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

Men’s Intensive

It is a Problem when your New Idea becomes your Old Idea

kneelI’ve never been in so much visceral spiritual pain as I am tonight.

There is so much to say, and I want it to be coherent, so this might take a while.

Oprah says that “When God speaks to us, it is in a whisper, and if we don’t pick it up the first time, He whispers again, if we don’t pick it up the second time, He hits us in the back of the head with a two by four, if we ignore that hit, then He drops a Brick Wall on us …

Well, I missed the three attempts, and now the Brick Wall has fallen on me.

We’re Entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of Character…

This journey begins decades ago. It started with messages I heard, as a young man. From those messages, I made certain decisions, based on self preservation. I had begun to do this before I ever got sober, and before my alcoholism got into a full steam roll over.

In my life, in “sobriety” I made two more self preservation decisions. Decisions that I paid for dearly, which haunt me to this very night. When I did my Fourth Step I discussed these decisions with my sponsor to make sure they were not self centered decisions, and he clarified that no, they were self preservation decisions.

Ok, I can live with that truth.

I’ve carried a certain number of boulders on my shoulders for the whole of my life. I carried the drama of my family for my entire life. Problems that are not mine. Situations that were created by others, and NOT by me. For simple thought, I’ve been carrying this victim hood for the whole of my life, and it informed the decisions I made, and it has turned me into the seething pot of shit I have become over the last 72 hours.

I’ve been stuck on Step Six for months. Because my sponsor wanted me to be perfectly sure what I wanted to put on this list. And If I prayed enough and listened enough, that it would be made clear to me.

I’ve had a definite Moment of Clarity.

A clarity that is so clear, I am almost manic over it.

Many Many years ago the pain of not knowing began. Knowing I was gay, not having the ability to tell anyone for fear of my life. Moving away to be gay, and later getting sick, I have no one else to blame for that but ME. I never pointed a finger, because I only have hearsay evidence from one person about said issue. But I was a dirty filthy alcoholic.

Where alcohol is involved, all sense and sensibility flew out the window.

One particular day comes to mind. I can see it, smell it and I can relive it, as if it happened yesterday.

When I got sick I called a family meeting, and I did not get the response I so needed, and that discussion ended on a Christmas night months later, being humiliated by my father and mother in front of guests at a Christmas dinner.

I will never live that day down for as long as I live.

So In sobriety I made two crucial decisions that changed my life and brought me here to Montreal. I paid dearly for those decisions. I am now sober a lot longer now, than I was when I made those decisions.

The changes I made were merely cosmetic dressing. The family and blood line remains the same, but my parents would beg to differ. Once I made one fateful decisions, then another, in the end it was me who lost. The light switch was turned off and I’ve been in the dark for ages.

Self preservation …

You can’t change your family of origin, we are stuck with them.
Be careful the words you speak, because once you do, you cannot take them back
Blood is thicker than water.

Things I heard, from one side of a mouth, and hatred and homophobia coming from the other side of the same mouth.

Fuck me …

I am sober, but I am emotionally and spiritually sick.

Being told to leave a meeting and never come back in two separate meetings, the first and second time I got sober, did a number on me emotionally. I carry that shame and pain like a badge of courage. It has defined the way I see myself in relation to other sober people, even to this day.

It has infected me to the point of sickness. It taints my perception of every single heterosexual man I come in contact with. And has for the whole of this sober journey.

You cannot change another human being. And we cannot hold onto old ideas that someone is going to change as we expect them to. We cannot find the sunlight of the spirit if we are so blind, and relentless, vowing never to let it go and really get sober, after all this time.

I am carrying these boulders, and I am sick with an unrealistic expectation in the hopes that I will change the situation. I, Me, Me, Me …

A year ago this past weekend I went to my first men’s intensive weekend. I brought up old pain and tossed it on the table to see what the guys would say to me, when they found out who and what I was, and what sickness I was carrying. Shame … Fear, Guilt … Perception.

I was the odd ball.

