What a wonky day it has been. It is a rainy, miserable day in the neighborhood. We are sitting at 12c and rain is forecast into Monday night.
I had set my alarm for 9 this morning, and I am not sure what happened when that alarm went off, but when I awoke it was close to 11 am. I must’ve turned it off and went back to bed, foregoing church this morning. That was a total washout.
It was drizzly all day and rain had set in close to 4:30 when I left for the church. One of my friends arrived shortly after I had put the urn on to perk. He had his Ipad with him and he began to talk about fears. And that he had read a book about fears. Which prompted him to call a local skydive outfit here in the city and booked the next appointment to “jump out of an airplane over Montreal.”
Now, this being his first sky dive, he was in tandem with a professional. And there was a professional photographer with them who filmed the entire jump. He tells the story about the fifty seconds of free fall from 14,000 feet, all the while during the jump this guy strapped to his back is telling jokes to keep him occupied.
He said that “he really just wanted the guy to shut up so he could have a few minutes of silence to be in his head…”
It took a further 8 minutes to reach the ground. He was all excited. After the jump he called a handful of friends to ask them if they too would want to jump out of a plane. None took up his offer. It cost him more than $400.00 for the high end package with film and photography. The base jump cost around $200.00.
I like to think that I live vicariously through my friends. I haven’t contemplated my bucket list as of late, however I have one. The only thing keeping me from my bucket list is cash flow.
People began to show up so he recounted the story for anyone who was willing to listen to him. The story went around the room.
As it is the ninth month and the last Sunday of the month we zoned in on Tradition 9. “A.A. as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.”
That is a Big Tradition. And at the end of the reading, the consensus of folks sitting around the table came to one solid idea. “service keeps us sober.”
Before GSO even came to be, when A.A. was in its infancy, and drunks started appearing, as if, out of the wood work, there was work to do. And at the time there was no infrastructure to serve all those who needed help.
Letters were coming in to new York from all over. So in his wisdom Bill would send a handful of letter to him and asked him to reply to them. Needless to say that helped some to stay sober. But eventually folks were brought in to man the GSO office and to filed letters and requests and to get materials sent out to them. Hence a little organization went a long way to set A.A. into motion.
A.A. as such, ought never be organized. But there is a rationale behind what we do and how we do it. Things trickle down in the pyramid. We have GSO, which serves A.A. as a whole. We have an area GSO that serves our city, then there are committees that serve the community, and then the groups who serve the people. The steps are set down to keep us on the path to sobriety. The traditions are there to keep the groups on keel.
I heard something tonight that struck me: “That the traditions keep blood off the walls.” And another said that: “The traditions keep us from committing homicide.”
Most of the discussion was about service and how grateful folks were to have service commitments. And how the groups kept folks sober. Just having a place to go is so important and also that there is someone there with a hand held out to welcome them to a meeting.
This is a program of action and of suggestion. It is often said that if you tell an alcoholic what to do, they will ignore your directions. But if you simply offer a suggestion, that suggestion goes a lot further in helping another stay sober.
You may not like what I do, or how I do it. But if what I am doing now keeps me sober, then there is merit in how I stay sober. I can’t get you sober, as I have said in the past. All I can do is tell you what worked for me.
I am finding that sobriety is challenging. There are a number of folks ranging from a few months, to a year, then two years of sobriety. Arrogant men who have been brought to their knees by alcohol, who keep coming back to meetings, because going to meetings help keep us sober. I have been watching these folks over the last little while, and little by slowly they are coming around.
I have been worried about some of our newer young men in the pike, just because of something they said in a meeting, and how they are living keeps me on my toes in prayer. I got a few new numbers and I am putting myself out there to see what I can offer to them.
They say that you should call your sponsor, hit a meeting, and call at least 5 people a day just to check in to keep us out of our heads.
There is a lot going on. Some of my friends are suffering, as I have written about some of their challenges as of late, and all I can do from here is offer a kind word of support and to Pray. And if we can offer a few minutes of prayer for our brothers and sisters, that will make a huge difference in their lives, not to mention your own.
I’ve been trained in the program that the home group is a non-negotiable night. And I have kept that tradition up for more than 10 years at T.B.’s. In recent days I joined Sunday Nighter’s. But I go to that meeting regularly, so in essence, I’ve been an active member there for a long time. I enjoy seeing the folks who come to that meeting. And I find I bring them home with me when I leave the meeting, I say prayers for them and I think about them often.
However miserable the weather, we still go to meetings.
Because meetings keep us sober.
More to come, stay tuned…
My friend Erik’s brother Jacob, pictured on the left here, is in hospital. Jacob suffers from schizophrenia. Earlier today Jacob was found on the floor of his home having slit his neck in an attempt to kill himself. He was airlifted to a local Houston hospital where he is being treated for the wound.
In wounding himself he severed major nerves that control the right side of his face and will need extensive rehabilitation and treatment.
Jacob spoke to his brother telling him that he was hallucinating for the past few days and that voices urged him on to killing himself. He called his mother who happened on to this terrible scene. The family is in bad shape so to speak.
This comes in the middle of family tragedy. It seems Erik’s family has been saddled with tragedy after tragedy.
As it goes, Jacob will no longer be allowed to live on his own, and the future of Jacob’s life is unclear at this time. First doctors need to put him back together and treat his nerve damage. But after this hospital stay, where he goes from here is unclear.
