Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. The Ferryland – New Foundland Iceberg Easter 2017. A Word Press Production.

Meetings

Little Meetings Need Love Too …

11088247_696573470453146_8437009207107910408_nIt was an Up/Down kind of day. A little rain, a little wind, then clearing just in time for rush hour traffic. Which really did not have any effect, in lessening rush hour traffic !

They say that “If you can, live by the seat of your pants, then do it …”

Kind of like, not wearing underwear … I never leave the house without my butt covered.

I got a call from a friend this morning, asking me to hit another meeting tonight. Of course, I said yes, because, I will go where ever this particular friend asks me to go, anytime.

I don’t usually plan my days, they just happen, aside from the regular meetings schedule, but that can always change if a better choice is offered.

I kind of like living dangerously !!

There are several competing meetings on Thursday night. Two of them are in NDG, across town, and down the road. Bus and Metro meetings. The third is right up the street in Westmount,

My day consisted of receiving packages for my mama friend, who is returning from New Found Land in a couple of weeks. What she can’t bring on a plane, she is buying and shipping to me to store. What we can donate to her, will seriously help her bottom line spending.

So far we have lots of baby furniture, dishes, a dining room set, and another friend, will have furniture and kitchen appliances, so that she won’t have to buy them, in any case.

Along with her stuff that came was a little something for me. The first of two packages that traveled the world to get here. I logged into EBAY last week, and my front page was filled with little impulse things, they probably thought I’d like, to either look at, or more to the point BUY !!!

I have plenty of shoes, from all over the place. I bought a sweet pair of combat boots from a friend some years ago, and this past Winter, my left boot began to take on water during a stroll out to dinner on a winter’s night. My local shoe repair is being remodeled so that is a no go.

In any case, a sweet pair of Military Tactical Combat Boots were on offer, and the price was right, so they are on their way from China. Ebay has become an international store front. They used to only show you items for sale in ones region, and if you wanted to shop on other Ebay locales, one has to log into that area, which usually brings with it, Google Translate.

I shop in the U.K., Germany, China, the U.S. and Canada. Now on Ebay, I get search results for all over the world on the same page. But for specialty items, I go shop direct.

I had the afternoon to do nothing and take a power nap before I had to go.

I took the train into NDG and got picked up for the evening event. I had been to this particular church before, I used to go to another meeting there, in the past. I don’t usually go into NDG for a meeting, because there are closer ones a short walk from home.

Anyways, we sat an intimate little group. When we got there, my friend said, “oh, hey, you wanna chair tonight?” I’ve never been to this meeting before, and he asked me to chair. Obviously, I said ok. What ever works.

We talked about “Things we heard from Old Timers that made a difference in our lives.”

This particular meeting was began by a guy who runs a rehab, so the chair book has the meeting script, the readings, and also pages and pages of meeting topics for discussion. I had plenty to choose from, I just chose an easy one for this evening.

I find it enjoyable going to small, intimate meetings. It was a good hour.

That little group is trying to keep the doors open, so they need a little love.

On the way home he asked me if going there was a problem, and I said no, a meeting is a meeting where ever it is. If you wanna go there you make the time and put forth the effort to get there, no matter where it is.

It’s a little more work to get there, but smiles on one’s friend’s faces is priceless.

A good night was had by all.

More to come, stay tuned …


Tuesday … Now, Later, Maybe and Never

friends becomeThe Up/Down temperature swings have leveled off, and today we swung into sunny, hot and moderate humidex readings. Thank God for Air conditioning. I was wise to load it up a few days ago, when they warned us that this trend would come.

When temps rise above 18c and above, things begin to get sticky. Living amid the concrete jungle, here in Western Downtown, cement and concrete buildings, warm during the day, then radiate heat when the sun goes down.

We aren’t insulated for seasonal hot and cold. This building is concrete and most apartments have windows across one entire wall, no matter what direction you face. We face West, which means, we get direct sunlight from 11 a.m. through till sundown.

That gets very warm. We get so much sun, that over the past decade or so, we had hung blinds, we papered or foiled the windows to turn sunlight away, these things did not help very much.

When we renovated the space a few months ago, we splurged on special sun sensitive roll blinds that work really well. They cut the heat quotient in a great way. With the added a.c. unit in the bedroom, we can maintain the apartment at a steady cool and comfy level.

It was so beautiful today, that I walked from the Metro to the church on the way out. (read: there was no bus waiting at the station, so I walked it).

