Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. The Ferryland – New Foundland Iceberg Easter 2017. A Word Press Production.

Posts tagged “Friends

Thursday … The Shoe Store

strangers 1

I was talking to an elder friend at the meeting tonight and he was in Florida for a month. He had gone to a meeting, and met a very nice woman from India. They were talking about that meeting, on that night.

Every meeting has one, we all know what it is, but nobody who really engages in their sobriety, will utilize them. Where you sit, in a room, is a good barometer of where you are in your sobriety. Some call it, “Front Row Sobriety,” however, not a lot of people sit in the front row, except for those who are used to sitting there regularly.

Many of us don’t want to sit in the very front row …

I am a second row sober man. I always sit in my same seat on Thursday’s. On Friday I sit in my regular seat, right at the front of the table, next to the chair. That is my seat.

Every meeting has a “Back Row” of seats, right along the back wall. Various people, in various meetings, sit in that proverbial back row. Some sober folks with lots of time, who don’t necessarily want to draw attention to themselves, sit in the back row.

That is common.

Then, you have those people who are the last ones in, they either come right at the hour, or just after. So all the seats up front are all taken, by the time the meeting starts. Which dictates that, if you want a front row, or front of the room seat, you have to get there early.

The back rows of a meeting, are usually sat with folks who sneak in, just under the hour mark, and fail to get a seat up front, or further to the front.

The conversation my friend had with the Woman from India, concerned The Shoe Store:

And she said to him, “You know that back row of seats ? Yeah, he said, she continued:

That back row is the Shoe Store … You have the Loafers, the Sneakers, and the Slippers.

All the shoes are represented …

We had a good laugh.

Here, we know about that back row. Those people who come in last, or late. Usually, they don’t make it till the end of the meeting. Or, they are the last ones in and the first ones out after the prayer concludes. They come and go, with negligible contact with anyone, because they really don’t want to interact with anyone in the room, for one reason or another.

Seating in a meeting is time sensitive. The earlier you get there, the better seat you are going to be able to choose, if you choose. Most of my friends always sit in the same areas.

Those who sit in the front row, or those who sit in the middle of the action, and those who tend to hang back in the pack. In an unobtrusive seat, like I said, where they do not bring attention to themselves.

In all my meetings, I do service, one way or another. So I have my choice of seat. I see everybody who comes in the room. I try and shake hands with each one of them, as one of my other elder friends said to me once …

When you shake a hand, it is very important to ALWAYS make eye contact. And you always want to SMILE. Because we want people to feel welcomed and that we mean goodness when we shake their hands, and not seem like we are put out by having to greet, when we really don’t want to greet …

Before the meeting tonight, one of my friends, whom I have not seen in a while came. And we sat outside talking about Yoga, the Gym and Work.

I know for me, as I said to her, that, “You just got to stick around…” “You just have to STAY and watch your friends and your fellows.” I know that I watch my friends, and over the past many months, I see how hard I have worked, and how little others have worked. And it shows in their carriage and demeanor, and in their words, when they speak.

The amount of work you put into your sobriety, shows up over time. And every time you hear someone talk, you get an idea of just how MUCH or how LITTLE, they are contributing to their own sobriety.

I’ve been around a good stretch of time. And I know all of my friends. I know who they were when they came in, and what kinds of decisions they made, and how fucked up things got, in the interim.

My friend added … Yeah, Shit Happens. And that is true.

I, at least, have an idea of the trajectory I am on, and where I want to go. I feel good. I look good, because for a long time, I did not look good at all. I was just hanging out, waiting for something to happen. I really wasn’t concerned with my well being, all that well. Not Good at all.

I was sober, but I was physically, COASTING …

Back in February, I got a kick in the ass at the doctors office. For the first time, in a long time, I really noticed that my body had changed for the better. I had settled for my pear shaped, bloated belly, ass hanging out HIV look.

For a good decade, I was resigned to the shape my body had taken. I had said to myself,

“Well, fuck it. This is the body God gave me so I better get used to it.”

In February, through diet, exercise and medical treatment, My body did actually shift in the positive direction. And I noticed it. Which sent me into overdrive, mentally and emotionally. I changed my wardrobe. I got sexy. And damn, I looked good.

And my friends all noticed. That has changed my outlook in ways I had not really considered.

Here we are today.

Fifty is beginning to feel good to me. And thankfully,

I am not sitting in the Shoe Store.


Suffering and Sacrament: On Finding Connection as a Grocery Store Cashier

roman-kraft-191802

Borrowed from: Stephen – S. Bradford Long Blog – Daily Reflection.

Every day, I go to work as a grocery store cashier at a family-owned business in a prosperous region of the more generally depressed Appalachian mountains. This work has transformed my life, not because it is the exciting, high-impact, high-power job so many of us dream about in our twenties and thirties, but because it brings me into direct contact with humanity.

I am sometimes astonished by the suffering, just beneath the surface, that permeates the air. I see it in the grocery store in a way I might not see it in other careers, because all humanity – the miserable and the joyful, the ill and the well, the rich and the poor – need to eat. Therefore, the grocery store is a gathering place where all social lines breakdown. We are united by the commonality of food.

I see a young man – eyes drooping, so thin I can see his spine poking against his teeshirt, dragging himself through the aisles as if he is dragging a tank behind him. I watch him through the aisles, I check him out at the register, and he is often rude, empty. Being a depressive myself, I know the marks of an inner Hell that is tearing him to shreds.

I watch people dying slowly and miserably of terminal illnesses that they cannot afford to address. Some are full of bile, their regret cast before them like a long shadow, while others are trying to soak up as much life as they can.

I remember the old woman who received a phone call while in my line to inform her that her grandson had just committed suicide. She wept, and I listened hard to her stories of her grandson. She thanked me, and went on her way.

I remember the man who wandered through my line, tears in his eyes. He looked at me as if he were starving for something I couldn’t give him, and he said, “My best friend just died of a heroin overdose. Please, please, value your friends, value every moment you have on this earth.” He wandered out the door, lost in his grief.

An old woman came through me line once, and her cart was full of frozen cakes. She met my eyes. “My daughter just killed herself,” she said. “These frozen cakes were her favorite. I will save them, I will keep them forever.”

I see meth addicts, skeletons of their former selves. I see alcoholics, the smell of whiskey heavy on their breath. I see the mentally ill, talking to people who aren’t there, and I see the homeless, wandering in from the street because we have air conditioning and cheap food. I see shreds of humanity abandoned and forgotten.

I see joy, too. I see the old woman who had finally, after years of saving money, finally got teeth. And, to top it all off, she got an aesthetist to remove all her facial hair. Now she flashes her brilliant smile at everyone she can, and she is radiant with joy. All she ever wanted was teeth, and now she has them.

In this setting, in which new suffering walks through our doors every day, mixed in with the mundane, the regular, the blithely happy, feeding the public is transformed. It’s no longer a chore, but a sacrament. When I hand people whatever nourishing food they’ve chosen off the shelves, I hear the words of Christ, “This is my body, broken for you.”

That everyday moment is transfigured into something sacred, for it is full of the recognition that this is another human soul, and that this human soul is capable of galaxies of silent suffering. That connection with suffering, and that offering up of nourishment – that is holy, that is sacred.

Every day, I am reminded that we all feel pain. We all suffer. We all yearn to be seen. And this realization fills me with a tenderness that words cannot express. I can’t put it into words, this seeing of humanity. I wish I could share this tenderness with everyone I can. I wish I could tell everyone who seems dubious of my work, “no, you don’t understand. Working in a grocery store is not a waste of time. It’s not a waste of my talents. If only you could see what I see.”


Friday: Tolerance … And It’s Price

love

 

Sadly … Another friend of mine from my former second fellowship has relapsed.

That would be three in total …

It is a common theme over the past months, of people we know, very well, from around town, are stuck, and have either gone back out and are still out, or as in tonight, a friend I know well, for many years, who had some time, decided to jump out of a window and use again.

If you have decided what we want and are willing to go to any length, then you are ready to take certain steps.

Addicts and Alcoholics are terribly INTOLERANT people.

And the Friday meeting, is one of those meetings, that has been through the crucible of intolerance. In as many years, we have all stayed around, through adversity and intolerance, we survived.

Intolerance has cost us a great deal over the years. People with time, deciding at one point to be intolerant of some who come to that meeting, because they feel welcomed, were, at one point, asked to leave, because of intolerance of some of our number.

Tonight, one of the men who fled that drama, was sitting in the room. I have not seen him in many many months.

Everyone sitting at that table tonight, must have been thinking about what happened to us, a while back, when friends became enemies, and silence fell and people fled that meeting.

Because of INTOLERANCE.

God, in his infinite wisdom has done for us, what we could not do for ourselves.

Wisdom speaks to me tonight and says … If you stay, and you pray, God Will Move.

Once again, I am sitting in a room, and God is moving among us.

Last year, intolerance raised its ugly head and disbanded an entire community of people, sending people running for the hills.

