Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. AIDS – THIS IS MY PRIDE – SURVIVAL !!! A Wordpress Production

Tradition

Sunday Sundries … OH !

tumblr_m9goegijlk1qkbo6bo1_500 freshie (2)Courtesy: Freshie

It was a rather quiet weekend. The weather has been iffy all day/evening long. It has been spitting rain on and off for a few hours now. The majority of it fell while we were in action inside the church. We are in single digit positive temps, still a little chilly.

After last night’s writing there isn’t much else to tell.

We have a nest on our balcony. Over the last few weeks, two very brave pigeons have been scouting out our balcony. They aren’t afraid of humans, they seem to like sharing the space. A few days ago, I noticed that one of them is sitting on a nest that they built under the patio furniture. They carved out a space for themselves tucked in a spot that is dry, covered and out of direct sunlight. I put out some bread and a water bowl for mama.

Yesterday the mate visited the balcony, he was carrying more twigs for the nest. He seemed a little spooked by my presence, and took off for the neighboring building where they usually roost during the day in the sunlight.

I’m guessing we will have chicks sometime soon.

We were talking over dinner that those pigeons picked a difficult spot to have chicks, seeing that we are 17 stories up and one false start is going to end up with dead chicks if they aren’t proficient in learning how to fly.

I don’t know where they all go at night to rest. On a good day there are more than 50 birds in the grouping in our neighborhood. I’ve never been able to suss out where they go at night.

I was out early and the weather was holding. My Sunday guy is in Germany until Wednesday so it was just me for set up, the girls soon followed. We sat a small group, and read from the Twelve and Twelve, and Tradition Four.

Autonomy…

Every group is different, no two groups are the same. The take away from this reading is simple, “Try not to be so damned serious with yourself.”

In the Traditions we read the goings on of the early groups as the books were first put out and the first groups were forming. Lots of people had grandiose delusions of grandeur. They wanted to build super hospitals dedicated to the sobering up of the masses. They wanted to build multi-story building catering to every aspect of the recovery process. It was truly a trial and error process. Some things worked, and others didn’t.

Well, we know how that ended … Keep it simple stupid !

I had those dreams of grandeur myself at one point. The plans for that dream are here on the blog if you know where to look.

Club rooms are located in many places. And they work for some reason, out there.

The way meetings work here, on both the English and French sides, meetings fall on particular nights, and there are very few meetings that hold their meetings several nights a week in the same location. They tried to open a club room here a while back, and it failed miserably.

Meetings are location specific, and serve a certain area by location.

On the island of Montreal, the city is partitioned by invisible lines that demarcate each area of the island. People usually stay within those boundaries. They very rarely leave the comfort of their particular zone. So trying to consolidate a number of meetings from where they are now, to one central location, under one roof, is a futile effort, because of these little facts.

It would remove the contact for a particular zone and disrupt the delicate balance of meeting location and the people it serves.

So that is a thing …

Another week is coming. Packages are in route and should be here tomorrow, and another to follow in a weeks time. In two weeks we travel to Vermont for the Spring session Intensive Step workshop. There are a dozen Montrealer’s attending, the max capacity is forty two.

I’m pretty sure we will max out the facility.

I’ve given you all some things to think about, places to get involved, and people to get up and stand by and speak for. It only takes one person to change the world.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

More to come, stay tuned…


Sunday Sundries … The Elevator’s Not Working, Use the Steps …

tumblr_lyv23dDgvu1ronyvyo1_500 tyleroakley

Courtesy:Tyler Oakley

What do you do for Labor day? For many on the East Coast, this weekend is the final weekend of Summer, the last weekend to party it up, before season closes.

The weather has been up and down. Rain here, rain there. I, however, got out and back without a drop which was good. I was up and ready to go with plenty of time and sat on my hands for the last half hour before I finally hit the door.

I got to the elevator bank, and there was a woman waiting, the button was pushed. But there was silence. You can hear the elevators coming up and down the shafts, so we stood there for five minutes, ten minutes, no elevators …

I pushed the UP button because the Up brings the elevator right to the floor directly. When you push the DOWN button, the elevator NEVER comes directly to the floor you are on. It always goes up to come down. I don’t know why it does that.

Well, Up didn’t work.

Another of my floor mates came to wait with me, and the elevators were not coming for some ungodly reason. So we walked down seventeen flights of stairs to reach the atrium. I Hate Stairs …

When I got down to the first floor, elevator ONE was stuck in the basement, and elevator TWO was on its way up. A little late for an up since we walked down the entire building…

When I finally got the the church, the door was open and the lights were on, a couple of members got there before me and said that the doors were unlocked when they got there, which means the super must have opened up for me early.

We cranked out set up and sat a full house. We had a bunch of visitors from out of town and we read Tradition Eight… The main take away:

“Money and spirituality don’t mix.”

You can’t turn a profit off of a Twelve Step call. Alcoholics who suffer, some go to rehab, and then they come to us. Some come to us directly. In any case, what would it be like if we charged folks for their sobriety?

There is not a dollar figure large enough that would compensate someone for giving it away. The Book reads “…Freely received, so freely given…”

The rooms gave me everything that I ever wanted or needed. The people in my life I could not put a dollar figure on. When I give it away, to the people I work with, you could not put a dollar figure on the emotional feeling of gratitude one gets, when people you work with get better.

I’ve seen “sober coaches” recently in the news, always coupled with someone who is trying to get sober, usually a celebrity … I wonder how much money they make a week as they “coach” someone into sobriety? And I wonder if that model works?

I mean if you have to pay someone to keep you sober, I think that speaks to the effort or lack there of said effort each sufferer puts into his/her own sober journey.

Yeah, I’ll get sober, my way. I will hire a coach to shadow me 24/7 in all my public events, and I will stay sober. I might not necessarily go to meetings on top of this, or maybe I might, but we’ll see …

We heard about Humility. We heard about Gratitude.

In New York, someone has to keep the doors open in the G.S.O. And someone needs to keep our G.S.O here in Montreal staffed and working. If you read the BOX 459, that comes monthly from New York, you can read all about how the system works, who gets paid and who doesn’t, and WHY?

The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking. And Our common welfare comes first, personal recovery depends on A.A. Unity.

Each group has jobs, that rotate each month. And people do group service to give back for what they have been freely given. And you can’t put a dollar figure on that knowledge.

When a celebrity or a professional comes through our doors, who they are and what they do for a living is left at the door.

There is that separation between the human being and what they do.

However, I know of a handful of sober folks, I count among my friends, who work in recovery houses and rehabs. We know where they work, but when they hit a meeting, they are who they are. I’ve never heard someone mix business with pleasure.

In time you come to realize just how much of a pleasure going to meetings is, because you get to see the people you got sober with, the friends that you have made and we get to share amongst each other what we learn on a weekly basis. And that is a pleasure.

So that is a thing …

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

we_were_here_full_size_wb

Late night television has been hit and miss the past few weeks. The summer season is coming to an end, and we hit that [buffer zone] between summer and fall programming that always coincides with Labor Day.

Last night we got an encore presentation of “We Were Here.” It was the only worth while program on television at that hour. I guess God had a plan. This documentary has been showing an awful lot this summer. As if to say … This isn’t over, we need to think about this and remember. And we need NOT to forget.

Seriously, how can I forget?

I love one of the final thoughts in this piece about “The Ghost.”

People who lived through that era of time, either watching someone they loved get sick and die, or working on the front lines of treatment and service, Once we have gone through this crucible, we come out the other end. And for some, they never reconnect to life, or to a purpose, and thereby, become a ghost, traveling through life, not connecting, and never finding a purpose for themselves.

I as well, am married to someone younger than me. Who never saw this happen. He did not live through what I did. He did not watch all his friends die gruesome deaths like I did. But when we connected, he got on board 100%.

I’ve had two periods of sickness in the last thirteen years. But it wasn’t a death watch. And I haven’t had another AIDS related illness since.

I know how I got through that period. But I took me a long time to find a purpose in my life, rather than pissing my life away with drugs and alcohol. That point came and I found a purpose, or I thought I did.

