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Prayers

Mary Untier of Knots

Mary-Untier-of-Knots

[Jorge Bergoglio] Made a pilgrimage to the Bavarian city of Augsburg where, in the Jesuit church of Sankt Peter am Perlach, he contemplated s Baroque-era painting from the early 1700’s known as Maria Knotenloserin, “Mary, Untier of Knots,” which was the object of a local devotion. The painting’s story goes back to a feuding married couple who had been on the verge of a bitter separation. The husband, Wolfgang Langenmantel, had sought help from a local Jesuit priest, Father Jakob Rem, who prayed to the Virgin Mary “to untie all the knots” in the Langenmantel home. Peace was restored and the marriage was saved; and to give thanks for the miracle their grandson commissioned the painting and donated it to the church.

At First glance, it is nothing out of the ordinary; the painting shows the Virgin, surrounded by angels and protected by the light of the Holy Spirit, standing on a serpent with the child Jesus in her arms. But the middle of the painting is striking: an angel to Mary’s left is passing her a silk thread full of knots that she unties, handing on the un-knotted thread to an angel on her right.

Father Rem’s prayer to the Virgin had been inspired by an ancient formula of Saint Irenaeus: The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.

Obedience was precisely Bergoglio’s knot. It is the key vow for Jesuits, and one he strongly believed in; it was what made mission and unity possible. Yet what he had been given was not a mission, but a means of getting him out (sic. Of Argentina) because he was an obstacle. What obedience did he owe?

Obedience comes from the Latin obaudire, to “hear” or “listen to.” The vow is meant above all to free the heart from the ego in order to listen to God, and submit freely to His will: the Virgin is the perfect model of such obedience.

What was God’s will, now, for Bergoglio, in the middle of his life?

Bergoglio took a handful of Maria Knotenloserin prayer cards back with him. In the 1990’s, after a local copy of the painting – known in Spanish as Maria Desatanudos – was hung in a church in Buenos Aires, it took off in an extraordinary way, leading Bergoglio later to say he never felt so much in the hands of God.


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…


Saturday … Too Much of a Good Thing is Bad for You

tumblr_l5w58oqu5c1qaay1oo1_500 twinkobsessionIt is a balmy (-9c/-15c w.c.) folks were saying last night, that they would take single digit cold, rather than double digit cold, since we have weeks to go until this possibly could end.

I departed uber early for the church, seeing our set up man is in Boston this week, and I promised that I would make coffee and set up with a friend. We have six tables that we use, and last night, one of them was trying my patience. I popped the leg open and it would not set correctly, so after a little elbow grease a few kicks here and there, and some massive angry strikes, I bent the hell out of it and prayed it would stand up all night for the meeting.

After several grunts and the pounding of fists and kicks, my friend said to me that she never wanted to see me angry because I was scaring her …

I had to warn sitters at this location, not to lean too heavily on the table, because it was entirely possible the table would fail and land their shit, phones and coffee on the floor …

Thankfully the table held for the entire meeting.

We sat a full compliment and read from A.B.S.I. #93 … Atmosphere of Grace

“Those of us who have come to make regular use of prayer would no more do without it than we would refuse air, food or sunshine. And for the same reason. When we refuse air, light, or food, the body suffers. And when we turn away from meditation and prayer, we likewise deprive our minds, our emotions, and our intuitions of vitally needed support.”

In the beginning we learn about these two important aspects of recovery, prayer and meditation. Some take to it and others may not, but in time, it works it way into our lives, whether we want it or not. Because at some point, we end up saying … “Oh, God …(insert any request here)”

The ritual for me is when I get out of bed, I make my bed, and we have a futon, so that also helps in making sure I get on my knees at the start of the day.

Then I have my cards at my computer, and my serenity prayer over my desk, and the love reading from our wedding on the tv. Little things placed strategically around the house, ever reminding me to stop and think, pray, meditate.

The other good location for prayer and meditation is the bathroom. A couple times a day I stand in front my medicine cabinet and take my pills. And for the most part I am grateful, but then again, sometimes I never think about gratitude. The bathroom is the place that I am alone, with my thoughts, and as happens usually, I think about people a lot.

I guess I need reminding to be mindful of myself, others and God.

It was a good night overall.

Last night I ate an entire package of jello pudding. Chocolate of course. I was not aware that eating something tasty would end up ruining my night’s sleep, but it did. And now I know I can’t eat massive amounts of jello pudding before bed, because it makes me sick. UGH !!!

It has been an ongoing experiment, the last few months, of what I can and cannot eat any more. Does that happen to you? I just find that certain foods I used to enjoy eating, fruits, breads, and assorted sweets, I can’t eat any more. Not sure why, but it is what it is …

Too much of a good thing is bad for you !!!

So today was another “have to do laundry on a Saturday” again.

I sorted my basket and got everything ready and then found out I was out of detergent, so I had to get dressed and hit the market. UGH ! So I did a shop, came home and did my laundry. It is drying now and I have to go up and fold soon.

Yay, more to come, stay tuned …


Tuesday … A Death in the Family … The Day We Could have Skipped

kneelThese are the days, we wished we could have skipped.

I imagined that we’d have a full house, well, as full a house as we have had, but that was not the case tonight.

I have friendships that started when my friends came in and got sober. I am blessed to have these people in my life. A number of years back, I met a particular woman, she’s got a few years now, I’ve watched her grow up into the woman she has become. And I am so proud of her.

Just because we get sober, does not mean that life is going to get any easier. Sometimes it gets a whole lot worse, before it gets better.

Some time ago, we were talking and she told me her father was very sick, with cancer.

Then she said something that totally took me by surprise.

She told me that her father contracted (K.S.) for those of you who do not know what that means, Kaposi Sarcoma, is a gay related cancer that was the bane of our existence when I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. It killed scores of people all over the world from the beginning of the Gay Cancer/AIDS era. It killed most of my friends who contracted AIDS, and with that, developed K.S. lesions all over their body, that finally killed them.

