What a day, what a week, what a life …
After two months of scheduling, one of my most favorite people, well, one of my most favorite young women, spoke for me tonight.
She Is Joy Overload !!!
A while back, my best friend turned me on to a book. The Spirituality of Imperfection, Storytelling and the Search for Meaning, by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham.
HE had read the book, previously, because a friend gifted him the book at a meeting some years ago. So, He read the book, and then gave said book to me. I read, said book, and while reading the book, time and time again, I saw my best friend within the read.
Meaning: He had learned, and then employed certain Spiritual Principles. Every time I hit a topic that he had learned, then employed, I noted it in the margin. I was totally impressed by the way he had learned and how he used what he learned with ME.
Now, my best friend, another one of my guys, and His Girlfriend, née fiancée, have read the book too. The book has made the rounds of people, in the rooms. I have certain friends, who have had a hard time with sobriety. I bought them a copy of the book, and asked them to read it, to maybe get a handle on simple spirituality, based on the premise that we are all that we are.
That we are NOT one or the other, or a This or a That.
That we are human, and imperfect and that to embrace our humanity to embrace ALL that we are, warts and all, in a tremulous balance of Love, God and Spirituality, there can be a beginning.
Our Imperfect-ness …
There are people, FEW, people I know, who haven’t necessarily read this book, but in knowing them, this far, in my journey, THEY live and inhabit spiritual principles. I can hear it in the way they speak, in the way they work with others, and if you listen closely, you too will hear it as well.
Back in June, I had spoken at the Thursday meeting, and that was a BIG shit show. The following Tuesday, I spoke at an evening meeting, talking about Step 11. Prayer and Meditation and God. Yes, I know this topic very well, and I can talk about it till the cows come home.
I was the opening act for my very favorite woman, Miss. Joy Overload.
When she finished speaking that night, I felt something I had never realized before. I had a feeling of spiritual truth, of honesty and of spiritual principles. WHY ???
Because I had read this little Tome of a book, and I was listening with not only my mind, or my ears, I was listening to her with my heart and soul. I had learned this by reading the book. I have accepted certain spiritual axioms into my practice, therefore giving me the ability to “Experience.”
Experience is everything.
Spirituality is not a Sunday morning event. Spirituality is not a once a day prayer, or a once a night prayer. Spirituality is something that we LIVE, every day, every hour, every minute.
Spirituality is something we learn to LIVE. Every Day … Every Hour.
At this stage in my game, I’ve learned this way of life. I know what it looks like, and what it feels like. To walk near God. To live near God. To stay “On The Beam” for more of my day, than being “Off The Beam.”
The more we move Towards God, the better our life can be. Because when me move towards God, life tends to take a more spiritual tack. Learning this principle took a very long time for me.
For most of my life, in the In Between times, I thought I had to live life according to the worlds specifications. When I got sober the second time, I turned my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood Him, at that time in my life.
I’ve spent the better part of fifteen years perfecting my connection to the God of my understanding, by learning and inhabiting spiritual principles.
This did not come overnight, by any means.
Spiritual practice is like sobriety. You have to practice every day.
We need each other. We need each other’s stories. We need community, and the care, love and support it provides.
Together, we need to Remember, Together.
It is not good for man or woman to be alone. And we know, as my friend spoke words tonight, that together, we can do many things. And you know the axiom of “When two people get together, there I AM in their midst.”
When two drunks get together, there God is …
There is something to be said about the power the fellowship has to help each other heal those areas of life that need to be forgiven and healed. And the book does say, and we say as well, “That eventually, in a meeting, now or later, you will hear another human tell your story. The book goes on to say that “in community, when we hear our story mirrored back to us, we are forgiven and we are healed.”
The fellowship might give us a way to quit the drink, and never have to drink again, the truth is that, unless you live inside spiritual principles and come to learn and know the God of your understanding, your chances are less than average.
Because there are those too, who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. If you cannot be honest with yourself, How in God’s universe can you be honest with God ???
I have friends, they are friends, because we sit in rooms together, they might not call ME a friend, but they are … They who are just white knuckling it, who just won’t Let Go and Let God.
Tonight, my lady friend told us how to do that.
You never know when the message is going to sink in and settle where it needs to.
Which is why we keep coming back.
We stick around until the miracle happens …
Lorna Kelly once said, in her wisdom about alcoholism,
“Only You know what you do in secret…”
The Book says, that at some point in your sobriety, the only thing that will stand between YOU and a DRINK, will be your Higher Power.
The Book also says that, the obsession of EVERY alcoholic is this …
“That one day, we will be able to drink normally like other people.”
The Thursday meeting did not disappoint again, tonight. One of my friends spoke. What goes on in Vegas, is supposed to stay in Vegas. Well, we know tonight, that adage is not really true.
All it takes is a shot of tequila while standing in a pool at an expensive hotel on the strip. Take a sober man, put him in a POOL with his fellows on a business trip, far from home, disconnected from his sobriety, and hand him a shot !!!
At first, he tosses the first magical elixir SHOT into the pool, much to the consternation of his fellows, so they hand him a second SHOT, this time, he downs that shot, and is off to the races. One shot devolves, from that expensive Hotel pool on the strip into seedy hotels off the strip, lots more alcohol, girls, and illicit drugs.
Thank God he had the presence of mind to STOP. He takes himself to the airport, a few days short of completing this business trip, and pays $2500.00 for a plane ticket, and comes home.
Straight men, in the corporate world have it really bad because we heard him say that the corporate world is COLD, and that MONEY is COLD.
14 months ago, that few night slip took place. Thank God, 14 months later, he is sober.
At the end of the meeting, the 12 step rep got up there and handed the chip.
Surprise, surprise, a man I know well, got up and took that chip.
Many years ago, a man came in. Reticent, and Unrepentant. At that time, I was not as sober as I am today. And what I did not know then, I would not figure out, what I did not know, until I was on the other side, looking back at it, right now today.
Nonetheless, one night, after a meeting, I sat with this man, and gave him the speech. Told him what I was doing, and how I work with others. Needless to say, he did not want what I was selling.
And to this day, he still does not want what I am selling.
You can only WHITE KNUCKLE it for so long. Because eventually, YOU are going to drink again. My gay friends, in the rooms, have not much love for me, because they all think I am a bit mental, and crazy, and they are, and have been the most judgmental about my personal appearance and my presence in meetings.
