Jan. 31 – Bell Let’s Talk, Mental Illness

bell-let-s-talk

Let us not be silent any longer, and we must know that mental illness affects us all. We all know someone, a son or daughter, parent, brother, sister, mother, father, cousin, aunt, uncle, friend or acquaintance, who suffers from mental illness, in some form.

We have seen, over as many months, the scourge of the suicides of young people who have taken their lives because of bullying and certain mental illness. If you bully someone long enough, they themselves will develop a mental issue, due to stress and pain.

And nobody wants to talk about it.

Mental illness is part of my life. As a man living with AIDS, depression and suicide have always been in the back of my mind. antidepressants to keep me above the water, with the knowledge that if shit got bad, and I was demented and lying in my own shit, I sure as shit will take matters into my own hands, and do the deed myself.

I had an exit plan, all those years ago, and here in Canada, assisted suicide is a right. I will not go miserably, like many of my friends did.

I believe that people who suffer from mental illness need a second set of eyes on them. We see this in the rooms today. Suffering addicts and alcoholics, who are solitary sufferers. they see a doctor and they get their pills. But, do they take them and do they get the much-needed help, each of them needs ?

For the most part no, they don’t.

Mental Health Services are hard to come by, because there is such a demand and not enough practitioners out there, for everyone to get proper, on the ground assistance. Which is why this network exists to connect those who need services with the proper people to give it to them.

As always, finding the right doctor is like finding a needle in a haystack. Any quack can dispense mends, but it takes a master to know his or her trade and do that trade well.

They say “It takes a village…”

I keep tabs on my friends, those who are in difficulty. But there is not much I can do, beyond offering assistance if needed. I have other parental friends whose children suffer from certain mental illness, and with my experience in the mental health arena, with my husband as proof, over the years, I have offered to them, what I know in a clinical format. I have printed information that I have given to each of them, telling them that their kids, if they need help, can get help, but the parents have to be proactive in making sure they have those second set of eyes on them.

All of my parental friends failed that task, miserably. Thy just fed their kids to the lions to fend for themselves, because of self centered-ness , and because they are put out because they have to take eyes off themselves, and put them on their kids.

Disgraceful…

My husband was diagnosed with Bi-Polar 2 rapid Cycling, over fourteen years ago. In the beginning it was very difficult for both of us. Because he was very sick, and ended up comatose on the sofa for more than ten months while we attempted to find the right mix of medication to wake him up and bring him round.

Meanwhile, I was hitting meetings, going to school, full-time and I was chief cook, and bottle washer. Mental illness is a full time job, and let me tell you it took more than twenty-four hours a day to combat.

Mental Illness is full-out combat. For the life of the one who is sick, and the person who becomes the caregiver.

I have to say something to all the care givers. Husbands, Wives, Families and Friends. You are the rock stars for the time you devote to your loved ones. And we must recognize the direct sacrifice we all make in the care of our loved ones.

Care Giving is a thankless job. So I thank you on behalf of everyone else.

Bi-Polar depression is a work in progress, even today. Because every day is different. Hubby has an inner tape that plays in his head. And every day that outer dialogue is different. It has changed over the years, as he has gotten better.

Problems do arise.

And from one day and one night to the next, I am not sure what I am going to get. There is a Bi-Polar Worksheet over there —> in the Pages section. it is a checklist of things that arose while treatment was began and time progressed. It is timely and pertinent. And it is useful.

After ten months of treatment, the final magical pill was found. And like Lazarus, rising from the dead, hubby got up off the sofa and became a human being once again.

Sadly, the man I got on the back-end of treatment, was NOT the same man who went in the front end.

The medication took away critical parts of who he was. And I have to say that I was terribly angry, when the doctor looked at me and said, “well, this is what you get!”

Nobody warned me that this might happen in the end.

Medication side effects are the number one reason that people will not take medication because of what that medication might do to them. In the end, a life can be rebuilt and men and women can find a new self, after treatment.

So I must stress, that if you NEED medical treatment, and medication is given, that you DO TAKE that medication.

It might not be the right solution for the right reason, but it IS a solution, in helping us combat the scourge of mental illness.

I have been in situations with people in my past, who suffered from mental illness who denied medical treatment, and took their meds and sold them one for one, for illicit drugs. Junkie Drug Dealers will trade in antidepressants, as payment for marijuana and other illicit drugs. I have seen this with my own eyes.

There is high demand for drugs like Xanax and other mood stabilizers, uppers and downers, that they seem to prefer along with the pot and drugs they peddle.

Illicit drugs and forgoing mental illness drug treatment is a huge problem. Because many think that the Herbal drug route is safer than medicinal drugs for mental health.

There is argument on both sides for the efficacy of marijuana in the treatment of certain forms of mental illness. I have to disagree with this. Marijuana is a drug, and is addictive, and will stunt who you are and drop you into a dark hole, you may never escape, the further you use.

The efficacy of very good drugs to combat mental illness is on the rise. Drugs have gotten much better over the last decade, and hubby is prime proof of just how well drugs for mental illness do work for him.

Today, hubby works a four-day work week at his job at the video production company where he is employed now for three years. On the fifth day, Friday, he works from home as a mental health day, we have worked this into our life schedule together.

Hubby still has his quirks and his problems. Sometimes he does not think through certain decisions, and puts me in certain tough situations that I had previously been unaware of, and by surprise, I stumble into a secret he had been keeping for a very long time.

Illicit drug use was one of those secrets. He miscalculated my travel schedule and had spread his drugs all over my desk one afternoon, and I happened to walk in on him as he did his thing.

Needless to say I was incensed. And Very Angry.

Now we have a work around, because his drug use, is an executive decision he made for himself that he believes helps him, and what can I say ? NO ??? So if I leave the house, I text him before I depart location B for home to advise him I am On My Way Home.

Thereby avoiding any issues between us.

I haven’t witness him doing his drugs in a long time, so I am not sure that he is still doing them at the moment. But that is one issue we do deal with currently.

Eating and sleeping are also issues. Sometimes he eats too much and sometimes he eats too little. Hubby has a nightly routine, and I put him to bed during the national news and he goes to sleep, in order to get up for work early in the morning.