When was the last time you ever heard a heterosexual man, dying from an AIDS related Cancer ??

It seems that he was transfused with a tainted blood supply a number of years ago.

My work, deals directly with those in Recovery, Palliative Care for the dying, AIDS and HIV work, and Spiritual Counseling for those who desire words.

For the last year, my friends father has been in and out of the hospital, finally ending up in palliative care for the last few months.

Not Long Ago, she asked me about where she should devote her time, and what was the most important thing she needed to do? With her parents being older, and her father in palliative care, she and her sisters had to step up and do what they needed to do for their family, and if that meant missing a meeting here or there to do that, was that the right decision ??

Family is the most important part of our lives. So in no uncertain terms I told her that she needed to be with her family and to take care of her father and her mother, to the best of her abilities.

This afternoon, she stood by her father’s bedside, along with the entire family, when he took his last breath in this world.

His name was Francisco.

I got a text as I was leaving the building this evening. I wept …

I made my transit, not knowing what was going to happen.

The weather has gotten very cold. Quite bitter.

I got the coffee on, and set up the room. My sponsor and I spoke yesterday and he was due to call the meeting from Florida, where he is on vacation, to wish everybody a Happy New Year.

Quarter to Six, I was still sitting alone in the bell tower. My phone rang, it was my sponsor.

Last night he got very sick and ended up in a Miami hospital and was released this afternoon. Thank God for travelers insurance. I joked with him, asking what he had to pay out of pocket, and he replied, that he really did not want to know, he got good speedy care, the price for that care, was a non issue.

As we were talking someone came in the door downstairs.

My lady friend came to the meeting. She got to talk to my sponsor a bit, then we called St. John’s New Foundland, to talk to another friend, meanwhile another friend showed up.

We had an intimate meeting for her with three people.

She wasn’t sure if she was going to make it, so I prepared a reading and in the end, that is the reading we stayed with, from A.B.S.I. #303, Loving Adviser …

“Many of my dearest A.A. friends have stood with me in exactly the same relation. Oftentimes they could help where others could not, simply because they were A.A.’s.”

You can only sit in your chair for so long, before you either harden your heart, against your fellows or you engage and invest in their lives.

We always hear about people bringing meetings to those who need them, today, we brought a meeting to a woman we care about deeply. It was a most blessed evening.

If you are the praying type, offer your prayer for a man named Francisco.

Eternal Rest grant him and may Perpetual Light shine upon him.


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.

**** **** ****

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.


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 …


Tuesday … Prayer and Meditation

tumblr_lqejw9RhgD1qbrivdo1_500 wrestlingisbestCourtesy: WrestlingisBest

With the weather holding steady, it is cold, but not bitter. We are sitting on the plus side at this hour, but temps will fall into negative numbers overnight. There is a lot of work going on in the neighborhood things that need to be done now, before it starts to snow in earnest. Closer to home, roofers are busy on several buildings. Not sure why they waited this long to get work done, but I guess apartment leaking is rampant all over the place.

Last night I made plans, and you know what they say happens, when you make plans…

God laughs.

With those plans in mind, I was up early. My entire day was planned around a single phone call, I was ready at the appointed hour, squeaky clean and raring to go. And this is when God laughed at me. I had an entire afternoon to fill at this point. I could have gone back to bed for a nap, but that did not happen. I really did not want to watch tv, because we all know what is monopolizing the airwaves as of late.

N.I.M.B.Y.

I packed up my bag with assorted books, milk, styrofoam cups, and my tunes, and I set out for the church. Holiday shopping has not swung into “frenzy mode” just yet. This year, Alexis Nihon has gone to greater lengths than in years past to celebrate the holidays. There is a stage on the mezzanine level with an animated reindeer that talks, a stage for performers, and a full schedule of things to come and see over the next few weeks.

There is massive construction going on in NDG … where the church is. There is work going on on all the major roads that connect several neighborhoods to bus lines and Metro stations. Which means, roads are closed and a handful of buses are rerouted around the work, which means, taking a bus to an original stop, that bus goes somewhere else now, which is a real pain in the ass.

A major thruway that connects lower NDG with upper NDG is closed. Which means one has to walk either up the hill or down the hill, if you need to access a location on that street. On the main, this is cut and dry, you walk. If work isn’t finished soon, we will be walking in the snow and the cold.

I made that mistake last week, forgetting that the bus route I needed to take was rerouted, I got on said bus and a few minutes into the ride, when the bus went straight instead of turning left, I was like, to the bus driver … “I want to get off here! and he says, you can’t get off here,” and he kept driving and in the end I had to back track to the church where I originally wanted to go ! F.M.L.

So I walked from the Metro to the church tonight.

All of my peeps came. So it was a good night.

We broke Step 11 into two parts. Tonight was part two.

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

God.

Who is God.

What is God,

What is God’s will ?

And how do I know when it is God’s will ?

Moment of clarity … I know the rule about expectations. I also know the rule about praying for something that is unreasonable or unattainable.

Prayer … raising of the heart and mind to God.

Meditation … waiting/listening for the answer.

When one studies Religion, as I have, one learns about prayer and meditation. Every tradition prays, and also meditates. Some are better at it than others. It is true that when most people pray, they expect an answer, soon, very soon, and sometimes absurdly soon.

Like, right now would be good…

I don’t know about you, but God has never spoken directly to me, even with a degree in Religious Studies. I know how to talk to God. But I don’t know what His voice sounds like.

Which brings this clarity :

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with (Others).

When you think about it, it is more than likely, we may not think about it this way, right off the bat, but, when we pray, if God is going to speak, to any one of us, it is probably going to come from someone else, someone close to us.

Prayer and meditation then becomes an active endeavor. If you don’t listen well, nor take the time to do so, actually make time to listen, amid the business of the day, maybe you should. I’ve learned how to listen. Building prayer and meditation into your life can be learned. And the more you do it, the better it gets.

