Sunday Sundries: We Are Not Saints

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It was a full day today. My friend got on the bus a few minutes before I arrived at the station to meet him, so I took a later bus out to the West Island. The crowd was smaller today, than yesterday.

We heard a number of speakers, from Ontario, Lexington, Kentucky and Tampa. My experience of the weekend, was not the same as in weekends past. I heard many similar ideas tossed about. The themes of powerlessness, the loss of choice, and decisions we make.

I heard it said, from one of the speakers today that, “An alcoholic can make the decision to stop drinking. We have that capability, to decide. The problem arises when we attempt to stay stopped.”

A phrase I head a very long time ago from a wise woman, when I first got sober, all those years ago, was repeated over the weekend.

Stick around until the miracle occurs …

Two of our speakers were military veterans of war. So my friend, I was running with for the weekend, had a great deal in common with them, and found affinity, and made some serious contacts for his future.

I believe that if I am kind to my friends, that is what I am meant to do here on earth.
To Be Kind…

There are many issues faced by our sober community here. Things I observe. Words I hear spoken. Attitudes I am not inclined to encourage or be around, for that matter.

I had a conversation, well, I attempted to have a conversation with the long sober woman who spoke last night. And it seemed to me, she did not want to offer me anything of substance. Like it was beyond her to actually sit and listen to me.

I told her of my travels and some of my concerns. When I broached to topic of my emotional meltdown in a meeting, some time ago, and what took place on that very day, she looked me dead in the eye and said that my behavior in that meeting was unacceptable, and that I should have kept my mouth shut and not gotten emotional.

So much for compassion and tolerance for those with different struggles.

The only thing a meeting is concerned with is keeping people sober. Anything beyond that is unacceptable, she reiterated !!!

Alcoholics Anonymous is not for the emotionally challenged she said. Her caveat was, that probably, most alcoholics don’t know how to handle that kind of thing, beyond staying stopped from drinking, because that’s what a meetings for, right ?  Not to take that next drink, nor deal with an emotionally upset man sitting at the table.

Her curt answer struck me as odd, seeing she talked about all the good we could do for each other, and all she could muster with me was an admonishment for my poor behavior in front of other alcoholics.

ODD !!!

I also told her of the brain drain with old timers flying the coop, and going down their proverbial rabbit holes. She said to me that their rabbit holes were not my problem, and not my concern. But if we see folks walk away, it falls upon us to repeat to them, that there is no graduation date, no end point in sobriety. And invite them to show up, even if they don’t want to.

On the way home, I learned that our long sober woman, when picked up at the airport the other day, was abusive to her handler. She was not kind to the young woman charged with taking care of her during her stay here. She insulted and demeaned her, and in the end, that same young woman, told the committee that she would no longer serve her charge, and that somebody else could do it.

Damage Done.

How it works says that “We are not saints. But we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”

In the end, as the story was related to me, that woman was invited to Montreal to speak because she had serious double-digit sobriety, and was a pillar in her home community. And she showed up here and was a Cast Iron Bitch to the committee.

You can’t get up there and preach goodness and sobriety to a room full of people seeking a way to live their lives sober, and then turn around and be unkind and bitchy.

I did not seek another audience with anyone else the whole weekend. I welcomed the other speakers and thanked the veterans for their service, because my father served with them in the very same theater of war in Viet Nam.

The witness of true sobriety were those two veterans. Hearing their stories of war, and the suffering they witnessed, and came home as damaged as my father was when he returned from the war. My father, though, never dealt with his demons. He just drank them away hoping that they would disappear, which was what these two men attempted to do as well.

The end result was a crash and burn and entrance into the rooms, where they both figured our what to do and with which professional. They both got sober. Got married later on, had children and lived successful lives sober, to this date.

The damage of war, is sometimes insurmountable. As we see today, in our soldiers who have gone to war in Afghanistan and other places. What we have on hand today, is helping some of our men, acclimate to sobriety. With the help of our little village of long sober and many not so long sober folks.

It Takes a Village.

The weekend was very beneficial for outreach to the young people who showed up for the weekend. Connections were made. Conversations were had. Now it falls to us to foster those connections going forwards.

I have MP 3 copies of all the talks which I will burn to my computer this week, then hand the box off to make the rounds of anyone who might want them for themselves.

Again, as I saw it, and experienced the weekend, once again, I am reminded, strongly, what I am going to take away as lessons in a good way, but also, in lessons of what I experienced, as in, I know what I am not going to perpetuate.