Sadly, three of those intolerant people, used and drank again. And they have, over the past few weeks, returned to the sanctity and acceptance of the Friday meeting.

Is that Odd or is that God ????

I left a community, and people left me in return, because of intolerance.

I remained at the Friday meeting, making it my home group some time ago and I have been sitting in that room, doing service, and waiting on God.

God has not disappointed …

“Gradually we began to be able to accept the other’s sins as well as their virtues. We coined the potent and meaningful expression “Let us always love the best in others – and never fear their worst.”

“Finally we begin to see that all people, including ourselves, are to some extent emotionally ill as well as frequently wrong. When this happens, we approach true tolerance and we see what real love for our fellows actually means.”

Shit happens in meetings, and more especially in business meetings.

Normal everyday alcoholics, while sitting in a meeting, practicing tolerance, will step into a business meeting, and the gloves will come off and dust begins to fly …

Tolerance goes right out the window.

I’ve seen what intolerance does to people who are terribly intolerant. And at one point, I pointed that out to a particular friend, and in doing so, cost me several friendships.

Some of those friends decided against their better natures to use again.

This is what happens when communities fall apart, and contacts disappear.

People use again, because they feel that they cannot talk to you because of

  • FEAR
  • SHAME
  • EGO

I sat with that friend, before the meeting, and I am sure that look of pity crossed my features when he told me that he was just a week clean and sober.

And I asked one question … What did you NOT do that you should have DONE ?

Those answers are always the same.

A Room is a Furnace. A Crucible. A Testing Ground. An Ego Buster. A Humility Teacher.

We are all wounded, one way or another. And at times, the best of us, gets swallowed up by the worst of us. And usually that happens in front of and to our friends, who are closest to us.

The chair spoke tonight and he said … We are evilest to those closest to us, and we are gracious and accepting to a perfect stranger …

He also added: Fear leads to Anger, Anger leads to Hate, and Hate leads to Suffering …

We quote the Jedi in our meeting on Friday.

All I can do is be present.

 

 

 

 


Friday: As WE Understand Him …

9781606410691

You never know, when the subject of Faith and God will arise.

Earlier today, I got a call from my Friday driver, to say he was going to make a 12 step call on the way to the meeting, and if I could take the Metro to the meeting, No Problem.

I met with a sponsee for an hour and made my way uptown for 7 p.m. I got there 10 minutes early. I cranked it out and waited for folks to show up.

Little did I know, that the 12 step call would be for someone I know, from the Monday meeting. This particular man, talks about God, in words and actions that nobody else I know use, in the rooms, across the board.

The other night, he was talking to an old friend, as they shared old war stories between themselves, and he ended up with a crack pipe in his hands, on a two night binge.

Where his faith went, even he does not know…

I sat and listened in, to a conversation, and then I asked him about his faith life, If he had lost his faith, or was he still hanging on to it. From what I had been hearing from him, I just shot into the dark with an idea.

Last night, I listened to several talks from General Conference. Thomas S. Monson, Carol McConkie, and Robert D. Hales. For some strange reason, I was moved to mention General Conference to my friend. I had no idea where he had been, in the way of faith or church, but I began to talk, nonetheless.

I told him what I had seen last night about Prayer, and Community, Service, and Discipleship. He Listened, then offered that he was indeed Investigating.

We had an entire conversation about faith from the L.D.S perspective. A few minutes later, we were sitting there talking, and my phone rang, and it was the Young Elder, who was new to Montreal, calling to say hello and to arrange a meeting with his new companion next week.

Is that ODD or is that GOD ???

I had a thought, I acted on that thought, that led to a familiar conversation, which then was cranked up a notch with a phone call out of the blue, from the last person, I thought would have called me at that very moment.

Tonight, Bill spoke to us, about Higher Power, as We Understand Him. In this reading he talks about the many ways you can find your way, into the program, with very little faith:

“They just don’t realize that faith is never an imperative for A.A. membership; that sobriety can be achieved with an easily acceptable minimum of it, and that our concept of a a Higher Power and God – as we understand Him – afford everyone a nearly unlimited choice of spiritual belief and action.”

This subject is treated in many different ways in A.B.S.I.

In a later writing in the book, Bill comments:

It does not matter what you choose to believe in, whatever will work for you.” At the end of the page he throws a wrench into the mix by then offering this nugget:

“That in the end, it always comes back round to God.”

Tonight, many of us who have been sitting in that room for years and years have seen people come in, sit down, say NO and Go. They come in, sit down, say NO and Go.

I’ve said it before that God, this three letter word, is the MAJOR stumbling block that prevents MANY people from getting sober. No matter how we couch, frame or talk about the “multitude of choices” one has to believe.

The numbers of people who have come, gone, drank and used again, never came back, or ended up DEAD are very high.

It Boggles the mind to ponder how many people we have seen come and go over the last three years.

BOGGLES !!!

They say that words are difficult in the beginning. But we all also agree, that the first simple action we take, leads to more simple actions, which lead to feeling better, which leads to sobriety.

If you cannot pray, to begin with, then say anything. You don’t need rote prayers or words you don’t identify with, and speak them to a God, you may not necessarily believe in, YET …

I have atheist friends who are sober today. And they do just fine.

We all agree that action makes the world go round.

  • Service
  • Making Coffee
  • Setting up chairs and tables
  • Greeting the Newcomer
  • Step Work
  • Reading the Big Book
  • Thanking the Chair
  • Participating in Fellowship

Simple steps of action, that done, over and over, DO LEAD SOMEWHERE.

It is not your word that matters, it is WHAT YOU DO that matters.

When you don’t have words, then do the next right thing. Over and Over again.

This is a program of action. We all agree on that. Once you begin to DO and to ACT, the rest falls in place as long as you stick around, and have an open heart.

When I leave my life open to Heavenly Father, He tends to amaze me in ways that I could not imagine.

I saw Him move in a room tonight.

In closing all I can say is this …

  • I am not the center of the universe
  • My world does not revolve around my navel
  • I have a God of my understanding, and that is great, as long as I remember that
  • I am NOT HE ….

 

 

 

 

 


Thursday: Coffee Maker …

coffee cup

Always pay attention to the coffee maker, at whatever meeting you go to…

Six months ago, when it came time to change up my meetings, I realized that there was a meeting, just down the hill from home. Essentially, a 10 minute walk through the tunnel to a little church of a building, not far from home.

The Padua Center, is a building that houses the remains (read: Altar, Statues, Lectern) of an old church that was demolished, but the core of that church had been kept, and now mass is held in that building on Sunday mornings.

Many years ago, there was another meeting that was began by an old friend, who has since died. I used to go to this little meeting, when it was up and running.

Fast Forward to November 2016. I looked up Love and Tolerance in the meeting list and headed down one Monday night. Every meeting, has its resident coffee maker. One of the most unsung jobs in the fellowship. Nobody cares WHO made the coffee, but it better be damn well perked by the time those ungrateful alcoholics walk through the door.

Hell hath no fury like an Alcoholic, with coffee not ready to go…

Danger Will Robinson, DANGER !!!!

I’ve known some crazy coffee makers in my time.

That night I met our coffee maker extraordinaire. Back then, the meeting was sparsely attended, and only needed a small, 12 cup perk coffee maker. Over the last six months our intrepid coffee maker invested in a full bore 60 cup, standard issue, coffee urn.

The number of meeting attendees, has more than doubled in six months. And all of us are grateful for the coffee maker. He is there every week, busy or not, making coffee.

This past Monday, I asked him if he could give me “thirty minutes?” He understood that I was asking him to come to a meeting to hear ME speak.

Funny that …

This afternoon around 1 p.m. he texted me saying that he could not make our date for the meeting. I was on my way to the bank to prepare for my trip to N.L. next Thursday.

I came home and made two phone calls. One came back as a NO, and the other message was not received prior to the meeting. I took that as a sign, to trust God and head to the meeting as usual. While setting up, I told one of our women that I needed a speaker, and she volunteered to speak for me.

Not ten minutes later, my coffee maker texted me saying his late meeting at the office had been cancelled and that he was on his way. Little did he know that HE was the one who was speaking and not ME.

That realization came about 5 minutes before I introduced him to the room.

Color him surprised…

It all went as God had ordered it. He knocked it out of the park.

After the meeting I told him that newcomer quote I heard a couple of weeks ago that:

If you get asked to Speak at St. Matthias, You Have Arrived …

Our little Monday, Love and Tolerance meeting is a wealth of Sober Experience, that I have been tapping since I joined St. Matthias a few months ago. Lots of sober men and women who don’t usually hit the Thursday meeting, so, fresh minds are fresh stories to hear.