It was our fourth year anniversary for the meeting today.

It’s very funny, our meeting.

They say, that all you need to have, to open a meeting, is a resentment and a coffee pot…

You actually need at minimum $350.00 to do it right.

And that is exactly how Vendome started. ONE pissed off alcoholic and his resentments.

Many years ago, well, four to be exact, Tuesday Beginners was in transition. We dropped from two meetings on a Tuesday Night, to just one. One of our members wanted the key and said he would operate the second meeting himself, in our space, inside our window of occupancy.

That idea was instantly nixed …

So he left, and along with my current sponsor, opened a brand new meeting right up against Tuesday Beginners, but half an hour earlier. Which put it smack dab in the middle of the Five o’clock shadows meeting at 5 and Tuesday Beginners at 7.

All three meetings are close. They are all on bus and Metro lines.

A couple of years later, I decided to leave Tuesday Beginners and followed my friends over to Vendome. By that time, the original member who opened the meeting copped another resentment with the group, and he fled. Which left us with a meeting to run and populate.

We were at Trinity for a little more than a year, then the N.D.G. Food Bank, was tossed on the street by their landlord, so they really needed a place to operate, because the food bank serves the entire N.D.G. and surrounding Burroughs. They came to Trinity.

Our meeting was tossed into the auditorium where the food bank had set up all around us, so we were sharing space with them, and several other meetings that book ended ours.

That did not go very well, and we ended up moving the meeting to where it is now. Up the hill and close to Villa Maria Metro and the 24 bus route. Sadly, most of the folks who used to come to Trinity, did not follow. We could never figure out the why? It was only 2 city blocks away.

We’ve maintained the group, albeit, by the skin of our teeth. We aren’t making seventh, hand over fist, and funds have fallen off because we can’t seem to hold over many people, they just don’t come week after week, however, we do have a small group of committed members.

Along with our anniversary today, one of our old timers celebrated 29 years of sobriety.

There was cake, and other goodies to feast upon.

We are closing in on the end of our Joe and Charlie Big Book tapes.

AH, I can hear the angels sing …

We have reached Steps Eight and Nine.

It is said that alcoholism is a three fold disease. Spiritual, Mental and Physical.

In steps One, Two and Three, we realize our powerlessness, we come to believe in a Power Greater than Ourselves, and we decide to turn it over. For many, this might be their first time around with (a) god. But many know who God is, and they have turned away for one reason or another. That solves our spiritual problem.

In Steps Four, Five, Six and Seven, we set to paper all those things that hold us back. Resentments, Guilts, and Fears. After an exhaustive, moral personal inventory, we clear away the wreckage of our pasts. Then we unload it upon someone we trust. We figure out from that inventory our character defects and our shortcomings.

It is also said that we continue to work Six and Seven for the rest of our lives.

That solves our Mental problem.

In Steps Eight and Nine, we make our lists of those we need to make amends to, and prepare to do so, as we are able, with this proviso …

An Amends list is not something to take lightly, depending on how much damage you have done to yourself and others. (read: Family, Friends, Employers etc …)

Many come to this point and balk. So Joe and Charlie give us this tool:

  • Make Four lists:
  • Those we can make amends to NOW
  • Those we could make amends to LATER
  • Those whom we could MAYBE make amends to at some point
  • And those we will NEVER be able to make amends to

Reading the text out of the Big Book, Bill covers almost every single situation that might turn up for someone working at this juncture of The Work.

Many an old timer took to the work slowly. But it is what it is. Amends cross many areas.

  • Personal
  • Business
  • Family and
  • Financial

At some point in ones sobriety, we should complete this list, in any way possible, because we drank, for some, in any way possible. And if we had to Beg, Rob or Steal it, alcoholics and addicts have done that. It may take a lifetime, but we only have ONE lifetime.

So we better make it a good life, in the end.

I’ve done these lists. There are people on each of these lists. With the dawn of sobriety the second time, I had to make amends to certain people, which I did early on, because I could.

When I got sober the second time, about a month in, I met those friends I ditched opting for a geographic, instead of honesty and respect. Those amends were made directly, face to face.

Let me tell you, that was not easy. It took everything I had to look my friends in the eyes and ask for forgiveness.

With the dawn of Facebook, I made amends to my friends whom I had not seen in many years. Many of my drinking friends, are sober themselves, so that made it a bit easier, because they were in the program, and the amends were mutual and went both ways.

