We’ve gone from minus double digits over the past few days, to a balmy (+2c) today, and at this hour we are sitting at (-2c). They are saying 5 to 10 cm of snow will fall over night, But me thinks that is pushing it, seeing it is warm outside, and rain is falling. Not sure how cold it needs to get for that rain to turn to snow.
And last week, when they told us that a significant snow event was coming and that we should be prepared, that never happened. That’s the second miss in as many weeks.
It was a good weekend. All of my peeps are home from vacations, or it was the first night (read: Friday) that we were all in the same place at the same time. However, I’ve noticed that we are missing a number of folks that I have not seen in more than a month. hmmm….
I departed early to meet folks at the church for our study hour, so I cranked out chairs and tables, and made coffee and as I was finishing up my guys arrived. Everybody is getting back into the swing of things, and we have set out plans for the coming weeks.
Today’s reading … Step 6 “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
Having been relieved of the obsession to drink, wouldn’t you want God to remove our most glaring character defects? Some say, I don’t want to let go of this one right now, and others say, I will never let this go…
I am on this step as we speak. My sponsor has given me homework to do and I sat down yesterday and started the book section of the questions. The second phase is a review of Steps 4 and 5 to see what I am still holding on to, and that is as far as I got.
So We read from the book, and the discussion began back around with me. In the reading the book mentions the seven deadly sins … and what caught my attention was this:
… Else why would we consume such great amounts of time wishing for what we have not, rather than working for it, or angrily looking for attributes we shall never have, instead of adjusting to the fact, and accepting it? And how often we work hard with no better motive than to be secure and slothful later on – only we call that “retiring.” Consider, too, our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five syllables. Nearly anyone could submit a good list of such defects as these, and few of us would seriously think of giving them up, at least until they cause us excessive misery.
When I got sober this time around, it was a few months in, I had De-fogged a bit. And from out of left field these thoughts came into my head, and I even listened to them, and had the audacity to speak them to people I did not even know at the time.
I’m not sure where my sense of entitlement came from, But I expressed it. I was mentally twisted way back then, and I am not sure I am all that mentally figured out now. I had lists for God to fulfill. I wanted things I was entirely not ready to receive. I “Expected.”
“Expect” is a dirty word. Just like the word “plan” is a joke.
Not that I wanted shit handed to me on a silver platter, I just wanted things. Things I later figured out that I HAD to work for. God whittled down my list of wants, to nothing. Meanwhile, He gave me everything that I needed, on a need to have basis. Just like information, early on, was on a need to know basis. Everything had its time and its season.
Nothing was easily gained, without a lesson attached to it, for greater measure. A very long time ago, on this very blog, if you know where to look, is a post on the Seven Deadly Sins. The path was, in hindsight, ordained. I would ask a question, or read from the book. We would discuss it, and then have time to think about that discussion. Finally, God would give me situations that I would get to work out those questions/answers/discussions in real time.
That is how my sobriety worked. And still works today.
When I wrote my 4th step, it was short and concise. The discussion I had on step Five was intense.
When I look back at them, It isn’t about what am I holding on to at the moment that is blocking me from moving forwards. Hence, Six and Seven.
I was warned early on that my brain would do a number on me. My sponsor has said, while working his steps in tandem with me, with his sponsor, that once we start working, the brain goes on over drive and shit happens.
Brief pause for a long distance conversation…
AND WE’RE BACK !!! (10 points if you can guess that reference)
Another door in my brain has opened up.
The beautiful lotus flower has turned into a ratty pile of shit.
Over the past decade, my aunt has collected photographs of me at various points in my life, with various people, events, places, holidays, and I have them here to look at. Some of these photos I look at and for the life of me I cannot remember them. I mean, the photos prove I was there, but I can’t seem to locate that specific memory.
I’ve always been afraid that my alcoholism and drug use in the past has caused some serious memory damage. But then that was yesterday, in the grand scheme of things, and this is today.
When I got sick I was treated by a psychiatrist. And I had to seek that help again.
Because when the hamster gets on that wheel in my brain, he runs at 90 mph. And he just keeps going and my brain goes into over drive and I don’t know how to make it stop. And for as long as I can remember, I relive certain memories continuously. I hear certain people say things, they once said to me. I relive the feeling those words elicited and the pain and fear become palpable.
I have recurrent dreams, and the same nightmares over and over.
