same week, he was dead.

My sponsor was treated by the best doctors money could buy, through the year 2014. After several treatments with Interferon, he went into remission. All the while, in Montreal, the city is well stocked with the luminaries of AIDS treatment professionals.

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Doctor Mark … A life taken too soon. He was a master at his craft of saving lives.

We just lost a Major Luminary not long ago, our research Head of Science and clinical trials. My sponsor never took another drug or drink, after he got sick. He jumped the border and settled here with his family.

I was not so lucky.

After returning from my slip in July of 2000, to Miami, I would not jump the border until April of 2002. On my first visit, over Easter of 2002, I found a place to live and the doctor who treats me today. When I landed here in April of 2002, I was still not yet a citizen, and that took some time. In February of 2003, I was given my citizenship. Which cleared me for treatment in Quebec. (In the meantime – My doctor back home was sending drugs over the border to treat me while I waited).

Like our woman, in tonight’s story, who had found out her liver was failing because of the excessive way she drank, she had a choice to make when she got sober. For her, there were no two ways about it. She needed a new liver, and transplant teams, across the board hold to certain standards.

They aren’t going to give up a healthy organ to a drug or alcohol pusher…

So she had to walk through tests, some random, and some not. She had to adhere to certain rules of engagement. And like me, she waited for a liver to come, as I waited to get into the clinic I desired. Both of us put ourselves in mortal danger.

On our Own Dimes.

All three of us; our woman in the story, my sponsor and myself, all survived.

When I got into the clinic, I was given an ultimatum. I would be treated. In exchange for my drugs, I would become a drug test patient. And for the rest of my years, to this date, I am still testing new medications, as they roll out of the science departments in Canada.

Over these fifteen years, I have tested numerous types of drugs. Each patient with AIDS/HIV, is unique. None of us carry the same strain. In the beginning they tested all of us to Genotype and Phenotype our strains of the virus.

With that information on hand, as each drug came out of the lab, depending on what strain we carried, we would get certain drugs, that would work for us, so they thought. Which was why we were testing the drugs on ourselves. Because if they worked for us, they would eventually get passed into general populations around the world.

I had to adhere to certain rules and regulations. I was tested many times to make sure I was clean and sober, and every time I drop labs, to this day, they test me for substances.

There are no two ways about this sober life. I am not only responsible for my own life, I am responsible for every life that comes in contact with the drugs I am taking right now. There is NO ROOM for fucking up a treatment regimen because if they get failed regimen data, that drug becomes useless because we did not adhere to treatment protocols.

That Skews the data.

Folks who come to recovery, get off Track A – and they get to choose Track B.

If they choose Track B – they get their do over.

Medicinal patients in the program, know that they fucked up their lives, and if they want to live, they are going to make the Track B choice. Many of my friends who made that Track B choice, are alive because of cutting edge science, here in Montreal.

I can say that, without a doubt. I know several of my friends are alive right now, because they got clean and sober, and sought out medical assistance from our World Re-known Science Labs here in the city.

I know, like our woman tonight, for myself, I was in no way prepared to change what I was doing, when I got sober the first time. I knew I was going to die, and I also knew that I was not going to suffer like many of my friends did. I was going to kill myself with the drink, Until Todd got a hold of me and changed that outcome.

He did quite well, don’t you think ? He made a wise choice.

Until I take my dying breath, I will sing THEIR praises, because of the Goodness of God, made incarnate in Todd.

In the beginning we make the decision to drink and drug. To some extent we all know, we made that decision. It might not have been a logical decision then, and we may not nor never admit that in open community and for many an alcoholic and drug addict, the fear of death was nonexistent.

We chased the HIGH or the Magical Affect of Alcohol, not death in and of itself.

It wasn’t until we had that Mirror Experience, or we sat in a jail cell, or was told that we were very sick, and for a few of us, we were going to die, if we did not Shape the Fuck Up.

For many, that takes several kicks at the can.

Today, those of us who have made successive passes at the can, and did GET clean and sober, our jobs, in our community, is to drive that point HOME, that, if you continue on this path of self-destruction, You Too Will Die.

There won’t be another chance to get this right.

Many of our young women, early in the rooms today, were Itty Bitty Bad Asses.