The problem there is that sometimes he does not take his meds accordingly, and he lays there, awake for hours, and then gets pissy when I come to bed, when I know, certainly that with his meds he sleeps like a rock. You could drop the house around him and he won’t budge. But on certain particular nights, he is UBER hypersensitive.

That makes me crazy. Because from one night to the next, I am not sure what I am going to witness in bed on a nightly basis.

After treatment when hubby, “rose from the dead,” I had to rebuild him from the ground up. Beginning with occupational therapy. Odd jobs, house hold chores. Simple things, to bring him back around.

He later went back to Concordia University and massed two degrees, one in English Literature and a second in Sociology. With two Bachelors Degrees and then a Master’s Degree in Sociology. He barely made it out the other end, due to his Bi-Polar issues.

A little story. On the day he presented his MA thesis to his team, he was still writing the text for that presentation at home, just mere hours before he was to present.

In the end he brought the house down with rave reviews.

When hubby is on a creative high, there is no stopping him. When that trend swings to the depressive downer, life can get pretty miserable, because he ends up on the sofa comatose for days on end. Until he works himself back out the other end.

Mental illness needs a second set of eyes. I am hubby’s second set of eyes.

Today we care for each other. Both of us are committed to making sure we are both safe, healthy and successful.

  • Mental Illness is NOT a Death Sentence.
  • It is Manageable.

With the right team, the right doctors, the right medication, and the right assistance whether that be therapy or psychiatry. Sometimes we need all of that.

Hubby is managed by a psychiatry team in Westmount Square now for several years. He was weaned off of all the drugs he no longer needs, he has the right mix of this and that, and he is properly successful.

That does not mean he is out of the woods by any stretch. Every day is a challenge, like I said above. I never know what is on the tape that will play on any given day.

If you have a loved one who suffers from mental health issues, there is help. You can deal with mental illness, if you know what to do. I am here, and can help you figure out “what to do.”

You are not alone. Ever.

We can No Longer sweep mental illness under the rug any longer. We need to hit mental illness with a full frontal attack and help our loved ones succeed, in a healthy way.

Bi-Polar II Rapid Cycling Observations Work Sheet

What have we learned boys and girls about the Bi-Polar disorder. The right medication is the key ingredient to success. Finding the right match of medication to make the light go on in the tower and for life to be regained. It took ten months of mixes and matches to find the right mixture and dosages of medication, not to mention the time I waited for the medication to work.

Bi-Polar runs on the system of cycles. They do not all run concurrently and they don’t all make the whole of a person, and sometimes they don’t even make sense, but added together they will, they run on their own timetables and sequences. Every person is unique and each of us carries our own issues and dilemmas. Issues do not go away without bringing them into the light for examination and information and study. What do I know about my husband:

