June 10th 1935 … The First Day

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Pioneers of A.A.

Dr. Bob and the nine men and women who here tell their stories were among the early members of A.A.’s first groups. All ten have now passed away of natural causes, having maintained complete sobriety. Today, hundreds of additional A.A. members can be found who have had no relapse for more than fifty years. All of these, then, are the pioneers of A.A. They bear witness that release from alcoholism can really be permanent.

Dr. Bob’s Nightmare

A Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The birth of our society dates from his first day of permanent sobriety, June 10th 1935.

To 1950, the year of his death, he carried the A.A. message to more than 5,000 alcoholic men and women, and to all these he gave his medical services without thought of charge.

In this prodigy of service, he was well assisted by Sister Ignatia at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, one of the greatest friends or fellowship will ever know.

83 years ago today, the fellowship marks its beginning. The first day of Dr. Bob Smith’s permanent sobriety date. This also marks what we now call Founder’s Day and Gratitude week, all over the world.

On that fateful day, as Bill’s business went South, and he stood in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, heaven held its breath, waiting to see what choice Bill would make next. There he stood in that lobby, the bar to one side and the phone and church directory to the other.

It only took mere seconds, the choice Bill eventually made. And in that choice the fellowship of A.A. was on its way to being born. After several failed calls, Bill reached, one Henrietta Sieberling who put him in contact with Ann, Dr. Bob’s wife.

Quoting Dr. Bob …

“Of far more importance was the fact that Bill was the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what he was talking about in regards to alcoholism from actual experience, in other words, he talked my language.”

Friday: Gender Identity and the Preamble

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Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women (PEOPLE) who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

The Preamble of the fellowship has been used since its inception. And it is read at every meeting one attends anywhere in the world.

The Month of October saw new members in the chair.

The Friday meeting is the most popular meeting during the week. And it is the only meeting of its kind in the city, on either side of the language partition. With that said, many of our young people range across the Gender Identity Spectrum.

Many of our visitors every week, are mostly young people, from all walks of life. And we know for sure that Gender identity IS a topic among our young people and we respect and acknowledge this fact.

As the group GSR, it is my responsibility to chair the monthly business meeting.

We have a very healthy group, membership wise. And on any given Friday night, we seat nearly 50 people in a split for discussion, of As Bill Sees It.

At our business meeting, the young man who has been chairing for the month put forth the motion to update and rewrite the familiar A.A. Preamble, to recognize Gender Identity, as it presents itself at our meeting.

As is new business, each item of discussion is put on the table and listed in the minutes of the meeting. This item of discussion was seconded by several members sitting around the table. We tabled the motion as new business, and the discussion will continue into November, where the motion will be voted on to either retain the former Preamble as it is, OR to rewrite it to reflect the changing Gender Identity of our group as a whole.

Since the face of the fellowship is changing and from the responses that we get on a weekly basis, of the book and readings themselves, the issue of Gender Identity has been front and center for a while now.

We will be discussing this change properly as a group in the coming weeks. And when the discussion comes to a vote, we will know how the Group Conscience sits on the issue of Gender Identity.

Is that ODD or Is that God ?

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For the second time in two weeks, whilst I was traveling about, today, my music shuffle landed on Lorna Kelly’s share at the West island Round Up in May of 2012.

Shifting from Music to a Pod Cast, on my I Phone usually never happened before, ever. For some oddly Godly reason, Lorna came to me in a whisper, again, I wrote about it when it occurred the first time.

Odd that Bob’s share from that same event, never comes up in rotation, but for some oddly Godly reason, she came up again today.

Last night was a hot mess. I’ve been keeping what’s going on with me outside of the house for such a long time, and after deciding I was no longer going to go to places where people are mean and hateful towards me, I was going to nap for the evening, like we usually do, but as it happened, I had an emotional meltdown in front of Hubby.

Not Pretty at all.

There are two Ted Talks I enjoy watching. One is called “The Fuck It List,” by Scott Jones. The other is “The Magic of not giving a FUCK,” by Sarah Knight.

At what point, in sobriety, are you able to say with certainty, that you don’t need a particular meeting, or that you don’t need to hang out with particular groups of people?

