The Catholic Church’s Dirty Little Secret …

St. John Vianney College Seminary Miami Florida

In the years 1986 – 1987, I spent that year, in a college seminary in Miami. The sainted priests of my home parish really thought I had a calling to the priesthood. They worked very hard at my formation prior to entering the seminary. Altar Boy, Eucharistic Minister, so forth and so on.

I loved the Pastor, Priests, and the many other people who served my parish so dutifully and loyally. We were a family. And I was safe. When I needed help the most, in my most desperate hours of illness, after I was diagnosed, the men of my parish really stepped up their games for me.

I really had nothing to loose, entering the seminary. My parents were going to get rid of me, and not have me under their roof any longer, that was good for all of us. I would no longer be abused mercilessly, but on the down side, I would have no support from home, except the parish priests.

I was two years out of high school, having completed a year’s scholarship at the community college. But I was destined for greater things.

I took all my tests and psychological exams. And I guess I passed well, because I was in, that fall. It was a learning curve for sure. The residence was located above classrooms of the main building, with double occupancy, Murphy bedded rooms. You were not alone at any point, unless your room mate was in class or off campus.

A retinue of priests were housed in the building with us, on each end of the building. And it seemed all was well, but something was just not right, all around.

I had not come out of the closet, because I figured that If I made it, I wasn’t going to have to worry about my sexuality because I would be serving Holy Mother Church. Not that being gay was top of mind, because it really wasn’t. I had eyes into ministry and I was singularly focused.

The other odd thing was that many GAY priests, and priests who had been diagnosed with AIDS, or had other parish issues, were sent to our school, to either teach, or be in ministry positions to the class in residence, and say mass every day and on Sunday.

Gay WAS a thing. It DID exist. Right in front of me. Nobody talked about it, but it was clear and out in the open, if you knew to look for tell tale signs of homosexuality. I had pretty good GAYDAR then.

There were three Catholic institutions that were located on a plot of land, who shared common outside space and school precincts. There was Christopher Columbus Boys High School, St. Brendan’s across the green space from our buildings. And the Seminary.

Out back of the three sites were baseball, and soccer fields. A communal pool, that was fenced in, and a perimeter road that circled the high school and the seminary grounds. We spent nights after dinner walking that circle, night after night.

I knew, after while, which of my classmates were gay. That was pretty apparent to me, at least, yet I asked no questions. EVER.

It was common knowledge that gay priests were in residence with us, and nobody batted an eye over that. The first rector of the institution had issues with the drink, and they sent him away to rehab. Which incensed me to no end, and I lobbied long and hard to get him back.

He was replaced with a papal wannabe Rector Andy Anderson, who thought himself Divine. And pranced around and acted like he WAS the pope, when he was in public and when he said mass. I hated Andy Anderson with every fiber of my being. I hated his sanctimonious attitude and his pride and arrogance as a priest.

HATED HIM !!!

Several of my classmates were sanctimonious pop tarts who walked around like they were above everyone else. Many years later, MANY years later, I turned on the tv once, and saw, one of my sanctimonious classmates saying mass on television. I was revolted for sure.

During the day and on Friday we had assigned chores every week, like mowing the grass on the quad, cleaning the house and the chapel, and odds and ends jobs.

One of the jobs we had during the day was serving the high school next door to the seminary, since we shared common space and their cafeteria. We served lunches and took care of the cafeteria. But I noticed that several of my upper classmates were passing notes to many of the boys as they came through the lunch line.

It was not kosher at all …

One night as I walked the quad after dinner one evening, I was behind the school, walking past the baseball dug outs and IN the dug out were several of my classmates having sex with kids from the school next door.

I averted my eyes so as not to notice, and kept walking. I was sure, I had seen what I had seen. Not long after that incident, I was approached by several of my classmates who made it perfectly clear to me that I should never tell anyone what I saw. They confirmed to me what it was that I did see, by telling me to shut up and keep quiet.

Or I would pay a price.

Each week we had spiritual direction, with a certain priest we had chosen to see on a regular basis. And I kid you not, it was like sitting in front of an inquisitor. The first question, every time I sat with my spiritual director was this … “Did you touch yourself this week, and how many times did you touch yourself ?”

Spiritual direction took a backseat when it came to sexual information.

Now, even if I had masturbated whenever I could get away with it, I’m not saying I did or I didn’t … I wasn’t going to give that priest the sexual satisfaction of hearing about “If I touched myself, and how many times I did so.” In essence, I lied to his face …

And I think to myself, you know, “Masturbation is a far lesser sin, then fucking kids in the dug out out back of the school after dark.”

But I didn’t ever say that to anyone.

Many years would pass, after my unceremonious expulsion from the seminary in the Spring of 1987. I was told by Rector Andy Anderson, that I was not ONE OF THEM, and that I did not pass my yearly review as a seminarian, so I had to go.

That unceremonious expulsion sent me on a tirade about God. I was terribly angry at God for a long time. I had later come out of the closet and was at one of the major gay watering holes in Miami one night, when five of my classmates walked into the bar, and hung out and drank and cruised like the other gays in the building.

But They Were Seminarians, Still in Formation at the College.

The Church today is facing the biggest problem of its life. Sexual abuse in the church by priests. They used to say that a homosexual man could not be ordained into the priesthood. After I left the seminary, they purged, or attempted to purge homosexuality out of seminary life.

I don’t think they succeeded.

Because when I was in that seminary, most every single priest in residence was GAY, or had AIDS and was GAY. And half of my classmates were GAY.

