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Mental Illness

Friday on Saturday … Learn in Quiet

serenity prayerIn 1941, a news clipping was called to our attention by a New York member. In an obituary notice from a local paper, there appeared these words (above).

Never had we seen so much A.A. in so few words. With amazing speed the Serenity Prayer came into general use.

Last night I heard a young lady say that the long version of the Serenity Prayer was written by Bill’s secretary Anne, based on prayers Bill had around the office.

I wanted to do this post justice and give it proper time to build and be able to tell the story coherently.

At every meeting, where ever you go, this prayer starts the whole show. And in most meetings, more likely in Montreal, specifically, we use the long version of the Serenity Prayer, quite often.

In the beginning, we hear the words, and we recite the prayer as rote, because everyone else is saying it. Over time, we (read:me) begin to learn just what this prayer is saying about life and how things really are.

When we admit we are powerless over alcohol, we come to the second part of that Step One, that we are also powerless over people, places and things. However hard we assert ourselves in thinking that we can change other people, and therefore change the world, the Serenity Prayer quietly reorients us back to center, reminding us just where we sit in the grand scheme of things.

A couple years ago, at Christmas. hubby bought me a Serenity Prayer, sign that hangs over my desk, it is also right next to the front door. I see it throughout my day and as I come and go, I say the prayer, and usually, add the second part of the prayer to it.

I heard it also said, last night, that the Serenity Prayer is a “pause” or “break” to stop and rest. Amid the business of the day, we often need to stop and pause to reorient our minds and thoughts.

Yesterday evening I was sitting with a friend, talking about life and marriage. Marriage is a hot topic among my friends as of late. Our men are growing up into fine men, and marriage is one of the next things on the agenda of life.

Many years ago, when I was a new into sobriety, I moved from having nothing and no one in my life, to at eleven months, meeting my now husband, moving into the apartment we now live in, and beginning my University Career all the while maintaining my meeting schedule.

That happened over a short period of time.

We were in the deep end of the pool.

What happened next changed our lives in ways we did not envision, or expect, or really had a choice in. The man I met on that rainy Sunday afternoon and subsequently dated and that quickly morphed into cohabitation, is not the same man I married two years later.

Hubby had a cycling problem. The story of how our home evolved is directly attributed to his cycling issues. What was once a white sterile apartment, is now splashed with color in every room.

Soon after that issue arose, hubby had a nervous breakdown, and we found him a shrink who diagnosed him Bi-Polar, rapid cycling. At that time, or just prior to that time, hubby was a ebullient, vibrant, active in every way, man. We had an exciting life and a very deep and connected sex life as well. When ever where ever, jack rabbit activity.

When hubby fell into his stupor, he was comatose on the sofa for 15 hours a day. I was going to school, going to meetings, coming home, cooking, cleaning, and feeding him then I put him to bed every night. Doctors began dosing him with medication to try and help him.

This lasted then months …

We did not find the right mix on the first go. Medication usually takes three to four weeks to start working and for the next ten months, we tried every drug known to man, to try and fix him.

I can tell you that at night, I would sit here in the dark, in front of this box and weep. Not knowing what to do, what I could do, or what I could do better. I prayed, every day, every night, and in retelling this story yesterday, I thought about how my prayer life saved from from personal melt down, when that was not really an option.

Someone had to take care of hubby,

What we did not know then, we found out later, much to our surprise, Bi-Polar medications are toxic and really do a number on ones brain. In ten months of medical treatment, hubby went from the young man I met, to the man I got when he finally got up from his stupor.

Finally after ten months of treatment, the shrink offered one last trial. That was the pill that changed everything. Overnight, hubby went from stupor to alive and well.

It was miraculous.

That was August of 2004.

We had weathered the medical storm. But what we got on the other side, was night from day, how it was when this all started. The man I met and came to love and adore, was not the man I ended up with as his treatment progressed.

I was powerless over what was going to happen.
I was powerless to retain what was once reality.
I was powerless over everything.
I was powerless over the man who emerged after treatment.

Over time, I had to make peace with the man I ended up with, because he was so different from the man I met in the beginning. Half the man I knew had disappeared. it was like someone took a spoon and just dug out half of his brain and half the man he had been.