That is up for debate. Because even if you cut a meeting here or there, you still have to go to meetings, whether you like it or not. They are our bread ad butter of life.

There is a pattern to my meeting meltdowns, and people, places and things.

Over the whole of my sobriety, I’ve always been connected to a meeting, or several meetings. And I get situated at a meeting, do some service, and usually, as is the case, my capacity to endure meeting drama and bullshit has lessened over the years.

Alcoholics are only good for a limited amount of shelf life, until they either do something stupid or they say something stupid.

As a Gay, heterosexual men, fall n this category, all the time. The stupid, My dick is bigger than your dick, or my knowledge of hockey is the greatest, and / or I am SOOOO Sober, you’ll never be like me, routine.

I can smell an ego maniac at fifty paces. And there are certain men, of my acquaintance, that just rub me like spiritual sandpaper.

People piss me off – and I walk away from them. People are resentful that I was critical about them in the past, and many of them carry those resentments around their neck like jewelry. Over the years people have formed their opinions and to this day, many of them carry them and would rather hate and ignore me, rather than talk to me and find out what makes me tick. Not that I spared them that info at certain discussion meetings and certainly while we were reading the Big Book on Monday.

Several times I used the word FUCK in my shares, and that really got gasps from the crowd. People were like, Yup, there is something definitely wrong with Him !!!

I guess you can say that right now, there are a handful of people who are rubbing me like spiritual sandpaper. I don’t like it, but there is a lesson there for us.

This is what jumped out of her talk to day for me because this is right where I am at the moment.

We talk about peeling the onion in sobriety, Lorna likes to think of it as a LOTUS flower, that sits on a pad in the mud. It unfurls its petals all beautiful, and everything is there, the good, the bad, the ugly, the resentful and angry, the suicidal tendencies, all of it – along with all the good. The compassion, the loving, the generosity, and the gratitude.

Lorna talks about going to meetings. and how at times she FELT the most hateful, resentful, suicidal, or more angry in A.A. At the same time she felt more compassionate more loving, more generous and more grateful.

The negatives are all there, and so are the positives.

All those things are part of me, and I NEED to know those feelings, so that I can say

I know how you feel, let me tell you how I dealt with that.

The thing about US is that we have been to hell and are on the way back out of Hell.

We know how we feel, at least I do. And I am not shy about saying to someone that, You’ve done all this shit over and over, when are you going to sort yourself out, for God’s sake ?

We have a three fold disease. Mental – Physical – Spiritual … All three areas need attention all the time. If you don’t cover ALL your bases, you are on slippery ground, Lorna said. You cannot ignore one save for the other two or the other one.

  • Mental
  • Physical
  • Spiritual

Elder Spencer and I spoke last night, and we talked about gifts.

He said to me and I quote …

He said that I was like a mirror. While he was here in Montreal we spoke all the time. And I learned about him and he learned about me. When he went home, there was a two month period where we had lost communication, and his life turned upside down.

The very first night, that we talked together on Hang Out, I spoke to him in truth and told him what I had seen, in what he had just told me about that portion of his journey, and I was able t mirror back to him what he really needed to hear.

Today, he is all the better, every week that we talk, that I get to mirror back to him, what he is doing and what needs to change, and what he needs to do.

And he does the same for me. He truly has many gifts as a young person.

Hubby said to me last night, that maybe I needed to keep my mouth shut and just go to a meeting, listen, participate and then LEAVE. Don’t stop for conversation and don’t give your two cents all the time. (Which I don’t really, unless someone asks me)

There are young people I know, that I strike up conversations with after a meeting because I want to know them and I want them to know me, not that I have anything to offer, generally, but you never know when a connection is going to pay out …

Most of those older queers and other folks who hate me, wouldn’t know feelings if they dropped on them like pigeon shit. And many of them wouldn’t know honesty if it bit them in the ass.

I study my friends and fellows like science projects. I am really good at that being university trained and educated. Knowing my history of wanting to know all the nitty gritty details of someone’s life.

Hell, I did that as a kid when I was a boy. I knew ALL of my family secrets by the time I was twelve years old for God’s sake.

I am angry. I am resentful. And I am Hateful.

Now that those feelings and emotions were brought up by Lorna’s share. I can see them now, and I know them. And I know what to do with them.