Over that year we hosted two retreats for prospective men who wanted to come into the seminary. A couple of them made it in, but after helping them unpack and sort themselves out, I knew it would not work for them, and they later were dismissed.

I NEVER had a gay issues in my home parish and the men and the priests who served my home parish were upstanding, respectable men with integrity and morals. All of them, were great men to me. I would never speak a bad word about any priest I knew growing up.

It wasn’t until I hit seminary that that all changed for the worse.

I studied Religion and Theology at Concordia University here in Montreal, and one of our Monsignors was one of my instructors. At the end of term I had to write a 40 page prospectus. I wrote on the care of the LGBTQ community, and how the church could facilitate that. He then offered me a place to work in the diocese when I graduated.

I did not get the job, and the offer was rescinded.

Because I was GAY.

The church is not perfect, by any stretch. And Gays, do exist in the church today and priestly abuse is a FACT, which the church has turned a blind eye to for decades and decades. Because of the culture of silence and coverups, by the highest men in the curia and the papal offices.

Decrees can come from Rome by the hour, but the farther you are removed from the center of power, the more diluted the order and the less the orders can be enforced by local Bishops and clergy. The farther you get from Rome, the Bishops around the world control the diocese they administer.

The farther away Bishops are, take more latitude in enforcing Papal decrees and laws. What happens in Rome, does not necessarily happen in North America or Latin America, or in any other far flung location, removed from the seat of Holy Mother Church.

We know who were abused, we hear about it very often. Pope Francis needs to be decisive and stern and certain with punishment and prosecution.

There is no room for men of the cloth who abuse boys and girls.

That is abominable.

And God Wept …


This is the Way It Is …

On a Double Decker bus in Ottawa with my best friend …

Watching coming out videos today, bring back certain memories and invoke certain feelings, about my own story.

I traveled to the South Shore last night, for a meeting at the famous Beaver Rehabilitation Center. Over the years, I’ve heard some old timers tell stories of their time there, and a particular nurse who worked there until about a decade ago. On the way the driver of the car, told me her stories of that famed nurse, Joan.

I learned a few more things about new friends last night. Which was nice. and I also learned that the car driver’s sobriety date is the SAME as mine.

December the 9th … She in 1987, me in 2001.

But back to where I am at the moment. I’m kinda sad.

Like I said above, I watched a new coming out video from a young man on You Tube. And I wrote to him, that his story was the most honest, tender and loving story I had ever heard. Coming Out is a daunting proposition.

He faced his trials and in the end he had success. His friends came round, his mom came round, and his sisters came round, eventually.

And I think … People are who they are. And I was and am powerless over people, places and things. The other night we talked about “Acceptance.”

I wonder, why people say the things they do, why they act the way they act, and why the world went sideways when I was a kid. I’m gonna be 52 in a few months and I think to myself, what a waste of time and effort. I really believe I was sold a terrible bill of goods.

People treated me so unfairly. And never gave me the opportunity to speak my words and defend myself. It was better to push me away and shut off my light and silence my ability to speak, rather than hear what I really have to say.

Coming Out, I was sold a bill of goods. I was told certain truths. And I ran with that delusion, until it did not serve me any longer. And I’ve written in the past, quite recently, The life I really wanted and desired, never came to fruition, and in the end I got the life, I got. It wasn’t necessarily the life I wanted, but it is the life I got.

I’m not sure I would have changed the life I have, or the way it played out, because life is good today, and I should not be resentful or bitter about not getting or getting.

We spend inordinate amounts of time sitting in meetings, listening to our friends, or people we think are our friends. And it still makes me wonder about people, when I hear some of the things that come out of their mouths.

And I think to myself, WHY ?

An entire section of my life is non-existent. An entire family of people have nothing to do with me, because of choices I made. But really, I was gay, and gay was abominable, so I had to move away from home, because I was pushed away.

THEN they blamed me and said it was all my fault. That I was the cause of all of their problems. When I was the one who got away from a very abusive situation, and people. I got out for my own good, my own safety and my own sanity.

So Fuck me for self preservation.

So many years have passed and nobody seems to care that I am alive or have a life or have words to speak to certain people. And I find that wasteful today. I think that people have just gone down a rabbit hole and never came back up.

People have a choice. And I wonder, why people made the decisions they did, because at this point in my life, I see the wasted opportunities, the wasted years and years of punishing silence.

Why because I was Gay or later, was diagnosed with AIDS?

I had two coming out experiences. The first was much happier than the second. Because when I came out, it was on my own terms, in the location I wanted, with the people I wanted to be there, when I made my entrance into the gay community of Orlando.

I think to myself, that certain people in my life did what they did and they said what they said and they chose the line they were going to follow, for better or for worse.

I lost on all accounts, because an entire group of people walked away from me, and left me on my own to survive. Thank God, Todd was there, because if it wasn’t for him, I would have died many years ago.

I just think it is utterly so sad that I am where I am, still asking the same questions I asked decades ago. All I want is to speak, to tell my story to people who don’t want to know me. To explain the what, where, why, and how. On my own terms, in my own voice.

But people don’t or won’t deign to stoop to my level and listen to me. I am just not that important. And there is just too much water gone under that old bridge.

I find that utterly sad. It just makes me so sad and sick inside.

My father went to his grave, never knowing me. never speaking to me, and never allowing me to say what I needed to say to him before he died. And that was his choice, not mine. My mother is going to same way, and so is my brother.

None of them want to know. Or want to listen.

So Fuck me for self preservation

Time is a precious commodity, once wasted it can never be regained.

