It is Sunday, the sun shone. It sprinkled a bit, otherwise it was a great day.
Read: A great day is a day that I can sleep in and enjoy my bed.
Three Jewish men, all of the Hasidim faith, walk into a meeting. One is new and knows God, The second is sober 6 years, and knows Spiritual Experience and God, The Third a man of faith says … “He does not know God, an does not connect to Him, and firmly believes that Once you’re dead, it’s Lights Out and nothing more.”
It was a bright Sunday and I wore my brightest and flashiest Flower Basket pants, and after the meeting, that man walked up to me and said:
I Feel Uplifted because of your presence…
We read from Bill’s story and the last few pages, where Bill explains his spiritual experience and his witness of God in his life. He had that conversation with Ebby T. in his kitchen, and that night, has his first radical spiritual experience in his journey.
He makes a sundry pass at the steps, within his story, Steps that will be fleshed out much later as the book comes into fruition.
I like to tell my friends that if they need proof that there is a God, they need only to look at me and listen to me talk. On Saturday, I will pass my twenty-third anniversary living with AIDS, and Mark and I are still alive to this day, when over 200 of our friends went to their deaths miserably so many years ago.
One of my elder friends went to a meeting this morning and heard an old-timer with 45 years sobriety talk about Meditation. For this man, the steps are there, but the ONLY step he concerns his life with is Step 11.
Prayer and Meditation.
Prayer and Meditation does not come easy to anyone. I’ve heard many, many, long sober people talk about attempting meditation on retreats, in religious communities and still, so many years later, they cannot connect like very few can connect with meditation.
Our man lives and breathes meditation. His story strikes many deeply, when we sit with him and he talks about just how deep his meditation changed his life, and has carried him through some of the worst times in his life, we are amazed.
Because many of us, cannot even begin to know, what that feels like.
In my life, to this day, I don’t connect to deep meditation beyond the practice I do daily. I can sit still, I can be quiet, but I cannot sit for an hour at a time stilling my mind all the way through. Because I don’t know how to shut it up for that long.
I can say that, in my stillness, I can connect to God. I can connect to the Spirit. That feeling of connection is familiar to me, and it comes and goes. When it does come, I can hear the voice of God, and I hear what it says, and I listen attentively.
Inspiration comes at the oddest times, usually, in my morning meditations, and more often, at the end of the night, when I sit down to compose my Pastoral Letters to the Pastors I have in my circle. When I sit and read scripture, and write my Elder friend Spencer, or even, as I sit here, where I am right this moment, writing here.
Sometimes words come, that are not my own, they come from a place of inspiration and God. That is my belief.
I know that if I don’t hear from God directly, that I need to go to a meeting, and listen to my friends talk. My friends come from varied backgrounds. Some are just simple men and women, and some come from deeply religious communities.
Our man, this evening, who could not find God himself, just showed up, because his friends, other Hasidic men, in the program, bring him with them. They minister to him in their own ways, and do not push orthodoxy upon him, but they allow him to find his way, on his own steam.
He got to read part of Bill’s story, and he heard each of us share about God and Spiritual experience. Simply being present for a fellow-man on the path, sitting with us, after the meeting, he found the blessing of being uplifted, by a simple piece of clothing.
That simple piece of clothing I own is a story maker. Because it came from my friend Jeffrey, when he sent me them, saying that if I wore them, I would feel really good about myself, and I do. And in being in public feeling good about myself, others see and they feel good about themselves, because it seems, in recovery:
That we are so sunk in our disease, that at some point we need permission to feel anything other than self loathing and being depressed about ourselves.
I am in this place where I am more open to feel emotions. I am a bit more outspoken and rigorously honest, to a degree that sometimes scares my friends, but it is what it is.
I am more apt, not that had ever been different, to really tell you like it is, based on my life experience. I’ve been witnessing my friends fuck off on me for a long time, so I can tell you just what I think, in real-time.
