17 Sober Holidays

Another successful holiday is in the books. The plans I’d spent weeks and months putting together, came to fruition. The good thing about being sober, so long, is that, we get to chose with whom we celebrate the holidays with and why.

In my experience, And I said this to one of my guys tonight, after dinner, was this … Not in the last few years, have I ever witnessed another sober human being, walk up to me and say those magic words, and they are:

“I Know How You Feel, Let Me Tell You How I Dealt With That.”

Lorna and Bob, two long sober members from New York spoke these words to us, in person, a number of years ago. There are only a few people, guys I work with, who heard these words too, because I have shared them with my guys. It was obvious, when we sat together as a Round Up Group, many folks I know, forgot those words. And I muse that, when I was in a difficult place, nobody had those words, as Lorna says are “Of Ever Lasting Life.”

There are folks, I know today, when I show up to particular meetings, out of my regular schedule, like tonight’s meeting on Christmas Night, at my old home group where I spent the first TWELVE YEARS of my sobriety, say to me, “Why don’t you call me ever?” Most people I socialize with already have my number, because I give it freely.

If I give someone my number, there is a reason I do that. So that THEY would use it, when I ask them to use it. People don’t like being told what to do, even when they tell me they are in difficulty, and they ask my advice and sit and listen to what I say in response. Usually couched in my response, if not spoken directly is this … “If you ask me for advice, and I give it freely, because I make time for all of my friends, is that you reciprocate!”

I walked into a meeting with one of my dinner guests tonight, and half a dozen people noticed what I was or wasn’t wearing. I was out of my usual choice of clothing, because I was entertaining tonight, so I went a little conservative, instead of my sporty spice look. They did not ask me how I was doing, or wish me Merry Christmas, they only wanted to comment on my outfit.

A handful of others, as I made the rounds before the meeting, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas that was sitting in the room, and shaking every hand, said to me …”Why don’t you ever call me?” My standard response came out quite easily. “If you really wanted to speak to me, you, yourself, would pick up that 2000 pound phone and use it for the purpose it was made for … To Be Used.

How much does a cell phone weigh, I ask you ?

Folks know I am reachable, 24 hours a day, and that I always answer my phone. I just don’t go out of my way, with just any alcoholic, to spend time, listening to them piss and moan. Tonight, there were a number of miserable young people sitting in the meeting. Kids, who, last year, celebrated their first sober holiday in living memory, many of them made it to year two. Because I told them, to their faces, that “if they stayed sober over last Christmas, that they indeed would stay sober.” Many of them listened to that advice and were successful. A handful did not make it. And were back for round two tonight. I watch my young people closely. I am present for all of them. I show up, so that THEY show up too.

So many people are miserable in their lives, and those people drink. There are also miserable people in sobriety, and they don’t drink. I talk to my guys often about this paradox. People stop drinking, yet they maintain their misery, like a rock around their necks.

When really … They can jettison that rock at any moment. When I say that to them, they look at me quizzically, as if to say, “Yeah Right.” You make it sound so easy. And things are easier said than done. Because folks make that conscious decision to remain miserable and sad.

We read from the Big Book and A Vision For You tonight. The portion of the passage that says at some point we come to the day that we cannot imagine life WITH alcohol or WITHOUT it. THEN, we will know loneliness unlike anything we ever known. And we reach the jumping off point.

We will want the end.

The reading goes on to speak of the fellowship and what we can do for each other, when we reach the jumping off point. When you come to your Home Group, and you connect, and you STAY, your life will change.

I show up so that others see me show up to tell them that ANYTHING is possible. It CAN be DONE. It takes Work. Consistency. Faith. and Action.

People WITH TIME, look at me strangely. People with little time look at me strangely. They cannot figure out, why I am so serene and happy.

Vulnerability takes Courage.

For a couple of years, I’ve been vulnerable. I speak my mind. I share honestly, and to the point. I am out there, in good times, and in bad times. I tell people when I am feeling sad, or angry, or happy. I no longer edit my words in public. People do not like it when I am deadly honest. People cannot understand why I speak honestly and with soul.

I am an Alcoholic who wants to get well. To live a good life. To know why I tick the way I tick, and to work on my character defects and shortcomings.