For the whole of my sobriety, I have watched people. I’ve listened to them talk. And I know what they are doing, and what they are not doing. I know, many things about my friends, that they don’t even know about themselves, until they drink again.
My particular friend, has been white knuckling it for a long time.
Here was a SURRENDER that was YET to happen…
My friend is a member at the Monday meeting. And for the last many months, he comes in, shakes hands perfunctorily, and sits down. For the last many months, he has been more OBSESSED with a light switch on the wall, rather than paying attention to reading the book, that we have been reading religiously for the last 14 months.
He is more concerned with that fucking light switch, rather than his sobriety.
Because he is the guy who shuts the switch, turns on the switch, and when to flip the switch.
He’s been doing this for months. Now I recognize that behavior, looking back at it, because I heard many times before, that if you are disconnected at meetings, that you really need to reconnect, at your own peril.
Over the weekend last, he thought to himself, and he said this to the room that,
“If I had a drink, one drink, in SECRET, nobody would know …”
Well, God knew. And He knew as well.
Stubborn pig-headed queer men are the bane of my existence. My gay friends don’t want to know me, and they are fixated on topics that I have already walked through myself, but over the past year, these are the same men who shunned me and snickered at me, while I was in my cups and at my worst, mentally and emotionally.
My friend took a drink, in secret, hoping nobody would find out.
I may not have been as sober as some think of me today. But the good God’s honest truth is, I am still sober, and I did not drink, even in the worst of my personal hell over the past year, I stuck it out, white knuckling it, as I figured this hell out for myself.
Yet, I have the presence of mind at meetings to pay more attention to my friends, than on my own self. I read the book, I share from my heart. My straight friends are A LOT more supportive in the grand scheme of things, than my gay friends.
Somewhere, deep in my consciousness, now that tonight took place, that the warning signs were there all along. I had seen them materialize. I knew what they looked like, now on the other side of an intentional SLIP.
Lorna warned me, warned us. Because this man was sitting in the same West Island Round up when she spoke those words to us about the Secrets we keep to ourselves and having to guard our secret moments, we keep to ourselves.
More than once, in her share, she said and I quote …
Alcoholism, is like a snake, slithering through fine china and wine glasses, across the table, at an epicurean feast fit for a queen, is always there. And on the second night of that feast, a fellow lady at the table suggested to her that she drink, to “enhance the pasta dish,” and in that moment she had a choice, to DRINK or NOT to drink.
She put down her fork and knife, put her hands in her lap and said the Serenity Prayer to herself. Thereby avoiding a slip at that table.
The day after, she had an emotional breakdown in her room thankful that she had God in her corner and that she knew what to do in that moment of choice …
She did not drink that wine, and was sober until the day she died almost a year ago, in the Thirty something sober range….
The Book of Forty is closing. The Book of Fifty is about to be opened.
I know God is in my life because my spiritual directors, Spencer and Randall kept me on that connection every day.
I am sober and made my Statement of Faith the other day in my Inventory …
Monday I will be Fifty … And I will be SOBER…
There is a God and I am not He.
Some of my friends are not so lucky.
The Book says, an alcoholic Will Drink Again. Lorna said that We must be diligent in our secret spaces.
And Mother Teresa said to Lorna, on her sickbed that…
YOU MUST PROTECT THIS SPECIAL GIFT … (read Sobriety)
One thing I know for sure is that if you were to make that call in a rage it would never bring you peace, but then again, neither would living without closure. The peace you are looking for will come to regardless of what your family does or does not do. That must be your goal, to reach conclusive harmony independent of what they choose to be.
Your question is insightful. What do we do with the horrible truth? What do we do with a justified rage? It is all fine and well to say “love thy neighbor, and honor thy father and mother,” but then those people do something like this. What then?
First, you cannot diminish or try to deny the fact that the rage is there. Sometimes good Christians try to bury emotions like these because they don’t feel like a christian should ever have them, but we do. We can’t just hope for them to disapear. Emotions, like energy, are neither created nor destroyed. They only change forms under certain conditions, and that is exactly what can happen to this last complex of work for you to do.
It requires certain catalysts in order to break down a mass of pent up anger. You have to fill your soul with so much light that it forces the darkness into submission. Coming to peace with something as entrenched as this requires your own personal Gethsemane. When the spirit of Christ is at work, it can literaly break down the worst in our lives. The spirit of Christ comes to us in the form of truth, so we have to saturate our minds and hearts with it. We feast on the scriptures. We pray with an intensity we have never known. We meditate on things as they really are, as they really were, and as they really will be. We plead with God to do the real work for us.
Then, slowly but surely, we start to feel our anger changing shape and flavor. It gradually undergoes a change from rage into strength. The storm becomes calmed. The huge tangle of emotions has been examined, undone, and ironed out into a clear vision. We realize that we haven’t cast aside the rage, we have transmuted it into something useful and not destructive to ourselves and others. When you can think of it all, all that they did, and all that they might yet do, with that calm inner strength, that reassurance that you are at total peace and they have no more power to effect you in any way, when you have achieved that firmness of mind not to be swayed in your resolve to maintain your peace, then you can do anything, even look them all square in the face, and whatever they do, whether they vomit up all their old bile over again, or beg your forgiveness, it would change nothing about how you feel in your own shoes.
At that point you have taken the high ground. If they lash out, it is like a man shouting at the sea to stop producing the tide. You have united yourself with a force of nature, the creator of nature, and you cannot be stopped or swayed. They might choose to struggle with their own poison for the rest of their lives, but you will be free.
As to what God thinks of you and your situation, if you fill your mind with enough light to dislodge this hurdle in your progress, his desires for you will be revealed so naturally you will hardly have to ask. Light shows us the pathway we need to travel. The light of spirit reveals the mind of God. God knows better than any of us what it is to endure injustice and shame. We took upon himself such a load of it that it defies human comprehension. There is no better source to go to learn to pass through it, because he knows it so well.
My advice? Find peace. Take the high ground. Then you will not be asking for closure from them. You will already have closure regardless of what they say or do or think. Then, if you feel ready, in your mercy, you might give them one final chance to have closure, and if they refuse it you will pity them, but no longer hate them.
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 …
This post is brought to you by The Book of Mormon, No, the Real Book of Mormon.