I have set prayers I say. We have set prayers we say at every meeting. Very often, I see prayer requests come across Facebook, for this intention or that one. In that moment, I bring said person’s image into my mind, and I speak their name to God. And throughout my day, the faces of my friends, or those that I think about in the moment rise and I speak their name to God.

When I have a resentment, it usually goes … “God give them every good thing I want for myself and more.” Then I get to think about that prayer. It becomes a meditation.

Most people cannot sit still for more than five minutes, let alone, allot 5 minutes to meditate. We are usually too busy to stop. But for those who make time to “STOP” the benefits are endless.

If God is going to speak to you, I can confidently say, that the voice will be familiar to you.

God’s will ? Thy will not mine be done.

When you can turn a prayer for a particular end to an open ended prayer, I think that is God’s will. We don’t know what God’s will is, but when we let go and let God, things usually turn out alright.

Bad things happen to good people.

Sometimes, disease and illness are unavoidable.

And for the most part, we are all going to the same place when we die.

When we can turn a selfish prayer into a humble prayer, we find God’s will. It may not be to our liking, but if we can let people and situations go and give them to God to sort out, it turns into “Thy will. not mine be done.”

A friend’s father is very sick with cancer. In the beginning she would pray for God to heal him, there is no healing in the offing. Now she can pray for her father and say, Thy will not mine be done. She has released dad into God’s hands. It is out of our/her hands. There are just things that medicine cannot heal or stop.

Letting Go and Letting God is a huge step in spiritual growth.

If we have the important three things in life, praying for more, is pointless.

If we have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, and a warm bed to sleep in, we are in a much better state than millions of people on this earth.

Kind of puts it into perspective doesn’t it?


Friday: “Yes my Lord, No my Lord …”

church windows randallCourtesy: Randall

It is the end of the week. The temps have gotten wintry as of late. The word SNOW appears in the forecast for the coming week. I noticed in my travels tonight that the light poles and many of the trees on main travel bus routes are decorated with lights, all sparkly and holiday like.

I have also noticed that holiday programming has begun and it isn’t even December yet !

I departed on time for my transit, the theme was hurry up, trains wait for no one.

I met one of my friends at the church and we waited for a key holder.

We sat a large group and read from A.B.S.I. … Clearing a Channel

I read the reading along with the others, and the first image that came into my mind was Mark Brian.

Mark Brian is our Anglican priest sent to a native outpost on the up coast of B.C.

When he gets there the vicarage is falling down, the windows are falling apart, and the floor is sagging.

It is the holidays and it is cold, and all the sundry inanimate things in the village are seeming to be revolting all at the same time. Fires won’t burn, water heaters have busted, and pipes are frozen.

Beset with all kinds of futility and loneliness, Mark has to eek out a living in a place that is new to him.

One night, before service, the only generator in the village breaks down. Mark flings off his cassock and dons his Indian sweater, and pulls out the tools, wrenches and screwdrivers. He bleeds the line out and reconnects it all back together, and in the moment, he speaks … “Yes, my Lord, No my Lord …” repeating the phrase.

His Indian friend says to him, “Who are you talking to?” and Mark responds, “The Bishop!” the Indian replies, “but the Bishop is not here …” And Mark says …”And its a good thing …”

In reading I Heard the Owl Call my Name, when all is in doubt and answers are needed, Mark always stops and repeats the words “Yes, my Lord, No, my Lord …”

It was the Bishop who chose to send Mark there, for reasons that Mark is not made privy to. But he figures out the reasons, and they are not necessarily the same reasons the Bishop sent him there to begin with. Mark often responds in times of doubt to that simple mantra. Speaking to the Bishop, and speaking as well to God.

The reading tonight also speaks about “taking the moment,” when things seem to be getting crazy, that we stop and repeat any of the familiar mantras we learn in the program. Our often said prayers, slogans, things we hear from our sponsors or others in the rooms.

Often I forget to take that moment.

And even sometimes when the rat gets on the wheel, and it starts going, I don’t always stop, and I allow the situation to grow and fester to see where it is going, knowing that I should have stopped the thought when it came, but didn’t.

And like my story yesterday, I was busy, and I needed to get somewhere, and the train had other plans, and we got stuck on the rail to wait out a stoppage. I consider that maybe this was God saying to me that:

Here you are, and maybe you  should “Take the moment…”

When I don’t necessarily choose to take it, God forces it upon me in funny ways.

I listened for the song of prayer again tonight. And was pleased with it to my soul.

Serenity, Acceptance, Wisdom, Patience, Appreciation, Tolerance, and Strength …

A good night was had by all.

More to come, stay tuned …


Sunday Sundries … On the Road

tumblr_l7kzzjlD3L1qzqhkho1_500 twinkobsessionCourtesy: Obsession

Do you ever have a moment like this, when you did something and you should have done something else, and grabbed your head and went “UGH!!!”

They say, in recovery, that “Where ever you go, there you are …”

Which is timely with the introduction of tonight’s read: On the Road

As alcoholics, how many years did we spend, traveling from one place to another, trying to find ourselves, or a life, or something like it?

Our writer tonight, travels roads all over the earth, looking. This after being young and getting blackout drunk and trying to kill his stepfather, the judge says “You can either go to Juvie, or you can leave town until you turn 21!”

Not wanting to go to juvie, our writer takes to the road in search of himself, but never finds himself until he darkens a room of A.A. He spends the better part of his life drinking his way around the world and back again, until he takes his last drink.

And even then, he really did not connect. And every time a sponsor “lovingly suggested” that he do some work, he would summarily fire them and move on to someone else, who had, he thought, a much easier softer way.

Some years into sobriety, say, around the two year mark, we enter what we like to call,the “angry years” where nothing fits, everybody is wrong and has no idea. And if we stay sober through this we eventually get to what we next call the “jumping off point.”

This is the stage where we say “SHIT or get off the Pot !”