There is one woman, a good friend of mine, who is still in my life today, who WAS in my life through every stage of my life in recovery the First and Second time.

We had THAT discussion.

She forgave me. But to this day, my heart aches, every time I think about her or see activity on Facebook, because I have unfinished business with her. You see, she was the only friend who was financially involved with helping to take care of me when I was really sick, my family had long since backed out of any responsibility or desire to help me.

And she carried me to my geographical move and then she left and went on to her own geographical cure. I was all the way OUT, she was only PARTIALLY the way out.

Life went on. But I owe her more than asking for forgiveness. One day I hope to make full financial restitution to her in my own way, for everything that she did for me. But I have yet to say these words to her, because they have been a long time coming.

Then on the final list, are those who I will NEVER be able to make amends to. Those are the people who walked out of my life for various reasons, (which are all about them, and not about me, but really, it is all about me no matter how you cut it).

I was an Alcoholic. I was Gay, I was living with AIDS, and I reside in Canada.

All these things are liabilities.

So fuck me for surviving…

We’ve come a long way over the last year or so. Each pass at the steps gives us perspective, insight and then the gift of hindsight. The greater the vision, the greater the effort to sober up.

We grow up when we get sober, and hopefully, we do it right this time.

Maybe NOW, Maybe LATER, MAYBE sometime, and sadly, quite possibly NEVER.

More to come, stay tuned …


Tuesday – Tomorrow is Christmas Eve – 1 Shopping Day Remains

PCU1582bChristmas Window – Place Ville Marie – Montreal

It is the final push for holiday shoppers. One day left to get that done. I am very glad that I did not partake in shopping madness this year. The whole shop till you drop mentality has worn off over the past few years. It’s not like we need “things” above and beyond what we already have. Breaking the bank on Christmas gifts is something we don’t do. We shop for the nieces and nephews, and simple gifts for the family that we exchange every year.

So that is a thing …

Last week I ordered some new headphones for both hubby and myself. When Target opened I purchased some Skull Candy headphones that did not last very long before they crapped out. I went to their website and found the warranty and filed a claim for a replacement pair. I sent them back and they gave me a credit towards a new purchase, which I redeemed last week.

Sadly, the style that I had was no longer in stock, which meant an upgrade purchase for another pair, which were more expensive, and I bought two of them to boot, in actuality, I got my credit, towards the pair, and then paid the difference. This year I lucked out in that all the places I purchased from this season all took PayPal, so I didn’t need a credit card.

Here in Montreal, ads have been pushing shoppers to use their Interac Cards, rather than a credit card. An Interac Card is our debit card that pulls directly from your bank account.

The packages was mailed last Wednesday, and it took a few days to get here from Surrey B.C. Yesterday I waited all day for the mail, because the office was only open yesterday and today to receive packages, then it would be by slip and pick up afterwards. I made several trips downstairs to check the mail to no avail. By 5 o’clock I resigned myself that the mail wasn’t coming.

Hubby got home and we set down for a nap for a few hours before dinner, and at 7:15 p.m. there was a knock on the door. The mailman actually walked my box upstairs to me instead of leaving me a slip. I was pleasantly surprised. Now there is a Big Box under the tree for Thursday …

All my peeps are where they need to be for the holidays, and a few of them are traveling tomorrow because of work responsibilities.

Environment Canada issued us weather warnings a few days ago because of a massive storm, they predicted would begin pelting us with freezing rain and rain for the next three days. It was damp out all day, but no drizzle nor rain fell. However, I carried to the meeting just in case. And in the end i got a ride back up to the train.

I departed on time and made my transit. Many of our regular folks are out of town, so tonight’s meeting was going to be hit or miss. We sat a usual small group. Minus a few heads. Folks brought all kinds of holiday foods; cookies, crackers and cheese, and the always freshly perked coffee.

The past few weeks, we have been filling time with discussion topics until January, when we will begin a new format, one that I have never seen before in sobriety. We are running the Joe and Charlie tapes for the next few months, beginning in January.

Tonight we read from an old Grapevine, “Having fun in sobriety…”

All of us with time, told similar stories. We range from a few weeks, to a few months, to a number of years, then the jump to 25 and 30 years sober. We had a single newcomer attend tonight, who is in his first weeks. Listening to folks with time talk about how they have “fun” in sobriety is somewhat problematic, because in the beginning, who is having any fun, having come fresh off the street, finding that they are alcoholic and need help, and listen to people talking about having fun!