We might work steps, some more often than others. Many forget that Steps Six and Seven are the steps we work for the rest of our lives, on a daily basis.

My guys know this. And they struggle the same way I struggle, when they come to me and ask my advice, when sometimes I have no idea what to say to them, as I tell them how I dealt with those very same issues. The only way I know how to help another human is to tell them the truth, even if I don’t have a clue, what I am supposed to say, at least I say something.

Over the weekend I was home alone. And I rang up a friend, I’ve known for more than forty years now. Facebook, that necessary evil, makes it possible to keep in touch with people who matter to me, sober or not.

She asked me about me, and I asked her about her. I told her my story, and she told me one of hers. She said, and I quote … “If you don’t concentrate on your step work when it comes to certain people in my life, actually STEP the exact issue, you are going to become as bitter and angry as they are.”

She goes on … You know steps better than I do, of course I do, she’s not one of us. But she knows enough about me today, that she can offer that kind of advice, because I will listen to her when she talks to me. Because, we often don’t have an opportunity to talk for over an hour, like we did Sunday night. She was right. I shared that at the meeting tonight.

Everybody looked at me strangely. What are you talking about? I knew what I was talking about. Now I know what I can do now. The conundrum of sobriety is this … There aren’t a whole lot of people I want to talk to, to any depth, because only a handful of people I know today, would even offer to invest in me. Even sober …

A long timer said tonight, that he’d been hitting many more meetings than usual because his shift at work has changed. But he notices the disparity of not a whole lot of long sober people. They are either moved away, sick themselves, or dead. He hangs around with NEW BLOOD. He sees how many of us, who were around or, more, still around from the years when we got sober together. Few of us, are still around.

There are too many chair warmers. People want to get sober. Yet, they don’t want to put in the time and the work necessary, to get where some of us are, on the path to happy, joyous and free.

Not long ago, one of my kids, after facing a raft of losses in his life, walked into the meeting, on Thursday, a couple of weeks ago, and said to me and to God, as I stood there “Where are the fucking PROMISES?” God certainly has not dropped them on me,” at his almost ninety days of sobriety.

New comers hear us read those pesky promises day in day out, week in and week out. And they suppose that God is gonna drop Promises on them like Manna from Heaven, as needed, with no toil or tilling the ground so that the garden bears fruit.

A garden is not gonna bear fruit or anything, if you aren’t going to get your hands dirty, and get down and dirty in the mud with the rest of us. So many people want the PAYOUT with no LABOR.

I look at them and a giggle to myself. If you only knew.

Promises don’t drop out of heaven like Manna. They come when you invest in THE WORK. And you put your time in getting sober. You just cannot walk in the door and expect God to just lay it on you because you just walked in the room.

Because that’s exactly what I said when I came in this second time around. I actually gave God a list of “Things I wanted, Expected, because I HAD ARRIVED!”

Long Sober folks laughed at me and said: KEEP COMING BACK !

Talk about lessons in humility.

I worked my ass off for the whole of my sobriety. My best friend said it all when I took my 17th chip a couple of weeks ago … I don’t stop, I am always looking for the next big challenge. I ask people for help, even if they are less sober than I am. Newcomers saved my ass this past year. My lady friends who worked steps with me changed my life in ways I cannot explain.

Some of my kids are lock, stock and barrel, Confident Adult Women.

I’ve watched them grow up around me and in front of my own eyes. And that is what I wanted this round. So I asked for help, and help arrived. Because I was willing to sit, read, and to listen.

Because some of my women have solid, hard core sponsors, who don’t hand out bull shit, but expect hard work and honesty from their women. Some of my friends HAVE IT. Many do not. But they could, if they put in the work to get better, instead of pissing and moaning about how miserable they are in sobriety.

And I am oft to say … You know if what we have does not work for you, we’ll refund you your sobriety, and you can go drink again, and see if that works better.

Common wisdom of people who are long sober, or sober longer than I am, say this … Alcoholism might stalk me in the back of my head, and I hear it speak to me and woo me into the false idea that a drink would be nice.

Long timers, who are sober twenty plus years, know the kinds of drinkers and addicts they were when they got sober. They know how insane their lives were, and none of us are going to give it up for the chance to try some new drug or flavor of alcohol that some of our young kids drank or drugged with.

