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Archive for February, 2017

Monday: Flooded with Feeling …

Do you believe in Love

Friday night I saw some folks I don’t usually see at the Friday meeting. In fact, I haven’t seen either one of them since last September. Not a call, Not a meeting, Nothing …

Saturday I spent time with one of my women I work with. And she told me a story, about one of those men I saw the night prior. Many, Many months ago, our man went to Florida and he used, pissing away 11 years of sobriety … I know, of him, that he stopped coming to meetings for a long time, so long, that I was given his key and his treasury responsibility. He did not call, nor did he talk to me or anyone else in that particular room, for that matter.

Now I know why … He used and came home and isolated and kept a secret. For MONTHS. And I know, from his history, how hard he worked to get sober, quoting the book, like he knew the book, like the back of his hand … He didn’t …

Friday night, he sat next to me, and did not say two words to me all night long. He and my other friend left after the meeting and did not stay to talk.

This is what happens when you stop going to meetings, you stop talking to people, you keep secrets and your sobriety looses its priority.

Sad. That particular meeting did not feed him, like it needed to and he stayed away from meetings that might have fed him and kept him “on the beam.”

But addict for addict and alcoholic for alcoholic, we are going to do what we are going to do, and damn the torpedoes.

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You never know what is going to rise to the surface, when you step into a room.

Tonight’s read talks about:

  • Drinking,
  • Drinking some more.
  • Driving Drunk,
  • Driving drunk some more.
  • Going to a meeting because it meant more for them, rather than for us,
  • Coming to realize that “hey, maybe I’m an alcoholic too !”
  • Coming, Coming to, and Making a decision …
  • Speaking the Third Step Prayer for themselves …

Flooded with Feeling, has been the story of my life for the past good chunk of months. Many of my friends, men and women, are in this mix right now, themselves. The Monday night meeting is a wealth of experience, strength and hope.

The line that stuck out in this story goes like this …

“I just wanted another drink …”

 

My Momma once said to me that: “You better Never find yourself in jail, because if you do, I will never bail you out, you will be on your own.”

I did listen to some of the advice she gave me, however backhanded that single piece of advice was, when it was delivered. I did, many times, get behind the wheel while intoxicated. And it is a good thing that nobody ever got hurt. Because I was seriously stupid. But what is an alcoholic going to do ?

Nothing stands between us and that next drink …

Happy hour only lasted from 4 to 7. Then you had to go home, change your office clothes for dance clothes, and return for the nightly debauchery. Over and Over and Over.

Until one day, You become a character written about in the Big Book, being that tornado, running ragged, in the life of someone trying to get sober at the same time.

Sadly, I would remain that tornado for three more years, until Todd stepped in and said the word STOP. I am amazed, that all the people I drank with, who got sober, before I did, never said a word to me, while I was IN IT. And to this day, I don’t know why they didn’t try to help me. Because the trajectory of my life would surely have been different, had that actually happened, but didn’t.

Our man, in this story, relates his approach to the Third Step and the Prayer. While on the phone, with the lady friend who took him to his first meeting, he writes that “while on the phone he read the Third Step Prayer to her… then afterwards he returns to the prayer and repeats it to himself.”

When I got sober the first time, I had Todd in my life. And every night, coming to work, the practice was, to turn my life over, every time I crossed the threshold into the bar. I practiced that task every night for two years. I learned how to do that and trusted in the man I was turning my life over to, because I am still alive.

When I got sober the second time, It was just me, and my prayer to God. There was nobody else out there, holding my hand. And let me tell you just how unsure I was of myself, not knowing IF I could TRUST myself alone … IF I could do it RIGHT.

It did not come for a long time, the revelation of Todd and Step Three, being the incarnation of God Himself in my life when I really needed it. I did not make that connection until I began to relate my memoirs on this blog many years ago.

I had seen God, in the flesh. I knew there was a God, all along. I knew the drill. I just did not trust anything that I did, on my own.

But I am getting better at it, today.

Over the years, I’ve watched the men I worked with, who for some, did not necessarily believe in God, how they worked around the Third Step, each for their specific sensibilities. The Friday meeting has been a proving ground for our young people, who also, many of them, could not see past the word God, and got and stayed sober.

Many of them came, stayed a bit, left, and never returned.

Even though we spent years studying the word God, trying to find work around’s to allow the belief in whatever worked until they figured God out for themselves.

Every day, we have an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.

Do I want a thimble full of God, one day at a time, or
Do I want a bucket full of God, one day at a time ???

And when is it that I realize that I am a drop in the big ocean that is humanity (read: God). And that I am one with ALL that is, because a little of all that is OUT THERE, is within me, and that a little piece of WITHIN ME is one with all that is OUT THERE.

And that, as I live and breathe, the universe out there, knows, before I even utter a single thought, prayer or word …

How amazing is that ???

 

 


“Human devastation syndrome”

 

15896003_10101383430770686_8990300469618124644_o_0 By Charles Davis

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It feels insufficient to say that children from Syria are suffering from “PTSD.” The oft-orphaned survivors of a horrible ongoing humanitarian crisis are, likely, experiencing post-traumatic stress, but these children of war have experienced more trauma — physical and emotional — than the medical professionals who care for them have ever seen: the shredded remains of their mom or dad, blown apart by a regime barrel bomb, a Russian cruise missile, or, increasingly, U.S. airstrikes.

“Human devastation syndrome” is Dr. M.K. Hamza’s term for the orphaned end-result.

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“We have talked to so many children, and their devastation is above and beyond what even soldiers are able to see in the war,” Hamza, a neuropsychologist with the Syrian-American Medical Society, told ATTN:. “They have seen dismantled human beings that used to be their parents, or their siblings. You get out of a family of five or six or 10 or whatever — you get one survivor, two survivors sometimes. A lot of them have physical impairments. Amputations. Severe injuries. And they’ve made it to the refugee camp somehow.”

Hamza chairs the mental health committee of SAMS, whose 1,000 Syrian-American members have volunteered to provide medical aid wherever survivors of the worst war the 21st century has yet seen can be found.

“You have children who are devastated,” he said, “and this is not the end of it.”

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The emotional and material problems facing Syrian civilians are compounded every day by the crushing poverty and exploitation that Syrians experience at refugee camps — where 1 in 5 of the half-million inhabitants are under the age of 11 — and on the streets of Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan, which host the majority of the more than 4.9 million people who have fled Syria since 2011, when mass protests for democracy were met with bullets by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Another 6.3 million people are internally displaced, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, and another half a million have been killed.

“Even the word ‘poor’ is not justifiable here because it’s a less than human condition,” Hamza said, speaking from the sidelines of SAMS’ Feb. 18 conference in Huntington Beach, California.

Iyad Alkhouri, a psychiatrist who volunteers with SAMS, testified to that.

“I have patients who tell me they were touched inappropriately by their doctors,” Alkhouri said in an address to the conference. “The doctors, because [the patients] were Syrian, assumed they were ‘whores.’”

“There are girls on the streets of Beirut selling themselves — 8, 9 years old,” he said. “And then you tell their parents: Why don’t you send them to school so they can improve themselves? And they say, ‘They make $50 a day. Can you give me $50 a day?’”

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“Whatever we’re doing is just a Band-Aid,” Anas Moughrabieh, an intensive-care physician with SAMS, told ATTN:.

He’s helped care for Syrian patients evacuated to the Turkish border town of Antakya, where he’s also trained medical workers returning to treat the victims of bombings and shellings in Syria itself. “We try to fill the gaps,” he said, “but all the relief organizations — we’re just putting a Band-Aid on the wound. We’re not addressing the root cause of the problem.”

The root cause of the problem, as he sees it, is a “tyranny” that, “faced with peaceful people who were demonstrating for democracy in the beginning — it faced them with arms and airstrikes.” Nearly every hospital or clinic SAMS supports in Syria has been attacked, and nine out of 10 times it’s by airstrikes, he said, meaning those strikes were carried out by the regime or its Russian ally (the armed opposition does not have an air force).

Over 90 percent of the civilians killed in Syria since March 2011 have been killed by the regime and its allies, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, an independent monitoring organization.

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Syrian-American Medical Society – sams-usa.net

“Instead of providing resources to treat this 10-year-old child who was hit by a missile,” he argued, “we have to stop the missile before it hits them.”

