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Stories

Saturday – The Writing Process – Round 2

joy2AThis evening I met with my writing coach and I brought with me my first draft outline. Over the evening we talked through my points, and we built a larger frame to work with. In discussion, he came up with six themes that he became aware of.

The Themes are:

  • God
  • Canada
  • Family
  • Alcohol
  • AIDS
  • Homosexuality

We decided on the first chapter and the last chapter. I know what those two chapters are going to look like and what will go into them. I took copious notes on the draft and brought it home. From my notes, I composed a new outline, incorporating the new points and stories that were fleshed out. Running on the themes that arose, the story is much more complete.

The Outline went from two pages to a total of five pages.

I typed out each story point down the page, completing all the pages, I drew a graph table on the far margin with six columns. One for each theme on each page. Then drew horizontal lines between each story point. Then for each story point, I ticked the box that was theme appropriate for that section.

The story as a whole is my story. But through discussion my coach determined that I also had a Canadian story, which turns the book into a wider audience. God begins the book and ends the book, as one of the main themes that runs throughout the entire story.

Canada begins the book and also ends the book as well. My originally being an American child with Canadian and Italian family. I am introduced to Canada through family, I am raised in the states, but eventually find my way here to Montreal, because of my maternal family.

I have to find my way into assimilation and into Canadian Society, during the run ups to war, seeing the world from above the Northern Border, and how everyday Canadians react to world events, was a shocking show. I am told to sew Canadian flags on my back pack, and my academic adviser begins to orient me towards choosing who I will align myself with.

That process took more than two years to navigate. There was no going back for me, only forwards motion. I came to Canada to become a Canadian citizen which took place in February of 2003. So this is definitely a Canadian Story.

Family, Alcohol, AIDS and Homosexuality are parts of the story and they have a certain beginning and play their part in the fuller story.

I have added some major people to the story, at the points where they impact the timeline as it happened. I can now tie the entire story together and see a fuller picture.

Inside the story are integral paranormal additions. Over my lifetime, family members who have died, at some point, return to me one way or another, those would be my Grammy, Grampy, Memere, my mother’s mother and finally Sister Georgette. Their appearances play a part in the story telling, and take place at certain points in the story.

Now I have a complete road map of what I am going to write and how that is going to flesh out.

I have the stories in chronological order with their themes.

I need to work out how to weave the stories together, within the themes provided, and write a cohesive story, start to finish.

I have completed the table for my next session next Saturday.

There is yet to be a title, but I am told, that will come eventually.

He spoke about Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, and how I did not need a chapter on “the whiteness of the whale.” And he also mentioned Earnest Hemingway and how grand a writer he was, which then I said, I don’t know if I have those kinds of voices to write with, because I am literate up to a certain level. I don’t use lofty words that are beyond my comprehension, just to get an idea across. But I do have a voice.

I find, usually in my Pastoral Ministry work, that if I need to write someone or talk about a certain topic in that field, I can sit down and think about what I need to say, and I find that words come to me on specific occasions based on specific needs. The words are there, I just may not have them but on a need to have basis.

My coach likes my voice and my story telling ability.

He is sure there is a hit on the way for you all to look forward to.

More to come, stay tuned …


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…


Sunday Sundries … Window of Opportunity

tumblr_l8yig0qgFp1qbsveko1_500 billypazionisCourtesy: Billy Pazionis Flickr

It was a beautiful day today. Absolutely stunning.

It was a usual Sunday afternoon. I took the long way to the church to enjoy the sun, and arrived with plenty of time to set up. Our early crew arrived shortly after. Numbers are up, as season kicks into gear, the Sunday meeting is a very popular stop on the city sober tour.

The sober train is in full motion, with the Round Up coming next weekend. The area is hosting open houses in the East End, opposite the West Island event over the weekend, next.

We sat a fair crowd and read “My Wife and I,” from Experience, Strength and Hope. The stories from the First Edition were collected from amongst the first 100 men and women who got sober, when the fellowship was in its infancy.

The time period we are talking about it just prior to the Great Depression, during and the years that followed. Some of our writers were young, in their twenties, when the drink began to take them. These stories parallel the lives of our young people, as well as the rest of us, the timeline is the same, but the circumstances and social conditions were a bit different.