I would ask all of you for your prayers for Jacob and his family.
r. Eric Verdin of the Gladstone Institutes says HIV may serve “as a model system for what we know about aging.” Photo: Sarah Rice, Special To The Chronicle / SF
Published 4:36 p.m., Tuesday, September 25, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle Article Here
For a long, dark time in the 1980s and ’90s, the Shanti Project and other agencies like it provided hospice-like services to the thousands of men suffering, and dying, from AIDS in San Francisco.
And then there was monumental success: new drugs to fight the virus and lift the death sentence of HIV infection. With the virus under control in their bodies, patients were healthy and active. They had decades of living ahead of them.
Many of them left the supportive care of places like Shanti, said Kaushik Roy, executive director of the program.
“Now they’re coming back,” he said.
More than a decade after the first truly successful AIDS drugs became available, a new image of HIV is emerging: People with the virus appear to be aging prematurely. After years of feeling healthy and recharged with the new drugs, they’re suddenly slowing down not from the effects of AIDS, but from old age – a decade or two earlier than their noninfected peers.
“When we have clients passing away now, it’s from cancer or heart disease,” Roy said. “It used to be AIDS.”
Patients are coming down with diseases and conditions most associated with aging even when their HIV is well controlled – even when the antiretroviral drugs used to treat it make the virus essentially undetectable in the blood, and by nearly all accounts a patient’s immune system is strong and stable.
They are having heart attacks and strokes in their 50s or 60s. They’re developing dementia and arthritis a decade earlier than they should be. They’re getting cancers that tend to strike only people in their 70s or 80s.
“In the last 18 months, in my clinic I’ve had four people under age 60 who’ve had either bypass surgery or heart attacks,” said Dr. Brad Hare, medical director of the HIV/AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital. “One of them was 37 years old. That’s something that would be more typical in somebody 70 or older.”
It is, Hare and other doctors admit, a good news-bad news scenario.
The drugs discovered to fight HIV have saved millions of lives and given patients decades’ more time. By 2015, the average age of an HIV patient will be 50 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That figure alone is a sign of how widely successful the work toward treating HIV has been.
But it’s come at a cost that has caught patients and doctors off guard. In the United States, AIDS patients now are more likely to die of cancer, heart disease, liver disease or other effects of premature aging than they are of AIDS itself, according to multiple studies.
Researching a cause
“They call it the graying of the AIDS epidemic,” Hare said. “We do expect people with HIV to live long, healthy lives now. But there’s still a big cost to your health.”
Clinicians like Hare who work closely with HIV-positive patients first started noticing the effects of premature aging five or 10 years ago, and in the past year or two, scientists have begun work in the lab to determine what it is that’s causing the accelerated aging and how it might be stopped.
Some of the causes for early aging may be behavioral and may apply mostly to people who were diagnosed at the height of the epidemic. For example, smoking and heavy drinking often can cause early aging, and many people who were diagnosed in the ’80s or even ’90s kept their bad habits because they didn’t think they had long to live. Now, many years later, they may still be smoking or drinking, and suffering the ill effects of it.
“I’m living with HIV, and I have been for 10 years,” said Justin Jones, program manager of Positive Force, part of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “When I was first diagnosed, my primary-care doctor told me I really needed to quit smoking. He also told me he used to encourage people to not quit smoking, because he figured, ‘Hey, you’ve got HIV, if smoking brings you even a modicum of pleasure, do it.’
“There was this huge period where people were making choices based off of, ‘Well, I’m going to die.’ ”
Damage early on
It’s also possible, doctors say, that those who were infected early and managed to survive with HIV before the most successful treatments were available suffered irreversible damage to their immune systems. In San Francisco, public health officials now recommend that people diagnosed with HIV start treatment immediately instead of waiting for signs that the immune system has started to suffer.
Another culprit of early aging could be the drugs used to treat HIV. Antiretroviral drugs include what are known as protease inhibitors, which attack key proteins associated with viral replication. But some of those inhibitors also may attack a natural protease in the body, which could, in the long run, cause premature aging.
But the prevailing theory is that early aging is caused primarily by chronic inflammation, probably brought on by the effects of latent, inactive HIV that remains in the body even during antiretroviral treatment.
It’s been clear to scientists for some time that chronic inflammation is tied to aging, and especially to the decline in the immune system known as cellular senescence, the process by which the body loses cells critical to fighting infections. What’s not clear is whether inflammation is a cause or effect of the deterioration of the immune system.
Scientists have, in HIV patients and in the elderly, identified signs of both senescence and inflammation. And, in turn, they’ve noted a susceptibility to certain “old-age” diseases in both older patients and HIV-positive patients. But how those processes are causing disease isn’t quite understood.
A new look at aging
“We used to think about aging as slowly falling apart, like an old car. But there’s a huge difference between us and a car. We constantly get fixed up by our cells. What happens is you have a defect in repairing that damage as you get old,” Verdin said. “It may be that we can use HIV as a model system for what we know about aging.”
Scientists have long been hunting for models to study aging, but because humans age slowly and at roughly the same pace, a scientist can’t hope to study a group of people for a lifetime, if only because that scientist will probably die before his or her study group does.
But HIV patients who are aging faster than the average person provide some opportunity for research.
“What these patients are going through is not so different from what a lot of old people go through,” said Judith Campisi, a scientist with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato. “The way a lot of us look at it, there’s some natural aging process that’s being accelerated.
“Of course, it may be we’re wrong, and maybe there’s something specific to AIDS going on with these people,” Campisi added. “But I still think we could learn something about normal aging by studying the incidents of accelerated aging.”