Whisper one …

I worked through my steps that weekend, but came away amused and challenged.

For the next six months God would whisper.

In October of last year I attended my second men’s intensive. Same folks, same steps, but the pain became acute. But not enough to get me to act on it.

I got hit by the two by four. No response on my part.

Seven months later, this past weekend, I attended my third men’s intensive weekend.

This weekend there were three fruits in the proverbial basket. But it seemed that I was the only odd ball in the bunch once again. I felt that way, I said nothing, I let that fester all weekend, and it tainted the entire weekend experience, into visceral pain.

I listened to speakers talk, I listened to guys share, and I shared as well. This went on all weekend.

The disease of alcoholism is a disease of perception.

Let me tell you, my perception has been skewed for a long time. Because of old ideas, old pain, unrequited expectations, anger, frustration and RAGE…

I felt all weekend long, like I was sitting in left field all by myself, because of how others did or did not interact with me all weekend.I watch people with a morbid fascination to see what they will or won’t say, whether they break bread with me, or even have a conversation with me, simply.

And by the end of this mornings meetings, all I wanted to do was run. We could hot have left any earlier, but that’s what I wanted.

I was so emotionally sick by noon today, it was turning my stomach. The ride out and the ride back, more than 300 miles to and from, was excruciating. There are just some people who get on my nerves, and I can’t stand to be in the same room with them. Let alone stuck in a car for an indeterminate amount of time, going to someplace I’ve never been, to hang with a group of men, some I knew, many I did not.

When I shared, I shared things I heard, in the past from other drunks getting sober. Things I do in sobriety today.

My spiritual sister tells me tonight that I wasn’t sharing I was lecturing. And I got it.

Nobody wants to be told what to do, especially an alcoholic.

But that’s what this entire weekend was, a primer in what to do, how to do it and why. The messages were the same.

It was the delivery that mattered.

When we got around to steps eight and nine,

Made a list of all the persons we had harmed and, and became willing to make amends to them all. And made direct amends to such people where ever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.

The words: Parent, Father and Mother came up, in regards to amends and everybody was off and running. I went from calm and sedate to manic rage in about three seconds.

VISCERAL !!!

The brick wall fell on me.

I guess I was in enough pain to feel something. I went through the roof, I spilled my guts in the meeting, nobody said anything to me after that meeting. After that meeting I sat with an older gay man who was there, who happens to live here, and we discussed the boulder.

That was just the beginning.

It all came to fruition on the way home.

My sponsor driving the car, one of his sponsees, (read: the man I cannot stand) sitting shotgun, one of his sponsees and myself in the back seat.

Trapped !!!

They ignored me all the way home. One would not shut up the entire way home. He calls my sponsor COB. (read: Chris Old Boy)

Can I tell you how many times I heard him say that phrase all weekend? Or how many crude and stupid jokes he told ad nauseum.

Oh My God, I wanted to throw him out of the car, and we were so relieved when we dropped him off finally.

Before we left, we were warned that:
It might not hit you right away and it might hit you later, or it just might hit you like a ton of bricks when you least expect it.

I was mere hours away from critical mass.

After an intensive, they recommended that we go home and hit a meeting to Decompress.

I did that.

I got home with thirty minutes to spare. I unpacked and changed, charged my phone, packed my bag with what I needed, grabbed the umbrella and set off.

My head was spinning like a washing machine on HIGH Spin Cycle.

My chest was heavy and I was angry, resentful and almost in a rage.

Do you know what they did to ME?

Do you know how I feel?

Do you want to know what I think?

I asked someone else to be my new sponsor the other night. That might have been a tad bit premature.

My friend, tonight, showed me the pattern of cut and run that I am so adept at doing.She showed me the pattern of old ideas I was still carrying almost fourteen years into sobriety. It might seem I have all my shit together, yet I could be so spiritually sick. She showed me the pattern of God trying to get my attention in the repetition of those pattern she paid out.