There are many ways to approach recovery. I get the slow starters. I understand the questions, the uncertainty, the fear, of just how am I going to live, now that I am trying to get sober, and what will my life look like and what will I do if I can’t have just one???

Come in, sit down, and relax. All the jobs have been taken. Listen and have an open mind.

Eventually, you will hear your sponsor speak, and that is when you know what to do. OR you could just cold cock it and put it out there, that you need a sponsor, and see who rises to the occasion.

That works just as well.

Back to On the Road …

Growing up, I listened to my parents talk, A LOT ! Drunk and Sober. I heard a lot of things, and realized in my journey, that to be myself, I could not do that at home. I had to get out.

My shrink at the time told me what to do …

He said, and I quote “The best way to become part of a certain community is , to go to the bar, sit down at the bar and have a drink. Hell, have two if the spirit moves you, and see what happens.”

The entire decade of my twenties was wrapped up in one sentence.

On a bar stool, looking pretty, talking the right game, drinking the right liquor, and watching what happens.

I can’t tell you how many times I moved during those ten years. I had a brief foray into staying put from 26 to 28, but as soon as I was left to my own devices, I was off and running again. Until I hit my mid thirties. I had finally had enough of trying to find some place I could call my own.

I had come to that “Jumping Off Point” I was 34. Uneducated, by university standards, but wise on finding my way through poverty and sickness. I got sober again, and for a time, I settled where I was because I needed what my friends had and I needed to learn how to get sober again. I did that.

But in the back of my mind, and in my heart, Where I was, was not where I wanted to be.

Montreal was the stopping point.

I had been educated, I was sober, and I had a birthright in hand, that facilitated my last move.

It was the last step, in becoming the man I wanted to be, somewhere that I would call HOME.

Someplace that I could be ME, that I could be free of the past. Free of the pain, sickness and poverty that I was living in prior to my last move.

This time I had ammunition. This time I did it the right way. I found a home, I found the rooms, and I met people who would get me into the life I wanted.

The best piece of advice I heard the first week was this:

Go to meetings. Find a home group.

Build your LIFE around your MEETINGS, not your MEETINGS around your LIFE.

I did that. And I’ve been successful for the last 12 and some years. I never deviated from this advice, unless of course, I could not find another night to have class. Your home group is sacrosanct. You never miss your home group, no matter what. it should be your first responsibility.

Only 2 semesters in ten years did I ever have to miss my home group.

Our young people, in their twenties who are in the nest right now, are still trying to figure out who they will become and how they are going to get through school and life and be social, and NOT drink.

That is a tall order. It is a tall order for most folks coming in the room at any stage of the game. We all say that same thing … How can I survive this life and not drink?

I had to get to the point that moving from place to place was no longer working. I had to get to the point that I was ready to grow up and learn how to live in my skin, and become the man I so wanted to become.

Finding that “PLACE” is integral to success.

Because, where ever you go, there you are …

I was getting too old to keep looking, and not finding. The time had come to either SHIT or get off the pot, so to speak. I had no more time to waste, time was of the essence. And If I didn’t take that chance that I had, I would never have gotten here.

And I like HERE.  I want to be HERE. I love HERE.

If you don’t know where you are going, then STOP. Sit down where you are and rest. Look around you and survey your surroundings. Study your location and the people in that location. Consult your life map and ask your questions. THEN when you are ready to take that next step, gather your map and your things and take that step.

Growing up was not as hard or as painful as I thought it would be. When I was still drinking, all that mattered was having the delusional life I thought I wanted. WRONG !!! Knowing that where I was at that time, was not where I wanted to be, I think contributed to what I did next.

But I had to put the drink down first to be able to make a conscious life decision.

The rest they say is history.

All my guys are good. I Skyped with Pittsburgh, everyone is well. Our little group is sober another weekend. And we are good to go for the next week.

More to come, stay tuned …

OH, and I SCORED a #19 Germany – Mario Gotze World Cup Jersey. Pictured below and on the sidebar !!! Ten Cheers for EBAY !!! YAY !!!


My Pants Fell Down … UGH !!!

tumblr_m5d9y0DD5f1rvpo0vo1_500 hflockiThey called for rain last night (for tonight), and said the sky would open up and dump cat’s, dog’s and little fishes upon us. They said it would start early and last into the night. Well, it did rain. Once I reached where I was going, after carrying my BIG umbrella, because it was called for “STORM!”

Not …

I was ready to go early, and as I locked the door and called for the elevator, it arrived and I had forgotten my BIG umbrella, so I had to go back and get it, I missed my elevator. UGH …

It was going to be one of those days …

I made stops on the way, and got through the turnstile, and down to the platform, and as I walked onto the train, my belt popped and my pants fell down on the train. One hand was full carrying BIG umbrella, and the other was holding my phone (read: music).

I don’t often shop at Target, for reasons I will share with you now …

They day they opened, I bought a brand new pair of Skull Candy Headphones that were said to be indestructible and would never break ! 6 months later, they crapped out. My $40.00 purchase turned into a $60.00 repair mission. I am waiting for either a new pair or something like them.

Belts and I are not a very comfy couple.

I bought a belt. $30.00… Belts are expensive. This particular belt has a buckle that has two very small pins holding the belt inside the buckle. And let’s just say that the work is shoddy. That belt split in two and both pins fell out of the buckle, hence the belt became useless.

I bought a second belt not long ago (another $30.00). I refused to stand in line for a return because I did not have the receipt. Fast forward to today …

I got on the train and I felt the belt I was wearing come apart. I was not prepared to moon the train car, and I had to pocket my phone and hold my pants up by the belt strap across the transit, onto another train, across the city, up and out of the station, and walked down the hill, holding up my pants with my fingers, until I reached the church … It still had not rained yet …

I get upstairs at the church. and pull my belt out of my bag, because I had taken it off on my transfer stop. I notice that one pin is missing and the other had unwound (read: unscrewed) I don’t usually carry tools with me in my backpack. At least one screw was still there, I was able to re-screw it back into the hole, and I regained my belt.