My maths teacher, in 9th grade, used to write this sentence on the black board before every test or exam. And I remember those words till today.

So many people have wasted too much precious time. That we’ll never get back. Time is of the essence.

God is in control. And maybe it is better that way.

Because I surely don’t want to make these kinds of decisions.

Acceptance is the key to all of my problems.

When Hope Fails …

This piece was written by my Spiritual Director. I wanted to share it, AND write on this subject, because I have experience with Hope.

When Hope Fails

I was talking with someone who has decided not to hope any more. “Why?” I asked. “Because when the hope is unfulfilled, it hurts too much, so it’s better not to hope.”

There’s something wrong with that. But I understand it.

Proverbs 13:12
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy.”

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
“but when dreams come true, there is life and joy”

I want to talk about hope a bit today. And I want to start in the Psalms.

Psalm 33:13-22
13 The LORD looks down from heaven
and sees the whole human race.
14 From his throne he observes
all who live on the earth.
15 He made their hearts,
so he understands everything they do.
16 The best-equipped army cannot save a king,
nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
17 Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory– for all its strength, it cannot save you.

God has a wonderful perspective of us and our little things. Nothing is hidden from his eternal, creating eyes.

He is able to see the whole human race, every heart, every mind, every one of our thousand secrets.

He’s able to see your motivations, that indeed you meant well even if it didn’t come out as you had hoped.

He created the hearts of men and women, to beat and beat and beat and give them life and breath. And Hopes and Dreams.

So, it says, “He understands”. Like no one else in creation.

He understands our desires. He understands our wishes. He understands our hopes. He understands our dreams.

He understands, and wants to remind us that sometimes our perspective isn’t great. Sometimes we can only see from here to the other side of the room. He see’s into eternity.

See, we often place our hope in the wrong things.

He reminds us…
A powerful army isn’t strong enough for a king. A good horse won’t give you victory, it can’t save you.

Strength won’t save us, neither will might.

The health system, blessed as we are to have it, won’t save us.
The government can’t save us.

We place our hopes in these powerless things.

We hope in due process. In the legal system.
We hope in our money, to provide a way out.
We hope in others to help us out.
We hope a relationship will work out.
We hope for a great job.
We hope in our children to make the right choices.
We hope for great presents.
We hope in our parents, to be perfect.
We hope that the pastor will have some answers.
We hope to roll up the rim and win!

Yet John 16:33 says “In me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Take Heart!

What happens when our strength isn’t enough? When our armies fail and our warhorses are not enough? What happens when hope fails and is deferred?

Lets continue in Psalm 33

18 But the LORD watches over those who fear him,
those who rely on his unfailing love.
19 He rescues them from death
and keeps them alive in times of famine.

Remember the one who’s perspective is from eternity?
The one who see’s everyone, who knows your heart?

He says he will watch over those who respect Him.

Those of you who rely on his unfailing love.
He will rescue you from the anguish of death. He will keep you from eternal death, and provide you with eternal life.

And, he will keep you as you live through seasons of famine. Not just physical hunger, but emotional hunger, spiritual dryness.

He won’t always stop the famine from coming, but he is able to keep you alive through it!!!

He won’t always stop the illness, or the poverty, or the joblessness, or the dryness. But he can keep you alive through it.

He will walk with you through the hopelessness. Through the heartsickness of unanswered hope.

You see, often we place our hopes in the things that can’t save us. In the temporary things that we can’t change. In our power and might.

We may even place our hope in Christ to change the story, the situation, yet that may not be the very best for us.

When our hope is deferred…
When it feels like God has not heard us…

We have 2 choices.

1. Get bitter
-Get angry. At God and humanity. And yourself.
-Never hope again because it always fails you anyway.

Or

2. Trust in God. Refocus your hope.

Remember, the one who loves you, who knows you, who made you.
When hope fails, we need to raise it up a level.

PSALM 33
20 We depend on the LORD alone to save us.
Only he can help us, protecting us like a shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we are trusting in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.

When our only hope is in man’s strength and ability, and that fails, it means we’ve been aiming to low. We need to lift our focus higher.

Only He can help us. Only He can protect us as life goes on all around us.

Because our hearts rejoice in him. They find life and meaning in knowing Him.

A few weeks ago I attended the funeral of a friend who had been ill for some time.
1970’s heart attack. Heart disease for years.
Put on a heart transplant list, became too ill for that.

As he was dying, and his human hope was deferred a final time, he was able to rejoice and be glad. Because he knew the one who knew him. He trusted in God and his heart rejoiced.

For his family too. The funeral was a real, true celebration of hope. And Gods faithfulness through life and in death.

This is how it is possible for those who have experienced tremendous brokenness and hopelessness, to actually rejoice and be glad. Because they knew the maker of their hearts.

Where is your true hope? In the things of this earth? Or in the things of Heaven?

Have you had hope deferred, even by God? He who knows and created your human heart understands.

Lift up your eyes, your broken hearts.
Trust the one with the higher perspective. Trust in God.

This is my story about HOPE.

When one is faced with a terrible situation, and the end of the line is your next stop, one really learns about hope. When we are faced with odds that are against us, we learn about hope. When doctors tell you that you are going to die, go home, kiss your ass goodbye, and wait to die …

You learn what hope is. Because before you get there, hopelessness really does set in, because there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And the light you do see, is the train coming at you, at 100 miles per hour.

Before hope sets in, if the odds are really dire, you think to yourself, that “no, I’m not gonna die that way, so I am going to take matters into my own hands, and do what I think is best for me.” ” No, I am gonna kill myself, my own way, so as to defer sickness and pain, in the short term.”

