Here’s the story of my homecoming! Thanks for the challenge and for the trip down memory lane.
November 22nd, 2016, came so much faster than I thought it would. My mission seemed to end as fast as it had begun. The last few days where a whirlwind. We had to make transfer calls, pack bags, prepare the area for the next elders, and all at the same time, I was trying to process exactly what it would mean to go through such a radical change.
We had a final devotional in the Laurier Chapel, and we all took turns sharing the highlights of our missions. There was not a dry eye in the room. It felt so good and hurt so much all at the same time. The day finally did come, and on the way to the airport, it felt unreal, as if it where all a dream and I was going to wake up any minute. I couldn’t believe I was going to see my parents and my sisters again after years being apart.
We arrived at the airport, and I shook hands and hugged the same Elders I had trained with in the MTC two beautiful years earlier. I still keep in touch with every one of these lifelong friends. When the plane took off, I looked out one last time at the Saint Lawrence river, and had to hold back my tears. It was as if I were leaving home all over again. My friends and my family were down there. People that I loved deeply and was so sad to leave. I was leaving wards and branches that had loved me and my companions, taking care of us, supporting us in our work, and becoming lifelong friends.
I was working so hard that I hadn’t even had a chance to get my hair cut. It was much longer than I would have liked, and it probably looked a bit sloppy. I was wearing the same trench coat that I wore on my first night as a missionary in Joliette Quebec, freezing clear down to my bones and wondering how I would ever survive in this place where I could not even speak the language. Today was cold like it had been then, the same time two years ago.
Missionaries stick out like sore thumbs to other members of the church, and several times, people would come up and ask “Are you coming or going, Elder?” It felt good to be surrounded by community even in such a strange place. The hours ticked by in that airport, and I started realizing just how tired I really was.
I was drained to the core. My body mind and spirit had gone to their limits. Now that I literally had nothing to do but wait, it was as if my whole soul finally breathed a sigh of relief. I wandered over to my terminal and sat down, feeling like a washed up piece of driftwood. I somehow felt like I still had energy, not tired enough to try and sleep, but I was just worn completely out. I felt totally emptied. I don’t remember how long I sat there, in that weird state.
I was jarred back to reality by a voice asking “Elder! How are you?” I looked up to see a lady, clearly a member of the church, holding half a pizza in her hand. “Elder” she said “I can’t eat the rest of this, would you like some?” She had hardly touched that Pizza, and it was probably a lie, but suddenly it downed on me that I hadn’t eaten in hours, and I was so tied up in my thoughts that I hadn’t even realized how hungry I was.
They opened and there was a huge shout as I was welcomed home by a crowd of friends and family. There were posters, there were balloons. Mom hugged me first, then Dad, then my sisters. My lips were really dry, because I smiled so wide that I actually split my lip. My uncle and aunt with my cousins were there too. We drove home, and we talked about so much. It was late at night when we pulled into our driveway.
As is tradition in our family, we knelt down to pray together before we all went to bed.
It still felt weird to be alone, and besides that, I still wasn’t released from being a missionary, so the rules of having to be with a companion 24/7 still applied. We talked a little before falling to sleep. We reached the same conclusion. It had been a hard two years. It had also been the best thing we had ever done in our lives.
The stake president, who reads directly from the assignment given by one of the twelve Apostles, lays his hands on the missionaries head, usually with his/her father and everyone else in the family who has been ordained to the priesthood. He sets you apart as a missionary specific to the area of the world where you have been called by inspiration to serve, and blesses you with all the rights, powers and privileges you need to teach the gospel, along with any other blessings he feels inspired to give you.
A release, on the other hand, is much more direct, simple, and even abrupt. President Nelson, the counselor who released me, came over to our house. We had a short talk about my mission, and we enjoyed catching up on each others lives.
He then said, “Elder Christensen, are you ready to be released?” I said something about being ready. His next words stung. He said: “Then Brother Christensen, acting under the authority of President Christensen, I release you from your obligations as a full time missionary.” I instantly felt different. There was a moment of silence. Then he quietly said, “Its time to take off your tag.” I did so. I stared at it for a few seconds with a deep sense of loss.
I once heard someone say that during an interview. And in tonight’s story, “Building a New Life,” You get to read about how our man “saw the ball, and became the ball.”
After a life of self-abuse, immaturity, and several attempts at sobriety, via rehab institutions, he finally finds his way to us. And you’d think that somewhere on his route to us, he would find the key, the desire, and the will to get sober.
He does not.
Finally, after admitting defeat, he finds his way in.
They say, well, it was said to me, this time around that:
“At the time we begin drinking and using, for most of us, that begins very early in life, that we stop growing emotionally and mentally, AT the age we began consuming.”
Most people, who enter the rooms, at whatever stage they enter, are stuck somewhere on the emotional and mental timeline in their lives. If we stick and stay, like we remind our folks, we begin to grow up, be it ever so slowly.
When our man came in, he was a disheveled mess of a human being. But what he saw, changed his life for the better. It is said by many, that on their first entrance to the rooms, they witnessed people, well dressed, happy, and laughing among themselves.
For most of us, this was jarring, to say the least.
Our man saw men, well dressed in suits. I imagine that he was not a “Man in a suit, just yet.” He just wanted to be a man in a suit. There is a metaphor there.
I know, from the read, that our man wanted to clean up his life and his person. That does not happen overnight either. We first have to put down the substance, and gather ourselves together to make that walk into the rooms, with whatever self-respect and dignity we might still have.
Eventually, over time, our man does become, “That man in a suit.”
I know, for me, that it took a very long time to figure out who I wanted to become in sobriety. I had past examples of men I wanted to be like, (read: Todd). In the rooms, this time around, I found men, whom I came to respect and admire.
I’ve always said that, getting sober this time around was a scientific study of people; Situations, Decisions, Choices, and even Bad Choices. I brought to myself everything that I saw that was good, and made them mine. Everything else I left.
Like our man who saw the suits, and wanting to become a suit, he worked hard to become “that man in a suit.”
There are many layers to this achievement.
One, he had to figure out who he was, when he walked into the rooms. That takes time. He got into service early on, which will save your sobriety, if you do service early on.
Two, he had to find a sponsor and get into The Work and the Steps, to figure out where he had gone wrong, what led him to drink, and to clear away the wreckage of his past.
And Three, he had to figure out who he wanted to be. What he wanted to be was “That man in a suit.” Well dressed, well put together, and Mature …
In the beginning, it might have meant something to him, to get dressed, when he went to a meeting, like the men he saw, when he walked in.
90% of feeling good, is looking good.
He walked in and saw something that appealed to his better nature. He dressed the part, hoping, that at some point in his journey, he would fully inhabit, “That man in a suit.”
When I came in, I had already made the decision that I was ready to grow up and become a man, now. THEN, I had to figure out what that looked at in real-time, in watching the many men, I came in contact with, in the rooms.
I wanted to be grown up. I wanted to be responsible. I wanted to be a man.
I saw the ball, and I started acting like the ball, at over time, I became the ball.