Thankfully, I did not have to hold up my pants through the night.

It rained …

We sat a nice group. We read from the Twelve and Twelve, Step One … We are working on a 12 week study of the Twelve and Twelve.

What Man or Woman, is ready to admit complete defeat ???

I had been defeated by a faulty belt earlier.

I tell this story about living in an alcoholic home and having a top rate education on alcoholism, you’d have thought I would have learned something, I didn’t. I can’t remember the word obsession ever coming into my lexicon. I never thought about addiction either. And further, I never called myself an alcoholic, but purely, I was.

The lesson I learned the first time is, that if you get sober, and you don’t focus your energy on getting sober and staying sober (i.e. The Work) Using the book and doing the work, you probably will drink again.

The second time I got sober, it was ONLY about my alcoholism. There weren’t any other issues hanging over my head. I don’t know if I would say that my second bottom was lower than the first. The first one was really bad. The second one, not that much. I knew the end was coming. I was tired of delusional thinking and the misery of the morning after. So I stopped.

Life Did Get Better. It only took 12 years and some odd months.

I can’t tell you or stress to you how important it is to be grounded in the Book(s). Had I made this a priority the first time, and not had death staring me in the face, I would be twenty years sober this year.

Alas that did not happen.

“And even in long term sobriety, 10 plus years or more … your sobriety is totally contingent on your spiritual condition and the depth you are rooted in prayer and in the books.”

I had to get into it to reap the rewards of being in it. And they did come.

The ability to give it away, properly, in my opinion, rests in the time you have spent studying the books, saying ones prayers, and working in the books. Until I had sunk into the books, with my sponsor, I was ill prepared to give it away, further than showing up at a meeting and sharing.

It took a year of work, prayer and study, for God to say, “ok, you are ready to give it away, here are your guys … One, Two, and Three … Bing, Bang, Boom !!!”

I am powerless over alcohol, but my life, today, is manageable. The second part of Step One speaks to being powerless over People, Places and Things.

It took a very long time to understand and be able to accept this little fact. However hard I try to please someone, or get someone’s attention, or their approval, i am powerless over people.

The other note I have written in my 12 and 12, at the back of Step One is this …

“While you are in a meeting, your alcoholism is out in the parking lot doing pushups, just waiting for you to come out and take you down.”

I have a friend, in the rooms today, who I have known since the day I arrived here. We were sober together, but he, like many, did not stick and stay.

I am nearing thirteen years, and on this past Sunday he took his Three Month Chip.

A long time ago, (seven or eight years ago) I was at my home group, and some Bozo came in and told me that this same friend committed suicide and was dead. Today, you don’t really hear much gossip like we used to hear. And those jokers are no longer around.

I was not happy and very sad. The one thing you never want to hear about a friend in the room is that he or she is dead, by their own hands. I did not trust this news because, One, that the news came from that particular man, and Two. that in the end, it was just gossip. And when I learned that it was just gossip, I spared not the rod, nor my wrath on him. He did not stick around after that.

Fast Forward to today… I am sitting with this friend and I am so amazed that he is back and sober today. And I was really grateful that he was sitting across from me, alive and well.

I mean it was like a palpable feeling of warmth.

After the meeting I spoke to him and reminded him of that story. And told him how happy I was to see him alive, well and sober once again. And that I remember what it felt like to hear another member tell me that he was dead. My friend is a unique snowflake. There are no other men like him in my life and for that matter, in our rooms.

He is totally special to me because of the long time friendship we share.

I have learned a great deal from him. While he was sober, but more, in why he drank again, and in watching that happen, I learned from him what Not To Do … Spend a number of years in the same room with the same people, you will find that if you stay sober, every person who walks into that room, on any given night, is your teacher.

Only if you pay attention, listen and learn.

The numbers of folks who have come in and either gone out or disappeared is high. I have a ton of stories about these people, many of whom I have already written about in the past.

Our little group is sober another night.

I am grateful on purpose again…

I have been feeling a lot of palpable gratitude as of late. It feels great.

Oh and by the way, when I got home, I found a screw in my toolbox and fixed my belt. Hopefully I have renewed its worth a bit…

More to come, stay tuned …


Thursday … Step 3 … Humanity … Thoughts and the Weather

loveThe weather here at home has been stellar lately. Sunshine, breezy and very pleasant.

The shift in light and seasons is being noticed by some folks. I was standing on my balcony the other night, just as the sun was setting on the far side of the mountain and I noticed something I had never seen before. There are a bunch of windmills/turbines on the south shore that one can see from here, miles away, when the sun is right and there is not much haze in the sky. The same goes for the beacon lights at night.

The way that light moves around the west end of the city (where I can see) is quite incredible. For a brief few moments the sunlight wrapped around the west end, around the buildings and the highways and high-lit the turbines in a way I had never seen before. It was a picture perfect view, had I a camera that would shoot that far away. The sunset is different every night, it is never the same light two nights running.

So that is a thing …

It has been an emotional few days and I came up with new insights tonight at the meeting reading Step three with the guys. These are some new insights:

Every once in a while, When God sees fit, I am reminded of the vows I spoke on my wedding day. Usually, when I am not pleased with something, someone or myself, God steps in and points out that “Yes, You indeed spoke those words, need I remind you of them?”

For better – For worse, In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer …

I seem to forget these things when I turn on myself and attempt to wrestle my will back from God. I only get so far, before I fall flat on my face and cry uncle …

We are guilty of improper use of our will.

And once we made that decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God (as we understood Him) can we begin learning the proper use of our will and our lives.

I also did not think about the fact that Acceptance is the key to ALL my problems. Nor, did I stop to recite the serenity prayer like I should have. I am powerless over people, places and things, and that I accepted the life that I am living. I may not like it all the time, and that is ok.

I am only human.

