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Archive for November, 2012

World AIDS Day December 1, 2012 …


Cue the music – start the fog machine – blue light GOBO slow pans across the floor through dimly lit space, and the first beat comes…

I am alone, it is early, the bar is not yet open, but I am there alone. Just me, the music and the spirit of God. Well, what little spirit of God there was at that time of my life. It is mid-summer in Ft. Lauderdale. I have just told Todd that I was going to die…

He wept…

This was one of the hardest days of my life. How do you tell someone you love, that you are going to die? The day I was diagnosed, July 8th, 1994 was the worst day of my life. Bar none …
My then boyfriend packed his things and left in the car as soon as he heard the news. All of my friends found out and they all took off for the hills. The only people still standing by me were Todd, Roy, and a choice few friends at the bar that I was working at.

I called a family meeting and that proved to be a failure. Because I was first gay, now I was HIV+ and that was doubly sinful and abhorrent to them.

If you were around during the height of the AIDS epidemic you would have seen employers fire sick people from their jobs, landlords throwing tenants out on the streets. You would have seen families, lovers and partners toss their sick significant others out into the street as well.

We had nothing left but the little dignity we had left. And the ones who stayed were the ones who would care for, tend to, care for and bury the rest. Because back in the 90’s, there were no comprehensive care systems. We did not have drugs that we have today. We did not have doctors dedicated to taking care of us.

The medical systems had to be built from the ground up. Many doctors didn’t know from AIDS and they had to learn how to care for so many sick people.

I bought several poster boards that I made calendars out of and stuck them on my kitchen wall to mark the days I had left to live. That was 540 days …

My friend Roy used to tear them up whenever he came over because he did not want me focusing on the day that I was supposed to die. I had bigger fish to fry. And Todd kept me on a short leash. What he did saved my life. There will never be another man in my life like Todd.

Hundreds of people I knew died. HUNDREDS !!!!

Every year the quilt was rolled out, we went to see it to mark the new names added to the list of the dead. And we also went to see who was still alive.

This is why we celebrate World AIDS Day, because those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it. This generation knows very little of what it was like for us – back in the day.

That is one reason I opened this blog. To catalog and collect my memories. So that in case I die, I was here. I left my mark on the world with the stories of my life that I have collected here for you all to read.

Gay is still a dirty word in the world. And is still met with condemnation and abhorrence. The face of HIV has changed over the last decade. New medications have come along, and many of us who are left from days gone by, are now on those powerful cocktails of drugs that we must take daily to stay alive.

I was there when it all started for me. When there were no real set drugs and I tested every drug that came off the pike from the doctors I sought out after my diagnosis.

In the beginning, we had a drug farm in Fort Lauderdale, and they would collect medication from people who had died. They would repackage those drugs and give them to us, as we could not get medication very easily. And I did that for two years. I moved to Miami because there were doctors there who were trained in care for HIV positive folks.

And from those doctors, I tested every drug that came down the pike. And this has been what I have done here in Montreal, since the day I arrived here. I have the best in medical care here and a doctor who is on the cutting edge of HIV medical treatment.

HIV is not a death sentence, unless you live in a country that cannot get medication. Where death rates are terribly high. We need to do more to get drugs to countries that so badly need them. Drug companies need to do more for the world than what they are doing today. They are NOT doing ENOUGH !!!

Today we remember all those who have died.
We pray for their souls and their families.
And we ask you for your continued prayers and support.

If you don’t know your HIV status, then I suggest you get tested. If you are an active gay man, it is your DUTY to know these things. The owness falls on you to get tested and be RESPONSIBLE for your life and also for the lives of men you have sex with.

HIV knows no barrier, creed, color or sexual orientation. Straight people get HIV too.

Nobody is immune from getting HIV if you are not careful or diligent about sex.  Doing nothing is stupid. There is no excuse for why you wouldn’t or shouldn’t get tested, it could SAVE YOUR LIFE  !!!

Rapid treatment after diagnosis today can be very helpful to living a full and happy life. It didn’t use to be like this. In the 90’s HIV was a death sentence. Thank God I had what I had or I surely would not be here today writing to you.

Be Responsible. Be Diligent and Be Smart. Get tested !!!

Take care of yourself and each other.

pedro quilt

Holiday Haul …


It is cold out. We are sitting at a balmy (-10c) at this hour. I was up early and I dithered around the apartment trying to decide whether or not to go shopping. Hubby was doing laundry, so I showered and get ready to go.

The trains were packed at the 3 o’clock hour. Since we sit between 2 stations on the Green line, schools were all letting out. I headed off to Peel Metro.

I wanted to run into the Hallmark store beneath Scotia Bank Place Theatre where I do most of my holiday shopping. For the last few years, I shop here because of the family who owns the store. They are gracious and kind and I enjoy their store. I bought two boxes of Christmas Cards and a gift for a friend.

I set off for Bentley in The Eaton Centre to buy a new backpack – since I have destroyed the one I have. I go through backpacks quite quickly. The one I was using was ripped and really needed to be replaced. I found one that I liked and bought it. It was big enough that I could stuff my old one inside along with some items I bought at Hallmark.

I walked through Eaton Centre towards Place Montreal Trust to see the Christmas tree. I thought they would put up the one they have been using for the past few years, with the train running beneath it, but was pleasantly surprised to see a new tree. The old tree had huge ornaments that moved, spun and danced on the outside of the tree.

This years tree was more interactive – with big huge screens with different moving scenes on them. I should have taken a snap, but the tree was too big to get with my phone camera, so I will take my Nikon up there later on.

I stopped in at Indigo. And like I thought it was a Book Bonanza.

So many good books to choose from. I wanted a copy of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, which is one of the best books I have ever read. I had once bought a copy, and last year Yann Martel came to Montreal for a book reading, and he signed the copy I had and I sent it off to Will (of Not Adam not Steve) fame. Yann is his favorite author so the gift was a real happy moment for him.

