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Growing Up

Friday – The Golden Age, Comfort, and The Mountain

FC Barcelona v UD Almeria - La LigaCourtesy: VIP Football Collection. Lionel Messi FC Barcelona

And the week closes, so glad that we are here. Yesterday it was just wet and cold. Tonight it was chilly, and very windy. We’ve been promised warmer weather in the coming days.

Yesterday we were at St. Matthias for our weekly Thursday meeting. We got to hear stories from one of our Golden Ager’s. I’ve been seeing him around for months. Figured he had all this time and his wife is one of us as well. Last night the chair introduced him to us and he told us that he only had four years, and that he was seventy five years old.

You do the math …

I admire our old timers. They are a wealth of wisdom and love. Sometimes people come to alcohol late in life, after living a full life with decades of hard work, wives, kids and family. In our man’s case, he was sober, for the whole of his life, until his first wife was diagnosed and died as a result of Breast Cancer. A tragedy of the magnitude was the kicker that took our man into the pit of despair.

But the stars aligned and his kids were paying close attention to his deteriorating life.

In the end he ended up strapped to a bed, for ten days. Then he landed in the local rehabilitation center, that we are all familiar with. He did not take right away, he was older than all his housemates, and even older than the man who owned the place.

He got sober.

When it was time to leave, he did not know what to do, or where to go, or how to navigate into this next portion of his life, in his words, he was “scared.” By placing one foot at a time in front of the other, he did the sober dance. He hit his meetings, and did lots of service.

Promises do come true in sobriety.

It is quite the love maker of men and women.

A couple years in, being homed in a particular meeting on the West End, he met, dated, and eventually married a wonderful woman in sobriety. After such tragedy and sadness, and a trip into the pit of hell, our man survived with the help from those who knew him and loved him best, and now he is a very bright light shining for everyone to see.

He told a story about his childhood home, where they are still finding bottles and flasks of alcohol that had been hidden all over the house and basement by his father.

Which brings me to this story about my grandfather, my father’s father.

My grandparents had a huge, 2 bedroom house in Connecticut. I spent a good deal of time in this house, as I did my other grandparents, and my aunts houses.

So my father’s father was a type 3 alcoholic. A bottle stashed in every location he would sit or stand, inside and outside the house. But he was hiding a secret that nobody knew about, until after they had both died.

My father went to close the house, sell what he could, and save whatever he wanted. He has a number of vintage 78 record player, and old phonograph such and so forth.

The house had a huge basement with a root cellar for canning and storage. But the surprise was hidden stapled to the rafters underneath the flooring. Yes, he drank, copiously. But my grandfather was saving for a rainy day it seemed. He had amassed about ten grand in hundred dollar bills, in individual envelopes stapled to the underside of the basement rafters.

In total it was quite the hefty rainy day fund.

This leads us into Comfort …

Today’s reading from A.B.S.I. – Taking our Comfort

I chose the word comfort because it gives me food for thought.

As a young child, I spent a great deal of time, in places that offered comfort. Alcoholism was very alive and well in all of our lives. Amid that insanity, were oases of comfort and calm. As children we don’t usually have to worry about going without, or having too little.

I never went without, and growing up, I seemed to have everything I ever wanted, but I was not a child who demanded MORE. I can’t really put my finger on when MORE became a concept that meant anything as a young person.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

When I moved out of home out on my own, I think I began to cultivate the need for more.

I didn’t want more money, I didn’t want more things. I wanted more friends, I wanted more party, and I surely wanted more alcohol. I can’t tell you where I learned this, if it was a lesson I was taught as a young person. It just happened.

I was never comfortable drinking, because there was always something attached to my drinking. There was always a hunt or a desire. I wasn’t just drinking to be comfortable, I was drinking to be more, because I was told that the only way into the LGBT community was through the consumption of alcohol. And more if you could get it.

I started hitting mountains early on. They kept getting progressively bigger. I seemed to climb well for a while. Until I hit the proverbial Andes, or better yet, the Himalayas.