This runs along the lines of “Acting as if…”
The visual I am talking about now is a much better example of acting as if.
I’ve been through many incarnations of myself over the years. Looking good, was the first stage of becoming good. Responsibility came second. I walked into a room, and I joined that group … Tuesday Beginners” right off the bat, on that first night.
The first thing they said to me is “do service.” I did service. I still do service to this day.
I wanted to be part of, and to “Become.”
You can’t become, if you don’t engage.
It wasn’t a suit that I was after. There were men, in certain meetings, who had a certain dress code, for their men, at that specific meeting.
I know when the Elders walked into my life, dressing the part, was part in parcel of becoming part of.
First we get into the rooms. We find a focal point. We meet people we want to be like. We clean up the wreckage of our pasts, then we are ready to begin building.
My education, at the beginning, was just to get settled and build my foundation.
At eleven months, my manhood appeared. I made a crucial decision. The rest, you can say, is history. All the goodness, all the badness, all the pain, and all the struggle, made me the man I am today.
The one CONSTANT in my life IS the rooms and SERVICE.
They told me that if I put anything before my sobriety, that would fail. I began to build infrastructure of meetings, people, sponsors, etc …
I still have that framework in action to this very day.
Shit happens in life, and it ain’t all rosy and happy, all the time. In all seriousness, over the last year, I have been in the emotional and mental wringer, to be honest. And watching my friends, or people I considered my friends, react, to my distress, has been an eye-opening experience for sure.
Not everybody is your friend, especially when time get tough.
But we persist !
In the beginning, I had just a simple idea of what I wanted.
Simply, I wanted to grow up and become a man.
How to get there was the challenge. Like our man, in the story tonight, he connected to something that spoke to his better nature, and he latched on.
Sobriety, takes time. A LOT of time.
Eventually our man became “That man in a suit.”
With all the love, adoration, respect and dignity, that that SUIT bestowed on him.
90% of feeling good, is looking good…
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.
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.
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 …
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 ???
All we have is this one life, and in the words of the Queen of Ireland …
This is the Big Show. There is no Dress Rehearsal. This is it …
We only get one shot at this life.
We are born, we grow up, are educated in whatever way that education comes, and we are turned loose on the world to make our marks, to get good jobs, have families, and later, children, and hopefully we make some money to live on, and also, to have a little to retire with as well.
We go into the world with our certain world views on ethics and work habits. The world is an unpredictable place, and nothing is ever a given.
Especially if you are addicted to one thing or another …
There is a certain millennial of my acquaintance. He is young and has a good job. But at age twenty-six, all he knows about life, is pounding himself into the ground, working like a madman, trying to make as much money as he can, so by the time he is thirty-five, he will have made enough money to retire on a yacht somewhere, other than in Montreal.
- He overcompensates in the hopes that he is recognized as a hard worker, therefore, indispensable, and a secure employee.
- He believes that overcompensation will get him the Golden Ticket and a Million dollars by age thirty-five.
- He does not work nine to five .. but eight to seven-thirty. He does not see the world as his workmates do. He is focused on one point in time, “retirement at thirty-five.”
But as it went, he mentioned, in passing, that he was not feeling well, and had to see a specialist for a certain medical problem.
You could say that “A Yellow Sign” went up in front of him.
I just wonder, how many YELLOW SIGNS will have to go up, in front of him, hopefully keeping him from ever encountering a RED SIGN of Major Problems ???
We are worried that he is working himself into sickness. Because we know how he sees his job and the end point he desires, and wild horses will not keep him from victory.
Yes, we need a job, something to do, and money in the bank, BUT AT WHAT COST ???
I know, I have friends who are older than me, who have jobs. Some of them enjoy what they do, and work is enjoyable and fruitful. Others, work nine to five, stuck in a cubicle, never seeing the sun at all. They ride a bus for an hour to get into their city centers, they get up in the dark, go to work in the dark, and at the end of the day, they come home in the dark.
All this, in order to secure employment and some cash, but not much.
Some of us were educated in specific studies, that, in the end, did NOT translate into long-lasting, fruitful careers, and we were stuck with something we’d rather not do, but are forced into because of the economy or the lack of really good work opportunities, in our respective fields of study.
I’ve mentioned, in past entries, the concept of the DO OVER, we get when we get clean and sober. The world OUT THERE, does not know of this concept. Most men and women go into the world and they get stuck, in environments that might not be healthy or good for them, but they persist, because it is all they could get.
They might never ponder Re-Orientation.
How many of us go into life and get that really good job, from the get go ? And how many people, out there, get stuck in a life of ambiguity, having to settle for a barista job in a coffee shop, biding ones time, until that Parliament Hill Job opens up ???
Been here, seen it, recently celebrated the emergence out of ambiguity.
But my young millennial friend works with someone I know, who is concerned that our young man is going to kill himself for an ideal, that might not ever happen, because there are no givens in this life.
There is respect in serious work ethics. That young people go out into the world and find their place, in a good job, that PAYS. But At What Cost to their lives ?
I spoke tonight about this topic with a friend, who, like I said, is concerned.
He has, in the past, tried to talk to our young man, to no avail. Our young man is not interested in listening to reason or direction.
How do we help people when we see an opportunity to help them? How many people, really want our advice when it comes to wealth and power? Single focus idealism is good to a certain degree, I just don’t know many people, who came INTO money, coming from without.
I don’t know many successful money spinners that did not pay their dues, one way or another, or came from money so they really did not have to work very hard to get theirs.
In my life, I was a tornado spinning on a collision course with destiny. My aptitude to work hard, honestly, and with integrity was tossed into the trash when my alcoholism took over.
I did not know any better, nor did I really care, either way, where drugs and alcohol were concerned.
God had to throw a Very Big RED Stop Sign in front of me to STOP my forward momentum.
I needed a serious Re-Orientation. AIDS did that for me.
We don’t wish terrible circumstances to befall anyone we know, so that they Re-Orient.
But I wonder, if I could give you sickness for some time, or trade my medicine cabinet for yours, would YOU STOP and take stock and Re-Orient your life, in order to make a change that might really benefit you in the long run ?
God took me out of the world of dating, men and sex. Once and for all. Because that’s what my life turned into in the end.
It was good that I did have a job that paid, a roof over my head and a doctor and minimal drugs, when they counted, when I needed them. But that only lasted so long.
My Re-Orientation was not complete. And would not be complete until I moved to Montreal in 2002. In the end it was not until I hit my late forties that the process came to total fruition.
The possibility that we go into the world, and GET that really good job, that we ENJOY doing, beyond the simple paycheck to make ends meet are slim.
We know many people who are stuck, working jobs they hate and have no passion, because it is all they could get, and are doomed to sit in a cubicle forever …
The koan of “Find your passion, DO IT, money will FOLLOW” is a fallacy.
What a rude awakening that was.
I may not make money doing what I do today. Because I don’t.