I might have half the time that many of the speakers had over the weekend, but I am no fool, nor am I stupid. I watch how people treat each other. And when I see long sober people acting like assholes to my community, the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

I don’t care if you are a sick alcoholic like the rest of us, if you cannot act accordingly, then I have no use for anything you have to say to me or to us for that matter.

There is no excuse for unkindness.

That’s why I stay away from old timers. Because they aren’t prefect. And many of them have treated me unkindly, and not so soberly. I know who I trust and who I talk to on a regular basis. And that is just fine with me.

Other Alcoholic Rabbit Holes are none of my business.

I choose what I take on and what I do not.
I’ve learned at least that in sixteen plus years of sobriety.

There but for the Grace of God go I …

We’re Always Making New Friends

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It is almost 2 a.m. and I should be in bed. Have to be up at 7 a.m. for an 8 a.m. bus ride to the West Island in the morning. Today, A new friend and I made the trip out this afternoon. The island of Montreal is under severe construction, all the elevated highways have been knocked down, as they build new ones in their place.

If you have to travel East or West, by those very same highways, everybody is using surface streets to get around the detours. Imagine, buses, cars, and every other vehicle imaginable trying to navigate surface streets, not made for heavy traffic or multiple cars all at once.

The detour took us over an hour to navigate on a Saturday afternoon, but we made it to the community center with plenty of time before hand. We socialized and made new friends, or met friends that I see often, but not get to talk to on a deeper level, at meetings.

Not a whole lot of people from town were there today. But the numbers looked good in the “young people quotient.” There is a cross-section of folks from all over the island, with varying time of sobriety.

You know when you go to a sober gathering that you must carry several things in abundance. Munchies, Cigarettes, Kleenex, and Cash. Making new friends always entails being kind to them, from the get go. Because what you do for someone else when it matters, may impact them in ways you might not see right away. But a kindness given is a kindness received.

We got there early, and a handful of young people I know, from around town had shown up, which gives me time with each of them outside the purview of a meeting. The gatherings around the communal cigarette bin located outside the hall is the location where we network the best.

The one cigarette per person rule goes out the window. So I brought several packs with me just in case I needed them. And I did.

We heard two good shares. A young man, well, young in his forties, with 23 years sobriety, and our pinch hitter speaker this evening, an old-timer with more than 45 years of sobriety. Today’s contingent came from Toronto.

Many good things were shared. Two that come to mind at the moment are, our young man has a habit of opening meetings in his neighborhood, so that the meeting are all by his house. Because like he said to us … We Are Always Making New Friends.

Sober Folks are friends we just haven’t met yet.

Our Lady speaker talked about God. Coming from Humboldt Saskatchewan, nobody knew Humboldt until a few weeks ago, when the youth hockey team were involved in that tragic bus crash that killed so many young men and women in the bus.

She told us of the incalculable Power of Good. She might not know, at forty some odd years who God is, but she does know about the Power of Good.

We are all here for a purpose. We had to just get to hell, to find the direction into the Power of Good, to turn our lives around.

We laughed. We giggled. And we were sad, but then joy took over.

A good day was had by all. Tomorrow is a long haul day, with multiple speakers from all corners of the world, an ALA-Non Speaker, lunch and the afternoon filled with more to come.

Stay tuned…

The 44th Annual West Island Round Up

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This weekend is the Premier Sober Event of the season. In the month of May, each year, the West Island puts on the premier sober event, the West Island Round Up.

Not sure how many people are going to show, as I’ve been carrying tickets around with me for weeks. I sold a few, but most probably, people will show up at the door to buy tickets. A bunch of us are going from the city.

This weekends speakers will come from Toronto, Ontario, Louisville Kentucky, Oakville Ontario, and as far away as Tampa Florida.

In Round Up’s past, entire groups of people were invited from different cities, like New York or Los Angeles California and close by Vermont.

There are hosted retreats for men and women in the spring in many locations in the North East. The men’s intensive is held in Vermont, twice a year, as well as the women’s intensive retreat.

A few years back, on the way to our intensive retreat, we stopped off in East Dorset Vermont to visit Bill W’s birthplace, where they host retreats in the house he was actually born in and meetings are held there daily.

Up the road from the house, in East Dorset, is where Bill W and his wife Lois are buried. In a small nondescript little graveyard. The caretaker has a full-time job, collecting and storing all the sober chips that are placed on his grave, all year-long.