I got another copy today along with “We Need to Talk about Kevin” by Lionel Shriver. Many of the folks who work at Indigo highly recommended the book. Hubby said he would get me a gift card for Christmas. Which is good because there is a stack of books I want to get.

I saw a book by Linden MacIntyre called “Why Men Lie.” It is a hard cover book and from the dust cover seems to be set in the same period of his novel, “The Bishop’s Man,” which I have read several times over. There was another novel called “The Long Stretch,” on the bookshelf, both books seem to house the same characters. I wasn’t sure if they were a trilogy or stand alone books.

I looked this question up … The Long Stretch, The Bishop’s Man and Why men Lie is a trilogy. Called The Cape Breton Trilogy. (wiki) Now I have to get both the copies I haven’t read yet.

I could have shopped till I dropped … but I walked with two books, instead of many. It is very hard to say no to buying books because books are life. If I had a job, and I applied to them several times over the years, to no avail, I would work in a book store. That would be a dream job.

I got some lunch on the way out. I was craving me some Burger King, so that’s where I ended my shopping journey. It was a good haul. Now I need hubby’s Christmas list, so I can to shop for him next week.
Le Coeur Montreal was decorated with fantastical Christmas trees and recycled green and red bottles lit from within in different holiday shapes of trees, ornaments and decorations.

The train was full on the ride back. I went back to Atwater to come home through Alexis Nihon Plaza.

When I got home, I removed the patches that I had sewn on my backpack and prepared to sew them onto my new one. It is almost a ritual. When I first moved here – and the demonstrations began against the war, people told me to sew Canadian Flags on my backpack. And since then I have collected them from places I have visited like Parliament Hill in Ottawa and other places of note. That took me about an hour to finish. I was very happy with the way it turned out.

It was a good day. More to come, Stay tuned …

Snow on the Ground …

Courtesy: Travelthisworld

It was a cold night. I was warmly dressed, yet I was cold. I don’t usually carry a scarf or gloves, but they would have been welcome tonight. It has been two days sans nicotine, and it is going well.

I was out early and before I reached the stop, two buses passed by and I waited a few minutes for the next one, but still arrived at St. Matthias early, so I sat through their business meeting, instead of waiting outside in the cold for it to end.

Hubby spent the afternoon trolling The Bay for Christmas presents for the family the whole drama of finding and procuring “Christmas Spray” from Crabtree and Evelyn came up empty. Hubby noted that the spray he wanted was discontinued and also the store had been moved from the stall it used to located at.

I will be heading out to find cards and gifts myself this weekend. There are things I would like to get and things I really need for Christmas. I could use a new backpack since mine is ripped and fraying at the top. I copied a reading list from John Green, an author who makes You Tube Videos.

If you like to read, these are some of his book pics for the holidays:

The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Sula by Toni Morrison
Mansfield Park and Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Blood of the Lamb by Peter de Vries
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Matched by Ally Condie
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Bossypants by Tina Fey
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M. T. Anderson
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Aside from this list, I have some titles in mind that I want to add to my library. Which means a visit to Indigo. And if I go to Indigo, I will invariably spend a couple of hours looking at books. And that is not usually a good thing, because I will spend too much money on books. Hopefully I will receive a gift card for the holidays.

The meeting was short and sweet. I spent more time waiting on the meeting than sitting in the meeting. Our speaker came from the West Island. Just shy of ten years sobriety. One thing we see continually is that alcoholism affects a wide age group of people. And our man came from the older end of the spectrum, and when he went to rehab, after a family intervention, he was much older than many of the young people who were there as well.

I first imagined that our man would be full of sober exuberance. But I was mistaken. It was a very sobering story. Our man came to the drink late in his life and it turned his life upside down. Which means he came to sobriety much later in life as well.

We are here but by the grace of God. Just showing up to hear our man speak was a gift. To be able to support him in his sober journey is all that matters.

It was a sparse crowd. Many of our girls did not show, nor did our caravan driver, so I took the 24 home after the meeting. I left the hall, it was a quarter till the hour and a 24 was at the stop as I crossed Sherbrooke to the stop. Which brought me home earlier than usual.

Forecasters still don’t agree on snow or flurries. But there is snow on the ground tonight. Which green lights the tree to go up when ever hubby is ready for it.

It was a good night.

More to come, stay tuned …

Spirits About …

It is probably not unthinkable that spirits inhabit the churches in Montreal. Many of them have been built long ago. Many religious properties in our city housed nuns and priests and monks. Where the religious have gone, sacred spaces have been re-appropriated by the city as historical buildings and cannot be torn down, but can be updated to meet new specifications.

In the basement of the Grey Nun’s Mother house, just up the block from us, houses the remains of past grey nuns who lived and died in the house, buried in the crypt beneath the building. Once the remaining nuns vacate the property the crypt will be cemented over forever. Down in that crypt were the resting places of Mere D’Youville before she was declared a saint.

My Aunt Georgette used to take me down there to pray and to see the relics and rooms that were preserved in her memory. Mere D’Youville was moved to a crypt beneath the main altar in the church above, until the building was sold to Concordia University. Mere D’Youville was moved from her resting place at the Mother House to another Mother House on the South Shore of Montreal, where the nuns will live. Which is where my aunt Georgette is buried.

I say all these things as a preface of what I am going to write about now…

God has been known to make appearances at St. Leon’s Church hall, during really good meetings. The light comes down from the church and alights on the folks in the room. I have seen this happen over the years at certain points in my journey, and those of the others.

Recently, as I come into the darkened hall on some afternoons, the air is cool and I am alone in the space for 2 hours prior to anyone coming in to read. I like that alone time. I enjoy it. I put on some tunes and I set up. When that is finished I go outside to people watch. Then I come back downstairs to read.

And that is when it happens. And it happened again today. I am sitting at the head of the table where I always sit, Barbra Streisand was singing Christmas Carols in my ear and I was thumbing through a Grapevine.

