It is Tuesday, a day off. I watched a You Tube Video about Candice Neistat, with Bryan Elliott, which lead to a TED talk with Brene Brown, about vulnerability.
Bryan shared a quote from Brene that said:
“The depth that we are willing to be vulnerable is the measure of our courage.”
When He heard that quote, it floored him. When I heard the quote from him, I had to go to the source to understand its context.
I’ve been working to understand what the entire last year has been about, and why things panned out the way they did, and I think it comes down to being totally vulnerable, honestly and authentically.
Over my life, there have been times when I have been brutally honest, and totally vulnerable. Take for instance, finding out I was sick and was going to die.
Utter devastation makes one vulnerable, because we have lost control, we are not in control, and we end up, out of control, in many ways.
In a sense, I was too vulnerable for my own good, because in that vulnerability to be honest and authentic, scared everyone away. I was in the mix, and my friends and family could not handle the honest, gut wrenching truth.
The person that I was truly vulnerable with, was Todd. He was humble and a force to be reckoned with, when it came to my dignity and my life. Over those years, I shed a great many tears in front of him, with him, and because of him. That is something that I can say, changed my life.
A little while later, I stood up, in front of a room full of alcoholics like me and was vulnerable, once again. I alienated them, and they asked me to go away. So much for wearing my death on my sleeve.
Imagine having your heart crushed by someone when you are sharing the deepest darkest fears of your soul. In the attempt to recover from numbing your emotions for so long.
Brene says that you cannot selectively numb certain emotions, and not affect the others along with them.
In sobriety, I have been vulnerable to a certain degree. And it has taken almost all of my sobriety, to finally tap that well of vulnerability, like I have tapped over the past year.
I may not have tapped it, but it certainly tapped me.
People who are authentic:
- Have the courage to be Imperfect
- They are Compassionate to themselves first, then to others
- They believe connection is the result of Authenticity
- And they Believe that they are Worthy
- That fully embracing their Vulnerability makes them Beautiful
- And that Relationships are Fundamental parts of existence for us all
- Connection is why we are here on earth. To Connect and not be Alone
Brene goes on to say that Vulnerability is at the core of:
- And the Struggle for Worthiness
- Which is the Birthplace of Joy, Creativity, Belonging and Love
I can see, in hindsight, where I shut down that part of myself. Not necessarily a good thing, but it is what it is. You might think that I was stoic, on certain occasions, but I don’t think it was stoicism, but maybe fear, numbness and an inability to articulate what was going on in my head.
I’ve spoken about those points in life where I was totally vulnerable and sunk in a pit of despair. I can name them, because the list is very short.
- The day I identified James’s body at the morgue after his suicide
- The night I told Todd that I was going to die
- The day I said goodbye to Todd
- And the emotional response I had to the Orlando Massacre
The last episode was the worst, in many, many years. I had not cried, as I did, since James’s death, the many nights I cried on Todd’s shoulder, struggling with death and his insistence on my survival. Many tears were shed during those two years of intensive work on myself, at Todd’s direction.
That Tuesday night, at the meeting, when I fell apart, it was a cathartic response, to the story that we were reading from the back of the Big Book, the emotional state I was in, because of the massacre, and the fact that only one human being thought to call to see if I was ok.
Then the reaction of my sponsor who humiliated me and accused me of expecting to be treated differently than the others in the room, when all I wanted was a little compassion, that my fellows and my sponsor could not accommodate.
Instead of understanding and compassion, for my vulnerability, I was humiliated and shut down, by people who were incapable of understanding.
I had friends, who were long sober. Whom I thought loved me. They cared for me and supported me, and did charitable acts for me, inside of an organization that I belong to, that I have not set foot in since many months ago.
I ran my steps with a woman I trusted. I told her my deepest and darkest secrets, and she knew my story, and had been involved with my sobriety for a very long time. When I got through my steps she said to me that I was angry and that she and the other women were afraid of me and that I should, in essence, go away …
I raised my voice at a business meeting, then ensued a mass running for the hills by my friends, fellows and sponsees. I had a rough night, and got punished for it with silence and judgment by people I spent an inordinate amount of time with. And when it came time to speak to that truth, I did so. Which probably alienated them all the way gone.
So much for being vulnerable.
I have some fatal flaws that always get in the way of my relationships with others.
- I have an idealistic belief that every human being has ONE redeemable quality, that lends to forgiveness and love.
- I believe in people, from the get go.