But missiles and governments aren’t the only killers in Syria. “We had one hospital in Aleppo… that was attacked by ISIS thugs, and they came in actually to the ICU and killed one of the patients, who was a civilian,” Moughrabieh said. And in Idlib, the last major opposition bastion after the fall of Aleppo, an armed group “attacked one of our hospitals” and tried to take it over, he said, rebel in-fighting on the ground complementing the threat from above.

One irony, SAMS President Dr. Ahmad Tarakji told ATTN:, is that working in the same area as some of these hostile groups is enough to get one labeled as their ally. Indeed, that’s one of the major threats to humanitarian work these days.

“Anybody who is involved in humanitarian care could be labeled a terrorist,” he said. “The concept — the illusion — of protecting health care workers has been challenged in Syria, meaning you can be killed.”A child who makes it to a refugee camp in these conditions is one of the lucky ones.

“You have millions of children who are devastated,” Hamza, the neuropsychologist, told ATTN:, “and you have to ask, ‘Where is this going to lead?’” One thing is for sure, and it runs counter to the see-no-evil isolationism that, at least rhetorically, is now en vogue: “It’s going to impact the whole world.”


Friday: The Language of the Heart

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Why, at this particular point in history, has God chosen to communicate His healing grace to so many of us ? Every aspect of this global unfoldment can be related to a single crucial word. The word is “communication.” There has been a life saving communication among ourselves, with the world around us, and with God.

From the beginning, communication in A.A. has been no ordinary transmission of helpful ideas and attitudes. Because of our kinship in suffering, and because our common means of deliverance are effective for ourselves only when constantly carried to others, our channels of contact have always been charged with the language of the heart.

There is a reason that the Friday night meeting is the BEST meeting of the week. There are times when the depth of gratitude appears and we are reminded just how lucky was all are to be sitting together in a darkened room for an hour.

They say that the opposite of addiction is not recovery, but CONNECTION.

We all need someone in our lives to stand in our corner and cheer for us. We all need that one particular friend, who is going to show us love and encourage us to step out of our boxes and expand to meet the world head on when we get clean and sober.

The words Gratitude, Silence, God and Rooms came up in discussion.

Another friend spoke about how scientists found Seven planets orbiting a cool dwarf star, Trappist One, some 39 light years from Earth. And if we can prove LIFE on another world, in the coming decades, that is going to blow all of our socks off and change the face of humanity as we know it.

I talked about silence. And how important Silence is to me. I also talked about “The Spirituality of Imperfection,” a book that is making the rounds with the men I work with. And just how important that book is, in teaching us to be spiritually aware, connected to God and connected to one another.

One of the things I think, is important in the lives of my men, is that we learn how to pump GOOD into the world. To ourselves, to our spouses, to our friends, and also to the people we work with on a daily basis.

Pumping good into the world, just for the sake of it, is not the goal here, but for us to engage our fellows with communication that may, one day, come back to us …

Juan works with our young millennial who is stuck in tunnel vision which I wrote about a few days ago. Juan’s job is to pump as much good into his young friend, that one day, he might sit in his office, and have a moment for himself, maybe a moment of clarity, and walk up to Juan and say … “Remember when you said “this” to me, well I get it now !!!

We need to communicate on many levels every day, with many people. And this is something we work on every day, to engage, polish and hone our messages. Because one day, all that work will come back to us, when we least expect it.

That is why, working with others is crucial for our recoveries. The communication of self worth, faith, love and charity can change a life, in ways we just cannot imagine. Which is why we hone our skills together, so that we can welcome a newcomer and spend precious time with them “showing them the ropes.”

God, is the hardest word to communicate to new folks. As we heard tonight, from one of our young men, who is in rehab here, who came from an evangelical home, who later turned his back on God, and went down the addiction rabbit hole, only now, “Coming to, to finding out, who the God of his understanding is, one day at a time.”

The words, keep coming back are appropriate here, because each day we return for another dose of sobriety, we hear communications and we see God (read:Higher Power) move in the rooms.

When I realized this, early on when I got sober this time, watching other people have spiritual experiences themselves, proved to me that there was something outside of myself that was working on my friends. And I wanted that for myself, so I kept returning to particular meetings, watching my friends get sober.

It was the chase for spiritual experience.

Something I tell people who are new, is the most thrilling aspect of going to meetings. Instead of chasing a buzz or a high, or a drunk, we chase healing, spirituality and in the end, God.

Last week, I got on a bus, traveling from Montreal to Ottawa. That ride, is the most peaceful ride. I can find my seat, usually, two rows from the back, on the right side. I sit down and I sink into my seat knowing I am turning my life over to the driver. And however long it takes us to get from point A to point B, is how long it will take.

I just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The return trip, both times I made this transit, is a quiet ride. The “coming home.” People usually sit quietly, not necessarily listening to music or reading, but it is like, we all know, we are, “returning.” And this ride is almost silent, aside from the bus moving and creaking along.

Last fall, on the way home, we were rewarded for our silence. Because as we entered Downtown Montreal, on the highway, a bright, Rainbow stretched from one side of the city to the other. It was magnificent. Everyone on the bus was stunned by the beauty of God.

What do we do at meetings is, we learn to turn off the chatter in our heads. We learn how to sit still. We learn how to listen. And we learn how to communicate.

And one day, it will happen for you, when you sit in a room and you share from your heart, and someone walks up to you afterwards, and says, “what you said changed my life…”

In the rooms, we expect miracles, because where else can you go and witness the miraculous ?

 

 

 

 


Thursday: Dueling Dragons …

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It was a pleasantly BALMY day in Montreal today. This week, we saw temps that are darn right Springy … But we are warned that it won’t last, and that March is going to keep us in the cold for another month.

This week saw all kinds of change.

I live with competing dragons in my system. And either one can be in control, but not both at the same time. And one never knows who is in control until I drop labs. This round, my HIV is in good check but my Diabetes is all out of whack.

On Tuesday I went to clinic one for my lab drop session. Both brothers were in attendance, I got to kill two birds with one stone. The drawback is this, depending on who rules the roost, medication has to be adjusted, and you can’t adjust one side without adjusting the other accordingly.

Doctor Chris, over the years, has managed my medications very well. Because I’ve been testing drugs for him for many, many years. And if they work for me, (in our respective medical circle of drug testers), we are the main line to getting drugs approved in Canada on the whole. So what we do is very important for the community at large.

One by one, over the last five years, my twice a day drugs, have been dropped, opting for once a day dosing medication. But the Once a Day dosing takes time, because the new drugs in the pike were taking longer than usual to get to me, (read Us).

This week, new drugs came online finally. But, if you change one side of the equation, then you have to change the other in conjunction. HIV medications and Diabetes medications, don’t always work together. And I don’t know if one or the other is working well, without trial and error dosing.

If the trend drops either way, the HIV drugs come first.

If I don’t live, no other drug is going to make a difference. So Doctor Chris has to make sure that any new drug he gives me now, needs to plays nice with Diabetes drugs. This round, Diabetes lost.

A new Single dose HIV medication came online … EDURANT

Before I could take this pill, Doctor Chris had to make sure it would work with everything else I was taking already. It didn’t. Which meant my Diabetes drugs had to be tweaked.

Doctor George dropped my Janumet, because Metformin cancels out any good the Edurant will do. Which means I am down one Diabetes drug. And that was the end of that appointment.

Wednesday, I saw Doctor George at his clinic and along with his trial nurse, tried to figure out what they needed to do to make up the difference.

Three months ago, I went on Trulicity injections, once a week at a low dose. Now, it seems, that the low dose was not enough, because I am not managing well at all.

While they conferred together, I stepped on the scale and learned that I dropped ten pounds over the last six months. I knew something was up, when I put on a pair of hubby’s skinny jeans and they fit, WELL.

My Diabetes team upped my Trulicity to double the dose, weekly, along with Invokana, I have a bottle of Glyburide hanging in the wings if need be.

When I got home, I sat down with my nutritional map and planned another tweak to my diet, I am working to eliminate sugar intake at all levels. I put the new plan into action, and I have three months to see how all these changes work together.