Jacob: Chapter 5.
I have spoken in the past about God, the universe, and where I believe we exist in the grand scheme of things. That a little portion of the universe is in us, and the universe is the heavens. And if both exist together as a whole, yet in two places at once, we are eternally connected to all that is, which brings us into unity with the universe.
The Universe (read:God) knows all, and sees all, and facilitates all. Before we even think a thought, or have a feeling, or speak a word, the universe, connected to us intimately from within, already knows what is in our hearts.
The Universe Always Conspires to Help Us.
Even if we don’t want that help, or know it is there for us, but I know today, that over time, the universe reveals to us, the wonders of life, creation and inspiration.
I had an enlightening conversation with my Elder friend Spencer last night. While in Montreal, on his mission, that ended last fall, Spencer realized a progression of coincidences began to happen, in rapid succession, over long periods of time.
But we know, there are no coincidences, only God. For those who believe in God.
We met on a Metro platform, and over the weeks, as we sat together and talked about God, Faith and Life, that coincidental progression began again.
We did not know one another, but as the days and weeks progressed, our conversations turned into serious topics. And as God is, made manifest to us.
Spencer was LIT with God. This young man, knew his book, knew his faith, and knew his God. He was a miraculous presence in my life. And subsequently, we are friends to this day.
It was serendipitous.
On our last meeting together, I handed Spencer my 14 year chip to take home with him. He carries it with him to this day. I gave him a mission to take home with him.
It was the best piece of advice he had been given while on his mission.
I asked him to purchase a journal, and begin documenting all the lessons he learned while he was here. He had journal-ed while he was here and he had certain dates of importance and certain stories recorded.
Events only, not what he learned, or how he felt, or how each situation made him feel.
It was only when he went home, with my direction to write, did he begin to learn the wisdom of his mission.
We have spoken here, at length, about being ON THE BEAM, when it comes to God and Spirituality. Spencer and I, are, On The Beam, together.
Returning home, he wrapped himself up in the transition of going home, beginning his university career, and over that first month, we had not reconnected yet.
He Fell Off The Beam, so to speak.
We had ventured up a mountain, saw and met God, and when we parted, we both came down from that mountain. Spencer into darkness, myself into unknowing.
We now know, that we have to carry that mountain within us, every day, to the best of our ability, some days are better than others. There is wisdom in that.
Spencer said that while he was off the beam and disconnected while we had not begun to talk again regularly, it was a very dark and disorienting time for him, one that he does not want to repeat.
Our subsequent re connection was the best antidote for the darkness that fell upon him.
We know this now, because hindsight is our best teacher.
Last night, Spencer mentioned God, and thus it went:
God did not just throw everything together in one fell swoop, and BANG, the Universe was created. No. God carefully selected and collected all the constituent parts together, very slowly and methodically. Every perfect piece that is everything, is gathered together, over long periods of time.
And then creation happens. God knows what he is doing, in the cosmic realm.
So it went with Spencer’s Mission, followed by our friendship.
In hindsight now, Spencer speaks of God, thus…
Over that two-year period, looking back now, through journals, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and effects, God sprinkled our paths with bread crumbs, puzzle pieces, so to speak.
Sometimes, we need distance between the past and the now, to see the wisdom of God, in the grand scheme of things.
These coincidences, or as the Big Book calls it, God Consciousness, are littered throughout Spencer’s Mission and my life. The past few months of his mission included meeting me and beginning our friendship.
There were many spiritual lessons to be learned by both of us, from one another. And as these coincidences began to unfold, it fueled our spiritual journey together.
Spencer knows now, the wisdom in his experiences, because he added experience, feelings and outcomes to those journal entries.
The DOT on the map, with one event, became a web of everything, that is still in motion to this day.
Over time, God reveals puzzle pieces to us, one at a time. And Not all at once.
Little by slowly, God reveals his plans and ministrations to us. It might not seem that way to many, who do not necessarily see things in Spiritual or Godly terms.
But we do. Because we have eyes to see and ears to hear and hands to work.
There is a tapestry that has unfolded for both Spencer and myself.
Every decision we make. Every person we meet. Every person we minister to, is on our path for a certain reason. We either have something to learn from them, and/or they have something to learn from us.
There are no coincidences, as to why Spencer was standing on that platform that afternoon, and we met, greeted and now we are here almost a year later.
God’s handy work, at revealing “Little Things” one at a time, takes time to reach the point where a partial picture, most of the picture, or the whole picture is revealed.
Both Spencer and myself know, today, the picture of his mission. In our discussions, we have greater understanding of those two years, now that we are removed from them.
And God had dropped puzzle pieces, one at a time for both of us.
Spencer was on his mission, and I was in my life.
It was on that Metro platform that God introduced us, for a specific reason.
Spencer to speak of God, and my needing some serious spiritual help at the time, because my life was in turmoil and had fallen apart. And Spencer was the spiritual glue that put everything back together, along with a few key people in my life.
The Vineyard …
In the book of Jacob, the master of the vineyard and his servants are caring for olive trees. Some had fallen fallow, some are doing better than others. And some are dying.
As the story unfolds, the trees that need help are rooted, dug out, watered, and cared for. In some of the trees, the dead branches are pruned, and in some trees, they graft wild branches into them to fortify and save the trees.
Over time, the wild branches take over the good tree, the roots are overcome, and the wild trees bear bad fruit. Unusable an unprofitable.
Over time, trees are moved from one location in the vineyard to others. Some to good soil, and some to not so good soil. The subsequent outcome is that some trees prosper and others do not.
And in the end the vineyard falls into disrepair and all the trees end up in fire.
The vineyard is lost.
What do we have ? Good trees, Bad Trees, Good Fruit and Bad Fruit and Wild Fruit.
Not all the fruit harvested is worth anything.
So it goes with people. People, like trees, and all living things, need nourishment, love and care. A vineyard can be small, or it can be huge.
In our lives, there are good trees and bad trees. Some trees take root and grow by the work of our hands and hearts, and some do not root, do not grow, and turn wild unto themselves.
Sometimes we have to prune our vineyards.
We are finite humans, with only so much capability of maintaining a vineyard.
Humans, cannot be all things to all people all at the same time.
Hindsight speaks once again…
Both Spencer and I were working in our respective vineyards, when we met.