Last week, into last weekend, New Foundland was hit by a severe blizzard, which prompted some serious considerations of not making the trip next week, due to weather concerns. I called Air Canada, and spoke to them about weather. Then I called the bank, and tried to get some insurance on my $650.00 airline ticket. (That was a bust)

Tuesday would be the day that I would decide to either get on a plane or cancel my trip, because getting an airplane into St. John’s is dicey, frequently. Wind, Weather, Snow, are a given on any day. Tonight, it seems that the weather will be looking up, thanks to Environment Canada’s six day forecast.

I have cash in hand, and a good weather forecast, at the moment. In New Foundland, weather is never a given. All it takes is a little weather headed into that area, and Mother Nature can dump up to sixty centimeters of snow on any given day.

It has been pissing rain in Montreal for two days now. A Rain/Snow mix may fall tomorrow night, and more rain. We have heard, mentioned, double digit positive temps for this weekend … Let Us Pray …

Keto-Genic Diet

Reddit Keto Info Page
Keto Nutrition Page

Friday, last week, a good friend of mine witnessed me, two nights in a row, drinking my favorite Orange Soda. He was not impressed with that. On Friday night he said to me that I needed to stop the sugar intake and that I needed to look into the Keto Diet.

Saturday night, I did some serious investigating and came away with a diet plan that I was willing to work with. The Keto Diet, is strict. Lots of No, No’s. And very little leeway in the eradication of sugars and carbohydrates.

The Keto diet has a scientific basis. On the second link, you will find all the scientific data with Diabetes and Cancer patients.

I haven’t had a sip of soda in five days. I haven’t had any sugar whatsoever, in five days either. I wrote down the dietary restrictions on the fridge, and now we both eat very well, based on the Keto Diet restrictions in place.

Let me tell you that Detoxing from Sugar is BRUTAL … The first three days, I thought I was going to loose my mind. I was hormonal, and seriously demented. I had headaches, and I was terribly, emotionally, cracked.

One of my women, whom I work with, read my F.B. Page and she has serious time invested into the Keto Diet. So she called me the other night and we tweaked my plan, with a few changes and substitutions.

I spoke about having realized in February that I had, in fact, lost ten pounds, which spurred me into a radical lifestyle change, personally. I want to feel good, and look good, and look good doing it too.

People are noticing.

Thursday, after the meeting, is my “teaching night.”

My Elder friend in Utah, and I talk weekly via Google Hangout. We get to see each other and talk about how his life has changed since he ended his mission in Montreal. It was important that we kept our friendship going, because i want him in my life and we are friends, and each week, I get a little Faith Boost from him. General Conference was last weekend, this year, he got to see it live and in person. I get to watch it here at home.

His takeaway was this:

Community is important. Faith is Important. Charity is important.

Distilling a theological message to three points …

The number of walls you can knock down when ministering to your community, friends, and family, the better. We don’t need any more walls, we need community, we need love, we need charity and we need to love one another fully.

This message, in three parts, is familiar to me. I’ve heard it repeated many times on many fronts over the past month or so.

The Blessings of Easter is quickly approaching. The whole reason the Atonement is central to the church and her people. The sacrifice of the Cross makes this life possible and grants us life, love and faith.

Tomorrow is the Best Night of the Week.

Surely more to come.

Tenzin Palmo, Buddhist monk once said:

“The more you realize, the more you realize that there is nothing to realize. The Idea that there’s somewhere we have got to get to, and something we have to attain, is our basic delusion.”

 


Monday: Lamentation … 417

love

AND Acceptance is the answer to ALL my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

NOTHING, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.

Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes…

…Acceptance is the key to my relationship with God today. I never just sit and do nothing while waiting for Him to tell me what to do. Rather, I do whatever is in front of me to be done, and I leave the results up to Him; however it turns out, that’s God’s will for me.

This reading should be tacked at all points of view in everybody’s home, no matter who you are, alcoholic or not. It is a reading that I should have used recently, for some of my guys, and most importantly for myself.

I am told, and I tell this to my guys that, it isn’t the destination that matters, it is the journey in between that matters, and will mean something. I heard one of my guys talk about the counter-intuitive nature of the above passage.

In his work, he is sober. But his workmates are not. And the million dollar millennial has stars in his eyes, and is idealistic, and is of the mind, that if he puts in the time, work and talent, that at 35, he is going to be a millionaire, and be able to retire on that yacht in Monaco.

I am afraid, and we are afraid that the end point is nigh, and may not happen, and placing such expectation on God, is folly…

They say that: We make PLANS and GOD laughs …

Acceptance comes, daily. In the moment. Every moment.

I’ve seen people come in, having lost everything, some who have lost some, and even others, who lost nothing, but their self respect and dignity. I watch people come in and have stars in their eyes, and hear them say,

“Well, I’m going to get it all back, just you watch and see…”

And how many of those people recoup their losses on any kind of grand scale ?

Very Few …

You might get sober, and then come to realize that God has bigger and usually better plans for us, than we know ourselves. God’s time, is a long haul proposition.

Waiting for God, is like watching paint dry on a house.

Every time I read this story, or think about acceptance, I get choked up. Tears fall from my eyes, and I feel lamentation, in the worst way.

Mental Illness is serious business.

When I met hubby many years ago, he was ebullient, romantic, sexual, dynamic and young. The early months, of our relationship was filled with things, that have long since disappeared, never to be seen again.

It was good, that, at the time, people were quoting page 417 to me constantly.

Acceptance is the key to all of my problems.

Because when Mental Illness struck us, the man who went into treatment, was NOT the same man who came out the other end. The doctors failed to tell me this truth while it was happening right in front of me.

Talk about Acceptance …

Relationships are built on Love, Trust and Respect. If you commit, you commit. Even before we spoke vows in front of family and friends, shit had happened. Cruel shit, that nobody knows about, to this very day.

Not One Person …

Nobody knows how bad it got. Nobody knows the finer details of what mental illness does to a couple. But I was damned sure that what my family and friends saw, was the best possible vision of a man who survived treatment for Mental Illness. And on that very day, He was the Best Presentable Image of a Whole Man, Body and Soul.

That was the man I married. We were celebrating who HE was, in that moment.

It took me a long time to reconcile who He was, with who He became, through treatment. I kinda felt cheated that I was short changed in the end. But I was committed. Those wedding vows were tested for damned sure, before we even hit that altar.

Acceptance was the key.

It was a very good thing that I was getting sober, and I had at least 15 months in the program, before SHIT hit the FAN. Because it took all of my friends, some serious work, to keep me ON THE BEAM, for the next year of treatment.

I do not regret one day of it. I did the best I could do, given the circumstances. I did everything possible to make hubby comfortable and to care for him, to the best of my abilities. Every Single Day, and I still do, to this day.

I miss the ebullient man he used to be. And every time someone suggests this passage, I get emotional, because I know, to my very core, what this passage means to my life, in a visceral way.

We have two choices in our relationships.

  • You can either accept life as it unfolds, knowing you are powerless over many things, and you won’t have all the answers, or
  • You run, in the other direction, when life gets tough.
  • You either LOVE harder than you have ever loved before, or
  • You never love that way ever again …
  • That is what makes a marriage, every bit sweeter …
  • That you can live up to, and into those vows you speak

Marriage vows are written in a certain way. They are a warning about what may happen to you, when you least expect it, and better be informed as you stand before God, and you commit to your husband/wife/partner/significant other, that you are promising these certain unknowns.

That if they happen, you were once warned.

Running out when shit happens, is not suggested, but many people fail this test, when shit hits the fan. Which is why 417 needs to be plastered in every home on earth.

If you can accept that whatever is going to happen, probably will happen, and that God, in his infinite wisdom, ordains the universe, and that you might not get, that end point filled with expectations, you just might get, whatever God believes we are due …

That is total acceptance.


Friday: Source of Strength

happy-vancouver-soldiers-painted-germany-kaput-here-we-com

Next week Canada will Mark the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of  Vimy Ridge in Northern France, (At Vimy Ridge) remembrance of all those soldiers from all over the world, over 4,000 Canadian Soldiers, who died in service of the war.

Tonight, we read another Vignette from Bill, taken from the Twelve and Twelve, which was written after the first Big Book was published in 1939.

I have an original 1939 Copy in my library.

When WWII broke out, out A.A. dependence on a Higher Power had its first major test. A.A.’s entered the services and were scattered all over the world.

Would they be able to take discipline, stand up under fire, and endure the monotony and misery of war? Would the kind of dependence they had learned in A.A. carry them through?

Well, it did.

They had even fewer alcoholic lapses or emotional binges than A.A.’s safe at home did. They were just as capable of endurance and valor as any other soldier. Whether in Alaska or on the Salerno Beachhead, their dependence upon a higher power worked.

Far from being a weakness, this dependence was their chief source of strength.

I’ve never read, in any literature that is in my library, an account of soldiers who were sober, prior to WWII, then going to fight that war, remaining sober throughout, and came home, and stayed sober.

I brought up this thought in the meeting tonight, because there are friends of mine who might have something to add to this question.