The girls usually can out drink and out drug the boys. The Sober Women in Montreal, the young ladies and some of our older ladies, were serious party animals, and could quite clearly, out do their male counter parts.

Which is why we have to work twice as hard to keep the women, IN the ROOMS, clean and sober. Because if we fail them, they are dead women.

Some of our young men are just as bad, and always need that swift kick in their asses on a regular basis. I’ve lost several good friends to the beast over the last few months, and a handful of them as well, have slipped over the divide and are stuck in the proverbial revolving door of addiction and using.

I can’t seem to get them to be able to admit they are powerless over their drugs and alcohols of choice. They seem to think that a Friday “Night Cap” is good for them, instead of being responsible and smart.

How do you say that to your friends, and not alienate them from the fold ?

All we can do is be present.

We pay a lethal price for alcohol and drug abuse. But if we GET IT, we want you to KEEP IT and STAY. Because the alternative is jail, institution or

DEATH …

Bodies only last so long on this earth. Sometimes the damage is so severe there is no coming back from our using and drinking.

Some of us got very fucking LUCKY.

Never look at a chance to live again, twice. You might never get another chance.

Monday: Twice Gifted

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“… Some years have passed, and as I look back from the clarity of this moment, I know that the way here for me could not have been by an easier path. I would not willingly have stopped the course my life was on. I needed harsh reality to see the damage that alcohol abuse causes, in so many ways. I needed to be forced into acceptance and humility.”

Some alcoholics and addicts chase our diseases to the gates of insanity, institutions and even death … Some end up locked up, or covered up. Then there are those of us, who’s ships were righted, in the middle of the storm, and got to a safe port, and the opportunity to change our lives for the better.

In this story, our writer tonight, is a woman. Who went from childhood, directly into alcoholism. She passed GO and did not collect her $200.00. And before she GOT IT, she really had GOTTEN IT.

Cirrhosis of the liver, that is … 

If you don’t think the girls won’t or don’t party like the boys, some girls are just another kind of party animal, and they go all “Lampshade, Bat Shit Crazy” before their cards come up. Our woman tonight, got to the bitter end, medically, before she wizened up.

Then she gets sober and has the audacity to say this, remember, now how hard a party girl our little lady was … She writes:

“By the time my name was placed on the transplant waiting list, I had become very sick. My liver had progressively continued to shut down, and the official wait had really begun. I had no way of knowing how long it would be before a suitable organ would become available or how long it would be before I rose to the top of the list.

At times I felt resentful of the selection process, the tests, the close supervision of my A.A. program, and the seemingly endless wait. Unquestionably it was only because of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous that I was able to let go of that resentment.”

She’s the one who sunk herself into this pit of sickness and almost death, and at one point SHE gets resentful at the lengths her transplant team was going to to make sure she was sober and taking care of herself.

What transplant team is going to give a healthy organ to someone who is just fucking off, and is really not the human being who really deserves another kick at the can ?

A good few of us needed a swift kick in the ass, before we got sober.

My sponsor paid his price. He was an inter-venous drug use, and got AIDS and Hep C, and all the baggage that came with it, much earlier in the timeline than I did. He got sick in the 1980’s. Before there really was BEFORE in my own story.

I paid the price as well. Alcoholism and Drug Addiction took me to death’s doorstep and I was diagnosed with AIDS as well, I got it in 1994. Still, there were no doctors or drugs for me, and they would not come for a number of years, in my personal timeline.

Thank God for Todd… Really ! I should just thank GOD.

I was in A.A. the first time, for a long time. But like I have said before, I had bigger fish to fry than just staying sober. I mean, I did stay sober, as long as the messaging was telling me to stick around until the miracle happened.

The miracle did happen. I LIVED…

When I moved town from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, the messaging went from Stick Around to Go Away. And that devious, slick, steady and patient little voice begins talking to us, and when that happened to me, ALL bets were off.

I wasn’t listening any longer. I needed to fill the Hole in my Soul. That alcohol and drugs would be connected to that seeking, never entered my brain. And when I got to the other side, there was no escape route, no way out.

I was FUCKED, ten ways from Sunday.

Had the cops not come for me, I probably would have died out there, and nobody would have been the wiser, because nobody knew where I was, save one human being, who did indeed called the cops for me.