I have shared with you, in the past, some of those encounters, after the fact, looking back on his mission. I also have hindsight into my own vineyard.
The pruning of my vineyard was beginning before we had met. As the trees that were wild, and the trees that we not growing accordingly, we pruned right out from under me, much to my dismay.
I had been in the middle of an emotional upheaval when Spencer came into my life, and the serious pruning had been done. Looking back, God, in His infinite wisdom, knew what He was doing. It is only now that we learn the how and the why…
Jacob Chapter 5.
In my work, I cannot be all things to all people, and I have only a certain amount of spiritual, mental and emotional energy to devote to my peers.
Some of my trees rotted out from under me. Some of my trees needed to be cut down and burned. And just a certain few of my trees still exist, are growing in good soil and are prospering.
My vineyard is much smaller today.
Those people who were not growing and sapping me of my good will and love, have been pruned away. Those people who remain in my vineyard are good trees who have grown up around me and they bear good fruit.
The Basis of Recovery is to have a spiritual experience, and for each of us, in our own ways, to expand our spiritual lives.
The basis of Mission is to meet people in the field. To bring them the Book, and walk them into a community of faith. The vineyard is full of different trees that respond each in their own ways, to our working in them.
Some trees took root, grew and prospered. Many did not.
Spencer came and planted me a tree. It has grown, prospered and bares good fruit.
Our relationship is the fruit that was bore, so many months ago.
Not everybody IN our lives, are meant to BE in our lives forever.
Some are meant to be there for just a season, others, may be around longer. It just depends on God’s plan.
The people meant to be in our lives, stay for one reason, because we invest in one another, to the degree that we thrive on each other’s presence.
The bane of recovery, not everyone who walks into our lives, will stay.
Some will take root, for a bit, hang on for dear life, and many will fall away, go fallow and end up in the fire.
Then there are those who will take root, grow, prosper and bear fruit. The odds are stacked against the many, but a handful succeed.
Knowing who to invest in, and why is the key.
Knowing when to prune our vineyards is key, also.
I thought that pruning my vineyard on my own was a bad decision, until I learned that I did not need permission to prune my vineyard.
In the end, God did the pruning for me.
Now I Know…
Spencer read me excerpts from Jacob chapter 5, last night. I read the chapter myself today, and the lesson about the vineyard was instructive and divinely appropriate for me right now.
I know that if I pray, and don’t get a direct prompt, then I have to go listen to my friends talk, and usually, an answer comes, if I have ears to hear it and eyes to see it.
Living On The Beam takes a lot of work, patience and commitment.
One either decides to invest in a Spiritual or Godly life, or you don’t.
Those who do invest, seem to take root and live much better lives.
Last night, I spoke to a friend about gratitude, after the meeting.
Our visitor was from out of the city, she was sober a while, and had a fresh new message we had never heard. The story about loosing everything, coming into recovery, and then getting most or all of it back, are few and far between.
Our woman last night had lost it all. And now 11 years later, she is eternally grateful for the rooms, and of us, who took care of her.
And a thought came to mind last night as we were walking home …
People who come from the First world have huge problems with gratitude. They don’t know the rest of the world from Adam.
People who come from the Third world, have much less a problem with gratitude than their peers. Because they know what going without means and feels like personally.
And so it went in my vineyard.
My First world trees fell fallow and ended up in the fire. My Third world trees all prospered and are doing better than the others.
Not sure where that thought came from, but it made clear sense to me as I shared the words with my friend.
In the Original Manuscript of the Big Book, on page 26 of that manuscript, Step Seven reads: Humbly, on our knees, asked Him to remove our shortcomings, holding nothing back.
There are such religious notions, peppered throughout the Original Manuscript. Not all of them made it into the first printing of the Big Book in 1939.
I actually have a First Edition Big Book, printed in 1939.
Some of the more drastic “suggestions” that might seem, just a little too harsh for the sensibilities of those who see the Judeo-Christian influences in the Big Book, a problem in getting sober, were scrubbed from the final copy that went to print.
In one pass at my Steps a few years ago, in reading the Twelve and Twelve, approached Step Seven with this process: Read Step Seven, and find every word Humble or Humility.
Step Seven is the Step where we encounter this term. Humility.
- What does it mean,
- What does it look like,
- And how do I find it for myself ?
For me, as I have stayed sober, Humility has been defined and refined over my years.
One friend tonight said that for him, “Humility was the recognition that he was not as big as he thought he was, but also that he was not as small as he thought he was either.”
Others talk about being “Right Sized” What does “Right Sized” mean ?
My definition of Humility, at this moment, means, “I don’t know.” I also add that, one specific old timer has offered to me that, “If I think I know something, I’d better sit down, and keep my mouth shut.”
Humility asks us to be Vulnerable to that Power Greater than Ourselves.
We constantly work towards turning it over, to that Power, which I choose to call God, every day.
Humility has been the lesson that has been hammered home in my life over the last year.
When the Orlando Tragedy happened, I threw in my spiritual towel and I cursed God. I fell apart in public, and fell to my knees, sobbing, pleading God to help me, because I was bereft, and had no idea how to begin to figure out why I was on my knees sobbing.
It all begins, when we get on our knees.
We might not know the reason why ? But to defer to God, and set one’s self before God in humble supplication, begins on one’s knees.
I learned that in Seminary. Why we prayed, and why we knelt and what it meant as men who came together to learn how to follow God. The men who were leading us, in the end, turned out, not to be the finest example of humility, based on the scandals they caused during their tenures in their priesthoods.
I wanted, so badly, to count myself as a man who would serve God. I made God that promise all those years ago, as a teen-ager, with stars of God in my eyes.
That promise to serve God would take my entire life to figure out.
It has to be the right time, the ground fertile, and I would be able to fulfill that promise, one way or another.
A year ago, I fell to my knees, and was rebuked by a man who was LONG sober, rebuking me that “You think you are so special, that we should treat you differently, You are such a child.”
I could have slapped the shit out of him right then and there. I could have hurt him seriously, in that moment, but my better judgment took over, and I got up, wiped my face and walked away, keeping my mouth shut, and not saying a word or acting on my impulses.
Thank God, Elder Spencer came into my life.
I don’t think I would have made it without him, today.
Sometimes, I have shared, that I need to be Bitch Slapped by God, in order for Him to get my attention.