It totally emasculated him.

During all this time, the thoughts of, “I can’t handle this, it isn’t my problem, and I should just cut and run, would run through my mind.” I had decided in the beginning that I was going to stick and stay. I wasn’t going to leave him when he needed me the most.

I once heard a story, a friend told me about love and loss.

One day an elderly man went to the hospital to have stitches removed from his hand.

As he sat in chairs, the staff noticed him fidgeting and nervously looking at his watch. One of the male nurses decided to take him and do what needed to be done.

The man was nervous and shaking, as the nurse removed his stitches. And so the nurse asked him why he was fidgeting and “did he have somewhere he needed to be?”

The man replied that he had breakfast with his wife every morning, and if they did not hurry he would be late. He also offered that his wife had Alzheimer’s Disease and that she did not know who he was any longer.

The nurse then asked him, “why do you have breakfast with your wife every day, if she doesn’t remember who you are?”

The elderly man replied …“Because I remember who she is.”

After hearing this story, I was more resolute than I had ever been in taking care of the man I knew and the man I ended up with.

How did I make it through the darkness? I prayed. I went to meetings, I talked to my friends.

I was never alone, and hubby was never alone either.

The power of prayer can save lives, if used correctly.

The End…


Merry Christmas 2014

tumblr_lw2bl4yyhC1qzcvqpo1_500 rawrdanieltumblr_m87fjdSpOA1ravgvuo1_500 jackandfinnCourtesy: RawrDaniel and JackHarries – Christmas Past

I stayed up late last night watching the Tubes for a while. Our local radio station that usually does overnight radio, is running Christmas music ad nauseum, ugh enough already !!! BAH !!!

Like I have said before, we really don’t get into that shop till you drop mentality. So Christmas is a little subdued. A couple of gifts, things we need, or maybe a surprise or two in the mix. Holidays are really about family and friends, and the table we will sit at later today.

This Christmas was all about Woks, headphones, and Max …

Hubby is Le Chef de Mission here at home. Keeping with tradition, he gets the latest and greatest cooking pans on the market. One of our staple meals is stir fry. And we needed a new Wok, so that was under the tree.

Then it was the Big Box – gifts for both of us in one swing. That was a big hit. New headphones.
Thank you Skull Candy !

Max got an upgrade with a 1 GB memory stick. That was much needed, because my library is pretty full as it is. I also got a shiny new mouse pad. My old mouse pad was really in bad shape.

That’s it for gifts. Nothing too grandiose.

The bird is in the oven, and we are on track for an early afternoon dinner with friends.

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A Christmas Reflection 2014

Today the Queen of England spoke about reconciliation, and the pause in hostilities during the Great War, where British and German troops, in dug out trenches, put down their guns, as the German soldiers sang “Silent Night,” in the night. The British followed suit.

What happened next is the story of legends. The next morning, Christmas Day 100 years ago today, the soldiers came out of their trenches meeting in no mans land for a game of footy, and to exchange presents and greetings.

Imagine, if the world today, took a collective breath, and hostilities were stopped for one day. Imagine, if the world could bring the many, into reconciliation, and END hostilities world wide !

IDEOLOGIES …

I have a friend who eschews holidays, those consumer driven celebrations that pop up every once in a while, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas … Love is an every day feeling. Family is an everyday gathering. Celebrating the lives of others, is a 365 days a year event.

We’ve learned, over the years, what is most important. When the tree goes up, it is a family event. It is a celebration of love, because we created a ritual for the tree. At Christmas our extended family goes well beyond to gift us all with something particularly special. And we return the gesture in kind.

For the past few years, our older members in the fellowship have been alone, they live alone and only go out for meetings, or shopping, or they go without. Us younger members have taken on the work of living in community with our men and women.

We break bread with them regularly. We celebrate holidays together, some share musical talent with them. All so that we do something good on a regular basis, with them, so that they are not alone. My guys are all connected to helping others when they can. Because they are able, and it is the right thing to do.

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus. A blessed birth come to pass in a humble manger in Bethlehem. Yes, the birth of Christ is important. It is the beginning of the story. But if you think about it, the end of the story of Jesus, is the culmination of God becoming man, and having a human experience, to sacrifice himself for the good of mankind.

