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Posts tagged “Soldiers

Friday: Source of Strength

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

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

I have an original 1939 Copy in my library.

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

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

Well, it did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The common man was much harder to convince.

But life has a funny way of turning out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Together …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never Quit: by Jimmy Settle and Don Rearden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it Always comes back to God …

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

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

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

We are NOT that Higher Power …


Wednesday: Bell Let’s Talk Day: Let’s Talk About Mental Health

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Today is a very special day. The day Canada and other places, shed light on a very important topic, that still, seems to be Taboo in many places.

The topic is Mental Health.

If you’ve ever suffered from something tragic in your life, or know someone who has, or you just know someone who is over their heads in the water and they can’t seem to find solid ground, or you have that friend or family member who is suffering in silence, there is something we can do, for us and for them, We Can Talk …

You never know when a conversation will happen that might change a life in ways, we could not imagine.

I’ve just finished reading Romeo Dallaire’s book, Waiting for First Light, my ongoing battle with PTSD. War is a place we see in the movies or on the news, it does not affect us directly, but it does affect many, who have been to conflict zones, or war zones, or on peace keeping missions, war for them is real.

You cannot imagine the visuals that they have seen, the atrocities they witnessed, seeing men, women and children die all around them, and watching their brothers and sisters in arms get killed in action.

And when they come home, they are shattered human beings. And we as a society have failed these brave men and women, over and over again. The Canadian Military has continually failed their own people.

PTSD is something the military has yet to fully comprehend and do something about in concrete ways and means.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of men and women suffer with unimaginable horrors and night terrors, and addictive behavior to quench the pain with drugs and alcohol.

Some take their own lives in Suicide because they have no way out of the pain.

PTSD is an old problem. But in decades past, we had different names for it.

In the Viet Nam Era, when my father came home from the war, in stories he had told me, he and many others came back and they were Shell Shocked.

But in reading Romeo’s book, I see very similar parallels in what happened, and how my father coped with his issues. He never talked about it, until one season when I was in High School, he actually had film, photos and a story to tell.

Meanwhile at home he was drinking himself to death, and abusing his wife and children.

All those men who came back from that war, were bad mouthed, and ridiculed. What happened ? They went without, and many went to their graves mentally cracked.

Living through the scourge of AIDS, was terrible. For many of us who were on the front lines, dealing with terrible sicknesses and ailments, then watching families, churches, friends and lovers, toss their sick partners into the gutter to die alone and penniless, without an ounce of dignity, was horrifying.

I’ve witnessed my share of tragedy. And suffered my own bouts with depression due to Suicide, AIDS and almost loosing my own life. I would not say that I would call my problems PTSD, but tragic sickness and death is part of my story.

Soon after my diagnosis my doctor hooked me up with a good psychiatrist. Along with medicines, and therapy, I was put on an anti-depressant regimen, that I am still on to this day.

I lived, thankfully. I am also clean and sober, which only enhances my life and my personal well-being. I had people to talk to. Therapists, Psychiatrists, Counselors, Todd, and the myriad of people who have been involved in my sobriety.

A few months after I met hubby, he got very sick. And he was cycling rapidly, over and over again, obsessively. A few weeks in, he had a nervous breakdown, and fell to pieces. Doctors and shrinks came on board, and he was diagnosed as Bi-Polar Rapid Cycling.

For ten long and arduous months we plied him with pill after pill, trying to find the right mixture of a “Little bit of this and a Little bit of that…” until we found the mix that worked for him. For that almost year, I was chief cook, cleaner and chief bottle washer.

I got him out of bed, fed him, got him on the sofa.

And at night, I fed him, bathed him, and put him to bed.

A ritual that still exists to this very day.

I was going to school full-time, taking care of house and home, going to meetings, and taking care of hubby, who was comatose on the sofa for the entire ten month period, catatonic.

I remember the night that we had found the magic pill … The next morning he got up, he was coherent, lucid and alive.

It was like Lazarus, rising from the grave.

There was still working to do, to bring him back into full participation in his own life.
And that stared with simple occupational therapy, to get him to do simple things, that led to him getting back into the saddle and living once again.

Mental health is a top issue in our home. Having two people who have mental issues is a task in itself.

I believe that a human who suffers from a mental illness NEEDS a SECOND set of eyes on them all the time. So that they aren’t doing it themselves. That there is someone else actively involved with their daily care and to watch their medical progress with whatever medication a doctor puts them on, because we don’t necessarily catch things on our own, we need that SECOND set of eyes on the case.

I have worked with kids with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. That is some of my most rewarding work, to date. I have sponsees who have mental illnesses as well. Depression, PTSD and Schizophrenia. Everybody needs to be loved and cared for. My time is not only invested in helping men and women stay sober, I also try to help them to stay sane.

To make sure they are on their meds, seeing their doctors and case workers and making sure that they are taking care of themselves, and each other, as well taking care that their homes are safe, clean and void of drugs and alcohol.

Mental Illness is a scourge on our city. many, MANY of our homeless men, women and kids, (read: Young People) on the street, suffer from mental illness, and they go about their lives, and nobody really gives a damn, unless you see them on the street.

We don’t have the amount of resources that the city needs to tackle that problem, because not only do you have mental illness to contend with you also have addiction to alcohol and drugs as well. So you have a triple cocktail of sadness …

Too many of our young people are killing themselves over bullying and mental illness.

What are we teaching our kids, when so many of them are dying and nobody knew about what was going on with them! We have to talk to our kids and actually give a damn about them instead of leaving them to their own devices and video games and their phones.

SUICIDE IS NEVER AN OPTION – EVER !!!

Give a kid a chance … talk to them for God’s Sake.

There is help. There are solutions. You don’t have to be alone. We are here.

We will help you in any way we can. All you have to do is ASK …

Let’s Talk …