July is a hard month for me. Because I am reminded of just how bad my life really got and how I almost went to my death, several times.
It is also a testament to the work that Todd (read: God) did in my life, to keep me alive, and the testament in the fact that ONE HUMAN BEING can definitely change a life.
And keep another human being alive, when all the odds are stacked against him/her.
It is also my birth month, and this year I hit the Fifty mark.
Another HUGE accomplishment, because I am still alive, all these years later.
There is definitely a God in Heaven.
This is my testimony. It is honest and true.
If not for Bill and Doctor Bob, we would all not be here, save for two drunks who happened upon one another, one night in Akron Ohio in 1935.
We are truly Blessed …
The weather has gotten dreary, wet, humid and miserable. Thanks to tropical storm Cindy. She stormed the gulf coast, and now she is making it rain here, and it is supposed to rain for the next three days.
Which meant numbers were down. But we had a good showing.
Faith … What is Faith. Not sure ? Take the action.
We talked about Faith and Action tonight. If you don’t have the former, then you need the latter. And how do we do the latter ? We go to a meeting.
As many meetings, as it takes, for you to hear someone who has a message or you identify with the words, and you take that EXTRA step and go talk to said person to see
- What it is that they have
- How did the learn what they said and/or did
- And how do you replicate that piece of advice
- You take a SUGGESTION and you RUN with it
- As far as it will get you
So many of our young people struggle with Faith, and God and Suggestions.
Many people want the easier softer way, and only the die-hard newbies will listen when you tell that WHAT it is that YOU DID, and WHAT happened because you did that thing.
If you are new to the rooms. Sit down, open your heart, and listen.
Listening is an ACTION step. It will come to pass, that if you sit in your chair long enough, you are going to sink in and then you will hear just what it is you need to hear.
You might have to hit a number of meetings, over a LONG period of time. In Montreal, there are plenty of choices of where to go, around the clock, every day.
I know, I did not know what to do, and I needed people to show me what to do. And I connected to all the right people when I needed them. And over the years, certain special sober folks appeared, because I went looking for them, where ever sober people gathered.
Meetings, Step Series, Round Ups. Going out-of-town.
It may happen for you tomorrow, and maybe it won’t. That is the adventure, RIGHT ?
If you want to get sober … 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…
It’s written in the book.
If you don’t have faith, let us show you faith. Sit with us and listen to our stories. At some point, even you will identify with at least one human being sitting in that same room as you.
The last Paragraph of tonight’s read mentions the first meeting between Bill W. and Doctor Bob, on that fateful night, I wrote about a few days ago.
Dr. Bob got sober, because Bill told him HIS story. And for the first time in his life, he met another human being, who knew what Dr. Bob was going through. Bill was speaking his language. On June 10th 1935, Dr. Bob recorded his first full day of sobriety…
And what did that take ? One alcoholic talking to another.
If you don’t have something, then take your needs to a meeting, and lay them down on the table and speak your words.
ALWAYS take your needs to a room. ALWAYS. Because you would be surprised how often you will find exactly what you NEED on a need to know/have basis.
If you glean everything a room has to offer, EVERY single human being who walks into a room has something you might need. All you have to do is ask. That is why we stress the 20 minutes before and after.
Every single person in the room has something to offer, even if they don’t know it themselves.
The forward action of faith, is showing up, every day or every night.
You might not know what that looks like, but if you just try, one day at a time, your actions will become faith.
I promise you that.
I spoke to three people on the way out tonight. Hopefully they will return the next week for another dose of Friday Night Sobriety.
It’s the Best night of the week.
Before it is auctioned off in June, the manuscript of the Big Book spent a morning at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
It took the Big Book forty-five minutes to make it down to Hollywood from Calabasas, riding shotgun in a Honda Accord. By 9:30 A.M., it was reclining poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel amid the memory of guests and carousers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Montgomery Clift, and Errol Flynn, who, legend has it, made bathtub gin in the hotel’s barbershop. Such ghosts, and the squiggly David Hockney mural at the bottom of the pool, and the ashy traces, among the palms, of a party the night before, seemed to call for a round of Bloody Marys. But not today, pal.