I am holding on to this grudge, this pain, this shame, and this anger and rage so hard, and that I have little faith in my God that He would remove these things from me.

Oh Ye of Little Faith …

She offered me her God to supplement my lack of faith in my God.

Patterns that are etched in stone on my heart. Old ideas ensconced in my soul. Ideas that I have harbored for decades. Fantasies of getting even and having my say finally, once and for all, words I want to say, people I want to rage at for personal parental injustice, years of ignoring me like I did not exist. For hating who I became by no fault of my own.

I did not chose this life, it happened the way it did.

I would not change but a few little details in my history and my life story.

I am alive. I am sober. I survived, Don’t you know who I am? Or Don’t you want to know who I am today? You’ve been ignoring me for decades. I have a narrative in my head that I have spent my entire life, fleshing out, based on stories, evidence, study and family.

This two ton boulder has been hanging around my neck and God has been trying to get me to pay attention and see it. Today I am in enough pain to see it.

Have I been paying lip service to prayer and meditation? I don’t think so. But I haven’t been very forthcoming to God about removing this from me, because it is such a deep and heavy boulder, that if I let it go, what will happen, who will I become?

What is going to happen?

FUCK ME …

I have an appointment to complete Step Six Tomorrow.


Sunday Sundries – Shoots and Buds

tumblr_lrhaqa79eH1qelkcko1_500 benc0baneCourtesy: Benc0bane

If you are going to jump out of a plane, do it with your friends.

This weekend we celebrated the marriage of one of our men to his wife. The thought of marriage was not his first thought when he got here. Among family and friends they shared their vows, and today was their first day of married life.

It could not have happened to a better friend.

The month of May is a very busy in sober land. The first push of sober events begin next weekend, with the Spring Men’s Intensive in Vermont. We will be leaving Friday afternoon, returning on Sunday.

Later in the month, we have the Pioneer’s Roundup and the weekend following is the West Island Round Up. Kind of a One Two Punch of sober experience, strength and hope coming from all over the map.

I have said that the Spring offensives have begun in earnest. People marching in the streets will be the norm for the months to come. Last night they marched Westward through the downtown core, today they marched Eastward for the March against the Armenian Genocide.

I left just in time to see the parade step off not far from home, I was traveling against the tide. A solemn memorial then took place further down into the core.

I’ve been noticing all the shoots and buds that have been appearing in gardens, on bushes and trees. Little by slowly, Montreal is greening up. On my walk to the church we walk through a row of condos, and all of their gardens are coming to life. New flowering plants, the bushes and slowly slowly, the hundred year trees are beginning to bud out.

The trees in the church yard were struck with the blight last fall, so the leaves dropped dead and did not color. Hopefully the long cold winter has killed whatever bug is going around the tree tops.

There were signs on the church door when I arrived this evening, “Le Petite Chanteurs de Montreal” were performing this afternoon. (The Little Singers of Montreal) The BEST youth choir in all of the city. They performed a few months ago and today kicked off their summer tour, which will take them from Montreal to Europe this summer.

In the end, it all came together. We swapped the kids out and restored the hall to normalcy and we had our meeting, albeit a much smaller crowd, because you know, the weather is good, and there was hockey on tap, which gives anyone who enjoys hockey a pass for anything other than the great game.

This week is also auspicious because it is May anniversary sweep for my guys. Today we celebrated one six month anniversary. He survived a terribly stressful trip to Europe that did not end well, because of immigration issues. In the end he navigated the swells, he didn’t drink, and he got back to Montreal eventually, after several trips between Vienna and Frankfurt to sort out his paperwork and passport.

It was a nightmare …

Tomorrow we celebrate a three year anniversary at the M.A. meeting with another one of my guys. I was going to say Friday as well, but I won’t be here on Friday. Oh well.

It was a small meeting and we read a couple of short stories from Experience, Strength and Hope. The sense of gratitude for the first 100 folks who got sober, did it by the skin of their teeth and through fellowship with the suffering alcoholic, affords us the opportunity to read their stories, the first stories, and how they got by in the hardest of times, World War One, the Great Depression.