As of late, like I said above, another door in my brain has opened. And I am not enjoying what I am reliving; Memories I haven’t thought about since they happened, shit I haven’t thought about since forever. It is like Groundhog Day.
I’ve said before that my twenties was the worst decade of my life. But as bad as it got in the end, there was one bright spot amid all the calamity and death that was going down around me. Amid the hurricane that was my life, I had periods of time in the eye of the storm.
I’ve never really spent time dissecting the past. And any good alcoholic will tell you that the mind is not some place one goes without a hardhat and certainly not alone. Recently, God, in His infinite wisdom has brought me a list of all the stupid, irresponsible, most painful, pitiful and terrible things I did in my twenties.
The longer you are sober, the harder you work your program, the time is going to come when the floodgates open and you get to seriously look at all those shitty things you did while drinking. I’ve not had this opportunity, YET ! I’ve never really thought about the things on my present radar screen.
It’s a really good thing that when I go to bed at night, I have assistance.
It is during the day, when I try to nap that becomes a nightmare. Totally unscripted, unaided attempts at sleep. I can shut the hamster down at night, but during the day, I am powerless.
I had this partial conversation with a friend during the break, and he said that there must be a reason these things are coming up at this specific time, and it is up to me to figure out why ???
If you’ve ever read the book “Experience, Strength and Hope,” that is the compendium of all the stories that appear in Editions One, Two and Three of the Big Book. Reliving my twenties is like rereading those stories.
The First edition is riddled with the lowest bottom stories, because in the thirties, men were down and dirty low bottoms. The second and third get progressively better, ever so slightly. And the fourth has a mixture of all of them, and a few new additions for good measure.
My drunk journey played out in reverse order. All the losses that usually come at the end of ones drinking happened to me within the first ten years of my rampant and flagrant drinking career.
By the way, as I’ve written this post, it is indeed snowing right now.
I have to figure out why these memories are coming up now, and thinking a bit, I was Totally stupid. Totally self centered. Totally consumed with how I was going to keep drinking at the rate I was drinking and have the funds to do so, to my mind, indefinitely.
There wasn’t anything I would not do to guarantee alcohol.
My excuse, what did I know about responsibility? I had no clue. I did not have the knowledge that would have said, “maybe you shouldn’t be doing this right now, and maybe you should not be so dishonest and flagrantly self centered!” Do you see a pattern here ?
Ah, the lies we tell ourselves. I was not responsible. I didn’t have the capability.
I know for a fact that my father and mother were burdened by my alcoholism. Even though alcoholism was rampant in my family, three generations back, they seemed to skate by with nary a word about it, nor do I ever remember losses in their lives, like they hit me. But everybody took notice when I drank, but nobody said a word against it. They just rolled with it. At their expense.
I lament, Not One Person ever said STOP until Todd did at age 26.
By then it was too late. What was done was done, There was no changing fate.
When I learned I was going to die, Todd stepped in and turned my life around.
Against my suicidal tendencies, I had to take responsibility for my life, at long last. It was either become responsible or DIE. There were no two ways about it.
The rest is history.
Why my brain has focused on this particular section of my life I don’t know. the worst of my drinking was the first half of my twenties, and ran up to age twenty five, the second phase of my drinking started there and ended at age twenty six. I was supposed to die.
God had other plans for me.
My father once said to me that “Once you speak words, you can never take them back.”
He never took his own advice, and neither did my mother.
I can add to that, once you do something unforgivable, there is no going back. Once the action is done, it is done. There are no do over’s. You can’t take an action or a word back.
Where man fails at forgiveness, God forgives. Totally, 100%.
Jeremy says that “If you give God everything, God will forgive everything.”
But as humans, we tend not to believe that God forgives all, and we hang on to shit that we could easily let go of, and let God get rid of it.
My life played out the way it did. I can’t take any of it back. Tucked into all that insanity were moments, hours and maybe a few days of beauty, some good people who had a good influence on me, and created genuine memories.
But King Alcohol had its grip on me in any case.
There is no excuse. I drank. And whomever I had to railroad to keep drinking I did it.
Not proud of that truth, but it is what it is.
I guess that’s the lesson here.
I am so glad that I never have to drink again. Because I could end up right where I started.
I think I am done here for tonight.
More to come, stay tuned …
Courtesy: Billy Pazionis Flickr
I offer you “Thirteen” a retrospective.