Oprah has a better definition of this process:
God speaks to us in a whisper. If He whispers and we miss it the first time, He will whisper again. If we miss it the second time, He hits us over the head with a 2 x 4, if we miss Him the third time, finally, He drops a wall on top of us.
I actually lived this out a few years ago.
I’m not sure God was trying to get my attention, with a catastrophic massacre of kids in a nightclub to get me to notice Him. But He had my attention for sure.
Which led to an entire year of trying to find God, after I had cursed Him as I sat where I am sitting right this very moment.
Enter Elder Spencer … There are no coincidences. Only God.
I was there at one time, now I am here.
Now I Know !
The message is loud and clear. My life and sobriety are all about God and His goodness and kindness. I can let go of that old, tired and miserable story.
Sobriety today is about Humility, Faith, Love and the Atonement.
The Atonement makes everything work.
Without it we are nothing, and can be nothing.
Humbly, on our knees, we asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Holding Nothing Back.
It was another beautiful day in the neighborhood. Much warmer than it was yesterday, and we will take any day full of sun, as we can get. It might be the second week of June, but before we know it, it will be the beginning of September, and Summer will all but be gone.
For the past few months, I have witnessed new members coming to our rooms, that we have not seen, at all, in the past. Montreal’s Jewish community is legendary. When I got sober, this time around, it was the Jewish Chabad community, who took me in and cared for me when I needed it most.
Whenever I am able, I give back, until I am empty.
It seems, as of late that, we are serving the Hasidim community on a much more personal level. I’ve been listening to our men talk, about their struggles, their families and their troubles with addiction.
Addiction knows no barrier when it comes to the who and the why. Everyone is fair game. With communities that are insulated, they usually deal with daily problems, “in house, among themselves.”
Montreal is a city that is based in communal living. With many religious and ethnic communities existing side by side. But again, there are certain conversations that are only dealt with, inside the sacred circle of that respective community.
For a handful of men, they have left the security of their communities, and they have found their way into our rooms. And I have been paying attention to them, personally.
Today we read from the book, and the chapter: The Perpetual Quest.
It is a story about a woman, who reaches her bottom, and finds her way to the rooms, in her city. The portion of the read I focused on was the last three pages of the story, where she hears just what she needs to do to stay sober.
I chose the reading, because, if we could cut, copy and paste this portion of the story, and hand this document out to newcomers or, more to the point, to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking, we would have our work done for us, in one swing.
Many people talk about the suggestions.
Service, Meetings, Big Books, Steps and Sponsors.
Everybody hears the same message, from the get go. Many of us would rather eat dirt, than follow a simple suggestion.
This problem exists everywhere. There is a lot of anger being spoken about. Yet, we come to meetings, anyways. Because we are told that if we show up, the rest will fall into place.
Getting sober is just the tip of the iceberg for many members and my friends. Many people come with multiple problems, and are cross addicted, or have more than, “just a drinking problem.” And I heard those words spoken again tonight.
Our new men, who come from their respective communities have said to us that they deal with more than just drinking. And people across the board, beg the question, “what do I do with the twenty four hours, each day?”
One answer I heard tonight was, “well, as long as you are sitting in a meeting, you can knock that hour off the time line.” And “the more meetings you fit into your weekly schedule, the less time you have to spend in your head.”
When we come into sobriety from whatever addiction we inhabit, we begin to cleanse the temple of our bodies, that God has given us.
I was not sure how to approach this topic with our men, I just spent the last hour with my Elder friend Spencer and he gave me some sound advice, at how to bridge faiths.
Now I have an idea of what I need to do. God brings certain people and problems into our lives for a specific reason. We either know what to do, or, we know other people, who might know what to do, or we ourselves learn what it is we need to know, in order to serve the greater good.
I have faith. I have the book. I have my knowledge. And I have God, in my pocket.
If some have left the security of insulation, searching for a solution they need, because they have suffered and have transgressed their scriptures and proscriptions and doctrines and covenants of Judaism, they have come to places that I exist in.
I have a desire to help them, and tonight, I was taught, what it was that I did have, by someone I respect fully, and now from him, I know what I can do, with the tools God has already given me.
There is a three fold recipe that is necessary for transmission:
- One, you need a Human Being
- Two, you need the Book
- Three, you need a problem that you can give context to, teaching wise
If you have these three dynamic pieces, miracles happen.
Spencer was at the MTC this week, and he met a young missionary.
While Spencer was here, in Montreal, he worked in Cornwall, a few hours drive from Montreal. While there he ministered to our young man’s grandfather, who was, later, baptized in the church.
His grandson, our young Elder in training, there in Utah, had met Spencer here, while on his mission. It was a Miracle Full Circle moment for him. Because our young man said to him, weren’t you in Canada, that answer was yes. Weren’t you in Cornwall, that answer was also yes, he put the pieces together that before our young man was called to his mission, he met Elder Spencer here in Canada, during His mission.
How often do you see someone in a foreign country, and meet them and share time with, and then find out that they are right in your own back yard, preparing to go on their very own mission ???
That is a miracle for sure.
Today, I spoke a second time, I got to finish what I had begun a couple of weeks ago, when I spoke for the first time in years. Tonight, I spoke about God. And I was on fire. It went very well. Our Second Speaker knocked it out of the park. She was just amazing. I was so moved, the story was beautiful. I may get her to speak for me later on.
A thought that came to me as I meditated on my talk, last night before bed, came in a whisper. In order to find God, one must begin with Gratitude.
We are given the authority to label things. Then we live with the consequences.
As I sat in a building purpose built for worship, I watched as at least a hundred people walked in, crossed them selves, knelt, and labelled that space as sacred. The same naming has been done by thousands of people for decades in that place. The walls are painted and named on behalf of certain stories and blessings. And daily prayers and rituals are done in that space bringing even more purpose filled direction to that specific space.
It finally clicked. After watching my catholic housemates do things that my ex-evangelical mind didn’t understand for a few months, it finally clicked.
We label things, and that labelling holds with it such power.
Every time I walk into a Catholic church, I am filled with awe. A deep respect. Even if I don’t agree with every conclusion made about the physical building. There is still honour and awe enough in me that I take off my hat, and I walk around quietly.