  1. KEEP A JOURNAL of your progress and the Bi-Polar person
  2. Journaling can become very crucial to self help and to help others like US
  3. The more knowledge you collect the better you are at predicting the future by maintenance and vigilance
  4. You are your own best physician, take the time to learn it will benefit you BOTH
  5. I learned this with HIV, I know my body better than any doctor that I will ever see
  6. It is my knowledge that helps a doctor to treat me optimally!!
  7. Therefore what you observe becomes knowledge for a Psychiatrist or Psychologist and the GP following the patient
  8. Sexual issues are at the top of the list
  9. Mommy issues are just as bad
  10. Is he sleeping too much or too little
  11. Is his mind racing all the time or not enough
  12. Is he not motivated Enough to live each day to his fullest
  13. Is he Overstimulated – therefore halting the creative process
  14. Is he depressed for longer periods of time, therefore maybe a medication needs to be removed, tweaked or changed
  15. Is he emotionally stable on a steady day to day basis for longer periods of time
  16. Is he up or down or too much or one or the other
  17. Does he eat in regular intervals or binge eats during certain hours
  18. Because he’s in recovery and not going to meetings – I have to take that into consideration because I still go to meetings.
  19. Is he exhibiting addictive behavior, food, sex, ambivalence, smoking
  20. Is he being irresponsible with money
  21. Is he eating too mcuh and not getting satisfaction with each meal
  22. Are there other medical factors we need to look at
  23. Thyroid, genetic or emotional issues
  24. Does he have enough structure to fill his day
  25. Is there too much structure for him (overstimulization)
  26. Does he feel fulfilled socially
  27. Should we enroll him in school – University – goals are important
  28. Are his classes stimulating him to his maximum potential
  29. Boredom is KEY here… Most bi-polar people are inner geniuses and don’t know whether it is mental or creational
  30. When the High is Too high, the fall is too great
  31. When the Low is too low, it will take some work to bring him up
  32. Creation at optimum levels for him is a recipie for disaster because he does not know when to shut the valve off and that creates hysteria in his head
  33. Finding BALANCE is Key to proper maintenance
  34. Making sure one cycle does not become troublesome – that’s where I failed to see the problem
  35. Making sure he has psychological support – someone other than me to talk to
  36. I can only do so much for him, the rest is up to him
  37. Medical supervision with the Psychiatrist is important to make sure we are monitoring the medication levels properly. This is very important. It takes a LONG time to figure out, most don’t know this, but the closest person to the patient should follow the trends of ups and downs to find the trend of good and bad.
  38. I spent a year studying his behavior to help his doctor find the right mix, adding to that his own observations as to how the medication made him feel and how he progresses with certain meds, throughout the medical process of divining the right medication mixture.
  39. Keeping an eye out for odd behavior is also important. Over long periods of times cycles can become natural cycles if you don’t catch the bad ones quick enough. This is not an easy task.
  40. Re-Integration has been an issue. How do you explain two lives at different stages of living after someone has been absent for months ata time, and you, the spouse and family went on with their lives, while you (the patient) were down for the count. I still go to meetings and have a life along with monitoring YOU, if YOU the patient do not take the proper steps to catch up, you will always be behind the lead runner in the race.
  41. Pushing a bi-polar person to change is useful – being angry is also useful –
  42. Responsibility is an adult necessity, and if you can’t be responsible, then we will treat you as we need to, until you can rise to the occasion. Irresponsibility with money, food and sex is Unacceptible.
  43. Bi-polar depression is a diagnosed mental problem and should be dealt with accordingly. With proper care and multi-pronged approach one finds their way. I am still trying to figure out how to be in two places at the same time, and to be in two heads at once. This is a challenge, because I am not God.
  44. Detecting the cyclical behavior is a learned behavior, just like certain other behaviors are learned.
  45. One must find the balance between a bi-polar person abusing you and taking advantage of you and the bi-polar condition being a daily handicapp and a crutch. My husband tries to do both sometimes at the same time.
  46. Whining and complaining about being forced off your ASS will not be tolerated. You want something to complain about, I’ll give you one problem to really complain about! I don’t want to hear about your complaints because you sure as shit don’t want to hear mine.
  47. Does he have occupational therapy, (The Gym, landry, house chores, getting out of the house) Sitting on ones ass or sleeping too much is problematic and can bite you in the ass
  48. A Spouse or family member of a bi-polar person needs a break at least for an hour a day or one day a week. sometimes that is impossible, so you build in structure to allow you both to have time for yourselves.
  49. Make sure you take care of your needs first, if you are sick or dead you are useless to care for anyone else, right !!
  50. Bi-Polar is just as much a mental disorder as a behavioral disorder and by watching key behavior patterns or cycles, along with medical treatment and supervision, one can manage their condition with a responsible partner to help them along the way
  51. Do not take no for an answer, fight, kick, scream, make sure he gets better
  52. FAILURE is NOT an option
  53. Treatment can work, but you have to be able to invest time and patience into wanting to find a solution and living through the darkness, because it does get light, and times will get hard, but you figure it out
  54. WALKING AWAY from a sick person is unconscionable, some people cannot hack the life of the patient spouse, this is what separates the MEN from the Boys and the WOMEN from the girls.
  55. Illness can either make or break your marriage, which are you going to choose?
  56. For Better or for Worse, in Sickness and in Health, in good times and in bad, till Death do us part, Did you say the same vows WE did?
  57. Marriage is a battle and I am a fighter. Are YOU?
  58. Never say Die, Never say NO, Never give up, there are ALWAYS solutions, IF you know where to find them
  59. Talk to everyone you know
  60. Trust only those you must
  61. Not every doctor knows his asshole from a hole in the ground
  62. Finding the right Bi-Polar doc is as important as finding the right GP or HIV doctor, half ass men in white coats are a dime a dozen, finding the right doc takes time, KNOWLEDGE and perseverance
  63. Know thine enemy frontwards and backwards
  64. To Thine Own Self Be True…
  65. Learn the signs of problems before they rear their ugly heads and tip you off balance, this is where I failed, over the last few months
  66. Every cycle has its marker tags, learn to spot them quickly
  67. Cycles can be time sensitive, moon cycle sensitive, each cycle runs on energy it comes and goes sometimes quickly sometimes slowly
  68. Cycles can last a few days or a few weeks or a few months
  69. Remember the good cycle and try to keep the bad cycles at a mininum
  70. PROPER VIGILANCE !! DAILY VIGILANCE!! DAILY MAINTENANCE
  71. There is a God, if there wasn’t I probably would not be here at this moment
  72. Pray, Pray and Pray some more…
  73. Find your faith, or FAITH will find you
  74. Trust me on this one…
  75. Evil exists in the face of illness – it taunts you and makes you feel small and insignificant and powerless, and useless, FIND the Path to not falling into the trap
  76. Pray, Pray and Pray some more
  77. I know this very well…
  78. Prayer – Acceptance and Powerlessness are helpful to help you stay grounded and humble
  79. Sometimes I cannot do this alone, that’s where YOU come in
  80. We can Do this Together
  81. You are not alone
  82. Bi-Polar is manageable – I am still finding our way, now 3 years after his diagnosis, we are a work in progress
  83. One Day At A Time…
  84. You are right where you need to be at any given moment on any given day
  85. Pure Intent and Open Mindedness really help ones journey of faith and life
  86. Illness either kills you or makes you stronger
  87. And That which does not Kill You makes you Stronger
  88. I am not dead yet, I am not finished living my life, So God says…
  89. It is all about the Mystical Life we each live in our own way
  90. Find your Mystical roots and you will find your way through the now and into your future
  91. I don’t live in the past – It distracts from the NOW…

Monday: “Todd” As I Understand Him

baptism-jesus

At this evenings Monday Meeting, we read Step Three.

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

Step Three is all about the “DECISION.”

Bill was of several opinions when it came to this step. In essence, he was “All over the place” when it came to God. The proof we all see, is right in the books, as they were written and published. The words have not changed, over all these years.

Bill is great at CONTRADICTING himself over and over again, repeatedly.

At our Friday meeting, we read the book As Bill Sees it. We’ve read this book several times over. We just have not had the courage to pick something else, so A.B.S.I. is re-read over and over.

Over the years, I’ve watched countless people, struggle with God. People who come from faith traditions of their own (read: Family) struggle the most. Followed closely by those who find the word GOD objectionable from the Get Go.

I mean really, if you cannot read a book with the word God, in it, without getting offended, I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve spent the better part of my sobriety, apologizing for the word God. Trying, however hard it took me, to get people into their steps and to do their steps, with a viable “work around” for God.

Many of those folks, I had worked with previously, are no longer in my life today.

Thinking about God, tonight, began with a conversation with a friend, before the meeting. My friend has a new job. One that requires, manual labor.

He’s a janitor …

He pushes a broom and a mop and he shovels snow.

Thankless, Mundane, Work.

However mundane, I’ve told him about a portion of my long story.

When I met Todd, more than twenty-five years ago, the way I worked myself onto his “team” was through manual labor. The bar was moving from point A to point B. I knew this move was coming.

And from the very first night, I loved Todd, intimately. I knew the WHY.

From the first moments, in his blue-eyed gaze, I was transfixed. Thinking, in retrospect, Todd, was the first man I ever trusted, implicitly.

I worked like a mad man when the move night arrived. And for weeks after, as we built the bar, in an empty building from the ground up, I proved my worth, through manual labor. He hired me full-time.

It’s what we BOTH did not know then, that would solidify our relationship.