If this series works, as it is hoped it will, I will manage both dragons better, and that is the plan. I can produce 1200 t-cells with my eyes closed. That is a given. I am over the ten year mark where my viral load is still undetectable.

Diabetes on the other hand is a capricious lady, who does not play well on the playground.

I have to test every other day to check my trends. I don’t have to prick myself every day any more. The Trulicity is a slow release, weekly dosage. Now that dosage is doubled, along with a moderated dietary plan, it should all work.

Now we dose for this observation period. And I hope to see further weight loss, and better numbers overall.

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Tonight’s take away … I would be ok, if everyone would just leave me alone.

How many of us got to this point before we stepped into the rooms.

Our speaker tonight got sober in December of 1994, the same year I got sober the first time, and I was reminded that had I stayed the first time, I would be 23 years sober now.

But that was not meant to be, and as he said to me, I had a hiccup.

 

 

 


Tight Rope Redux …

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Today is February 20, 2017 … And we revisit the stories in the back of the book. I wrote on this story back in May of 2016, the last time we crossed this story in reading.

This read comes, inside of a new group of people, in a new year, and the shares generated by this read were varied. There are a handful of LGBT folks in this meeting. Both men and women.

In the group, now, there are two of us who are HIV+.  I did not know this before. And after the meeting I spoke to my friend who has more than 35 years being POZ, from back in the First Gen of the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s.

He is heterosexual, and has a wife and children. And comes from the Old Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York Crowd. I am the other. I am Gay, and have lived with AIDS for more than 22 years now. I now have a new benchmark to aspire to. Because when I first moved to Montreal, when I met men who were sick, all I wanted to know from them was how did they get further up the road than I was at. They are all dead now.

I don’t know but a couple of people, over the years, who are like me.

And I said again tonight to a room full of heterosexual alcoholics, that I would gladly trade my medicine cabinet for theirs or give them sickness for a bit so they can understand what it is like to really suffer with an illness that has no cure. Which leads back to last night’s entry about Re-Orientation…

So I am sharing the post that I wrote more than a year ago, because it says everything that I wanted to talk about tonight. The sentiments I wrote about still exist today in our rooms here in Montreal. So you stay away from those sick meetings and abhorrent people.

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

May 31, 2016 …

There is something to be said about “tolerance for those with different struggles.”

Somewhere I heard that it is easier to ACT yourself into a new way of thinking than to THINK yourself into a new way of acting …

This line appears in the above titled story when our man gets to his first series of meetings, after a crash and burn drinking experience. He sits with his sponsor, not so sure about God or Higher Power, and the suggestion of “Act as If” comes.

This story, appears in the fourth edition of the Big Book. Our man, in this story, is Gay. He cites that he is three years sober, he had surgery on his back, his father died, a relationship ended, and the AIDS epidemic started to hit home among his friends and acquaintances. Over the course of the next few years, almost half of his gay friends had died.

This is a Fourth Edition story. Because of the time period cited above. It could be placed anywhere from the 1980’s through the 1990’s, for the sole reason he cites the AIDS epidemic, specifically.

This story and mine are very different. But the writer says, in the beginning, that he comes from a conservative religious family, where alcohol was present. And he had not “Come Out” until he was in college when he began to consider his sexual orientation.

A familiar story in the gay world, in the beginning, when considering whether to come out or stay in the closet, the many lives we live and the faces we put forward, trying to fit all the boxes, with what society says we should be. A business man, a professional, an alcoholic, a friend, and maybe a lover.

So for some, we play the “Straight game” and we play the part, until either we hit that proverbial wall of self discovery, and stop the denial and make the jump, or we remain in the closet hating ourselves and everything about us, because we are living a lie, that, in the end, will eventually, end badly.

I had to play that game, for fear of loosing my life, until I could not do it any more.

Hence the death march into Alcoholism and Drug Addiction and Suicide for many.

Our writer, grew up, and moved away and began attending college, where he began to explore his sexuality. By then he was already drinking.

I grew up in a home where alcoholism was the norm. I knew I was different well before I learned what it meant for me. But my father, with homicidal tendencies, was never my friend. However he had his moments.

I remember the night he took me to the 94th Aero Squadron – a restaurant on the airport runway system at Miami International, for my Birds and the Bees discussion. I could not tell him the truth.

My story may not be unique, but I never tire of thinking about it, and how my life would have been very different, had I STAYED IN THE ROOMS the first time I got sober. But that was not my experience.

Getting sober in the age of AIDS was difficult. Because I could not drink, I had quit. Todd had given me that ultimatum and made it stick. So I was getting sober, and learning how to survive, while all my friends around me were going down in flames. Every night, was as if they were living the last night of their lives, with the copious amounts of drugs and alcohol that went around under my nose.

They are all DEAD.

I think that when it came down to it, with the bar, and Todd’s influence, I had everything I needed. I could have done without the room I was getting sober in, because those men were not kind at all, and made the first year hell for the newcomers.

Having to compete for your year chip is much harder than working for it freely. Sobriety is NOT a RACE. There are no horses to bet on, just a human being trying to get better, under seriously awful circumstances. And this truth did not make it any easier, although it should have.

Then you move to a new city and a new room. And you get asked to speak. And after that event, a man walks up to you and says: “We don’t condone people like you here, leave this meeting and don’t come back!” W.T.F.

Obviously this story had not been printed in the late 1990’s, and from what I remember, not many of those folks, had even the Big Book in the room.

During this time, the preceding years and for many years after, straight people, straight businesses, churches, funeral parlors, you name it … banished sick gay men to the gutter and left them there to die alone. Awful Hateful Abhorrent Prejudice. 

That event in my early sobriety just killed any ambition I had towards sobriety.

To this day, there are hateful people, in our rooms.

With all that is going on in the world, we need all the help we can get. Rooms should welcome and be supportive. But that is not always the case.

Even today, being any shade of L.G.B.T.Q is perilous.

There is no room, in this world, for hatred of a human being because of their chosen way of life. I talk of just how fluid life has become, and how binary it has been for eons of time.

There are a handful of people I know in the rooms I go to who fall under L.G.B.T.Q.

Some are allowed, and nothing is said, then there are those, who, for one reason or another, come and go, and many of them are back out there drinking, because of intolerance and stupidity.

Here is the kicker in this story …

In all the service positions our man held (GSR) and others, He never felt obligated to conceal or deny his sexuality. He says… I always felt that the representatives of the groups in my area were concerned only with HOW we carried the message of recovery, NOT with what I might do in my personal life.

Only if that were reality for ALL meetings in general.

It is not…


Sunday Sundries: IDEALISTIC MILLENNIAL MILLIONAIRE’S DISEASE IS FATAL !!!!

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All we have is this one life, and in the words of the Queen of Ireland …

This is the Big Show. There is no Dress Rehearsal. This is it …

We only get one shot at this life.

We are born, we grow up, are educated in whatever way that education comes, and we are turned loose on the world to make our marks, to get good jobs, have families, and later, children, and hopefully we make some money to live on, and also, to have a little to retire with as well.

We go into the world with our certain world views on ethics and work habits. The world is an unpredictable place, and nothing is ever a given.

Especially if you are addicted to one thing or another …

There is a certain millennial of my acquaintance. He is young and has a good job. But at age twenty-six, all he knows about life, is pounding himself into the ground, working like a madman, trying to make as much money as he can, so by the time he is thirty-five, he will have made enough money to retire on a yacht somewhere, other than in Montreal.

  • He overcompensates in the hopes that he is recognized as a hard worker, therefore, indispensable, and a secure employee.
  • He believes that overcompensation will get him the Golden Ticket and a Million dollars by age thirty-five.
  • He does not work nine to five .. but eight to seven-thirty. He does not see the world as his workmates do. He is focused on one point in time, “retirement at thirty-five.”

But as it went, he mentioned, in passing, that he was not feeling well, and had to see a specialist for a certain medical problem.

You could say that “A Yellow Sign” went up in front of him.

I just wonder, how many YELLOW SIGNS will have to go up, in front of him, hopefully keeping him from ever encountering a RED SIGN of Major Problems ???

We are worried that he is working himself into sickness. Because we know how he sees his job and the end point he desires, and wild horses will not keep him from victory.

Yes, we need a job, something to do, and money in the bank, BUT AT WHAT COST ???