Then, GOD steps out of Heaven, and says … STOP !

Heaven is always respectful of our free will. Heaven never pushes itself on us, but holds its breath, to see which way we will choose ?

I had two choices. I could STOP, or I could go to the bitter end, and blot out the suffering, until Death did come for me, on my twisted terms.

I know God. I’ve met Him. I walked with Him, and I communed with Him.

God had other ideas. Hope was not one of them, because there was no hope. True, I was gonna die, sooner or later. I knew that. But words were spoken, out of love and compassion.

Those words told me that I did have a choice, about how I was going to attack death, and live to tell the story. That was he decision I made.

God was there. I was not alone. All I needed to do was follow directions.

Now, you might ask, how did you find the path to hope ? I didn’t.

I don’t know how you bounce back from being told, “You are going to die, there is no hope, so get on the ride, and ride it.”

Sometimes, when you are marked for death, there is no return. Sadly, the percentages of life after death diagnosis are slim. I’ve seen both sides of this coin in as many years. I know, that sometimes people die. That illness and sickness is capricious.

I can tell you what I did, every day.

Inside the four walls of the bar I worked in, was a safe space. The good thing about psychology is this, “sometimes it works.”

I had much going on in my mind at that time. Worries that were beyond my capacity to grasp them. I had serious issues. Death, was just one of them. My alcoholism was the other. I had to attack BOTH at the same time.

Needless to say, life had become Hopeless.

I was not moaning over the fact that I could not drink any longer. Once I got passed the point of acceptance, drinking became a non issue. I was working in the belly of the beast, in a BAR, for God’s sake.

Really, death was the only dance I had to dance.

I had to start stacking alive days. So we could say, in Jimmy Settle terms, was that July 8th 1994, was my first death day.

Every day forwards would become another “death day.”

I came to work. But the day this all began, it was a challenge. I was loved, and that’s what mattered. I was told that I could follow directions, and if I did, I would live. I was down for that from the get go, no matter how hard I battled against my worse nature, because I kicked and screamed and cried an awful lot, in those first few months.

But I listened to advice, and I did what I was told. And every day that I lived, I trusted in the advice given. Come to work. Leave the baggage of the outside world, OUTSIDE the door. When you cross the threshold, the only thing you need to think about, is the job you are given, on any given night, and ONLY that.

Getting to shut off my brain, for a few hours, on a nightly basis, worked.

I did not have to think about dying, inside. Because I watched it come for everybody else around me, in the patrons who were sick, who patronized the bar I worked in.

They all Died. I survived them all.

I stacked enough days, that when I got to my literal “death day,” and I was still alive, I went on with life. I don’t think you can call this hope, because, I was still very sick, and death, was still a “Clear and Present Danger.”

When you live with “Clear and Present Danger” one learns how to govern expectations, and life itself.

I have twenty five years of living with Clear and Present Danger.

I take nothing for granted.

I’m no longer hopeless. I don’t suffer from a three fold disease, Mental, Physical and Spiritual disease. Alcoholism is an every day job. Living is a bit higher on that list. As long as I live, and I don’t drink today, I have a fighting chance.

If I take my will back and decide that I am going to go it alone, I am literally FUCKED !!!

I know God. I’ve met Him. If I close my eyes, and sit still and be quiet, I can see Him in my minds eye, and I can even hear His voice.

I’m alive. And if you find hope in this story, then I did my job.

Hope comes, when you stack enough ALIVE DAYS together, and you live, longer than you thought you would, not only does hope come, but more importantly, GRATITUDE comes.

Gratitude does amazing things when you have no hope. Because if you can be grateful for one thing a day, there is hope.

You cannot have hope and NOT be grateful, because a by product of gratitude is hope.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.

Sunday: Kindness

Today was a special day. My best friend and his fiancee were coming to Montreal for the day, for Meg’s moms birthday brunch. They were going to see the Carol King Bio Show at Place des Arts afterwards.

I started the morning off at the Old Brewery Mission for my Sunday meeting. Looks like I am going out to the famed Beaver Rehabilitation Center on Wednesday night this week, with the ladies from the Sunday meeting. And one of them is speaking for me at the end of the month.

Afterwards I headed to Place des Arts to meet the party. I got to Complex Dejardins early, and before everyone else arrived. It only took me almost half an hour to find the restaurant, in the maze of the entire complex. Luckily it was sitting in a dark corner where construction walls were up, which made it harder to find.

Eight of us were there. Raf and Meg, her brother Eli, and his girlfriend, Meg’s mom, and two others I did not know. After a leisurely brunch, gifts were exchange for the two birthday girls.

And they had a bag for me. With the above items in it.

  1. A Tea Towel that Raf’s grandmother painted. She paints many of them as a hobby. So I got one.
  2. Raf’s favorite soccer team jersey Palmeiras on the left, and
  3. An official Brazil Jersey with the Number 10 – Pele’s number.
  4. And A door hanging Holy Spirit, a Brazilian tradition to hang over the front door of the apartment.

These days two of my favorite soccer players Lionel Messi at Barcelona and Paulo Dybala for Juventus, both wear the number ten for their respective clubs.

I was not expecting gifts today because it was not my day, so to speak. But I got a fine brunch and gifts from my best friend today. it was just good to get to spend a couple hours with him and Meg.

Because of the terrible snow conditions both here and back in Ottawa, I won’t be going down until April when his school term ends, and Spring finally arrives.

A good day was had by all.

