For as long as I’ve been sober, one question dogs me every night. I think to myself, and I had this conversation with a friend on the way home tonight,
At What Point Do We Get To Use Our Voices ?
When we come in, the only thing we need to do, first, is find a chair. For a while, people sit in their respective chairs, some longer than others. I did a lot of listening, I mean I still listen, but listening at over seventeen years is different than listening with a few days.
The method I used to get sober, firstly, was my day count. The first ninety days, all I did was show up and count my days along with the others, who were counting their days.
When I moved to Montreal, and rooted in my home group, I sat down, and I began to listen. I listened to everyone intently. I heard many things. Good things, bad things, happy things, and sad things.
I watched people come, and I watched people go. I watched some die.
Over all, I watched what people did in their lives. I listened to them justify just about everything under the sun. I listened to people battle over God, in fact, I am still listening to people battle over God.
I’ve stopped trying to explain Him.
I know every decision my friends made over the last seventeen plus years. I know the successes and the failures. I know all of the good and all of the bad. I know what every one of my friends did over the years. I listened to them talk, then I watched them act.
I learned what TO DO and what NOT TO DO.
If it worked for you, it worked for me. If you made a stupid decision, I did not make the same stupid decision, myself. And sure as shit, as my friends, many of them drank again, and again, and again, I AM STILL SOBER.
By the Grace of God.
At some point we begin to find our voices. We share in discussion meetings, and we talk to our friends and sponsors. Eventually, we get to chair simple discussion meetings, for a while, until we hit the magic date, when we get to actually CHAIR a speaker meeting.
Because we need to learn how to listen for speakers. You just cannot jump into the deep end of the pool, without the experience of learning what a “Speaker” sounds like, then, on your first run, one needs to actually FIND a speaker for your meeting.
That was daunting at first
I kept my opinions to myself for a long time. I never rocked the boat, so to speak. I never questioned the authority of someone who had serious time, or more simply, more time than I had. I learned from everybody.
Over the years, I listened to people, and watched them come and go, while making serious decisions, getting “involved” with someone, and better yet, some really pondering drinking again.
I knew what I knew about people, as time went on. And I can safely say, with some serious hindsight, that the first ten years of my sobriety were a washout. Because looking back, I did not know what I did not know.
Now this far up the line, I see the folly of some of the things I said, the people I got involved with, and the drama I took part in. I know today, and I heard this from one of my sponsors once ….
Just Because Someone has TIME, does not mean they are SOBER.
I’ve learned what that statement meant the hard way.
But still, I question myself, whenever I want to speak my mind, or talk about an issue at a business meeting, or even, admit, that I am either angry, conflicted, or just plain pissed off.
A few years ago, I hit a serious emotional bottom, after the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida. Because when I was a twenty one year old kid, back then, I used the drink in that exact bar myself. So the killing of fifty innocents, really wound me up and turned my life upside down.
It was what happened after that night, with certain sober people, that turned me off to many people in my orbit. I had listened enough, and I respected too easily, and I allowed people to humiliate me in public.
Because I learned to never question an old timers comments to me, EVER.
Because what did I know, with the little time I actually had ?
I was sober 15 years by then.
I went through a very angry stage in sobriety and people were openly afraid of me. And I was asked to leave several meetings, because nobody wanted an angry gay alcoholic in their midst.
I found vulnerability. I found my voice. I found my courage. And I found the Arena that I was going to fight my battle in. Thank you Brene Brown for that.
I speak my mind in certain places, and at certain meetings. I test out my words, against my friends, and the old timers I count as my friends today.
Before I say anything, I usually ask someone about what I have to say. I did that for a long time. I would never say anything controversial, before running it past a second opinion.
Nowadays, I call it like I see it. I just don’t care if you like me or not. I’ve listened enough, and I think, these days, I’ve earned the right to say what it is I have to say, within means.