But at this stage of my life, I am in a life situation where, I am provided for handsomely. Which frees me to do whatever I want, on a daily basis, because I want to, and not because I have to …
I’ve spent the past fifteen years in University, In the rooms of recovery, listening to people talk about their lives, and just HOW they worked out their Do Over’s.
I have hundreds of books in my library here at home that I have actually READ.
I have, almost fifty years of life experience to bank on and talk about.
I see people, out there, spinning aimlessly, without direction or thoughts to their futures beyond punching a clock, taking home a pittance, doing work they don’t enjoy.
I told my friend tonight what happened to me, in order for God to get me to Re-Orient.
That covenant between God and myself was still in action. A promise was made, long ago, and God needed my attention.
Failure was NOT an option.
Every man and woman out there, has a duty to serve their creator, whomever that creator is. We are duty bound to go into the world and make a difference, with honor and integrity.
And when we get the chance, we try to help our fellows, do the right thing, for the right reasons, and the right intentions.
What would it take for you to consider what you do for a living ?
- Do you enjoy your job?
- Do you make good money, Yes or No ?
- Are you killing yourself trying to work yourself to death all for a paycheck ?
- Is what you do Fulfilling to your spirit, Yes or No ?
- If you had the opportunity to Re-Orient, would you ?
- And if you could, what would you do with the rest of your earning capacity ?
- What goals do you have for your future prosperity ? Are they attainable or not ?
- And if they aren’t, how CAN you get there from here ?
Just a few question that came up in our discussion tonight.
You don’t have to settle for just punching a clock and killing yourself in order to retire in your thirties with all the money in the world, you believe you will make between now and then.
Idealistic Millennial Millionaire’s Disease is FATAL …
I don’t personally know any millionaires.
Most of my friends are just getting by, some are miserable, some are not. But it is all in the way you see the world, and how you approach personal success.
Tonight we read another “Woman’s Story.” Because I am an Alcoholic, was written by our writer, in the 1950’s. By the end of the story, we find out that she is also 28 years sober, at the time of penning her story.
Trying to find out “Who We Are?” is a question that I think is universal, and not uniquely an alcoholic problem.
For every man or woman in the room, there is a story about who they thought they were as kids, then progressing throughout their lives, to the point they drank trying to figure it out, and finally coming to the rooms, where FINALLY, we figured that out.
In the end our lady found out that she was gay, she moved from the city to the country, and built a garden, where she found peace and serenity.
For me, I knew I was gay which was why I had to leave home. And the one bit of advice I took as gospel was that … “In order to be part of you had to drink…”
That was SOOOOO Wrong !
There were several point in her story that I identified with. Her life began in the country and a solitary childhood and her imaginary friends, then moving to a big city, where she encountered other kids, she still felt apart from, different.
Her odyssey of alcoholism took her all over the world, looking for connection and inclusion. But those tell tale signs, the massive drinking bouts, and black outs and not knowing what she did the night before, began to haunt her.
In her mind though … She just could not be an alcoholic.
Through a series of unfortunate, or maybe fortunate events, in the presence of her therapist and friends, she came around to see that actually, she WAS an alcoholic.
How many of us, just don’t see it while we were IN IT. How many of us came around at first, thinking that “I could not be an alcoholic!” How much time did we sit in the rooms trying to figure it out, justifying our habitual drinking, until we could not fight it any more.
We hear those same words again: Fear, Guilt, Anger, Rage …
We are in a season of “feeling” right now. Something I had not necessarily seen, but the signs were there. My circle of friends is tight. And we’ve been in each others company for a while now.
We have had losses of family, the loss of friends, communities. We’ve seen insanity come to other places, and tragedy occur here at home. I guess you could say that there has been a confluence of “current events” that have shaken the equilibrium of our people.
Our writer talks about finally being able to see and experience the world around her. Be that in her garden, or among her friends, or in the rooms, she mentions the word Seasons.
In my life, I think about the first time around, and what really mattered about that period in my life. Life was coming fast and furiously, and I really did not have time to stop and breath for such a long time.
I HAD coasted to the four year mark, relatively alive.
The familiar Geographical is a common theme in many alcoholic stories. As was apparent in our writers story. I had gone to the many places she did, in my own story.
My first stint in sobriety, did not offer me what this round did. There were too many unhealthy people in my vicinity. The messaging was all wrong. I was too disconnected to know better, that I was disconnected. And nobody knew to say anything before it was too late to affect change.
Even if I did know that, the HOLE in my SOUL, was running the game at the very end …
When I got sober the second time, I was all alone, save the people in the SOBE room who took care of me. I had no friends, no family, no relationship.
I reflect on the year 2001 … I was numb through a national tragedy.
The opportunity to make One Final Move presented itself. I had nothing to loose and everything to gain. I made that move, and did not look back.
I got to Montreal, in April of 2002. In the buffer zone between the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. During that first year of time, I was living alone, going to meetings, attending after care, and I stayed sober, by doing everything I was told to do without argument.
I had eight months of being able to experience my surroundings. The people in my life, then, kept me very busy and on a short leash. In the end, it took me about two years to fully integrate into Canada and find my footing.
I remember that I had time to breathe. You might not think that that is so important, but coming out of the scourge of AIDS and surviving, knowing how hard that was and how we held out collective breaths, hoping to live, because expectations were not very high, nor were the prognosis-es, realizing that I could breathe was very important.
I had come to the point that I was One, alive and Two, sober. With those two markers out of the way, I could concentrate on living life for the first time in my life.
I was almost a year sober before I met my now husband. I had all the time in the world to get to know my world intimately and soberly. And by the time we did meet, I was ready for that portion of my life to flesh out.
The book says that the only thing that has to change in sobriety is Everything.
We see, right now, that people are feeling. In Open Community. I did not notice this until now, having spent the last year and a bit feeling, myself. But over the past few months, feelings have been on our dashboards for some time.
Spend enough time with your friends, and life happens.
My fifteenth year was, as I have said, the most emotional year I have experienced, since I got sober this time around. I’ve been “feeling in open community” and in the end, those people, whom I thought were my friends, punished me for feeling, openly.
I had not known a time where my shortcoming would be used against me by people who watched me crack under my emotions, and then say that they just could not be part of my life anymore.
Alcoholics and Addicts have very selective abilities. Many of them, placed me on a pedestal and it seemed to me, in the end, that I was supposed to be this “Vulcan type” hybrid a.l.a Spock. Not allowing myself to feel anything.
Because when I did feel and express myself “in open community” people ran for the hills screaming and yelling…
I just cannot wrap my head around they way my friends turned around and ostracized me.
But it is what it is. I’m involved in new meetings and a new social circle.
Living in a four season country, if you take the time, there is so much to look forward to. So much to see and so much to experience.
My favorite season is Fall.
That is the season where the most happens. Falling leaves are amazing. Fall is beautiful in a country where trees and green spaces matter.
It is a religious experience, the very first night it snows. I wait for that night to happen every year. The first snow for me, is Holy.
Had I stayed where I was, in Miami, in a 2 season state, Wet and Wetter … Living in the hole I was living in, alone, I would never have flourished the way I did here.