- I trust people, from the get go, which stems from the rooms and my belief that most people are good.
- I am also judgmental of some. I can spot bullshit and arrogant men, and people who would do me harm, at 50 paces
- Living with AIDS gives me certain perspective on people, a talent I learned to save my own peril from those who would do harm to me.
This is what I have been feeling and experiencing over the past year. And now I understand it as well.
The price I paid for vulnerability was the loss of many people in my life, who either could not stand my depth of honesty or their understanding and commitment to compassion and love.
Such is life in the world of the alcoholic.
I also know today, that resentment and anger, pointed towards people,is sometimes pointless and wastes valuable energy towards others, when I should be pointing that energy towards myself. And that I need to be a bit more compassionate, understanding and forgiving, and also have a sense of pity for certain people in my life.
It is not always my fault for the reaction or beliefs of certain people in my life. I did not create them, and I am not responsible for their reactions to me, and/or towards me.
Not everyone we know, Not every one we meet, and Not everyone we spend time with are meant to be in our lives forever. In each interaction, there is a lesson to be learned about them and about ourselves.
This has been a year of learning about myself and others, in regards to the way others react to what is going on in my life, in the sense of honesty, integrity, vulnerability and authenticity.
It is true that, for the most part I am totally honest in some ways, but reserved in other ways. I don’t necessarily share my opinions, but when I do, they certainly cause people to look at me with second glances.
Hence, the loss of so many friends and fellows over the past year.
I get a sense that vulnerability comes in waves, as I am able to deal with them. And it seemed to me that they came fast and furiously for a while. It was BANG, BANG, BANG, one after the other.
That dam, failed. And vulnerability came.
I had no way to stop it once it began.
Not sure if I am done with it, but it makes sense now.
We shall see …
“No one can teach you how to be a storyteller, you have to live to be able to do that.”
If there is one thing you should do right now, if you don’t already, Go to your You Tube Account and SUBSCRIBE to Casey Neistat. Right Now. Today. Now, Right Now !!
I’ve learned, at this point in my life that, maybe it’s not always about trying to fix something broken. Maybe it’s about starting over and creating something better.
That is so freaking true for me right now.
Tonight we talked about Honesty. Honesty is one word that appears early in How It Works:
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being HONEST with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demand rigorous HONESTY. Their chances are less than average. There are those too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be HONEST.
Before I say anything else, we must begin this discussion with the fact that we are all HUMAN, we are FALLIBLE, and we all make MISTAKES. Alcoholism is a human disease, and when we come to the rooms, however damaged and hopeless we are, some tend to forget the human quality and hurriedly ascribe some nasty word to describe fellow humans sitting in the same room with them, forgetting, that at one time, THEY were just as damaged and hopeless as newcomers are.
What have I learned in 49 years of life ?
We are born into families, be they rock solid and honest, or broken and hard pressed for any semblance of honesty or love.
As children and well into our teen years until the day we walk out of that house we were born into, walk out of said house and strike out into the great unknown.
We all carry that around with us, and that taints what we do next, (for many) and how we see the world. For me that was the great challenge. I lacked many things when I left home.
And I see that today.
Knowing all the secrets at home, and watching people live inside a secret and watch them produce a show for the outside world, where they were not their true selves, fucked me up.
My thoughts always centered around, “Well, if this is good for you (read: Your Secrets) then it is good for me.” (Read: What’s Good for the Goose, is Good for the Gander).
Gay IN secret was better than being gay OUT in the world. That was an abomination.
While all the while, I heard my parents demean me and many others, with racist, ethnic and homophobic hatred. In the end I knew I had to go. And I did.
But like I have said before, alcoholism followed me, and so did some seriously bad behavior. Namely, dishonesty, lies, and immaturity.
Honest was not something I aspired to.
In my twenties, I hit several serious situations that put me between a rock and a hard place. At first, I drank to drown. And I failed at coping with suicide. The second, when I got sick, I again, drank to drown, until Todd stepped in.
If he was one thing, he was honest. And I had to get honest to begin with, or there was no future. I learned the hard way what happens when you have to get honest, and remain silent for your own good, because the truth would cost you a lover, a home, a job, a family, and your friends.
Been there Done that …
When people show up, they bring with them everything that happened to them, everything they believe, and everything they have lost. Hope is the last thing on many minds in the beginning. And if we are honest with you, life is not a dress rehearsal, and this is not a trial run, there are no do overs.
This is it. You only get one shot. So you better make it a good shot.