In the world we lived in, there were roles and protocols. Todd lived in His truth, and I knew mine as well. When I got sick, and told Todd that I was going to die, he wept.

Todd’s role in my life had shifted, just a little bit. Well a WHOLE LOT ACTUALLY !!!

When everybody else ran for the hills, away from the fire, Todd stepped into it with all that He had. One look from Him, four simple words from HIM, was all that I needed.

In the beginning, when all was lost, and I was running on empty, emotionally, mentally and physically, Todd was the Pool of Everlasting Water, that never went dry, ever.

Left to my own devices and my mind, falling apart, was not good at all.

Todd put down a rule, that I followed, to the last letter. Because I trusted Him and Loved Him.

He said to me: You have a life outside this building. I know it is difficult. But I have an answer for you. He said that as I approached the building front doors, I needed to prepare to drop anything that was worrying me, AT the DOOR, outside and leave it there.

When I stepped through the doors, and the doors closed behind me, THE ONLY thing you have to worry about is the job you are assigned on any given night, for as long as that shift lasted.

All I had to think about was work, and nothing else.

That was HUGE.

I could sink myself into my world. I could dress any way I wanted. Back then I was still young and beautiful. That always worked in my favor. I was protected by Todd, because I was an untouchable. Without Todd’s permission, men in the room knew that I was off-limits.

Every job. Every task. Every mundane task, every dirty task, I had, had an attached lesson to it. Every night, there was something new to be learned, one way or another.

I have documented all those various lessons, here on the Blog, in the Pages Section.

My friend, tonight, started his new job. Mundane. Thankless. Solitary.

Meditative …He sees this benefit himself.

Every night, in retrospect, I was learning Step Three, on a nightly basis. WHILE, I was getting sober the first time. I have always said that my education inside the walls of the bar, when it came to sobriety, were worth MORE than sitting in the dysfunctional room that I went to meetings in, because of the toxic messages that were thrown at me night after night for the first year.

I learned to Turn it Over, over and over again. Until I got it right.

With Todd, that did not take long at all. Because His words were Gospel. Whatever He said to me, sunk deep into my soul and psyche. I never trusted another man, in my life, like I trusted Todd. Not my father, not my husband today, No One …

I never second guessed Todd and I never spoke back at him either. Ever …

Sadly, today, I second guess God. And I back talk God as well.
My favorite phrase today is:

YEAH BUT …

It is so simple. It is painfully simple. And Being so far away from that Time and Place, knowing what it felt like to sink into Todd (read: God) for all that it was worth, puts me at a disadvantage. And I should know better.

My spiritual director caught this miss-step, and he called me on it.

And I knew he was right. And tonight, talking to my friend, before the meeting, just nailed it for me. And then the chair introduces Step three for consideration.

Was that ODD or was that GOD ???

I’ve met God, Incarnate. He walked with me through the worst time in my life, and I am still alive and can tell you this story.

There IS a GOD and I am not He.

Friday: Change is not Easy !!!

A.A. #3 Bill D.

The only thing that is constant in this life is CHANGE. Whether we like it or not, or if it is good or bad, comes quickly, or takes its sweet time, change happens.

When it comes to change within a meeting, there is bound to be friction. It is a known fact that there are business meetings, then there are BUSINESS MEETINGS. The latter are much worse than the former.

And I’ve sat both, in as many years…

Our Friday group prides itself with serious time, as in members with serious time. And the various others, who are scattered over the time-line. I am the G.S.R for our Friday meeting, hence it is my job to chair, moderate, and attempt to keep everyone on the same page and not let the proceedings, get out of hand.

The Friday meeting is the “Meeting of the week!” It is the only meeting of its type, IN that particular neighborhood, Outremont, it is the only ANGLO meeting, in that area all week, and it is populated by a broad spectrum of “people.”

PEOPLE: being the operative word here.

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

We all know that the spectrum of orientation identifiers has broadened, in the last decade or so. In the last five years, and even closer, the last year or so, our Friday membership calls many “people,” as members.

The Friday meeting has had its share of controversies over the years. And when time got tough between the addicts and alcoholics, the latter calling for the banning of the former from the room, caused major heartache for months and months, until God sorted it all out, and the room survived, as well as her “people.”

With the appearance of trans-rights and the broad spectrum of people who don’t necessarily identify as Men or Women, today’s discussions are centered upon the word PEOPLE.

We do not discriminate based on addiction, or sexual orientation. We learned that lesson the hard way. The clause in our preamble reads,

We are committed to the primary purpose, and the third tradition, as it states in our literature, You are an AA member if YOU say so.

In order to bring all the parties back to the table in civility and respect, the alcoholics decided, after months of heart wrenching silence between friends, that we cannot tell anyone who walks through our doors that they cannot belong and stay.

In that fight, I took the side of the addicts, because many of them are founders of the meeting, way back from the day when there were only less than a dozen people showing up for the Friday meeting. Now we are a compliment of almost FIFTY members.

My best friend, an alcoholic was on the other side. After a serious physical confrontation one night, our friendship seemed to end, for as long as it took for God to sort this issue out.

In the end … God did for everyone what we could not do for ourselves.

Today, the buzz word is People.

Within our numbers, are some who took issue with the words MEN and WOMEN, in the preamble. Which has not changed since the dawn of the fellowship. Three months ago, one of our young men, set a motion on the table of our business meeting.

His motion was to amend the Preamble, to read, Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of “People,” who share their experience, strength and hope with each other …

There are other “people” who sat at that table, that night and seconded the motion for consideration. The motion went into the minutes of the meeting.

Our policy, on the ground, simply, is to give each motion, placed on the table, three months grace period for conversation and consideration for everyone who is an active member to assess their positions on any given motion discussed.

Tonight, we all agreed, after three months of back and forth on this issue that we really need guidance from the Area Committee, and guidelines for figuring out how we should properly deal with this request.

If a change is made to a group that is crucial, like format, preamble, chips, or any major change to the inner workings of the group, then we convene a much deeper and specifically charged Group Conscience, to decide what the final vision will be.

For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority, a loving God as He may expresses Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants they do not govern.

The “People” who first placed this motion of the table for consideration, have not been present IN the meeting, over the last many months, as in attendance, and they have not been present in further business meetings, where this old business is still on the table for consideration.