We also learn in Step three that we, men, have problems sitting with silence and we would rather shock ourselves than sit with our feelings and the silence. I felt that as well this week. The silence was deafening. And try as I might, to fill it with something, I failed.

It was funny that I decided to perk less coffee because we always end up throwing some away at the end of the night, tonight we sat a full compliment and ran out of coffee before the meeting even started. That usually never happens. The summer season has brought dozens of visitors from out of town to several meetings that I hit. And they are making it to Thursday’s meeting.

It is said that, “At any given moment during the day, we are right where we need to be and are supposed to be.”

Once again, that word: Acceptance, rises from the book into reality.

All my guys are good. Two out at camp and one here with me. He took his three month chip tonight. It is incredible to see how far he has come in such short of a time.

The best medicine in sobriety is watching someone else get sober, from day one, over time.

To see the evolution of Person, of God and of Prayer and how they all work together.

It was timely that I got the last two weeks to chair, we spent two weeks on steps and next week is my birthday, a business meeting and a tradition.

Tomorrow I get to sit with my sponsor and talk out all this stuff with him. Then the usual Friday meeting and time with one of my guys in from camp. We are a couple of weeks from his departure from the country. The long goodbye continues …

A good night was had by all.

More to come, stay tuned …


Tragedy … plain and simple

malaysia635This morning, the world had to stop and take a collective breath, all at the same time.

It is never a good sign when first thing in the morning comes news of a passenger plane having been shot down over a war zone !

All our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and the people who were on that flight. How do we make sense of this kind of tragedy?

Eventually, the who, what, where, when and why will be explained. Surely, this event should stoke the worlds governments to do something. Someone made a monumental mistake.

And someone should pay for this kind of indignity.

It was a sad day.

Malaysian Airlines is not having the best of years it seems, like there was a choice of which plane to shoot down, um, let’s see … maybe we will hit that “one.”

There is too much conflict going on and not enough cool heads to prevail.

But what is life without war? I mean what could possibly come of a world that lives for the betterment of humanity, peace and the respect for ALL life !

Somewhere God is up there taking the piss. What does God have to do with this ?

Nothing.

Last night I was listening to the radio and I heard a man say that the extraterrestrials were watching and would, if need be, come down and rescue us from ourselves.

I think we really need someone to come down here and rescue us from ourselves.

Life must go on, and so it did, eventually.

I prepped to go and departed a bit early to make some stops on the way. It was a stellar day to be out. The clouds drifted over and off throughout the evening. One might have thought that the skies were about to open, but thankfully, the weather held.

We sat a small group. Just the regulars. I have sponsees running their steps, so I decided that we would read from the Twelve and Twelve and Step 2.

Ah, there is that God word again. “you’re not gonna get me this time …”

I like that I work with guys who are of different minds, and need different work. And I have, at my disposal, multiple forms of step work which has come in handy. My sponsor is apt to tell me that the more work one has, the better the experience. So it goes.

I reflect …

Coming from a U.S. State that has two seasons, wet and wetter, God only shows himself when a hurricane is barking down your door. Then it is true destruction.

Moving to a city in the Northern, “northern” hemisphere, has brought me to a place with four seasons. And if you question the existence of God, or something greater, spend a year thinking about it and watch seasons roll from one to the next.

That is pretty simple, on a grand scale of things.

Our guys all have interesting stories about “coming to.” Where they come from, what it was like, what happened, and then what it is like today. And once again we make this pass across a step so we get further insight into life.

My “best thinking” got me into loads of trouble. And trouble kept me drunk.

I know I prayed for it to end. And it did. God moved in  my life, and the rest is history.

There are plenty of instances throughout my life where God stepped in to show me what can happen if I trust Him. And when that happened I did, but eventually, I took my will back, in essence, I said that “I knew better than God!” And look where that put me?

I am not God, I don’t have all the answers. And I am not the center of the universe.

If you want a sure fire test to prove that God exists, spend a season in a room and watch her people come, come to, and come to believe themselves.

I guarantee you that you will see God.

I have proof, for my eyes and my soul that there is a God and that He is good.

And I’ve watched my guys come, come to and come to believe.

That is called blessing.

Even if the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and a day cannot go by without someone killing someone else, watching the Holy Land sink further into war and planes falling from the sky, for an hour at least, in the basement of a local church, we spoke of divinity.

And it is to that Divinity tonight that we say our prayers.

May the souls of those departed rest in the hands of God, Eternal rest grant them and may perpetual light shine upon them.

If we ever needed something divine to come to us, this would be about the right moment.

God, where are You???

That is all I have for you tonight.

More to come, stay tuned…


Turn Your World Upside Down

tumblr_l5tfderl9f1qa4w2fo1_500 free minded

Courtesy: free minded

So it rained today. God is up there taking the piss. And rained on the big party today. At least the community got a good day yesterday to do what they do.

With everything closed today, it was a hunt to grocery shop and find a restaurant that was open, ala Subway. I’ve been craving a burger and wanted one and woke up wanting one, and the burger joint across the street was CLOSED !!!

I didn’t feel like walking all the way to the mall for some Micky D’s so I settled for Subway, it is right up the street and convenient. Laundry will have to wait until tomorrow. And that is fine because it is an off day.

I headed out for my transit and that went well. I got to my connection and the buses were all sitting in the bay with drivers doing this and that. I could’ve skipped the transfer and walked, but I was like, it’s raining, and probably folks would be slow on the arrival. As WAS the case.

We had a small showing. We have a smattering of newbies, a few with time, then those of us with decades or more.

The chair read from a Grapevine and the reading was on “The Serenity Prayer.”

The topic went all over, and folks were talking all over each other. And I sat there for a while pondering prayer, and nothing was coming to mind.

I was totally blank.

I mean On my way back I prayed. When I came in, I heard the prayers and participated in the meetings, but it wasn’t like I was PRAYING overtly.

Those first few months when it came to meetings, I mean, I went, I was there, I hit massive amounts of meetings, but it was all a blur.