Brene Brown – The Anatomy of Trust and Vulnerability

“If your marble jar is empty, you don’t have it to give away.” “Do you have marble jar friends ?” “What is a marble jar friend ?”

Braving
Boundaries
Reliability
Accountability
Vault
Integrity
Non Judgement
Generosity

Trust – is choosing to make something important to you, vulnerable to the actions of someone else.

This mirrors A Vision for You, when it says: “Obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got.”

I have a marble jar. I’ve been working to fill it, over these very trying months of my life.

And I have spent time listening to Brene Brown, Timber Hawkeye and others talk about The Anatomy Trust, Vulnerability, Shame, Guilt, Peace, Letting Go, and the Fine Art of Not Giving a Fuck, and finally, The Fuck It List…

When my emotional roller coaster left the station, I observed something that shook me to my sober core. My friends, fellows, sponsors, allies, did not want to hear my pain. They did not want to listen to me, honestly and compassionately, and without judgment.

As the months wore on, the people who did not want to listen to me, became afraid of me, and some, even asked me to go from meetings because of their fear factor.

Men and Women who were double-digit sober, MUCH more double digit sober than I am right now, thought out loud that “Oh, you want us to treat you special, unlike everyone else in the room!” No … I just want to be treated as a human being in difficulty.

I have friends, well, they’re not friends any more, who just cannot sit with me and listen to me talk when I need to talk. If only to hear words come out of my mouth, that seem important to me in the moment.

Yesterday I was sitting with a friend, well, I thought she was a friend. We were talking about HER. There is a situation on the table, she wants to invest in. And she wanted me to walk her through this process, because I have personal experience, in this area.

I have friends, well, fellows, who will invest every dollar of their mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical selves with people far away, or on people who have a very low R.O.I. (Return on Investment).

I’ve been floundering here in my own stew of emotional and mental soup for months, and every time I want to talk to and/or in front of these people, they tell me to SHUT UP.

I’ve learned that I have a choice in the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHY …

I don’t have to engage in every problem in a room. And I don’t have to invest in something that is wasteful and/or a waste of time.

I’ve done this over and over again.

Timber says that WE need to be LIGHT.

Light as in a LIGHTHOUSE.

A lighthouse is static. Stands in one place, and shines its light for ships to see to navigate away from rocks and danger.

For years and years, I thought I needed to shine my light in people’s faces, as if to say …

“Here is the light, do you see it, I am the light …”

NO, WRONG …

I just have to sit still and be present, and keep my mouth shut until it is necessary to speak.

One attracts more bees with honey than with vinegar.

It is apparent to me now, many months later, that as long as I am serving other people, talking about what THEY want to talk about, and helping THEM, as long as the conversation is serving THEM, everything is kosher.

As soon as there is a break in the stream of consciousness, and I turn from helping THEM into hoping they will listen to ME, to help ME, that’s when they tell me to SHUT UP.

Does that seem right to you ? Because it doesn’t seem right to me.

Timber tells us to make a list of our CORE VALUES. Write them down. All those things that we want to be, the men and women we want to become.

When you finish writing, take that list and compare it to WHO you ARE right now.

Right away, we begin to see just how much work we have to do with US, to become the people we want to be.

I have that same list for my friends. People are people and I have to let them be who they are, without expectations, judgments or conditions.

We have to allow people to be who they are warts and all.

But in these times of troubles and strife, I need my friends to help me. I bowed down and asked for help. I’ve asked people to help me, to rise up and do for me when I could not do for myself.

Barely a handful of those people did RISE UP and helped ME.

I’ve learned that I don’t always have to be the voice of reason and sobriety. Not everyone wants to listen to me give them unsolicited advice, because someone, or a friend is in difficulty. I gotta let them work it out. And not get involved in their spiritual journey.

That is one of the Great Sins …

One, to get in the way of YOUR spiritual journey, and TWO, getting in the way of someone Else’s spiritual journey.

I’m tired of my friends, telling me to just SHUT UP.

Essay – Vulnerability

It is Tuesday, a day off. I watched a You Tube Video about Candice Neistat, with Bryan Elliott, which lead to a TED talk with Brene Brown, about vulnerability.

Bryan shared a quote from Brene that said:

“The depth that we are willing to be vulnerable is the measure of our courage.”

When He heard that quote, it floored him. When I heard the quote from him, I had to go to the source to understand its context.

I’ve been working to understand what the entire last year has been about, and why things panned out the way they did, and I think it comes down to being totally vulnerable, honestly and authentically.

Over my life, there have been times when I have been brutally honest, and totally vulnerable. Take for instance, finding out I was sick and was going to die.

Utter devastation makes one vulnerable, because we have lost control, we are not in control, and we end up, out of control, in many ways.

In a sense, I was too vulnerable for my own good, because in that vulnerability to be honest and authentic, scared everyone away. I was in the mix, and my friends and family could not handle the honest, gut wrenching truth.

The person that I was truly vulnerable with, was Todd. He was humble and a force to be reckoned with, when it came to my dignity and my life. Over those years, I shed a great many tears in front of him, with him, and because of him. That is something that I can say, changed my life.

A little while later, I stood up, in front of a room full of alcoholics like me and was vulnerable, once again. I alienated them, and they asked me to go away. So much for wearing my death on my sleeve.

Imagine having your heart crushed by someone when you are sharing the deepest darkest fears of your soul. In the attempt to recover from numbing your emotions for so long.

Brene says that you cannot selectively numb certain emotions, and not affect the others along with them.