I put my life in serious danger. I took my tenuous health for granted and fucked myself over for sex. I did not get the sex, what I got was drug and alcohol addiction, ten times over, what I had left behind the first time.

All because Alcoholics looked at me and said the words ….
GO AWAY and DON’T COME BACK.

Never Ever tell someone coming in, to go away.
Never ever speak that way to another human being, ever.
You never know the challenge that that human being is facing.

Tonight, some folks, in the room, on their second pass, asked this question, What did I NOT have the first time, that I DO have this time ?

The answer was simple. They have US. They have LOVE. They have FELLOWSHIP. They have SPONSORS, they have FRIENDS, and they have THE BOOK and MEETINGS.

And simply, They are NOT ALONE any more.

And we never have to drink again.

For many, in our intrepid group of sober men and women, the problem is NOT the obsession to drink, but the MENTAL aspect of sobriety that is shaking the trees.

The Three Pronged Approach :

  • The Physical
  • The Spiritual and
  • The Mental

Many of my friends deal with this mental aspect of alcohol addiction on a daily basis. That little voice in the back of our heads, that is just waiting for us to slip up and think something stupid.

That’s why we keep coming back, to make sure all three areas of our lives are covered.

For the REST of our LIVES.

One Day at a Time.

Thank the baby Jesus that I am still alive and SOBER.
And thank the Baby Jesus my friends are all still alive and SOBER TOO…

The Good Father: Of God, Doubt, and Gay Relationships

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Courtesy: Stephen Bradford Long – Blog

It’s been a long, painful and perilous journey from a life of suffocating fear and self-loathing toward a life of fearlessness and love. I spent most of my teenage and adult years trapped in the impenetrable coffin of my self-loathing, absolutely convinced that I was unlovable to God.  As a young boy growing up in the evangelical world, I somehow absorbed the message that being gay makes a person loathsome and subhuman. When I started to discover that I was gay myself, I became the victim of my own undying disgust and hatred. Like a supernova, my being collapsed upon itself, the object of its own unquenchable disgust.

I was trapped in that deadly pattern for years, and it was a pattern of immense self-destruction, volatile relationships, and crushing loneliness. What I want to talk about now is how that started to change, how letting go of self-loathing began a pilgrimage from shame toward learning to accept God’s love for me.

The year it all started to shift – my 22nd year – was a dark one. Not only were the demands of my music degree beginning to crush my spirit, I had also just gone through a bloody breakup with my girlfriend of nine months.

I had tried desperately to make our relationship work. I had convinced myself that my sexuality was, at best, an unpleasant memory from my past and at worst an annoyance that needed occasional maintenance. I was in deep denial about how much I looked at guys, how much I fantasized about them, and how much I was emotionally and physically attracted to them. Even when I almost cheated on my girlfriend with another guy from my college, I was still in denial about my sexuality.

By the time our relationship fell apart, I couldn’t live in denial anymore. I had to confront that I found men painfully beautiful and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with a man. And, in my attempts to deny that part of myself, I had very profoundly hurt an incredible young woman who had been my best friend.  Despite how much I loved her, I didn’t want to touch her, hug her, kiss her. I didn’t want to hold her hand or be physically close to her. While I enjoyed her friendship and conversation, I couldn’t celebrate her beauty or femininity the way a man should, and she was left feeling broken, insufficient, wondering what she had done wrong.

I walked away from that relationship having realized two horribly painful things about myself: first, that my orientation was not going to go away, and that I had exhausted all attempts at knowing how to fix it. Second, I could never, ever put another woman through that experience ever again. It would take God writing it in fire in the sky for me to ever enter a relationship with a woman again.

I entered a very dark place. I again contemplated killing myself because, in my mind, anything was better than being gay. Every treatment had failed. I felt like I had completely exhausted all my options and there was nothing left for me to do but die. Even though I had left the ex-gay world 3 years before, I didn’t want to be gay – I was terrified of being gay. I was terrified of what that meant for me as a Christian, terrified that I was going to hell. Most of all, I didn’t want to hate myself anymore.

And then I met someone I’ll call Drew. Drew was another music student – handsome, intelligent, kind  – and I dropped into the free fall of a very intense crush. For two months I was under the influence of intoxicating romance. We went on a few dates and enjoyed each other’s company.