Turning to mice
Along a similar vein, a scientist at the Gladstone Institutes is developing what’s known as a humanized mouse – a rodent whose native immune system has been stripped out and replaced with a human one.
If the model works, scientists hope to use those mice to study the aging effects of HIV infection, among other areas of research. Because mice have so much shorter lives than humans, a mouse with a human immune system could provide a fantastic, birth-to-death example of cellular senescence and inflammation.
And, ultimately, researchers believe the mouse model could help scientists develop treatments to fight the decline of the immune system – both in HIV patients and in the general population.
“As we age the animals, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly their immune system ages too. We can look at whether the effect of the aging is caused by the virus, by the HIV drugs, or by a combination or something else entirely,” said Shomyseh Sanjabi, an assistant investigator at Gladstone. “You can really try to address some of the questions that no one’s been able to address right now in the field.”
Someday, scientists hope to develop drugs that will slow the effects of aging in HIV patients. They are looking at anti-inflammatory drugs, many of which are already on the market, to target the specific types of inflammation associated with HIV infection. Scientists at Gladstone are hopeful that clinical trials of those drugs could begin in one or two years.
Researchers also are looking for ways to refine protease inhibitors so they only attack the virus and not naturally occurring cells. That could mean developing entirely new drugs, or changing dosage requirements so that only the virus is affected.
In the meantime, doctors are treating HIV patients with an eye on aging. Many are screening for age-related cancers like colon cancer a decade earlier than what’s currently recommended, or they’re paying closer attention to blood pressure and cholesterol than they ordinarily would in patients in their 30s.
The advocacy agencies are devoting their resources not so much toward hospice and other end-of-life care, but toward support networks for people living with a chronic illness, or psychological help for those who are still dealing with the effects of having survived a deadly epidemic.
And for many of the patients, aging is just another dip in the roller coaster of living with HIV.
“It’s just being on pins and needles all the time,” said Anna, 42, an Oakland woman who was diagnosed with HIV in 1995 and asked that her last name not be published. “Sometimes you feel something, and you wonder if it’s a side effect from the drugs or if it’s aging or if it’s the disease itself. And you don’t know. You just have to wait and see.
“I do have a few more gray hairs,” she added with a laugh. “But I think that’s just normal aging.”
Erin Allday is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
My Friend Dan at DanNation has been working with this organization that is coming on line in a big way as we speak. The other day a request was made on Facebook for us to share with you this new venture in uniting LGBTQ kids and folks from around the world into communities of support and assistance. No matter where you are “by location” there are people just like you who have been through the things you might be experiencing.
A world where all young people and their families get to learn ways to foster a healthy, happy, and safe growing up experience”
There’s a world of support out here. We’ll let LGBT youth get to know they are not alone. No matter what.
We’ll let youth know that others just like them have grown up in the same towns, schools, and congregations, and have had to deal with the same communities. Regardless of where they are, and what they feel like, we will show them how others before them overcame those challenges in the past.
People’s experiences will get to transform and empower young people and their families.
We’ll empower youth by safely letting them explore what has worked for others like them in the past, and we’ll bring them comfort from the unique hostility they may still face in their daily lives. We’ll empower them to be active agents of change.
An international & netroots movement
Equalize Youth will let young LGBT youth—and the wholed world—tap the collective knowledge gathered by the LGBTQ community at large and their loved ones. We believe that every LGBT adult around the globe does want a better tomorrow for the youngest ones in their community: our vision is to give them an irrefusable value proposition that maximizes their impact, and keeps them safe and engaged.
We’re missing a button.
Our current platform doesn’t enable searches to our database, and our team is currently focusing on an indiegogo campain to raise funds so that we get to program this unique backend system. Please consider helping us by making a contribution to this meaningful project here. To develop the Fundamentals of this 21st century platform, we need help! You don’t have to contribute financially to the campaign to help us–check out other ways you can make it happen, and help us make this a functional and powerful resource.
Join the movement. Help us get them started. Continued support is the key. Take some time to investigate their site and see where you can become a “part of” and let kids from all over the world know that they are not alone and that things can definitely get better.
Thanks for your time and consideration.
Courtesy: Emmanuel Rosario Flickr
The day was bright, lots of sunshine and on the cool side. When the sun went down so did the temps. We are sitting at 12c at this hour, and as I was chilled to begin with I decided on a warmer hoodie and my toque and still I was cold.
I left early because I needed to hit Provigo on my way out so I hit Chomedy around quarter to seven, 4 buses in the opposite direction passed the stop but there was no bus on my side of the street. And when it did come at 7:15, the bus was LATE, and packed and we drove past several stops full of people, but there was no room on the bus for any more riders.
I got to the meeting about 7:30, and it was business meeting night so I sat outside until it was over. And like any control freak, I was able to put up the slogans in the right order. It was a packed house.
Our speaker came from Bellmore on the West End of Montreal. When I was first sober I used to make all those West End meetings quite often. But being gay had its disadvantages. People being who they are were stubborn when welcoming LGBTQ people into their meeting. So after a while I stopped going to West End meetings.
I knew our speaker tonight, an old timer with more than 26 years sobriety, and I was surprised to hear that my good friend from the West Island whom I know from Friday West End is his sponsor, with 45 years of sobriety. I loved hearing stories about his getting to see and spend time with Bill W in the early days.
He stressed the Promises in his share. “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” And his entire share was based on this line. He had a unique story. I haven’t heard him share in some time. Since I don’t go to the West End.