Several times while I was sitting there, just above my field of vision, I saw shadows move across the doorway from the entrance hall into the room itself. And it didn’t happen once, it happened several times. Almost like it wanted me to see it pass through. I was looking down, but to an extent I could just turn my gaze upwards towards the doors looking up from my book and see it.

I caught myself looking up several times as I was sitting there. Whatever it was, it moved soundlessly. And it almost hung in the doorway. This isn’t the first time that I have seen this shadow move into the room. And it is always when I am alone in the space.

I don’t know the exact history of the building save for the bronze plaque that sits outside the church and denotes its building history. The hall is a multi-use space. Several meetings use the hall, kids day programs and church functions take place there as well. And sometimes wakes and viewings happen in the hall, but it is quite a task carrying a coffin down those stairs into the hall and then back up again.

You never know who is visiting on any given day. Thousands of sober people have graced that hall over the past 75 years.

It is heart warming to be able to share the space with the spirits. I am not immune to this kind of phenomena. I’ve been visited before by departed family members over the years, so when I see it manifest I welcome it.

That space is blessed and God visits us on occasion … it is quite an awe inspiring vision of the holy.

That is all.

More tomorrow. Time for bed …

Carrying the Message …

Courtesy: FreeMinded

There are only 27 shopping days until Christmas…

“Freely ye have received; freely give …”

If you ask me, nobody knows if it will snow or just flurry. We are watching, at this hour, two Canadian websites that forecast weather here, and neither agree on the same weather forecast. We have been bouncing between one and the other, because we can’t put the tree up until it snows !!!

And it may go up without it, if these bozo’s can’t get their act together.

It was a full day of goings on. I spent a little time on Supermarket Safari, before heading out since I was ready to go two hours before my intended departure time.

Bored off my rocker, I left around 3:45 for the church and I cranked out set up and was finished before 5. The new December Grapevine’s came in the mail today, so I had something new to read while I had down time.

The last Tuesday of the month saw a business meeting, which was well attended. Lots of things going on. We will be open on Christmas Day and New Years Day. And we have a member committed to chairing both nights.

I get my cake in two weeks. As my anniversary falls on a Sunday, I will be at Sunday Niter’s for that meeting. I am chairing the month of December and we are coming to the end of Bill’s Story. it’s good reading the book again with others.

Tonight the chair opted to read from the Twelve and Twelve, and Step 12.

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

I always find it challenging to read from the books, when I haven’t done the work to get to that point in the book itself. This occurred when we started reading steps four and five weeks ago. Which spurred on another 4th and 5th. In reality, it serves no one if I have no recent experience to talk about when reading material at a meeting.

We read a good chunk of the step, and the shares started up the way on the outer circle so I had some time to ponder what I wanted to share when it came to me.

One of the most blessed events to occur at a meeting is witnessing someone having a spiritual awakening. They say “stick around until the miracle happens.” Over the last almost eleven years, I’ve been witness to a few miracles.

Obviously, you cannot transmit something you haven’t got, speaks a Vision for You. Which means – work the steps. All those promises you hear read at meetings ad nauseum, they come after the ninth step. And not before. As we heard tonight, that in the beginning a friend was like, “why aren’t they coming true for me ???” Because you aren’t at nine yet.

The steps were written in a specific order and come in that order for a reason. And you can imagine just what was going through Bill’s mind as he wrote them sitting in bed, with a pencil and a notepad on his lap. He augmented the original six steps that were founded by the Oxford Group. Twelve was a spiritual number in many traditions, so he turned six into twelve.

I go to my meetings. I do service in my home group. But in the last ten or so years, only one person came to ask for my experience, strength and hope. And look what happened to that relationship !!!

Do I carry the message, and do I practice these principles in all my affairs?

I’m not currently sponsoring anyone. And I often feel like I am becoming obsolete in my home group. I get to share at the meeting. And on the odd occasion, someone asks me how I am doing and if I need anything.

I find that carrying the message happens either before or after the meeting. In the conversations I have with friends between the meetings. That’s why they say “get there 20 minutes before and stay 20 minutes after …”

That’s when you can really carry “A” message, not necessarily “the” message.

I mean, “what’s the message?” people ask that question, I heard it asked tonight several times, from people who haven’t reached Step twelve. Because we have lots of people at the meeting, we hear many paths to twelve.

The old timers who work with others, sponsees, talk about witnessing transformations happening with them. When you work closely with another and at some point a spiritual awakening occurs, and if you stay the course, you get to witness that transformation.

I work on “working with others.” I call friends in the program. Some of them don’t return their calls, but I do make the effort. Others I get to talk to on a daily basis, just because that is what we are supposed to do.

One of my friends is having a rough time of it, and took me aside the other night for a comprehensive chat about life, and it is in moments like this that I can carry the message.

I have almost 11 years – ten years and 50 weeks of time under my belt. So I do have something to give back, that was freely given to me? Yes.

I’ve been through the steps several times now. And I am doing them right now at this moment.

That’s why you stick around and you have a home group, so you can participate in the growth of another human being. By just showing up, we show the newcomer that it can be done.

God has a sense of humor. Sometimes He may be on the ball, and other times, He may be off in left field, when it comes to blessings. In early sobriety it was hit and miss. In the beginning I was wrapped up in the problems of others, instead of being wrapped up in my own alone.

And that was one of the first blessings that came to me, that I had a choice as to who’s life I would involve myself in. I did not have to get involved with drama that wasn’t mine. What  a RELIEF !!!

I learned to stay in my day, and rely on God, not expect from God. Every day I stayed sober and in God’s graces, I was on the gain side of the equation. And it took work on how to learn to stay on the gain side. Because it isn’t always a “gain game.” Sometimes you get the beat down so that you can experience what it feels like to get back up.”

I’ve seen hundreds of people roll through our meeting over the last 11 years. Not many are still around from when I joined the group. I am the eldest of the group, as a member. My sponsor comes in second, and everybody else falls in behind.

The holidays are coming up and I meditate on ” Bitter Bonnie.”