In 1994, the biggest mountain I would ever see, came into view. I would eventually climb and conquer that mountain, with the help of my guides and helpers.

After that experience, nothing would top that.

Sobriety takes work. It isn’t a cake walk by any stretch of the imagination. Sobriety is a mountain. And the only way up is by the Steps. They just keep coming, no matter how much time you have.

For a long time, we learned how to live and to live together. We learned how to manage life, money and love. It has been a long climb, that has lasted for thirteen years. Last fall, we summited that mountain.

Today, we are comfortable in every way. We are not spoiled. And we do not need “more” than we have. It took a long time to get used to having “enough” because for many years, we barely had enough. So we take nothing for granted.

Everything is where it should be.

God is in His heaven and everybody is sober another night.

More to come, stay tuned…

Sunday Sundries … Humility

tumblr_lrdn1q3v991qzjqrio1_500 flickr julianbialowasCourtesy: Flicker Julian Bialowas (Archives)

We are sitting at a frosty (-18c/-27c w.c.) with a low tonight going down into the (-30’s). Where Ontario is, at this hour, under a snow storm warning, there is a blowing snow advisory up for us, but we are not expecting snow until tomorrow. With 10cm falling during the day.

Thank Goodness I don’t have to go out tomorrow…

It was a quiet weekend. This evening I left a few minutes early, because I had a stop to make on the way. It usually takes me half an hour to make my transit. However today, I must have made good time, I had not looked at my clock when I arrived at the church, but cranked it out as usual. When I finished, one of my friends had arrived and I noticed that it was only 4:40 on the clock.

Time must have sped up or I left earlier than I had thought. Any who, it’s all good.

A few folks showed up early to sit and read, having the room open much earlier, allows for folks to come in a be able to sit and read for an hour, prior to the meeting.

Our Matron was away, and I was elected chair by a friend, so I chaired.

We read from the Twelve and Twelve and Step 7 …
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings!

The buzz word for Step seven is Humility. Where does it come from, and how do we get it?

“Humility, as a word and as an ideal, has a very bad time of it in our world. Not only is the idea misunderstood; the word itself is often intensely disliked. Many people haven’t even a nodding acquaintance with humility as a way of life. Much of the every day talk we hear, and a great deal of what we read, highlights man’s pride in his own achievements.”

“… We saw we needn’t always be bludgeoned and beaten into humility. It could come quite as much from our voluntary reaching for it as it could from unremitting suffering. A great turning point in our lives came when we sought for humility as something we really wanted, rather than something we must have. It marked the time when we could commence to see the full implication of Step Seven: “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

One of my terrible shortcomings is the fact that over my life, my disregard for God, my living in “all about me,” and taking life for granted, usually landed me in the column of being bludgeoned into humility. This is one very long list of things that happened.

There was a time, that alcohol was ruling my life, when did it not rule my life, you might ask ???

In my twenties, I really could not give a shit about God or what was right, as long as it went my way. The drink, then the social interaction that came from it, fed my emotional, and sexual appetite. I really did not have a handle on the issues of the time (Read: AIDS), I was more concerned with getting a drink, and what would come with it.

When you take life for granted, a myriad of things can happen.

I was screwing myself into a tight hole. Literally !!! I made mistakes. I was not safe. In the heat of the moment, under the control of alcohol and with the drugs that usually came with it, meant that we were not thinking about circumstances, and shit happened.

I can’t be sure of the who, what or why of it. (what’s done is done)

I talk about all that God mumbo jumbo. How, for a time I was a good Catholic boy in seminary. Had they asked me to stay, instead of telling me to go, probably my life would have been different. But I took license with freedom, and took advantage of it as well.

My twenties was a futile effort in growing up. And I know that now. And I paid dearly for that error.

Loosing things, like cars, apartments, personal items happened. But I would just pick up and start over where, that would take place. Then I lost a loved one, to suicide. That loss was horrible. I drank my way past it, right into a therapy group for thirty two weeks.

But God really didn’t have my attention yet. It was still all about me. But Todd was there.