We know that thousands of letters crossed from the U.S. and other places to the war fronts all over Europe. I know that G.S.O. in New York City, has a gigantic archive of letters that passed from Alcoholics in the states and worldwide, who were writing to sober individuals (Military Personnel) in Europe and all over the world.

None of those stories were ever included in any of the Big Book Printings.

The visual of war, to many in the room, was pertinent. Because Alcoholism is a disease, and the battle to get sober, is not for the feint of heart. For some, the odds are stacked against them, few make it into serious sober time, on the first pass.

One of our old timers, who had met, veterans, in the rooms, when he first came in over twenty-five years ago, spoke about how serious they thought sobriety was. And that they listened to some, in those meetings, at that time, making light of the fight that is Alcoholism.

Yes, we laugh a lot in the rooms, at our miserable failures, and sordid stories about what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now. But getting sober, is a serious business, it is not a joke, or something to take lightly. Lives are on the line, and if someone who is really down and out, comes in, and hears people joking and laughing, they might run in fear, and never come back.

Many stories in my memory begin with someone down and out, walking down some stairs into a smoky church basement, and hearing jovial laughter and happiness, is somewhat jarring at first, until they get across the threshold.

Last night, we heard a friend talk about his journey, and after twenty years of not drinking (Read: Dry Drunk) he figures out that he needs to step up his game and commit to really, getting sober. Which brought him right up to Step Three.

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

What he said resonated with the many who heard that story last night.

When I was a young seminarian, I had turned my will and my life over to God. This was just another pass at God, throughout my young life. But I was conscious of this decision, and I was willing to go to any length to prove my worthiness to God.

The common man was much harder to convince.

But life has a funny way of turning out.

The next pass at God was in the guise of Todd, when I got sick, and was going to die. I know, today, that Todd represented to me, the incarnation of God on earth. I had made that same commitment to God again. But alas, I could not carry it through, because of my own inability to trust myself alone.

At thirty-four, when I put down the drink for the last time, (let us pray) I spoke to God and in that moment, I had done Steps One, Two and Three, all at once.

To this day, every day, I turn my will and my life over, because I know, that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.

In the last week, I have listened to several Pod Casts, from my favorite channel, The Art Of Charm. We’ve heard of The Hero’s Journey, James Campbell, and Narrative Building.

If you grew up in the 1970’s and onward, you might have seen a few little Star Wars Films. We were introduced to the Jedi. To Obi Wan, and Yoda. We saw, for our own eyes, and most probably, learned the mythology of the Hero’s Journey, The Force, and The Rebels fighting the Empire.

Another friend, tonight, spoke of us as Padawan’s, and not necessarily Jedi. I’m not sure I’ve met a Jedi in the rooms, to date. In the rooms, there is “A Force.” We come in and we see it in others, and we watch and listen to them, and eventually, we either want what others have, or we don’t.

In an Earlier post, we spoke about the Spiritual versus the Religious.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual program. With as many people in the rooms, there is a vision of what we are, who we are, and what we do in meetings.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

Lorna Kelly, a long time sober member of the New York Community, who died last July, says that the Preamble is one of the most important pieces of literature ever written. Because it tells us who we are, what we suffer from, and how we achieve sobriety.

Together …

It is said, that in war, that there are no Atheist’s in foxholes.

Atheism was also mentioned tonight by one of my friends, who asked the question, “What about those members or people, who may not have had identified a Power Greater than Themselves, or really believed in God, in the time of War, he wanted to know, where they were, and if they were, how they stayed sober, during the war ?”

I was reminded by one of my best friends, what I really needed to do, to safeguard my spiritual well-being, when it comes to others in the rooms. Something I have mentioned ad nauseam over the past month or so.

He also gave me some advice in stepping up my health and well-being game. He said that if I was in for a penny, that I should be in for a pound. That is something I will be adding to my life toolkit.

I spoke briefly, about two men, who went to war. Jimmy Settle, P.J. in Alaska’s 212 Pararescue Unit. Jimmy went to Afghanistan, and was shot and almost killed by the Taliban. His story is grueling. And for me, it was a very emotional experience, just reading his Hero’s Journey.

The Other is Romeo Dallaire. Who Commanded Canadian and United Nations forces, during one of the worlds worst Genocides, in Rwanda, after that of Nazi Germany of course.

Jimmy trained, went to war, came home, and served his country valiantly. Alcohol was not much mentioned in his story, because if you are going to be an elite soldier, drinking is the least of your problems. (Read: Read The Book Yourself)

Never Quit: by Jimmy Settle and Don Rearden.

Romeo, was shattered, watching and collecting visual and written proof of genocide in Rwanda as it happened all around him. Shake Hands with the Devil is one serious book. And not a tome to take lightly, by any means.

When Romeo came back to Ottawa, he was living on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River, a bridge walk to Ottawa proper. His bottom came, as one night, he bought a bottle of Scotch and walked the bridge to Centennial Park, on the Ottawa side, along side Parliament Hill. He suffered greatly, in silence, until that night, when he drank that bottle, and was found almost dead, on his stomach, drunk, with his face in the mud.

War is War, and War is hell. Death, Terrorism, Genocide, you name it, if you are fighting for your country, you pledge to serve your country to the best of your ability.

You will go into your experience, as one kind of soldier, be they Man or Woman. But we all know, from some serious experience, that the soldier you were, when you went in, you will not be the same soldier, when you come out.

We know, here in Canada, how many men and women, after serving our nation, and the world at large, came home injured, broken, and certainly changed people, on the other end.

And we know, sadly, how many of those men and women came home to ingratitude, a lack of services, no mental health services or for some, any services at all, and in the end, many, so many young men and women, took their own lives because of the trauma they experienced over seas.

Alcohol, is the least of their problems, when men and women go to war …

Bill write the above noted story, because, I believe, he either met some soldiers, heard stories, read letters, or spoke to someone as second-hand, the experience I wrote above.

Bill’s vignettes, in my opinion, were on his mental radar. He had some experience in what he was writing about, because this story comes in the Twelve and Twelve. This particular story was collected then added to that particular book, which came much later than the first publishing of the First Edition of the Big Book in 1939.

God, the three-letter word that keeps multitudes of people from freedom.

At one point in As Bill Sees It, Bill writes in one passage that your Higher Power can be whatever you want it to be. A seeming plausible system of belief, that comes as a relief to many, but on that same page, the final sentence reads:

But it Always comes back to God …

Tradition Three, in the Twelve and Twelve, expands on the idea of who can attend a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. You are an A.A. member if you say so, nobody can keep you out, no matter how far down you have gone… you are a member if you say so …

Over the many decades, literature has become a little more fluid, and not so set in stone as it was read, by those in the early years of the program.

God as we understand Him, can be, if you just allow it, for a moment, can be as fluid as you wish it to be. As long as we realize that there is a Power Greater Than Ourselves, and that:

We are NOT that Higher Power …


Thursday A.M. – Special Essay #2 – Change

tumblr_ondagcCG0H1qg58d6o1_1280

Taking care of those who need you to be present is a huge responsibility. The Story that keeps me ever present to Heavenly Father, and the work I do in community, comes from Margaret Craven, in her finest work, “I heard the Owl Call my Name.”

It is the story of Mark Bryan. A 26 year old young Anglican priest who is sent by his bishop to the Up Coast of Vancouver British Columbia. To serve in a native village.

The story begins with a conversation between a doctor and the bishop, as the doctor informs the bishop that young Mark is very sick and is going to die. The bishop, in his wisdom, sends him to Kingcome to serve the native community there in that small village.

Mark does not know the particulars, just that the bishop has asked him to go there, because the bishop thought that, if he had a second opportunity, that that is where HE would go.

Mark has to learn the native language before he can teach them his, and that is no easy prospect. But he persists. And over time, the spiritual experiences come to him, through the interactions with the many natives he will call family. He learns about them in order to learn how to love and serve them. And they too, do the same.

The story does not have a happy ending. Suffice to say, that in Mark’s heroic death, the little village honors him with a resting place in their great ceremonial burial ground just off the village.

If I need to know why I am still on this earth is that it is the OWL who calls the man or woman who is to die. Until that owl calls me, I’m not going anywhere…

Segue into Change …

Not long ago, a shift had begun to come into my life. I am hypersensitive to my feelings, and my emotional and mental well being, and my all around looks about town. I’ve gone back to color and my stylist keeps me groomed. I’ve changed up my wardrobe considerably, due to the fact that weight is falling off me on these new meds I am on.

I want to look good, and feel good and look good doing it too. Feeling good has everything to do with looking good… And damned what all my naysayers are saying. This is my life, and life is too precious and short to surround myself with elbows and assholes.

Not Going To Do It …

My friends are of two minds on this topic.

My straight friends look at me and say kind words of encouragement and love. They see who I am and they all know my story, everybody does, who knows me.

50 is a HUGE landmark. Because I am still alive, and will cross that bridge still breathing. I never thought I would get this far. And so I’ve hit another mental and emotional shift.