When I got here, I hung out, got connected. Found a sponsor. And I worked my steps that first year in. So I did the prayers from the book with my sponsor, and that was that. I had my issues coming in that had to be abandoned. And I learned a few things.

I went back to school. I studied Religion and Pastoral Ministry and Theology. So all that time, it was all about God in His many forms. I call that religious education. At the same time I was going to meetings, year in and year out.

I did what we all did. I would not say that I was paying lip service to my prayers, I mean I was praying, but I guess not hard enough. I got through and life panned out. I did whatever I was told to do, by people I trusted and respected.

But it all came to a head at the Roundup of 2013.

One of the speakers got up there and hammered the message home that “if you have lots of time, you should be able to rattle off the prayers from the book” right then and there. And like I have said before, we here in Montreal, where sobriety is concerned, we say ” Aw, we’ll do it tomorrow!” Nobody in the room could rattle off the prayers rote.

Then it hit me.

If I want what these guys are talking about and the lives that they are speaking about, I really need to step up my game. And that game began with prayer. Ardent, on your knees, pound the book, PRAYER !!!

Three, Seven and Eleven, morning, noon and night.

And so that is what I did, for months on top of months. I prayed as if my ass was on the line, and I meant it. And then I waited for the payoff.

I changed up my meetings. I spent lots of time with guys I really care about and meetings with people I love, and I did that for months on top of months.

Then a new sponsor came into my life. And we started my steps, of which I am amid today. I met a young man, whom I sponsor today. Then one night my second guy walked into my life and I took him on as well. And they are working their steps today. And just a little while ago, after a meeting a third guy wanted to connect, so three’s a charm.

The girls work New York Sobriety. And I wanted New York Sobriety. And I was going to find it no matter what I had to do to get it. Our girls here won’t sponsor guys, but they do in New York, So I had to wait for one to come to me.

I got to go to Vermont in May for a Men’s Intensive Weekend. And that was a watershed event in my life. I hit the 2014 Roundup a couple of weeks later, and that was mediocre at best. And that was the general consensus.

When I ponder prayer, over the long haul, I did it in the beginning. And it went as it went. I stayed sober. I used the Serenity Prayer all along. I’ve posted it, I spoke about it, I’ve shared about it.

It is a pervasive prayer that is said all over the place. In many forms. Long and short. Meeting after meeting. And you work your steps and as they pop up you say them when needed and then you let them go.

But I’ve learned that sober prayers, if said correctly, from the heart in the right direction can change your life, in ways you can’t imagine.

Until you DO IT.

Our young people, (read: newbies) come and they sit, yet they tell us that they don’t understand the steps or how to do them. I don’t throw Big Books at newbies. I’d rather they come for a while and sink into their chairs and get comfy in them.

It has to happen organically. You can’t force someone into a book. It just does not work very well that way. And I said as much tonight to them.

It has been a journey. And at different times, different things pop up onto the radar that we get to work on, and Prayer was the last real lesson that came in the past year that I worked on for an entire year. And that has helped me and my guys immensely.

I know who God is and I know who God is not.

Education does that for you. So it wasn’t a wasted opportunity.

Can you recite Three, Seven and Eleven from Memory?

If you can’t then maybe it is time for you to practice.

Time to eat. More to come, stay tuned …


Sunday Sundries … Windows of Opportunity

tumblr_ln5vibOhgK1qcy8x7o1_500 theworldshavoc

Courtesy: The Worlds Havoc

The weather has been on our side as of late. It has been just beautiful here on our side of the country. However not so much out West. From Ice Bergs on the East Coast to Sun in the Center and finally rain and floods out West, it hasn’t been a cake walk for so many. We are keeping many in our thoughts and prayers.

I’ve had a jumble of thoughts running through my head as I work on my fourth step work, and as that work coincides with readings from literature, my brain has been on overdrive for a few days. And rather than sit here and drop verbal diarrhea, I have spent the past few days sitting on my thoughts, allowing them space, and trying to find the balance of feeling what is there on the surface, and then being cool with letting them go, and not hanging on to shit that has nothing to do with today.

It is one thing to speak to my guys and then my friends and giving them sound advice, it is quite another thing to listen and take my own advice on board. I am a work in progress.

My fears, guilt, and resentment lists are short, but what is on the lists is strong and potent. The past is just that, the past. It has no bearing on the present, or on the day.

Estrangement is a funny beast.

I have problems coping, as an Adult, with how another human being can just shut off one’s light off and plunge them into darkness as a punishment for sin or non-compliance.

How does one live with themselves when you intentionally place another human being in the DARK?

You silence their voice and kill their spirit.

How does one go on with life, knowing that your voice is not important, and that your life is not important in the grand scheme of things?

When we are born, we have family. Whether good or bad, it is out of our control.

We grow up and find our way into the world, on whatever path we take. I certainly went through my fuck up phase. I did my own damage. But in the same breath, damage was done to me as well.

Post fuck up phase, we move into our age of enlightenment. I got it once, and I got it a second time. I made my series of life decisions that were meant to keep me alive, fed and a roof over my head.

Family is supposed to be thicker than blood. Family is the most important part of our lives, either the one we came from, or the one we create on our own. I did not choose my family of origin. They are the ones who shut my light off.

Today, I have my family of choice. And that has worked for me.

The time had come for me to sever the connection with family of origin. Because that was a toxic situation. Today, I am guilty of many things. I made self serving choices. Self centered choices, that were necessary for my life to move forwards.

But that light switch is still off. And it will never get turned back on.

OMENS

Some time ago, an omen came to me. It appeared and it happened more than once.

This omen has presented itself to me before. And always took place after a death. And I respect this omen as truth. But this time there was not one but two omens to appear. They came as a pair.

I blew it off as coincidence.

But the more I ponder them, the more it has become clear to me that it wasn’t just coincidence. They were sent. I had no part in the sending. But I was part to the appearance. I know what the omen means.

So that is a thing.