In sobriety, I have been vulnerable to a certain degree. And it has taken almost all of my sobriety, to finally tap that well of vulnerability, like I have tapped over the past year.

I may not have tapped it, but it certainly tapped me.

People who are authentic:

  • Have the courage to be Imperfect
  • They are Compassionate to themselves first, then to others
  • They believe connection is the result of Authenticity
  • And they Believe that they are Worthy
  • That fully embracing their Vulnerability makes them Beautiful
  • And that Relationships are Fundamental parts of existence for us all
  • Connection is why we are here on earth. To Connect and not be Alone

Brene goes on to say that Vulnerability is at the core of:

  • Shame
  • Fear
  • And the Struggle for Worthiness
  • Which is the Birthplace of Joy, Creativity, Belonging and Love

I can see, in hindsight, where I shut down that part of myself. Not necessarily a good thing, but it is what it is. You might think that I was stoic, on certain occasions, but I don’t think it was stoicism, but maybe fear, numbness and an inability to articulate what was going on in my head.

I’ve spoken about those points in life where I was totally vulnerable and sunk in a pit of despair. I can name them, because the list is very short.

  • The day I identified James’s body at the morgue after his suicide
  • The night I told Todd that I was going to die
  • The day I said goodbye to Todd
  • And the emotional response I had to the Orlando Massacre

The last episode was the worst, in many, many years. I had not cried, as I did, since James’s death, the many nights I cried on Todd’s shoulder, struggling with death and his insistence on my survival. Many tears were shed during those two years of intensive work on myself, at Todd’s direction.

That Tuesday night, at the meeting, when I fell apart, it was a cathartic response, to the story that we were reading from the back of the Big Book, the emotional state I was in, because of the massacre, and the fact that only one human being thought to call to see if I was ok.

Then the reaction of my sponsor who humiliated me and accused me of expecting to be treated differently than the others in the room, when all I wanted was a little compassion, that my fellows and my sponsor could not accommodate.

Instead of understanding and compassion, for my vulnerability, I was humiliated and shut down, by people who were incapable of understanding.

I had friends, who were long sober. Whom I thought loved me. They cared for me and supported me, and did charitable acts for me, inside of an organization that I belong to, that I have not set foot in since many months ago.

I ran my steps with a woman I trusted. I told her my deepest and darkest secrets, and she knew my story, and had been involved with my sobriety for a very long time. When I got through my steps she said to me that I was angry and that she and the other women were afraid of me and that I should, in essence, go away …

I raised my voice at a business meeting, then ensued a mass running for the hills by my friends, fellows and sponsees. I had a rough night, and got punished for it with silence and judgment by people I spent an inordinate amount of time with. And when it came time to speak to that truth, I did so. Which probably alienated them all the way gone.

So much for being vulnerable.

I have some fatal flaws that always get in the way of my relationships with others.

  • I have an idealistic belief that every human being has ONE redeemable quality, that lends to forgiveness and love.
  • I believe in people, from the get go.
  • I trust people, from the get go, which stems from the rooms and my belief that most people are good.
  • I am also judgmental of some. I can spot bullshit and arrogant men, and people who would do me harm, at 50 paces
  • Living with AIDS gives me certain perspective on people, a talent I learned to save my own peril from those who would do harm to me.

This is what I have been feeling and experiencing over the past year. And now I understand it as well.

The price I paid for vulnerability was the loss of many people in my life, who either could not stand my depth of honesty or their understanding and commitment to compassion and love.

Such is life in the world of the alcoholic.

I also know today, that resentment and anger, pointed towards people,is sometimes pointless and wastes valuable energy towards others, when I should be pointing that energy towards myself. And that I need to be a bit more compassionate, understanding and forgiving, and also have a sense of pity for certain people in my life.

It is not always my fault for the reaction or beliefs of certain people in my life. I did not create them, and I am not responsible for their reactions to me, and/or towards me.

Not everyone we know, Not every one we meet, and Not everyone we spend time with are meant to be in our lives forever. In each interaction, there is a lesson to be learned about them and about ourselves.

This has been a year of learning about myself and others, in regards to the way others react to what is going on in my life, in the sense of honesty, integrity, vulnerability and authenticity.

It is true that, for the most part I am totally honest in some ways, but reserved in other ways. I don’t necessarily share my opinions, but when I do, they certainly cause people to look at me with second glances.

Hence, the loss of so many friends and fellows over the past year.

I get a sense that vulnerability comes in waves, as I am able to deal with them. And it seemed to me that they came fast and furiously for a while. It was BANG, BANG, BANG, one after the other.

That dam, failed. And vulnerability came.

I had no way to stop it once it began.

Not sure if I am done with it, but it makes sense now.

We shall see …

Flash Backs …

In the recent past, I have heard friends say that, their memory of what they did this morning, is quite incomplete. We sometimes cannot remember what we ate for breakfast, on any given day, but spin a particular piece of music, and you are immediately catapulted to a particular place and time, as if you were standing there in that very moment.

Which is why, most of my music that is filed into my I-Phone, is mostly old music. From my very first record, Captain and Tennille, Song of Joy, to the rock and roll that dictated my years in high school, to present day music that is the soundtrack of my life today.

The other day, I was on You Tube, as I am wont to do late at night, and I rolled across Andy Gibb, the youngest Gibb Brother, who died in the 1980’s from a combination of issues that killed him in the end.

What surprised me, was when I clicked on a particular song he used to sing. Now I did not have him on my phone till yesterday. But I played that particular song through, and was immediately transported back, sitting in the backseat of the family station wagon, at a specific location on the turnpike in South Florida, when this song had played on the radio, as my father drove the car.