Christ came to speak words of truth, to heal the sick, to chastise the greedy and wealthy, to give food to the hungry and pardon the sinner. He called twelve men to follow him, they would eventually follow and begin to create simple Christianity, that has blossomed into the Christianity of today.

The end of the story, the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, is Man’s Saving Grace. Sacrifice is God’s greatest gift to mankind. He came so that we could have life, and life abundantly. Christ dying on the cross is the pinnacle of the meaning of Christianity. Coming to save man, by dying on a cross.

Sacrifice … Love … Salvation …

I remember when I was a young boy, going to my first retreat, and hearing the words, and listening to people speak about God, Jesus and Salvation. And at the end of it all, the altar call came, and one by one we stood and turned our lives over to this man we call Jesus.

It was a Mountaintop experience.

But like Moses, we too, had to come down from the mountain, and re-enter the world.

In those days, open carrying a bible in public school, was akin to having leprosy for teens.

It marked you as different. Odd. They called us Jesus Freaks, and we were. For a while at least.

I can’t say that I succeeded in my zeal for Jesus given the home I lived in and the schools I went to.

But that time is not lost on me considering my university education and the work I do every day.

Imagine what it was like to proclaim the life of Jesus as a follower to your fellow man. Imagine what it was like for those apostles and then the people. It was like that for us. I’ve learned a great deal of what it means to follow the man we call Jesus today.

That is a 365 day journey. Not just on Easter Sunday or Christmas Day, or Epiphany.

We should love one another every day. We should honor our mates every day. We should honor our children every day. The holidays have been Frankensteined into conglomerate days of greed, money and consumerism.

If it ain’t black Friday, it doesn’t matter.

Tomorrow, bar none, people will be lining up, getting dirty, and fighting tooth and nail to get that 6 a.m. door buster prize. And I guarantee you that by 6 p.m. there will be numerous reports of holiday cheer going out the window as people beat each other up, or shoot one another for that Big Screen tv, or pair of high end sneakers.

Christmas is a day. I’ve encouraged my friends to go out into their communities and serve the less fortunate. But this too is not just a Christmas job, it is an every day job. I’ve said before that if we took all that money we spend on national and international defense and war spending and putting that money to better use, we could change the lives of millions in short order.

Sadly, the world operates on the conflict of the people, whether we like to admit that or not. It is Big Business. And those who have all the money and power rely on the conflict within the people to make their millions, billions and trillions of dollars.

The Christmas message is lost on them totally.

If you miss the real meaning of Christmas, let me remind you of a few point of order:

  • It’s not about the gifts under the tree, but the people around it
  • It’s not about how much money you spend, but the love that you share
  • It’s about family and who sits at your table for your holiday meal
  • It’s about that checker girl/guy at the grocery store, be kind
  • It’s about the less fortunate and random acts of kindness
  • It’s about the birth and beginning of the life of a man who would change the world
  • In the end it is all about the Sacrifice for the salvation of the world
  • It isn’t about what religion you profess, but the God that gives you life
  • It is the peace you share, and the fact that we are spiritual beings having a human existence

The Holidays are a “WE” event. It is not an “I” event. Dinner later on will be a We event.

And later tonight, WE will gather for a Christmas Night Meeting.

More to come …

Part 2 …

The weather held for the evening. But man is it windy. Where is all that wind coming from, and where did it originate? The wind was buckling the windows all evening while we napped after Christmas dinner.

Dinner was a nice meal, with friends and family.

We set out a bit early due to the fact that the buses are on Sunday Schedule for the holiday. Arriving at the church, a good number of people came out for the meeting. I half expected more to come, but we filled the room nonetheless.

Tonight we heard one of our women. One of the many women who feed my desire to be a better man, a sober man, who has done his work, and gives it away to others who want it as well.

In the beginning the story is the same. We were born, most, into dysfunctional families, feeding us mixed, and sometimes the wrong message about ourselves. And that leads into us becoming who we are in that period of time, and usually, but not in all cases, the messages we are fed, lead us into the world of drugs and alcohol to escape, to enhance, and even to blot out what we are hearing and in the end feeling.