When I got here, and was sober a year, my after care counselor asked me “so what do you want to do now?” She gave me an option to find a purpose. I was attached by that time. I went back to school. I had my meetings and good friends.

I found my purpose, and I share that purpose every day with my fellows.

There is that empty space in my heart for all my friends who did not get so lucky. I remember. I miss them. I never forget them. I think about them every time I open my medicine cabinet. The moment I forget or I stop opening that cabinet, I sign my own death warrant.

I remember What it was like, What happened and What it is like now.

How gracefully that thought crosses all the events in my life succinctly.

I have a story and that story matters.

Maya says … When you know good, Do good. When you learn, Teach.

That is what I do every day.

More to come, stay tuned …


In Case of Fire …”BREAK GLASS”

Pope Francis in a selfie photoIt has been a week of change. People have come and gone. One of my men is now living in Pittsburgh and we get to talk every night, thanks to Skype. The wonders of technology never cease.

Last night we heard from a second of my men, who is moving his family back to Oshawa to his family home where the kids will have a house, a yard and parks to play in close to home, which is a big change from their 3 1/2 here in Montreal. That move takes place in a fortnight.

My third and final man is coming home in the days to come, which will be exciting since he has been gone all summer long at camp.

The Friday night commute was quick and painless, and we set up quickly and quietly. Then everyone came for the Friday night meet and greet. It was a full house by the time the meeting ended. We talked about prayer, and we talked about God.

At some point in the game, you get to God. And the Book speaks about the “spiritual experience” and the “psychic change” that has to come about to guarantee a sober life.

Everyone has a story. And at some point or other, in our drinking story, that we get to the end and we say …”God, help me, I can’t go on like this any longer !” In case of Fire, Break Glass…

There has been a lot of talk about religious faith amongst my fellows, which I am going to write about in a separate post later tonight. I read an interesting post last night about religious faith and the belief in fictional characters we find in pop culture and in film. But more on that later.

I’ve noticed along the way that there are buzz words and concepts that have popped up this time around that did not come to mind the first time around, not that I remember. That was more than twenty years ago now.

When I hit my slip, I surely was not thinking about God. He never came up. I never thought about Him. And the thought did not come to mind until I had had my last drink and I finally called out for help. I prayed, and I believe that that is all He needed to hear. You see, God allows us to do what we are going to do, usually He doesn’t act, unless we are in peril, for some.

Over there —> in the Pages if you look down to “Naked and Sacred” you can read my story about my relationship with God, when it started and how I got here.

God was part of my life. I went to church, I attended seminary, visited the Vatican. God and I were close. And as long as I remained “on the beam” my life was pretty sweet. Everything went according to plan, it was never my plan, per se, but it was a plan that worked.

But every time I stepped “off the beam” my life became a real shit storm.

I have had several shit storms in my life. Most of my twenties, half of my thirties. I had brief connection when I got sober the first time, but I account that survival to people and not God. But in hindsight, I have said that when I really needed God, (read: my diagnosis) He came to me in human form. I was so satisfied with my job and the people in my life, I really did not think about God, because He was there, right in front of me.

The second time around I learned how to trust God all over again. And I have said that from the moment I put down the drink, God moved heaven and earth to get me here. And He was running the show. I have stayed “on the beam.”

When I hit my ten year anniversary, the theme of that anniversary was ” I Thirst” a meditation from the journals of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It would not come to pass for another couple of years that God spoke to me. At the West island Roundup in 2013, I met Lorna Kelly. She went to Calcutta and worked along side the sisters and had a relationship with Mother Teresa for years, prior to her death, and later spoke in the case for her canonization.

Anyways … I read both her books. The Camel Knows the Way and In the Footsteps of the Camel. In the story in the first book is all about Calcutta. Lorna steps into the chapel and there stenciled on the wall next to the crucifix are the words … ” I Thirst.” It floored me.

It was also at that roundup that my prayer life got a huge jump start. I was coasting. And the fire that was lit pushed me to new lengths in my prayer life. And from that blossomed a new sponsor, sponsees and something entirely new for my sobriety.

But as of late, I’ve had problems finding God. I know He is there, but there are times that I can’t see him, or I forget to call out His name. And that usually happens when I am stuck on my hamster wheel obsessing or worrying about things that are way outside of my control.

In certain situations, the older I get the angrier I get about people and situations. I imagine in my minds eye that adults grow up eventually and we reach a point that darkness is overcome by the light.

That hasn’t happened yet for me.

I spoke about it last night again, because we read on resentments and anger. And throughout the meeting I heard the the older men speak, and we got two round robins in and I heard those sentences from the book that makes sense of everything that is going on …

  • ACCEPTANCE is the KEY to ALL my problems and that
  • NOTHING absolutely NOTHING happens in God World by Mistake.

God is in control, to the extent we allow that control. But God allows for self will. And when we take back our will, it usually ends up in self will run riot. I would rather not be in that place.

Where ever you are at what ever time it is, no matter what day it is, we are right where we need to be at any given moment on any given day. And that if nothing happens by mistake and I an right where I should be, then I can let go of my expectations and my fears and my pains of heart.

I got here right? Well, God got me here.

I am powerless over people, places and things.

I’ve read countless books about Karma, Family, Parables, Teachings.

One book I love is The Journey Home – a Kryon Parable.

In it the lead character looses his parents very young, and spirals into a pit of depression and loneliness until he winds up in hospital because of a robbery gone very wrong. In the story he gets to take a journey through seven Angelic Houses. And learns many lessons about life.

When we are born, we incarnate in groups usually. Everybody has their prescribed roles, agreed upon before we get here. And certain people may not be on board for the entire journey, because each contract is different. And we may not get very far, but far enough to the point that we either move apart or we die.

I believe that my family had a very short contract. We only got so far before we parted ways and i went on with my life by myself. And I wonder why that happened, well I know why, I am Gay, HIV+ and I live in another country now. Grounds for immediate dismissal.

So that is a thing.

I pray for the time when everybody grows up to a point that communication is possible. But I am not hedging my bets. Cue resentment and anger. 

Unfounded.

I must go on trusting that God knows what He is doing. Can you see I have trust issues?

I am right where I need to be and there are no mistakes.

I must connect daily, many times a day. I must be humble and get on my knees and pray.

There are no two ways around it.

I must remain “On the Beam.”

It is getting late and I have a second post to finish.

More to come, stay tuned …


Happy Birthday Harry Potter

tumblr_mqrucpPYsl1ro4l1eo3_500tumblr_mqrucpPYsl1ro4l1eo1_500tumblr_mqrucpPYsl1ro4l1eo2_500July 31 … A very Auspicious Day. We share a birthday today.


Sunday Sundries … Countdown

tumblr_n854u9is0Z1r92k5yo1_500 sweetsoles

Courtesy: Sweet soles

Mother Nature is in a tug of war at this hour. The clouds moved in today and attempted to drop rain on us earlier, i felt a few drops and that was it. I figured the skies would open during the meeting and soak us. That did not happen. But it is dark and foreboding at this hour. It’s not a question of if it will rain, but when at this point.

If I were still drinking we would be amid the great countdown to the birthday, which is on Thursday this year. The drinking party would have begun on the seventh day out and we would party every day ending with a grand slam drinking event that always took place on the birthday.

 

Thank God I am no longer drinking. And that I have never had a drink here.

I spent the afternoon with my sponsor going over the shift that is taking place in my brain and got his advice on what I should be doing, what is my responsibility and what is not. Marriage is work, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Knowing what to do, how to do it, when to do it and when not to do it … Learning careful and thoughtful ways of speaking … and how two people relate to each other, in the many ways possible. We even had “THAT” conversation.

You know, “That” conversation …

The most intimate way two people communicate.

So that was a thing.

I arrived at the church a half hour early because we were just up the road at Second Cup, and i cranked some tunes and cranked out set up. My coffee gal showed up and we made coffee and sat and talked for a while. She was also chairing tonight, which was a tradition meeting.

7th month, 7th Tradition … Money !

“Every A.A. group should be self supporting declining outside contributions.”

They had a tough time with this one, back in the day. But wisdom spoke when the fellowship decided to decline outside contributions because … “Whoever pays the piper is apt to call the tune.”