I could see the inside of the car, a station wagon. It was green, and tan. My brother and I had the entire back of the car to ourselves, blankets, pillows and all kinds of munchies in the family cooler.

Every year, when I was a kid, my parents packed us into whatever car my father was driving at the time, for the 1500 mile journey from Miami to New Britain, Connecticut. It was a two to three day ride, depending on the route my father took, and where we stopped along the way.

The Florida Space Coast, Savannah Georgia, South of the Border, on the border of South and North Carolina was popular, for their giant statues of Mexicans, Apes, and a multitude of fireworks you could buy there.

We always drove through New York, crossing the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, then we knew we were close to home, and family.

I may not listen to certain music all the time, and recently, old music has come up on my You Tube algorithm, and like I said, I might not remember what I did this morning, but as soon as the first note hits me, my mind goes right back to where ever I was, when I heard that music last.

The I came across Saturday Night Fever. Another seminal film, full of music that framed an entire period of my life. Now I have several new/old pieces of music on my phone.

I’ve got music on my phone that as a teen-ager, was the backdrop of many of my drinking escapades with my friends. Once again, I can see in my minds eye, where I was, what time of day it was, such and so forth.

If I sit and listen to pieces of music for a while, I could sit here and tell the exact story of that particular piece of music, and what I was doing at that point in my life.

There was a time when I was into black lights, and black light posters on my bedroom walls, I had glitter lights on my shelves, and my stereo. Back then we all had water beds, and we used to get hammered and go see the Pink Floyd, or the Van Halen, or Def Leppard laser light shows at the Miami Planetarium on weekend nights.

I remember countless nights when I would be hammered, laying on my water bed, floating away to some serious Def Leppard.

Those were the days.

I just wanted to write this short story, because it brought back all kinds of memories of when I was a kid. Good memories. They are far, few and between. So I’ll take them when I can get them.

I Know How You Feel

The One thing that unites alcoholics comes down to one phrase:

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL, LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DEALT WITH THAT

The One Thing we can always count on, in the rooms, is there is usually, I don’t say always, because I am unique, usually someone who identifies with what we say, and can offer wisdom, based on their own experience.

Sadly, I’ve only heard this sentence spoken by one human being, in all my years of sobriety. Lorna, was the woman who shared this piece of advice with us, to give us hope that we were not alone in our struggles.

She gave this advice, because she knew Mother Teresa of Calcutta. They spent a lot of time together, prior to Mother’s death. Mother Teresa knew of every kind of suffering, and she knew how to deal with every kind of suffering. The one area that stumped her, was the Alcoholic.

She would ask Lorna about alcoholics, about meetings, and about Lorna’s story. She was so interested, Lorna once quipped to Mother, “Mother, are you sure you don’t have a problem?” At which point, Mother would genuinely giggle out loud.

The one thing Mother Teresa did not have was A STORY. She did not have those words of everlasting life…

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL, LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DEALT WITH THAT.

I keep Lorna, close to my heart. Since she passed a few years ago, her words ring truer every day that I stay sober, because it is she I go back to when I need the voice of an elder who I knew personally, had conversations with, and fellow shipped with here in Montreal.

I had several conversations earlier tonight with friends. And the wisdom I draw upon, is mostly observational and my skills at listening attentively. I trust very few people in sobriety, with ME. I share myself quite liberally with my peers, and those I work with on a regular basis.

My experience with long sober people is hit and miss. As How it Works says, “We are not saints.” That can be said for every one of us. We have learned recently that, under the cover of anonymity, people feel safe to say just about anything in open community, with the proviso that, nothing they say, can be used against them, somewhere else.

My lady friend who chaired the business meeting that got very ugly, said to me tonight, that the wisdom she drew was this … “There are points in my journey that I have shared certain things, “in community” that, now make me cringe, that I even said what it was I said.”

Alcoholics are not perfect. By any stretch.

But we try, at least. I’ve been trying for a very long time, to keep it together and become more spiritually fit, as was pointed out to us this evening, by our speaker. I might be sober, but, if I am not spiritually fit, then why bother?

It concerns me, deeply, the lengths I go to to work my program, be present, do service, and help others. What is most egregious is that, there is not one old timer, that I know, over as many years, who has walked up to me and asked me out for coffee, to chat, to point something out, or just to connect.

I have experience with men who have time, and have wronged me in the worst way, who, still to this day, have never returned to set the record right. So I stay away from those men. I don’t talk to them, I don’t attend the same meetings they populate, and I surely don’t carry their numbers in my phone.

I just don’t find it advantageous to go out of my way to be friends with someone who really does not care about me, period!!!

I sit in meetings right now, and I wonder, does anybody notice? Not that I am speaking about my ego, because I am not.

I’m speaking honestly.

I have three friends, right now, who have my number. My best friends, and a young man I work with occasionally. They are the only three people who use my number regularly. Old timers come to meetings, say hello, and beyond that, any other words are negligible.

Over the last many years, when I was in the dumps, and in need of another human being, to step up and say those magic words to me, when I was at my worst, during the very worst period in my entire sobriety, not one man or woman came and said anything to me.

Yes, I admit that an Angry, Gay, Alcoholic, is not pretty. Being who I am, being a Gay, HIV+, Crazy, Alcoholic does not register, because there is NO ONE in rooms who share any segment of my story, with me.

Yes, we might be alcoholics, but nobody seems to be interested in conversation, beyond pleasantries while sitting in the same room.