If it weren’t for them, we would not have what we have today.

It was a good night.

More to come, stay tuned…


The Weekend … The Whole Story

DSCF3287We departed Montreal early Friday morning. Myself, my sponsor and another friend, who is also a sponsee of my sponsor. It took a few hours to get to the other side of Vermont, in a round about way, we traveled 4 hours out, only to retrace our route 90 minutes back to our final destination of Mad River Valley in Waitsfield.

The weather was gloomy. cloudy and raining. We arrived mid afternoon and parked in the lot adjacent to Bill’s family home. The house is a working bed and breakfast space for members and visitors who come to visit. While we were there, a group of women from all over the U.S. were there to sit a Women’s Intensive Step Weekend. While we were there we spoke to the folks who run the house, anticipating that our men’s group may eventually host a weekend at the house. The house sleeps 18 on the second floor, there are two sitting rooms, one with the family piano. There is a full dining room that seats upwards of 140 people in one sitting. A full kitchen, meeting hall and fireplace lounge in the same space in the back.

We had our obligatory cup of coffee, because who else can say they had a cup of coffee in Bill’s family home? It was very special for us to visit this place.

After our visit we traveled up the road to the graveyard where Lois, Bill and many others are buried in simply marked graves, well kept by a caretaker. A group of the women from the house were already there and they asked if we would like to join them? We shared time together, and they gave each of us a St. Francis prayer card. We joined hands and said the prayer together, followed by a quick share from those present at the graveside, speaking about something that meant something to them. We closed with the Serenity Prayer.

I left my Twelve Year Chip on Bill’s headstone, pictured above. There were a few chips with BIG numbers on them, and a couple with a short amount of time. I almost got a 14 year chip that was there, but one of the women beat me to it, so I left without a chip. I was the only one to leave a chip for the next visitor.

Two hours had passed since our arrival. We got back on the road and made our way to Waitsville, and the Mad River Barn for our Men’s Intensive Weekend. This weekends group was half the number we had attending this past May. There were several factors that attributed to the low numbers. One, the price went up $40.00. Things have changed at the Inn that did not bode well for the weekend. Tempers were on edge all weekend between the host staff and the guests who came from as far as New York City, Vermont, and Canada.

I stayed in the annex building this time around. The annex was still under construction back in May. Both the guest rooms in the annex slept six people. We were twenty five in number this trip. The weekend did not go off without problems.

We got to see some old faces and a number of new people, who were either making their first weekend, or had come at other times. The food was good. Some thought that the meals served to us were sub-par, ala Chef Boyardee … But I ate well, for certain meals, and not others.

In the end, this would be our last visit to Mad River Barn. After twenty years of coming, our group elders voted for finding a new location that would serve us better. The bottom line is full fare paying guests, who stay, eat and DRINK ! They don’t make a whole bunch of money on twenty five sober folks who don’t drink. And it was apparent that our stay was more pain than pleasure, and the owners were to blame for the lack of cordiality, kindness, and the attitude several of us got from the couple who now own the Inn.

It rained all weekend, which made it kind of miserable. Getting out early to jog, or walk the paths up the mountain were muddy with puddles from the rain, so for the most part we all stayed in for the duration.

We departed at lunchtime. The Inn did not offer a last meal for lunch on Sunday. And by that time people were itching to get the hell out of dodge. We took the scenic way home from Vermont to the lake district of Quebec, where we crossed the border at a one man shack border crossing.

I arrived home around 3, and went to set up the Sunday Meeting at 5. We sat a full house and my friend and I, from the weekend shared our experience with the people. It was amazing. We read the Twelve and Twelve and Tradition Ten.

The reading was short, the room was packed. And we concluded the share by ten after seven, which left plenty of time to have cake from a 23 year anniversary celebration.

It was the most amazing weekend. If you ever get to make the journey I highly recommend it.

More to come, stay tuned …