We need money to keep a group open. It costs a pretty penny to open a meeting in today’s day and age. Among five original members, our Thursday night meeting just makes rent on a monthly basis, because we cover whatever we are short at the end of the month. We haven’t been able to raise prudent reserve yet, a year later.

Then one factors in a coffee pot, literature, supplies, cups, coffee and a cabinet to put your stuff in AND then pay rent on a monthly basis.

I was told wisely, when we opened that “if the group is meant to be, God will make it so, and so far He has. Larger groups make more cash on a weekly basis and keep a prudent reserve and covers all their operating expenses. It is vitally important that we keep the doors open because you never know who is going to show up on any given night.

If I calculated how much money I wasted on alcohol, I try to put money in the kitty when I can.

Then the entire question of financial security came up. Many struggle with this issue, and so keeping the doors open is an imperative. It is suggested that at home, one should have a prudent reserve of three months salary in the bank, in case of emergencies …

We’ve never been able to do that, as of yet.

Money makes the world go round, and is one major cause of all marital discord, along with sex, secrets and infidelity.

It was a short discussion tonight, lots of passes. I had expected a larger crowd, but we were happy with who showed up. We are set for jobs next month.

It was a good night overall.

More to come, stay tuned …


July 8 2014 retrospective from July 8 1994

world-aids-day

Here is the story of that week from my journal.If we are to start anywhere, here is the best place.

July 4th 1994

it was a nice day.Josh and I prepared the house for company; we were hosting a “friendly” BBQ in Ft.Lauderdale. Alan and his hubby and other friends from the complex were coming, a veritable who’s who of my social circle back then. It was a great day. We cooked and ate at the picnic table out back – the drag queens in the adjacent area were entertaining, and the conversation was light and campy. The day wore on into night, and fireworks were going to be shot off over Ft.Lauderdale beach. So we piled into the convertible and headed out for the five-minute drive across the bridge to the beach. Parking was a nightmare, but eventually we found a spot to sit in. I remember that things were happy and there were no worries; we were out celebrating the holiday. After the fireworks we came home and imbibed a great deal, and sat down to watch the new film out on video, “Philadelphia” with Tom Hanks. Little did I know how much life would…?

Imitate art that week?

I watched with a certain attention, as if saying to God, “I know what’s coming so please be gentle with me, because I am not sure I am ready to do this or die.” It had been a year since the first time I was tested at “Planned Parenthood” and that test came back negative.

The second test was done in a city hospital lab, and those results came back negative as well, but six months later we found out on the news that the lab had switched our (100 gay men’s) HIV tests with a retirement home lab list. It was freaky when 100 elderly folk got positive HIV tests back from the lab, OOOPS – someone made a HUGE mistake.

Anyway, that was that.

Around 8 o’clock I called my parents to wish them a Happy July 4th; there was another piece of information I needed to get across to them, and this was not going to be very easy, I had been feeling pretty sick since January, and checked 7 of the 9 symptoms off the list from “If these things are happening to you — you might have HIV” wallet card.

The conversation started light and airy, then all the air left my lungs and I could not breathe. And this is how it went

Hello…

Hello…

Pleasant conversation, then I dropped the bomb!

I have some news for you.

Yes, what would that be?

I’ve been feeling a lot sick lately and tomorrow I am going to see a doctor…

I could hear the wheels spinning in their heads. My mother had been working in Home Health Care for a number of years and she had seen what AIDS can do to a human being; couple that with what they were watching on TV and she was having worse case scenario visions in her head!!

They were watching “Philadelphia” at their house at the very moment I called. Suddenly my mother must have looked at the TV and she screamed. Yes, that’s right, I am sick, and I need to go get tested tomorrow, it’s time. My father was listening in on the extension, and I am sure he was beside himself; his fag son was sick and putting two and two together led to only one conclusion.

Josh was sitting in the living room while I had this conversation, he didn’t say a word. I had to prepare him for what was coming; Josh and I would never see the end of the week together. In the end, I would never see Josh again.

After a bout of hysterics, I told them that everything would be all right and I ended the phone call. That night I did not sleep at all, and Josh was all over the place. He was such a quiet and calm young man; we were both young then. We had only been dating for a couple of months by that point. Tomorrow’s test was just a formality; I knew already the answer I would get confirmed in a few days’ time. I did not tell any of my friends that night. Todd and Roy were in Provincetown on holiday. But I would eventually call Todd.

Tuesday July 5th, 1994

I got up this morning, with one item on my list of things to do today, and Josh did not sleep all night and was restless and upset. I got him up and ready for work and I drove him to work, and then proceeded to the clinic where my friend Ken was working.
It was in a little “medical mall” type building.The offices were on the second floor of the suites. I parked the car, put up the top and sat in silence and I prayed. “If there is a God up there, please, whatever happens, I am not ready to die.”

I find it peculiar that certain prayers at certain times remain locked in my memory on certain days of my life. I locked the car and walked the fifty feet across the parking lot and went into the office, where I was asked to take a seat and wait. Do you know what it feels like to be told “hurry up and wait?” I just wanted to get this show on the road.

You see, where I worked, at the nightclub, Ken, my friend, was the nurse for the masses. He worked off hours at the free clinic, he donated time to events, and he did home visits and took care of all of our friends who are now dead, at that time, so he had seen a lot of friends die in the five years we lived in Ft.Lauderdale. He was a very emotional man, who wore his heart on his sleeve and I knew that.

This was a hard week for him; any new diagnosis is hard when you are such close friends and part of a dynamic community where everyone knows each other intimately. We had seen each other over the weekend at the bar; I worked all weekend long. He knew that I was sick; because he was the one I went to when things got dicey. I think he knew as I did, but I think we both wanted things to be different. Alas, they weren’t.

Ken was preparing himself to do what he had to do and keep a straight face and be strong in front of me, you know, be positive about things, and keep up appearances so that I would not crack under the pressure.

It was time. Ken came and got me and escorted me to the lab, and he did not look me in the eye the entire time I sat there, tears falling from his face. It was quick, and painless. Afterwards he sent me off into my day. I signed the papers and went for the door; Ken was right behind me. He walked me to my car, and stopped and he sobbed in my arms. I was relatively calm. You see I was only 26 years old, and many of our friends had been gruesomely sick and died long drawn-out deaths. It was NOT pretty; many of my friends had KS, and cancer and some of my friends lost their minds and many of them died alone, because friends, lovers and family had thrown them out on the streets to die. Ken and I were people who cared for these people from the day they were diagnosed until the day they died. It was sad.

He said that he would call me in a few days and let me know when the tests come back…

And he tried to leave it at that.

I grabbed him and looked into his eyes and I told him,

“I know, and when you call I will know, just by the tone of your voice!”

He kissed me goodbye and I went on with my day.

I don’t remember what I did to pass the time until Josh got off work, but we tried to live normally and not get too upset over things. All I remember is that once the word went around that I had gone for the test, my friends started pulling away. It was the longest week of my life.

Friday July 8th 1994

the week passed by without incident. Thursday I waited impatiently for the phone to ring, and every time it did, I would jump through the roof. Alas, Thursday night I went to bed, knowing that tomorrow it would come.

I got up in the morning and drove Josh to work and returned to the house. It was around 11 am that the phone finally did ring. It was Ken. His voice was shaky on the phone, and all he said was “Jeremy, you need to come to the office, and you need to come now!” Then the line went dead. I got dressed and headed over to the clinic. I already knew the answer, but you never know, right? I parked the car, and said my prayers, and I rested for a moment.

I went up stairs and logged in at the reception desk. Ken was nowhere to be found. After a little while they escorted me into an examination room; it was blue in color, very sterile and cold. I sat down on the table and I waited. A few minutes later the doctor came in, file in hand. I guess he wanted to make sure I was prepared for this.

“Well, no better time than the present,” he said.

Let’s get this over with. “Jeremy, you have AIDS and that’s the bottom line. “

“You are going to die.”

The words rolled off his tongue with the flair and style of a practiced doctor. He sat with me for a few moments while I considered my fate. I think he was hoping that I would say something.

“Thank you for that information,” I replied.

He said that we would need to do a few tests to get started; those labs would show just how compromised my immune system was, and what the next course of action would be.