I was still unwilling to bow or get on my knees …

Lessons about humility began in earnest.

I was dating someone at the time, when I began to sero-convert. I got very sick. They gave us these little wallet cards that had this information on it … If you are having these symptoms, you might have AIDS.

Working at the bar brought me into direct contact with AIDS, and people with AIDS, and Todd made it perfectly clear, what my job was, To serve others, and not myself.

I did get sick. I did get AIDS. Doctors told me I was going to die.

I called Todd back from his vacation. He met me at the bar, and I told him that I was going to die.

He wept …

I was ready to bow. The end was coming, and I had nothing to loose any more.

Over the next two years, working at the bar, I had several opportunities to get humble.

I remember each one of them, like it was yesterday.

Every time I returned to “All about Me,” Todd would throw a lesson at me, to humble me.

Working in a bar was dirty work. Men are pigs, and they don’t think for a moment about others, and that bothered me. They would put cups in the toilet backwards and let shit and piss flow all over the floor, and it was my job to clean it up. However hard I protested, Todd ordered that I do the job and not complain.

I had to get on my knees.

Then he would add the clincher …

He would say that “If you can clean up others shit, one day you will be able to do it for yourself.”

I’ve said before that in Todd, God became incarnate. He was the man who saved my life, however hard I protested, at times, He had my best interests in mind. He took it upon himself to see that I lived, and did not die. Every night I came to work, I followed the rule.

“When you come to work, you leave your life outside the door. You come in and do your work, without question. And leave the rest to me.”

I turned my will and my life over to the care of God (read: Todd) every day.

I learned a great many things, that I have collected over in the PAGES.

I learned to serve others, and not worry about me or my needs. I learned valuable lessons like approval, ego, pride and humility. While people were drinking, drugging, and partying, and at the same time, they were dying all around me, Todd and I stayed one step above the water.

Being a servant, does not give you much time to be arrogant or prideful. Todd would have none of that. He kept me on a very short leash. One look and I would kneel.

Today, I am alive. Todd succeeded in keeping me alive. I owe my life to him. And I say that with all the humility of my being. If you want the whole story you can read it in pages.

I began my nights on my knees. And ended them on my knees.

There was no time to waste. When everybody fled, Todd stood firm. In the beginning, I had to grow up and I had to do what ever I was told to do, without question, and yes I did grow up. I learned a great deal from this experience.

When Todd moved away, I ended up alone. I had tools. I had my lessons.

But at the same time, without that hand in my life, I did not know what to do. But I survived.

Problems with people, attitudes and assholes, took me for a ride. I spoke about the space that grows between people, and that slip that is not far behind … That slip came.

Upon my return, I was not ready to bow …

When I knew the end was coming, I knew the end was coming, I got on my knees.

You see, I survived. I lived. I took that for granted. Which kept my slip going for a while longer.

I prayed for things from God. And One, Two, Three, prayers came to pass.

I had One, admitted I was powerless, Two, came to believe, and Three, made that decision.

I decided to grow up, and ended my run here. That is when I learned more about humility.

I got connected, found a home group, and I did service. All because that is what they told me to do.

You can’t keep it, unless you give it away.

I met my now husband, and I learned how to give to my partner, boyfriend, now husband.

I became a man, when I learned how to put the needs of another before my own.

Now that I think about that phrase, I learned this lesson with Todd. However I did not see it.

Even today, I see shades of self centeredness. It returns in my memories.

When life gets too hard to stand, kneel …

kneelI am reminded daily, to be humble. I practice, daily, getting down on my knees to pray.

I take for granted that I lived, more often, than I like to admit. And I usually don’t think about being grateful for being alive, except of course, every time I stand at my medicine cabinet and take my pills.

I rely on doctors, my medication and God for life. I also rely on God to help me stay sober.

I grew up. I’ve learned my lessons about being beaten into humility.

There is so many things to be grateful for. If I think of all of them at the same time, I would weep.

Humble …

More to come, stay tuned …