Our story opens with a young couple, low on funds, have high aspirations as to how they want to live their lives. It was a good match that our man found a wife who was smart, astute and a very good thinker, because he was going to need that, later on.

What ever one had prior to the great depression, was laid wasted when it fell.

Everybody suffered.

Alcohol is a relentless foe. And little by slowly, it took our man to the depths of despair.

Trying to manage a business, family (read: children), a wife, and the drink, during probably the most difficult period is U.S. history, was challenging.

All the while, as our man was sinking, his wife was reminding him, sometimes more forcefully than at other times, what he stood to lose, what they had lost and what they had in meager terms. He ignored these words, and kept drinking.

However, his wife was steadfast and in the end, it was she who contacted Doctor Bob to come help her husband.

During the read, the wife speaks to one lady doctor who introduces her to another doctor, who we assume, if the reading is correct, is Doctor Bob. She asks him for his help.

The conversation goes like this …

“Does you husband want to stop drinking, or is he merely temporarily uncomfortable? Has he come to the end of the road, (Dr. Bob) asks his wife.

There is discussion between them.

Dr. Bob visits our folks at home.

Our man knew, in the beginning, that he did not want to become one of those “rummies!” But the drink had other plans for him, he not only drank, and drank hard, he became that which he tried so valiantly to avoid.

Dr. Bob greets our man saying … “I hear you’re another ‘rummy,’ he said as he smiled and sat down beside me. I let him talk. Gradually, he drew me out until what I did tell him gave him a picture of my experience. And then he put it to me plainly. “If you are perfectly sure that you want to quit drinking for good, if you are serious about it, if you don’t merely wish to get well so that you can take up drinking again at some future date, you can be relieved,” he said.

I told him that I had never wanted anything as much in my life as to be able to quit using liquor, and I meant every word of it.

“The first thing to do with your husband,” he said, turning to my wife, “is to get him to a hospital and have him defogged.” I’ll make the necessary arrangements.

It was Doctor Bob who finally got our man into recovery.

I heard a young person share tonight about the “window of opportunity.”

For our writer, the window of opportunity opened, at just the right time, and our man was “ready and willing” to hear the message. As we have talked recently, that very particular window of opportunity opens at the oddest of times.

It opens and either we hear the words, or a human being appears at just the right time, carrying the message, which we either hear and understand and we make a move, or we ignore that message or human being, opting for further descent into the pit of alcoholism.

Those windows, don’t stay open for very long, but they appear when we might least expect them to open, and as experience has shown us, alcoholics are the last persons to “get the message” because we are insane and hard headed.

But as it has turned out, those of us who are “in the fellowship” were afforded windows of opportunities, and we are sober today, by the grace of God.

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

More to come, stay tuned …


Thursday … It Is COLD !!! … If You are Breathing, You have a Chance …

tumblr_lm5d60Hzy01qzhzruo1_500 flickr jamesclearCourtesy: James Clear Flickr

Boy, is it FRIGID outside tonight. We are sitting at (-15c/-21c w.c.). We got a little snow, and city workers, are tonight, hurriedly trying to clear snow from the streets. There is good news coming in the way of positive numbers beginning on Sunday with a trend moving from Zero to plus (+7c) by Wednesday next week.

That warmth cannot come sooner, as February was the coldest month on record here in the city.

Yesterday I welcomed a friend back from the U.S., the long nightmare that was Pittsburgh is over.

We had lunch, did some shopping, and sorted out various things that he needed to do so that he can reconnect with the community here. I had not been to the core malls in some time, so while we were there yesterday, we happened into Indigo Book sellers. and I invested in the next two books by Kathy Reichs, in the Temperance Brennan series, and last night, I could not get to bed early enough to start reading them.

Today was quiet. I was sleeping, and at one point, the same dream scene kept repeating itself over and over again, so I knew it was time to get out of bed, to try and reset the cycle. As I can only sit so long in front of this box, I spent some time surfing and stuff like that, and when I completed my circuit, I had two hours before I needed to get ready to go… I went back to bed for a short run.