I did not know how bad things were, but I would soon find out. Back then, who knew from death or life? Drugs were hard to come by, and there surely was no system of treatment in place for me to go to.

He dismissed himself and said that when I was ready, I could leave.

So I gave him a five-minute lead on me, then I gathered up my soul and I walked out the exam room door and out to the car. I looked down from the second floor and Ken was sitting on the hood of my car, waiting for me. When I got down to my car, Ken stood up opened his arms and embraced me; he was sobbing. I stood there; I guess I was in shock. I stood there and held him, while the wave ran over both of us.

I guess I was not prepared to show my cards just yet. We talked for a little while and we set out a plan of action for the next week. I would return to this lab and get some baseline labs drawn to get a more total picture of my immune system and figure out how I was going to proceed. (That’s what eventually happened in the coming days.)

I drove home. I was relatively calm. It’s funny that I was totally prepared to stand up straight and tall and accept my fate, but watching my friends and coworkers and family crack up was very disturbing. People with AIDS were pariahs! You did not touch them, you did not hug them, and you surely did not want your neighbours or family members to know that you socialized with or employed someone who had AIDS, God forbid we infected someone you knew or even transmitted our disease to you by touch or breathing in the same space!

I got home, and I sat in my space and I tried to make some decisions. Who do I tell and when? I don’t remember what I did that day, but I kept myself busy. I called Todd and Roy, and they were on vacation. When Todd got the news, he was sad, and immediately he stepped up to the plate and became the man who would save my life.

That evening, Friday, I went to pick Josh up at work; I forgot to clear the tape deck in the car. The soundtrack to “Philadelphia” was still in there. It was around 5 o’clock when I picked him up; the sun was setting in front of us as we drove east towards the house. I tapped the tape into the deck, and it started to play…

I watched Josh convulse in the front seat, and throw up out the car door. He was hysterical. I did not have to say a word to him, but he knew. When we got home, he went into the bedroom, he packed his duffle bag, without a word, he looked at me, said goodbye, and walked out the door, got into his car, and drove away. That was the last time I saw him.

Whoa, OK, one down … two more to go.

I had some dinner and proceeded to call my parents. You would have thought that an atomic bomb had been dropped on my parents’ house. My mother, having worked in the health field, said to me that I had gotten what I deserved. She and my father had had a week to consider this topic. We discussed my plan of action, and I called a family meeting that would take place in a week’s time. I wanted everyone to be informed and I wanted to know that I was not alone.

That visit did take place. And it did no good to ensure anything but the disdain and ignorance by my family to step up and get involved in taking care of the future. I had made my choice, by doing what I had done, and I got what was coming to me. My father had made that perfectly clear.

I still do not know, to this day, if James was the contact point of HIV. All I do know is that James was a diabetic and was suicidal. That he was sick those last few months that we were together, and I did his blood tests with his pen. I handled the strips several times a day. And that they tell me was the transmission point. I did not know he had AIDS until well after his death, when a friend of mine called me at work one day back in ’93 to tell me he was sick and had AIDS. I guess it took me a few months to “seroconvert.” This is the process the body goes through when it’s finally hit with viral replication and inception of a virus that the immune system cannot fight alone.

Over the next week, I chose my battles wisely, I told my inner circle of friends. The ones on the inside of the AIDS circle (that I was part of at work.) On the other hand there was the other circle of my “social friends” that had partied with us just a few days earlier.They would never set foot in my house ever again, in fact, and it was as if I had walked off the face of the earth, because I never heard from many of them ever again. The stigma of AIDS back then was deadlier then the virus itself.

Todd eventually returned to Ft.Lauderdale. My landlord and his lover were notified.

Interesting that many years later, I was at a Pride Celebration in Ft.Lauderdale, and my landlord’s partner was in a wheelchair and sick with AIDS. When we were friends at the time of my diagnosis, they were a happy couple, with all the promise in the world. I had no idea. I did not lose my apartment, my rent was frozen where it was, and they helped me pay bills and buy food. Within days Todd had returned and he came over and we talked. (God, we spent a lot of time talking!)

I was in self-destruct mode. And the stress of being sick with AIDS took its toll. I drank around the clock, I drank at work, I drank after work, and all I wanted to do was die. Todd did what he could at the beginning to keep me on the straight and narrow. He outlawed drinking while on shift, (I was working in a nightclub then) so that kept me sober while I worked.

I would then head out after we closed to the “after hours” club called the “Copa.” It was down the street from where our club was, and they served alcohol till 6am. So I had at least two to three hours to get inebriated nightly. That lasted until the end of August.

One night, I decided that the pain was too intense that dying was a viable option, seeing that I knew what all of the men I knew went through. I was at the Copa one night, and it was hot and I had drunk myself into a very nice BUZZ. The problem here was, I wanted more, and I got more. That night, I collapsed on the dance floor in an alcoholic overdose of gargantuan proportions.

I woke up in my friend Danny’s arms. The ambulance was there and oxygen was administered. I was still alive. That was the last night I drank. That morning, Danny brought me home and he stayed in my house for a week. I could not go anywhere except work. Todd was worried that I was going to try and kill myself again. So I had babysitters when I was not at work. I hit my first meeting on August the 23rd, 1994. By that time, most of the bar staff was all sober, and three-quarters of us were sick with AIDS.

Todd had a safe rule in effect. We had jobs, and we got paid. If we got sick, and could not come to work, our shifts were covered by someone on staff. We did not get fired for being sick. The bar secured for us medical treatment through the local clinic, where one of our friends named Marie ran a community clinic/drug farm.

Ken came to my house weekly to check on me. My world got A LOT smaller.

Everyone outside my work circle walked away. It took me a long time to get over that. They were punishing me for getting sick. Like I needed any more punishment!

The religious fundamentals were making their cases for eternal damnation for gays and people with AIDS, and speaking out whenever we went in public. Funeral homes stopped giving services to people with AIDS and their families because of religious and social pressure.

Life was difficult, But, I survived, because of the community I lived in and the grace of Almighty God.

In retrospect, “it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.” and if God gave me a choice to go back and repeat any area of my life over again, it would be that exact period of time, and I would not change one single thing.

For years after my diagnosis, my friends died left and right, 162 people. The Names Project Quilt is a reminder of all the lives I touched and was a part of, and all the men whom I knew and loved.

All the men who were CRUCIAL to my survival (our survival) all the gay men who collected money for People with Aids, the drag queens we loved and admired and partied with over the year, the diehard supporters, are all dead now.

So many boys, so many men, cut down in the prime of life. We were foolish then, and uneducated. It was only after the storm hit that the reality start to sink in. When our friends started dying and we realized that “something serious is going on” did the community got smart.

We built infrastructure. We created homes and safe spaces. We cared for those on the streets, we collected money and food. We cooked and fed people, we washed clothes and in some cases we even changed diapers.

A year later, in 1995, I moved back to Miami, after Todd and Roy moved out west to San Francisco. I did not go with them, I was too young, and I had been banking on the fact that my S.O.B father would die and I would take back my mother. Well, he is still alive, all these years later, and I did not get my mother back. Do I have regrets? Sometimes I do. I sometimes think, “what if?” but that’s all they are, thoughts. You know what they say about living in “what ifs right?” So I don’t think about what ifs anymore, just what will be.

From my diagnosis date through the first eight years of my life with HIV/AIDS, I lived in the United States, and I speak about navigating a U.S. program of medical, social and government system. I immigrated to Canada in April of 2002.


Better than Gold

tumblr_m2buloq4sx1qfq8r5o1_500-hikenow-nyiragongo-volcano

Courtesy: Hike Now Nyiragongo Volcano

“… The newcomer feels like they have struck something better than gold. They may not see at once that they have barely scratched a limitless lode which will pay dividends only if he mines it for the rest of their lives and insist on giving away the entire product.”

A.B.S.I. #57

It rained again today. But the skies were dry during the outing this evening. And the rails were running efficiently and on time. There was no sign of yesterdays tragedy in the Metro when I got there.

The above reading is truncated. But the thought that I want to use comes from this portion of the passage. the visual of “mining for Gold.”