Some, in the beginning, come, they look around, and they leave. We find this the case with our young people. How can I, (read: Being so young) have such problems that would need the intense work that we provide to them? For many young people, youth means that they have at least ten to fifteen years of good partying life ahead of them, and the mere thought of turning it all over and coming in for good is such a Tall Order …

Some come, and they stay, and they make a life out of it. But the stats are not good.

The WOMEN I speak so highly about so often, changed my life. Most of those women, by extension and by lineage, are sponsored, grand sponsored and great grand sponsored by women who live in New York City. The message came from one, to the next, and the next, and then finally to them personally. I was in the right place at the right time to hear this and see this in action.

And I wanted so badly to be part of it. And now I am. They say it is difficult to blunt a raging forest fire. Imagine for a moment, a bunch of crazy women on fire for the book and the solution. I had lunch with one of my ladies yesterday. They all warm my heart.

If you stick around, and you get the right message, that the book gives you, you too can join the fire for the book as well. They say that if you want to hide something from an alcoholic, put it in the Big Book. Because most alcoholics won’t read the book, until it is imperative they do so. You can only sit in your chair for so long, until someone sits with you and offers to take you through the book like we do it.

The Solution … I’ve learned that I can be with myself. Alone, quiet, in the center of the storm where the winds are calm. I’ve learned that I don’t have to save anyone, that all I have to do is take care of me, and with that done, I can help take care of someone else.

No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

Listening to sponsees, reminds me why I am here. Because I hear what happened to them, and I know that some of the same things happened to me as well. Good Healing Fire spreads quickly. We hear our friends share in discussion meetings, but it is also good to hear them share on the open stage at a speaker meeting. I’ve heard her before, and tonight I got to see and witness personal progress.

We claim spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection.

Every day we get a daily reprieve, contingent on our spiritual condition.

I understand what that means to me. Because I learned how to do it myself. You may not be one for prayer, or meditation. And in the beginning who can sit still for more than five minutes, at that? I had to practice. And that practice took months upon months, With serious time under my belt.

I had to step up my game if I wanted to reap the rewards of spiritual fitness.

Three, Seven and Eleven … daily, on your knees, humble before God. It is an act of humility to get down on ones knees to pray. Because they say, “When life gets too hard to stand, Kneel.”

Everybody has a journey to take, and no two journeys are the same.

THE WORK is the same for all of us, out of the same book, heading in the same direction.

That’s why I read the book with my guys once a week. That’s why I read the book with my sponsor.

Today, I, like many of my friends, live in the solution.

It was a good night.

My other observation for the night was of one particular homeless man, who has been homeless as long as I’ve been sober. And probably longer than that. The homeless in our city have a routine.

Whether they begin in the East and and work their way West, or from West to East, they either ride the rails, or ride the bus. From one side of the city to the other. Most of them go without food on a daily basis, but they have enough money to provide a bus pass to travel.

Where does that money come from, who provides it, when they can’t afford to eat?

Meetings run on similar lines across town, North, South, East and West. You can get to any meeting by rail and by bus. Our homeless population are well known in our circles, because they show up diligently on time for the meeting, for free coffee and cookies, and/or whatever free food is on the table. That is probably the mainstay of their meals on any given day, unless of course they visit a shelter or food station downtown.

Our city and by extension, our country hides a dark secret, out in the open, and we are powerless to affect change. The city can only do so much. Volunteers can only do so much, and the shelters and food stations can only do so much. Winters are brutal for our homeless. Because there are so many, there are spare resources for them on any given night, so they troll the city from one end to another every night.

Some collect bottles and cans. That is certain money in their pockets. Can and Bottle return is a booming business. The grocery store on the corner does really good business every day. I see the same folks come day in and day out, with tons of cans and bottles. One of them, I don’t know where he gets them all, but he probably collects a thousand cans a day add to that boxes of beer bottles as well.

There are entire populations of people who go without. Entire populations that live well, WELL below the poverty level. People at high levels of government have asked the Prime Minister what he will do for the those who need so much, and last week I heard him say on tv, that “well, they are not even on our radar, to be honest!”

How can you run a country that has so much, and gives so much away to foreign nations, that so many of your own people go without, and come off saying that they are not on your radar and that in turn, they are not important for the country, the provinces and the entire nation?