Many people I have heard speak to this topic, talk about walking down into a church basement, and much to their surprise, expecting bag ladies and bums with trench coats and brown bags, come to find that there are actual, well dressed, happy, smiling and joking people at the bottom of the stairs, and how disconcerting this was for them on their first days in.

I heard lots of good things, like:

  • Getting sober in a city I never drank in, in watching and listening to people who come and go, I learned where not to go, and where to go, what not to do and what To Do.
  • I found a Home Group and got connected
  • I had a sponsor from the very beginning
  • I was never alone for very long
  • I kept busy, meetings, aftercare, service
  • I maintained a stable meeting schedule that has served me well over 13 years
  • I did not do what my friends did
  • But I did do what I was told by the old timers

I spoke about learning what responsibility was, and how that came over time. I first connected to a home group and got active. I’d hear something in a meeting, a topic or a lesson. We’d talk about it over time, I’d learn the lesson, then get time to work it out in reality for another period of time.

That’s how I learned responsibility. It came in stages, over months and years. I met each challenge, soberly and with good advice. When I was sober a year, I took on a second challenge, University. Then a third, was a relationship, (not in your first year, they say) I squeaked in at 11 months.

As long as I used my meetings properly and kept to my schedule, worked with my sponsor and listened accordingly, life tended to work out in my favor. Because I was rooted and In It.

Over the past almost three years I have been IN IT TO WIN IT.

Which is an entirely different beast than when this all started. Sobriety has totally ramped up and my life has never been the same. I imagine, in my minds eye, if a fire this big had been set under my ass in the very beginning, what the possibilities could have been. But I am where I am and life turned out the way it did, by the design God set out for me.

All in its good time I guess.

Yes, you too will learn to laugh, to have fun and live life to its fullest. That’s what the Promises talk about, and also A Vision for You.

We did not get sober to be Miserable.

For we are not a Glum Lot.

Sobriety is our goal, and church basements or bell towers are instrumental for that to happen.

We learn how to live outside those spaces over time. That’s the whole idea, isn’t it ?

I don’t go to sticky places, I don’t shop in liquor stores, I don’t go to bars or clubs. I stay away from city festivals that require one to drink. Listening to my friends, who get stuck in the revolving door, I’ve learned what Not to Do. And that lesson plan paid off in spades.

You Will Get Happy.

One day at a time.

Stick around until the miracle occurs.


December 9th 2014 … Thirteen

tumblr_l8yig0qgFp1qbsveko1_500 billypazionis

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 …


Men’s Intensive Weekend – Bill W. House East Dorset, Vermont

DSCF3269East Dorset is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Montreal. This sign stands outside the home where Bill W. was born.

DSCF3270This is Bill’s family home – they can house 18 guests on the second floor of the house, and an additional 85 in a motel setting that is about 1000 yards from the house here.

DSCF3271This is the meeting room in the back of the house, There is a sitting room adjacent to this space, that has couches, tables and lamps, a full working fire place. We met some very nice folks from all over the area and visitors from other places. Notice the license plates from all over the United States. There are many more tacked to the rafters all the way around this room. There is never ending coffee, a pop corn maker, and comfortable places to sit during the day when you visit and for the guests who are staying and the guests that come for meetings in the house.

DSCF3272The living room/piano room. Lots of literature to read, and a really great space to enjoy your special Bill W. cup of coffee. We did … enjoy the coffee. How many people can say they had a cup of coffee in Bill W’s home?

DSCF3275This is the side view of the home.

DSCF3277Signs on the front of the home

DSCF3278DSCF3280

DSCF3271The meeting space. It can quite comfortably seat upwards of fifty people for a meeting.

DSCF3282Your author standing behind the “chair.”

DSCF3283In one of the dining rooms, there are photos of the house as it was built, family photos on the sideboard below the pictures on the walls.

DSCF3285The Graveyard where Lois, Bill and many others are buried. The headstones are very simple and humble markers. They sit side by side.

DSCF3286This is Bill W’s grave. You can see chips that have been placed on the headstone. There is only room for 11 or 12 chips. When you come, you bring your chip and leave it for someone else to take, when THEY come to visit the grave. My 12 year chip is now sitting here, along with many chips with anniversaries in the high 40’s. When too many chips appear on the headstone or on the ground surrounding it, the caretaker collects the chips and stores them in a shed on the property.

DSCF3287The CHIPS