I know I can’t change what’s done. And I am coming to accept that I won’t ever get to speak my mind, as I think I need to. Because at this point, what is it going to matter? What good could come of it?

I made the shift. I had to make it. That was what had to happen, to guarantee my survival. People got bent. We are all adults. It is sad that as an adult, my decisions were seen as a slight and irreconcilable. How does that work?

Do you parents punish your kids when they make adult decisions? We all make decisions in life. And most likely, not everyone may be happy with the decisions we make, but I would have thought, maybe stupidly, that people would grow to respect and acknowledge our truth.

That did not happen.

And that is a thing.

One day, thanks to social media, and the progress of communication, the people who need to find me, when they get to make that decision, will. I am hoping that one day we will all find the pieces.

Because like Troy Dunn says, “You can’t find peace, until you find all the pieces.”

My puzzle is in pieces.

So that is a thing.

There is a storm blowing about, and I am in the eye of the storm, so to speak. As long as I stay in the center, eventually it will all work out.

You can either get stuck in the storm or you can navigate around it. I hope with my time (in) that I have learned how to navigate.

So that is a thing.

More to come, stay tuned …


Standing in the way of worship – the Guitars Journey.

Do you believe in Love

Lifted from: Jeremy – Don’t Eat Trash

I remember sitting outside in the middle of the bush in north west Sydney. I was surrounded by people I loved who stood in a ring around a raging campfire. I was at a youth weekend. The same youth weekend I had attended since I was a teenager. We were singing loudly into the night, to a God we loved.

We sang the words – “There is a God, he is alive, in him we live and we survive.” Words I could’ve sang in my sleep, written backwards, and a melody I knew four part harmonies too. But did I really understand what I was singing? Did I understand what it meant to have a God who was alive?

There is a couple of traditions in the church that adhere to the idea that guitars are the devils instrument and shouldn’t be used in the church. A tiny part of that sect of thought have come to the conclusion that, there is no proof in the new testament that the early church used instruments, in fact some verses refer to the strings of our heart, so we should just sing. With our voices.

I have also stood in a circle of lovely people, a tight knit group, who, with only a guitar as accompaniment, awkwardly stood around. Kind of singing, kind of into it. But not really. I spoke later to one of them who confessed, they couldn’t get into worship unless the music was loud.

Somehow, the guitar stood in the way of worship. Either because it was considered of the devil, or without it, we are in shock.

Amongst all of this tho, I have stood in groups, passionately loving the lord through song in the midst of a huge, well orchestrated band, and I have stood around awkwardly looking at my feet singing accapella. So what are we missing? If it has nothing to do with the music, then it must have something to do with the lyrics.

Have you ever sang words in a song that your heart passionately belts out but your logical brain is just like …. “what does shekinah mean? What does hosanna mean again?” But your whole heart is in it. You know deep down that what you are singing is good, but you don’t know why. Do we need to know the why? If worship is just between me and God, and the depths of my soul knows I’m praising, then words are irrelevant. In the same way that tongues is our heart praying prayers that our brain doesn’t understand, can our souls not sing also?

But when we worship as a group, is it different? Or is it merely solo worship in a room of people? If you took most of my corporate worship sessions and putt them in a graph, 99 per cent of them would’ve looked no different had I been in a large room or my own bedroom by myself. And I feel there is a disconnect there. We are the community of God, and as echos of the trinity shouldn’t we be connecting together like the trinity?

I heard a one liner this week that made me stop and think – If in worship your not listening and hearing God and your only thinking and singing about and too God, then it is no longer a relationship but you are stalking God.

Let me reword that – If you don’t let God speak in worship you stalk him. Have you ever stopped in the middle of worship and just listened? And some songs are written from Gods perspective, so I suppose that counts. But sometimes I feel like we need to give God more room to move.

I tried to experiment with this once. We were camping, in the middle of the bush and we circled up. I started playing my guitar and then I stopped. “Today I’m going to just play a soundtrack.

I have songs to play, but I don’t need to play them. If God puts a song in your heart, if God prompts you to speak out to the group, if God wants you to pray over someone – DO IT. Irrelevant of what I’m doing, I play this guitar more as a back track to improvise off” The next 40 minutes God broke a lot of freedom over our group.

Some things were prayed and sung out that would echo powerfully through out the next 7 weeks and beyond. We gave God the room and he used it. We saw this again two weeks ago at our national leaders meeting. And again even more recently in a worship time on base. We gave God room to move and he did.

I feel like the guitar stands in the way of God moving. If worship isn’t about the music, and its not about the words (necessarily – tbc) then its about US and GOD. And us and God can relate off the back of anything. In Uganda they don’t have guitars as much, but they do have drums and amazing voices. So we would worship for ages on beats alone. In India it was synth, in Ukraine it was a mixture of Korean, Russian, English and Danish – we related amongst different language. But when we put stipulations on worship we limit God.

– It has to have guitar
-it has to have no instruments
-it has to be thee and thous
-it can’t have slang words.
-It has to be the lyrics of the people
-it can’t be too loud or too quiet
-it has to have flute.

My relationship with my father is liberated from stipulations. I love him, we converse a lot. And he doesn’t need to be playing guitar.

When we worship God, we unite with our brothers and sisters through a common wording of a song. And God uses ALL to speak words over each other.

So some questions –

could you passionately worship God in a room full of people you love without any music?

Could you passionately worship God with 6 people and a ukelele?

Could you passionately worship and converse with God to hymns? To New songs with only 8 words in it? Dancing, kneeling, with no words?

Can you give God space?

Or is the guitar a security blanket? Because if it is, maybe we should set them all on fire.

A thought before I end…

I have now been working with young people for two years directly discipling and empowering. And the amount of time I hear this statement is saddening “I can’t be a worship leader because I can’t play guitar”
#oneofthedevilsbiggestlies.

Stop believing in limitations that aren’t from God.
God frees us to be what HE CREATED.

GET OUT OF HIS WAY!