Internally, I was ripped to pieces. Everything I wish I had felt for my girlfriend I was now feeling for another man. For the first time in my life I was experiencing my orientation in relation to another gay man, but I felt like I had to sacrifice my soul, faith and belief in God to do so. I didn’t know if it was right or wrong, but I was afraid of even allowing myself to admit that, for fear of being expelled from the presence of God.

In my desperate search for answers, I found a little Catholic parish hidden away in a mountain valley. I started going to the parish because no one there knew me and no one would talk to me. No one would have to know about my relationship with Drew, my sexuality, or my questions. If someone started to ask questions, I could leave, because I feared that it was only a matter of time before someone would find me out and ask me to leave.

One Sunday morning, when I was at the end of my rope, I was on my knees during mass crying out to God for an answer. And then something happened.

I don’t know how, but I suddenly knew that God was there with me. I knew that His holiness was wrapped all around me, gathering about me like heavy smoke. In the midst of that holiness, I didn’t feel judged, I didn’t feel cast away – I felt safe. Safe for the first time in years.

And then, in the midst of this sense of very profound holiness, a voice deep within me said, Stephen, do you remember that time when you were in high school, and your father came into your room? Do you remember how he wrapped his arms around you, held you to his chest and whispered in your ear, “Stephen, you are my son, and I will never kick you out of my house. My home will always be your home, because I am a good father, and a good father doesn’t kick out his son. You are my son, and I love you.” The voice deep within me continued, I am like your biological father in that way, Stephen. I’m not going to kick you out over this. My home will always be your home, because I am a good Father, and a good father doesn’t kick out his son.

That was the safest I had felt in years. I suddenly knew that, no matter how I failed or succeeded, no matter how right or wrong my theology, no matter how many mistakes I made in my pursuit after Him, it was ok. I was still His son. For the first time, I realized what it meant to trust God with my sexuality.

In that moment, I realized something for the first time in my life: God doesn’t ask us to be perfect. God doesn’t ask us to have perfect theology. All He asks of us is to love Him, and to try.

Try to find the answers. Try to live a holy life. Try because we are already accepted by Him through His son Jesus.

That might mean asking scary questions. That might mean falling in love. That might mean being theologically wrong. That might mean having to re-evaluate what you believe for the thousandth time. That might mean getting heart broken. That might mean struggling with loneliness. That might mean finding the love of your life. That might mean being called to celibacy. God’s love is big enough. And in that love, there is space to question, to journey, to be confused. Jesus isn’t threatened by questions, we are.

The only reason I am alive is because, three years ago in a tiny mountain Catholic parish, I started to learn how to trust, and to cling to the Cross. I learned to trust that God is bigger than my shortcomings, my questions, my capacity for rightness and wrongness. I started to trust that God has tempered justice with mercy, and that mercy covers me even when my best attempts fail in both action and understanding.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s been a hard journey since that day in Mass. There have been trials and struggles and despair and heartbreak, but I don’t think I would have survived any of that if I hadn’t first learned that God is perfect and that I am not.

For too many people, the struggle with sexuality take place in a claustrophobic and fearful place. I believe that, through His love, God offers us space. He offers us space to journey, to question, and to cling to Him. He offers us the space to experience struggle as refinement and questions as worship.

Because he is a good Father, and a good father doesn’t kick out his children.

Patreon – Patron Donation Changes

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Hello peeps…

I had a discussion with my best friend earlier, and he suggested I tweak the Patron membership amounts. I have INDEED changed up the page and added several new tiers for Patrons. Do check that out.

A new feature that will be coming for Patrons of the blog will be a New Pod Cast.

The Pod Cast will be a monthly addition to the text posts you see on the blog. It was suggested that I write a brand new script, and instead of posting it, recording it for you to listen to.

I’d been considering doing a pod cast recently, but was not sure how to go about doing that, my adviser gave me a template to work with. And I think I can do it.

I need to invest in some equipment for recording. All that is possible.

Look for those new features to roll out soon.

Thank you again for your visits, reads, and your comments.

Thursday: Shantaram

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It has been a really great week. Last night I completed the longest read I have invested in, in a very long time. That book is Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts.