Names have been changed to protect anonymity …

Because folks are going to start agonizing about the holidays. Families, Parties, Get together’s, Work, Traveling … the list goes on and on.

This is another chance to carry the message.

Bonnie was a woman from across the pond. She was newly sober and she was trying to navigate how she was going to fly to Europe and not drink on the plane, get to meetings over there, see her family, and share meals and not drink. It was just a nightmare scenario for her.

It came to a head when I asked her pointedly, if it was worth all the trouble?

The point was to stay sober at ANY cost. And if that is in question, don’t do it.

If the odds were that she was going to drink over this, then why bother going? Her kids are all adults, and I am sure they would understand if you cannot physically bring yourself to get on an airplane and not drink, because she wanted to drink. She spat back in my face that I had no idea what it was like to have children and that I had no idea what I was talking about.

A few days before Christmas she disappeared and she never returned to our meeting, and to this day, every night I set down chairs I think about her.

I have friends right this minute who agonized over Thanksgiving and having to see folks that they agonized over seeing. Old behaviors and old feeling always well up during the holidays. And I got sober over the holidays. So I know what that is like… to stay sober over the holidays.

But with time, comes wisdom.

We are not who we once were. We are who we are today. And if you are wrapped up in who you used to be, and that visual is holding you back from who who want to be today, then you need to change the tape in your head.

Every year we get to practice how to grow, and grow we will, if we stick around. Every year we get to change and even if people around us don’t change, we change. Once we get sober – over the holidays – we get to re-appropriate the holidays. We get to decide what we will do or not do. Who we will spend time with and who we won’t.

This is a selfish program. And it is all about you. It isn’t all about me, because that would be self centered. I try to stay out of my own way.

Experience, Strength and Hope.

You don’t have to put yourself in the position to be uncomfortable. But I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. The holidays are supposed to be about joy, families and friendships. If you can’t find it at home, then go find it at a meeting.

If you’ve never felt joy, then this is the year to finally feel JOY !!!

Life is too short to be alone, to isolate or to be miserable. We are not a glum lot, the book says. The message is about freedom, peace and reconciliation. That’s what happens when we work our steps. We find freedom in letting go, we find peace when we find a power greater than ourselves, and in working our steps we reach reconciliation with ourselves and others, then we practice prayer and meditation. And finally we come back around to the twelfth Step.

Having had a Spiritual Awakening AS THE RESULT of these steps …

We tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

One of our members took a three year cake, we all had cake.

A good time was had by all.

Wau Lam … That is all.

More to come, stay tuned …

Tweaked – New And Improved !!!

Courtesy: Jshstwrt – A little ink. Very cool !!!

Attention fair readers of the Blog …

I have spent the better part of an hour tweaking the blog. I’ve rearranged some things up and down the sidebar, I’ve updated the Blog List of reads that I read on a daily basis, (Go show them some love) You will find various reads that are compelling, cute, naughty, and just downright cool !!!

I have also Juggled the PAGES and dropped some from the header, but there are new PAGES up there to read. All of them pertinent to life and LGBTQ concerns.

This blog is a product of many of the folks that I read. I have adopted many of the topic styles and formats that many of my reads employ. They have their own method and I see (in the recent past) that you all enjoy what I am putting on the blog.

If there is something that YOU would like to see or read, please do let me know.

Welcome to my new followers. It is good to hear from you.

Last Sunday of the month …

Courtesy: Thiswillnotdefineus

Today is Sunday. There are only 30 shopping days until Christmas.

It got bitterly cold out when the sun went down. And at 6 o’clock I was standing outside the church and it felt like midnight on the clock.

I was up and ready to go earlier than planned. I was sitting here bored off my rocker. I packed up and headed for the church. I had a couple of stops to make on the way out and still got there before 5.

I knew our coffee maker was on the way, so I just re-arranged the chairs from the 2:30 meeting. They don’t put things away for some reason which makes set up easier for me.

I set out more chairs than we sat tonight. It is Grey Cup Sunday and it was cold out, and you know alcoholics always have an excuse for why they don’t come to a meeting.

It was a short read from the twelve and twelve. And Tradition 11.

“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion. We need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, tv and films.”

There is that word again … anonymity.

I write here. but I don’t go out and seek to be famous or break anyone’s anonymity. I don’t worry about my anonymity. This is a sober blog and is listed on a sober blog database. I write sober related posts, based on how my days and nights have gone.

I have sober readers. If on any given day, I help just one person with this blog, then I have done my job. This blog is not only about recovery but deals with issues of health, well being and life experiences.

I go to meetings. I don’t talk about who you are with others. I share the message with you and what I experience in participating in the meetings.

It is all about helping people better their lives, and if my life can be of example to you, then it is all good. Outreach is about attraction and identification.

Readers come and sub to this blog on their own, because for one reason or another, they are interested in what I write. And if “Likes” are a sign that I am doing the right thing, then I am doing something right. Because likes and subs are up for the month.

It was a good night. I am chairing next month, as we are still in the Big Book and will be for some time to come, it will be good.

That’s all for tonight.

More to come, stay tuned…

First Snow Fall …

Courtesy: Theabsolutebestphotography

I was in my bed, all warm and comfy. I was dreaming a strange dream that I could not find my way out of, lucid enough to know it was a dream, with one ear pealed towards what is going on in the apartment.

There is the hum of the computer. Depending on who is signed in and a browser window is open, or if it is in rest mode, the hard drive spins slowly or cranks at full speed. Then there is the drip of the kitchen faucet, it needs to be fixed, it is an annoying soundtrack to getting to sleep.

My sponsor tried calling me on the land line, which is always turned off, he also called my cell, which strangely, did not ring, it went directly to voice mail. And then the phone chirped. So I got up and answered the mail and phoned him back.

It seems the bus was going to the West Island for a meeting and he wanted to know if I was coming along … I had just enough time to jump in the shower and get dressed to get to the Metro and up to Snowden for 7:20 p.m.