I know, I have friends who are older than me, who have jobs. Some of them enjoy what they do, and work is enjoyable and fruitful. Others, work nine to five, stuck in a cubicle, never seeing the sun at all. They ride a bus for an hour to get into their city centers, they get up in the dark, go to work in the dark, and at the end of the day, they come home in the dark.

Miserable …

All this, in order to secure employment and some cash, but not much.

Some of us were educated in specific studies, that, in the end, did NOT translate into long-lasting, fruitful careers, and we were stuck with something we’d rather not do, but are forced into because of the economy or the lack of really good work opportunities, in our respective fields of study.

I’ve mentioned, in past entries, the concept of the DO OVER, we get when we get clean and sober. The world OUT THERE, does not know of this concept. Most men and women go into the world and they get stuck, in environments that might not be healthy or good for them, but they persist, because it is all they could get.

They might never ponder Re-Orientation.

How many of us go into life and get that really good job, from the get go ? And how many people, out there, get stuck in a life of ambiguity, having to settle for a barista job in a coffee shop, biding ones time, until that Parliament Hill Job opens up ???

Been here, seen it, recently celebrated the emergence out of ambiguity.

But my young millennial friend works with someone I know, who is concerned that our young man is going to kill himself for an ideal, that might not ever happen, because there are no givens in this life.

There is respect in serious work ethics. That young people go out into the world and find their place, in a good job, that PAYS. But At What Cost to their lives ?

I spoke tonight about this topic with a friend, who, like I said, is concerned.

He has, in the past, tried to talk to our young man, to no avail. Our young man is not interested in listening to reason or direction.

How do we help people when we see an opportunity to help them? How many people, really want our advice when it comes to wealth and power? Single focus idealism is good to a certain degree, I just don’t know many people, who came INTO money, coming from without.

I don’t know many successful money spinners that did not pay their dues, one way or another, or came from money so they really did not have to work very hard to get theirs.

In my life, I was a tornado spinning on a collision course with destiny. My aptitude to work hard, honestly, and with integrity was tossed into the trash when my alcoholism took over.

I did not know any better, nor did I really care, either way, where drugs and alcohol were concerned.

God had to throw a Very Big RED Stop Sign in front of me to STOP my forward momentum.

I needed a serious Re-Orientation. AIDS did that for me.

We don’t wish terrible circumstances to befall anyone we know, so that they Re-Orient.

But I wonder, if I could give you sickness for some time, or trade my medicine cabinet for yours, would YOU STOP and take stock and Re-Orient your life, in order to make a change that might really benefit you in the long run ?

God took me out of the world of dating, men and sex. Once and for all. Because that’s what my life turned into in the end.

It was good that I did have a job that paid, a roof over my head and a doctor and minimal drugs, when they counted, when I needed them. But that only lasted so long.

My Re-Orientation was not complete. And would not be complete until I moved to Montreal in 2002. In the end it was not until I hit my late forties that the process came to total fruition.

The possibility that we go into the world, and GET that really good job, that we ENJOY doing, beyond the simple paycheck to make ends meet are slim.

We know many people who are stuck, working jobs they hate and have no passion, because it is all they could get, and are doomed to sit in a cubicle forever …

The koan of “Find your passion, DO IT, money will FOLLOW” is a fallacy.

What a rude awakening that was.

I may not make money doing what I do today. Because I don’t.

But at this stage of my life, I am in a life situation where, I am provided for handsomely. Which frees me to do whatever I want, on a daily basis, because I want to, and not because I have to …

I’ve spent the past fifteen years in University, In the rooms of recovery, listening to people talk about their lives, and just HOW they worked out their Do Over’s.

I have hundreds of books in my library here at home that I have actually READ.

I have, almost fifty years of life experience to bank on and talk about.

I see people, out there, spinning aimlessly, without direction or thoughts to their futures beyond punching a clock, taking home a pittance, doing work they don’t enjoy.

I told my friend tonight what happened to me, in order for God to get me to Re-Orient.

That covenant between God and myself was still in action. A promise was made, long ago, and God needed my attention.

Failure was NOT an option.

Every man and woman out there, has a duty to serve their creator, whomever that creator is. We are duty bound to go into the world and make a difference, with honor and integrity.

And when we get the chance, we try to help our fellows, do the right thing, for the right reasons, and the right intentions.

What would it take for you to consider what you do for a living ?

  • Do you enjoy your job?
  • Do you make good money, Yes or No ?
  • Are you killing yourself trying to work yourself to death all for a paycheck ?
  • Is what you do Fulfilling to your spirit, Yes or No ?
  • If you had the opportunity to Re-Orient, would you ?
  • And if you could, what would you do with the rest of your earning capacity ?
  • What goals do you have for your future prosperity ? Are they attainable or not ?
  • And if they aren’t, how CAN you get there from here ?

Just a few question that came up in our discussion tonight.

You don’t have to settle for just punching a clock and killing yourself in order to retire in your thirties with all the money in the world, you believe you will make between now and then.

Idealistic Millennial Millionaire’s Disease is FATAL …

I don’t personally know any millionaires.

Most of my friends are just getting by, some are miserable, some are not. But it is all in the way you see the world, and how you approach personal success.

SOBERLY …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ottawa – The Nation’s Capitol

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It has been whirlwind weekend spent with Alexander in his new home town, Ottawa. I’ve been disconnected from the internet since Thursday. And I really did not miss it at all.

It was good to spend time with my best friend and see the city, in the Winter. He lives in the heart of The Village. Just blocks from Parliament Hill. He just landed a new job working on the Hill for an MP. We toured the neighborhood where he will be working. The building sits between the Canadian Supreme Court building and Parliament Hill. MP’s are spread over several buildings, because they are numerous, so they could not be located in One Building.

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Canada’s Supreme Court …

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This is the building Rafa will be working in very soon. Very Swanky !!! Next door to the Courthouse.

Yesterday, we spent the afternoon touring The Peace Tower and the Memorial Hall. We missed out on an English tour of The Hill, tickets were sold out. I’d never seen that part of Parliament Hill before. And I have a bunch of photos from the Tower, looking down over Quebec (Gatineau) and Ottawa Proper.

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I read “Shake Hands with the Devil,” written by Romeo Dallaire. It took me over a week to read. And while up the tower I took photos of places that he mentioned in the book. He was living on the Quebec Side, while in Ottawa, and several times in the story he crosses a certain bridge and finds himself in Confederation Park, where he finally hit his bottom, over a bottle of scotch.

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We then visited Memorial Hall, where the names of all the soldiers who have been killed in the service in Canada’s Military are inscribed.The room is quite magnificent, and holds a wealth of meaning to our country.

The last time I was in Ottawa, last Fall, we attended a multi-media presentation which was projected on the face of Parliament Hill, and tells the story of how Canada came to be and how Parliament Hill was built.

Yesterday, we got to see the Tower from the inside and hear the story told by a guard in the Hall. And she shared with us all the constituent pieces that make up the room, from the stones on the floor, to the conflicts carved on the walls, and the several Books of Remembrance, located all around the room.

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All of the soldiers who have died in the service of Canada, in all the conflicts over the decades, their names are written in Memorial Books. There are several. Every day at 11 a.m. the page of each book is turned by the keepers of the hall.

If you are family, of any soldier, in the books, you can communicate with Parliament, when your family members name appears on the page turned for that day. You can come to Memorial Hall and witness the page being turned, to pay respects to your honored dead.

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After our tour, we headed for the Rideau Canal, which runs through Ottawa from the Ottawa River, across the city. The river is frozen, and is the worlds biggest skating rink. There were hundreds of people skating all along the river, which we walked for quite a bit, on the ice.

It Was Cold !!!

By the time we finished our afternoon event, we pulled up to the Rideau Center Mall, for some rest, warmth and quiet. Sitting in the food court, which was unlike any I had ever seen before.

All in All we walked about 8 kilometers over the day, from beginning to end. We went back home to rest for a bit before we hit a Thursday Night meeting in Ottawa. On Friday night we hit another meeting in the neighborhood close to home. The meetings we hit were close and within walking distance. It was good to hit a meeting each night and meet other alcoholics in the city. We did some service, and found Rafa someone to work with, I hope.