This last move had to work, and I did all the right things.
I would never go back to the life I had for any amount of money.
Coming up on my fifties soon, all I have is time. And I need to remember to appreciate every day, because I never know when this other shoe is going to drop.
Twenty three years later, nobody knows what is going to come, or what life is supposed to look like, so we are all playing the game very carefully.
One day at a time …
Nothing guarantees one sobriety more, than intensive work with another alcoholic.
These words ring true tonight.
There is only ONE time, you get to tell your story for the very first time. Tonight, the room was packed. The crowd was fresh, many friends, and groups from other places, visiting for the month of January.
Tonight, we heard a story for the First Time.
2 years and 2 months ago, I met a young man, the same age I was, when I came in. My young man was at his First A.A. meeting in Montreal. He had visited a room in his native Venezuela many years prior. He knew the drill.
That night, as the meeting closed, I was feeling strong and confident. We spoke after the meeting, and I gave him my number and told him to call me EVERY DAY.
That first week, he called me ONCE.
The following Sunday he came to the meeting, and I asked him why he didn’t call, as he was asked. He did not want to bother me. That Sunday he resolved to call every day. For the last two years, and a couple of months, he has done as he was asked.
When you work with others, A Vision for you says that:
Obviously, you cannot transmit something you haven’t got …Your Own House Must be in Order.
I believed I had something to offer, a Story. Experience, Strength and Hope.
But you never know what you have to offer, until conversations begin. Every time that phone rings, you never know what is going to come from the other end. You cannot respond with “Canned Responses.” You must rise to the challenge of whatever is asked of you. Working with others forces you to really Work Your Program.
Going to meetings, is not just Going to meetings.
One must exhaust every meeting and every human being in that meeting to its maximum benefit. I’ve spent the last fifteen years listening to people talk, in every meeting I have been to, to date.
I pride myself in knowing that, ONE, I did not do many things I watched others do. And TWO, I did not make the same decisions many others made. I was never alone. Over the years, observing my friends and listening to them, gave me opportunity to say, “I might do this, or I might do that, but I am definitely NOT doing that.”
With all that informed activity, soberly used, I am where I am. I have an entire bank of knowledge and decision-making skills. And I have used them wisely.
Sobriety is not a rush job. And sometimes progress is slow. But for my friend tonight, the pace of progress was reflected back at us tonight, in the wise and spiritual truths my friend shared with us tonight. It pays, having a cheat sheet.
He had a cheat sheet.
But that cheat sheet helped him share a message of true spiritual teaching.
A long time ago, my friend knew what he had to do. What happened was, that it took time to do the work and learn the lessons, and gain spiritual maturity to know God as he does.
We might pray for things we think we need right now. And for the most part, alcoholics believe that if they pray NOW that the payment will come NOW.
If one is not spiritually RIGHT, and learned of the process of growth and has done the appropriate work to get to a certain point, what we need won’t come, until we really need it, on God’s time-table. Knowing full well, what that gift is and how to use it wisely. If we receive answers and promises prematurely, without doing the work required TO RECEIVE, then the gift is wasted.
God does not seem to waste gifts prematurely.
I know this, because, over the years, I worked very hard at sobriety. And nothing came easily, or on my time-table. In fact, some prayers took YEARS to come to me. I needed to appreciate my petitions, and learn to know my limits.
And how to respect God’s timetable.
I had certain issues I needed to practice. Like Money, Love, Things, Relationships, a Roof over my head, and Food in the Fridge.
My life blossomed in year two. BUT, God held back for a long time, until I learned how to do One thing well, not necessarily perfect. But one thing at a time.
In the meantime, my needs were met. I had all the right people, in all the right places, at all the right times.
Only in year 13 did things change drastically, Positively.
Knowing my friend came in at the same age I did, with practically the same issues I had, I kind of knew the drill. And I have been cautious with my advice, always tempering my words, with the appropriate work that is required of him and of myself.
And that caution paid off.
Because my friend is wise, at this stage of the game. He knows who he is. And he respects God and God’s Wisdom. True spiritual growth is the point of getting sober.
Sadly … Many folks don’t get it, won’t listen to advice, nor have the will to do the work required to be really, spiritually, fit.
I may be spiritual, but if I don’t maintain that spirituality daily, I am useless.
I must rise to the challenge and become as spiritual as I can, and whatever work we need to do to get there is what we will do. And we employ reading, studying, praying, meetings, listening, discussing, and then acting.
The Spirituality of Imperfection was a game changing book.
Rafa read it, and gave it to me. I read it and gave it to my friend. He read it and gave it to his girlfriend to read.
Along with the basic text of the Big Book, we have this small tome to study as well, as the book is all about Alcoholics Anonymous. From a Spiritual direction.
A handful of people, I know, read this book. I was among them in the Summer of 2016.
Spirituality is a time necessary endeavor. And all we have is time. And for each soul, in the program, all we do is count time. But it is in between those points on the timeline, that growth takes place. It does not come overnight.
It was an amazing night. I am so proud of my friend. The room was electrified tonight, and the people were truly grateful for the message shared.
He knocked it out of the Park.
Things are not as they should be right now. One of my sponsees is sitting in a hospital at this hour with a friend visiting from out of town, and during this evening, found out she has an ectopic pregnancy. She is going to loose the baby. Or more to the point, the baby is going to be removed, because it is not viable where it is.
A very sad note for this evening. But both women are doing the best they can at this hour.
Say a prayer for them both.
This evening I sat with an Old Timer from our Best Night of the Week Meeting, before the meeting. And I shared verbal diarrhea with him. We traded ideas of what should happen next, his first response to that question was “The Third Step Prayer…”
We have similar thought about a great many things. One thought that came up is that people don’t seem to appreciate the work that goes into a meeting. Starting with managing that space, paying the bills, doing the shopping, setting up, making coffee, washing dishes, and breaking down.
A whole host of people take part in the nightly event (Around the world).
Managing a meeting is a thankless job. And is never really truly appreciated, because you never hear a member come up to you, and say Thank You …BUT you will hear, occasionally from their seats, that they are grateful for the meeting.
Now, in the past, I have seen coffee makers and setter uppers, have mental breakdowns at certain meetings, bitching and complaining quite openly, to the meeting itself, while the meeting is still going on, how ungrateful folks really are, and that said setter upper demands a thank you from everyone sitting in the room.
We are cautioned quite often, that service is a gift of the program, because it keeps us humble and rooted to the reason why we need the meetings, because when we came in there were people doing just what we do today, for us, and at times we can get angry and resentful at the ingratitude of most people who walk through the door every week.
So beware your EGO.
Kindness was the other idea that was floated.
We do this work gladly, because it is necessary, because if we don’t do the service, the meeting isn’t going to happen at all. And he told me that people, over the years, as they come, form the meeting in their image, as they see it. Which leads to a meeting ever changing. People come, people go. Formats come, and Formats go.
Meetings begin, get popular, have a good run, then, almost mysteriously, they fades to black, when the novelty of a particular meeting looses its shine. People get bored.