In May of 2013, I had been at Tuesday Beginners for eleven years. The New York women came to us and I began to watch them and listen to them. I watched what they did for a while and I longed for that kind of life to come to me.
The end of May came with the West Island Round Up. And I heard Lorna Kelly speak, along with a host of others from New York. And I learned, much to my dismay, that I’d been warming a seat for years, and not really doing anything about it. Comfortable at just being a talking head and showing up and doing service.
One of the men who spoke talked about prayer … I prayed, but not with the intensity or meaning that our man was trying to get across to the people sitting in front of him while he spoke. Three, Seven and Eleven, every day, like you mean it. You have the book, why aren’t you working it?
This is how we do it.
THIS IS HOW WE DO IT !!!
Are you listening??
I faded from my then sponsor and decided to go it alone. It was time. Days, turned into weeks, which turned into months. I changed up my meetings, added the Friday A.B.S.I. meeting, and I was doing the work, praying and being present for my friends.
In the Summer of 2013, I decided to leave Tuesday Beginners, opting for the “other” beginners meeting that was on earlier, because that is where my friends were, or, more to the point, the young men of that I needed in my life and it ended up, this meeting carried me through some tough times. And I gave back to that meeting.
On my 12th anniversary, December 9th 2013, I asked a friend to give me my chip, so it went. Since then, Vendome Beginners moved to the location we are at now, albeit in smaller numbers, we have a committed group of folks who come week in and week out.
There was an old timer there, who had the years, and I was in the market for a new sponsor, in January this year, we went to lunch and he interviewed me for the position. He had a few rules that I must agree to follow. I was supposed to call him every day for a month. I did that. At the end of the month, on the last day, I called him, and he said to me that I did not have to call him anymore. And I was like “What?” But I want to call you every day. That was the answer he was looking for.
It has been close to a year, and I call him every day. He also started me on the journey with the Men’s Intensive Big Book, Steps, Study. We have been working our steps in tandem with each other. My sponsors sponsor, my sponsor, and then myself. I had been doing the work, praying and acting As If.
And God seemed to be pleased because he sent me young men to work with, something my life had lacked for all the years I was sober. They have taught me many things, about themselves, and about myself, and about us.
In May of 2014, he invited me to my first Men’s Intensive Weekend at Mad River Barn, in Vermont. Being the only Queer in the bunch, I told them my stories about getting sober in certain groups. And the fact that people sent me away because I was gay! That changed everything. It was the first weekend where men from other places listened to me and spoke kindness to me. I came home from that weekend with lessons I still use today. I work the same way with my guys, that my sponsor works with me.
The weekend after then Men’s Intensive, it was my hope to share a round up with my guys. It was an ok weekend. The singleness of purpose problem was a barrier for my guys, and they felt left out of the US and segregated to just them and the just us club. But the message was clear from the Atlantic Group.
The Mantra was “THE WORK.”
Since May I have talked about the work, and how that has panned out over the past seven months. In October of 2014, we again returned to Mad River for the Fall Men’s Intensive weekend. Sadly, that would be the last time we visited that Inn. This time around, I was asked to speak. Actually, before I even got home from the Intensive in May, an invitation to speak was waiting for me when I got home. So I had months to prepare. I did not get a notice on what I would be speaking on in any case.
Half our number came for the weekend. People were not pleased with the Inn from the last visit and the price had gone up considerably. Nonetheless, I was the opening presenter for Steps One and Two for the weekend.
I met some of the same men as the first time, but also got to meet several other men who had come for the first time. I had been working my steps, working with my guys, and I talked about that with the guys, a handful of them disagreed with my style and approach, and voiced those opinions.
My Sponsor listened to what I had said and told me to ignore them.What I was doing was working, so don’t get caught up in old men being pissy.
On the way to the Mad River Barn, My sponsor, myself and a friend, took an excursion to East Dorset Vermont to visit Bill’s House, where he was born and was raised. We also visited Bill’s and Lois’s grave with a group of women making an intensive weekend there at the house. It was a life changing event for me, and for all those who were there.
Standing on Bill’s Grave, speaking about recovery, to others present, changed my life. I had the opportunity to visit the man who started it all. Then attend an intensive weekend, and then bring all that home for my guys, my friends, my fellows, the list goes on and on. On the way home from that weekend, we visited the next site of the Men’s Intensive for Spring 2015. A little place called Saint Anne’s Shrine in Vermont. About an hours drive from here.
We have celebrated Thanksgiving and we are coming up on Christmas.