Tonight, for the first time, in as many months, the person who set the motion on the table was in the room, but decided against attending the business meeting afterwards.

Among our group, the discussion has gone around and around. We’ve discussed the absences, of those who made the initial presentation. We’ve discussed the reasoning behind he verbiage change to new group members who do not necessarily understand the growing complexity with gender identification within a meeting.

Alcoholics are alcoholics. Why fix something that hasn’t been broken. The preamble is read at every meeting, and very few, (I can count two) meetings, here in the city who have amended their preamble to read either shorter or longer texts.

The Group Conscience was brought up, as the legal formality to make any pertinent changes to meeting formats. That motion was put down quite succinctly by many.

We attempted to vote on the verbiage. It was a close, vote, but the YAY’s were the majority. And the members sitting around the table, due to the absence of those who first made the motion, negated the vote, and tabled a motion to carry the topic till next month, and next week I need to meet with the inter-group secretary to put in place safeguards and set rules of order so that by the end of February, we can finally sort this issue out, once and for all.

I can tell you that this is the first meeting, in my repertoire that the sexual orientation identification discussion has arisen. Times are changing and as a meeting, the Friday meeting, is a welcoming room to everyone.

Nobody is turned away, for any reason.

This does not make my job any easier. As Chair of the business meeting. After the meeting, on the way home, I received high marks from my friend for being impartial and respectful to everyone sitting at the table. That was a good thing, I guess.

But it isn’t about me in the end. It isn’t my job to judge or adjudicate.

Story Time (In a Galaxy Far Far Away)

6861

I’ve been pondering telling this story for a long time. It is a story from my younger life, that I think, was one of the best times in my youth.

When times get tough, and you need a place to go to get away, this could not have come at a better time in my life.

The last incarnation of home came in my sixth grade year, about at the halfway mark, we moved to the last place we would all call home. My father’s upwardly mobile life was still on its way up.

I have said, in the past, that when my father was good, he was Very Good.

My father worked very hard at being good. And he made his mark in the area of goodness, whenever he put himself forwards. And I have to commend him when I speak about his goodness, because it seemed that he could not have done worse, if he tried.

My brother and myself were actively involved in-house hunting. We looked at several really nice houses, in areas close to where we ended up. When it came down to choice, the Power’s House sealed the deal. It was in the right neighborhood, with great schools, close to shops, stores and restaurants, and access to highways was a block away.

The house had three bedrooms, 2 car garage, an acre of land, and most importantly, it had a screened in pool. We had hit the big time for sure. My father had earned his keep, and produced the best home he could afford. Along with my mother’s salary included.

I attended the last half sixth grade here.

The Big Change would come when I completed sixth grade and graduated to Junior High School. From the sixth grade, we were all taken on several field trips to the new school, to learn the lay of the land, and to make the transition as smooth as possible. It would be a whole new world.

Six classes a Day – Gym – Locker Rooms – Lockers – BOYS !!!!

Southwood Junior High, now Southwood School for the Performing Arts, was a bike ride from home. You could do the ride in about half an hour. That worked. The school was only a year old when I began seventh grade.

I did not know that there was anything wrong with me, until the first day of school, when it came to gym. The girls had their locker room on one side of the school, the boys on the other. We had seen it, before. But until I was a student here, that was a different story.

The first day I had to change my clothes in the company of other boys, I knew, for SURE that there was something wrong with me. I had crossed that invisible line into gay, that very day. I certainly was different. I knew it. I just did not tell anyone else about it.

I knew, that GAY would never fly at home, so for the next six years, I played the straight game, to the best of my ability because there was no other option.

By this stage of the game, and time, our family became one of four families, who hobnobbed with my step mom and step dad. It was there, that we were introduced to living Homosexuality, in real-time. My father was no fan of The Gays. Which is where all of his most savage abuse was born.

I said above, that when my father was good, he was Very Good. And what he gave with one hand, he took with the other. He had a dedicated room in the house where he dispensed his abuse.

It got so bad, at one point, that I could not find any place to hide at home. I bought a dead bolt and put it on my bedroom door. That pissed my father off, so much so, that he took the entire door off its hinges. I could not run, I could not hide.

If I did not physically leave the house, I was fair game.

For the next six years, I spent countless hours, days and weeks, sleeping at friends houses. Their parents kind of knew, that I was in serious trouble. That worked in my favor, even when, in high school, my best friend and his brothers, were going to a private Catholic Boys school, far away from where we lived. I would sleep away, and commute to school and back there at the end of the day. I did not go home for weeks.

When Junior High began, the teachers and staff, figured out that I was particular. I had certain needs that NEEDED to be met. And over time, those very teachers, stepped up and did for me, what I could not do for myself.

Having KEYS, is a theme in my life. Keys, play a distinct role in my life. To this day, I am the keeper of certain keys, to certain church basements, here in Montreal.

Back then, in junior high, I was given certain keys. I was a kid, with keys.

If I was home, I would get up before dawn, and take care of what needed to be done at home, I would then, get on my bike, and ride over to the school. As usual, there was a teacher on door duty, early. I think, they knew I needed help. So there was someone there to receive me whenever I arrived.

I was a junior high geek, you could say. I inserted myself into school life early on. Seventh grade was all about figuring it out. What I was going to do, and how I was going to do it. I always had to have a plan. I knew all the ins and outs by the time I hit eighth grade.

Science was my department. I became a teachers assistant, as soon as I was able. It was actually a class. You had one period during your day where you could sit along side a teacher, and be a (Teachers Assistant).

By that time, the science department was my home away from home. I had the key to the Science Department Teachers lounge. Each department faculty had a dedicated teachers lounge (upstairs) on the floor.

Being a teacher’s AIDE came in very handy. Because once you had attained that position, you could, use that position to get out of ANY class you needed to. Gym, was the bane of my existence. I went to gym, when it served me. I played Soccer, baseball, football on occasion. And I wrestled for a while. I participated when it was necessary. I had gym either first thing in the morning, or last period of the day. If I had to shower, it was dicey. I had abject fear of showering in front of other boys. At the same time, I was fascinated with boys too.