Boredom is also problematic.
We do the same rote actions week after week, month after month, year after year. Like a robot. We all have our assigned roles, per week. And on Friday night, we are a well oiled machine. We can crank out set up in twenty minutes with the right number of setter uppers.
People don’t seem to take notice of those of us who do this work.
And one thinks that maybe one day, something we have done is going to surface in someones life, that something we do or say, will make a difference in a life. That may come to pass, and maybe it won’t.
My counsel to folks is this … Pick a meeting. Find a seat, and STAY.
Watch, Listen and Pay Attention.
The reading from A.B.S.I. was long and convoluted. But the front room, went with the:
SLIP … Sobriety Looses Its Priority.
There are a number of young people who come, who are in rehabs across town. So the first horse out of the gate shared on the topic of a slip, and day counts.
There are two schools of thought in this area, and I’ve heard them both spoken over the years.
In the program, you come in, and begin your day count. if you decide to go out a drink again, you start over at day one.Then, there is a more linear view of a slip.
The thought that, when one comes back, that you do not punish the slipper by restarting their day count, but you keep counting to keep the momentum, even though, one drank again.
Well, that started the ball rolling and it just kept going until the top of the hour.
The odds that one enters the rooms, and stays, and makes it a one time drive, are slim. The odds that one returns after a slip, go down even further, the number of times you go back out. Most folks at our meeting has had a slip experience. For one reason or another.
It is usually common that once folks fall off the wagon and drink again, come back and never go back out. But these stories are far and few between. Statistics on this are proof.
An old timer spoke about Alcoholic.
- The real alcoholic out there, usually would never admit he/she is one.
- Then there are those who come in, leery, not knowing for sure.
- There are also those who come in, knowing full well the facts.
- There are also those who come in and need to figure it out for themselves.
- And there are those who are mandated to show up by a judge.
Long Sober men and women that have been around double digit years, either ONE, stay put and stick to the rooms, and prosper and do well, or TWO, Long Sober men and women who also have double digit years, come for a while, then they fall off. They stop coming to meetings, and the tape begins to play in their heads …
- Ah, you’re really not an alcoholic, look how long you’ve gone without a drink
- Ah, its a waste of time and energy to go out, (in minus twenty temps)
- Ah, I really don’t need a meeting
- I deserve a break after so many years, I can take a breather
- And you know what follows, if the tape continues, don’t you ?
- They Drink Again … And the odds on return are almost nil
Some people, in sobriety, go through really dark times, either Mental, Emotional, Medical or Financial. They spin out into the darkness. Some find their way, others do not.
I’ve seen medical issues take people out. Men and women fight battles with Cancer, or AIDS, or MS, or any other myriad of diseases. And they either conquer, or they fall. There are just some illnesses that you never come back from.
Death is a forgone conclusion.
But many women, who have, (for example) Breast Cancer, they get diagnosed, and they begin treatment. Radiation, Chemo, Surgery, Reconstruction, and Recovery. This is one serious long haul drag for our women.
With a good support system, women to walk with them, and women who are present for them for the entire journey, those women return victoriously.
On the other hand, (in my own experience), I knew a woman, I was very good friends with. I was here, she was in Florida, getting treatment, surgery and reconstruction. She was victorious. She was long sober, more than twenty years at the time.
I spoke to her every day. We talked about everything, So I Thought.
One night, she went to Lincoln Road, on Miami Beach, for dinner. She ordered a glass of wine, then another. Over the next few weeks, she went to have dinner, with a glass of wine and several more.
She never expressed the desire to drink to me ever. She never spoke about it either.
A few months later, at twenty and some odd years, she returned to Montreal. One night, she walked into the meeting, and when the chip was offered, she got up and took it.
I was mortified.
I was so angry. Words passed between us, she left the meeting, and never came back. And we never spoke again, even though I can see her condo building from my living room windows. She lives that close.
She had been victorious at beating Breast Cancer, so she deserved a break, she said during the meeting. This is not a one off story … But it is my story about her.
Illness is a beast. It fucks with our minds, whatever other issue we are dealing with, falls by the wayside. The tape begins to play, like our men’s tape above, and women find themselves surviving a visit from death, drinking is the least of their worries.
So what does one do with this type of situation ?
I should have kept my mouth shut. Maybe I should have understood what I know today, but did not then. But what can you say when friends keep secrets ?
Secrets and Lies are two markers, that if they begin, a drink is not far away.
Women suffer too. Most in silence, because they don’t know what to do, who to talk to, nor what to say, when this takes place. I’m not a woman, but I know how I felt for her and for me, when she took that chip.
So you see, our jobs, in the meetings, are fraught with complications.
When Sobriety Looses Its Priority, all bets are off.
Man and Woman alike.
Knowing the warning signs, and being present when someone speaks, to have the right words, is a fine art. That does not come over night. It takes time. A lot of time, investment and friendship.
Relationships like that are far and few between.
You cannot walk into a meeting, and sit for very long, and NOT invest in its people.
Once you pick your seat, buckle up and hang on. Because it is going to be a bumpy ride.
It always is…
Fifteen years have passed, since the day the earth shifted on its axis, and in certain ways, the world, “our world” changed, and would never be the same ever again.
When I was a young man, I spent time in New York City. I visited the Twin Towers, so I was familiar with the layout of the land and the buildings.
That Tuesday morning, it was quite early, I was still in bed. My phone rang, and it was my friend Ricky on the other end. He said “You need to turn on the tv, something is happening, and I’m not quite sure what it is.”
I turned on the tv, and watched the second plane hit the building. I watched the buildings burn, like everyone else did. Then I watched them fall to the ground.
When the air plane hit the Pentagon, the only thought on my mind was my brother’s life, because I knew he might be in that building. I called my mother, whom was not speaking to me, nor was my brother, speaking to me either. I asked her where Kenny was.
She did not answer me, and then hung up on me.
I called several more times, when she finally assented to telling me he was not in Washington at the time of the attack. At least my brother was out of harms way.
I chose not to open the store that day, and I would not open the store for a number of days in the end.
I turned to ABC News and the wisdom and guidance of Peter Jennings. If any one had the power to guide, He would. That began several days of 24 hour ABC news hosted by Peter Jennings. I emailed the news station and got Peter’s On Air Email Address, and I was writing to him back and forth.
One night in particular, Peter was looking very haggard, all suited up and tightly wound. So I wrote him a note, and said …
Peter, you seem a bit wound up. Why don’t you loosen your tie and shirt and relax a bit. A few seconds later, I watched him loosen his tie and shirt.
September 11th, took its toll on Peter, and eventually killed him, because he picked up smoking and that smoking killed him.
**** **** ****
Do we ever get a break from memory, from reliving the past, or from mourning ? No, we don’t.Ever !!! From the earliest days in school, we are taught all those stories of those who came before, and the many that sacrificed their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy to this day.
We are always mourning an Event, A Human Being, A Time, A Place, a War, A Shooting, Buildings Falling, the list just goes on and on.