We visited the Book Bazaar located just down Bank Street from home. This used book store was HUGE and covered two floors with books piled from floor to ceiling. We spent some time looking around and I picked up a couple of books. If we had more time, and serious amounts of money, one could do some serious damage in a shop like this.

After the meeting Friday night, we came home just knackered. So we all went to bed early, and slept in late this morning. Rafa treated Meg, and myself to a breakfast of champions, which was nice to break bread all together.

This afternoon, I went to play some Dungeons and Dragons with Alexander and his friends. We did not get very far, because I had to catch my Uber to the Bus Station around 2.

Our bus departed Ottawa at 3 p.m. stopping in Kirkland and at the Airport here in Montreal, before ending its run at the central bus station at Berri.

The trip out took four hours because we got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic because our major highway system is under construction and is all torn up as they rebuild the whole entire structure.

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Parliament Hill snowed under …

 

 

 

 


Blood is Thicker than Water … Or is it Really ?

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For many years I didn’t understand the definition of the word “family” at all; I confused it with the word “relatives.” Your “family” isn’t necessarily blood related; it is the people in your life who want you in theirs; the people who accept you for who you are. They are the ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what. Blood makes you related, but it’s loyalty that makes you family.

We’ve all heard the phrase “Blood is thicker than water,” and I always assumed it meant that blood-related family is more important than anyone outside that circle. It wasn’t until recently that I learned the origin of that phrase: “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” It literally means the opposite of what I always thought it did! — From Chapter 4 in Faithfully Religionless


Tuesday: The Cork is Out of the Bottle

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I’ve spoken before about my commitment to my covenant with God. This renewal came with the introduction to the Elders. Namely Elder Christensen. This wise, kind and compassionate young man, turned my covenant upside down.

As Summer came to an end, and I knew change was coming, I had said to God that I was ready to make a serious change. I was telling a friend this morning about that particular conversation. I had given God a few months notice, that at a certain point, I would conceded my inner most self and turn again.

Well, God was having none of that. And in God’s time, everything happens for the greatest good. That day I stepped onto the Metro platform at Acadie, Elder Christensen stepped into my life. Noting that my entrance into the LDS came at a price that I was not willing to pay, what I learned in that spiritual process was not lost on me in any way.

Months prior, early in the Summer, during the month of June, my emotional safety valve was turned and the first of many cathartic emotional moments began to occur.

It is what it is.

My friend pointed out to me that maybe I need to stand on my own two feet, and trust the process and the feelings that are hitting my dashboard right now, and not need to seek approval to stand where I am. And that maybe the message is quite clear, to my friend, at least, that maybe I am being taught something particular.

GROWTH.

I don’t always see patterns for myself. Which is why, when I talk to friends, they must be “in the game” with me, not someone looking from the outside in, and giving commentary.

Who knows what the “right way” to grow up is ? How do we know we are doing this thing correctly ? Am I supposed to just mushroom, sitting in the dark, and being fed shit ? Are we not supposed to have emotions, and better yet, express them in open community ?

For the record, I give of myself, until my tanks are empty. I’ve spent countless days, hours, months and years, being of service, that led to the point where I had another emotional encounter with someone, in the past, that I had to meter what I said to him, knowing how I had to speak to him and with him, always editing my comments, so as to not put a dent in his very fragile sensibilities.

But at the point where I had to be brutally honest, and speak my mind, it may not have been pretty what I said, but what I said was the truth. I had over two years invested with this particular human being, and in the end I learned a lot about myself, and also, I learned much about my friend, and other friends, in conjunction together.

That crowd of people who sit in “Cannot be Bothered” and “Telephoneaphobia” they are maddening. One particular friend who was witness to an outburst of voice, will not call, ever. However, he sends me a cryptic text on Christmas day, that kind of passive aggressive one liner … I know you are unwell, so I am sending you positive vibes… But I won’t call you because I don’t want to have a conversation with you in any case.

The cork is out of the bottle. The genie is out of the lamp, and there will be blood.

I am at this point where the filter is off and I am running on pure emotion. And my friend, this morning said that, maybe I need to sit in my truth and continue feeling what is coming, because this might be a serious teaching moment of GROWTH.

I told God I wanted change. I said that I was ready and willing, and I guess that’s all we need to say to God, “I am ready and willing” and God responds by shifting the cosmos to meet us. And at the point, everything changes.

I can freaking see bullshit. And I know what an asshole looks like and smells like. I’ve seen people, in the recent past, turn into animals. Arrogant, self righteous, compassion-less, and stupid. And I’ve heard the words they said to me, and instead of responding in kind, I just walked away and cut them out of my life.

People in the rooms, travel on the calm and never emotional river of life. We don’t express ourselves to others and surely not to ourselves. God forbid we rock the boat or say something that might be construed as “uncouth.”

I just know, I am at a point where, I can’t stay silent any longer. My silence on certain topics just tells people that I give consent to whatever bullshit is coming out of their mouths.

They Say Silence Gives Consent.

We’ve read the books, over and over, We’ve done the work, over and over … Isn’t about time we turn it all over and let is all hang loose, and just BE ?

I don’t usually listen to my own advice, but I have said that the only thing that has to change in sobriety is everything, and that at some point, in sobriety, we are going to begin feeling. What we don’t know about that second portion is, “feeling to what extent ?”

I mean just HOW MUCH is this going to hurt … ?

People do not like that I am a bit cracked emotionally. But I’ve been listening to my friend talk about themselves, and they are CRACKED well worse than I am. Some of my friends are just plainly Fucked. I’ve heard their stories, and now I know, that I sure as shit, did not make the same decisions, nor the same mistakes they did. And I am much better for having been able to distinguish that when it really counted.

The way I am sober is directly related to all the shit I watched my friends do over the last fifteen years. I did something right. I am growing up. I mean fifty is just around the corner You’d think I would KNOW a few things by now, and be able to call BULLSHIT honestly, from the get go when I see it and hear it.

But I know, I don’t want to piss off my friends are say something that is totally out of my calm, sober and demure character. My friends have been witness to my emotional cracks in my persona. Many of them have cut me off and run for the hills.

Fuck me for being me. You really did not care about me, you were more concerned with the package than what was on the inside. Many of my friends were attracted to the image of calm and serene, but when faced with chaos and uncertainty, they all ran away screaming and yelling.

That speaks volumes about them, and not necessarily about me.

I’m really trying to find my way in this new reality. My friends are doing for me what I can’t do for myself.

And God is in the drivers seat.

Clearly in control of the bus.

Not sure where this was going, or where we ended up, but a few thoughts for the night.


Friday: Stories …

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We sat a small group tonight, which is very unusual. Not sure where everybody was tonight, they just weren’t at the meeting. The topic was Spiritual Alibi … And touched on several points, firstly, our inventories, self-aggrandizement, approval, power, fame and applause.

A small group, usually leads to serious discussion, because there is more time to talk about ourselves. Sometimes the discussion is simple, sometimes it is deep and tragic, and other times, we just need to hear ourselves talk, just to know we made the right decision by coming to a meeting and showing up.

If we don’t talk, how do we know we are moving forwards ? A good portion of getting sober is action. Part of that action is coming to meetings. I take it one step further, where in every meeting I go to, I want to learn something about my friends, and something about myself.

The bulk of How I Got Here, is based on watching other people do what they have done over the years, and learning from THEIR mistakes. Not that I don’t make mistakes, I do. I am no perfect angel, and I surely don’t have all the answers. But I know what I know, and my bank is full of useful information that maintains my “Base of Operation.”

In reading the passage tonight, the word APPROVAL appears.

And right away, I latched onto the word, because it stirs a very hard lesson, that I learned from Todd, the first time I got sober.

I look back at all my years, and I can tell you that the two best years of my life, were spent in service to my caregiver Todd. He got in the game with me because he thought it was the right thing to do at the time. I had nobody else to turn to. He made a conscious choice to be part of my life, in the way that he did.

Every moment was used in learning how to survive.

The difference between myself, and you a normal human being is that I have faced my own death, I almost lost my life in the process, and I lived. I have the greatest lesson under my belt. The lesson of knowing how to die, and learning what really matters.