I first attended a Round Up in 2012, with the crew from the Atlantic Group in New York City. And at that weekend event, I met a man named Bob who turned my life upside down, with a particular prayer ritual, that, over the months and years, changed my life in ways that I could not have imagined.

A little prayer goes a long way, to ordering the universe for us, and setting us on a path of success, otherwise unknown to those who don’t pray at all.

In keeping with Brene Brown’s theme of Braving …

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

Braving
Boundaries
Reliability
Accountability
Vault
Integrity
Non Judgement
Generosity

Hopefully, I will have things to share over the weekend.

Stay tuned …

Views of Sydney Harbor

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For the last few weeks, Sydney Harbor has been lit up at night. The colors on the bridge itself change, as do the colors of the towers on each end. On the water front, many of the buildings are lit up as well, with ever changing colors.

As Sydney is 14 hours ahead, in the morning when I get up, I check the two webcams I have bookmarked and capture live photos of the city by night.

I’ve collected several shots already and have been alternating them above in the Header Image.

Enjoy !!!

 

At What Point Can We Get Honest ?

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I heard one of my friends tonight say, about a conversation he had earlier, with a friend, that he was not sure he could be honest with said friend about the topic they were discussing.

I know my friend for many years now. I have many friends, I have known for a long time, and becoming who we are begins with getting better all the way around. We stay clean and sober, and we do the work that is given to us, Willingly.

Willingness is the key.

I have said before that I cannot do life alone. I need my sponsor, my guides and my friends. I need that voice, coming over my shoulder, that says … It’s gonna be OK.

I have a few twenty-four hours under my belt. And for a long time, I did not know what I did not know. And I know the first time I was attempting to get sober, there was A LOT that I did not know. And that worked against me, as represented by the wordsI spoke and the decisions I made, based on self. (not the good self for that matter)

Life is all about becoming who we are supposed to be. Sometimes the road is easy, but in my experience, for many people, the road has been very tough.

I spoke tonight about life. I knew, very early on, in my life, what it was that I did NOT want to be. I heard words that I swore I would never use myself. And I heard thoughts that were repugnant, bigoted and racist.

I knew …

Growing up, if you did not fit in the box my parents wanted you to check, they punished you with silence, and darkness and humiliation and resentment.

Imagine a kid growing up with that kind of negativity and trying to find your way into the world, and survive the slog!

My father went to his grave, hating me, and resenting me for becoming who I was meant to be. My mother is on that very same shit path herself. Last night, I read in this months Grape Vine, about a woman long sober, making peace with her mother, and she asked her what she could do to mend the fence between them ?

The answer was, You Could agree with me sometimes. I’m not always wrong you know.

And I thought about that conversation all day today.

I imagine going to visit my mother, in my brother’s house, where nobody knows me today, and does not want to know me, because of resentment and anger and denial. I imagine having that kind of conversation with her, knowing she spits out the same vile shit, like a script she has mastered over my lifetime.

I don’t ever think I will ever mend that fence, myself.

The second time I got sober, I began with steps that were all about ME. What people did to me, and why they deserve my scorn and hatred. I remember the first round of steps I did, and how LONG my fourth step was, and the hours it took to do my fifth.

Then I burned them.

For years and years, I’ve been working steps with different people, with different lengths of sobriety. And I have amassed a library of knowledge about myself but more importantly, knowledge about everybody else.

God has a funny way with me. The evidence is right there for me to look at. Steps Six and Seven are the growth steps. The change steps. Because we work Six and Seven for the rest of our lives. And further up the road, at Ten, we learn how to do spot check inventories and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Over the years, as I pass through Six and Seven, God shows me Six and Seven, in front of my face. I have learned to see “spiritually.” It has taken a long time to work that vision out. I know I can trust because I can see.

It is the same with some of my friends, when it comes to me. They can see, for me, when I cannot see for myself. And each of them, each in their own ways, have the voice and the temperament to sit me down and tell me like it is, when I fuck up.

Many of my friends know who they are, in each of their varying lengths of sobriety. Many of my friends are honest with me. And I see that virtue in them, in the books I have read on honesty, virtue and honor.

What I see in them, I want to become myself.

I don’t know, at what point, we can trust our vision, and humbly admit we don’t know everything, but I we know some things. In the beginning, I would not say anything to people because I did not know myself what it was I really wanted to say, even if it sounded good in my head.

Over the years, I have worked with others. And over the years I have had several sponsors. And over the years, each of them fell victim to their own character defects.