I wonder, if there are some out there, who are just tired of mourning.
We owe eternal debts of gratitude for family that went before us, for soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. For those who were killed unjustly, for those who were slaughtered by terrorists who only want to kill the infidel.
We mourn the loss of children shot up in a school, people shot up in public places, and those fifty young people gunned down in a nightclub in Orlando.
Today we remember and mourn all those souls who went to their deaths on air planes plunged into The World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville Pennsylvania.
We mourn the first responder’s who climbed the buildings trying to save peoples lives, and in turn lost their own in the process. For all those who were killed in those buildings in New York City, the Towers, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. Thousands of lives lost because of deranged and sinister terrorists.
For days and days, Miami Beach was comatose. The bars and clubs had closed, and we entered 14 days of mourning. I sat in an internet cafe, where the owner gave me free air time every night, to surf, to try to help in some way. I did that night after night.
At dusk, we brought candles to the beach and lit them so satellites could take our pictures from space, and be published for maximum consumption.
There was no partying, no liquor, no nothing. We mourned because that is what everyone else was doing. I was stone cold sober.
Fourteen days later the bars opened and they began to have matching funds Fund Raisers, where if we donated money, we could drink the same for free.
Over the next three months, we drank all the alcohol that was available in a 5o mile radius of the city. We were drunk for months.
The rest is history. A few days before December 9th, 2001, I had had my last drink. Troy took me to my Next First Meeting.On December 9th. My sobriety Anniversary.
And by the grace of God, I haven’t desired a drink since.
We Remember …
Here we are, the last day of the Labor Day Holiday Weekend. The official end of summer here in North America. It is September. In a matter of weeks, Thanksgiving will be here, and that yearly crazy push for Christmas begins in Montreal.
The fun here is .. To see who puts up Christmas decorations up first ???
More on that later.
Rafa said to me the other night, that I haven’t been writing very much, and that is true. Spending inordinate time in M.A. does not lend to writing about sobriety so much, because of the few people we are and the sameness of every discussion we have had over the summer.
Not to mention, I curtailed my A.A. meetings, because my time was necessary to keep three meetings open all summer long.
Today I have a treat for you.
We are going to talk about Step Work. But before I do, a quote …
“Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks – drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomena of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.”
“One feels that something more than human power is needed to produce the essential psychic change. The aggregate of recoveries resulting from psychiatric effort is considerable, we physicians must admit we have made little impression upon the problem as a whole. Many types do not respond to the ordinary psychological approach.”
The Doctors Opinion
We read this section of the Doctor’s opinion last night. And very soon after the discussion began, it took a serious turn when one of our guys asked some questions about “when is it going to happen for me, because right now, nothing is happening, the second question was when are these damned promises going to start coming true for me ???”
We shifted from the topic of the book, to sharing experience, strength and hope with him.
When these two questions come up, people laugh, because we know what the answers are, and it is the same answer for both … T.I.M.E.
I know for me, that in total, all The Promises took 13 years, THIRTEEN years, to all come fully round. When is it going to happen? well, root yourself to a meeting, commit to some service, SIT and STAY for a while, (well really, a LONG time) and watch other people come in, sit down, and get sober.
I believe that there is genetic information in my body, one chromosome, that is four letters long, and that gene is M.O.R.E. Do we have the MORE gene, some of us?
Because I sure as shit do.
They say we need an entire psychic change to get sober and it stick.
I can say without a doubt that when I had my first drink, there was a psychic change. I was an alcoholic from the get go, because it started with one, but always turned into MORE.
I love MORE.
I mean, really, ONE, is that it ? No, give me MORE.
When I started using drugs, it was the same thing … One joint? No, MORE please !!!
Just the same, when I came to the end of my slip, and had had my last drink, I prayed for the first time, in like forever, to be honest. I really did not think about God at all, nor did I utter one word in prayer, up until that point.
But when I did, I experienced a psychic change.
I really have not desired for a drink, in a long time. But today, in 2016, yesterday, in fact, I said, during my 5th, that I felt like I had just put the drink down, in the sense that, certain shifts and changes in my life recently, give me that feeling like I am at the beginning all over again.
How Free Do You Want to BE ???
The great thing about a best friend, is that we can talk. About anything and everything. And Rafa and I did that, often, and for hours at a time. So my Step Four was very short.
A few resentments to speak about. What was more prominent was my FEARS list. That took much longer to suss out.
In working on the program I am on, with my sponsor, she has unique wisdom and cheat sheets she uses to mine my step work for GEMS. She has what is called a “TURN AROUND” sheet that expands feelings, defects and shortcomings. This sheet has each root word, and listed below them are the expansive list of associated terms that go with those words.
This was a great help. And from start to finish, 3 hours later, I had had a psychic shift, because when we finished, she said the look in my eyes was different than when I had first walked in.
I was FREE !!!
This walk towards freedom has been long in coming. And started with Rafa, long ago, and continued with him, and my spiritual director. Not to mention, my discussions with another spiritual mentor here in Montreal, who helped me in understanding the minutiae of Forgiveness.
So, I am in this space of “Change.” Letting go of those final vestiges of the past, meaning people, places and things, and learning what that feels like to once in for all,
LETTING IT ALL GO …
I don’t know what that feels like, but I am in the first stages of finding out, and like I said, it feels like I just put the drink down, again. I know this feeling, from the past. Yes, it is unnerving, but getting sober is a long term proposition and also, nobody said this was going to be easy.
The only thing you have to change when you get sober is EVERYTHING !!!
It is just NOT a One Off event.
The longer we are sober, and each time we work our steps, from different directions and methods, if we are diligent and work hard, and be honest, psychic changes will happen, again and again.
It is all very humbling to be honest.
I want to be the right man, the man I want to be. I’m not sure what that looks like, but if I had to be honest, the man I am, is directly related to the men I have in my life today.
Those eternal questions men ask of themselves, and of others ?
- Who am I ?
- Am I doing this right ?
- How do I know when I have arrived ?
- What is a real man, in who he is, what he is, how he becomes who he is ?
- And my favorite, “When does a boy become a man?”
Step work really works.
I am seeing things I have never seen before, but I am now feeling feelings I have felt before, in a new context. Scary, but good in the same way.
Today Pope Francis Canonized Mother Teresa into Sainthood. What is begun in the church, usually follows certain protocol. And in most cases, the Church is always right.
Whether She is Right or Wrong …
Amid controversy and medical science, The Saint of the Slums was elevated.
I’ve studied the cause for sainthood for a specific handful of men and women, of the Catholic faith, so I am truly familiar with how the process works, how it is carried out, and just how exhaustive that research really is.
I have several books in my library that outlines each process for each human being who is being investigated for sainthood. In University I studied John Paul II. I’ve read every book that has been published, “In university” and “outside of university.”
The question of the validity of miracles that must take place, and are therefore attributed to each “saint in the making” has to be verified several times over. Now we must give the Church her times, because the process for sainthood is long and storied.
And that process has been modified and tweaked, and can even be put on a fast track. We’ve seen, in my generation, what direct sainthood acclimation looks like.