One day I was shopping for the baby, at our local Indigo Book Sellers downtown. I was going to Cold Call the book shelves. A practice I usually employ, when I want an adventure, or as our speaker said tonight … “A little escapism…”

The Sequel to Shantaram, The Mountain Shadow, made me stop and pick it up off the shelf, because of the Hard Cover Dust Ruffle. When the word, Sequel, appeared in the bio, I was like SHIT ! Now I have to read the first book.

I put the sequel down, and picked up Shantaram.

Knowing I was going to see Mama and the baby, and knowing that I would be seriously disconnected from the world, while I was there, Shantaram was a really good choice.

Over the past year, I have been sitting in South East Asia, Viet Nam, Saigon and India. It started when I read The Sympathizer, written by Viet Thanh Nguyen. That was the best book I had read, to date, after Donna Tarrt’s The Goldfinch.

That one book, took me on a journey to South East Asia, and then led me to India. Over the course of several books, that I began to read, but put down, because I just was not connecting, Shantaram had to pass the,

“I will commit to you, but you better deliver” thought.

Shantaram delivered in spades.

At 934 pages, it took me 27 days and nights to read it cover to cover.

Writers employ many tools to get you to read their books. And to this point, I was reading stories that were very heavy with visual writing. I can only take so much “filler” in my reads. At some point, I get annoyed with a writer who wants to explain the minutiae of a certain city, town or family.

I want a story, not chapter after chapter of filler …

Gregory David Roberts, is a master story teller. Once I started the read, I had to commit to the book until the last word of the book. Robert’s writing does just that.

India is a country that is wealthy in ways that the Westerner would not necessarily see unless he/she spent ample time, living, loving and loosing like the people of India, namely those in the city of Bombay. Or any city in India really …

A westerner would not necessarily insert themselves into a slum. Why would one do that?

Lin, the main character of the story, is an escaped convict from Australia, and he escapes prison in a brazen broad daylight escape. He is aided and a bedded by friends and fellows, until he finds his way to India.

Bombay, India.

The story that unfolds is Master storytelling.

Lin, goes from escaped convict, to Bombay resident, to Bombay slum resident/doctor/ healer/friend. He gets involved with Khader Khan. That’s all I want to say about him. The Khader Khan is an incredible character. To tell you anything more about him would say too much, that I would rather have you read for yourself.

Shantaram tracks literal history. Beginning in the time when Indira Ghandi is assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Roberts then mentions the Bhutto family, and progresses into the war between the Afghan Mujaheddin and the Russians, when the Russians invade and occupy Afghanistan. The Afghan war is a prominent section of the story.

I found this interesting because I am well versed in India’s history, and the Afghan wars, politically, religiously and sectarian-Ly. I have, in my library, several books that I had already read, each time a name was mentioned or historical event took place on our modern time line, I was familiar with each historical event or person. Which lent to my reading of Shantaram.

I love reading. Books are life, and a life without books, is no life at all …

The Mountain Shadow comes in at 871 pages.

Shantaram ends with several open threads.

One supposed thread, during the story, as it was written, that certain people and problems were finally “put to bed,” but when I reached the last chapter, the story began to unravel, and certain situations, now remain unresolved and new threads were introduced.

Shantaram is a teaching book.

There are many lessons to be learned from Robert’s story. If you are like me, I love knowledge just as much as the act of reading. Being sober, many of the lessons and themes were pertinent to me and made sense, and gave me certain perspective on life and on people in my life.

This book is not just a story to read, but teaches us about what really matters in India, and to her people.

Most Indian’s don’t have much in the way of wealth, unless you were born into wealth, married into wealth, or earned your way out of abject poverty, and had risen out of a slum, into the wider world at large.

Slum dwellers might not have much in “material wealth,” What they DO have is Love, Respect and they are loyal people. Indians have self respect and they are dignified. Lin arrives in Bombay, and ends up meeting a titular character of the story, Prabaker.

Prabaker turns Lin with his smile, and his love. Reading what Lin learns on this journey is very important. I think this story should be required reading for everyone who seeks love, respect and dignity for all men, women and children.

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I loved this book, and you will too. What will be the story of YOUR life ???

Enjoy Shantaram.