His medallion has etched on it “Keep Going!” If I want to stay sober, I need to keep going to meetings. Because that is how we are going to stay sober. It is tradition that at ten years – your two year chip is gold plated and we have something meaningful engraved on it. It is a West End tradition. And I lucked out on my ten to have my medallion Gold Plated. Mine says “I Thirst…”
It was a good night.
We all took the 24 bus home afterwards.
On this day of your life, dear friend, I believe God wants you to know…
…that desire is a powerful force that can be used to
make things happen.
Marcia Weider said that, and she was right. Yet do
not confuse desire with expectation, or with need.
Desire has an entirely different quality to it. You can
desire something without needing or requiring it.
That little difference makes everything work. That
little difference is the whole trick. Desire, do not
Require. To desire propels. To require compels. Life
will not be compelled, but it can be coaxed…
Whoever or whatever you are trying to compel today,
stop it. Just…fall back into the soft cotton of desire.
Love, Your Friend….
If you are following this blog, you are familiar with a fellow writer named Gustav from Sweden. He is “The Modern Nomad” traveling the world, doing what he loves most. But pulling up stakes and living a life “in the world” takes some work and a little creative financing.
I have been following Gustav for some time now and seen him travel all over the world. He shares a passion of one of my good friends in South Africa who spent a year traveling the world trying to find a new home. He eventually settled in Cape Town South Africa. I am scheduled to visit him this year, pending financial freedom.
But I digress …
Gustav has set his year finances up on the blog this past week. And shown us just what it takes to live the Nomad Lifestyle. They say that we all need to find our passion and that when we find it – to do that passion – and money will follow.
Gustav has angels who permit him the lifestyle that he is now living. But we now know his needs and he has asked us to help him further his adventure. Which means asking you my readers to go click the link above and read what he has to say about his travels and his needs.
I know I have some adventurers that read this blog who may have some wisdom to impart if not go the extra mile to help him live the next year with some financial freedom. Gustav does some freelancing work from where ever he rests his head, but he could always use some extra work to pad the expenses he incurs.
This is a call for you all to put on your thinking caps and come up with new ways for him to make some much needed cash on the fly. Like I said he has certain benefactors who permit him to travel. But one more benefactor could make his life a little easier.
Do you work in the airline industry? Of know someone who does?
Could you use a little network help or do you know someone who could employ a freelancer on the world wide web?
Do you have ideas or would you want to join the Modern Nomad angel club yourself? Would you like to participate in the Modern Nomad journey?
It only takes a few minutes to go read and participate in the journey. And if you have something to share, Gustav would be very happy to hear from you.
And with that, I leave you to it. Join the movement …
It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. And I had plenty of time on my hands which meant I was out and about really early today. Set up was quick and painless. And I hung outside on the church stoop for a while before the first person showed up early.
As it was the last Tuesday of the month, it was business meeting day and with a fair number of attendees we got a lot done and reorganized and adjusted to meet everyone’s needs and motions.
We have decided to stick with three major books to read from for the next 90 days, the Big Book, the Twelve and Twelve and Living Sober. We have been seeing a good number of newcomers come in and stick around for more than a week or two. So we have been focusing on the Big Book. Which is a good thing.
We’ve covered the first part of the book steps One, Two and Three. Today we read from the book and Step 4. I recognized that, as we read from the book, that entire swaths of passages were highlighted.
And I was like, Hmmmm… there is a snake stirring in my gut…
I have been “feeling” as of late. And somewhat isolating from my sponsor. I have known this for a few days now. And I have been avoiding my own feelings because I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to my sobriety and my feelings.
My sponsor stresses the importance of Steps 1,2,and 3. And he shared tonight that certain steps carry with them more import than others. I worked my steps through during the 17 week intensive I did (partially) last Fall. I did not stay in the group because I had issues with people and personalities. So I left off early.
Needless to say, I feel convicted by our women to look closer at myself and take a look at my feelings and honor that I am feeling them and that I need to sit down with my sponsor sometime soon and we arranged tentative dates on the way home.
I wanted to share a passage with you:
“The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men and women of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.” Pg. 68 B.B.
Writing out our Fourth Step we follow the columns. All the way across, to not only look at what others have done, but what rests on our side of the street. Because this isn’t about you, it is about me.
“We heard talk of humility and becoming who we were meant to be,” I can’t recall the exact quote I heard but it went something like this.
Resentments Kill, and if we harbor resentments, the drink is not far away. And the book says that there are no justified resentments. But if I am honest with you, I am beginning to feel fear creeping up my ass into my daily affairs.
Never tell an alcoholic that you are going to do something and take care of this and that, and that we are going to do this and move there and everything is going to be peachy keen. I have fallen into this little trap and I am trying to stay one step ahead of resentment and remember that this isn’t about me, but justifiably, this directly affects me.
According to the grand plan that had been set forth to me (and I have it in writing) that hubby was supposed to be finished with school with the letters M.A. added to his name.
And that this fall term he was supposed to be teaching, something he wanted to do and this was supposed to carry us into financial freedom and the final act was supposed to be a move into bigger digs and we were to start replenishing our old furniture and electronics for new stuff.
And Hubby was going to step up to the plate and take care of me forevermore. And that we would want for nothing.
This grand plan seemed too good to be true and I should not have placed so much energy in hoping that all these things would fall into place and that the timeline would have come into fruition.
Sadly it hasn’t…
I should know better than to hope that my Bi-Polar husband would rise to the occasion and follow through with his words of action. But being Bi-Polar is capricious. And we are stuck in a low cycle, which means that upwards motion is supposed to follow, hubby has failed to launch.