I had certain alliances with certain friends, who played certain roles in my life.

Anytime it rained outside, I had an out. Anytime I wanted to skip gym, I had a way out. All I needed was to present my teacher’s aide card to a teacher, and say those magic words: “I need to grade papers …”

Worked like a charm every time.

By the end of ninth grade, I had skipped gym all together. They gave me a C in gym that final year, because by then, I was never in class any more.

Nobody knew, I was gay. At least that I knew of. I never asked any one. And nobody ever said a word to me personally. And I am confident, not one teacher asked my parents about it either. Because my father would have flipped his lid, and then I am sure I would have heard about it.

So every morning, I was riding to school, one to two hours earlier than when the typical school day began. I had keys to the department. And I was racking up brownie points all over the school. I worked like a mad man. I was a good student. I did better in Junior High than I did in High School. most definitely because Alcohol had not yet been introduced as a pain-killer. I did not start drinking regularly until High School.

I loved Junior High School. I loved the teachers, I had good friends. And also, I was safe. nobody could touch me at school. I think teachers have an innate sense that particular students have needs. They must have known, when I started showing up before hours, that something was up at home. Not that I remember ever stating that for sure to them.

I think they knew better. (All this in retrospect)

I was a musical student. I played piano. I had music courses. I performed every year in the Superintendents Musical Honors Festival. My father went so far, to gain my good graces, was to buy me an organ, that over six years, was graduated to the next Bigger organ, because I also had private lessons. As long as I played “The Entertainer” on that organ at home, my father would leave me alone.

I was a really good organist. On the outside I was performing in yearly concerts that were put on by the musical school I was taking lessons at. As I rose through the ranks of organs and pianos, the Brass Ring was always there.

The ultimate goal, was to reach the ranks of professional student and play the REALLY BIG ORGAN, that was always reserved for the best kid on the block, who would bring down the house at every concert.

I never got there.

The night my drunk sodden father picked up the leather padded seat and threw it at my mother, in a drunken rage, was the last day I ever touched that organ.

FOREVER !!!!

I took one look at him that night and said: “You crossed a line. I will never play that organ again. Send it back where it came from.”

My father never forgave me. And I never played another note, for the rest of my life.

Probably one of my greatest regrets. Music could have gotten me somewhere, if i had the forethought to had thought about it then, but didn’t. I was just a kid. I did not have sight for the future yet. I still lived at home for God’s sake.

By the time I graduated from Junior High School, I along with a friend of mine were nominated for a service award. This would be the first graduating class of the school, and the first nominations for both a girl and a boy, in the same award year.

Michelle and myself were awarded the American Legion Award for Exemplary Service to the School Community.

All those brownie points I accrued over the years were paid off in spades.

For what it’s worth, for all the bad that went on at home, in exchange for all the good we were given, School was a very safe place for me to be and I prospered there in every way possible.

High School was not that good at all. I did not have the opportunities that I had the three years before. And Alcohol had become an issue.

I just barely graduated High School in the end, all because I told the truth, about a cheating scandal that rocked one of my teachers in 12th grade.

I had drunk my way through High School, along with a stint in Youth Group. Where the school played a role in keeping me safe years earlier, the church had stepped up to do the same, which is why, after graduation, I ended up in Seminary.

God, it seemed, had a job for me. One I was ready and willing to do.

While in seminary, I witnessed abuses by church members. I knew the secret, and was warned about sharing them with anyone. At the end of that year, I was dismissed.

Very Angry at God, I got very drunk, for a very long time.

But the next chapter of this story has yet to be written down here.

Wednesday: Shadow, Darkness, Reality

o-BRENE-BROWN-ORIGIN-MAGAZINE-facebook

Life is never perfect. And over the years, I’ve taken my lumps for sure.

“We are not a glum lot …” The Book Says. And also, “We did not get sober to be miserable.” However, people ARE miserable.

There are some issues, we all carry in the shadows, parts of us consigned to the darkness, that really never sees the light of day.

In reality, at some point, we all reach a breaking point. We get hit with a trigger, and life goes sideways. In the world of reality, people seem to skip over water, until they hit a personal tragedy, a death, or illness, or a major life change.

Some ride it out. Others turn to addictive substances to blunt the pain, and to barricade ourselves from the darkness and shadows.

Alcoholics and Addicts are imperfect people. We are all imperfect people, because we are fallible human beings. And shit happens.

There are a few lessons, I’ve learned over the past little while. I’ve written about them before, but they bear repeating again.

We are angry people. Because it was our resentments that drove us to drink and use. That anger lies dormant, until, like I said above, it is triggered. We are people who might have been abused, mentally, emotionally, physically, or sexually.

Shit like this, when it occurs recedes to the darkness of our hearts and minds. And we spend a lifetime drowning that pain with substance. For some, we get to the bitter end, and find ourselves in rooms together, getting sober, once and for all.

The Book and The Work tells us how to get sober. The Book also mentions that we are not doctors, and if outside help is necessary, “you should really consider it …” Not many people do that.

Over my time in the rooms, I’ve watched people. Studied them like lab rats. I know my peers, better than they know themselves. I’ve watched people hit the skids, and those occasional, bottoms, we hit in sobriety.

  • People drink and use again.
  • People go out and never return.
  • Some people end up dead.

I’ve watched, over the years, men and especially, some of our women, hit emotional bottoms in sobriety. Of all the women I watched hit that hard ground, none made it. Why they did not make it, is related to how their peers reacted to their emotional tumult.

Alcoholics are unforgiving. Sad but true.

Alcoholics do not like to think about, or even sit in the same space with someone who is in difficulty. Because we are uncomfortable with UNCOMFORTABLE …

Transparency is important in sobriety.

Being honest with who you are at all times, is the code of conduct. Many do not live this way. Believing that they need to project a calm exterior to their friends, where everything is OK, when in reality, we are broken up inside and dying from within.

It takes a long time to figure out how to be transparent. But I’ve worked hard at being true to myself and my friends. Being Calm and Zen takes work. Always putting ones best foot forward also takes work. And pounding the pavement takes its toll on us eventually.

When I hit my bitter end, after the Tragedy of the Heart, my calm, zen, exterior faded, and my broken, emotional, suffering soul, rose to the surface. This freaked people out, and they all ran for the hills screaming.