Some felt this passage in its entirety was lacking, because it doesn’t tell you how to begin. That from day one, we have to pick up the pick axe. And over time to begin excavating our own mine for the wealth promised by recovery.

I’ve spoken before about “the chair” and what that means. It took me over a decade to realize this piece of wisdom. It isn’t about us, or me.

We come in and find our chair. It is custom where ever you go, if you hit the same meetings continually, people always sit in the same chair, where ever it is in the room. I find that people usually sit in their comfort zones, either up front “at the table” or more to the back of the room.

We listen from our chair, we share from our chair, and over time we learn that where ever we go, there is a chair for us, any place in the world. Over time we learn from our chair, and in time, when it will come, we speak from our chair, and you never know when something we/you say, will impact another soul, by identification and in that moment a life may be changed.

Do we have to go to meetings for the rest of our lives? Yes, if we want the long term rewards of this mining process. Alcoholism never leaves, we are never really cured, or recovered. It is a one day at a time effort.

And serenity comes when we maintain our spiritual condition. Sobriety is contingent based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. The outside world doesn’t change. We have good days and bad days, but the good news is that we don’t ever have to drink again.

And we begin to learn the wisdom of “The Work.”

It took me a long time to get the message that my life could change in even bigger and better ways if I undertook “The Work.” In the beginning when I first got sober I did a round of work, and I coasted. In years past, I did another round of work, and let it go. I coasted for a long time, upwards into my 11th year of sobriety.

I thought I had learned all that I could. Boy was I WRONG !!!

Coming out of year ten into eleven I met a group of women who pounded “The Work” with their girls. They were passionate and committed. And over time, I realized that I wanted that passion and commitment as well.

The Roundup of 2013 came and I heard the message loud and clear.

There was more Mining to do. This was year twelve and into this year.

I picked up my pick axe and started working. I dug deeper and deeper, it seemed for months and months. I dug with reckless abandon. A new sponsor came and I hit another round of “The Work.” Then sponsees came into my life. After years of meetings, making coffee, sharing and learning, the time came for me to give back what I had mined to another alcoholic.

In order to keep it you must give it away. Hence the fact of the above passage, “We insist on giving away the entire product.” The gold isn’t ours to keep or hoard. We don’t get to keep the gold, we get the gold, we bring it inside ourselves, we learn and integrate, then we have to give it back to the source.

We must freely give what has been freely given to us.

When we work with others, we hand them their own pick axes. And we encourage them to start digging themselves. And they get to experience their process and one day they too will give it back when they get to the point that they get to work with others in their lives.

There is wisdom in the book. And as each person is able and willing, we hand them the book and we read it with them, side by side.

In the beginning for many, warming a chair is all that they can do for a time, until they get their feet wet, and find their way into the fellowship.

There is Gold in them thar hills. Go find it. But be reminded, you can’t keep even an ounce. You must give it back.

The only thing they tell you must change when we get clean and sober is Everything. And that this is an inside job.

If you want what we have and are willing to go to any lengths to get it, then you are ready to take certain steps.

Eventually you will find that there can be life without the drinking and drugging. And there are plenty of people to participate with you. Find them.

Come on in, the waters fine, Leave on shore your troubled mind. We don’t care where you’ve been just so long as you come on in …

And old song we used to sing on retreat weekend in school.

More to come, stay tuned …


Open up my Heart and Cause my lips to Speak …

tumblr_l87c92E6eN1qzh5j8o1_500 tylerbear

Courtesy:TylerBear

“Bring the heaven and the stars down to work for me …”

It has been an interesting past few days. So much so, that I had to let my brain calm down in order to not speak the wrong words at the wrong time.

Suffice to say that … I know who I am in the grand scheme of things. And that I am powerless over people, namely, my friends, or men whom I call my friends. And after this weekend, I’m not really sure about that.

The time is coming that a decision is on the front page. One that I don’t really want nor need to make right now, unless circumstances change between now and then.

I am reading a book on Catherine of Sienna. A kind of hagiography. The man who read it before me, didn’t get a thing from the book, and all he did when he gave it to me was complain. That’s another story for farther down the page …

But I did come across this and it hit me right over the head.

“You know that a person who walks with a lamp at night doesn’t stumble. Souls who have God as their lamp cannot stumble either. They open the eye of their understanding and reason to see which road this gentle Master took. And once they have seen it, because of their will and desire to follow their Master, they run attentively and eagerly. They don’t stop to look back – at themselves, I mean.

They see themselves well enough where knowledge of their sins and failings is concerned, and admit of themselves that they are nothing. And at the same time, they recognize in themselves the immeasurable goodness of God, who has given them what ever being they have.”

Catherine goes on to say about an inner dialogue she had with god is this …

“You are she who is not, and I am he who is…”

Thomas Aquinas writes that “God is pure being – God simply Is. All the rest of creation takes its being from God but does not possess being in the same way God does. Everything and everyone else “is not” until God intervenes.”

I’m not sure why that passage impacted me so much when I first read it, for that very same reason, I had to note it.

I am not sure my fellows really know who I am, and why I am who I am and why I do the things I do. In a certain community, these men have twenty or thirty years on me age wise, and all they do is complain. And over and over, coming rote nowadays, is the part of the prayer that speaks of “Tolerance for those with different struggles!”

The Old Gay Men Group is totally working my Very Last Good Gay Nerve !!!

I have to remember this when I want to run my mouth and rant and rave, just like I really wanted to a couple of days ago. And who wants to read a missive of verbal diarrhea.

So that is a thing.

Our friend “Baby MAMA” texted us very early this morning, before the sun came up that she was in the hospital and that the baby was on the way. We have been texting New Foundland several times throughout the day waiting.

And at the meeting this evening a friend said “Let he be, it’s not like she is sitting on her bed with her phone in her hand waiting to text you she is getting ready to push a watermelon through a pea hole. Let her be for God’s sake.

We talked about the “Coming of faith.” And several of us said those very familiar words … We come, then we Come To, and finally we Come To Believe.

I’ve been worried about a certain issue that has been dogging me for the past ten years, Thank God for Gay Rights moving across the U.S. on the state and even on the Federal level. I had a question that needed answering, and I could not find an open office on the East coast, they all close at 3 p.m. WTF ???

So I called a number in Minot South Dakota and found a man who spoke truth to me and I could hear it in his voice, the tone and tenor … “Tell the Truth.”

That was the end of the conversation. I made a second call this morning and asked a related question, and the answer came easily, “no problem, it makes no difference in your qualifications.” That was a load off my back.

That brings us up to today.

The sun shone, it was really hot. Perfect traveling weather. We have been a very warm stretch. The A.C. is a real gift.

More to come, stay tuned …

 


The Easier Softer Way …

kneel

Friday has come and almost gone. I left uber early to meet with one of my guys to plan his next assignment. His first 4th Step. We celebrated his three months tonight. People tend to celebrate milestones at the Friday Meeting as of late.

We read from A.B.S.I. and “Seeking Guidance.” The act of praying, and then actively listening for the response, and what do we do if that response does not come? What do we do next, as in the right decision or the next right thing.

The shares went around the room. And I listened.

After my conversation after the meeting last night with Mr. Google, I spoke to my sponsor about it. And before I went to bed, I rifled off an email to Mr. Google about half measures, balking, and willfulness.

I got a response earlier today, but I did not read it until I came home after the meeting. I wasn’t sure what kind of response I was going to get back.

And after the meeting I was on the way home with one of my guys and I spoke what was going on in my head with him.

When I went to Vermont, I met guys who were severely addicted to hard core drugs and alcohol. Addiction is not a game. This is some serious shit. This is our lives we are talking about here. This is not a joke or something to be trifled with.

When I speak to someone about program or sobriety, I want my words to come from the right direction, and the right place. That I am not just spewing bullshit from the left side of my brain.

I began “The Work” over a year ago, and my life did change. Shit happened. Shit that I did not expect, but I asked for. And because I did “The Work” the universe paid out in spades.

“The Work” is ongoing, it never ends. Sobriety is not a destination it is a journey.

The day you take your last breath, that’s when the journey ends. But until then, we keep going. Experience, Strength and Hope is cumulative. It is a mass of information you collect on the way, the shit that happens when we least expect it.