How can you stand yourself knowing that you ignore entire populations of people, because it isn’t expedient or that it is beneath you – or not politically sound to care or even act like you care for votes when the time comes?

That’s a political hot potato.

Human interest stories at the governmental level are ignored.

No government is perfect, anywhere in the world.

In a country that is so rich, a first world nation, we have entire populations of people who live in third world conditions, and that is terribly sad. I have ideas to float for all of these problems. They sound easy to me when I repeat them in my head, they sound good, they look good, but in the end, to make sweeping changes that many of us agree need to be made, that would take money. More money that most governments want to throw on people who do not matter to their bottom line.

VOTERS.

Most of those people do not vote. Most of those people have substandard homes if they have that at all, countless numbers of them are homeless, drug addicted and alcoholic. Many of them have mental and emotional problems that are never addressed because there is no money and not enough resources to help them all. Hell, even in first world populations, in the biggest cities, across the country, many people face these same problems, and they too go without.

We are heading into election territory in 2015.

Getting these issues onto a stage where they are heard and dealt with is wishful thinking.

Another Christmas, and some of our folks went without. again …

It costs money to take a homeless person off the street. Clean them up, first, then try and find them someplace safe and economical to live, but then you need to find the money to allow them to pay rent, utilities, buy food and live a substantive life. Treat their problems accordingly, but with what resources and from where? How do we do that ?

I asked a friend on the way home about the man I am speaking about now, and I said that he has been homeless as long as I’ve been sober, how do we get him off the street ? And his answer was simply, that he doesn’t want to get off the street ! Now is that by choice, by default, or lack of concern for his own welfare?

This is all terribly troubling when we live these lives of having everything that we need. And on the fringe, just below the radar, so many have little to nothing to call their own.

What did you do for the least of these today?

jersey crop

And with that, my Very Mario Christmas comes to an end.

Thank you for reading, for subbing and for being a part of my life.

Goodnight.


Tuesday … So Many Words to Say

tumblr_ly4f173sus1qcv34vo1_500 flickr joshuauhl terminal 2Courtesy: Joshua Uhl – Flickr – Terminal 2

You never know when a little gift will appear out of nowhere and makes it all possible !

The Canadian Government has addressed the recent call to kill unbelievers by terrorists. To the extent that Citizens who have left the country to fight along side them, and there are many, their passports have been revoked. In addressing public safety, we are told that the governments eyes and ears are open, and that we are safe. Montreal has always been a safe city. But with this round of violence in the world, one never knows. Let Us Pray …

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I want to address something that took place on another blog I read from Far Far Away …

A.A. is a place for people who think they have a problem with drinking. As per the Traditions, A.A. has no opinion on outside issues. Many people suffer from depression and other assorted illnesses, that must be treated with proper medical treatment and supervision.

There is a fine line between abusing prescription drugs, and taking them properly as directed.

Members, for the most part, are NOT doctors. I’ve never met a medical doctor in the rooms in all my years. Many of us suffer from depression in and out of sobriety. And many of us take pills to treat that depression, on top of that I myself take a handful of pills for my HIV twice a day.

I’ve been in a few scrums with militant members on the topic of medical treatment and for some, their take that sobriety and clean time is contingent on the fact that we either take or choose not to take our medication as directed.

IF YOUR SPONSOR OR ANY OTHER MEMBER TELLS YOU TO STOP TAKING YOUR MEDICATION, OR TELLS YOU THAT YOU ARE NOT SOBER OR THAT YOU CANNOT MAINTAIN SOBRIETY WHILE TAKING MEDICATION, YOU CAN PROPERLY TELL THEM TO FUCK OFF.

Nobody has the right to tell you what to do with your own body when it comes to your health and well being. NOBODY ! Medicinal treatment is an OUTSIDE issue.

This discussion has been going around with many of my friends as of late. Too many people suffer in silence because of the stigma of mental illness, depression, and myriads of emotional problems. We are all humans who deserve to live good and healthy lives, and if that health is contingent on medical treatment, you take the treatment and those who would beg to differ fuck em …

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Any Harry Potter fan will know the genius of Hermione Granger. And most of you may have heard about the HE FOR SHE campaign for Gender Equality. Emma Watson, gave an impassioned speech at the United Nations recently. Her speech was lampooned and derided and some even went as far as to tear her apart online and on social media for her desire to see gender equality and her call to the men and boys of the world to take the pledge to support women, where ever they may be, around the world, to help them achieve gender equality across the board.