There are many kinds of people in our rooms. Those who care about their sobriety, the ones who actually to THE WORK, and grow up. There are those who just go to meetings, because they know it’s what they have to do to stay sober, but they don’t put any effort behind showing up.
There are entire communities of straight men, whom I avoid like the plague. Some terminally straight men, just rub me like sand paper. And I’ve told them so. Many straight men, don’t get me. They don’t socialize with me, and many of them have no desire to welcome me or be my friend, when it comes to workshops and step retreats.
I did straight retreats for three years with a particular group of men, who talked the talk in front of me, but when it came to meals, in the massive cafeterias, none of them would be caught dead breaking bread with me at the same table.
I only take to being ignored so much, before I wig out.
The queers in Montreal are all in the same boat, as far as I am concerned. I am unique among them, because none of my peers have an AIDS story. None of my friends, lived the life I have lived, themselves.
All the AIDS men I knew from early sobriety are dead. Among the English community, I am a dying breed. I am the only one left, on the English side.
I don’t dress like I am fifty two years old. I refuse to become a J.C. Penny catalog model, and wear frumpy clothes and become Old, Fat, and Catty.
So I don’t socialize with any of my queer brethren. They come to meetings I go to, and they are cordial, but beyond hello, nobody bothers to be my friend.
I am good with that today. It really does not bother me any more.
I have my meeting schedule, which I change up seasonally. I’ve added the Sunday Morning Brewery Mission Meeting, along with Thursday’s, and Friday nights. In the spring I will return to Monday Central when it warms up to safely commute this distance I need to travel now that it is Minuses and bitterly cold at night.
But I wonder, still, when do I know enough to say what I think? Because over the last little while, when I have spoken about certain things, with certain people, some of them told me to my face to Go Fuck Myself, because what did I know at sixteen and seventeen years of sobriety, when it came to speaking to someone with more double digit time than I had ?
So I back off and I listen more. I listen to old timers talk, and I hear them go down their proverbial rabbit holes. I watch them wig out and business meetings. I see them come and go, some don’t return.
I have a lot of observational knowledge about people and the rooms in Montreal that I frequent. I’ve heard a lot of things over time. And I have certain opinions about sobriety.
I know who WORKS, and who does not. I know who CARES and who does not. I know who MATTERS and who does not.
I know who is sober, has time, and is reputable. And I know who is not.
I even know who the douche bags are.
We all know who the douche bags are. We see them often, and we hear them pay lip service to sobriety. We hear the douche bags talk about their respective wives, with disdain. We know who cheats, and we know who works very hard at getting one over on their wives.
And recently, we’ve heard douche bags say some pretty awful things in open community. Some of their words came back to haunt them, as in a recent post I put up the other night.
It’s not like anyone else is NOT listening themselves.
We all sit together in the same meetings, so witnesses to douche bags comments are numerous. It’s just now, we can all call a spade a spade.
But we are reminded of the Traditions, and the 12 Concepts and the rules of engagement when it come to recrimination beyond the anonymity principle in meetings.
So a handful of us have spoken our concerns about the douche bag in question. He knows we have his number. We’ve made that perfectly clear, to Him and to our peers. We don’t agree with statements made in open community regarding the misfortunes of others.
I asked his sponsor tonight about this issue, which was his first time hearing about the kerfuffle. There are two sides to a sobriety disagreement, and several ways we could have handled it. Were we right, to say something, YES and NO. Should we have chosen another venue to voice our concerns to the douche bag, YES.
There is no Right nor Wrong answer to the question.
It’s a teaching moment for everybody.
We have a voice for a reason. And if we don’t use it then:
SILENCE GIVES CONSENT.
I’ve heard that for many years.
Going into year eighteen, I know how to speak, and I do so. It may not be nice, sometimes, but the only way you learn is to practice your skills. We just don’t sit in meetings like mushrooms being fed shit, night after night.
At some point, we need to test the water, and say something.
Good or Bad. Right or Wrong.
For our group purpose there is but one authority, a Loving God who expresses Himself in our group conscience.