The first one began when I crossed the 40 mark. Every day, change, and emotion, was documented in the thousands of posts and pages on the this blog.

My gay friends, on the other hand, are not so generous with words. Many of my gay friends, well, almost all of them, are older than me by ten and twenty years.

They are Old. Miserable.

FRUMPY …

I will not go down to Old, Miserable and FRUMPY.

No way Jose …

My critical gay friends do not spare me insults in the rooms, because they love to pick me apart in front of the other members in the room, purposely.

It saddens me that this is happening. And I don’t need to explain my decisions to them because none of them have anything to do with my personal presentation in public.

I know, I am a bit emotional. My spiritual Director is very ill and I am doing everything I can to lift him up and support him, in this very personal journey he is on.

I’ve walked this road myself.

My Elder friend reminds me always that Heavenly Father is right there with us all the way, and that the sacrifice of the cross has brought us the Atonement.

Easter is coming and our Pope Francis encourages us to go out into community and participate and love deeply and serve totally. Because Christ shows us his face, in every single person we know, love and serve.

The coming months are going to be challenging. I just needed to document this shift as it is coming to me right now.

50 is the new 30 I’ve heard.

So I will look 30, when I reach 50, I am already on that path.


Monday: Memories, Promises, Spirituality

20140127-pope-x624-1390859938

Our story tonight, comes via a man who is of the Jewish faith. This story highlights the conundrum that many face, when they come to the rooms. The dichotomy of a program of recovery, that operates on a Spiritual, rather than religious model.

You can’t get away with calling a program of recovery “Spiritual” when the word “GOD” appears in the Book, and through the steps. This One Single Three Letter Word, keeps many from getting sober, no less, having a spiritual experience that everybody needs, at some point in their journey.

How do you separate the Religious from the Spiritual ?

…The last big hurdle was closing the meeting with the Lord’s Prayer. As a Jew, I was uncomfortable with it and decided to talk to my sponsor about it. So I said, “The Lord’s Prayer bothers me. I don’t like closing with it.” “Oh,” he said, “what’s the problem?” “Well, I’m Jewish and it’s not a Jewish prayer.”

“Well then,” he said “Say it in Jewish.” I said, “It would still be the Lord’s Prayer.” “Right,” he said. “Then say something else that you like. Your Higher Power, whatever you call it, is helping you, and you need to say thank you.”

That was a big step for me; I finally began to separate the religious aspect of my life from A.A. Spiritual program. Now the big difference to me is that religion is the RITUAL, and we all differ there, and SPIRITUALITY is the way we feel about what we do. It’s about my personal contact with my personal Higher Power, as I understand Him.

I laughed to myself as I read this story. This man, who came in, and against his better nature, did get sober, and found a life beyond his wildest dreams. He, a Jew, comes in and has problems, not with G-d but with The Lord’s Prayer, and its recitation to close a meeting.

I’ve spoken about the promise made to God, by Memere, about me, when I was just a boy.

Last night, I was reminded of that promise, by a passage in a book I am reading at the moment about Pope Francis.

The biographer is telling the story of the child, Jorge Mario Bergoglio and how his grandmother introduced him to a life of faith and prayer. A story, very similar to mine.

It was my grandmother who took me to church, promised me to God, and faith followed me, and God was always there, I just wasn’t always interested in listening.

Until I got sober the second time.

I read this passage last night and it rang so very true for me …

May the Man not betray what he promised as a child …

I had not made that initial promise, but I HAD made a promise to God, in church, as I was being groomed to enter the seminary. And while there, I did promise God my life, from that point in my limited life, to the extent I believed I could.

It only took me thirty four years to figure out that I needed to rekindle that promise and make my way into life with God in the drivers seat. And to be honest, I was good for that.

Life is there, for you to choose what you are going to do with it.

But if you are on Train B, and you are on your Do Over, better buckle up and do this right, because you may never get another kick at the proverbial can of sobriety.

Petty complaints, and a lack of trust and faith will destroy someone coming in the rooms with an “I Know Better” attitude.

It was Chabad, A Jewish Organization, who pointed the way for me, and IS the bedrock of my program of recovery. An Organization that still operates in our city today.

I find it funny, that our writer tonight, is a Jew who has problems with a Christian Prayer, and it was a Jewish Organization that helped me get and stay sober.

I owe them a debt of Gratitude.

A factual memory that rises to my mind when reading this story… The story of Louis and Irene Ziff, survivors of the Holocaust, and the Auschwitz concentration camp. I knew this couple well, they were friends of the family when I was a boy. They used to dine at our table for many years, before they both died.

I remember them fondly.

 

 


Friday: Sacred, is the Room I find in Myself

tumblr_o7czpwsj0z1rnsok6o1_540

There are but two sins … The Lesser, is to get in the way of our own spiritual path. The Greater, is to get in the way of someone else’s spiritual path.

I see humility for today as a safe and secure stance midway between violent emotional extremes. It is a quiet place where I can keep enough perspective and enough balance to take my next small step up the clearly marked road that points toward eternal values.

The reading tonight touches on Arrogance, Attitude and Humility.

Which leads back to yesterdays quote:

I don’t know, but I am trying to find out, OK !

The Fellowship, early on, was a sordid affair. And thinking about it logically, the Big Book was written towards a certain segment of the population. And in the early years, the Fellowship grew out of trials and errors.

They really did not have a leg to stand on, when it came to knowledge or certainty.

This reading talks about some, early on, who believed they had the “Real A.A.” And that they had a definitive answer to the problem of the drink, and only they could impart this message and that, from the reading, “You better get it…”

A very arrogant approach, don’t you think ?

This reading is dates 1961. The Fellowship came together in 1939. That is only 22 years from inception, to the point Bill wrote this passage for the Grapevine. I imagine that Bill probably mulled over what he was either hearing himself, or from others, who came in contact with the men, whom this reading, refers to.

I don’t know, in my life today, WHO has the definitive answer to recovery. Because I know, for myself, that there are old timers with TIME, but they surely are not sober. There are men and women I respect, who have some time.

All I know is this … Every so often I am introduced to someone who has a method, or a practice, or a way, they work their program. Over the past four or so years, I’ve employed several practices and methods that I know worked for the men and women, I have adopted these practices from.

None of them, we could say are the End All Be All. They are merely, additions to practice and method, to incorporate, along with the Book.

Working with others, is a great way to find out for ones self, that:

No, I don’t know, but I am trying to find out. OK !

I don’t have all the answers, which is why I go to meetings and talk with people I respect, who have a little more experience than I do. We are all souls walking in the same direction, trying to figure it out ourselves.

There is no ultimate authority, except the God of our understanding as He speaks in our Group Conscience.

I know what size my pants are. And I know how big, my head can get if I am not careful.

Keeping it simple and staying out of my head is a daily task.

If either my pants or my head swell to greatly, then I know:

I must decrease so that He may increase.


Thursday: I Don’t know but I am trying to find out, OK !

1372165866_3865776220001_video-still-for-video-3865684819001

Last night, I heard from my Spiritual director, who lives in another province, tell me that his doctors have told him that he was terminally ill, and that he has an illness that will eventually take his life, as it had taken the lives of his grandfather and father alike.

God is really the most important vital sign. If he wants you to stay, there is not way you can go, and if you are meant to go, there is no way to keep you here.

I am a very lucky man, to have a young man in my life, who has this kind of Wisdom.

I have walked many people through this minefield, that is the most unknown of places. That place of One day, being alive and fearless, to the next day, when a doctor tells you that your days are numbered, and that eventually, your body will not be able to do what is had been doing for over fifty years, and death is imminent.

How do you tell someone you care about, that they need to remember to breathe, and as long as there is air in their lungs, they should live ??? That was the exact advice I gave my friend, along with those wise words from my Elder.

If your heart, knowing it is, at some point, going to give out on you, turns towards the finality of death, and you forget that living is still on the table, that usually hastens death quicker.

No matter how dire the warning and the knowledge that all the cards are on the table, and death is going to come sooner than later, My friend, at least, HAS a game plan, a plan of action. I just thought that reminding him that he still had a life, a family that needs him, a wife who is living the journey with him, children flung all over God’s world, who still need a father, I needed to remind him, that right now,

LIFE is the most important thing in his life.

If we wake up, every morning, and we are alive … Then that IS a GOOD day.

I don’t know, but I am trying to find out, OK !

Every Thursday night, when I get home, I dial an Elder on my I Phone. And with the latest technology, I am in the presence of a young man I love, who is my friend, and spends some of his time, with me. Just like we did when he was here.

I learned this week, that my Elder friend is Pre-Med. I am totally in awe of him, knowing who he is, and how he sees the world, Folks, we are going to have one really great doctor some day, I’m just sayin ….

I am truly grateful.

NO, is not part of my vocabulary…

Last week, I was on the hunt for product. And Google had led me down many dead ends. But from those Google results, those results were coming from the Pacific rim. Australia and New Zealand.