I grew up in a church that was a white shoe box. No decoration. No labelling. No awe inspiring. Just dirty carpet, weird smells, and white walls. But there was always something special when a bunch of us would gather. We would gather around a campfire and sing into the night. We would gather on a soccer pitch and compete. We would gather to go on a road trip. And thats where our labelling was held. Not a building. But a gathering point.
So as we gathered for pentecost, we combined the two. This physical location that had been drenched in prayer and labelling and a gathering of a community. One that loved each other and celebrated a time that the spirit was first liberally poured out on the people of God. And the spirit fell again. I have journaled that much in a long time. I haven’t felt joyous shivers down my spine whilst songs I didn’t understand were sung around me for months or more. Tangible yet spiritual God, met spiritual yet physical humanity, and we celebrated the union.
Fast forward to this morning. A week ago I had finished reading a history of the orthodox church. And I wanted to see what I had read in action. So I figured out a place and a time. 8am, old town. And got there on time. I waited for an old lady to walk in, and following her I found myself in an almost empty giant church. I found a seat (not normal in orthodoxy, everyone stands) and got my journal out. A man started singing, occasionally responded to by another man behind a door. And after awhile a group of women started singing to. It was heavenly. It smelled awesome. And although there was only 5 people there, once again, this space had been labelled a place of worship. Of community. Of meaning. Once again I journaled like crazy, and then moved on to a second orthodox church. Smaller. More intimate. But just as beautiful.
We live in houses that get labelled “home”. We are educated in the halls of schools that are sometimes labelled as safe spaces, but are more likely places of tumult. And ultimately we are all apart of nation states that have labelled out populace, our neighbours and our history, one way or another.
And after a year and a half in a country not my own, watching my own from a far. I have this deep desire to walk nations through a process of conviction. We parts of our history we need to deal with. And what parts of our future we need to dream about and work towards.
I want to paint this world with life, because death sucks. And a life paint for ALL, not just an elite few. And i feel like God calls us to label sacred spaces, to connect with Him, but also to become sacred spaces that walk this earth, connecting with others so that God can work through our sacred spaces in his redemption plan for eternity.
Be a sacred space. Clean house.
What does one say, after another senseless killing of innocents ? How many times can you say “I’m sorry, or I feel your pain, or I stand with you ?” If the world does not stand together every day and every hour and every minute, we aren’t doing our jobs.
This utter disrespect of life, needs to be eradicated from the face of the earth.
The governments who support terrorism, need to be stopped. The Radical Teachings of a religion that is based in peace, need to be eradicated from teaching institutions. Weeds like this need serious weed killers. The world is in a position that extreme measures need to be taken.
We need to stop the killing at any cost.
I’ve been hearing people talk about where the Islamic Order for killing came from, it came from Mohamed himself. Sadly, there are those who have taken his words quite literally, and this order of Jihad has brought us to he point where, the world needs to act decisively.
I am not a scholar of Islam. I studied Islam in University, and was the only branch of my studies that I failed. I just was not able write a paper worthy of respect and recognition.
Bastardized religion is a scourge on our world, and this problem is not confined to one single faith practice. This problem is well-known, and wide-spread, however some would never admit that they speak a creed, and follow a faith, that is not true faith.
This evening I had a discussion with a friend about what needs to be done. I’m not sure a radical idea would gain traction and work. We are just not in a place to radically change the face of our world.
Canada is a country that has had its share of religious violence. Canada has its issues with people from other places, and the length this nation stooped and did irreparable damage to entire populations of men, women and children.
We have irreparably tarnished our relationships with Indigenous people’s who were here well before we were all here. And even today, recognition and reparations are long in coming.
Radical Islam has found its way into our country. And terror has been visited on both Canadians and Muslim’s alike. This is just fact.
We are not a nation that is immune to terror related violence. Then again, we are not Europe or the Middle East. We are removed from those theatres by an ocean and we lie much distant from the center of ignition.
Our citizens far and wide worry that with the Canada 150 Celebrations and here in Montreal, for our 375th, are we really safe and insulated from terror, that which we have seen happen world-wide ?
The Answer is NO.
Millions of people will be gathering over the summer months to celebrate, and we wonder, are we next ? How will our governments and our authorities, provincially and locally, provide protection when we have seen the lengths some will go to wreak havoc on unsuspecting innocents ?
We hear the words, “Canada is safe …” “But we cannot guarantee you 100% that you will be safe in public spaces.” But life must go on. Our nation has spent some serious money, preparing the ground for celebrations.
Underneath, how can you openly celebrate your country and your life and your good fortune to live here, when in other big cities around the world, people are dying in the streets.
I just don’t know what to tell my friends, who live in other cities, when they speak their questions to me. They beg the questions, and they know the answers, but still, we live with uncertainty.
Tragedy has become commonplace around the world. The perpetrators of Islamic Terrorism, have infected our national conscience. Too many people have been killed in too many places, for us to be able to ignore this taint in our common lives.
Living with having to have eyes in the back of ones head, or living with the need to always be looking over ones shoulder is terrible. yet, this is where we stand today.
We are wary of our neighbors. We do not love each other as ourselves. We are suspicious of those who are different. We hate too easily. Hatred is such an easy out for us, as the “Go To” way to live… Just Hate Everybody.
Hatred is easier than knowing yourselves, or your neighbors. Hatred is too easy, when we need to understand and have compassion.
You cannot point your finger and your fist towards everyone at the same time. It is far too easy, to judge everyone and everything. But what other choices do we have, when the world seems to be complicit in the blind, financial, and religious support of those whose only goal in their religious observance, is to kill the Infidel Indiscriminately.
Is this what God would want ? Is this what the Greater Power wants of us, to hate, and to persecute and to kill each other ?
That answer is categorically NO.
We must go on living, but not accept what it seems to me, a world that has allowed this unconscionable killing to go on for as long as it has been going on.
This centuries long episode of Conquer, Convert and Kill has to end.
We must find the resolve to call on our governments and our leaders to do Something, Anything. Everything.
Living a life in constant fear is not a life at all.
THE WORLD NEEDS TO ACT. DECISIVELY. NOW
This visual of the “Jam Jar” came up in our Elder discussion tonight.
My Elder friend works at the Missionary Training Center in Provo Utah. As a leader, it is his job to bring new missionaries into service. And hopefully before they depart Provo, they will have a basic understanding about what they need to have within, a foundation in service, to be able to give, and a working knowledge about The Book, they need to share.
Ministry and Sobriety are very similar.
