Monday: Listening to the Wind
Thousands of homes (2,500) are flooded across many places tonight. There is much sorrow and destruction. Hundreds (over 1500) people are homeless, and many more will be, as flood waters are still rising all around the island of Montreal, and in Ontario as well.
The Canadian Armed Forces are involved with assisting those who need help, they are filling sandbags, and as of yesterday, as Montreal declared a state of Emergency, are assisting homeowners out of those flooded homes to a safe and dry location.
Montrealer’s are there, helping each other, giving food and supplies, and filling sand bags. Flooding to this extent has not been seen in decades.
Say a little prayer for those who need them right now.
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Tonight the Book takes a turn to a topic, that steps outside the “White” box, and we travel to another location. The Fourth Edition of the Big Book, has contemporary stories that cross many different lines, ethnic, racial, religious, and personal.
We heard a story written by a Native woman, from the Desert Southwest of the U.S.
Her story is familiar to many of us, here in Montreal. The plight of the Inuit and Native peoples of our city is tragic and devastating. In today’s world, one cannot go very far, in our city, without passing by someone who is Native or In-nu, on the street, in the Metro or in the mall; who is not either drunk or high.
Many years ago I wrote a post about this very problem, as I witnessed it, here in our neighborhood. Over a decade has passed, and though the neighborhood has been cleaned up, rebuilt and repaved, the tragedy of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction still exists.
The people who once littered the sidewalks and street corners, have just been moved, by location, because the city did a good job in displacing them from public view, and relegated them to the peripheries of the city.
They are still there.
I was very lucky, early in sobriety, to count among my friends, people from different backgrounds, Inuit and Native, White and Black, Christian, Jewish and Atheist.
For a long time, in my home group of Tuesday Beginners, because of its proximity to my specific neighborhood, on the Western edge of downtown, we counted among our group, many who came from other places, who were stuck in addiction, and had nowhere to go.
It is said, by some Natives, from many places in Quebec and all points of the compass, that “Once you leave the reservation or community, and you come to the city, it is highly likely, that you will never return from whence you came.”
That is mostly true.
The problem with those who come off reservation or community, they don’t necessarily integrate into the community here. They know no one, unless they have family, local.
On the main, many do not. Once one crosses the bridge from where you were, to where you are, and not being able to integrate, many are stuck in LIMBO. They come from afar, and then get here, and they don’t connect.
Then what happens? Here in Montreal, there is a middle ground. A No Man’s/Woman’s land that lies between normal civilization, and oblivion. There are many people, stuck in this place, one, by their own doing, and two, by the apathy of the people who live here.
Hungry, Homeless, Drunk and High … Originally written on July, 24th, 2007, I wrote an edit on August 11th, 2014, now I am writing towards that topic again tonight.
You cannot go anywhere in the city, and not cross paths, with those who are less fortunate. They are either homeless, drunk or high. And those identifiers cross all lines of existence. The white community here in Quebec, does not see others, like they see themselves. Native and Innu populations are strangers to our world, yet they live on the same streets we do, except they live ON the street, and we live above them, in shiny, clean apartment blocks.
I know of one Innu woman who came to Montreal to sober up. And she succeeded very well. She got tanked up on sobriety, and she would commute from the Far North, back to Montreal. She did that several times, before she finally decided to go back for good, and to live and work with those of her community.
Another friend of mine, who is Native, got sober, just after I did. He is still sober. Today, he works on a team of Elders and Community workers, who walk the city from our end of downtown to the Eastern Edge. Their job is to locate, assist and either integrate or repatriate Native and In-nu people’s back where they came from.
We get them help. We find them meetings, shelters, food and medical assistance. I am part of this little community operation. My friends do the leg work on the streets, and I do the work, in the rooms, to help those who find their way to us, via the teams on the street.
This is just a drop in the bucket, because the need is so great, and the numbers are so high, that many people fall through the cracks. But we try nonetheless.
Addiction is a scourge on many people. Not Just White People. This hits, very hard, our Native and In-nu populations, terribly. The need is dire. There are so many suffering humans, that the city, at large, is at a loss for trying.
Our storyteller tonight, has a harrowing story. In the end, she finds her way into sobriety. Many people found identity within the story tonight. The Hospital, Jail and Institution thread was popular. The variant of Higher Power, was also popular. And that is the thread that I went with.
“I found the Power Greater than Myself to be the Magic above the heads of people in the meetings. I chose to call that magic Great Spirit…”
Our woman was less than three years sober, at this stories inception. But she had this observation, like I had myself. She got it much earlier than I did. It took me years to be able to see this “sober phenomena.”
I sort of coined the phrase: “The Neon sign above your heads…”
It took me many, many years to begin to see it. Once I found it, that became one serious reason to Keep Coming Back, for more …
St. Leon’s church basement descends, YES, 12 Steps into the basement. There are actually 12 steps down, into the basement. Then you hang a right turn, into the hall.
IF you stick around until the Miracle happens … I am talking years and years, you too might see it. People who come to a meeting, carry with them, their troubles, on their sleeves. Over time, I began to notice this fact.
If you’ve been around awhile, you know what a newcomer looks like, and feels like, and for some, on really bad nights, what they smell like. That kind of information is telegraphed on that invisible sign above each of our heads.
For me, it took me two years, after coming in to see my sign change. People who spent the most time with me, in the beginning, noticed the marked change in my demeanor and looks.
For the first few years, I always wore a ball cap, and I never looked up, or met your eyes. I was always down on myself. Years of therapy and counseling changed that, to the point that one day, one of my counselors said to me … “Hey, I can see your eyes.” It was the first time I began to look up.
Over the years, the longer I was sober, I watched my friends and fellows get sober. I watched people come and go. I watched them get sober. And over many, many years, I watched those signs change for the better.
Some took longer than others.
Even today, as I have said not long ago, some of those signs are still carrying messages of pain and sorrow. And I see that in new ways today.
Some of my friends are still suffering, even though they are double digit sober.
Reading today’s story, we get a breath of fresh air. A tradition that is new to us, who are not familiar with Native or In-nu traditions. God as we understand Him, becomes broader, wider. We get another rendition of Spirit.
There are people out there, whom we know, that we may be the only rendition of the Big Book, they might ever see. Never turn your back on those who are still suffering out there. They need love, even more love, than we need ourselves.
Give it away, every chance that you get. One day you might even save a life.