Three seems to be the magic number for me. A few weeks ago, I was introduced to a man who came to our Sunday night meeting, and since. I’ve become his sponsor. You loose one, God gives you another one. They say, when you work with others that, you might find folks to work with, and they might decide that drinking is far more fun, and take leave of you. But when one goes, there is always someone waiting in the wings to take their place. And so that has happened.
The Pre-Cake roller coaster did not take off this year.
There were no massive upheavals, no major issues, no major problems. It has been a slow burn. However, this year, I have not only had myself to work with, but my guys and my sponsor. I’ve really had no down time to think of myself. When the phone rings, it rings, I answer.
It is one thing to be present for your own sobriety, it is totally a different fish, when you are accountable to young men with whom you work with. They call every day. We talk every day, except when life takes precedence. I meet my guys once a week to talk, to read the Book, and to do Step Work. One of my guys moved to the states, this past fall for his M.A. so we Skype every week.
Thank God for technology and sponsorship.
They have totally kept me on my toes and busy with something to do and something new to think about on a daily basis. Working with others is the greatest joy you can have in sobriety. Because it isn’t about me, it’s about them. I’ve truly grown this year, in ways I couldn’t have imagined. All because I have done my work.
Now they do their work.
Continuing the story … This post is a two parter. It is Tuesday and mother nature dropped snow on us today. A little worried about people not coming, my sponsor says … “We went to any length to drink, snow or whatever, people will come, don’t fret!”
Our usual group of folks came. We called New Foundland to talk to one of our women who is up there with her new daughter, and I thought that it would be nice for all of us to talk to her, so we did that. Have phone will chat !!!
We covered the second half of Step twelve. There were lots of laughs and giggles, but it was all business.
So what can I say for sobriety, I am in my steps. My sponsees are in their steps. My sponsor is in his steps. We’ve now heard the steps presented three times in the last year. Twice in an intensive weekend, and once at our meeting for twelve weeks.
This journey to where I am today, started some time ago, and only now can I say, I’ve reaped the rewards of really working my sobriety for all its worth. No roller coaster, no drama. Everything is where it should be and all is well in my world.
It was bittersweet because one of my friends, who was sober, when I FIRST got sober, was here tonight. He got stuck in the revolving door for a long time, and now he is back. He’s got six months. And I think about him a lot. Had he stuck and stayed he would be long sober, longer than I am today, had he stayed. But he didn’t.
I did everything I was told to do. I’ve been blessed to be able to maintain the sober schedule I built thirteen years ago. And I did not deviate from that schedule. Ever. I stayed sober. Many of my friends did not.
What did I do right, and what did they do wrong?
We are all suffering alcoholics. Some got better, some didn’t. At least tonight, all in our number are alive, well and sober.
I am very grateful for all that I have.
Thanks for reading. More to come, stay tuned …
So it is a little colder tonight. ( -8c w.c. -14c) It was not so bad, without wind in your face. However I chose to layer a little better tonight, than last night. I have a particular polar sweater, which I never wear, because it is cumbersome and warm. Add that to a Henley, and it was downright toasty!
Friday’s are productive and when all my work was done for the day, I got my power nap in before having to get ready to go.
And damned if I had one of my regular dreams, this one repeats itself in varying ways, its the same people, the same situation, but the way I work out that situation is different every time the dream comes to me. And it usually ends, without resolution. (read: my alarm clock always gets the last word, and the dream is incomplete, EVERY time).
I knew I was in this dream, and I was hell bent on seeing it through to resolution. The dream involves me having to get myself away from someone (who shall remain nameless) it doesn’t really matter. But I was involved with her a long time ago.
Getting away … It isn’t as cut and dry as it seems, the getting away is always complicated, each dream presents a new problem/route, that I never get to the end of, so I guess the dream repeats itself every so often, to see if I get to the end or not.
In which case, today, I finally got to the end…
How do you get away from someone who makes it totally difficult to just walk away, of ones free will?
This time, it was getting past a security system. And people who work in the security office, who do their damnedest, to make sure you can’t get away. And once you got past security, you had to secure a ticket for a bus, that comes on a schedule, (that took several attempts in the dream) I got stuck several times in the office, which is at the entrance to the property which I am trying to get off of.