And I can’t be angry about this because I should understand the difficulty that Bi-Polar presents. It is far better for me not to harp on what was supposed to be and become bitchy and indignant because things aren’t happening the way I thought they would. And copping a resentment is pointless. Because it isn’t going to get me anywhere.
But fear is creeping up my ass in any case.
I don’t know where my next meal is coming from. I don’t know when we will have money to grocery shop. People have been providing for us, while hubby figures out what he is going to do. I don’t know what the hell hubby is doing to provide, because right now he is not providing enough. And teaching went out the window and now I am waiting on the next plan of action to come up.
I had my eye on the prize, I had my eye on that promise that says
“fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us!”
That one fucking promise has been dogging us ever since we got sober.
And here I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. Because of my own personal limitations due to assistance I get on a monthly basis. Because I live with AIDS I am covered by a stipend plan. And if I was to find work, (not that I am looking for work actively) I would loose that stipend and if I lost that stipend and I get really sick (god forbid) I would not be able to get it back because of the hell I had to go through to initially get on that plan. The U.S. Government would rather people with AIDS die quickly and so they can deny us security.
So does it seem right that I have resentments?
Did I place too much hope in the future?
Have I unrealistic expectations?
or any expectations at all?
At once we commence to outgrow fear …
The room was full. We sat more than 50 people. We drained to coffee pot once again, which means either we buy a bigger urn or make more coffee in the urn we use. I’ve been making full urn for the last few months. We didn’t get all the way around the inner circle so a handful of people did not get to share.
Constant Vigilance !!!
This has been my brain drain for the moment. Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts about my sobriety.
More to come, stay tuned …
The Autumnal Equinox has occurred. It is officially Fall. It is just a little nippy out and at this hour it is 10c. It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
I started my day with worship services at the Cathedral this morning. Today was the conclusion of a four day synod of clergy for this region of the Anglican branch of the Episcopal Church.
Let’s just say that we hosted a great big bunch of visiting clergy this week which culminated with this morning’s liturgy celebrated by The Most Reverend Claude Miller, Bishop of Fredrickton, Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada.
The service was high mass with bells and whistles. We did not have bells and smells this morning. The services at the Cathedral don’t usually employ censor and Thurber. The choir was just angelic – they sang to the heavens. And our Bishop Barry of our Cathedral was the preacher of today’s sermon.
I came home right away after services and farted around a bit until I decided that I would nap for a few hours before part two of my day started.
I was up around 4 to be out of the apartment by 4:30 to do set up. I really was not a member of Sunday Niter’s (yet) but I have keys to the church since we use the same room as on Tuesday night. The young man who usually sets up texted me last night to say he wouldn’t be making it tonight – so I got there to make coffee and set the room up.
I officially joined Sunday Niter’s this evening.
We finally reached the end of Experience, Strength and Hope tonight, after months and months on this book. This final story comes out of edition 3 of the Big Book, titled “He who looses his Life.”
The opening line of this story goes as follows:
I remember the day when I decided to drink myself to death quietly, without bothering anyone, because I was tired of having been a dependable, trustworthy person for about thirty-nine years without having received what I thought was a proper reward for my virtue…
The story continues later on with: On that day of decision, I didn’t acknowledge that I was an alcoholic. My proud southern blood would have boiled if anyone had named me such a despicable thing. No, it can best be explained in a little phrase I coined and sang to myself: “What happened to Bob? Bob found alcohol!”
And having sung that phrase, I’d chuckle with amusement, turning into irony into self-contempt turning into self pity, at the sad fate of Bob, what wonderful, poor little motherless boy who was so smart in school and grew up to accept responsibility so early and so fast and who staggered under his burdens without a whimper until the time came when he thought he was too good for this world and so he ought to be out of it. Poor Bob!
The story goes on to tell about the disconnect between emotional growth and intellectual growth. And the fact that he had such an emotional full plate with responsibility at such a young age that that stunted his emotional and intellectual growth.
Me thinks he may have had an ego attack carrying expectations that he thought he deserved so much for all that he’d given up at such a young age.
Saddling a young child or teen-ager with premature responsibility before their due time for it is a recipe for disaster. No wonder this man became an alcoholic. He grew up faster than was the plan, he grew stunted emotionally and intellectually that in his adulthood took to the bottle rather than feel the myriad of emotions that were causing him to drink in the first place.
I identified with this writer on many points. Responsibility came quickly and easily to me when I was a teen-ager. I shared this tonight that I remember the day that I made a decision that I wasn’t going to go to daycare after school but be able to go home after school, garnering a key from my parents to be able to get in the house (on my own) because my parents worked during the day until the dinner hour. That was a first, and I was in grade school at that time.
Who gives a child a key to the house that early???
I took on responsibility for myself and my brother after school, taking care of home and hearth. Doing chores and learning how to cook so to help my mother out with cooking after work.
Then in Junior High when my sainted grandmother had her stroke my father took me out of school for months at a time and flew me to her bedside hoping against hope that as the first born child I would be able to miraculously draw her out of her paralyzed – stroked self back into the world of the living. I failed at that miserably. And I don’t think my father ever forgave me for that inability.
I was put in a precarious position. It was cathartic walking into a hospital room seeing the woman who was my entire life – dead on arrival – having been paralyzed down the right side – her face falling off her skull. I fainted and ended up in the ER myself having hit my head on the stone hospital floor when I fell.
Emotions, what are they, what was I feeling? What do I do with my feelings and emotions? I was way too early for the party and that scarred me for life.
The writer talks about the fine line we cross when we become “alcoholic and begin to drink alcoholically.”