Essay: Vulnerability

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It is Tuesday, a day off. I watched a You Tube Video about Candice Neistat, with Bryan Elliott, which lead to a TED talk with Brene Brown, about vulnerability.

Bryan shared a quote from Brene that said:

“The depth that we are willing to be vulnerable is the measure of our courage.”

When He heard that quote, it floored him. When I heard the quote from him, I had to go to the source to understand its context.

I’ve been working to understand what the entire last year has been about, and why things panned out the way they did, and I think it comes down to being totally vulnerable, honestly and authentically.

Over my life, there have been times when I have been brutally honest, and totally vulnerable. Take for instance, finding out I was sick and was going to die.

Utter devastation makes one vulnerable, because we have lost control, we are not in control, and we end up, out of control, in many ways.

In a sense, I was too vulnerable for my own good, because in that vulnerability to be honest and authentic, scared everyone away. I was in the mix, and my friends and family could not handle the honest, gut wrenching truth.

The person that I was truly vulnerable with, was Todd. He was humble and a force to be reckoned with, when it came to my dignity and my life. Over those years, I shed a great many tears in front of him, with him, and because of him. That is something that I can say, changed my life.

A little while later, I stood up, in front of a room full of alcoholics like me and was vulnerable, once again. I alienated them, and they asked me to go away. So much for wearing my death on my sleeve.

Imagine having your heart crushed by someone when you are sharing the deepest darkest fears of your soul. In the attempt to recover from numbing your emotions for so long.

Brene says that you cannot selectively numb certain emotions, and not affect the others along with them.

In sobriety, I have been vulnerable to a certain degree. And it has taken almost all of my sobriety, to finally tap that well of vulnerability, like I have tapped over the past year.

I may not have tapped it, but it certainly tapped me.

People who are authentic:

  • Have the courage to be Imperfect
  • They are Compassionate to themselves first, then to others
  • They believe connection is the result of Authenticity
  • And they Believe that they are Worthy
  • That fully embracing their Vulnerability makes them Beautiful
  • And that Relationships are Fundamental parts of existence for us all
  • Connection is why we are here on earth. To Connect and not be Alone

Brene goes on to say that Vulnerability is at the core of:

  • Shame
  • Fear
  • And the Struggle for Worthiness
  • Which is the Birthplace of Joy, Creativity, Belonging and Love

I can see, in hindsight, where I shut down that part of myself. Not necessarily a good thing, but it is what it is. You might think that I was stoic, on certain occasions, but I don’t think it was stoicism, but maybe fear, numbness and an inability to articulate what was going on in my head.

I’ve spoken about those points in life where I was totally vulnerable and sunk in a pit of despair. I can name them, because the list is very short.

  • The day I identified James’s body at the morgue after his suicide
  • The night I told Todd that I was going to die
  • The day I said goodbye to Todd
  • And the emotional response I had to the Orlando Massacre

The last episode was the worst, in many, many years. I had not cried, as I did, since James’s death, the many nights I cried on Todd’s shoulder, struggling with death and his insistence on my survival. Many tears were shed during those two years of intensive work on myself, at Todd’s direction.

That Tuesday night, at the meeting, when I fell apart, it was a cathartic response, to the story that we were reading from the back of the Big Book, the emotional state I was in, because of the massacre, and the fact that only one human being thought to call to see if I was ok.

Then the reaction of my sponsor who humiliated me and accused me of expecting to be treated differently than the others in the room, when all I wanted was a little compassion, that my fellows and my sponsor could not accommodate.

Instead of understanding and compassion, for my vulnerability, I was humiliated and shut down, by people who were incapable of understanding.

I had friends, who were long sober. Whom I thought loved me. They cared for me and supported me, and did charitable acts for me, inside of an organization that I belong to, that I have not set foot in since many months ago.

I ran my steps with a woman I trusted. I told her my deepest and darkest secrets, and she knew my story, and had been involved with my sobriety for a very long time. When I got through my steps she said to me that I was angry and that she and the other women were afraid of me and that I should, in essence, go away …

I raised my voice at a business meeting, then ensued a mass running for the hills by my friends, fellows and sponsees. I had a rough night, and got punished for it with silence and judgment by people I spent an inordinate amount of time with. And when it came time to speak to that truth, I did so. Which probably alienated them all the way gone.