Normal humans don’t get this lesson, until they themselves get sick, or face their own deaths, or in the end, they die. We go about our life, doing what we are going to do, for better or worse. We don’t usually concern ourselves with worrying about death, until death Call Our Name…

Some know, for sure, that they Do Not have another Recovery within them. And they live with that conscious fear of going back out, and that keeps them “On the Beam.” Living with that kind of fear can be counter productive, because if we live in fear, we are not living in peace. We are expending energy where it could be better used elsewhere.

I’ve had my slip experience. I know what it feels like to be In and be Out. I know what took me out, and I know how hard I had to fight to get it back again. I know, implicitly, that if I ever picked up again, death is certain. I don’t live in fear that I don’t have another recovery within me.

I know what I have to do, on a daily basis. And when I don’t, I call a friend, I have a conversation and I do service, until I turn blue.

I’m in a state of not really knowing what I am supposed to be doing. Because I know now that God had “cleaned my clock” by showing me emotion in myself. And in that action, I learned just what my friends think of me. And in the same action, every situation where I was expending energy uselessly, those situations, meetings, and people were removed from me.

That is what I know right now.

I also know that many of my friends suffer from a sickness … “TELEPHONE-APHOBIA.”

The fear of using the phone.

That is a litmus test for people who think they want to know me. I give them my phone number and I ask them to call me. For the most part, my phone is quiet. I only hear from those men who I work with right now, or my best friend.

The Lesson of Approval …

Every night, at the bar, had its meaning. Every night, I sat with Todd, before shift.

I cried. I sobbed. I begged.

He would talk, and I would listen.

Then I would get my nightly work inventory. Along those two years, while I was going to meetings, and not really getting anything useful from them, what I WAS getting, was credible, true, sober lessons, from someone who was not IN the program, but his partner was.

In the beginning, while I was waiting to die, I would work my ass off. If only for one thing:

Approval.

For a long time, I would attack my nightly list. And every time I ticked something off that list, I would go back to Todd for a pat on the back. I needed him to say that I had done a good job. Those words were gold to me.

A while later, he figured out that I had a problem. I thought that if I was doing what I was told, and I was surviving the best way I knew how, that I needed to be told so.

At one point, Todd would have my friend Puddles, give me my nightly list. He would purposely avoid me. He would not talk to me, nor allow me to approach him while I was on shift. On any regular night, I could look across a crowded room, and catch his eye, from all the way across the bar. He had the eyes of Jesus. Blue Grey.

I could not seem to catch his eye either.

At the end of shift, I would get paid out and wait for him to speak to me. Which he did not. So I would go home, bent …

Twelve days went by, with him purposely ignoring me. I needed to learn the lesson about approval. I was a mess the night he finally said something to me, and I sobbed in his arms.

He took me by my chin and said the following …

“One day, you might have a job, where you are working for a son of a bitch who will take advantage of you and disrespect you. And you might have a job, where your efforts will go unnoticed. So you need to always do the right thing FIRST, and not DEPEND on anyone to give you something you can give yourself.”

A few weeks later, a coup would take place in the bar, and Todd and his partner were fired, and escorted out of the bar. And in that moment, those words became true.

I would not last very long, under the regime change. I would find a new job, in a new city, and in the end, I would be alone.

Every memory I have with Todd is wrapped in a particular lesson, that I got to learn in the furnace of Death, Faith, and Spirituality. I have certain gifts, that none of you will ever get, until your appointed time arises.

It’s not about my ego. It’s the plain truth. Many of my friends don’t see it that way, and believe me to be arrogant and prideful. Keeping ones self in check is the job of spiritual practice. If I don’t practice spiritual work, on a daily basis, all my character defects will rise and haunt me.

Recently, as it has gone, every time I hear someone SPEAK and tell their story, I come home, and I listen to myself, tell me my story, again and again. But as I listen to myself talk, I work in what I heard that night from whomever spoke and see where, what I heard can be useful to me.

One day, someone is going to ask me to Speak again. And those nights are far and few between. I’m not on the Speaker Circuit. Like many old timers are. Nor do I want to be on any circuit. I just go to meetings as I always do.

At some point, someone is going to hear something I say, and want to know more, and a teaching moment will appear. That hasn’t happened in a while.

The Spirituality of Imperfection is a game changing book. It will turn your sober journey upside down and make you a better human being all the way round.

I may not be always spiritually fit, which I why I have to practice, every day.

We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection…

I’m not yet perfect.

I know that those people I used to know, saw me in my imperfect state, and that sent them running for the hills screaming …

Better off alone and happy, than need to be approved by everyone in a meting.

I can’t get anyone sober. We are imperfect beings, but it is something when imperfect humans accept us, imperfectly, as we are, without judgment.

Sadly, Some people are incapable of this.


Thursday: Finding Her People

 

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Can I just say that it is bitterly COLD outside. My poor tootsies froze on my transit.

UGH, can we get to Spring any sooner, please ?

February is moving along, and our team tonight, was made up of all new people in all areas of the meeting. I opened and a lady friend of mine was in the chair.

Hearing fresh stories are such learning experiences. Thursday night has seen a number of “Firsts” over the last few months. Our speaker tonight, was a young lady, whom I know from other meetings.

In her own words, “throughout her life, she thought it was necessary to hide every identifying marker that defined her. That she just had to hide who she really was, because her view of the world was so skewed.”

I try to tell my Lady readers, when I hear stories like this, that there are women out here who suffer, sometimes worse than the men do. Because in the end, tonight, when she finally made it to the rooms, she was dead inside.

Her junkie boyfriend once said to her, after he visited us occasionally, that “she would like us, if she was an alcoholic.” That one sentence rattled around her brain, until she was ready to come to a meeting.

People who come from small places in Canada, small towns, in far away provinces, this story is particular. Coming from dysfunction she did not know any better. By the time she hit high school, she had constructed a very fine facade to make sure she gave her friends the right image of who she thought she should be, and certainly, not who she really was.

People coming from small communities, with very little population, and moving into large city situations where many people are, can be jarring.

  • In the end, she drank fast, to get “somewhere” other than where she was.
  • She was always trying to get somewhere else.
  • Because where she was, wasn’t cutting it for her.

Bring an Atlantic Province, small town girl, to Big City Montreal, with all its distractions and situations, brought our young lady to her knees.

The part of her story that I identified with was this …

Her longest relationship was with a boy, who was a junkie. Living in a house that was falling down around them, the only thing our young lady really wanted was “really good window coverings.”

She just did not want to see the light of day at 4pm while she slept.

Holding together an abusive, junkie relationship took all she had. And barring anyone or anything else, all she could do was try each day to hold it together, until that challenge became untenable.

I’ve said before that our young people suffer greatly. And the women, more so than the men. Their stories are frightful. Some of us guys listen and compare how hard we got into trouble with our addictions, and our stories pale in comparison.

When I began my slip, I was answering the call of the Hole in My Soul. And I packed up my house and moved 1000 miles from home into the middle of the United States answering a call to be with someone, I really had no idea about in reality.

Nobody knew where I was. If I had been arrested or died in that place, nobody would have missed me or come looking for me either. Living with an active junkie is a seriously tall order. Because, to outsiders, we had to present a common front, as if to say, its really not bad, we are ok. When in reality I was dying inside, stuck somewhere I really regretted finding myself.

That eighteen months was serious hell. I did make contact with an angel in the outside world at one point, who, when the time was right, sent the cops to get me out and save my life. There is no holding together a relationship with someone who was dead set upon self destruction and my destruction as well.

I had to get out.

Our young lady, in the end, found her way out, into the rooms.

What she found turned her life around in so many ways. That finely crafted facade fell away, when she realized that there were other women like her to talk to, and identify with.

I talk about how restorative the rooms are, if you use them wisely.

In our young lady’s case, all those problems like home, house, money and life, just melted away, and turned around, as if on their own.

I do not minimize the work she had to do, in this one years time, to see the wisdom in the choice she made that fateful day when she arrived on our doorstep. She is wise. After only a year and a couple of months, her life has seriously turned around.

I see her on Friday nights. Our young women are a tight bunch and they travel in packs to meetings, which is a very good thing.

Coming out of the dark, not having to hide who she was, behind a facade was freeing in miraculous ways. Can you imagine the energy and effort it took her to construct this wall between her and the outside world ?