Sadly, many don’t learn this the first time around. I surely did not.
Almost fifteen years later, I am still working on my Good Shot.
Honesty is something I struggle with every day. Honestly, I’ve expected better of people, and hoped in people to rise and grow up, when they are not able to do so. I’ve held onto idealistic expectations, that I will never see “This side of heaven.”
I have known for a while now, that when I turned fifty, I was no longer going to be willing to wait for people who are not part of my life today, to become part of my life. Because, as a wise man said to me tonight, “Twenty five years later, is a long time to make an amend to someone that might be sunk in their way of life, and that outcome be anything else but a big HUGE disaster.”
Good for me, my spiritual director cut me to the chase and made me see, how I was not being Honest with myself or GOD. Withholding my trust in God, and thinking that my will was the better will, and that God did not have the right answer, because the answer I have long wanted had not come YET, yet I was willing to hold on until it came, come hell or high water.
Over the years, being Gay and POZ, I watch people, when I tell the truth. I watch what they do, and I listen to what they say. And it is in what they Don’t Do and what they Don’t Say that I find appalling.
Sober people are just as guilty of this kind of behavior as those who live on the outside.
Today, I know what I know. And I’ve seen what I’ve seen. And I know, for damned sure, who I want to hang around, and who I don’t. They say that “Who we are is directly related to the top five people we have in our lives.”
Rafa is right up there at the top of my five list.
When we come, we bring what we have. And we cope the best way we can, based on each of our abilities to do that. Making sobriety the first priority, when we bring life into the room with us, is the challenge in making sobriety work, Honestly.
I was ready, this time around, to do whatever it took, at what ever cost, no matter what.
And I will have, very soon, fifteen years of making that system work for me. I have accrued all those years of work, honesty as I was able, and truth as I spoke, and love and care where it mattered to give away.
Not Many People are interested in my honest attempt to be a good human being.
And I have to let that be.
I know my elder friends who I speak to and trust implicitly are all on their journeys. My elder man is heading towards 65 soon, and my elder lady friend is heading towards 63, I am headed towards 50, my spiritual director just hit 53.
We are all trying to figure out wisdom of our times. We are all trying to figure out what we are supposed to know, and what is coming around the bend. I know what happened in my twenties, my thirties, and my forties.
I hit sobriety at 34. Wisdom did not begin to set in until I hit 40. I’m not sure what is going to happen when I hit 50. We all know what happened to some, who have hit the 70 mark. They got OLD very fast, became despondent, they suffer from old age that came on quite suddenly, and tragically. I don’t know but I watched what happened, I watched several of my friends age FAST. And they have faded into obscurity, by their own choices.
I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of old ideas and old expectations.
Sometimes being honest is not the wisest counsel.In certain situations.
Today I had a conversation with a friend, who is not in a good space, so I’ve been on top of that with her. She made a decision today that was detrimental to her, despite what we’ve been through together, and I know why she did what she did, and I could not be totally honest with her, because I am not her, and I am not in control of anyone but myself.
The only honest thing I could say was, Do you think that choice was wise ? Good or Bad ?
The scales of the past fall from us, the longer we work on ourselves. And truth and honesty comes in stages, and not all at once, because we are HUMAN, and we can only progress forwards, with TIME, WORK and with FAITH. As we are able, with what we have at each moment we need it.
I see that wisdom now, about how dishonestly I began my adult life. And just how long it took me to figure all that out.
That is twenty eight years later …
Better late than never.
I would rather you be honest with me, than give me the silent treatment or ignore me. Some of my friends just walk away. I’m not sure why, because I work very hard at relationships, it’s just that for some of my friends, I don’t have that kind of relationship, let’s say, that I do with my best friend or my husband.
Certain friends of mine when I ask them to be honest with themselves and me, have turned around and told me to go fuck myself.
One, they can’t be honest in recovery, And Two, they can be honest in telling me to go fuck myself.
That doesn’t make sense to me.
You cannot be all things to all people, its just not possible.
I’m honestly working on being better at honesty, all the way round.
How Free Do You Want to Be ???
RARELY have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.
Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided that you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.
At some of these we balked. We thought that we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.
Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power – that One is God. May you find him now.
**** **** ****
Tonight, they tell us, will be the last minus twenty we may see this season. It has been a bitter day today, temperature wise. It has been a week full of things to do, people to see and meetings to get to.
I had to go see my doctor this afternoon for my Winter check up. It’s all good news on that front. I have to have a bone density test done soon, because they think that I may have osteoporosis. (read: You are getting old man).