On the way out it was cold and windy going into the Metro. When I exited the Metro at Snowdon it was snowing furiously. I called home to see if it was snowing over downtown. Nonetheless, it was the first snow fall for Montreal.

The meeting was at the same hall that Sunday Breakfast is at on Sunday mornings. It was well attended. A little different format than the usual, which was nice. The speaker was a French woman who does meetings on both sides, (that would be English and French). 30 years sober.

It is interesting to know what the old timers do to stay sober. Each of them have their own methods. Our woman tonight rattled off prayers and passages from many books of literature and Hazelden. It was a very spiritual message.

She opened with …”Not my will but Thy will be done …”

She has a paper game with the Yes and No on the corners, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of those folded paper hand games where you write things on each of the four corners and you giggle your hand and it either comes up Yes or No.

It was something she talked about when asking questions of her Higher Power. She is “all in.” She goes to meetings, she participates in life, she goes to the prisons and she lives according to the spirit who leads her life. It wasn’t a stock share that the old timers all give. Like I said, each person’s journey is different.

I had heard everything she said in one way or another. The mention of the books, the readings, the prayers, the slogans, the method, she did not speak about war stories or life stories, she only talked about the spirit. You just have to listen for the same narrative coming back at you when you listen to someone speak at a meeting. The pieces are the same, but the stories differ. All the pieces are usually there, they just come out in a different order.

On the way home, we were dropped off at Vendome to come home. It is a Orange line to Green line trip back. When I changed lines I got on the train and sat down, and I noticed a man sitting opposite me take a booklet out of his jacket and start thumbing through it… The cover was unmistakable. He was reading a meeting list. I almost grabbed the desire chip in my wallet and gave it to him.

I did not recognize him from any of the meetings I go to, but here, on the train, was another alcoholic. My stop came up quickly and I got off the train at Atwater and walked home.

You never know when you are going to cross paths with another alcoholic, it happens quite often here.

Australian author Bryce Courtenay, writer of ‘The Power of One’ and 20 others, dies at age 79

Report From: The Canadian Press

CANBERRA, Australia – Australian bestselling author Bryce Courtenay has died of stomach cancer. He was 79.

His publisher Penguin Group said Friday that the South African-born writer died at his family home in the Australian capital Canberra late Thursday surrounded by his family and pets.

Courtenay had a successful career in advertising before writing his first novel, “The Power of One,” which was published in 1989 when he was 56. The story became a movie starring Morgan Freeman.

His 21st novel, “Jack of Diamonds,” was published this month.

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

This is a very sad announcement. Bryce was a wonderful writer. All of his books are monumental. The way they are written is unlike any other author I have read. And if you have read anything by him, you will agree … Once you begin one of his books, you don’t stop till you reach the end. His ability to capture time and space and weave his stories with such amazing characters is amazing.

If you’ve ever wondered what Africa was like Bryce truly knew how to capture the people, the land and the images from his mind to paint just amazing pictures as you read. I’ve read a number of his books that are in my personal library.

If you’ve never read Bryce Courtenay … Put him on your Christmas list…

God, I’ll be Good …

Courtesy: Charliebeechgrove

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Lots of running around to and from the mall earlier today. Now the push for Christmas gains a lot of speed, and tomorrow is Black Friday. I don’t know whether I should hit the mall or stay home.

I’ve got to get my Christmas Cards in the works. The post office sent me a notice with the deadlines for mailing packages and cards, better get them off early this year, since I did not send cards out last year. I just forgot about them.

I was up early this afternoon. And I needed to hit Pharmaprix to get some things and to put tickets on my Opus Card. Thankfully, there were three tickets on my card and I use one of them on the way out and I take caravan home after the Thursday Night Meeting.

I wanted to go out to see how the Seville is coming along. I believe they have topped the final tower – they’ve been pouring concrete over the past couple of days and they wrapped the top floor in plastic … I don’t know why they did that on this building and not on the others. The prefab walls are going up really quickly and they have lite bricked up the lower floors and now they are on the black brick upper floors. We can watch the goings on here from our balcony.

The Sports bar down on the corner is making great headway in completing their additional retail expansion. The back kitchen is in the pike and I got a glimpse of the front room, where they gutted the businesses that held those stalls, they are converting it to restaurant seating indoors. They have quite a space there, which more than triples occupancy.

They have more than broken the corner curse on that lot. Hopefully they get it done before the snows come.

Speaking of Snow … Environment Canada says snow will fall on Tuesday !!!

We just need enough to stick so that we can put up the tree with snow on the ground. I started Christmas Shopping the other night. Not that I need very much, Christmas is very low key. Hopefully I will get some books from Indigo in the form of gift cards … There are a few books I want to add to my library.

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

Surprise, Surprise … Our caravan driver was the speaker tonight.

I’d never heard her share but during our Tuesday meeting, and I’ve seen her at other meetings I go to and of recently she has been driving caravan after the Thursday meeting.

I think there is commonality when we are young and we say to ourselves that no we won’t drink because we know what that will do, but eventually, like a bug we can’t get rid of, we finally pick up … And then that psychic change happens that the alcohol begins to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Blackout drinkers have terrible times trying to moderate our drinking. Drinking like men or women, (in a good way) but that usually ends up a royal failure. It just happens, that the blackout drinking begins and lasts as long as we can pump alcohol into our bodies to the point that we are sick and we fall to our knees and say those special prayers to the Porcelain Gods …

God, I’ll be Good … God, if you stop the room from spinning, I’ll never drink this way again … And my favorite … God, why am I doing this to myself ? I just can’t stop !!!

But that’s the key … To stop and to Stay stopped … There’s the rub.

I don’t remember how my blackouts ended. I can’t recall if I hugged the bowl once or twice or several times. I would eventually find myself in my apartment and pop in Cider House Rules and drift off to sleep.