Winter has not been kind to our folks. They are choosing to stay home, instead of venturing out in this frigid weather. I’ve been noting as well, some of our old timers have been MIA for a while. Which is out of character for some of them.

One of those men, returned to the fold this evening. I hadn’t seen him in a while, and I was starting to worry about him. Weren’t we all surprised when he got up there and spoke.

My friend has a number of years in, twenty seven to be exact.

For a while now, having listened to old timers talk and share at meetings, I know some things about them. Each of them approach the program differently. No two of them do it the same way, and I’ve written here, recently about folks who are just comfortable to warm a chair and occupy space.

If you hit enough meetings, and listen well, you sometimes get nuggets of wisdom, here and there.

I’ve talked to my friend who spoke tonight, in great depth over the months that have passed, and asked him why some folks, have put down their roots and roost where they are, and others keep to the notion that there is always something new to learn, and if you have the time to invest, they why not do that ?

While we were out there, most people have experiences of certain individuals who step in and stop us in our tracks which begins the slow grind out of hell, into life. As was the case for my friend.

He was working in a hospital, barely hanging on to life, trying to dry out after another ritual alcohol infused dance with massive amounts of cocaine trip. He was ordered to get a medical check up by his boss. So he goes to this office and sits down, as the doctor has his back to him. He, “the doctor” turns around and looks at my friend squarely and without skipping a beat says quite bluntly …

“Alcohol and Cocaine huh !!! ” Exclamation point …

He had not set eyes on my friend, nor knew his state. But he pegged him substance for substance.

That doctor knew him and began to sort him out and get him help.

The doctor tells him emphatically …

“You go and talk to this guy, do it now, Do it now, DO IT NOW !!!”

In a few months time, and after a few ins and outs, the miracle happened.

  • The admission of powerlessness over his chosen substances
  • The realization that there was a kernel of faith inside of him from his childhood
  • And that that Power Greater than himself could actually help him

This was another example that most of us are either born into – or are educated in, some kind of faith background. And for some of us, when we come in, are provided the grace to be able to appreciate it for what it was and is, and allow that grace to save us.

I am very keen to know and to learn perspective from my long sober friends.

That kind of dictates or allows me to see where I am in the grand scheme of things. I’m not just walking around aimlessly not doing anything with my time. That I am, in fact, using my time properly, I’m invested in my own sobriety, and I am invested in the lives of my friends at large, and then, on a daily basis, I am invested in the lives of the guys I work with.

Constant. Daily, By The Book.

My friend tells us that “If we are alive, and breathing, we have a chance to live a life of our wildest dreams, in the program.” Simply, “if you are breathing, YOU have a chance !!!” Exclamation point !

You never know when God is going to step in and sort you out. Be mindful.

In my life, God, or angels, or particular people, stepped in when I most needed it and gave me a chance to get out of hell and get sorted out and clean up my life. When that happened in my life, it was not by my own steam, or by my choice, in those cases, it was divinely ordained. There are no two ways about that.

My friend tonight, had that same experience, when he most needed help.

God stepped in and rescued him from hell.

One day at a time, this past January, he celebrated twenty seven years sober. And in April, he will turn sixty six years young, Some old timers, with oodles of time, have aged very gracefully.

Others, not so much.

I remember the words spoken by another long sober member here …

CONSTANT VIGILANCE !!!

Alcohol and drugs are pernicious, patient and deadly.

If you go back out, it is a foregone conclusion that you will return to where ever you left off, when you quit, and will wind up in a much bigger jackpot that you could have imagined.

Meetings, Prayer, Meditation, Working with Others …

When you come to us, you get the recipe for life. My friend lives in that recipe.

i want men like him in my life, because they challenge me to cook.

What are you cooking ???

More to come, stay tuned …


Tuesday – Tomorrow is Christmas Eve – 1 Shopping Day Remains

PCU1582bChristmas Window – Place Ville Marie – Montreal

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

So that is a thing …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I heard lots of good things, like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

All in its good time I guess.

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

We did not get sober to be Miserable.

For we are not a Glum Lot.

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

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

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

You Will Get Happy.

One day at a time.

Stick around until the miracle occurs.