In my life, and in my experience, service is the foundation for survival. When I was very ill, and Todd was taking care of me, the “doing” of service was the tool or lesson, so to speak, was where we began.
In Sobriety, this time around, way back when, people in the rooms, basically said, “You will do this, and learn to love it.” It wasn’t a suggestion, it was Gospel. Service was the beginning of getting sober. And service is something I live by, to this day.
Today’s generation cannot be bothered when you tell them what to do, because they look at you and say to your face … “You’ve got to be kidding, You can’t be serious, Why do I have to get my hands dirty, to stay clean and sober ???”
People don’t want to be told what to do, but in reality, this is what you NEED to do. It will keep you humble and focused on doing for others, just because, because this is what I did, and it worked for me.
People today, don’t have respect for long term experience. They cannot wrap their heads around it, service. Like us, Young Missionaries who come to the center, need to know how to serve and get their hands dirty in the classroom, because when they get into the field, they might need to get dirty, or wash dishes, or rake leaves, or something like that.
And if they are not prepared to give FIRST, they surely won’t be able to share the book, well, or at all, because they won’t have foundational abilities to give.
Having Elder Christensen in my life today is SO important to my spiritual growth. I have spiritual teachers in my life, spread all over the word, that I speak to regularly, who keep me on the spiritual beam, so to speak.
So here is my jam jar, filled with every little lesson I can teach you. Take that lesson filled jam jar home with you, open it and begin to use the tools within.
In the beginning, all we want you to do is serve others.
**** **** ****
Tonight we heard a woman from our community speak. What she shared, struck me familiar, because I had heard some of her story in others, in the past. Familiar themes exist in a community, and you hear of them every once in a while, they are not constant.
After several stops and starts, our woman makes her first pass at the rooms. She reaches her year and her husband says to her, after all that work that …
“You did a good job this year, getting and staying sober. Now you are CURED, you don’t need THOSE PEOPLE any more.”
What does she do? She walks away, and never returns. But she does stay sober for SIXTEEN YEARS.
She gets a real estate job, and she wants a particular listing. She takes this client out for dinner and a local ritzy restaurant in Westmount, very close to home. The waiter walks up to the table and the client orders a glass of wine.
Our long sober woman, takes a five second pause, while she considers ordering a glass of wine for herself. Those Five Seconds, change her life. She does indeed say to herself that, wow, I’ve been sober all this while and I haven’t had a drink, a glass of wine, how much harm can that cause ?
She orders a glass of wine and then has a second.
In six weeks time, from that point, she looses her marriage, her children, her job, and those clients she covets.
Four years of in and out begin.
Women suffer too …
By this time, almost twenty years have passed and she has not logged another long sober period, until she has a blackout and comes to, in her living room, surrounded by 20 wine bottles, laying on her living room floor.
She makes the call, and tries to find herself in a ritzy, spa, rehab. She does not.
There is a rehab here called Toxico Stop. It is rough and tumble. Not the kind of place a ritzy Westmount wife would find herself in. But that’s where she ends up.
A few of us in the room tonight were familiar with it, so it made us all giggle …
She meets some serious drug addicts and learns about heroine, and crack and all kinds of sordid addictions. All this is unfamiliar territory for her.
Three weeks later she comes out and finds herself at a meeting, and at the door, are two women, who knew her from almost twenty years ago. They recognize her and they take her in.
They give her the ground rules.
- You’re gonna go to these meetings,
- you are gonna do service,
- and your gonna READ the BOOK.
- These are non-negotiable.
It was like that for me too, fifteen years and six months ago as well.
Drunks and Addicts today, don’t want non-negotiables. They don’t want rules. And they sure as shit, don’t want to be told what to do. Because let’s face it …
It’s us who are crazy, not them. I would never listen to your suggestions, firstly, because this is the way ( I ) am going to get sober. They say …
The above notes experiences, I have heard them all before, never all together, but as bits and pieces of several story tellers.
Our woman is sober today. By the Grace of God.
She’s not so focused on old timers, but finds joy and humility is working with New Comers. Because they have the most to teach us about ourselves and our sobriety.
I know what I have to do now. I know who I want to be. I want to be like my Elder friend Spencer. And in order to be like him, I have to act, every day, LIKE HIM, and in that be LIKE Heavenly Father.
True to God and True to myself and my Fellows.
This is where it begins, and will follow.
If you are not grateful for the fact that you are free, you should be
If you are not grateful that you have not killed anyone, you should be
If you are not grateful that you have family, friends, and loved ones, you should be
If you are not grateful that you did not drink today, YOU SHOULD BE
There is no greater witness about what can go really wrong when we take that drink, than hearing someone on the INSIDE telling us how he went from mild mannered child to an alcoholic.
Accused, Sentenced, and Serving time for MURDER …
And in the midst of being incarcerated, our writer has found Inspiration, He has found his God, and has moments of Grace, all within the walls of PRISON.
I think we all have stories about what we used to be like when we drank. I heard a number of them tonight, including my own.
I may not agree with MANY of the things I heard come out of my parent’s mouths, but certain one liners, remain in my minds eye, even today.
My father used to say that: Once you speak words, you can never take them back.
Sadly, he did not listen to his own advice.
My mother used to tell me, in fact, I think she only said it once to me that: If you drink, you better never get caught, because if you do, we won’t bail you out.
Impressively, those words stuck in my brain, a very long time ago. I may have been stopped, once or twice, but I never ended up in jail.
Thank the Baby Jesus …
All it takes is that First Drink. For us, that is all. And we are off to the races. For most of my friends, in the program today, had we all kept drinking, like we did, we’d be fucked, literally.
A man I respect a great deal, just turned 67 the other day, and he has been in a really weird place as of late, he was a man with one goal in life, to use, drink, and cause trouble. And at one time, found himself INSIDE, looking OUTSIDE.
Today, he is on the OUTSIDE, looking inside. A good number of my long, sober, double digit friends, are all in separate spaces, themselves, even while they sit in the same room together, for a meeting.
A number of my OLDER sober friends, in their late 60’s and early seventies are trying to figure out why they are still here, where they are going, and how they are supposed to get there.
I was God Damned lucky this time around. I was lucky to meet the men I met, at Five O’Clock Shadows, when I first came in. Those men, my sponsor, his friends, and a handful of others, were all hard timers, who had made it back out, in one piece.