In the case of John Paul II, the day of his funeral, the crowds in St. Peter’s Square, made a direct acclimation to their church, that John Paul II be elevated to Sainthood. Once certain elements were satisfied, the process began to elevate him into Sainthood.
I’ve read the book, several times over.
Mother Teresa, was one serious woman, who was friends with the late Pontiff, as you see, if you scroll down on this blog, several photos of them together. I’ve read many books about Mother Teresa. And when I talk about her, I always raise the ire of those who think that I am blind to her controversies, I assure you I am fully aware of all the trash and vitriol that has been aimed at her and myself over the years.
I have a tattoo that I got on my right bicep on my tenth sober anniversary. It is a quote that came directly from the writings from one of her biographies, “Come be my Light.”
The words, “I Thirst…” was, on my first pass, attributed to the story told of Mother Teresa’s relationship with Jesus Christ, when Jesus, on the cross, says, “I Thirst.”
Mother Teresa was oft to talk about how we should thirst for God, ergo Jesus. I took the words from her book, and put them on my body. Only to later find out, via a sober member in the fellowship, who spent time IN Calcutta working in the slums with the poorest of the poor, that the words “I Thirst” are written on the wall, of the Mother House chapel in Calcutta, adjacent to the crucifix on the wall.
This quote is also attributed to Teresa of Lisieux.The “Little Flower.”
When I met said sober member at the Round Up in 2012, and we heard her tell the story of how she went to India, to the Mother House, wanting to meet Teresa, she was terribly shocked when she finally did.
On the fifth day of her visit, Mother Teresa arrived back at the Mother House. She had been away for some time. Lorna, a Manhattan socialite, and the first female auctioneer at the famed Sotheby’s auction house, went to Calcutta, in her fine chino pants, and pressed blouse, made up like a model and her nails brightly painted, approached Mother Teresa on her home turf.
What Mother Teresa said next changed her life and the way she approached the now Sainted woman.
Mother Teresa looked at Lorna and said … Why are you made up like that? Intoning that she was lofty in her approach and that she should sell her fine rich “things” and strip her nails, and give the money to the poor …
What an entrance …
Lorna died not long ago, I remember her fondly in sharing this story. It comes from her own book, The Camel Knows the Way … About her association with Mother.
Mother Teresa was shrewd in her condemnation of worldly things. Many have said that the Missionaries of Charity were/are rolling in money, that she accepted dirty cash from dictators and rulers that were not “above board.” That with all the money in the church or convent coffers she could have done much better, but eschewed wealth at every turn.
This is a serious taint on Mother. Not to mention other accusations that she shielded pedophile priests, with full knowledge of their transgressions. Well, let’s be clear on a few items of order as well … Mother Church, has also been complicit in the shielding and shuffling of pedophile priests from one parish to another, moving them around the countries of origin, and even bring some of them to Rome.
This is not in contention. This is truth.
Many high ranking Holy figures in the church turned a blind eye to abuse, because for some, that tainted the vision of the church, and the human being. And to acknowledge such abuse openly and directly, would be casting aspersions on Holy Mother Church, therefore God Himself.
Right or Wrong, this is fact.
In the pantheon of the Holy of Holies, facts and negative associations, it seems, are ignored on the face of it, not true… That does not mean that truth was not added to the cause for canonization. When all the data is collected, there is a “Devils Advocate” who’s job is to see the flip side of the process, insuring that both sides of an argument is written in the collected works and are bound for posterity and published for mass consumption.
There are many other aspersions I have read recently about the state of the Missionaries of Charity and their austere lifestyles and the lengths Mother Teresa went to, to maintain austerity at any cost, to the detriment and health and well being of her sisters.
The Church is going to do what she does, in spite of and sometimes blindly ignoring the negativity, knowing full well, what controversy exists, in favor of popular acclimation and the faith of community.
We see this notion in the story of George Bergoglio, now Pope Francis. In his story we see the merging of “popular faith of the people” in direct competition with “the faith of Holy Mother Church.” These are two different faith practices. Common in many places in the Southern Hemisphere and South and Central America.
One cannot remove popular culture and religious practice from the people, so Pope Francis, ergo George Bergoglio, had to find a way to marry the two traditions, to bring everybody to the table of Faith in the Church.
In India there is a multitude of faiths and practices.
Mother Teresa was popular culture and popular faith. This factor has to be recognized when we talk about her canonization, in just what this move does to appease popular culture and regional religious communities where she lived, worked and died and brings everyone together in one unified community.
Pope Francis has been making saints in higher numbers than his predecessors at the same time in their papacies. If you study the trend, Pope Francis is making Saints regionally, and for specific countries, and specific communities for specific reasons. He is recognizing popular religious practice, while maintaining Holy Mother Church standards for sainthood.
There is method, reason and rationality to this process, that you would only recognize if you did the research I have into Popes, Saints, and Holy people.
This is why I went to University, to be able to speak with authority on these topics.
Though many theologians hold that sudden spiritual experiences amount to a special distinction, if not a divine appointment of some sort, I question this view.
Every human being, no matter what his or her attributes for good or evil, is a part of the divine spiritual economy. Therefore, each of us has their place, and I cannot see that God intends to exalt one over the another.
So it is necessary for all of us to accept whatever positive gifts we receive with a deep humility, always bearing in mind that our negative attitudes were first necessary as a means of reducing us to such a state that we would be ready for a gift of the positive ones via the conversion experience.
Your own alcoholism and the immense deflation that finally resulted are indeed the foundation upon which your spiritual experience rests.
Bill W. Letter, 1964
The time has come in our circle of intrepid young men for much needed change. This summer has not been kind to our small fellowship. And retreading the same mundane literature in one fellowship, is not the same as retreading old literature in another.
The main corpus of the Big Book has not changed since the day those words were printed in the 1930’s. But the wisdom of its writers was genius. Reading from the first 164 pages gives a wealth of wisdom. And over the past four years, a growing number of folks in the Montreal A.A. fellowship have been introduced to people from other places, who see ideas and words and the writing of the Big Book, in ways, we, here, do or have not, in the past.
When I met Bob in 2012, He introduced me to The Work. At that same event, over 300 people were introduced to the Same Work. Maybe a handful of folks went home and did as we were shown. I did, at least.
Now this Summer, I met another man from New York, who is working with a primary small group of people, reading the book, and doing The Work, anew.
The Big Book is written in a way that, beginning with The Book, at large, can be drawn down to chapters, and further into pages, then further into paragraphs, and finally into sentences. The book is written in a certain fashion, with certain reason and process.
When you add further “in depth” homework, questions to ask ones self, working along side a sponsor who is IN the primary small group, doing the work themselves, miracles happen.
In our other fellowship, Life With Hope, is just a book, that has the twelve steps and traditions and a number of stories, akin to the Big Book format. There is no retreading Life With Hope. It lacks the wisdom writing and the function of the book, to be gleaned for new wisdom, as the Big Book offers.