I thought to myself, before I started writing this piece, that I feel like I’ve been sold a harsh bill of goods. Like I have been short changed. Since the day I got sober, no one has presented the book to me, in any form, that resembles any sober method, I have heard worked in other places.

Last fall when I worked my last round of steps. I was given a glimpse of what the secrets of the Big Book Held for me. By someone not my gender, nor my age, nor the length of sobriety. I chose her because of who she was and what she represented to me at the time. Yes, we read the book, I worked my steps again, but when we got to page 164 … she was done, so to speak.

She had walked me through the front of the book, and I was on my own to divine whatever it was I am supposed to figure out, with another layer of sobriety laid open.

I’ve said this before … Sober, Old Timers, are thin on the ground. Sober, Spiritually Fit, Old timers, are even more rare. The choices in our section of town are thin.

I stay away from Terminally Straight Men, for obvious reasons.

What does a hockey loving, pussy chasing, terminally straight man, have in common with a Gay, HIV+, Crazy alcoholic, beyond a shared addiction to alcohol. I’ve watched men like this in community. Their history with interactions with me, were less than stellar.

I’ve said this before, I only take to being ignored, so far. Especially, if ignoring me includes a meal. If you cannot bother to break bread with me and share a table with me and get to know me, then why bother ???

People like to quote the book to me. And tell me how inclusive they are, as fellow alcoholics, and how people care about each other, until it comes time to sit down for a meal, as one, two, then ten men, walk by and sit somewhere else, to eat, rather that be caught dead at my table,

I have your number…

So I wonder, does it matter that I go to meetings? Does it matter to anyone that I have been spinning my wheels for a long time, and that long sober counsel is evidently missing from my life. And that I am drawing at straws to figure out how to stay spiritually connected to my higher power.

I do homework. I am always looking to find the next best thing to learn about myself. Cue me some Brene Brown, some Oprah, and Ted Talks, and sober shares by old timers who live somewhere else, who came here to speak at a Round Up, so I have them on my phone. So I can readily go back and listen to them talk to me.

You know, I could sit in the middle of a meeting and yell “FIRE” and see if I get a reaction. I know, it is against the law to walk into a space and yell the word “FIRE!”

I don’t know if people, listen to me, to the degree that I listen to them? I’ve spent the better part of my sobriety, listening to everybody else. And from that listening exercise, I have observational data about my peers. If you sit in the same room for any length of time, let’s say 12 years, and you’ve watched people come and go, some stay, some grow up, others, not so much, you learn a lot about your peers.

I said this yesterday, In as many years, I know, directly, everything that my friends did in sobriety. I listened to them talk, to bitch and moan. I watched them make decisions, and act, and from all this data, I got sober, by either doing what was working, or NOT DOING what did not work.

I made decisions based on how others attacked similar problems and situations. I sought the advice of people I trusted. I stayed sober, by the book, doing what I was told to do, by those who came before me, and set the table for my success.

Sobriety in 2019, is not the same sobriety of 2001.

I said this earlier, old timers might still be around, who were sober when I came in, whether they are stable, spiritually fit, sane, old timers, is the question. I can count on one hand, how many people, from my specific sobriety period, who are still sober, on their first pass.

I’ve practically outlived my friends, in sober terms.

I don’t necessarily believe I am always spiritually fit, and I admit there is always room for improvement. I don’t always have all the answers, but if faced with working with others, I draw on years of observational data, and years of listening to people suss out how to deal with situations we find ourselves in today.

There are very few, if any, folks, who will approach me and offer an opportunity to share, beyond sitting in the same room for an hour.

WHY ???

I don’t know why.

It think it goes like this … Friendship is Reciprocal. Or Supposedly, that’s how friendships work. At least, my friends reciprocate.

If pressed, in sobriety, when you ask an alcoholic to do something, the stock answer is always Yes. Inside a meeting.

Usually, if you ask an alcoholic to do something outside a room, the yes answer is a 50 / 50 chance.

If you sit at home, hoping that certain alcoholics are going to think about you, or call you, or invite you out for coffee, or even call to see if you are ok, after some particularly, serious meeting, or issue I laid on the table for consideration, the reciprocal action is absent.

I stopped being kind and over extending myself, my husband, and my dinner table, to people who never reciprocated. I’ve changed up my holiday roster of invitees. I don’t feed old timers, like I used to, I stopped associating with the old, catty, and vindictive queers.

Not One Gay Man, in the rooms, has anything in common with me. And they have made that perfectly clear to me over the years. You know, after a few meetings, who are your friends, and who puts up with you, because you share a meeting. And I know who does not care for me, or my style of sobriety.

There is no love lost on many people. I know, for the last seventeen years, who stood with me during my stormy period and who did not. I kept on, keeping on, by doing what it was I was told to do when I first got sober.

Suit Up, Show Up, Make Coffee, Shake Hands, Be Present, Listen

These simple guidelines did the trick. I am still sober.

I tell them to young people, and they look at me with the Side Eye. Like I am someone from outer space. Folks getting sober, make life so much more complicated today. When a simple suggestion, if followed to the letter, WILL produce immediate results, folks would rather eat dirt.

Fuck me for trying …

I’m feeling all kinds of fucked up right now.

Not sure what I should do right now, so I will sleep on my words, and tell my best friend, tomorrow.

At least I have three friends, at the moment, I can count on.

Old Timers, not so much.

I go where I think I need to go, and talk to people I am familiar with, who at least, have known me for a long time, who don’t necessarily communicate outside a meeting, because they have lives, too.

It is Friday. The Best night of the week, at least it used to be.

It is Winter …