I know someone who lives in Australia. So I tweeted him asking him for his help. I got a reply, and that reply said two things. NO, and I cannot help you.

Never say NO to me. Ever.

I mean that in the best of terms. I don’t ask my friends or people I know for many things. And after doing whatever homework I needed to do, and I get to the point that I need to ask someone for some help, and you tell me NO, from the get go … Before you even hear the WHY I asked you for help You can …

FUCK the right off …

In recovery, NO is not part of our vocabulary. Obviously, there are some people I know who are too self centered and selfish to want to even ponder the thought of being of some help to someone who asked for it.

Anyways, This week has been very good. I found product I wanted. One of my friends helped me as a mail drop, because I could not get delivery to Canada, and that package is on its way today. Two other packages are also on their way as well, another from the U.S. and one from the U.K.

I returned to major seller platforms and U.K. Websites that proved to be genuine.

I heard it said to me that if you get asked to speak at St. Matthias, then you have MADE IT.

This is what our young lady said first tonight.

Obviously, I have not MADE IT YET … And I’ve been sitting in that room for more than twelve years. And nobody has ever asked me to speak there.

We heard a newbie girl speak tonight, just over her first year. I thought to myself, I did not speak for a very long time, when I first got sober. There is some wisdom to putting a newbie in the hot seat, early on. Because they get to hear their story, at that specific point IN their journey, from their own mouths.

ONE, it gives them early perspective. And TWO, they get a baseline in where they are, because after the meeting, they are going to hear everyone in the room, thank that person for their share, and then offer them some wisdom from their own journey.

In the end, our young lady told her story, and then heard from the rest of us, what she might expect if she sticks around …

On Being a Man …

We are MEN, trying to figure out what it means to be a MAN, AND trying to figure out HOW to get there.

In our little group of friends, all of us at various ages, in the rooms, are trying to figure out what our manhood’s are going to look like, and what we want our lives to look like, and some buzz words that pop up are Humility, Integrity, My Elder also adds the words God and Spirituality to the mix, these, I think are crucial for a well rounded life as a man, in the rooms of recovery.

We all agree, among ourselves, that a Spiritual Foundation laid with care, can be one of the most important components in someone’s life.

Man or Woman.

And by extension, One of my guys has Million Dollar Millennial on his watch.

We are fathers to boys, who don’t really have fathers in their lives, trying to figure out what to do for the most people, to the best of our abilities.

I don’t know, but I am trying to find out, OK !


Friday: Honestly !!!

tumblr_lxerkgwvpi1r556eno1_500-followeed

Do we ever reach a point in our lives that we can trust that, we’ve done our best to be good, to be kind, to be giving and to be Honest, to be able to speak words that are honest as well?

I am told, by a long time friend tonight that “An alcoholic’s mind is a place we should never go alone.” Another friend also said that, it is not so important what people think about me, the important thing I need to remember is my relationship with God.

The Emotional Roller Coaster is running at full speed. And I am not enjoying the ride. For the whole of my sobriety, I’ve watched my friends and my fellows. I’ve listened to them and saw what kind of choices they have made over this long run.

Everything I learned to do, or decide to do, was always based on what others have either done or not done.

I know when I hit my forties, I found that I knew things, for sure. I had enough time and hindsight behind me to be able to, matter of factly, say with some clarity, what I really thought about whatever I was seeing.

Over the past 10 months, I’ve felt a myriad of emotions. Unlike anything I have felt in some time. I’ve talked about this before, so we are coming full circle again.

The other night I had a conversation with Elder Christensen. The young Mormon missionary I became friends with during my investigations. He is still in my life, because that was the choice he made when he went home.

My investigation came to an end, when I would not leave my marriage and OBEY the “one man, one woman, biblical concept of marriage.” All those young people who made all kinds of promises and encouraged me to continue, all fell off a cliff, so to speak.

Now I know why …

Elder Christensen, when faced with the reality that I was not going to leave my marriage, sat in on a discussion about my fate with the Missionary team. The team, as a whole, did not see me as acceptable. They did not see me as fully human, with rights to be able to decide who I was and what choices I would make.

They just stopped seeing me.

Elder Christensen told me that during that discussion, he was at odds with his team and the Mission President. He was headed home, so his view of me would not be considered because he was going home, being the odd man out.

The young elder could not understand why the others did not feel about me, the way he felt about me ? He told me that, the others failed to understand and respect my humanity and dignity. That they had problems with emotional connections.

The Sunday I was shopping and ran into the Sisters at the grocery store, they told me that I belonged and that there was always a place for me, so I sent them back to the group with one request. It is obvious to me now, that nobody cares, what I need.

If I wasn’t prepared to make an ultimate sacrifice to “become One with the Church” there was really no place for me, in that church.

The good that came out of that investigation was that Elder Christensen, is still my friend. He takes time out of his schedule to write and to spend time talking to me on Hang Out. He knows my humanity. He identified with it, and respects it.

That is a thing…

I heard tonight, that sometimes in sobriety, things can get dark. And people may not agree with me. And people may walk out of my life. The things I need to remember are  …

I have friends. I have a home group. And I have people to talk to.

Another friend reminded me of one simple axiom …

I am powerless over people, places and things.

For a while, I hoped that someone would point me in some certain direction, and tell me what I really need to know, because right now, I don’t really know what is going on.

So I wonder … Can we be honest ? And at what point in sobriety, do we get to speak up and call bullshit when we see bullshit ? I’ve spent so much time sitting on my hands, keeping my mouth shut, because people around me are so afraid of being honest, to certain degrees, that they would never say anything against the status quo …

It has just been months and months of emotion. I am just finished with people, places and things. For a very long time, after spending time with certain groups of sober people, listening to them and seeing how they treat me in open community, I just want nothing to do with them.

I imagined that when things began to change for me, with my emotions running at high speed, that someone would come along and have something to offer to help me.

No, instead, they told me to go away. That I was TOO emotional and angry and that I was scaring people away from their meetings. In essence, I needed to leave certain meetings.

So I left those meetings and all those people. Not in all these months, has anyone from the meetings I do go to, said anything to the effect that … This is what I needed to know, at this very moment.

I believe I’ve seen enough to be able to make my mind up, one way or the other. I know who I want in my life. And who I don’t.

There is a short list of people who see me and care about me, and who love me for who I am. I don’t have to hide or put on an act.

I’m just not using the phone like I should. On the way home, my friend told me that I can count on him, any time I needed him.

After the meeting, several people came up to me and said that I just needed to stick close to my home group and the people in it. Because some of my friends who go to the Friday night meeting, have known me since I came in, So They Know …

I’m just dumbfounded to realize and see how people treat each other. How people have treated my friends, and how they treat me.

I am also dumbfounded at just how insignificant I am to certain people. And that now approaching my fifties, Some people still find my presence, unacceptable.

And that for some, I will never be equal.

There must be a lesson in all these things I am seeing and experiencing. There’s got to be some cosmic God kind of truth to all of this ..

God has not revealed that to me yet …

Maybe I am supposed to walk through this and see and feel what I am seeing and feeling. To be able to identify and be able to communicate these things to my fellows, for their benefit, but not necessarily my own, just yet.

I thought people with serious time in the program would be better at advice and counsel, it is now obvious to me that, People may have the time, they are just not sober…

Not sober in the way I really need them to be sober.

There aren’t a lot of double digit sober people, who will not make the time, nor the investment to point people near them, in any certain direction.

People, in many places, do not care to invest in others, beyond sitting in a meeting with you for that designated hour.

So Fuck Me …


Tuesday: Winner Takes All

12289463_1092314860780733_5368461934168273242_n

 

The emotional roller coaster is still in motion. And I am working on staying above the water. I just had a conversation with my favorite Elder in the world who gave me wise counsel.

We may work with others, and sometimes that work is grueling and emotional, but we ourselves need to be grounded as well, and have someone in the wings, who is helping manage US. Which goes back to the adage that, if any area of my life is unwell, I can’t really give from that area, if it is lacking in some form or fashion.

My young Elder was that person today.

Last night we read from the book again, with Winner Takes All. A story told by a woman who is visually impaired, but in the end, finds her way into winning, against all the odds against her. She, many commented last night, had fortitude and grace and strength to never quit …

Ok, Never Quit … A sidebar to this post …

9781250102997

A few days ago, Casey Neistat introduced a book from a soldier he met in Afghanistan during mission Bulldog Bite in the mountains of Afghanistan. Jimmy Settle tells his story about becoming an Alaska 212 Pararescueman, a P.J.

I read, all the time. And this book, was not wasted time.

I was engaged from the very beginning of Jimmy’s story. I found myself crying tears of joy at one point of the story, after reading the long and arduous journey Jimmy walked to become that P.J. he always wanted to be.

Then the last few chapters tells the story of his time working on Bulldog Bite in Afghanistan. It was riveting.