Our young people have that conscious choice in front of them. They can root and stay, and work and learn, and get better, OR they can warm a chair and bide their time, until the opportune moment they can say FUCK IT and go back out and drink and use some more.

Common wisdom also says that the odds of finding a better buzz, or a better drug, on a relapse will be better, is false. Because eventually you are going to wind up in a worse place the next time they chose to use, a bigger jackpot, even jail, or institution, or God Forbid, DEATH.

I know misery. I’ve been miserable too. And I am one of those men who will admit that in open community. Not many pay attention to anything I say.

But if I wear something irregular, they WILL SAY something to me.

Funny that !

I don’t have time for misery or anger or bitterness. My nuclear family have invested, lock, stock, and barrel on the alcohol, and the misery, anger and bitterness. Because they speak to me in those kinds of words.

I know those words. And from my mouth to God’s ears …

I WILL NEVER BECOME YOU !

I’ve been sober now seventeen Christmases. I’ve been sober longer than all the years I spent drinking and drugging. I’ve spent more holidays sober now, than I have ever, in my life, even as a kid. Because in my family, alcohol was a food group. If you did anything, it was bracketed by an alcoholic beverage of some kind. Beer or Spirits.

I’ve never been so cognizant of how subtle the fine line of sanity and insanity. Because I skate on that line often. And I know how precarious that skate is sometimes. So I stick with the winners. I suit up and I show up for my life, on a daily basis.

I heard a guy talk on Instagram earlier before I started writing this post and he said … IF YOU WANT CHANGE, IT IS EVERY DAY.

EVERY DAY !!!

EVERY DAY !!!

CONSISTENTLY, RELIGIOUSLY, WHEN YOU WANT TO AND WHEN YOU DON’T. WHEN PEOPLE SEE YOU, AND WHEN THEY DON’T.

IF YOU AREN’T IN THE ARENA WITH ME GETTING YOUR ASS KICKED LIKE ME, I DON’T WANT TO HEAR YOUR CRITICISM.

Brene Brown … The Man in the Arena Speech. Teddy Roosevelt.

CHEAP SEATS ARE EASY. GET IN THE ARENA AND FIGHT FOR GOD’S SAKE. BECAUSE IF YOU AREN’T FIGHTING LIKE ME, YOU HAVE NO ROOM TO CRITICIZE ME.

Some sober folks are in the cheap seats, and they want to criticize, and not do any heavy lifting. Sobriety isn’t cheap seats, work. Sobriety is IN THE ARENA FIGHTING FOR ONES LIFE and SANITY.

Merry Christmas !



Christmas Day 2018

Merry Christmas friends, fellows, ladies and gentlemen. Greetings from Montreal, this very bright and sunny Christmas afternoon.

This watch was one of my gifts from hubby. A MVMT Watch. I had visited the site and had chosen 4 watches for hubby to choose from to get me this year, since I have been relying on my I Phone for time since I got it.

We woke this morning, and I called my friend Juan, to wake him up, and set our time for our Christmas dinner together.

Then we made some coffee and set out to open presents.

I got a MVMT Watch, a new deco lamp for my dining room, an electric carving knife (I had actually thought about finding one for myself) but hubby beat me to it.

Nothing too extravagant.

I got hubby some new Canada cozies, Rafa got him an adult fantasy coloring book with added art pens to color with. He got a new fry pan and a salad spinner (since we axed salad from our nightly menus recently).

We don’t go out and spend tons of money because we really don’t need a whole lot, since we have so much to be grateful for as it is. We have life, good friends, and family to celebrate the day with today.

That is enough for us.

We got lots of little doo dads from the family in Ottawa and Guelph this year. Gift cards that will be put to good us soon, and some beautiful serving dishes and candles.

Christmas is a simple affair. The only heavy lifting is the roasting of the turkey, which is a fine art here. Since we have a small galley kitchen, making an entire holiday dinner is a logistical dance of perfection.

Thank you for all my readers who come and read and for all of you who subscribe to my little story telling exercise.

Thank you and now on to 2019 already !!!



Christmas Eve 2018

The week, last week ended with a final push to get all the Christmas shopping done. “Mission Accomplished!” Hubby has been in Ottawa visiting his parents for Christmas and they did Christmas Sunday evening with the extended family.