That line followed me from childhood. Because the first time I recollect drinking, it was all for one and one for all. I drank for the drunk. There were no half measures or “just one drink” for me. I was in it to win it … You could say that that fine line had been erased by the alcoholic upbringing I had lived.
They say that the “AGE” you are – when you begin drinking alcoholically, is the age you remain emotionally and intellectually, until you either die from the drink or you get sober. If that axiom is true, then I was a teen-ager for more than half my life when I hit my first bottom at 26. And the second one at 34.
I learned about responsibility the hard way the first time around having been diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. There was no rehearsal, no dry run. This was live television and there were no commercials in between shows.
I learned a lot of much needed lessons. I had it really good. I always say that if time travel was possible, the period of time I would relive would have been those first three years from 26 to 29. Over and Over again. Without a doubt.
I had what I needed the first time around, when I took my slip and headed into the unknown, all by myself, stupidly and fueled by my emotions and clearly not my intellect. HUGE MISTAKE !!!
The second time around, having lived through the horror of death and plague, and survived, the second time around I was able to learn about me. What I was feeling and learning about my feelings. And that has been a work in progress for the last decade or so of time under my belt.
I heard it said that the longer we stay sober, the more the journey becomes internalized. We have done to exterior work and now the work becomes internal work. And I am just learning what that means today.
I don’t know from family. I created my family from scratch. I will never have the opportunity to grow up and become a real man in my parent’s eyes. I am the gay abomination that doesn’t deserve to live and breathe the same air.
You know, I made choices based on things I experienced as a child. I pissed some people off in making those choices and now I eternally pay for those decisions that certain people cannot grant me the fact that I have grown up into the man I am and have them be happy for my achievement.
And it isn’t about my ego. It is all about my feelings. And the fact I have them, and certain people in my life deny that I could even have them, that would be to acknowledge simply, that I exist.
I am powerless over people, places and things. And it is a sad commentary that family is stuck in the past and in resentment. They switched off my light switch. And it will be forever dark.
Fuck me …
It was a good meeting. I shed light on a new part of my life tonight. And it was good. There was no crash and burn, no desire to drink. Just an acknowledgement of growth in the program.
This has been my Sunday brain dump…
More to come, stay tuned…
The day began with sunshine and I had things to do today. Last night a friend told me that one of our women from my home group was speaking this evening at 5 o’clock shadows. I left the house early because I had to make some stops along the way to the Metro and I needed tickets for my Opus card.
I got to the platform and there was a train in the station, I forgot to look and see which direction the train was traveling, as I got to the bottom of the stairs to the platform the train pulled away. It was then I noticed that I ran down the wrong set of stairs, and almost got on the wrong train. I plotted back up to the mezzanine and got on the right platform for a train going out of downtown.
I arrived at Shadows a bit early – so I hung out in the park across the street, because the neighbors bitch and moan if we gather out front on the sidewalk. This particular church is bordered by residential housing, therefore bystanders are frowned upon.
The gang showed up about a quarter to five, along with our woman who was speaking. Most of our women in our nuclear group all belong to an email notification list and a gratitude list. When one speaks, they email the whole list and the girls all go to that particular meeting to support the speaker.
Our woman got up there and told her story. We were all so proud of her. Sometimes a simple story is all that is needed to get the message across. And she did that. The meeting was full, I noticed that people of the same cloth sit together either on one side of the room or the other. One group of women who seem to travel together and go to the same meetings together were all on one side of the room.
And all of my women that I travel with, sat on my side of the room. Groupies one and all. I was traveling after the meeting to a second function at the Cathedral with started at 7:30. I got lucky that one of our women was going right to the Bay to go shopping, and the Cathedral sits right next door to the Bay.
I had more than an hour to kill before my second event, so I went window shopping in the underground city. In the Downtown Core there are tunnels and food courts below several shopping malls interconnected within the McGill Metro stop and the tunnels also lead back to the Orange line under Place Ville Marie.
I went to Indigo to look at books that I could not afford to buy, at this time. I spent almost an hour looking at books and reading from them. Some of the books were about the late Pontiff John Paul II, and the other book of interest was by Mother Teresa. I am always on the lookout for further writings on the theme of “I Thirst.” The story about Jesus on the cross during his crucifixion and his words to Mary of “I Thirst.” It is a meditation and the tattoo I have on my upper right arm.
On my way out of the underground city, the skies opened up and it poured cats and dogs for a bit. We all got wet.
I arrived at the Cathedral office early and Donald was there but we were locked out of the tower until the priest who was co-chairing the event this evening arrived to open the doors and ready the conference room.
I’m not quite sure why I was there for this reading/discussion event. I shared very little but I did a lot of listening. Most of the discussion was above my head and came from left field. It was lively discussion nonetheless. It was just a couple of hours to spend with my mentor and spiritual director and some new faces from the Cathedral.
We broke around 9:30 and I came home via the Metro.
It was a fruitful day. Good times, good people, good meetings.
I should have titled this post “The Grace of God” because in the end it is all about the Grace of God.
But let’s start with the daily update. The weather is definitely getting cooler. I was reading on the Weather Channel webpage that they are expecting snow up in Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and northern Michigan Friday night into Saturday morning … UGH snow in September … who knew…
The leaves have yet to start turning here in the city. It was a beautiful day today. Lots of sun and flecky clouds. I left early and as usual I walk all the way up the hill to Sherbrooke and up the Chomedy and damn if that bus just coasted by the bus stop as I waived for it to stop, but it just kept going. So I had to wait till the next 24 to come around.