The whole idea of working towards a goal, no matter what, fighting tooth and nail, taking ones lumps and gets up and keeps going is familiar territory. I’m not a soldier, by any means, but I can tell you that the last twenty three years has not been a cakewalk for sure, but like the EverReady bunny …

You Just Keep Going .

You Don’t Admit Defeat.

You Don’t Quit.

For a P.J.; quit is not in your vocabulary. You trained long and hard to be a superhuman soldier who can do anything with very little when faced with that situation, when bullets start flying, you jump right in, and do what you came to do.

Anyways, back on the farm…

The first thing that triggered was in her opening statement in the story …

From the very beginning I felt different and unwanted. At a very young age, as children do, I had to make sense of my life, so I came to the conclusion that I was bad and God knew I was bad, so God made me handicapped to punish me. I thought that the undertow of sadness in my family was because of me. (it was not, it was the death of her younger brother)

Later I realized that a part of it might have been due to my handicap, but there was still a lot of grieving going on. My father turned to alcohol and was a very angry man. When we were growing up, he was very critical. I was told things on a daily basis, like I was dumb and lazy…

Right there, my mind stopped on this passage. And that is where I stayed for the entire meeting. It was the others who talked about fortitude, grace and the fact that she did not quit, she kept going, after all the odds against her.

Human beings, say things and react in ways, that are not entirely about us, but more all about them. Their fears, insecurities, problems or issues. A parent should NEVER negate or belittle or verbally abuse a child for any reason, NONE what So ever…

I know that angry alcoholic father. I know the angry critical words spoken. I may not be physically or visually handicapped, but I know disability.

I know how my father used to chase me around the house with a bat, trying to kill me screaming the words … YOU WERE A MISTAKE AND SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN BORN.

To this day, my parents still think this thought and have said it to me not so long ago.

Everybody was moved to say that, what was said and done to our young woman, when she was a child was unconscionable. Those men with children in the room, reacted to this in their own way.

When I got sick, I crossed that invisible line from normal humanity, to defective sinner, who was suffering God’s revenge for my sins. AIDS, is a disability. You cannot imagine what I went through to survive. The things I was forced to do by those who provided for my care, and it was not easy at all.

Our woman goes on an odyssey and in year three of sobriety, leaves a marriage with two children and moved 100 miles away to start a new life. She finds a job, she goes back to school, while working and caring for children. In twelve years of sobriety, coming to the end of her story, she meets all the right people, at the right moments, and she gets it done. She Freaking WINS the story, hands down, against all her odds.

I know what “the fight” looks and feels like. I know what I had to do to make my life something that I could be proud of. A life built by sobriety and God, and by the people who directly guided me in every decision or action I have made thus far.

I, too, met all the right people, at the right moment, for all the right reasons. And I flourished. My life, like our writer, is a life beyond imagination.

I may not have all the right people in my life, but I do have a few. And that has to work for me, until the sober pool of wisdom is replenished in the coming weeks.


Saturday: Odds and Ends, and Everything In Between

tumblr_ombbgjnhan1qbrivdo1_540

On my trip to see Alexander, we engaged in serious debate about the state of the world. I am not the best at politics, world issues, and everything in between. Our lives at home consist of one cable news channel, and at 11 p.m. we turn to CTV for our nightly news fix.

I cannot go to bed without the last word coming from Lisa LaFlamme.

I’ve never been totally political, as in, devoted to politics or politicians of any stripe. I’ve always known where I sit on issues of the day. But expanding my brain to other news outlets only began when I moved to Canada in 2002. And over the time I have lived here, I’ve explored other points of view.

Alexander encourages that I step out of my bubble and echo chamber to see the world from other points of view. And this is one reason I love my best friend, because he is from somewhere else, (read:Brazil) and he has world knowledge that I do not. He has a smarts about him that no one I know have themselves.

So I read, I watch, and I listen to other points of view. If you polled me online, I rank in the NDP sphere of thought. But I voted for Justin. And he is proving to be a challenge to me.

Alexander sits on the Conservative side of life. And that is NOT a bad thing at all. Because he forces me to see the world, like he sees the world. He challenges me to spread my vision and take in others words, and not just accept words by people I am accustomed to listening to.

Politics and world events are two different spheres for me. I care very little for U.S. politics. And I do not consume politics like I used to because I cannot be bothered on a daily basis to know or listen to repetitive redundant news about a mad man in the Oval Office.

Cannot Be Bothered.

I spend a good amount of my sober life, buried in books. I learned long ago, while in University, that reading “other literature” that situate itself “around” a topic I was studying, as it went along, was very useful.

Reading side literature around a specific topic whether that literature be fiction or non-fiction, built a world for me to engage with on a wider basis, rather than on a single note in time.

I read, Every night.

There are places in the world that interest me. There are social issues that I am passionate about as well. Issues in the world, and issues right here at home are on my dashboard, quite often. I worry about our less fortunate, our homeless, and our indigenous population.

Because I am in the rooms, I’ve seen so much suffering. Friends of mine, in the program have gone on to work in those specific areas of helping the less fortunate. So I am engaged in their work.

Studying Religion and Pastoral Ministry opened my eyes to World Religions, as well, taking care of those people I am engaged with on a daily basis. I have stayed away from posting anything incendiary on this blog, certain world issues, that I am not clearly well-rounded or well versed on, to write coherently or knowledgeably.

I’ve always been interested in Israel and Palestine. Our Jewish Community here in Montreal served my early sobriety solely. The Chabad organization does work all over the city for many people, I just happened to be one of those people.

During my studies I spent time at the Ghetto Shul at McGill during my Judaism studies. And I often said that if I would become anything other than a Christian, I would certainly be a Jew. Palestine is a new subject for me, since being introduced to that area by a friend who wrote a book on the subject, from a point of view we don’t hear about ever.

When I finished the book, all I could write about was what was in Ben’s book, by the words he wrote. Which began my reading slant into books that were written, on the ground, within the Palestinian community. There are not many in circulation, that don’t begin with a premise situated in Israel, and merely spits on Palestine.

I need to figure out what I know, what I need to know, and where I sit on the spectrum of politics and on the ground situations. I know where I would like to be, but that point needs to be plotted on a map so that I can see it clearly.

Israel and Palestine is such a deep topic with some serious history, people, and problems, that I am unable to touch because of the complexity of the state of that area of the world. But while in Ottawa, I picked up another tome that I am reading at the moment.

I just cannot read a handful of books and expect to be able to write anything that is worthy of print on this blog, because that would be stupid and green of me.

The entire Middle East is a quagmire of instability, political strife and religious intolerance. And we just cannot say, incendiary things about people we know little about or those points of views or lives that we don’t even care about informing ourselves about, because it is easier to hate outright, then find a point of agreement or understanding.

How many people do you know who really care about the Middle East beyond blanket hatred of those we don’t even know, or care to know ?

Because they are not “Christian?” or “Jewish?”

If we don’t read, or listen to other points of view and study areas of the world that interest us, and take the time to get informed, how can we relate what we are reading/studying?

That is a thing …

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

Colorful Metaphors

Any Star Trek fan knows the line from Star Trek IV the Voyage Home, where Kirk and Spock are on a bus, and Spock relates his confusion of people’s use of “Colorful Metaphors.”

I don’t know if it is age, or my sensibilities to certain colorful metaphors and words, used by people I listen to, or something else, but I’ve grown weary of people using certain language.

Since the dawn of the Pod Cast, when I got my I Phone for Christmas, my nightly bed time schedule was shifted when I started listening to Pod Casts. They competed with my traditional book reading time before bed.

Over the past few months, I’ve listened to a number of Pod Cast presenters. And I’ve come to the point that the Ardent Screaming Host, or the host who litters his show with the word FUCK, every other word, I just delete their shows from my phone.

I love me some Bill Maher. But he is incessantly insane. And over the last month, I’ve also grown weary of him as well, because his devolution into insane screaming by the end of the hour podcast.

People who talk on the Pod Cast, are not bound by ethical language rules. Although many men and women, do take listeners into consideration when it comes to words. Others, not so much. I just don’t have the mental energy to listen to people swear and use foul language. It is just no longer appealing.

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

Social Media

Over the last year, I have had to unfriend many people from my Face Book Profile. Certain friends litter my time line with shit I am not interested in, and they persist. Others, all they can do is post POST after POST of political bullshit, incessantly.

I went as far as to neuter my feed from showing me anything related to topics I have no interest in. That meant turning certain people off, for my own well being and sanity.

Aside from news online, that I do consume, Face Book and Twitter are two sources of news and current events that I utilize on a daily basis. But I don’t do either on my phone, so I deleted the apps from my phone.

  • I make phone calls on my phone.
  • I listen to music on my phone.
  • And I Pod Cast on my phone.

That’s it.

I am trying to set some news boundaries for myself. I have built a wall around me on social media that is useful, because I have a life, and I am not connected to social media 24/7. That is insane.