Now, imagine for a moment, when she frees up all that pent up energy, and points it inwards, and turns all that negativity into positive strides …

That is Miraculous Power.

I know what that power is, because I learned that lesson myself.

In the end she said that in the rooms she had “Found her people.”

She exuded Gratitude from the heart.

 

 


Monday: Seasons – Who Are We ?

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Tonight we read another “Woman’s Story.” Because I am an Alcoholic, was written by our writer, in the 1950’s. By the end of the story, we find out that she is also 28 years sober, at the time of penning her story.

Trying to find out “Who We Are?” is a question that I think is universal, and not uniquely  an alcoholic problem.

For every man or woman in the room, there is a story about who they thought they were as kids, then progressing throughout their lives, to the point they drank trying to figure it out, and finally coming to the rooms, where FINALLY, we figured that out.

In the end our lady found out that she was gay, she moved from the city to the country, and built a garden, where she found peace and serenity.

For me, I knew I was gay which was why I had to leave home. And the one bit of advice I took as gospel was that … “In order to be part of you had to drink…”

That was SOOOOO Wrong !

There were several point in her story that I identified with. Her life began in the country and a solitary childhood and her imaginary friends, then moving to a big city, where she encountered other kids, she still felt apart from, different.

Her odyssey of alcoholism took her all over the world, looking for connection and inclusion. But those tell tale signs, the massive drinking bouts, and black outs and not knowing what she did the night before, began to haunt her.

In her mind though … She just could not be an alcoholic.

Through a series of unfortunate, or maybe fortunate events, in the presence of her therapist and friends, she came around to see that actually, she WAS an alcoholic.

How many of us, just don’t see it while we were IN IT. How many of us came around at first, thinking that “I could not be an alcoholic!” How much time did we sit in the rooms trying to figure it out, justifying our habitual drinking, until we could not fight it any more.

We hear those same words again: Fear, Guilt, Anger, Rage …

We are in a season of “feeling” right now. Something I had not necessarily seen, but the signs were there. My circle of friends is tight. And we’ve been in each others company for a while now.

We have had losses of family, the loss of friends, communities. We’ve seen insanity come to other places, and tragedy occur here at home. I guess you could say that there has been a confluence of “current events” that have shaken the equilibrium of our people.

Our writer talks about finally being able to see and experience the world around her. Be that in her garden, or among her friends, or in the rooms, she mentions the word Seasons.

In my life, I think about the first time around, and what really mattered about that period in my life. Life was coming fast and furiously, and I really did not have time to stop and breath for such a long time.

I HAD coasted to the four year mark, relatively alive.

The familiar Geographical is a common theme in many alcoholic stories. As was apparent in our writers story. I had gone to the many places she did, in my own story.

My first stint in sobriety, did not offer me what this round did. There were too many unhealthy people in my vicinity. The messaging was all wrong. I was too disconnected to know better, that I was disconnected. And nobody knew to say anything before it was too late to affect change.

Even if I did know that, the HOLE in my SOUL, was running the game at the very end …

When I got sober the second time, I was all alone, save the people in the SOBE room who took care of me. I had no friends, no family, no relationship.

I reflect on the year 2001 … I was numb through a national tragedy.

The opportunity to make One Final Move presented itself. I had nothing to loose and everything to gain. I made that move, and did not look back.

I got to Montreal, in April of 2002. In the buffer zone between the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. During that first year of time, I was living alone, going to meetings, attending after care, and I stayed sober, by doing everything I was told to do without argument.

I had eight months of being able to experience my surroundings. The people in my life, then, kept me very busy and on a short leash. In the end, it took me about two years to fully integrate into Canada and find my footing.

I remember that I had time to breathe. You might not think that that is so important, but coming out of the scourge of AIDS and surviving, knowing how hard that was and how we held out collective breaths, hoping to live, because expectations were not very high, nor were the prognosis-es, realizing that I could breathe was very important.

I had come to the point that I was One, alive and Two, sober. With those two markers out of the way, I could concentrate on living life for the first time in my life.

I was almost a year sober before I met my now husband. I had all the time in the world to get to know my world intimately and soberly. And by the time we did meet, I was ready for that portion of my life to flesh out.

The book says that the only thing that has to change in sobriety is Everything.

We see, right now, that people are feeling. In Open Community. I did not notice this until now, having spent the last year and a bit feeling, myself. But over the past few months, feelings have been on our dashboards for some time.

Spend enough time with your friends, and life happens.

My fifteenth year was, as I have said, the most emotional year I have experienced, since I got sober this time around. I’ve been “feeling in open community” and in the end, those people, whom I thought were my friends, punished me for feeling, openly.

I had not known a time where my shortcoming would be used against me by people who watched me crack under my emotions, and then say that they just could not be part of my life anymore.

Alcoholics and Addicts have very selective abilities. Many of them, placed me on a pedestal and it seemed to me, in the end, that I was supposed to be this “Vulcan type” hybrid a.l.a Spock.  Not allowing myself to feel anything.

Because when I did feel and express myself “in open community” people ran for the hills screaming and yelling…

I just cannot wrap my head around they way my friends turned around and ostracized me.

But it is what it is. I’m involved in new meetings and a new social circle.

Living in a four season country, if you take the time, there is so much to look forward to. So much to see and so much to experience.

My favorite season is Fall.

That is the season where the most happens. Falling leaves are amazing. Fall is beautiful in a country where trees and green spaces matter.

It is a religious experience, the very first night it snows. I wait for that night to happen every year. The first snow for me, is Holy.

Had I stayed where I was, in Miami, in a 2 season state, Wet and Wetter … Living in the hole I was living in, alone, I would never have flourished the way I did here.

This last move had to work, and I did all the right things.

I would never go back to the life I had for any amount of money.

Coming up on my fifties soon, all I have is time. And I need to remember to appreciate every day, because I never know when this other shoe is going to drop.

Twenty three years later, nobody knows what is going to come, or what life is supposed to look like, so we are all playing the game very carefully.

One day at a time …

 


Jeremy Says: IKEA Changes Lives

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Words from a Fellow Far Away … Jeremy

For the last year I have regularly made large meals to feed me most of a week every week. These meals usually include peeling a good amount of vegetables, or buckets of apples to stew for breakfasts. All of this peeling was made with one of the least practical peelers ever, because I kept forgetting that IKEA existed.

So, today I finally got on a bus and went shopping for, among other important things, a more practical peeler. I walked through the comforting aisles of IKEA. Picked up some useful things, and came across a simple peeler. metal, a little bit ergonomic. But, in that moment there was no heavenly angels singing, no rainbow explosions of inspiration. i just threw it in the trolley which stored all our jackets.

When I returned home, I decided to cook a curry for a friend and I, and a part of the prep was peeling carrots and potatoes. I got very excited to use my new tool, and after violently ripping apart the oddly secure packaging with a sharp knife, I got to work at de skinning my vegetables.

It was a dream. It was smooth. It was fast. It was fun. It was easy. This tiny, new, and better designed chunk of sharpened metal made my road to eating quick and much more fun.

In life we sometimes have goals or dreams that we attempt to attain using terrible tools and ideas. Some of the these tools and ideas still get us to the place we are going… just way more slower and more frustratingly. But just think…. You too could be sailing towards dinner with a joyful kick in your step after shaving a potatoes skin and beard much faster, if you only got a newer, better tool from IKEA.

So my less parabolic questions are….

Where are you trying to get to? Can you almost taste the success of that goal?

What are you using to get to that place and could you replace it?

AND if you can replace it, where will you get your replacement from and do you need me to ride the bus with you? And if we go early enough we could get two euro breakfast!!!!! So why wouldn’t we???

But serious. Your dreams are worth chasing. Why chase them with a blunt instrument?


In the Words of Prime Minister Trudeau

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The Late Prime Minister Trudeau had good morals about our country.

Which is why, assimilation is not profitable for anyone. The Word Assimilation is prevalent here in Quebec. We are expected to “Assimilate” into the community and become like everyone else.

I decided early on, when I got here that I would never completely assimilate into the community, because of the ways some Francophone citizens treated me in public space.

 


Friday: The Beauty of Islam

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This is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Photographed by a friend of mine who lives in the U.A.E.