People are going to do what they do, even if I say something or I say nothing.

Like I said, most people don’t like my brutal honesty or as the book calls it:

RIGOROUS HONESTY …

But that’s the way the cookie crumble I guess.

Love me or Hate me, this is who I am in sobriety at this point of the journey.

Friday: Who’s in Charge ?

A.A. #3 Bill D.

People in our lives, exist in certain degrees of separation from our center orbit, or universe. Depending on who they are, their relation to you, or the level, of your friendship, we keep certain people close, while others, remain in an orbit, of our determination.

We sit in the center of our universe, but we are reminded that we are NOT the center of the universe. Our family and our friends orbit locally, close to us, or farther out.

I have experience.

Sixteen years of experience in the rooms, and Fifty years life experience on this planet. Fifty years of life is not something to sneeze at.

Fifty is A Lot of time. That’s fifty orbits around the sun. No Small Feat …

Coming into sobriety the first time, had its challenges. And every human being who stepped onto my life path, played a role. Whether that role was good or bad.

I’m really grateful that Todd was on my path, because if it were not for him, I would not be here right now. He saved my life, and set me up for life success.

That was No Small Feat Either.

When it came to the rooms, I could have done without them, because the messaging and the delivery folks, were less than supportive.

Yet, today, I can safely say, I learned from those people, just what NOT to do.

Today, I know, I am hypercritical.

I am very good at what I do. Because every human being I know, in the rooms today, has been part of who I have become. Every decision my friends made, every good piece of advice they spoke either to me or to a meeting, is part of who I am.

On the other hand, every stupid mistake they made, every bad piece of advice I listened to, or every action that flew counter to who they were, and who I am, played a role in who I am as well.

I talk about my friends. I may not tell you their names, but you get to hear my experience of what goes on around me. I can carry the message, and I DO that. Some people do not like that I tell stories about them. But if we do not learn from others and share those lessons, we are wasting valuable resources for sobriety.

It was good, back in the day at the S.O.B.E room, I did not have to do anything, but show up. People were good to me. They loved me. A handful of that original group of men and women are still part of my life, almost sixteen years later.

The Only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

When I moved to Montreal, at five months sober, I walked into Tuesday Beginners, and I rooted there. I walked into a meeting hall, run by a gaggle of women.

Women rule the world. Just saying …

They told me what I needed to do. First things First.

They had a notebook, full of rules and regulations. This is 2002.

Before I could do anything substantial, I had to do service, for a certain period of time.

That meant Coffee, Chairs and Tables. Greeting and just Being PRESENT.

After a period of time, I was able to Chair the discussion meeting. Along with the sundry grunt work. After a year, I could chair the second Speaker meeting. Because how can you toss a newcomer into the chair of a speaker meeting, and THEY go out and find speakers for your meeting ??? That ain’t gonna happen.

You needed time in the room, around other alcoholics and some SOLID experience in sobriety, in order to serve at a greater capacity any room in the city.

That’s why GRUNT work is so very important.

WAX ON WAX OFF. PAINT THE FENCE, UP DOWN…

It took me TWELVE years to understand what it was that I HAD, in my bank, in order to begin giving it away. It took Bob from New York City, to come here and speak to a Round up, and give me the necessary tools to be able to know, with certainty, what the book says, why it works, and what I needed to do in order to give it away.

He taught me the Three, Seven, Eleven Shuffle …

Nobody, HERE, knew this. Because I had never heard those words from anyone in the rooms here, not even from the man I called my sponsor. Nor from the women getting sober around me either.

Over the years, from day one in Montreal until today, people have come and gone from my life, for one reason or another. A few, VERY FEW of those original folks that were there in the VERY beginning are still a part of my life today.

They either have moved away, or moved to another section of the city, OR I have outgrown their usefulness.

Outgrowing people is a common theme.

We must begin to understand that FIRST, alcoholics are HUMAN BEINGS.

None of us are perfect, by any stretch. NOBODY.

I’ve found, over my years, that people can only do so much for us. They only understand to the level of their own perceptions. Be they newcomers, Middle runners, or folks with Double Digit Sobriety.

I can look back at my years, and I know everyone who walked with me, a short time, or a long time.