Maya Angelou said … “People won’t remember what you did, nor what you said, but they will remember the way you made them feel…”

I’ve been working days, weeks and months on life and on “The Work.” And it isn’t about my ego or that I know more than some, or that it is all about me. It isn’t.

I took the lessons that were given. And I practiced. I humbled myself before God. There is something miraculous that happens when you humble yourself before God when you drop to your knees and pray.

I feel the embrace. And I know, for me, that there is something that hears my prayers and does for me what I could not do for myself. One of my friends doesn’t believe that there is anything on the other end of his prayers.

I have time under my belt where practiced is concerned. I have spoken to very wise men in sobriety who have done the same. Men who I came to know and respect. They laid it all out for us. And you either took it and adopted it, or you wasted the time and left with nothing to carry back to your guys.

It is one thing, to spout from the book and the left side of ones brain. But it is an entirely different beast when it comes from pure, unadulterated daily practice.

This is no joke. These are our lives. The good news is, is that with a little practice and a little faith, and a little humility, we never have to drink again.

One day at a time.

I am very grateful for my guys and my friends.

More to come, Stay tuned …


Thursday … Letting Go … Prayer – Steps 6 and 7.

tumblr_msohxxcSvW1qkwkmpo1_500 minhos21

Courtesy: Minhos 21

As children bring their broken toys
with tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God because he was my friend.

But instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
with ways that were my own.

As last I snatched them back and cried
“How can you be so slow?”
My child He said what could I do
You never did let go…

It was a regular Thursday night. The weather held and made the night much more enjoyable. I got to the church and cranked out set up, as one of my guys arrived. I had almost finished by the time he had arrived.

I sat outside enjoying the evening light and watched a man across the street mow the grass outside one of the buildings. I was LONGING to walk over there and offer to do the work for him, because, in the moment, I missed mowing a lawn and the whole physicality of it.

It is almost meditative, mowing a lawn. Walking the path behind a mower. Not so much when you are either riding a mower or a tractor ( which I used to do when I was in seminary). Each Friday was clean up day where we all had menial jobs to up keep the grounds and the church. I was dutifully appointed mowing the lawns for the High School next door and our property (they both sat on the same land).

It was a successful business meeting. All the jobs were assigned. We made rent for another month. And in June we will host our very first Group Inventory. A yearly ritual where we review the past year, and plan for the next.

Our chair read the poem above, which he keeps inside his Big Book. That lead into our reading and discussion of Steps 6 and 7.

In that reading comes the Seventh Step Prayer.

I spoke about the challenge posed to us, who attended the Roundup last year, 2013, about learning, living and knowing the 3rd, 7th and 11th Step Prayers.

A friend gave me a pack of step prayers. And I tacked them on my monitor so I would see them every morning and every night. I practiced those prayers for a year along with reading the book, and working with others.

I wanted to do what the teachers did, because I wanted my sobriety enhanced and to come as close as I could to New York Sobriety. And inside of that year, many things came together for me. So by the roundup 2014, my life HAD changed. It got better. I reaped the rewards of prayer and practice.

My sponsor and I went to Vermont with a few others from Montreal. We met many men who came to study the steps and to talk amongst ourselves. It was a fantastic weekend. I met other men who were on a similar journey like myself.

My sponsor, His Sponsor and myself are amid our steps. And my sponsees are amid their steps. I am sandwiched in the middle of them. My sponsor on one side and my guys on the other.

Upon departing the church, a man who was at the roundup with us last year, and heard the challenge as well, went back out and came back in. It seems he can’t rid himself of the compulsion to drink. (Because he’s not doing The Work).

I was coming up the stairs and he asked me “if I Google the prayers, will they come up?” I replied, open your book and read chapter five. All the prayers are in the book, why do you need to Google them?

“When was the last time you opened and READ your book?”

Obviously, he doesn’t open nor reads his Book.

If you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it then you are ready to take certain steps…

At some of these He balked …

It was good to see my guys and our guys tonight. We had a good night.

All is well in the world.

More to come, stay tuned …


Sunday Sundries … Moving Forward

maybe

And the weekend comes to a close. The rains came this evening, but a couple of us missed it all and got home nice and dry.

It was a Big Day for one of my guys, but more on that later.

I headed out a bit early to make some stops on the way, and I got into the hall and chairs were already down, which made my job a bit easier. Last week we did not make enough coffee, but also, we did not expect the numbers that showed up, so we ran out.

Tonight, I made sure I filled the urn to make more coffee, not knowing, tonight, how many would show up, and I was good to think that, because we sat huge numbers again tonight. I pulled out two stacks of chairs extra, on top of what I usually put down.

We don’t usually see big numbers on Traditions weeks, still it is a good sign that lots of people like our meeting and come from all over. We had a couple from Alberta come and we welcomed them warmly.

Since it is the last Sunday of the month, we read Tradition 5.

“Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”

We have heard a lot about Singleness of purpose, from the weekend, and the Primary purpose tonight. The problem with singleness of purpose, is that it alienates the dual addict. Which was a comment I heard from many after the roundup. I brought my guys, and for them alcohol is not their primary. So they were kind of put off.

This is where I think we need to amend the singleness of purpose. Because many come to our meetings, where alcohol is not their primary. And that is why I work through two texts instead of one.

With a room full of people, we got a multitude of ways to carry the message, and including how the message was carried to us. The main goal of a group is to carry the message to the one who still suffers, or is brand new, or coming back.

It is a good sign that we carry good numbers because that means we are doing our jobs and people come back every week. The Sunday meeting is coming up on 52 years in a few weeks. And since its inception, has been doing this work in our community for a long time.

After getting my ass kicked a year ago at a round up, I turned up the heat on my study and my prayers, and I worked my ass off. Which lead to a new sponsor and men to work with one on one.

The most important job I have today is carrying the message and working with my guys. It is the most rewarding aspect of sobriety that we could ever have, to be able to work with others and to pass on what we know to them.

Is it ODD or is it GOD ???

A woman I know from New York coined this phrase.

It is timely because one of my guys completed his 3rd step tonight.

I gave him all the time he needed to complete his task this evening after the meeting. And it was a great discussion about spiritual experience, and his rendition of His Power greater than himself.

There is power in any given room. We go to find it, and we go to give it. We end up sharing it, and we come away with it.

But you ask, WHAT is IT???

Ask many people, you will get many answers.

In the end, it is up to each persons concept and belief system.

How do we turn it over to It and what happens to us?

We learn in recovery that it is not something we can do alone or by ourselves. But together, unified in a single purpose, we can do for each other, what we could never imagine doing ourselves.

One day at a time, with friends and fellows, what we give and what we return becomes the power that brings us salvation.

Some call it God, and some don’t. But it doesn’t make it any less powerful.

I got to share in a 3rd step.

It was good. Very Good.

The rain came and passed us by. Which was a good thing.

More to come, stay tuned …


Thursday … The week that was … And More

tumblr_n4gpnaniHI1tzedl8o1_500 jase summerdiaryproject

Courtesy: SummerDiaryProject – Jase

It has been a busy week. The rains came this evening. Kind of raining in between coming and going. Hit and Miss rain that ended before the meeting ended.

The past few days, we’ve been on information assimilation concerning “the work.” We have all picked apart the best and the worst from the roundup now. Me thinks that they should bring in a new source, let’s say Akron, or Cleveland, or The Pacific Group in California. we may have had our fill of New York City, and the fact that the weekend was mediocre at best, seems to be the common buzz word.

I hit a bunch of meetings, hoping to hook up with a possible pigeon, but he was a no show on Monday night, and I won’t get another chance to see him until Saturday.

My guys are amid their step work. I am mid way through my 4th, waiting on my sponsor to finish with HIS sponsor, so we can move ahead. Lots of good stuff.

Which leads nicely into tonight’s topic and discussion.

We read from the Appendix 2 – and Spiritual Experience.

In A.A. it is enforced that a psychic change or spiritual experience must take place where in a change in attitude and outlook happens, this change guarantees that sobriety is possible.

In the M.A. book, it says that a spiritual experience is not necessary to get clean. it goes on, when working steps that you are allowed to “create” and find a power greater than yourself. For some, that is not always God, in the Deity spectrum.