So much for being vulnerable.

I have some fatal flaws that always get in the way of my relationships with others.

  • I have an idealistic belief that every human being has ONE redeemable quality, that lends to forgiveness and love.
  • I believe in people, from the get go.
  • I trust people, from the get go, which stems from the rooms and my belief that most people are good.
  • I am also judgmental of some. I can spot bullshit and arrogant men, and people who would do me harm, at 50 paces
  • Living with AIDS gives me certain perspective on people, a talent I learned to save my own peril from those who would do harm to me.

This is what I have been feeling and experiencing over the past year. And now I understand it as well.

The price I paid for vulnerability was the loss of many people in my life, who either could not stand my depth of honesty or their understanding and commitment to compassion and love.

Such is life in the world of the alcoholic.

I also know today, that resentment and anger, pointed towards people,is sometimes pointless and wastes valuable energy towards others, when I should be pointing that energy towards myself. And that I need to be a bit more compassionate, understanding and forgiving, and also have a sense of pity for certain people in my life.

It is not always my fault for the reaction or beliefs of certain people in my life. I did not create them, and I am not responsible for their reactions to me, and/or towards me.

Not everyone we know, Not every one we meet, and Not everyone we spend time with are meant to be in our lives forever. In each interaction, there is a lesson to be learned about them and about ourselves.

This has been a year of learning about myself and others, in regards to the way others react to what is going on in my life, in the sense of honesty, integrity, vulnerability and authenticity.

It is true that, for the most part I am totally honest in some ways, but reserved in other ways. I don’t necessarily share my opinions, but when I do, they certainly cause people to look at me with second glances.

Hence, the loss of so many friends and fellows over the past year.

I get a sense that vulnerability comes in waves, as I am able to deal with them. And it seemed to me that they came fast and furiously for a while. It was BANG, BANG, BANG, one after the other.

That dam, failed. And vulnerability came.

I had no way to stop it once it began.

Not sure if I am done with it, but it makes sense now.

We shall see …

Monday: Listening to the Wind

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Thousands of homes (2,500) are flooded across many places tonight. There is much sorrow and destruction. Hundreds (over 1500) people are homeless, and many more will be, as flood waters are still rising all around the island of Montreal, and in Ontario as well.

The Canadian Armed Forces are involved with assisting those who need help, they are filling sandbags, and as of yesterday, as Montreal declared a state of Emergency, are assisting homeowners out of those flooded homes to a safe and dry location.

Montrealer’s are there, helping each other, giving food and supplies, and filling sand bags. Flooding to this extent has not been seen in decades.

Say a little prayer for those who need them right now.

**** **** ****

Tonight the Book takes a turn to a topic, that steps outside the “White” box, and we travel to another location. The Fourth Edition of the Big Book, has contemporary stories that cross many different lines, ethnic, racial, religious, and personal.

We heard a story written by a Native woman, from the Desert Southwest of the U.S.

Her story is familiar to many of us, here in Montreal. The plight of the Inuit and Native peoples of our city is tragic and devastating. In today’s world, one cannot go very far, in our city, without passing by someone who is Native or In-nu, on the street, in the Metro or in the mall; who is not either drunk or high.

Many years ago I wrote a post about this very problem, as I witnessed it, here in our neighborhood. Over a decade has passed, and though the neighborhood has been cleaned up, rebuilt and repaved, the tragedy of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction still exists.

The people who once littered the sidewalks and street corners, have just been moved, by location, because the city did a good job in displacing them from public view, and relegated them to the peripheries of the city.

They are still there.

I was very lucky, early in sobriety, to count among my friends, people from different backgrounds, Inuit and Native, White and Black, Christian, Jewish and Atheist.

For a long time, in my home group of Tuesday Beginners, because of its proximity to my specific neighborhood, on the Western edge of downtown, we counted among our group, many who came from other places, who were stuck in addiction, and had nowhere to go.

It is said, by some Natives, from many places in Quebec and all points of the compass, that “Once you leave the reservation or community, and you come to the city, it is highly likely, that you will never return from whence you came.”

That is mostly true.

The problem with those who come off reservation or community, they don’t necessarily integrate into the community here. They know no one, unless they have family, local.