I was a do or die drinker too … It was all or nothing and I didn’t think I had a problem for the longest time. How mistaken I was. But I always ask the same question …

” Would that someone had stopped me then, would I have taken heed or ignored them …??? “

I am halfway to twenty years. It’ll be 11 years in a couple of weeks. It is a one day at a time journey. It was a good meeting.

A friend spoke to me before the meeting, about something that I wrote here. Which is a confirmation that he is reading the blog regularly. So people really are reading what I am writing.

How can we harness the energy that the women have ??? And can it be done ???

The women are just so rooted in the book, and prayer and communication. These special rituals have been passed down from sponsor to sponsee and so forth and so on. I don’t know how to create that kind of energy. It is person specific. It is very maternal and we can tap that energy for ourselves, us men in the program.

I don’t know how to tap that kind of energy. Or how to create it.

I am sober. I go to meetings. I read the book in company with others. I speak to my sponsor as needed. I write as I will. The recipe I own is unique for me and your recipe that you use is good for you. They say “You cannot transmit something that you don’t have …”

So take it all in and share it with your readers.

We can create for ourselves the energy of recovery with the help of our friends and peers and our sponsors. But we aren’t women, they have their path and we have ours. Our stories differ – so does our recoveries.

Take what you can use, and leave the rest behind …

At the end of the meeting a fellow member got up and took a thirty year cake.

He shared the Parable of the Sower from the Gospels. He read a poem.

Then he spoke about his age. In his family they did not celebrate birthdays, and asking his mother one day when he was born, she replied:

“You were born on a Thursday during the rainy season …”

Our man must be in his seventies or eighties now. But for tonight, he is thirty years old. We learn from the Old Timers how to laugh and to be present for each other. We come to A.A. and we find family. Here in our fair city, you have the opportunity to root and grow.

It has been spoken that when people get sober here and move away, it is hard to stay sober in a group where nobody knows you. I guess that’s why so many members return to the nest that was created here in Montreal …

Good night from Montreal.

There are only 33 shopping days until Christmas …

Let Us Be Thankful …

I would love to be baking Turkey tomorrow with you. Alas, we celebrated the holiday weeks ago. And the March to Christmas has already begun.

But for all my readers, South of the Border, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

There are lots of memories of holidays past and the gathering of family around a holiday table. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and those all important football games with assorted liquors and beers.

Eat Well. Be well. Live well. Love well.

Enjoy the holiday …

I’m not a Dying Drunk …

Courtesy: ChristopherJordan

Today is a BIG DAY. It is our 8th wedding anniversary.

Yesterday I had to go shopping for cards and gifts, it was dark by 5 o’clock, and when it gets dark, it gets dark… Night time seems to last for hours and hours. And I had to force myself to go out in the dark to go shopping.

And what are the odds that I walk into a shop and buy a particular card after reading the bunch that was on display, and choosing just one of them.

I came home last night and before I went to bed last night I set the card and the goodies I bought for hubby on his desk for the morning. He in turn did his shopping run as well. When I got up this morning a card was waiting for me as well. And when I opened it – I chuckled …

Hubby had bought me the exact same card I bought for him.

Coincidence? Synchronicity? or do we really know each other way too well…

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

I was up and ready to go well before I was supposed to set off. Which meant that I got to the church early and jammed out set up and coffee in record time. I spent some time reading the new Grapevine that came the other day. The November issue is all cranked up about “Gratitude.”

The running joke that I shared tonight was from when I got sober. The topic of Gratitude was common and to a point, overused, I believed. Many of us got tired of hearing that damned word over and over again. And it was said that if the chair could not find a useful topic to discuss, they would always default to Gratitude…

Tonight the chair chose the topic of Gratitude from Living Sober.

Many folks I know do this gratitude list on a daily basis. The women love the task, and they all talk about how wonderful the living list is on a daily basis. A few of the men I know do the same. The Gratitude list will change your life, it was said. It’s a good way to start your day, with a little gratitude.

From where I sit the reading or sometimes the discussion starts with me. Today it started up the line on the outer circle of the room and came down and around to me. I wouldn’t be sober – but for the meetings and the fellowship. And I surely would not be the man I am without the people in the rooms.

The twenty or so odd people we invited to the wedding eight years ago, most of them were/are sober today. One of our friends painted a mural that hangs on our living room wall, especially painted for us with love.

Another friend took care of photography – The men of our wedding party. All of the men pictured here are well, they all have prospered, but only one of them is missing from our lives today.

I was waiting tonight for the sentence that I would take away from the meeting, and it finally came. The last person to share, one of our women, spoke the words “I am not a dying drunk!” She is sober some time now and is in need of a liver transplant and finally a couple of weeks ago told us that they found a match and that the surgery would be coming up soon. Amazing the things that might come from the rooms. If you just but believe …

Gratitude is a good thing. Life could be so much worse. But it isn’t today because we are sober. And I have friends and fellows whom I can talk to about anything.

And for that I am grateful…

As we Understood Him …

Courtesy: Sqwhirlly

Sunday, sitting at (1c) at this hour. It is cold outside. People coming and going, here and there, all bundled up …

The Seville project up the block is coming along nicely. Phase three is going up quite quickly. And I noticed today on the way out that Bank of Montreal will have a branch on the sidewalk level of building two. Which means, ATM access right around the corner for us.

I also heard the Omer Deserr’s building that has been empty for forever and a day will become condos. This is quite the upgrade for our neighborhood. Finally the West end of downtown will finally be renewed. There are only a few storefronts that are still dark that need rebirth.

It was a quiet night on the way out. I arrived at the church to set up as usual, and we were done just past 5. We had a fair sized group, we sat all the chairs and then some. We are still amid “Bill’s Story…” The chair kept the reading short and we ended on the passage …

“Why don’t you choose your own conception of God ?”

The lead up to this passage tells the story about a friend of Bill’s from high school coming to visit Bill – and thinking he would find someone to commiserate with and drink with him, Bill was mistaken. We saw this part of the story played out on screen the other night… Bill’s friend had found religion.