When I arrived at the point that God felt I was ready to work with others, he opened the gates and sent me my troop. And ever since then, I have endeavored to be absolutely, completely, thoroughly, honest. Over the past few days, it has been said that I have kept my troop honest. Which filled my heart with joy overflowing.
There are things we do daily, weekly, and often that keep us on the path to staying honest in all our affairs. Over the past few weeks, we have heard stories, and I have written about them here. The overarching theme lately has been, what happens when we are dishonest, when we keep secrets and when we tell lies.
I can’t repeat often enough, the warnings we are hearing from the chair at speaker meetings.
How it Works, is a staple reading, you hear at almost every meeting, one way or another. It is repetitive, and the words never change. They were written decades ago and are words of wisdom from a bygone era. Tonight, we listened to it read at the top of the meeting, and we heard the reading parsed by our speaker tonight.
“Absolutley, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly”
There comes a time in sobriety, that we think we have this all wrapped up, and we are doing well, and have no fear of that first drink. Scary …
But when the chips are down, and we are against the proverbial wall, are we able to speak to our friends and fellows, and tell them that “maybe we are not doing so well, and that we may be in trouble, and that the outsides might not be congruent with our insides?”
We go into meetings, and we always want to look good on the outside, because we want our fellows to see calm, sober, good looking people. But just beneath the surface, the reality might be that we are not really calm, or sober, or good looking.
Sometimes, we are just not 100%.
The truth is when we are able to say, “I am not okay!”
If we are rooted in honesty, even if it hurts, we can share anything with our friends and sponsors. This is where, secrets and lies, arise. They say, and I heard it again tonight, that “While we are in meetings, our alcoholism is out in the parking lot doing push ups … Waiting patiently for us outside.”
And you never know, when it is going to happen. We begin to keep secrets, and our old alcoholic behavior rears its ugly head. Our old thinking returns, old patterns return, and we slip into old behavior, oh so quietly. And we might not recognize it right away, and if we don’t, we are off to the races.
They tell us that when we hit a slip, that it is premeditated. That often, what starts as an errant thought, becomes an errant action. Time and time again, we listen to stories of people who go back out, and when they return, we hear what happened and what led them back out the door.
Sobriety Looses Its Priority.
What happens when we keep secrets and what happens when we begin telling lies, not to others, but lying to ourselves to begin with? It begins with us, in our heads. If we are not vigilant we can fall into this trap. Secrets and Lies.
It might be simple and innocuous, but after a while, becomes a snowball heading down the mountain at 100 miles per hour.
I sat there tonight, listening to a man tell a story about being sober a LONG time, falling into old behavior, and then he kept a secret and told a few lies, and then ended up in a bar, with not one beer, BUT TWO …
Then follows years of getting stuck in the proverbial revolving door. Our man is one, that I have seen in my time, who collect enough beginner’s chips to tile a bathroom with. He goes to meetings, but is unwilling to get honest. Sponsors turn him away and won’t take him on, because, let’s face it, if we are being honest, if you aren’t in the game, most men or women would not take you on, unless you are ready and willing to get honest, because this is your life/our life we are talking about.
The warning is very stark and very real.
We heard it again tonight, those similar words,
“Please, for the love of God, Do Not Do what I did.”
If you are out there in the room, and you are pondering a slip, or you are in any way feeling squirrely, or you are coming back, please, talk to someone, don’t leave this room with shit on your shoulders.
When I hear stories like this time and time again, I come home and I write them down, then I turn around and speak to my troop about warnings and prevention.
I remind them that this is not a game to be taken lightly. They need to be in the game 100%, and we work tirelessly, to maintain The Work at maximum efficiency.
Winter has not been kind to our numbers. For the last few months, on both the sides of women and men, we have heard how they have battled the bottle in sobriety.
I go to my meetings, and I know my friends, and I get there early enough that I get to spend twenty minutes talking to them. We know who the front row sobriety folks are, and we also know who the back benchers are. Which is why, at certain meetings, we have moved seats forward and off the back wall. We put out more chairs in the room proper, to make sure, everyone is sitting amongst everybody.
That is why we stress, at my home groups that, the twenty minutes before and the twenty minutes after are the most important minutes in a meeting, because we get fellowship, phone numbers and friends. Not necessarily in that order.
The warnings have been clear … Absolutely, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly.
Anything else, is a recipe for certain disaster …