On the main, many do not. Once one crosses the bridge from where you were, to where you are, and not being able to integrate, many are stuck in LIMBO. They come from afar, and then get here, and they don’t connect.

Then what happens? Here in Montreal, there is a middle ground. A No Man’s/Woman’s land that lies between normal civilization, and oblivion. There are many people, stuck in this place, one, by their own doing, and two, by the apathy of the people who live here.

Hungry, Homeless, Drunk and High … Originally written on July, 24th, 2007, I wrote an edit on August 11th, 2014, now I am writing towards that topic again tonight.

You cannot go anywhere in the city, and not cross paths, with those who are less fortunate. They are either homeless, drunk or high. And those identifiers cross all lines of existence. The white community here in Quebec, does not see others, like they see themselves. Native and Innu populations are strangers to our world, yet they live on the same streets we do, except they live ON the street, and we live above them, in shiny, clean apartment blocks.

I know of one Innu woman who came to Montreal to sober up. And she succeeded very well. She got tanked up on sobriety, and she would commute from the Far North, back to Montreal. She did that several times, before she finally decided to go back for good, and to live and work with those of her community.

Another friend of mine, who is Native, got sober, just after I did. He is still sober. Today, he works on a team of Elders and Community workers, who walk the city from our end of downtown to the Eastern Edge. Their job is to locate, assist and either integrate or repatriate Native and In-nu people’s back where they came from.

We get them help. We find them meetings, shelters, food and medical assistance. I am part of this little community operation. My friends do the leg work on the streets, and I do the work, in the rooms, to help those who find their way to us, via the teams on the street.

This is just a drop in the bucket, because the need is so great, and the numbers are so high, that many people fall through the cracks. But we try nonetheless.

Addiction is a scourge on many people. Not Just White People. This hits, very hard, our Native and In-nu populations, terribly. The need is dire. There are so many suffering humans, that the city, at large, is at a loss for trying.

Our storyteller tonight, has a harrowing story. In the end, she finds her way into sobriety. Many people found identity within the story tonight. The Hospital, Jail and Institution thread was popular. The variant of Higher Power, was also popular. And that is the thread that I went with.

“I found the Power Greater than Myself to be the Magic above the heads of people in the meetings. I chose to call that magic Great Spirit…”

Our woman was less than three years sober, at this stories inception. But she had this observation, like I had myself. She got it much earlier than I did. It took me years to be able to see this “sober phenomena.”

I sort of coined the phrase: “The Neon sign above your heads…”

It took me many, many years to begin to see it. Once I found it, that became one serious reason to Keep Coming Back, for more …

St. Leon’s church basement descends, YES, 12 Steps into the basement. There are actually 12 steps down, into the basement. Then you hang a right turn, into the hall.

IF you stick around until the Miracle happens … I am talking years and years, you too might see it. People who come to a meeting, carry with them, their troubles, on their sleeves. Over time, I began to notice this fact.

If you’ve been around awhile, you know what a newcomer looks like, and feels like, and for some, on really bad nights, what they smell like. That kind of information is telegraphed on that invisible sign above each of our heads.

For me, it took me two years, after coming in to see my sign change. People who spent the most time with me, in the beginning, noticed the marked change in my demeanor and looks.

For the first few years, I always wore a ball cap, and I never looked up, or met your eyes. I was always down on myself. Years of therapy and counseling changed that, to the point that one day, one of my counselors said to me … “Hey, I can see your eyes.” It was the first time I began to look up.

Over the years, the longer I was sober, I watched my friends and fellows get sober. I watched people come and go. I watched them get sober. And over many, many years, I watched those signs change for the better.

Some took longer than others.

Even today, as I have said not long ago, some of those signs are still carrying messages of pain and sorrow. And I see that in new ways today.

Some of my friends are still suffering, even though they are double digit sober.

Reading today’s story, we get a breath of fresh air. A tradition that is new to us, who are not familiar with Native or In-nu traditions. God as we understand Him, becomes broader, wider. We get another rendition of Spirit.

There are people out there, whom we know, that we may be the only rendition of the Big Book, they might ever see. Never turn your back on those who are still suffering out there. They need love, even more love, than we need ourselves.

Give it away, every chance that you get. One day you might even save a life.