Some of our men, have realized that “If nothing changes, Nothing Changes.” And I’m about at the end of my journey, as mentor with the most time banked.
The problem with the fellowship(s) is this … In today’s day and age, addiction crosses many boundaries. The oldsters, who have remained, in A.A., most of them have singular problems, and they came and rooted in the “rooms.”
Over the last fifteen years, I have seen dual addictions come into A.A. and years ago, speaking of dual addiction, or uttering the word DRUGS, in ones share, was met with anger, resentment, and the person who uttered that dirty word, was shown the door.
Usually, they never came back.
Today, in certain meetings, speaking about dual addiction has become more commonplace. Peoples sensibilities have softened. Because, we must meet the times with equal concern and try to be accepting and welcoming.
Some do, but Some DO NOT.
Before other (A) meetings opened, A.A. was the only route to recovery. That is IF you found your way to our rooms. And there are, today, many routes to recovery. The fellowship is not the only way to find freedom from addiction.
Tonight, I talked with some of my friends at the regular Friday Night meeting, because we really need some additional man/woman power, for our floundering M.A.meetings. What I got in return was … addicts, who cross many addiction lines, stick to certain groups, for certain reasons. That is a logical answer, because they have found some solidarity with others in the same boat.
Men and women who were equal opportunity users of many drugs, pick the strongest affinity with the most commonality. That is N.A./ C.A. or M.A. so forth and so on.
Even if they cross several boundaries, they do not cross meeting lines into the lesser of their evils. Many just don’t see the need to add just One More Meeting. Even if I asked them to participate, none of my friends are inclined to do so.
That has been a long standing problem. When the needs of one group cannot be met, by bringing in fresh folks to share experience, strength and hope, the wealth of existing experience only goes so far, before we hit the bottom of the wisdom and experience bank.
You can only tell the same story so many times, without fresh wisdom, and if you do that your story becomes boring and useless, and those around you go looking for something different, because you are retreading the same material and not adding to it.
That is where our little fellowship is right now.
Our barrels are empty. And not all of my guys, hit other meetings, other than the ones we provide three times a week, even if the topic changes along with the type of meeting.
We are tired and burned out. We need to replenish our banks with fresh knowledge, wisdom and sober education. So it goes, I have told my guys that if they want to remain clean and sober, sitting in a stagnant room, is not going to get them anywhere. They need to hit other meetings, IF and ONLY IF, they have commonality with another fellowship.
Most drug users, have crossed several boundaries. Alcohol, other drugs, pills, and other mind and mood altering substances. Some pot heads, drink, still. Some have come to the realization that clean and sober, means, just that: Clean and Sober.
So it goes.
“Obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got.”
I’ve given all I’ve got at this point. When our young people, who have been away all Summer return in the next week or so, those of us, on the front lines, will step back and go fill our banks, while they step up and take the reins, so to speak.
Tonight, we talked about Gifts. And God. And Sobriety.
Bill believes that God would not exalt one over another. We are all equal in the eyes of God. And with what God gives us, each in our own ways, should accept, and have some humility in the grand scheme of things.
A friend of mine spoke about a conversation he had with one of his friends the other day. He asked his friend if he had heard from God that day, and the answer came back,
When I am listening for Him.
Life is one Big Spiritual Experience, if you want to see it that way. Some do, Some don’t.
Another friend talked about alcoholics and addicts being The Chosen Ones. That pushes the envelope into arrogance. Once you cross that line into ego and arrogance, you’ve lost your humility and grace.
That kind of shit is the first thing that many people recognize right off the bat.
I can ponder my story, now, with the eyes and experience I have, and see where God had stepped into my life and did for me what I could not do for myself. And that means that in all cases, it was another human being who was at the right place at the right time, to get me through certain periods of time in my life.
I’ve seen my fair share of tragedy, death and suffering to last me ten lifetimes.
I know, for me, that when I got sick and was going to die, that had Todd not stepped up and did what he did for me, I would have died like all my other friends who did.
Out of all those people, Todd chose to help me. And Saved my Life.
I can say, without a doubt, that that was a Certain God divined decision.
For my entire life, well back in my teens, I was searching for God. I went to church, I prayed, I attended Seminary, and failed.
When I put down the drugs and the drink for the last time, when I was beaten and broken, and had no where else to turn, I prayed once again. Because up until that point, I had not uttered a prayer, once.
I knew it was the end for me, if I did not STOP.
I prayed for an alcoholic, and that alcoholic appeared. Another God ordained decision.
Today I serve my God to the best of my ability. I do what I can, every day to help my friends and fellows. Even if I don’t want to, I know, that if I just Do the Next Right Thing, God will provide.
We hear, many times from both men and women, that when they come in, bashed and broken, many feel unworthy of anything like freedom or happiness or life. Then they hear the Promises, and they come back for more, waiting for them to come true for them as well. I heard a particular woman tonight say that early on, she felt as if she deserved nothing and was hurting inside. Those feelings of unworthiness are common among many folk, men and women alike. And I’ve heard the slogan that people have repeated to me countless times since I first got sober…
Stick around until the miracle happens.
When I first got sober, a woman who worked at the associated rehab, where I was getting sober, would tell me that every day. The miracle was coming rather quickly. Todd was on the case, and every day that he gave me a reason to hang on and to choose life over death, the miracle was happening. That miracle is still ongoing, because I am still alive. twenty two years later.
Come, Sit, Stay …
You will find that power greater than yourself.
The obsession will leave you, I promise.
And You Too will see how HP, or God, as I call Him, will work miracles in your life as well.
**** **** ****
God never fails us.
It is we who fail God.
For many years God had been trying to get my attention. And I wasn’t aware that I really needed HIM when I was off the beam. Because when I was in SELF, I did not need God. But God waited, and through trial and error, several times He got my attention when needed. It took me until this time around to really consider, living by God’s will and not my own. I never knew that turning my life over, to the degree I did, TOTALLY, that life would be like this. I never imagined it that way, way back then.
I thought that I would find my way “OUT THERE” in the Other World. That included drugs, alcohol and warped thinking. When I moved here, to Montreal, I said to God that I would do this, if HE would take care of me. I really had no idea what I was going to do, when I got here. When I walked into St. Leon’s Parish hall, I settled in for the long haul and i waited upon God. I was steadfast and obeyed every word that was given to me. And here I am, almost fifteen years later.
God did not disappoint.
The rooms provide. I have not had to go outside the room for ANYTHING in all my years of sobriety. You can take that to the bank.
Be careful for what you pray for, because if God thinks you are ready for it, it is going to come, and usually in spades.
But on the flip side, if you get up and want a SHIT DAY, you will get your shit day, because that is where you go in your head.
It is our choice, what we choose to connect with on a daily basis.
Because we all know, and the book says,
All we have is a daily reprieve based on the maintenance of our Spiritual Condition.
If I don’t hear from God directly, that just means I need to hit a meeting and go listen to my friends. Because one way or another, the words will come, I just have to be attuned to listen for them.
That is, to this day, a work in progress.
One day at a time.