Scoffing at the thought of God in all his incarnations, Bill had to come to believe in his own conception of God, and eventually Bill did have that lightening bolt – stand up straight spiritual experience.

The concept of God as we understood him – was a the genius stroke of Bill’s wisdom, coming to write down his story, the steps and finally the traditions.

Who is God, What is God, Why is there a God? And Do we really need a God?

When we spoke of God, we hear the many names that we call god. Some believe in God, and some just don’t know about God. But within their prayers they find it efficacious… Which means “it works.” ref: Margaret Craven…

I grew up with an incarnation of God. I was introduced to it by my grandmother who took me to church that one day and offered me to God. I’ve told this story in “Naked and Sacred” –> over there in the Pages.

She made sure that God would know who I was. Because it came to pass that I really needed God, and the pact that she made with God, lasted my whole life.

Looking at it from so far down the road, as it happened, God did not forget me. It is only By the Grace of God, I survive today. First sobriety is a blur of light. I had my work cut out for me, and we all begged God one more minute, one more hour and one more day … I know what that feels like. The urgency of prayer. The yearning behind the words, spoken and silent. Beseeching God to let us live…

But we come to that all important response to our prayers …

“Not my will, but Thy will be done …”

God took a lot of people from me. And from the world. But he left me alone. And I believe that the prayers of so many asked God to leave me alone. That I was too young – that I deserved at least a shot. But didn’t all those others deserve a shot as well? What about them? In Todd’s world, it wasn’t about them, it was strictly about me and my survival. And in reality that was all I could handle.

I know what God looks like. I know his eyes, and I know his voice.

Second sobriety I did not have all those problems I had the first time. It was just me. And I prayed. I prayed a lot. And those prayers were all answered because I honestly asked for help and it came.

“The Lord hears the cry of the poor, blessed be the Lord …”

Lucky me that I returned for a second kick at the can. I got the book from my sponsor Perry. He walked me through the Steps within the first year of sobriety. I did not have a problem with God. I had a problem with me.

It took a while to sort this all out. Like I needed reminding who God was and to remember that I wasn’t God.

I was talking to a friend before the meeting and we were talking about God and community, and I said that I spent a year in a Catholic Seminary, and his response was “you could write a book about just that year of your life!” And I am sure I could. It would take a little work.

In regards to God as I understood him … That year in seminary, so long ago, was a pretty phenomenal time in my life. I had grown up in the church, and people knew, as I think, my grandmother knew, that one day I would be consecrated to God, in service to the church … so I thought as well.

I spent a year praying. I think that is one thing I did well. I don’t so much worry about my fellows during that time, they had their issues and I had mine. I was a silent boy. Who gardened in his spare time. Who spent time in chapel, in spiritual direction, in mass. I came to know God. And I loved God. I learned to listen for his voice, I once had a spiritual experience when David died, God was a desire.

Sadly at the end of that year, it came down to the judgment of a man, one man, who believed that I didn’t have what God required, so they sent me away.

Can you imagine … How mad at God I became. I felt cheated. I was ashamed. How could I face my parish, my pastor, and tell him that I did not make the cut.

Now, so many years later… I know where the men who did make the cut ended up. And what their motives were, really.

For a long time, God was kept at arms length. Until Father Jeff McCormick walked into my life. I was in my assigned pew one Sunday night, and the entrance song began and the procession walked past us. And in on crutches, walked Father Jeff McCormick.

God became incarnate again for me. That day I spoke that I would never complain about my life ever again. Over the next year, we worked together on my concept of God. The writing of Margaret Craven was instrumental to introducing me to God. And I still return, again and again to her book

“I heard the Owl call my Name.”

If there is a God, today, I would like to think God is a young twenty six year old man, ministering to a band of people, high on the up-coast, where the living of life  is measured in the way we serve each other, and the depth of commitment we have to one another.

A year into sobriety, this time, my after care counselor asked me, on my first anniversary, “what was I going to do for me?” Since I had worked so hard trying to stay sober, it wasn’t a picnic, but I persevered and won my battle.

I spent the next 9 years studying God. All my time, talent and treasure was spent learning about the many names of God, the many traditions that worship God, from East to West, from the Americas, to the reserves, to the far East and beyond.

God as I understood him …

During Passover my first year in University, I was participating at Shul in the McGill Ghetto. Praying to the brick Western wall in the shul. It was the most amazing experience. People of the book.

It was interesting studying God in University, and coming to believe in sobriety. How the track opened up to me and how God, over the last 10 plus years, has made himself known to me in the rooms, all over town.

Stick around long enough, and watch people get sober. Watch their signs change and their demeanor’s perk up. And if you are lucky, get to witness a spiritual experience or two in the rooms.

There is nothing more divine than seeing the light of God come down into the room and alight on someone’s head as the light rises in their eyes and God says

Here I am. Do you see me?

Just imagine …

For me there is a God. In my minds eye I see him. And in sobriety, the work now is sitting down, or kneeling down, saying my prayer, AND THEN taking the time to WAIT on God to speak to me. Sometimes it is quick, and other times, it might take a while, you never know through who or by whom God will make himself known to  you.

This is called the Ladder of the Monks. A piece I wrote some time ago during my study, but it is applicable today.

“Reading, Meditation, Prayer and Contemplation, these make a ladder for monks (or anyone) by which they are lifted up from earth to heaven.”

“Reading is the careful (respectful) study of the Scriptures, concentrating all one’s powers on it. Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is the heart’s devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good. Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of ever lasting sweetness.”

Guigo the 12th century Carthusian monk, explains the interconnection ‘Reading without meditation is sterile, meditation without reading is liable to error, prayer without meditation is lukewarm, meditation without prayer is unfruitful, prayer when it is fervent wins contemplation but to obtain it without prayer would be rare, even miraculous.’

Today some practitioners of Lectio Divina add a fifth step – to put into action their faith.

Material taken from Academic Course Pack, “Catholics Believe What?” by Steve Tyson.

This is the path I take to recognizing God as I understand him.