The Big Book is the founding testament and manifesto of Alcoholics Anonymous, written for the most part (anonymously) by the organization’s co-founder Bill Wilson, a.k.a. Bill W., and this version, by the pool the other day, was the original working manuscript, the some hundred and fifty typed pages, marked up with edits and corrections, that were sent to the printer in April, 1939. Its driver and escort was Zach P., an employee at Profiles in History, an auction house, which had it on consignment. (As the courier, Zach P. was not authorized by Profiles in History to speak on its behalf.)
The house is offering the book at auction in June, and estimates that it will fetch as much as three million dollars. To promote the sale, Profiles in History is exhibiting the manuscript in New York later this month, at the Questroyal Fine Art gallery, and was floating a claim from an A.A. historian, Dr. Ernest Kurtz: “Not only is this manuscript the most important nonfiction manuscript in all history—I consider it right up there with the Magna Carta, because of the personal freedom it has provided so many millions of alcoholics.”
This seemed like bar talk, until one thought it through a bit. The Big Book has sold tens of millions of copies, in dozens of languages, and has altered an untold number of lives, mostly, one assumes, for the better. (Aldous Huxley called Bill Wilson the twentieth century’s “greatest social architect.”) What, from the past century or two, at least, might compare? “The Communist Manifesto”? The Book of Mormon? Mao’s Little Red Book? “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”? “The Joy of Sex”? The Big Book represents the origin of the self-help movement; try to imagine a publishing industry without it, or without the word “anonymous.”
“I’ve seen people who behold it as though it’s a religious relic,” Zach P. said, as he removed the manuscript from its sixteen-by-twenty-inch archive box and its swaddling of bubble wrap. He laid it, with some ceremony, on a table stained with water rings and cigarette burns.
Its current owner, a longtime Profiles in History client and a recovering alcoholic, who’d bought it in 2007, for just under a million dollars, had had it bound in burgundy board. Each page was encased in a clear plastic sleeve, to prevent oxidation and decay. On the title page, someone had marked to delete the misbegotten apostrophe in “Alcoholic’s Anonymous.” The previous page had a handwritten inscription from Lois Wilson, Bill W.’s widow, bequeathing the volume to her friend Barry Leach, on New Year’s Day, 1978.
When Bill W. wrote the book, he’d been sober for fewer than four years, and there were only two A.A. groups: one meeting on Tuesdays, in Brooklyn, the other on Wednesdays, in Akron, Ohio. The book was an attempt to spread the word. (Bill W. also had in mind a for-profit drunk-tank business, but he couldn’t get the financing.)
The manuscript featured the collation and distillation of comments from about four hundred readers: A.A. members, doctors, and ministers, plus, in Bill W.’s words, “policemen, fishwives, housewives, drunks, everybody.” You could see, flipping through it, what they’d been going for, on this final round: to make it more palatable to a broad audience. The changes sought to make the text descriptive, rather than prescriptive. “You should do” became “we have done.” When Bill W. writes, “It works—it really does. Try it,” the “Try it” is excised. There was also an effort to tamp down the Christianity.
“It’s amazing how they made it more secular,” Joe Maddalena, the owner of Profiles in History, said over the phone. “Still, this is a sacred text. It’s not like it’s some ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul.’ ” He has sold Marilyn Monroe’s subway-grate-scene white dress, the car from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and a manuscript of Einstein’s theory of relativity. “But the Big Book is so much bigger than all of us.”
After about an hour by the pool, the Big Book got back in the Accord and returned to Calabasas. It’s planning to come to New York via Brink’s. Not for nothing, but the Magna Carta, when it flew over from Oxford, seven years ago, for a visit to the Waldorf-Astoria, had its own seat in business class, and a bodyguard named Rocco. ♦