Something my guys struggle with. My sponsor is of the mind that there are many ways to work a program and that “one way” is not always the “right way.” And sometimes you need to do something else, and We have done that.

I was thinking about Spiritual Experience. And turning my will and my life over to the God of my understanding.

A long time ago, in a church that was familiar to me and my grandmother, one afternoon she took me to church and set me on the altar and prayed, and in my memory it was as if she was turning my life over to the care of God as she understood him. This is one of my first memories that I tracked working my 4th step.

God was always present. For the whole of my life.

The second time I got a pass at turning it over was in High School on a retreat, the first of many over three years time. The One on One retreat where we were introduced to Jesus and at the end we were committing our lives to him, many of us came home on a high, and we learned how to live that commitment in our daily lives. Being a Christian in high school was quite the chore. Because the odds were against us. Carry a bible in ones bag was suspect.

I had several more passes by God in Seminary and in the Vatican itself.

When I came to my last drink the second time, I knew it was coming. The signs were there, and I had began to communicate with God. So that decision to quit was a conscious decision. Bolstered by prayer and a commitment to getting back, but I needed an escort to take me back, and I have written before that that did happen.

The most important spiritual experience this time around always involves other people. Committing to one room, committing to “the Stay” and spending time with others getting sober, watching others have spiritual experiences, is where I have mine, because it is in those moments that I see God.

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

A university education gave me that, and spending time in the rooms has opened my eyes to the God of many’s understandings. For every human being there is a concept, some are the same, some are different.

My faith is solid so embracing other concepts do not threaten my faith or my spiritual journey.

You see this in real life issues in the world. New takes on religion, spirituality, homosexuality, equal rights and equality, these things shake up the pot of belief and you watch people who think they have a handle on their faith and practice, but if you speak these words to them, their entire lives are turned upside down.

People who do not have a solid handle on their faith and belief are easily rocked when they are asked to consider something more than they know. Hence this new movement of God and the gay Christian. This has totally upturned the apple cart of the belief systems of evangelical Christianity.

It is quite something to watch.

But, Um, Sputtering, total confusion, duh !!!!

Somewhere up there, God is taking the piss …

God is or He isn’t.

I live for spiritual experience, especially when I get to share them with my friends.

That is God in action.

It was a good night, and it has been a good week.

More to come, stay tuned…


“The Work …” Courtesy of The Atlantic Group NYC

tumblr_lyv23dDgvu1ronyvyo1_500 tyleroakley

Courtesy: Tyler Oakley

O.M.G. I am SPENT !!! Spent I tell you…

This weekend Dorval hosted the 40th Annual West Island Roundup. And our guests came from New York City, and the Gigantic – Atlantic Group of New York City.

They have meetings SEVEN nights a week, and the most anticipated meeting of the week brings out 600, yes that’s SIX HUNDRED people for a meeting.

Imagine a meeting that size here. I don’t think there is a hall open in our city that would hold that many people. HUGE !!!

The theme of the speakers was “The Work.”

You have to Do the Work. In order to be happy, joyous and free, you need to do “the work.” It was a similar message from all our speakers.

Last night, Saturday, we heard from the Founder of the Atlantic Group.

Today we heard from similar group members.

This morning our first speaker right out of the gate got up there and knocked it out of the park. Once that meeting was finished, the copies of his talk went up in smoke. They could not keep up with demand. And by the end of the day they took payment, addresses and told us that they would send us the talk, for those of us who bought ALL of the talks for the weekend.

Our guy got up there and extolled the virtues of “the work” and how it changed his life, from the life he was stuck in, using, abusing and hurting the ones who loved him, not to mention himself. That group is known for its bent on unapologetic Big Book Thumping.

The message here: Don’t waste your time with folks who don’t want it, because there is always someone in the wings waiting for you to work with them.

The odds of success are slim from the start. The percentages are not good. 1%

That only should embolden you to get up from your seat, get a book, and find someone to walk you through it.

Later on this morning we heard from an Al-Anon speaker.

And then they served everyone lunch from Scores restaurant. The place was packed for today’s events.

After lunch we got a One Two Punch by a couple who met in the Atlantic Group and later got married. We got to hear how a long sober couple works together in love and how they work with others.

Us alcoholics suffer from a hopeless malady of the body, mind and spirit.

And the way out of that misery and malady is through the solution that is laid out in the first 164 pages of the Big Book.

I spent the entire weekend with my friends. The people I love the most. The people who give to my life those things that nobody else can give me.

And a year to the date, exactly, I got to share this weekend with my guys. We listened, we chatted, we broke bread, and we discussed.

It is my hope that this weekend made some kind of impression on them that they can take into their lives and their respective sobrieties.

A year ago, I attended my first round up and it turned my world upside down. And I started doing “the work,” truthfully, I had a sponsor that was a hands off kind of sponsor, who really didn’t do “the work.” So I began to move away.

I changed up my meetings, I practiced my prayers for a year. I read the book. I participated in the lives of newbies for months. That is how I began “the work.”

I practiced until God put a new sponsor into my life. And after that my life changed again.

After 12 or so years, two men stepped into my life, and I got the opportunity to start “The Work” with them. Nothing makes sobriety more important or special that having someone to work with. Because they keep me on my toes. I must now do “The Work.” I must have a sponsor who does “The Work.”

I am, what they call, SANDWICHED…

I have a grand sponsor, I have a sponsor, I have myself, and I have my guys.

Not to mention all the others I work with or I am friends with. All those folks who come to my meetings, that I see every week. Meetings are important.

But more importantly, the guy who opens the door, sets up, makes coffee, welcomes guests, reads, shares, discusses, and then cleans up afterwards.

If there is no one there to do “The Work,” If there is no one to welcome the newcomer, then how would we survive? How would they survive without us?

Thankless jobs, but so vitally important. I have done that for the whole of my sobriety. Week in and week out. Month by month, year by year.

It is unrelenting work.

And in the end it all comes down to gratitude. Because I am only carrying on “the Work” that was shown to me by those who did “the work” before me.

And this weekend, I got to spend time with the one woman who welcomed me to my first meeting at the home group I began here in the city. She lives far away now and I don’t get to see her very often, so that was a treat.

It was a great weekend. And my batteries are charged. And so commences “The Work” that will carry us for the next year.

It was a great investment of time, talent and treasure for my guys.

And to close I got an email from the member who drove them out and took them home all weekend. saying how impressed she was with my guys’ kindness.

A great weekend was had by all.

IT IS TIME TO DO “THE WORK !”

Let us begin anew.

More to come, I am sure…


Friday … Celebrations, Rain and The Soberfest Continues

tumblr_msohxxcSvW1qkwkmpo1_500 minhos21

Courtesy:Minhos21

Friday is brought to you by the NUMBER 3 …

And it is raining. It has been raining all evening and will rain through tomorrow. But it won’t be a total washout for the Victoria Day (Read:Planting weekend) Long Weekend.

I noticed that the carpet and runners have been put down in the upper floors of the building. And I like what they have done with the new decor. Dark earth tone carpet with the same tone wall runners and baseboards.

The door frames are a dark green and the doors are a lighter shade of green. They are working on the lower floors as they are working their way down the floors.

Meanwhile at Alexis Nihon, the shoppes on the Southern side (left hand side) of the ground floor are opening. They have moved spaces from the floor above down one tier. Not sure what they are going to put in their places, but they are all boarded up.

The glass enclosed elevator that spans the entire mall, which will give access to handicap shoppers and shoppers alike direct access to the mall. Something this mall has lacked in the past. There is an elevator, but it is out of sight, out of mind.

The food court shops on the escalator bay are almost complete. A new Dagwood’s is in process. Along with a juice bar, a yogurt bar the round area on the ground floor is almost complete.

The brand new renovated I.G.A. is almost complete. They have sorted out the store and broadened their footprint and added a glass wall open to the mall side. I haven’t been inside sine they started the reno. I don’t usually shop there.

There are still a few unoccupied bays on the ground floor. The competition between Timmy’s and Starbucks keep steady traffic in the massive seating/eating area that fronts Target and around the sides of the escalator bay.