I was “HOME ALONE !!!”

Nope, not stuck in Chicago

Nope, not lost in New York

But, Home Alone in Montreal

But those movies were on the W Network last night. Sadly we don’t have that channel on our list of Cable Channels.

I’ve cleaned all the things that needed to be cleaned. I vacuumed last night at about 2 a.m. because I was wide awake. I scrubbed the microwave, which was badly needed, after looking inside the box. I just usually throw whatever I am heating up, in, and pay no attention the the box itself.

I defrosted/de-iced/gutted my turkey for tomorrows dinner.

I haven’t been to bed yet today.

All of our kids are where they need to be. Everybody is hooked up for friends who went home, in their same cities, so they are buddying up for meetings and fellowship over the holidays. Those kids who are still here will gather tonight for Christmas Eve Meetings, and fellowship.

We’ve all been working overtime with the newbies to make sure they make it through their first Christmases sober, and alive. All is well, through last night.

Hubby returns this afternoon with the loot that came from the extended family and my in laws. When he goes away and I have to think about what I need to cook for dinner, is a hassle. Because usually I don’t have to think about cooking dinner, because he does the cooking, and serves up meals night after night. So I had to shop and cook for myself, which is a strange thing, when he goes away …

Tomorrow I am hosting a Gala Christmas Dinner for my friend Juan, his wife Nadia and her mom, who is now living in Canada, this is her first holiday, in Canada, with SNOW and COLD, with Nadia and Juan. They moved into a larger apartment a few months ago, for more space. We will sit five tomorrow.

This morning I shopped a few items I thought I needed and got supplies for the meeting tonight, and some Chocolate Milk. I’ve been craving grill cheese so I bought some cheese and made a sandwich.

Now I have to drop labs next week, and the last time I ate bread, my triglycerides went up so far, it stunned my doctors, who both called to see what I had done to myself.

I told them I ATE BREAD for God’s sake …

Then they both told me emphatically … NO MORE BREAD EVER !!!

I ate bread this morning. And will eat bread with Hot Turkey Sandwiches later tomorrow night.

The gifts are all wrapped, and under the tree. I bought a few things for hubby that he did not ask for, because as long as we’ve been together, he will never ask for something particular for himself. Not once, ever. So I have to guess what he needs and then shop.

I had ordered a gift from a company called SIRENO, for a keepsake, special pressed key chain, that you can have punched with particular dates. I paid over $50.00 for it, BACK in September… I got a shit package in the mail the other day from China, 3 months later, from a counterfeit group. I lost fifty bucks and the bank won’t refund the money till I get a return response from the counterfeiter themselves.

FUCKING CHINESE GANGSTERS !!!

I’m so pissed I got ripped off on a present that would have been over the top for hubby …

More to come, as Christmas is tomorrow …

A Second Set of Eyes

I have learned over many, many years, that everybody needs a second set of eyes on them. And not many people are afforded this little perk in life. The world operates on the “I can do it myself” mentality. Some make it and prosper, others, find their way into our rooms, and have to begin again, from the ground up.

Recently, I was reading a book. And was pleasantly surprised to learn a piece of truth, that just made everything make sense all of a sudden.

In my life, when my husband was diagnosed as Bi-Polar in 2003, he was very ill and was down for the count for almost an entire calendar year. What I learned in that time was the “Importance” of those second set of eyes.

When it comes to Mental Health, we should not try to go it alone. Because for the most part, a doctor, (If you can find one) sees you, (after whatever wait time you have to sit through) gives you a diagnosis, then begins the arduous task of giving one medication, one goes home and begins said treatment plan.

Then What ???

Who is gonna be there to see if what the pills that one is taking is doing the right job, and if not, have the ability to observe from the outside, what is going on in the inside of our “Significant Other.”

I know a lot of kids, in my community, going it alone. They don’t have that second set of eyes on them. In the past, I tried to be that other set of eyes for them, to the best of my ability. All of them, today, are “out there.”

Every once in a while, when sitting in a particular room, those boys and girls sitting with us, connect. And if we are wise, those of us, who know what to do, quietly bring one or two on board with us.

Quiet and Considerate action can be fruitful, if your bank is topped up and you know what to do for your fellows. A long time ago, Todd took a liking to me, and when it was necessary for him to step in and take control, that is exactly what he did. And I live to tell that story, as often as possible.