People did not treat me kindly, nor with compassion, when I was in pain. They just piled more pain on top of what I was carrying outwards, already.

Alcoholics are unforgiving …

I watched people, react to my emotional breakdown, and it was not pretty at all. Because we really don’t want to look at shadow and darkness sitting among us, while we are in meetings, because we are trying to show you that everything is good.

When it really ISN’T.

People do one of two things here. ONE, they turn inwards,and ignore what it right in front of them. As they are looking at us suffering, they know, or might be, suffering in their own silence, something that happened to them in the past.

That item that I above listed as, Never Seeing the Light of Day.

Or TWO, the trigger is so strong, that they cannot ignore that item within them, and they go down the proverbial rabbit hole, and they seek to figure out what the pain is, how it happened, and how to finally, Once and for All, turn out the darkness and shadow into the light and healing.

It took my emotional melt down for people to turn inwards on themselves. Because it was raw and terribly emotional for me. And when all my friends and peers turned away and told me To Go … They could not handle my anger and THEIR FEAR.

Alcoholics live in FEAR. Sad but True.

It has only been AFTER the FACT, that I know what happened to some of my fellow men and women. After witnessing my meltdown, some of them had their own meltdowns.

Some of my friends and fellows sought out professional help for long standing pain that had been buried in the darkness and shadow of their souls for their whole sober lives.

And it was only then, that some, found empathy for me.

Humble Pie to admit that we have sinned against each other terribly.

The other day, I got an email from a friend, after telling her that my father had died. She is on her own fact-finding mission now. Another friend, is also on a fact-finding mission himself too. Spurred on by my public emotional breakdown.

What I found offensive here is that, I got a second email a few days later, requesting my presence at a certain meeting. I went to that certain meeting on Sunday evening. Where both of these fact-finding friends, roost.

I am introduced to a literal, By The Book, Step Eleven process and am invited to participate in this venture. The caveat is this …

My friends, both, seem to think I need professional help, NOW.

When I was in the thick of suffering, nobody wanted to know me, offer me kindness or any help whatsoever.

They did not want to bother with me.

I may look stupid, but I am NOT stupid.

If I needed professional help, I would have sought it out.

I sought out all the help I needed from people I trusted. And that was good enough for me. I’m not quite sue how to react to this, because I think my friends mean well, and I think they are trying to amend their behaviors.

Just because you got help for yourself, does not automatically mean that I need the same help for myself too.

Daddy is dead. No need to go barking up that tree any longer. I have no use for him now, he’s dead, good riddance. His energy will dissipate and die along with him. And soon the cunt energy will go the same way and for the first time in all of our lifetimes, we will ALL be FREE.

The Pulitzer Prize – Books

pulitzer-prize

I love books. I spend a ton of money on books, on a monthly basis. Nothing brings me more pleasure, than having a few hours to myself, so that I can peruse Indigo Book Sellers, at the mall. If I don’t have hours to blow, then I resort to more prudent purchases, on the Indigo website.

I love all kinds of books. I read across many lines. I always look for a prize-winning book first. Not so much a New York Times Best Seller, because they are a dime a dozen. I go for the BIG awarded books first. The bulk of my libraries “favorite books segment,” are the books that win the Pulitzer Prize.

I’ve read several Pulitzer Prize winners.

17333223

The Best Book I have ever read IS The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. Hands down, The Goldfinch was the best book, as a Pulitzer Prize Winner. It had all the elements that I think needs to be found in a story.

The most important turning point in a Pulitzer Prize Winning book is:
The Holy Shit Moment.

If you have never read a story that takes you on a journey, tells you a story, then turns your world upside down with a serious Holy Shit Moment, you are missing out.

518LdNuHDJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Coming in a close second, to The Goldfinch, is The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen. This story about what happened the day Saigon fell during the Viet Nam war, what happened to the people who were there, and what became of their lives,  The Sympathizer is an excellent book.

This second Pulitzer Prize Winner, has all the elements I look for in good story telling. Once again, you get a story, and in one brief statement, as the story unfolds, you get a gut punching Holy Shit Moment, that turned my world upside down.

0312330537

Another Book that stands out on its own is SHANTARAM, by Gregory David Roberts, and the subsequent MOUNTAIN SHADOW. These two novels, did not win any prizes, but together were two of the best books I have ever read. In fact, I am on a second pass of Shantaram right now. The book is THAT GOOD !

51-LdkEW9oL

Two other books, that are Pulitzer Prize winners are: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.

I just finished reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I was very disappointed with this story. It just did not have the necessary elements, to bring it into the same class as, A Goldfinch or The Sympathizer.

Olive was missing necessary markers that other prize winners had in spades. Yes, it was a regional story about a particular place in the United States. And the main character is carried throughout the book, and her interactions with other towns people, is the thrust of the book.

I really wanted to know, when I finished the read, why the Pulitzer committee considered this book for its prize, if it had been up to me, I would have passed it by. It just did not have any of the draw or attraction that other prize winners had.

Today, if I pick up a Pulitzer Prize winner, it has to have all those elements, that other prize winners have … A Holy Shit Moment.

Olive did not have a holy shit moment. Unless you consider an old lady having an emotional breakdown at the TSA checkpoint in an airport a Holy Shit Moment, it did not grab me that way when I got there. How often do regular humans freak out at a TSA checkpoint today ?

30555488

The other Pulitzer Prize winner I started to read but put down, halfway through was The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. I love reading stories about the past. War stories, Racial Stories, Human Interest Stories. I’ve read several stories about the underground railroad. Within this world of the Underground Railroad, there is language spoken, signs used, particular tools that were used, (everyday items) we usually take for granted, that marked and pointed slaves towards the Under Ground Railroad.

There are several QUILT books, that are Underground Railroad Specific.

I put this book down, mid read because it lost my attention. If I buy a book, and begin the read, we all have expectations of said books. There are many books in my library that I began reading, but for one reason or another, put them down, and never picked them back up.