They had been on the INSIDE. And it was their jobs, to bring us newbies, INSIDE to talk about living sober on the OUTSIDE, to inmates, who were locked up for double digit sentences.
You have not lived sober, until you carry the message into the H.N.I’s …
Hospitals and Institutions.
If you need a reminder of why we stay sober, you need not look any farther, then those who paid the price for their stupidity, arrogance or just plain alcoholism.
At the end of our story tonight, our writer quotes things he heard early on, by people who were on the outside, coming in and out.
All those Warnings about WHAT you SHOULD NOT DO, in the first year …
We all know what those things are. We’ve seen them in action. We know what people do, before they end up walking out the door and drinking and using again.
Safe Haven is a double whammy of just how bad things can go, if you drink, and drive.
Or things that can happen, if you mix alcohol and stupidity.
Or the things that can happen if you say to yourself, “AH, I might not be an alcoholic, even if I don’t remember what I did last night, after drinking heavily …”
Act One: Normal – Human Being
Act Two: Introduce Alcohol
Act Three: Consequences
Act Four: Institutions, Jail or Death
There is a saying that alcoholics either get sobered up, locked up or covered up.
Since I was not genuinely willing to do what it took to get sobered up, I had the other options to face. I never dreamed it would happen so quickly.
If you are sober today, and you did not take a drink, you are FUCKING LUCKY.
Because, really, you could be like some of my friends, who pissed away years of time, due to their arrogance and ineptitude and inability to reach out for help, because they believed they had a handle on the black hole they were sinking into…
They drank and used again.
Thank the Baby Jesus, I am sober.
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.
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.
- 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 ….
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 night I saw some folks I don’t usually see at the Friday meeting. In fact, I haven’t seen either one of them since last September. Not a call, Not a meeting, Nothing …
Saturday I spent time with one of my women I work with. And she told me a story, about one of those men I saw the night prior. Many, Many months ago, our man went to Florida and he used, pissing away 11 years of sobriety … I know, of him, that he stopped coming to meetings for a long time, so long, that I was given his key and his treasury responsibility. He did not call, nor did he talk to me or anyone else in that particular room, for that matter.
Now I know why … He used and came home and isolated and kept a secret. For MONTHS. And I know, from his history, how hard he worked to get sober, quoting the book, like he knew the book, like the back of his hand … He didn’t …
Friday night, he sat next to me, and did not say two words to me all night long. He and my other friend left after the meeting and did not stay to talk.
This is what happens when you stop going to meetings, you stop talking to people, you keep secrets and your sobriety looses its priority.
Sad. That particular meeting did not feed him, like it needed to and he stayed away from meetings that might have fed him and kept him “on the beam.”
But addict for addict and alcoholic for alcoholic, we are going to do what we are going to do, and damn the torpedoes.
**** **** ****
You never know what is going to rise to the surface, when you step into a room.
Tonight’s read talks about:
- Drinking some more.
- Driving Drunk,
- Driving drunk some more.
- Going to a meeting because it meant more for them, rather than for us,
- Coming to realize that “hey, maybe I’m an alcoholic too !”
- Coming, Coming to, and Making a decision …
- Speaking the Third Step Prayer for themselves …
Flooded with Feeling, has been the story of my life for the past good chunk of months. Many of my friends, men and women, are in this mix right now, themselves. The Monday night meeting is a wealth of experience, strength and hope.
The line that stuck out in this story goes like this …
“I just wanted another drink …”
My Momma once said to me that: “You better Never find yourself in jail, because if you do, I will never bail you out, you will be on your own.”
I did listen to some of the advice she gave me, however backhanded that single piece of advice was, when it was delivered. I did, many times, get behind the wheel while intoxicated. And it is a good thing that nobody ever got hurt. Because I was seriously stupid. But what is an alcoholic going to do ?
Nothing stands between us and that next drink …
Happy hour only lasted from 4 to 7. Then you had to go home, change your office clothes for dance clothes, and return for the nightly debauchery. Over and Over and Over.
Until one day, You become a character written about in the Big Book, being that tornado, running ragged, in the life of someone trying to get sober at the same time.
Sadly, I would remain that tornado for three more years, until Todd stepped in and said the word STOP. I am amazed, that all the people I drank with, who got sober, before I did, never said a word to me, while I was IN IT. And to this day, I don’t know why they didn’t try to help me. Because the trajectory of my life would surely have been different, had that actually happened, but didn’t.
Our man, in this story, relates his approach to the Third Step and the Prayer. While on the phone, with the lady friend who took him to his first meeting, he writes that “while on the phone he read the Third Step Prayer to her… then afterwards he returns to the prayer and repeats it to himself.”
When I got sober the first time, I had Todd in my life. And every night, coming to work, the practice was, to turn my life over, every time I crossed the threshold into the bar. I practiced that task every night for two years. I learned how to do that and trusted in the man I was turning my life over to, because I am still alive.
When I got sober the second time, It was just me, and my prayer to God. There was nobody else out there, holding my hand. And let me tell you just how unsure I was of myself, not knowing IF I could TRUST myself alone … IF I could do it RIGHT.
It did not come for a long time, the revelation of Todd and Step Three, being the incarnation of God Himself in my life when I really needed it. I did not make that connection until I began to relate my memoirs on this blog many years ago.
I had seen God, in the flesh. I knew there was a God, all along. I knew the drill. I just did not trust anything that I did, on my own.
But I am getting better at it, today.
Over the years, I’ve watched the men I worked with, who for some, did not necessarily believe in God, how they worked around the Third Step, each for their specific sensibilities. The Friday meeting has been a proving ground for our young people, who also, many of them, could not see past the word God, and got and stayed sober.
Many of them came, stayed a bit, left, and never returned.
Even though we spent years studying the word God, trying to find work around’s to allow the belief in whatever worked until they figured God out for themselves.
Every day, we have an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.
Do I want a thimble full of God, one day at a time, or
Do I want a bucket full of God, one day at a time ???
And when is it that I realize that I am a drop in the big ocean that is humanity (read: God). And that I am one with ALL that is, because a little of all that is OUT THERE, is within me, and that a little piece of WITHIN ME is one with all that is OUT THERE.
And that, as I live and breathe, the universe out there, knows, before I even utter a single thought, prayer or word …
How amazing is that ???