I get to take the knowledge in my bank and share it with a chosen handful of men, in my life. They trust me enough to listen. And I find that once we begin talking, we find commonality.

I don’t think we are meant to go at life alone, forever. At least, I have not had to Go It Alone for the last little while. If you can step up and be that second set of eyes for someone or to step up and mentor a young person, or go above and beyond the call and really step up your game with your kids, that is the way to go.

We only get this one life. And the faster one realizes that, “You Can’t Take It With You” when you’re dead, we then get to decide how we are going to spread our wealth and treasure with someone who just might need it, when necessary. It does not take much to help our fellow boys and girls.

All you have to do is step up and be counted. To offer a conversation, at first, and see where that goes. You might be surprised that within a simple conversation, we find ways to give back. Quietly and Humbly.

This Christmas is all about Giving It Back.

A number of years ago, when my great aunt Georgette was still alive, and was in the Grey Nuns Convent, just up the block from my home, she would call me into her office and assign me a Giving Back Job, every Christmas.

Every year was a different situation.

One year, I had to provide a Christmas dinner for a family who did not have the money to buy food. Turkey and all the fixings.

A second year, a young family could not afford gifts for their kids, so we shopped for a family and their kids.

A third year, a family could not afford a Christmas Tree and decorations. So we bought them a tree and all the doo dads to go with it.

When I was a kid, my step mom provided fantastical holiday gatherings at her house. My father was not such a fan, but it is what it is.

I have kids to give to this year. I have family that come to our home for Christmas Dinner. Chosen family. The gift of today is the ability to choose our family, when the nuclear family fails to represent.

We don’t need shiny objects or surplus doo dads that we really do not need. I think the best way to be kind, is to find one person, in your “sphere of influence” that has shared with us a passion or a desire.

It is in the listening to another, that we learn just what we can do to make a difference in someones life.

Do you listen to your friends ? Attentively ???

It is Christmas. Find that one human whom you can make a difference for, and then go do it.

Just don’t think about how much it might cost you, because the return on investment could be astronomical. You never know.

Make a difference in someones life this Christmas.

Remember, Miracles count double on Christmas Eve.

The Lisbon Patient

A number of years ago, back in 1993, the year prior to my AIDS diagnosis, a serious problem began to arise in communities, that were thought to be anomalies. That problem was HETEROSEXUAL Elderly Men and Women, who became infected with AIDS.

In Fort Lauderdale, in those times, the ratio of Women to Men were 10 to 1. For every man living in any condo community, there were upwards of 10 Women. It became apparent that those men and women were sexually active, either between themselves, or with others, outside of any specific community. If the virus was introduced to a community, Women were becoming a serious statistic.

We called it the “CONDO COMMANDO EFFECT.”

Educational awareness programs were begun. And the AIDS crises centers and Planned Parenthood got involved. It just so happened that the first test center I visited, was a Planned Parenthood office, in Fort Lauderdale.

So nobody can tell me that Planned Parenthood was not useful.

The story I can share about this time, was that after my test results came back Negative, we also learned, in hindsight, that the test results of AIDS patients who WERE actually positive, came back Negative. However, an entire community of elderly people, were mistakenly diagnosed with AIDS, when we learned that test results were mistakenly switched with a living facility and an AIDS test clinic.

The other night, a report was shown on the CTV National news about a man who is 99 years old. And has been living with AIDS for more than twenty five years. He was actually infected in his seventies. Because they said, in the report, that he has been living with AIDS for a quarter of a century. Which would turn into a window in his seventies. The physician treating him, also said, that he believed that the man had been INFECTED years earlier.

The television news report was focused on the man’s LONGEVITY.

Longevity is a key indicator of life expectancy for people living with AIDS. Because when I was diagnosed there were no specialized doctors, but those who worked off hours, hunting for needles in a haystack and drawing at straws to try and keep people alive, against the odds.And there were no drugs to take either, not for another handful of years to come.

I was one of those people.

I crossed the twenty five year mark this year. Today I am 51 years old. I survived several death calls, and live to tell the tale.

They say that the reason the Lisbon Patient is still alive, is because of his lifestyle, his attention to life, AND his taking his pills religiously, every day.