I turn on my computer when I wake up, I run my set. All those sites I look at and participate in and when I am done, I just shut off the computer until I need it again, and I go read, or better yet, I nap …

All the time…

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

Sober Realizations

I wrote to a friend of mine recently …

I no longer have the desire to engage most people who believe so strongly what they do, contrary to any evidence of acceptance and respect of humanity in others. Religion, like politics, are two areas I intentionally stay away from, because I know who I am, and what I know, and that is good for me. Sobriety teaches me that I don’t always have to argue when it is not necessary to do so.

He replied that this portion of my comment is a post in itself.

I spend my days working with others. I spend a few nights a week in meetings. Only three meetings a week now, instead of my prior, six meetings a week, spread over two fellowships.

I love what I do. Because the men and women I work with are accountable. We are all moving forwards. And that is a really good thing. Because I am not a born leader, however I think I “could” lead. I’ve had time in the past where what I did and what I said meant something to those I spent time with.

You never know WHO you are going to meet or what conversation you are going to have with them, until the meeting happens, and conversations take place either before or after.

I want a clean break going into my fifties.

God has made that something that I work on daily. Recently, certain friends have gone dark, for one reason or another, that I am not understanding at the moment, but it is what it is.

I have a routine that works. I have a life that is fulfilling. I have friends whom I love and adore. And a best friend, second to none.

Discussion was brought up the other night, by someone I trust, when he asked me why I just did not adopt the baby, and give her a father, who wants to be in her life, and someone she can rely on, because I am reliable and accountable to her and Mama.

And my reply was this … I want the biological father to pay his dues like the law states. Because he is a dead beat and a looser. And I want him to pay up.

I don’t want to step in and absolve him of any responsibility towards the baby.

I need to research this before I head to New Foundland in April.

I think I know what I want of life and of myself. But that is subject to change because sobriety is not a one trick pony.

Shit happens. Life happens. And you never know what to expect when you walk into a room full of your friends and fellows.

You might just learn something you did not know, or realize something you had not before, and it wasn’t until that particular moment that God opened up your eyes and spirit. And you heard something you realized you really needed.

But did not realize you needed it until right then.

This is the filler that happened between the lines over the last little while.

Sobriety is Magic. Sobriety is Miracles. Sobriety is God, it is Us and it is We.

I love the “We” that I am part of today.


Friday: I’m Not Afraid Any More

tumblr_o7czpwsj0z1rnsok6o1_540

Fears, are the termites that ceaselessly devour the foundations of whatever sort of life we try to build. As faith grows, so does inner security. The vast underlying fear of nothingness commences to subside. We of A.A. find that our basic antidote for fear is a spiritual awakening. A.B.S.I. 196

Tonight’s read talks all about fear(s). One of my friends asked whether the reading was addressing who we were while we were drinking, or who we were when we quit ? It can go both ways.

Another friend of mine, who is back around again, after a spectacular crash and burn over the summer, spoke about the house he is building now, this time around. That house, he had lived in had to look pretty, because he was consumed with what people thought of him, while he was suffering the terrible disease of excessive people pleasing.

He is currently Fumigating the house he lives in now. Trying to find where all the termites are, that destroyed the foundation he once had. And he says that, now, the house may not be so pretty on the outside, as it once was. The paint may be peeling, and there are serious cracks in the walls, which he is not covering up this time with pretty pictures.

He sees the value in being who he is, today, and working diligently, on himself, and who he is today. Admitting that the man he is becoming is in a constant state of flux and change. And we may not like what we get this time, save for the honest attempt at humility and self-awareness.

We were all afraid for my friend, because we did not think he would get it all back because the fall was so steep and the pit all but swallowed him whole. And it has been a serious uphill battle for every day of sobriety. But he made it out of the pit and is rebuilding again.

The front group was small, but the conversation was deep.

A young man, who is in for the first time, wonders if he will ever achieve anything in his life that he can be proud of. Having something he can call his own, because right now, he is where many of us are, when we first come in.

Devoid of any money, possessions, or anything resembling what he is seeing from his peers and more importantly, his brothers and sisters in his family. He sees them with lives, marriages, children, homes. His sister is pregnant right now, and he sees them, “having it all, so it seems, on the outside,” Himself, he has very little to speak of beyond the home he lives in right now, (read: Rehab).

I started talking and went on and on. Relating how fear was always present for me, in my life, one way or another. When you introduced alcohol (and drugs) into my equation, the fears subsided, because I was told that alcohol would make it all better, the more I drank.

The first time around, when I got sick, and Todd said the word STOP, I was going to die, because I was very sick. I had literally, the clothes on my back. Todd provided the home I would live in for that period of time, along with everything in it.

I started sobriety with some serious FEARS. And one day at a time, those fears were mitigated, by what Todd taught me and how he directed that stage of my life. I survived, because he provided me a solution and salvation.

Because I trusted him as he asked me to do.

The fears were still there, and returned with a vengeance when he departed my life. And those fears ruled my life until I got sober, the second time around.

When I moved here to Montreal, I had two suitcases and four boxes. The first thing I bought when I got here, was a clock radio, that kept me company overnight.

Sadly, just the other day, 15 years later, that clock radio died a spectacular death.

When I got sober this time around, I had moved here for a better life. It had to be anything because what I had, was not much at all. I was living in famine, and poverty. So it HAD to get better.

Like I have said, time and time again, I did everything right. In hindsight, over the past fifteen years and a few months, listening to my friends talk about themselves, and knowing the choices I did make, and the life I lived because of those choices, I did everything RIGHT. Because I know how many of my friends are still cracked.

I heard our resident Old Timer say tonight that he did not have much when HE came in, but the rooms and the program looked really good to him, so he stuck around. And in his life, the miracle happened for him.

Miracles happen for all of us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. There is a MAGIC in the rooms that comes to us, being with our friends, night after night. Just knowing where many of my friends were, when they came in, and seeing how their lives filled out and how the miracle happened for them, it is Magic. It is God. It is Us. It is We.

One of my friends, was down and out like I was. He was living in a hovel, washing clothes in his tub, delivering pizzas for cash. All he wanted was to kill himself, but he stuck around, today fifteen years later, he lives in a big house. He is married with children, and he works for a company that affords him travel around the world.

Because, like me, when he came in, we did everything we were told to do. We boded our time. We went to meetings, we did direct acts against our wills. (read: we did what we were told, and decided NOT to take matters into our own hands).

Magic happened. Only a handful of us, who got sober, WHEN we got sober, made it all the way to this point with us. Many of our friends did not make it, in one swing. Many of them Sputtered. Skipped. Stopped. Went back out, came back in, some right away, many though, took months and years to get back.

A good handful of them are dead.

After the meeting I was in the kitchen talking to a friend and we both agreed that

“We were not afraid anymore.”

Many of us have put in The Time. The Effort. And THE WORK.

And over the years, all that hard work, paid off in SPADES.

Many of us rebuilt our lives, filled with worth and meaning. We earned everything that we have through hard work and perseverance. And nobody can take that away from us, because we earned what we have through Hard, Honest, WORK.

I think about having a terminal illness myself. And how that played out for me. For a very long time, I was living with one foot in today, and one foot in the grave. I had lived, in the space “Waiting for that other shoe to drop.” or “The pills to stop working.” or “Waiting to die.”

I am still alive. I’m not afraid of dying. I stand in front of my medicine cabinet every night, grateful and thankful for what is in my medicine cabinet. Because I know, today, that:

I am Not going to Die Today … One day at a time.

I spoke last night about how all of us have crossed a very important threshold in our lives, all at the same time. The period of living in ambiguity is over. We made it to the other side.

God opened the doors across the board for all of us. And I think, as I was talking to my friend in the kitchen that, I can finally breathe again.

It was as if, I had been holding my breath, as I walked my guys through ambiguity, and I did not know where the “other side” was, or how long it was going to take to get HERE today. But we arrived HERE today.

And I can breathe again. Because I am no longer AFRAID. For Them or Myself.

The magic happened. The miracle happened. It took years of hard, blood, sweat and tears to get here. But with perseverance, one day at a time, we all made it safely over the water.

I can’t tell you where you are going, but I can show you where I walked, and how this all works, and tell you that, you just have to start with one step. Or step one.

I’m an alcoholic and I am powerless over alcohol, and my life is unmanageable.

I find great strength in saying that turning my life over, having constant direction, as I needed it, when I needed it, on a daily basis, helped me build the life I inhabit today.

By the grace of God and the fellowship, I have everything I ever needed, and not a drop more. My cup is full and I am grateful for small mercies. And miracles.

I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.

I never imagined that this was possible, because, all those years ago, I was at day one, with nothing to call my own. Today I have a home and love and good friends, and the love of a child in my life.

My heart overflows.

Fear has no room to live when our lives are full of love and goodness to overflowing.

When we are not plying our bodies and minds with drugs and alcohol, anything is possible, if we just Re-Orient, and begin to build that life we were meant to live.

I have a life, because I am no longer afraid …

God has done for me, what I could not do for myself.

Gratitude overflows …