As there are many people, so there are concepts of God. We come together – to come to believe together – in a God of our understanding.

“I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book through, and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray…”

Tis the Season for Random Acts of Kindness …

We are days away from Thanksgiving in the United States. Since Canada is a few months ahead on the schedule, holiday decorations are up and holiday music is playing in the malls. The weather is crisp but no snow as of yet.

Here in Canada, I’ve read stories of people sharing random acts of kindness with their fellow man at several Tim Horton’s by the by. And this informs this post I am writing now.

There is always a chance to act kindly towards friends, fellows and those who might need a little cheer. It doesn’t take much.

A friend, the other day wrote a post about Cancer Warriors on his blog, and I know that as soon as I post this entry, it will appear on his blog.

I have a friend who is a member of my home group, and has been a friend for all the years I have lived in Montreal. Over the past year, life has changed for him as he is in his 70’s now and he has been struck with cancer.

This is the second friend I have walked through cancer with over the past decade or so. And I see him several times a week at meetings and the other night I invited him along to watch the Bill W. movie with my sponsor.

I spoke to him today and he was so happy that we took him along and that he was able to attend the film with friends, and not by himself.

It was nothing really. I just thought that he might enjoy the outing and so he did.

It’s the little things that mean so much to people.

So as we approach Thanksgiving in the U.S. how will you employ the fine act of kindness to your fellow man and woman? A meal is the greatest place to share kindness with fellows. Breaking Bread is the most important act of sharing in community.

As the holiday’s approach I remind you that there are millions of people in need and they are right there under our noses. The homeless and the disadvantaged, the poor and the lost.

There are thousands of homeless kids all over America and here in Canada.

So if you are moved this holiday season to find a kiosk that helps people, spend a buck or two and help another, just because you can. You never know how you will be able to lend a hand.

Look around your community and see what needs are there. Especially those in the North East and New York and New Jersey. So many people are hurting and may not get the chance to celebrate at home a real thanksgiving.

While parades march down the mall in New York City next week, right up the street are people who won’t be celebrating but trying to figure out where they are going to go, where to find their next meal and find fuel and new places to call home.

Buy someone a coffee in line behind or in front of you. Buy a meal for someone on the street. Take some time to give to your local food pantry. Share your goodness with your fellows at church. There are so many places to give…

What will you do for your community and how will you do it?

This is not about us, but about them.

A random act of kindness needs no reward. And should come with none. Do it because you want to not because you have to.

Tis the season for kindness to our fellow man. And it begins with us.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Make the season joyous and bright.

“I Thirst” redux …

A point I almost forgot from the film this evening was the phrase “I Thirst.” It came oddly during the film, and several people who saw the film before me brought up this point, and equated the phrase as coming from Mother Teresa of Calcutta … which it did…

The notion of Thirst is a theme that runs throughout our lives, and more for the man or woman who is living a sober life. At the onset of alcoholism, we all experience the phenomena of thirst. And if we get caught up in “thirst” it takes us to our cups. And in time, and for most, the thirst grows ever more until we reach the point that we just cannot drink enough and our thirst becomes unquenchable.

But there is a solution. In the Book !!!

In order for that thirst to end, we must come to the realization that it is God who removes from us the compulsion to drink. A feat no man or woman could accomplish on their own, trying to “do it” themselves. Very few succeed at this juncture. When we hit bottom and realize that we are licked and that we cannot go on with this – there is the book.

And one day, sometime in early sobriety we reach the day that the desire to drink leaves us. And eventually we find “god as we understand him.” God is fraught with complications for many when they come in.

And I think, as I wrote earlier tonight, that the genius came when Bill W. employed the phrase “god as we understand him.” And in the beginning people come up with their own concept, be him God, or Good Orderly Direction, or simply “group of drunks” we gather together to share our stories and our experiences that become a very valuable bank of experience that we can all draw upon on a daily basis.

It is mentioned in the film this notion of “I Thirst…” And unless you are familiar with the story of just what “I Thirst” means and who spoke those words they fall on deaf ears. Where once we thirsted for drink, we come to find our concept of God and we begin to thirst for spiritual truth and peace.

We learn how to mediate thirst. We will thirst till the day we die, but to drink again would be a miserable choice in sobriety. Which is when we learn to employ prayer and meditation.

You may recognize “I Thirst” as one of the last words that Jesus says hanging on the cross. And it is this meditation that Mother Teresa has worked into a very fine meditation about thirsting for Jesus.

As I near my 11th anniversary, and having this phrase tattooed on my person, and hearing it again tonight in the film brings the meaning full circle, because I heard it spoken in reference to Bill and the Alcoholics Anonymous movement. It caught me off guard really, and I had to sit and ponder it seeing I left it off the first post. But the topic is one that can stand on its own here.

“I Thirst” is engraved on my 10 year chip and tattooed on my arm. And every day I bathe and during that I care for my ink with care and respect.

I may not thirst for the drink any more, but I do Thirst for God.

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

Here is the meditation from Mother Teresa…

To the end of her life, Mother Teresa insisted that the single most important reason for the existence of the congregation she founded was to satiate the thirst of Jesus. “The General End of he Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for Love and Souls.”

“I thirst,” Jesus said on the cross when Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute Poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul. He spoke of His thirst – not for water – but for love, for sacrifice.

Jesus is God: therefore, His love, His thirst is infinite. Our aim is to quench this infinite thirst of a God made man. Just like the adoring angels in Heaven ceaselessly sing the praises of God, so the sisters, using the four vows of Absolute Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Charity towards the poor ceaselessly quench the thirsting God by their love and of the love of the souls they bring to Him.

Mother Teresa writes:

Jesus wants me to tell you again … how much is the love He has for each one of you – beyond all what you can imagine … not only He loves you, even more – He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy…

For me it is so clear – everything in the Missionaries of Charity exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of every MC chapel, they are not from [the] past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it? … Why does Jesus say “I Thirst”? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words – …”I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.