I have a huge library of books read. If you have books that you have read and loved, I would be glad to hear about them. Share the Love …

Incidental Information: Severus

f2fc19b0-f7e4-0133-803e-0e31b36aeb7f

Severus Snape was in the employ of Voldemort, on the night he heard the first portion of Professor Trelawny’s prophecy regarding the child who would vanquish the Dark Lord.

Would it be Harry, Or would it Be Neville Longbottom. It was a toss up.
We know now who that child was and is.

Severus had a saving grace. Lily Potter.

There were two sides to the bravest man at Hogwarts. In his death, Harry learns the truth about his nemesis and Potions Master, Defense Against the Dark Arts Master, and Headmaster of Hogwarts.

This is a convenient visual to tell this little story about my brother.

I believe in that every human being has, within them, redeeming quality.

That we carry that one part of ourselves, unseen to the rest of us, that only they might, or might not know exists. I believe, that with time, growth, spiritual awareness and truth, we eventually find that redeeming quality, and we either embrace it or we ignore it.

People have a choice in this life. To DO Good, To BE Good, and To Honor Good. or They live their lives in the manner they choose, ignoring the light and living in the dark.

I’ve learned a great deal about spiritual truth in fifty odd years of life, coming from a bevy of teachers, spiritual and secular. Along with sixteen plus years of sobriety, a university education, spiritual teaching and living in the light for the whole of my sobriety, I have come a long way, in understanding redemption.

My Father and my Mother, for the WHOLE of our lives, my brother and myself, lived in a place of judgment and resentment, and darkness. I have stories about where this might have originated.

Childhood, Abuse, Alcoholism, War, Anger, Betrayal …

We are all products of our environment.

My parents come from rough backgrounds. And who they became after we were born, was a direct result of everything that happened to them in the past. Because it informed who they would become.

My Grandmothers; Jeannie, and Camille, were LOVE. Multiplied. My Aunt Paula, was Love Multiplied. Without those three women in my life, to this day, my father would have succeeded in killing me as a child, and probably would have gotten away with it, if I ponder for a moment, justice in the 1970’s and the prevalence of PTSD, that we knew nothing about for decades to come.

Even though my parents lived in hatred and resentment, they had their moments, when you could be mistaken that they did actually love their children. Least of all me.

Poison is Poison. And Life is Life. And this is the TRUTH:

My parents created me in a heated moment of passion in the back seat of a car, in a drive in, that every time we drove past it, my mother would BOAST that I was created there, happenstance.

In the end, as time went on, I was the MISTAKE and my brother was the CORRECTION.

I grew up in this dichotomy of love versus hate. When I knew life at home was no longer viable, I chose to leave, opting never to tell anyone I was gay. My twenties were a wash out, and a complete failure. Who do I blame for what I did not know?

I left my brother in this mix. I did not come back home. I never contacted him, and he never contacted me. We lived separate lives, to this day.

He does not know me, and in the same way, I do not know him.

My mother’s curse fell down around me. Both my parents got terribly sick. My mother survived, but she is a feeble human being today, with very little to live for, but to stoke the hatred in her heart till she takes her last breath, I am sure.

As long as she still breathes, and lives under my brothers roof now, my brother will never come to recognize his One Redeeming Quality, because it is hidden within him.

YET, over the past years, that redeeming quality, presented itself in peculiar behavior, that at times belie him. He communicates with Black Listed family, on the odd occasion. Which is how I keep tabs on him, through a back channel he knows nothing about.

In the same token, when my brother uses back channels to communicate, my parents are none the wiser. What they don’t know won’t hurt them. He made specific communications prior to my father’s death.

There is a kernel of remorse within him. A kernel of goodness, A kernel of hope.

I learned this from my aunt.

When my father died, I scoured the web looking for him, only to fail. It took me to a government cypher, whom I paid for critical information that I needed.

I phoned my brother twice. The first call was Not So Sober at all. The second call I made was much more civil.

On the Wednesday after my father’s death, my brother called me, told me to lose his number and hung up on me.

He redeemed himself, when twenty minutes later he called back to apologize for hanging up on me, and we had a protracted, and rather angry exchange. But he called a second time.

There is goodness in him still.

Knowing his propensity for back channel communication, and his small attempt, in a very small way, to say something quietly, without saying it openly,

That is his TELL.

And if I am to believe my aunt, that there was a 99% chance he read my letter, tells me that part of him wants to know, however hard he tries to be angry with me, I believe that kernel is there, and when the darkness that surrounds him dies, once and for all, he will be free of that evil cunt energy.

When she is dead, that cunt; he will have to go on with his life. Once they are dead, he can carry forwards their vitriol and anger and resentment, or he will EVOLVE.

And IF he read my letter, he knows ALL the TRUTH. He knows ALL the LIES, and he finally knows MY story, from the beginning to the present day.

That will be a huge paradigm shift in his life that might take awhile to make sense, after a lifetime of not knowing me or having me in his life.

 

He was loved by the same women who loved me. That love, passed on in Jeannie, Camille and Paula is what sustains me and has sustained me for the whole of my life.

That love exists within my brother too.

He was caught in a No Win Scenario, a Kobyashi Maru scenario.

What was he supposed to do, walk away, and leave my parents? God forbid he had done that, walked away like I did, cleanly, never looking back! Imagine how this huge shit hole of a situation would have played out had my parents been left to their own devices.

I close my eyes and I can see and hear: THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES
playing in my mind. 

My brother was their care taker, because both my parents believed I was the mistake and not part of the family. My brother said to me that I had made a choice, NOT to be a part of this family. He is correct in that assessment.

What he did not know, unless he read my letter, is the WHY ?

If he read my letter, then he knows the truth from my own lips.

I give him the opportunity to redeem himself. I opened the door to his future, a future with me in it. But that will only be his choice to make, if and when the time and the climate is right. I cannot hunt him and force him into seeing the truth as it is.

He has to come to that realization on his own.

A Good Sober Sponsor, does not chase their sponsees.
We point the way to the truth and let you decide you want it.

And if and when he decides what he wants. I will be waiting.

Severus Snape will again be redeemed.

Because I am sure he remembers who I am.

Because in his small ways, his “TELL” tells me he remembers.

For all his harshness and anger and resentment, he knows deep within who I am.

And it will be a glorious day when he gets there himself.