The week that I had crossed my first year sober, my addictions counselor asked me a question… She said, “You’ve been sober a year now, what do you want to do for you?”

I really had to think about my answer. In the end I decided that, at age 35, I would go back to school, and complete my studies in a field that I had begun in, when I was only nineteen years old.

I did not make it into ministry through the front door. And a lifetime would go by until the day I reached the point that I would finish my religious studies “in the field.” Almost a decade in studies took place, and I got my two diplomas.

World Religions and Pastoral Ministry …

It was odd, getting sober, in the rooms, AND studying Religion, by the book. I learned about God, by the book. I found Him as real, IN the rooms.

A requirement that we were invited to do was, at each unit of study, in whatever religion that was, we had to in-bed ourselves in that particular faith community. We did not just study the books and go to class, we participated in every religion we studied.

Islam, was a unit of study. The good thing about Concordia University, is that there is a very high population of Muslim students, from all over the world. And in the Hall Building, the university set aside two rooms that are dedicated prayer locations, so that students can come and make their prayers and participate in their own community and not have to leave the university while they are there.

I have Muslim friends. I am intimately familiar with the Muslim population here in the city, mainly because of my participation in the Muslim community when I was a student.

For many Friday’s, I attended Friday Prayers with my fellow students, both men and women. Those first few years, after coming to Montreal, I had to find my own footing. politically, mentally, and spiritually. The many faith-based communities helped me find my way.

The way people hate so hard is common, around the world, no matter where you come from. In my case, it began at home. I learned how to hate hard by my parents.

Thankfully, I never hated that hard in my life.

People tend to hate what they don’t know, it is easier to hate, then expanding their minds to learn about others, so that understanding is possible.

In the United States, Americans live in a predominantly Judaeo-Christian society. What did we know about Islam, for a very long time? I had NO exposure to any other religion than Christianity and Judaism.

I was not introduced to World Religions on a grand scale, until I moved to Montreal.

My father lived in the thought that, He loved his country, fought for his country, and you either loved it or left it. New comers to the states, be they immigrants or religious minorities or religious communities, the “Other” was always viewed with suspicion, as if something “New” had come to supplant what was already there.

The old Judaeo-Christian conquest conflict of East Meets West, Islam is coming to the West to take over the world mentality, is pretty scary to people who grew up in generations past, with all they know of is Christians or Jews, to have to expand to open themselves up to Islam, or Asian religions, or South East Asian religions was preposterous and not to be attempted.

People tend to freak out, as we have seen over the past fifteen years since 9-11.

It is easier to hate everybody and not know why we hate, then to figure out who we hate, and why, and not pigeon-hole Everybody into One Lump Hatred Society.

And by Everybody, I mean that because of some men who choose to do what they did, we hate all Muslims no matter where they come from, because we saw One thing and came away with One opinion. Because we were fed that opinion by the media.

We did not spend any time learning for ourselves what was either True or False.

And the way the media and society spins that hatred is mind-boggling.

And depending on where you live, that hatred is spun into an evangelical frenzy.

Evangelicals are some serious people who believe in a set way of life, with set scriptures and set teachers and believe they have ALL the right answers, no matter what ever info exists to the contrary.

Hatred, in many places, is as potent as Evangelical Frenzy.

Because Hatred that lives in an Evangelical vacuum is seriously dangerous. You cannot teach anyone who lives with evangelical truth or hatred, Anything… Because they know who God is and He is Christian, and nobody is going to teach them anything else, from any other perspective.

God said it, I believe it, that settles it …

I’ve spent a great deal of time studying the Quran. I’ve read it. Learned about it. I have a Quran in my reading library. Islam is part of my life today, because you know, there are Muslim men in the program of recovery here.

Many of them are my friends.

Before you judge ANYONE else based of country of Origin or Origin of Religious faith, take a step back, and think about respect and dignity. Think about their humanity. Think about their families.

You cannot go very far in Montreal, without meeting someone of Muslim faith in any shop, any restaurant, or any service industry, in this city.

The Middle East – all of the Middle East is fraught with serious conflicts.

Middle East religions were not part of educational curriculum when I was a kid in school. That was not introduced until University here in Montreal. Many, MANY people in the West know Nothing about Islam, but for what the media feeds them on any given night from television.

Or from the pulpits of their churches. 

And the more evangelical that news presentation, the harder the hate and misunderstanding and misinformation. The harder the media tries to paint ALL of Islam by ONE brush, with ONE vision, and only ONE understanding, what does that do to those who are fed that message ?

They hate as hard as they are fed that message.

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Do you know Muslim men and women, Do you know their families ? Are there Muslim citizens living in your community ? Do you know or do you even care ?

Hatred and Islamophobia is alive and well here in Canada. We are not immune to the messages of Hate and Exclusion. Social Media and right leaning news organizations fit that bill very nicely, not to mention the media that comes out of the United States.

You cannot blame ALL of Islam, for the failings of certain specific communities. We should not paint every Muslim man, woman or child with the same brush.

For decades, the Middle East has exploded into calamity. That portion of the world, that is so Steeped in Religious history, is fraught with complications, like I mentioned earlier.

The Powder keg that is the Fertile Crescent has fallen into mass civilization destruction and genocidal death.

Where do all those people go to flee war, killing, death, starvation ???

Europe is on their doorstep. And we all know how that turned out.

For the Christian West, as happened, was the bastion of freedom, of life and of the pursuit of happiness. Why would people NOT come to the West, to seek a better life for their families? And why as we, as Christians, not welcome the refugee ???

I mean, why does the Statue of Liberty stand in that Harbor, welcoming the huddled masses from all over the world.

We have forgotten or refuse to admit, that North America began with people who came from someplace else FIRST…

I mean, do we all get that Jesus was a refugee ? That when he was born, his parents took him from his home and fled to Egypt because of King Herod wanting to kill him ?

Do we all get that Jesus was not a Caucasian white man ? He was of Middle East parentage, and had Middle Eastern looks, and a life spent living in the Middle East, and preaching there as well ?

So why do we hate so hard, when Jesus taught us how to treat each other with Love and Charity ? I don’t get how you hate so hard and believe in a God that taught you what you should do, and in reality, you could not be bothered to accept the “Other” and love and respect them as God has taught you to.

All because they worship God in another form and tradition, and that threatens your safe and sound ideology that does not serve you well.

In fact it makes you hate harder, instead of Loving your neighbor better.

If we loved as hard as many Hate, the world would be another place …

That is what the rooms teach us. How to love ourselves, and each other. And we learn to serve each other, in the least of these on a daily basis.

Lessons the world at large could really benefit from.

Right now, here in Quebec, our Muslim communities have opened their mosques to the public, for us to come and participate in and learn from their community.

Will you participate ?

Hatred is NOT a Christian Value.

In fact it goes against EVERYTHING that Jesus taught us.

The reason so many people hate as hard as they do, is because they listen to only those people who feed that kind of fire. I call it Evangelical Hatred.

Evangelical hatred is much more energetically potent vehicle because God is behind that kind of hate. Gay men, during the AIDS crisis and to this day, suffer that same hatred by many.

Now the world is saturated with this kind of hatred of Islam and the “other.”

Hate everybody, because that’s what we are told to do by those who teach hatred from their pulpits. And all those people, voted for the man, in great numbers, who just banned Muslims from seven specific countries in the Middle East and Africa.

But he did not ban Muslims from countries where the President has business ties.

Hmmm … Business Security comes before National Security. 

We cannot live in a world of peace, until we end systemic and evangelical hatred.

Systemic evangelical hatred is poison for the soul.

It tarnishes our souls, and separates us from truth and love.

It pits One God over Another, Allah.

Jesus against the Prophet, Blessed be His holy name.

Religions of the world exist.

And we are all here, because our God created us, and gave us a faith of origin. And what right do we have to be judge, jury and executioner, to say that one religion is the Ultimate Religion, and Truth, and that No Other Religion or Truth will be Listened to, Learned about, OR Accepted as Legitimate.

We sit in the balance of the war between the Christian God of the West versus that Muslim God of the East.

Nobody will win this war … More will die to defend their faith, than will survive it.

Where will you stand in this religious battle for truth ???

Will you love or will you hate ?

God weeps that we have let our world fall into this abyss of conflict.

When it all comes down to LOVE.