Moving from the main house, where one is stuck, getting all your electronic devices which have been tampered with, intentionally, (read: my phone) which was hacked and killed… I had to get across a plot of land to the exit security office. Then get past the watchers. Get myself to the station, just down the road, get a ticket, and finally be able to get on that bus, which took me away …
I needed my phone, and I had to get it away from the person who had it, (that took several attempts in the dream). Finally I secured my phone, but in the end it was useless to me. All the while, as I am trying to move through these steps, there is always someone trying to drag me back to the property against my will. I would get past the office and to the station, only to be thwarted repeatedly.
It just kept cycling over and over, and each cycle I got closer to the bus.
I could feel I was coming to the end of my nap cycle. The alarm clock was getting very close. I was cradling one of hubby’s pillows sleeping, and he came in and pulled it away, and I was just at the brink of success, and I wanted it to end, finally, so I held on to the bitter end.
Then the alarm clock rang …
**** **** ****
I had a half hour to get ready to go, made a couple of phone calls, and headed out. In some areas, there is black ice crusted on the sidewalks, it was a very gingerly transit. When I got to the church, there was a blanket of snow in the yard. The yard is big enough that when it really snows, you have to use the sidewalk, and not walk through the snow across the yard.
We sat a full house. As usual.
“Following a gossip binge, we can well ask ourselves these questions: “Why did we say what we did? were we only trying to be helpful and informative? Or were we not trying to feel superior by confessing the other fellow’s sins? Or, because of fear and dislike, were we really aiming to damage him?”
This would be an honest attempt to re-examine ourselves, rather than the other fellow.
Grapevine, August 1961.
The rest of the reading speaks about inventory, credits and debits. And ends with, even when we have tried hard and failed, we may chalk that up as one of the greatest credits of all.
So, Gossip, Inventory, Words …
In the book it talks about resentment, selfishness, self centeredness, dishonesty and fear …
There were several threads …
Personal situations, work situations, life lessons, Inventories and gossip.
At some point after we get sober and begin our steps, we get to step four, in our own time and at our own pace. This step is always a work in progress, because it never comes out perfectly, and we get to repeat our steps continually, as we stay sober, long term.
We all have situations that arise daily. And we either do (A) get riled up, come out firing with guns blazing, shoot our mouths off, and intentionally hurt someone else, or (B) before we open our mouths, we engage our brains, and think the thought through carefully.
In May, I attended my first Men’s Intensive weekend. And in my notes, I have written, “First Thought Wrong.” Meaning, the young man who said this, said that usually when he has a thought about a certain situation, that his first thought is wrong. Which brings a modicum of process when finally he decides to speak.
Words are powerful.
Used correctly, they can change, uplift and encourage.
Used incorrectly, and those words can destroy, tear down and discourage.
I’ve learned from my past that I listened to my father tear me apart, in many ways. I swore I would never become him. But coming into my own, as a gay man, I learned how to be catty and bitchy from the best drag queens on earth. It was ones pedigree, to be able to cut someone to pieces in short order. (read: taking someones inventory, either in front of them or behind their backs).
I have that ability. And sometimes, in the past, I have used it liberally, without thinking through the consequences.
I have grown up …
I have said that sometimes, I talk with my friends, and sometimes we don’t usually pay attention to words. But for the most part, when needed, words come, and they usually are from someone other than myself. Sometimes I sit here and write words that come from another part of me, I get wisdom from a source other than myself.
When I work with people, on a sober or pastoral level, words have power, and if I misuse my words, I take liberty with someone else’s life. It so happened that I was asked for advice, and knowing the human being I was talking to, before I answered him, I picked my words gently, and carefully.
Sometimes I don’t do so well.
And other times I do do well.
It all depends on thought.
Am I using words to build up someone and encourage them and to enlighten them? Or am I just spouting words, without thought, never considering the consequences of those words?
When we make an inventory, we are taking stock of goods, thoughts, problems, Issues, resentments, etc … An inventory, is an excellent tool for use, post inventory. Some people burn their inventories when they finish, I did that several times. This past round, it is in a nice little notebook, I keep on my desk. From that inventory, I work six through eight.
It is good that I have someone to talk to every day, (read: my sponsor and a choice couple of others)
It is good to get a really SOBER take on life, from some one much longer sober than myself. But my sponsor is a little crazy at times, and has a sense of humor, but he always comes back to brass tacks: In the end, if I did not drink to day, it was a good day. And that simple thought, keeps it simple.
Every day we use words. How are you using yours?
Think about it.
More to come, stay tuned …