They did not name him or show is face, because his family fears retribution and hatred. It seems, even in Lisbon, AIDS is not a very welcome illness.

We know today that AIDS has moved from a terminal death sentence to a daily managed chronic illness.

I lived through phase two of the AIDS crisis. I was a second generation gay man who contracted AIDS in the mid nineties. I know of some men, who were diagnosed much, much earlier, in the eighties.

Very few of those men survived. However, there are pockets of men in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, who did live, and still live today.

Out of the 500 men who were diagnosed in my Social Circle, only two of us are still alive. My friend Mark, who lives in Florida, he was diagnosed years before I was, and then, myself.

Longevity and Quality of life are paramount when dealing with ANY Chronic Illness or Terminal Disease. After a few years waiting to die, when I did not die, I went to work for Cedar’s Sinai Cancer Hospice, where I spent time working with people who were very ill. Some of them survived, many did not.

My experience, strength and hope was not wasted.

I was very lucky that I had the right doctors, who believed in very specific treatment strategies back in the day. In 1996, I moved to Miami, in search of a doctor that specialized in AIDS treatment. I believe he set me on the path to living a long life, because he took care of the TOTAL patient. We had comprehensive IV, drug, treatment, mental and social treatment.

That founding treatment set my body up for success.

When I moved to Canada and met my doctor I have today, he promised me a long life, if in trade, I did him a favor. For more than ten years, I tested every drug that went into market here in Canada. We saved lives for sure.

I can tell that story confidently, because I am still alive.

AIDS in our fifties is another story about Longevity.

The Lisbon Patient shows us that men in their late nineties, who live with AIDS, as a chronic Illness, survive.

The Lisbon Patient is a Rubicon. Something we should all look at as example of what can be possible, if we too, take care of ourselves.

It’s all about LONGEVITY.

The Big Night Wrap Up

Out with the old and in with the new …

It was a great day. Whenever I get to spend time with my best friend, is a good day, since we don’t see a whole lot of each other because of school and work. Raf drove up mid-afternoon from Ottawa and we did some shopping. The weather was not cooperating, so we tried to stay indoors as much as possible.

Not to mention it gets dark at 4 p.m. in the afternoon.

We bought some gift for family, had some lunch. And came back here to hang out with hubby, to pass the time. I got the first copy of this years Christmas Card, and the most coveted item in sobriety … The hallowed “I Drank At Dr. Bob’s coffee mug.” Locally, there were only two in existence this far North, from Akron Ohio. I had one, but it got shattered on the Lionel Groulx Metro Platform some time ago. The only other Dr. Bob mug was sitting in Rafa’s cupboard, in Ottawa. He gifted me that mug on Friday.

It rained all night. We left home around 6 for the Plateau to park near the church. We walked down Laurier to Starbuck’s. A handful of friends were there already having coffee before the meeting. Talking and doing some step work. My other Bestie Egyptian Joe and his wife Miss. Pina were there, so we visited for a bit, catching up on holiday festivities.

We sat a nominal crowd, not a full house as usual, which was kind of strange. But people won’t come out when it rains, or when it snows. It was the annual Anniversary/Christmas soiree, with a guest speaker.

This was the second speaker to cross my path this week. The first being at St. Matthias on Thursday night. At the end of the meeting I got my 17 year chip from Rafa. And he said, and I quote …

“My best friend called me weird tonight. He elaborated, on the way home. He said, that I don’t shy away from digging for truth, when it is uncomfortable. That if something isn’t working I go find something else that does. That I don’t behave better than anyone else, and that I will ask people in sobriety to help me, even if they are less sober than I am. Because everyone has experience, who has read the book with “their” sponsors. I seek wisdom in quiet ways. I don’t lead with my ego or an attitude. I treat everybody with respect, and I am kind. I don’t follow cookie cutter – the same ole thing, day in and day out. I walk into change and I seek out new ideas when most people won’t. I’m not a “regular” sober person.”

The depth and wisdom I have at this stage of the game, came from everybody who is near me. Thank you to all you young people who keep me honest and give me something to do and someplace to be on a weekly basis. I would not be who I am without all of you.

Let’s get on with Christmas already.

However, a little snow on the ground would be a nice addition.