And I know who is in the ARENA with me now.

Some chips are more front of mind than others. Some years are more prominent than others. A certain specific stages of my sobriety, I was HOMED in certain meetings, with certain members for a certain reason.

I HOMED at Tuesday Beginners for eleven years. I took my Ten Year Chip at Friday West End, because I was in that meeting to listen to OLD TIMERS with Serious Double Digit Sobriety.

Men and Women who knew the founders.

Yes, back then, there were old timers still alive, who knew the founders. Founder of the Program, in the States, and most importantly, Dave B, who founded A.A. in Quebec.

Eleven Through Fifteen I relocated to other meetings, for one reason or another.

They say,

“ALL YOU NEED IS A RESENTMENT AND A COFFEE POT TO OPEN A MEETING.”

IT ALSO TAKES, AT THE LEAST, $300.00 TO OPEN A MEETING.

Over my years, watching people, seeing what they do, listening to what they say, and then see how they treat people around them, have been lessons in action.

Do their actions agree with their sobriety ? Do they align ?

I was often reminded that “Just because people have TIME, does not necessarily mean that they are SOBER.”

This is the curse of sobriety. In my opinion. Like I said above, we are all Human Beings, and we are only capable, based on our abilities and our perceptions.

Heterosexuals are at a disadvantage working with a Homosexual.

People who are not GAY, cannot possibly identify with my particular story. Nor are they capable of stepping up and being present, accountable, reliable, and supportive.

Very few Gay men want to talk about AIDS, or FEELINGS, or EMOTIONS.

And very few Straight men wanted to walk with me through my minefield of cathartic emotional pain over the last two years.

Long Sober alcoholics with serious Double Digit Sobriety, failed me miserably.

Men and Women.

Like I said, people are only able, based on their abilities and perceptions.

NO TWO Men or Women are at the same place, on the sober spectrum, at the same time.

And a good long sober lady friend of mine, who is about to hit THIRTY YEARS, has said to me recently, that:

A.A. is One Big Hospital. But Not everybody is on the same floor. And when I have (when we have) a problem with someone else, then we must turn our selves to our own mirrors and look at ourselves, and see what needs to change in us.

Because we cannot change anyone else…

Our Leaders are but trusted servants. They Do Not Govern.

I learned all those years ago, how to DO GRUNT WORK.

We teach you how to do Grunt Work, from the very beginning. Because one day, YOU will become a trusted servant to a meeting, or your district, or your city, province, or country.

An Old Timer at our Friday meeting said this tonight …

Rooms just don’t open themselves. Coffee does not perk itself either. Literature does not magically appear from inter-group on its own. The chairs and table do not mysteriously appear set in place by themselves either. The treasury does not bank by itself.

Someone has to do the work.

If there was no one to open the door, make the coffee, set up and do all the GRUNT work, there would be no meetings.

In time, someone, in some meeting, is going to hand you a key and tell you, it is your job to make this particular meeting SING.

In my second year, of sobriety, I was handed the Key to Tuesday Beginners, and I had that key until I hit the twelve-year mark.

To this day, I have a church key on my key ring.

I am still doing service. But these days, All I do is show up and open the door, and make coffee. The rest of the GRUNT work is up to our newcomers on Friday Night.

People come into our lives, for a specific period of time.

It is wisdom that Family, Friends, Fellows, and Others, are not necessarily supposed to be with us for the whole of our lives.

People WILL COME and they WILL GO.

That is a fact of life.

People are human, and resentments can be very real, very raw, and very dividing.

It has been my experience, that there are sober members in the rooms, with serious double-digit sobriety, who want nothing to do with me because I have been critical about them in the past.

Gay men with serious double-digit sobriety, don’t want to know me either, because they cannot identify with my particular story, or my particular bent on sobriety, because at fifty, for me, I really don’t want to be like them, nor do I want what they have, certainly because of how they treat me in community, in front of everybody else.

I have my best friends. Those whom I cede authority. Those people who love me for who I am and what I am, flaws, warts and all.

People I trust have my best interests in mind. They will tell me when I need to stand down, and be quiet. When I need to listen, and when I really need to change.

Not every sober member in the rooms has that much authority in my life.

A very few select men and women hold that rank in my life.

Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.