I was early enough to the meeting to help set up. At first I wasn’t going to step in the hall that early, but then I thought if I help set up, the slogans will go up correctly, so I helped set up and the slogans went up correctly …
Live – Easy – But – Think – First …
Call it a control issue that I have problems with, but it just irks me that people put the slogans up all cock eyed. I just get jittery sitting there with them there in the wrong order. The last time I corrected them myself, a member reminded me that I was having control issues, and I said nothing, I just adjusted them anyways.
Our speaker was from the French side. There were several points in his share that he spoke in French but I didn’t get the reference. He qualified his share by opening with A.A. saved my life … After that he needed nothing else to say… as was echoed by the thanker later on in the evening.
War stories are mostly the same, except we could change names and locations we drank at, but the usual water holes come up in discussion and most people giggle – having never drank here – that is lost on me.
It is the journey to get here that matters. After bouts with abstinence and learning how to “control drink” and failing, he arrived. The great wish for any alcoholic ( from the book) is that one day we will be able to drink like normal people. Our man tried all the ins and outs to learn how to do that, but failed.
Some of us learn early on that we are to grow up, go to school, hit university and get a good job and make lots of money. Some hit the big time and make oodles of money and attain all the trappings of success. A house, a spouse, a boat, a company, children, so forth and so on.
For the alcoholic, a terrible crash and burn is imminent for them. As was for our man. After finally getting sober the bailiffs came to collect his things, and calling his sponsor, the reply was “Are you thirsty???” Get thee to a meeting.
The good thing about alcoholism is that once we survive terrible crash and burns is that we get to rebuild in a good way. Alcoholics take hostages when we marry “en process.” The wife and children all suffer because of our alcoholism.
But our man said some prayers to his higher power…
Bring me a woman, of such a height, with such looks and my criteria and all will be well. You know what they say about getting into relationships in early sobriety. That wasn’t a deterrent for our man. Having a relationship with another human in the process of getting sober can be a dicey decision. As was apparent for our man.
Sobriety is supposed to be a journey of growth and rebuilding our lives. But life happens while we get sober and we are powerless over the things that happen to others, in our lives, while we get sober. Sometimes tragic things happen, and there is the choice … What do I do? Drinking is not an option, and neither is taking matters into your own hands. There but for the grace of God.
Had our man not trusted in the advice of his sponsor and the stirrings of his higher power, he might have made a seriously bad decision, but he didn’t. We learn in sobriety how to weather certain tragedies soberly and with God’s Grace.
Life is good, Life is bad. Life is hard, and sometimes it is easy. And we all grow older and shit happens, but the good thing is – You don’t have to drink ever again.”
We laughed, we giggled, and we learned about another member and his story about The Grace of God. God loves the fool, the drunk and the elderly.
After a life of denying God and His existence, our man came to believe in a power greater than himself and that God delivered our man from a life of addiction and alcoholism, and gave him things that he never imagined.
We are all blessed by the Grace of God.
A good night was had by all …
Today is Hermione’s Birthday. Happy Birthday. I always wondered when her birthday was. It was never mentioned in any of the books, that I remember.
Ron is March 1st
Harry is July 31st – My birthday as well.
Just some Harry Potter trivia for you.
Today was my Fall visit to the doctor to go over my chart. I was prepared to hear the same old line from him as usual. He says “You won’t ever die from AIDS.” But I’ve heard that before, many years ago from one of my other doctors.
I need to loose some more weight. I told him my attempt at running was a failure because of pain in my legs (read: Fire) … He suggested that I take up swimming instead. He said that I would loose weight and tone my pear shaped body back into some semblance of normal.
He also said that in the coming months that he would work to find me alternate medication to take, because, he said, that he thinks I am taking too many pills on a daily basis and soon the option of once a day dosing may come up. But because my resistance profile is high, so daily dose drugs being used now on other patients, are not feasible for me.
He also told me that there is an inject-able drug for Diabetes that will bring my sugar levels down further than they are now and also contribute to loosing more weight. Do you see the theme here … weight, weight, weight …
Since his my doctors brother is my diabetes doctor, they will talk about my file together and set up a new plan of action. My sugars were nominal last month. My A1C was 6.3. Which is good.
I lost a kilo and a half and that pleased my doctor. He worries that as I grow older my chance at heart disease rises because it is a family problem, as diabetes in. Strokes were the problem for my paternal grandparents. And my father had multiple heart attacks, and has diabetes. Doc wants to take me off that shit list of problems later on down the road. So he wants me to loose more weight.
These are the numbers:
07 Aug 2012 VL 39 copies (undetectable) CD4% 44 CD4Abs 1276 ratio 1.07
15 May 2012 VL 39 copies (undetectable) CD4% 45 CD4Abs 1350 ratio 1.07
10 Jan 2012 VL 39 copies (undetectable) CD4% 43 CD4Abs 1333 ratio 1.05
All the numbers are good. Doc says he doesn’t worry about numbers any longer for me, because I am the “Poster child” for immune-difficency recovery. So he says. he is more worried about my body rather than the numbers it produces.
So that’s today’s update.
More to come, stay tuned…
It has been a very wet and dreary day today. We are sitting at 20c at this hour and the weather has not been kind. I had done all my shopping for tonight, yesterday so I was packed up and ready to go early this afternoon.
It was dreary when I left the house, enough rain falling to warrant carrying an umbrella – but not enough that I would get soaked on the way out. There were intermittent showers on and off while I was setting up and just as the hour hit 6 p.m. the skies opened up and it started pouring cats and dogs.