As I get and stay sober, and life goes on, and shit happens, and things get real, what I witnessed was my friends, my sponsor and other drunks, reacting to the fact that I was having a hard time. I listened to the words they said to me. And I witnessed what each of them did to me, in response to my life getting “Shit Real.”

The rooms really don’t like to see people “In the Mix” People in the rooms, don’t like to witness pain and hardship. And many of my friends and sponsor at the time, pushed me away, freaking out, because I was freaking out, and when I jumped out of my placid, quiet, reserved skin, and became a little odd and crazy, that freaked people out, because I was coming out of my skin, and for a long time at that, that quiet, sane individual became someone they did not know, or want to know.

So they all ran for the hills.

What a shame. And at that point my friends, not knowing what to do with a crazy man, in front of them, all scattered.

There are many ways to get sober. I know a friend, who is more than twenty-five years sober. She, like myself, learned how to get sober, the hard way. We walked into particular meetings, and those men and women, said one thing to us …

If you follow our suggestions, and do not argue, and you work, as we show you what to do, yes, you too will get and stay sober.

There were no two ways about it. It was their way or the highway, so to speak.

She was handed her job. And likewise, I was handed mine. A coffee pot.

We listened to old timers tell us what to do. We both had sponsors who did the right thing at the right time, for the right reason. We learned suggestions. We worked steps. We did service, and to this day, BOTH of us do service, all the time, every day.

Repetition is the key in recovery.

We read the same book, work the same steps. hear the same stories, over and over again. But as we share with each other, as we remain clean and sober, perspective changes.

Each time we make a pass at a particular story or topic or step, we see it in the way we see it IN THAT MOMENT, as it is. not particularly, the way we saw it, the last time we hit that share, or topic or step.

It is like polishing a gem stone. Each pass at the wheel makes the gem better.

We both know what we heard, all those years ago. We both know what we did, over the years, so we know what to do, because we spent the better part of our lives, treading the same things over and over. With all that time between us, and each in our own times, we know what we know, because we heard, we worked, we spoke, and we did.

She has a voice, and I have mine. Based on practical experience, strength and hope.

I talk to newcomers and I tell them what I did, and I make simple suggestions. Not many people want to hear what I have to say, because I, like my elder lady friend, come from the sober school of hard knocks.

Sobriety is not easy. And people know that from the get go.

But if you say something that is not easy … They respond with I just Can’t !

So I ask, why not ? What have you got to lose, but the old way you used to live ?

They say that honesty is the best policy. But when do we know what honesty is, and when do we know that what we have to say matters, is truthful, honest and comes from a place of humility?

That, is a tall order. And can take a lifetime to learn.

Over the years, I have worked with men and women. many of them are not in my life anymore, because when I hit the rough spot, who I became was unacceptable to their sensibilities. All that sober knowledge I spent teaching them, went for naught.

Because each of them sunk into their character defects. I saw it. I heard it, and I spoke about it too. Being honest in all my affairs was a mantra I use to this day.

I was honest with them. They did not like that. So that made me less sober or trustworthy.

Fuck Me for Trying !!!

I know today, the odds, when people come in the rooms. By what they say, and what they do, and who they listen to. The fighters and arguers, never make it. Those who justify their addictions, never get better. Until they decide to get honest.

I know sober folks who are constitutionally unable to be honest with themselves.

If I attend a meeting, for a long time, for a specific reason, to learn something, and people treat me badly, that is not on me, it is on them. When people who used to be my friends, turn out to NOT be friends, and do not have the ability to reciprocate kindness, that is on them and not me.

There are LONG SOBER men and women, whom I have known for the whole of my sobriety. We are talking people with decades of sobriety, who treat me with ignorance and silence. That just floors me.

I know who I am today. And I know what I know about each person I know. Because I have spent the better part of sixteen years and a few months, watching and listening to them in meetings.

I got sober, on the backs of every single person in every single meeting I went to. Every single day of this sober segment.

I know every decision they made. I know every mistake they made. I heard every word they said, in meetings, over and over. I watched people go back out, come back in, go back out and come back in.

I also watched some people die in that process.

If you did something and succeeded, I used that myself. If you did something and failed, I chalked it up to lessons learned. I made mistakes. I said things. I decided things too.

For the most part, I did my best, with whatever I had at the moment.

Not everybody was amused. Many people judge and are critical of me.

That is on them and not me. People are who they are, and will do what they do, so I should not let that bother me, but it does. Some don’t seem to learn and get better. They just want to be who they are. And their growth becomes stunted.