As for myself, I made my pledge to the cause earlier today making myself Man #79,536 …

Join the cause : He For She.Org

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This morning we got a little gift, which took me out and about to run assorted errands and some shopping here and there. The IGA has a run on coffee, needless to say, coffee has become a major food group for some, so many of us have been buying multiple cans of coffee to put in storage as we need them. We don’t usually get this chance, coffee being so cheap. Many of the meetings I open for have spent considerable cash buying tins.

I needed a new Under Armour jersey to wear with my Germany Team Jersey. I went to the Sports Experts at the mall, and was pleasantly surprised that a good number of the shirts were 50% off, regularly $60.00 a piece. File that one in the WIN column.

I did a good supermarket Safari and got coin for laundry. I figured while the getting was good, I better cover all my bases so I don’t have to go back and forth between here and the store over and over.

Hubby got home a little before I had to leave, which meant I did not have to charge my card with tickets, since he has a monthly pass. I left a little early and already, the sun is setting a little earlier, because it was coming dark by the time the meeting got started, and we used overhead lights instead of a lamp we have because our bulb blew …

We split up the read on Step Four tonight.

I haven’t actually read this step in a while, and many things jumped out at me. I don’t remember doing this step, the first time I got sober. But I do remember my first fourth Step when I got connected here when I was sober a number of months.

It was a long and drawn out process. I wrote pages and pages. In order to stay sober, say some, you need to do a fourth. Many who attempt a fourth in early sobriety, without proper support, drink again. I saw that happen on a number of occasions, in consecutive Twelve Step Intensives.

You start a group of 25 to 30 men or women for that matter.

Everybody is excited to start. By Step three, people start getting ancy and agitated. We lost at least half our men in number when we hit the fourth step. Many of them drank again because the thought of writing it all down was terribly scary.

That happened each time I sat in an intensive.

This time I worked my Fourth with my sponsor of Thirty years. He is working HIS fourth step with his sponsor as I work mine with him. This weekend he is going to Vermont to do his Fifth, and I will do mine soon after.

I think I have learned a lot about my life and how I lived it now that I have been sober for this period of time. Each time you do a fourth, it gets easier. The farther you get from your last drink, and the more you grow up, because the book talks about the man who is still drinking, never grows up until he puts down the drink, the more insight you have into your own life and the life of others.

I get it, I grew up in an alcoholic family. What happened happened. Nobody ever said the word alcoholic, and no excuses were given for what went down, the way we were treated, or the way people acted. We just chalked it up to our lot as family members of an active alcoholic.

I understand now the role I played in people’s lives. I was educated in the drink, but my transgressions were dealt with very heavily. What my parents got away with in their alcoholism, did not happen when I started drinking. They picked apart every decision, they picked apart my life, and punished me for making life – survival – decisions, in sobriety.

When I moved away, it was just me. The only connection I had to home was the car I drove and almost lost because of my drinking. That was  HUGE strike one on me. Thankfully, I did not get to strikes two and three.

Oh wait … I did. Strike two – I was Gay. Strike Three – I am HIV+ …

There were a couple of extra strikes when I made life decisions and moved here. That would be strikes four and five.

From the eyes I have today, I can see why my steps went the way they did in early sobriety. And that kind of insight only comes with time. Lots of time, patience and self appraisal.

I had a really great conversation with a friend tonight prior to the meeting about family, tradition, faith and how that all works in our favor. I see some who have such wonderful family traditions. They practice faith because of tradition. They might not necessarily believe in God, or if there is a God, but they believe in a tradition, in relatives; fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers.

What is handed down traditionally, is so powerful in our lives.

You can’t force anyone to believe in God. And you can’t force the book, and its words, down any ones throats either. But if you gently speak to tradition and of family and of faith, the door is eased open just a bit. I encourage my folks in this respect, and hopefully, one day, their light will shine.

At least that is my hope. One day at a time.

More to come, stay tuned …