They are working on the facade of the mall’s exterior, putting up new signage around the entire mall, on Atwater and along Ste. Catherine’s. All this exterior work has upset the bus stops that front there.

Cabot Square. caddy cornered to the mall is under renovations and all the bus stops on the square and on Ste Catherine’s are all fucked up. Along with the square lane closure, traffic is funneled into one lane going East. It’s a bit of a headache.

As it was raining when I left for my commute, I thought that I would leave a bit later than usual, so that I would miss set up. Well, that was stupid. In both stations trains were waiting, so that transit was fast. I caught a bus sitting in the bay and arrived at the church around 7:15. The door was locked and I was there first.

We waited about twenty minutes for the key holder and we just had time to finish set up before everybody showed up. It was a fair crowd. The same faces came to celebrate twin anniversaries tonight.

Two of my friends received their Three Year chips from their sponsors.

Our man is one who I respect with all my heart. When he came he was a shell, and over the years he opened his life to us, and he opened his life, his home, his car and his goodness to anyone who needed it. He is my Go To Guy. He never says no. And he is always there for men who are in distress. He has cared for the least of us, and has given a great deal to our community.

Our woman, I met when she came in. She was a mess but quickly came to and started off on the right foot, and took to sobriety like a duck to water. The past year has been difficult for her. She has seen hardship and has traveled all over for work and family. She has come a long way.

Today’s reading was “Alone no More.”

We may not have families or domestic bliss. And when we come in they tell us that we are no longer alone. For some that takes time to sink in. Here in our rooms we get to choose our new family and build the ties that we want with the people we care for and respect.

The Friday meeting is a very cohesive family unit. We come every week, not for the book, or the room, but because of her people. We celebrate, we mourn, and we all work together for the betterment of every person who comes down that staircase from all over the world, near and far.

There was lots of conversation, cake and celebrations.

A good night was had by all.

And tomorrow, is night one of the West Island Round Up.

Folks are all fired up – it will be fantastic.

More to come tomorrow…


Mad River Barn Weekend – Let’s Discuss

the-front-of-mad-river

And We’re back … From Vermont that is …

I have to say that the weekend amongst my brothers/fathers/friends in sobriety rocked the house to the ground. I am so fortunate to have the sponsor I do and had the opportunity to spend the weekend listening and sharing with such honesty.

Hands down this weekend was the best weekend I have had in sobriety thus far. And it only took 12 and a half years to get here.

We departed on Friday afternoon, playing follow the leader out to Vermont. My sponsor and friends in one car, and myself and my friend (the driver) in the other.

It was all smooth sailing until we hit the U.S. Border. They got through quickly, where as when it came to our turn, we got grilled. Never tell a border guard you are sober, or that you are an alcoholic, in recovery or NOT !

So, in the end we got through. It was a smooth drive into Vermont. We (read: our car) ate at McDonald’s before leaving the city. One of our guys forgot his passport so they had to go back and get it …. (read: such a dunce!)

We made it all the way to Colchester where we stopped for Food for three and more food for us. It was good fresh food served to us by a witty happy waitress.

After the meal we paid for our food and set off for the Barn. Which would be a couple of hours later. We were following for the first 10 or so miles, when my driver realized that he had left his jacket (WITH) his passport, at the restaurant.

I madly texted the lead vehicle finally calling via cell to advise that we were turning around to go back to Colchester. We hit an exit that was not correct, had to ask directions and then find our way back to the diner.

We pulled up in the parking lot and parked, got out of the car, and got to the door. And wouldn’t you know it – The diner was CLOSED !!!

Panic set in. We started banging on the door hoping that there was somebody still inside. A few minutes later the check out girl opened the door and handed us the jacket and passport. They figured we would be returning and waited for us to get there. Imagine if we had not realized that the passport was left behind.

It was a scenic route into the Mad River Valley, thank God we had printed directions and talent at following them.

The Mad River Barn is a working Bed and Breakfast Inn. Not far from Sugar Bush Mountain, (which, by the way, still had snow on the runs).

They sorted us into rooms. All the guys in my room were from Montreal. The Inn has been recently refurbished and reopened on December 26th 2013.

Our room slept 6.

A suite with a queen bed, in the main room, a set of bunk beds and two beds head to head in the second room. The bathroom was state of the art, with complete service (Towels, shampoo, and all that good stuff). I didn’t need all the shit I packed and brought with me.

We had a third meal at dinner time, along with the 50 men who were present.

Food – We had three meals a day with dessert. All the coffee you could drink, and I noticed late Saturday Night that there was a soda gun on the coffee stand. Needless to say that I was over caffeinated, leading to no sleep on Friday night.

We had presentations on the Steps as outlined in the Big Book, and the Twelve and Twelve. One guy would speak on the step for a few minutes and then the floor would open for discussion.

There were twelve discussions. over three days.

The opening salvo came to a head when Step One was introduced,

“We” admitted … This is a WE program.

And I raised my hand and told my story about : Go somewhere else and do not return to this meeting. Where I had hit two meetings in sobriety and was told it was a “We” program but “I” was not included in that “WE.”  In front of everyone.

Jaws dropped. People were angry, several people turned in their chairs. That was the majority of the discussion on that step, and would be touched on throughout the weekend.

I took my sponsees with me in spirit. Because After each presentation, I spoke to the person who spoke on the step about a great many things. My sponsor was there and heard everything I said in the meetings.

We had cell service in the Mountains, and if I stood in one particular spot on the sidewalk out front, I could get a clear signal, as I was calling Montreal several times checking in with them over the weekend.

I learned a great deal about working my steps, as the others had worked them, how they applied them to their lives and what I could expect if I did the same. I spoke a lot during steps 1 thru 4. Because I have done Steps 1 thru 4.

I worked on my 4th step during the weekend. But my sponsor isn’t done with his yet, and HIS sponsor was also there for the weekend.

I took a bunch of notes. I listened to all the other steps as they came up. And I took those notes home, and planned to discuss them with my guys.

After each session we had a break to get out of our chairs to spend some time talking amongst ourselves outside the meeting format, and to huddle with our chosen mentor of the moment.

I went to bed late both Friday and Saturday. And I woke early both Saturday and Sunday just so I could get a conversation in with every person I could over the weekend. We drank a shit load of coffee and smoked packs of cigarettes. Not to mention several boxes of cigars as well. They were very popular.

By Saturday night we were spent to death. Everybody got good sleep.

Location, Location, Location … There was a separate section of the building where guests we roomed. They served them meals upstairs on the second floor which had a bar, games tables, tv’s and seating for meals.

All very well appointed. The others, who had been here before kept remarking at just how GOOD a job they did with the rebuild.

During our afternoon break on Saturday I chose to nap, while others went on hikes into the mountains. We were warned about Bears and Moose! And yes we did have sightings.

Today – read: this morning … We met for Step 12. Discussed, and people began to scatter, as it was Mother’s Day and the guys/husbands/fathers, needed to get on the road to spend the rest of the day with their significant others.

These guys were all good guys. I did not get a whiff of ego, or that stupid heterosexual Men’s Pissing Game. We did play several practical jokes on people which was quite funny.

We departed about 11:30 this morning. And we took the scenic route over Sugar Bush up the mountain, across and down the other side all the way to Burlington. A drive that took us an hours time.

It would have been quicker had we taken the route we came in on. The views were stellar. I can’t wait to see what that scenery looks like come fall, which is when the next intensive is scheduled.

We arrived back in town about 2:30 in the afternoon.

I loved Loved LOVED the weekend. How ever much we enjoyed the weekend, by Sunday we were all ready to come home. And when I got home, I wished that we had stayed longer. If only to spend more time with the others and get to enjoy more of the surrounding mountains.

I unpacked and chilled until I had to leave for the Sunday Night Meeting.

It was a stellar day. If this is the tip of the sobriety iceberg, I can’t wait to see what is underneath. Because I want MORE …

I am pooped. I need dinner and to sleep in my own bed.

Which leads me to the fact that I have never slept on such a comfortable mattress than the one I slept on over the weekend. I want One … Down/memory foam.

FABULOUS !!

That is all for tonight. More to come…