I am honest with people. Almost to a fault and that scares people, that I could know what I know, it is only that I know because I have tested all my methods over the years and I know what works.

I am in the book. I am in my steps. I am in meetings, and I do service. All the time.

I am always looking for the next greatest teacher or lesson. And right now, I am in a brand new incarnation of who I want to be, based on those I surround myself with.

I trust few.

We are all growing up to who we want to be.

Each at our paces.

I am powerless over people, places and things.

And what ever happens, a drink will not solve them.

So I hit another meeting …

Happy for Harry …

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The world will witness Prince Harry marry his sweetheart Meghan on Saturday, in St. Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle. So much has changed for the young prince, Brother to Prince William, and uncle to Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

I remember, long ago, the image of a much younger Harry, his brother William, Father Prince Charles, and Earl Spencer, on September 6, 1997, walking behind his mother’s funeral cortege, in front of the whole world.

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It might not have been the best choice to have the boys walk that walk, but, the wisdom of the day, dictated that action. Harry later said, that it was the hardest thing he ever had to do in his life, save, fight in a war …

I remember, the night Diana died. Where I was, what I did, and the days that followed. I remember the day of the funeral, watching with the rest of the world, that had fallen into a sadness never seen before, in my lifetime.

A few days later, a funeral mass was held in Miami, at one of the Anglican Cathedrals in downtown Miami. For that event, I sat down and penned letters to William and Harry. letters about my experience, watching their mother marry. I had a tv in the car, that day as I went to work with my father, and watching the wedding sitting in his office.

And for the rest of my life, being witness to a force of nature like the world had never seen before. I told them many things, many things that escape my memory today, seeing I wrote those letters in a fog of mourning.

I always wonder if William and Harry, received letters like mine after the funeral when all the books of remembrance were carried to London from all corners of the world.

That is one question I have always asked of the universe, whether they read those letters or are they just collecting dust in some storage location. I would have been honored had they done so, but seeing how difficult life had become for both boys, then, I imagine that any reminder of that sadness was quietly stored away for posterity.

My lifetime has been full of Royal Wonder. I loved Diana, and everything that she represented to me, primarily then, Living with AIDS, and knowing how much she cared for people like me, gave me a sense of hope that I did not find in many places then.

Diana loved her boys, William and Harry, very much.

I remember one poignant memories, The Royal Yacht was berthed behind the RCI Building on Port Miami, and Diana was to meet the boys for the first time in as many weeks aboard. We all know of that image of Diana greeting the boys.

I’ve witnessed William and Harry grow up and become men. Both William and Harry have grown into fine young men, with promising futures. I think we can all agree, Harry did not have such an easy time of it, during younger incarnations of himself.

I imagine how hard life must have been for both William and Harry.

Diana hated the press, and did her best to shield her sons from the glare of photographers and paparazzi. Sometimes she succeeded, other times she utterly failed. William and Harry learned a valuable lesson about the press throughout their lives, and both William and Harry, have kept the press at bay for the most part.

Now all the cameras of the world will be focused on Windsor Castle this weekend. The little town of Windsor has been inundated with spectators and press. I would think that rankles Harry to no end. But I am sure he will be well protected from prying eyes, while he marries his sweetheart Megan.

We should all be proud of Harry. The final young royal son to be married in our lifetime. We have witnessed Royalty at its best in watching Diana become a woman, AND a Royal, be married in St. Paul’s, seeing her have her children, and being blessed to see William and Harry grow up into fine young men.

I imagine Diana is looking down on them tonight, and she smiles.

Imagine what it would have meant to William and Harry to have their mother present for both their weddings and child births. Alas, I am sure Harry will honor his mother in some special way on Saturday. I’m sure she is not far from his mind and heart, during this very difficult time for Meghan.

Let us remember Diana, in the lives of her son Harry this weekend and be glad for him. Harry has walked a long road to redemption and honor. And we should honor his commitment to becoming the best man he knows how to be. He intimated as much during interviews during the Invictus games here in Toronto.

Well done Harry. Welcome to Married life. Now life REALLY gets REAL.

Once you utter those vows, the real responsibility begins to your wife.

People don’t necessarily use an engagement period as homework for the real thing, but I had that experience myself. I warned Stephan on the day he married my niece Melissa, that they might have had 11 young years together, before their nuptials, but now the rubber meets the road.

So will it be for Harry and Meghan.

Let us all wish them the best.

Hip Hip Hooray Harry and Meghan.