People were coming in soaked to their feet. But we had a full house anyways. It was a good night all around. We read from the Big Book, and Step 3.
There were a few words that kept coming up as the conversation went around the room. Words like Self, and Ego, and Self centeredness, and selfishness. I also heard words like decision, surrender and bondage of self, among those words came the words fear and expectations…
When you read the text it is clear that “self” is a word that repeats several times over and that the whole process of Step 3 is to Make a decision to turn our will and our life over to the care of God as we understood him.
I had some time to think about what I wanted to say, and I didn’t think what I had to say amounted to anything useful because after the fact, several thoughts ran through my head. Because all the shares we heard tonight were useful.
I suppose that I need to clearly do personal inventory based on this step daily. I say my prayers, and I find, at certain points during my day, I am presented with people and situations that need further thought and prayer (read: For others).
Humility, they say comes when we learn about our ego and the fact that we are constantly having to crush our ego because if we don’t, we end up in those problematic stances like being selfish and self centered. Also, we find that when we get to these places, we take our will back and take life into our hands instead of surrendering it to the God of our understanding.
Do I practice surrender on a daily basis. Yes. It it a conscious action? No. I don’t usually sit down and think the word surrender. I just do it. I try each day to be of service to others and to do things during my day that take me out of myself.
Do I have trouble with fear? Of course I do. Do I sit and worry about things to the point that they consume all my thoughts? No. Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair … You are moving but not getting anywhere.
Being HIV positive carries with it a modicum of worry. After so many years of good times, I am very aware that God, if he so chooses, could pull the rug out from under me at any time. So I have had a long time to ponder all those words that appear in the book (in our reading tonight).
I remember what I was like when I got sober. In the beginning, I thought, quite stupidly, that I was entitled to my expectations. But God, in his infinite wisdom reminded me that I wasn’t entitled to anything.
Surrender is a daily choice. Letting Go is a daily choice. Turning my will over on a daily basis is a choice. Prayer and meditation is necessary to make these choices work. I had a friend that I followed quite religiously. He used to say that we should “Live the word and breathe prayer.”
This works God into our daily life because any good Christian who practices their faith properly, or actively, should live the word of God. And that we should also be prayerful throughout the day and not just in the morning or at the evening. That prayer is something we should do constantly because prayer fills the empty spaces in our day.
Instead of worrying and fixating and being selfish and self centered and egotistical, we should work prayer into our lives. And I am of want to do that in my daily life. There are quiet points during my day that allow me to drain my brain to God. It is like breathing.
Setting up the room each week is an act of working meditation. Mentioning someones name to God is prayer. Asking God to be with my friends and family is an act I do often. And I know that God has not forgotten nor has he left me to my own devices. Unless I want to be left to my own devices when I take my will back.
So many thoughts run through my head daily. And as they come, I put them where they need to go, and sort them into their proper receptacles. Self, self, self and more self. The book mentions that word several times.
And we say … God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always.
The Daily Reflections all have to so with the 9th step. That all the first steps are are steps we need to make so that we can get to step 9 and live a more sober life.
I am powerless over many things in my life. And there are things I need to do every day to make this life possible. I need food. I need water. I need rest. I need to take my pills daily. I need to pray and meditate. And I need to go to meetings. And I need to share with others on this journey with me, and listen to what they have to say about their lives.
My sponsor talked tonight of two things:
- There is a God
- And I am not it.
I am powerless over people, places and things. I am powerless over disease and illness. But as long as I take care of my illnesses, I will survive. Recovery is just one facet of my life. AIDS is a huge facet of my life. My relationship is a huge facet of my life. And my relationship with others is also a facet of my life. Between all these things, I have very little time to be selfish, arrogant or egotistical.
I have my faults. and I admit my faults to God. This life is all about me. But in the same breath, it really isn’t all about me. I am important. And my specific needs are important. Keeping things all in perspective, AIDS is something that we can be selfish about because it owns us. If we do not get the proper care that we deserve, we will die. And I am not ready to die just yet.
I see my friends battle with illnesses and issues that we are clearly powerless over and I watch them live lives of faith, actively, despite themselves. And I see God move. And I am humbled by God and the way he works in our lives.
It took a long time to learn to have eyes to see God move. And that only happened when I was ready to surrender to God what was not mine. And to remember that God does for us what we could not do for ourselves.
And for that I am grateful.
Zwirner_Synagogue de Cologne
This morning we heard a teaching about words. The words we use, how we use them and what words we use. And how we speak them.
And I was struck by this passage:
The Entire Gospel reading: Mark 8: 27-38
Mark 8: 29-30 “He asked them, ‘but who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
And thus we have the question … “Who do you say that I am?”
First – Who do YOU say that I am?
Second – Who do you SAY that I am?
Third – Who do you say that I am
Jesus asks this question several times within the entire passage. And thus the question can be asked of us. Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?”
What words would we use to speak the words we wish to speak. And how would we speak them? The meditation continues in which we ponder the idea of words. Do we take words seriously? Do we choose our words carefully?
In this day and age the way we use words differs from the way words were used in decades past. Listening to words written in the Big Book some time ago, hearing them read out loud, some of us comment that the way the story teller used his words differs from how we would tell that same story today.
A fellow is publishing a book this week, and he shared that his editor read through his manuscript and deleted many words that were repetitive or redundant. When we read books, do we ponder how each author chose each and every word on the page, are the words deliberate or specific?
We use a lot of words sometimes. And sometimes words are better left unsaid.
Just a short meditation on the topic of words…