Heaven Held Its Breath

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Lorna Kelly, reverently speaks about Bill W. when she tells the story of the time, she herself, visited the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, Ohio. This is the actual phone, still located in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel, that Bill used on the day that changed the world.

Bill had traveled to Akron for business. That day, Bill had met with other business men, hoping to score a deal and make some money. Sadly, the business went South, and Bill walked away from that meeting, dejected and depressed.

He stood in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel that day. Bill was sober. But was standing at the crossroads of his sobriety. His day was shot, and he had but one choice to make, between two extremes.

On one side of the lobby was the bar. The Easy Choice. The most logical, for most men.

Nikos Kazantzakis once said that “Always choosing the sure path is treason for the soul.”

On the other side of the bar, was the phone, and the church directory.

In that moment, the angels in heaven, must have been holding their breaths, wondering, “which way will he go?” “What is Bill going to do?”

The world did not know this innocuous situation would be as critical as it became.

Bill could have chosen the sure thing … The bar and a drink.

But Bill was sober. And he thought to himself, in that moment of desperation, that he needed another alcoholic. And in a moment, he turned, away from the bar, towards the phone.

Bill made several calls, none of which produced his desired intention. The last number he called was to Henrietta Sieberling. And it was Henrietta who sent him to the home of one Dr. Bob and Ann Smith.

Ann knew her husband had a problem with alcohol. And she tried in vain to try to get Bob sober, one way or another. In the end, it was a single conversation that ignited the spark that became the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Bill had once said that, “He needed Bob as bad as Bob needed him.” from ABSI, from tonight’s reading.

Bill arrived at the home of Bob and Ann. Bob, none to sure of what to expect, deigned Bill fifteen minutes and not a minute more. Bill walked in, with everything that he had. His story. His experience. And his own story of alcoholism.

It is in the telling of ones story, not dogma, not preaching, nor from ones ego, that we can reach another alcoholic.

Bill sat with Bob for more than six hours, that first night. In the end, Bill spent two weeks in the home of Bob and Ann, helping Dr. Bob get sober.

It was an easy sell, the basic premise of getting sober. The identification was there from the very beginning. But Dr. Bob was a little slow on the uptake, and sputtered and ground himself into the ground on a few occasions with bouts of drinking ending up on an errant sofa in the end.

That day, as Bill spoke with Dr. Bob about his own Experience, Strength and Hope, the fellowship began.

The Book reads: Dr. Bob’s Nightmare … Pg 171, the first story in the Book.

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 the 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 our fellowship will ever know.

Alcohol and drugs are the great equalizers. They do not discriminate.

Once one walks over the threshold of any meeting, we are all equal. And the cure for what ails us, is the experience, strength and hope of one another. The allergy of the body and the obsession of the mind, is solved, in spiritual principles.

Because at some point, somewhere, in that moment of indecision, the only thing that will stand between you and a drink, will be your Higher Power.

Gratitude week is always celebrated around the anniversary of Dr. Bob’s date of sobriety.

June 10th, 1935.

Friday: Stories …

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We sat a small group tonight, which is very unusual. Not sure where everybody was tonight, they just weren’t at the meeting. The topic was Spiritual Alibi … And touched on several points, firstly, our inventories, self-aggrandizement, approval, power, fame and applause.

A small group, usually leads to serious discussion, because there is more time to talk about ourselves. Sometimes the discussion is simple, sometimes it is deep and tragic, and other times, we just need to hear ourselves talk, just to know we made the right decision by coming to a meeting and showing up.

If we don’t talk, how do we know we are moving forwards ? A good portion of getting sober is action. Part of that action is coming to meetings. I take it one step further, where in every meeting I go to, I want to learn something about my friends, and something about myself.

The bulk of How I Got Here, is based on watching other people do what they have done over the years, and learning from THEIR mistakes. Not that I don’t make mistakes, I do. I am no perfect angel, and I surely don’t have all the answers. But I know what I know, and my bank is full of useful information that maintains my “Base of Operation.”

In reading the passage tonight, the word APPROVAL appears.

And right away, I latched onto the word, because it stirs a very hard lesson, that I learned from Todd, the first time I got sober.

I look back at all my years, and I can tell you that the two best years of my life, were spent in service to my caregiver Todd. He got in the game with me because he thought it was the right thing to do at the time. I had nobody else to turn to. He made a conscious choice to be part of my life, in the way that he did.

Every moment was used in learning how to survive.

The difference between myself, and you a normal human being is that I have faced my own death, I almost lost my life in the process, and I lived. I have the greatest lesson under my belt. The lesson of knowing how to die, and learning what really matters.

Normal humans don’t get this lesson, until they themselves get sick, or face their own deaths, or in the end, they die. We go about our life, doing what we are going to do, for better or worse. We don’t usually concern ourselves with worrying about death, until death Call Our Name…

Some know, for sure, that they Do Not have another Recovery within them. And they live with that conscious fear of going back out, and that keeps them “On the Beam.” Living with that kind of fear can be counter productive, because if we live in fear, we are not living in peace. We are expending energy where it could be better used elsewhere.

I’ve had my slip experience. I know what it feels like to be In and be Out. I know what took me out, and I know how hard I had to fight to get it back again. I know, implicitly, that if I ever picked up again, death is certain. I don’t live in fear that I don’t have another recovery within me.

I know what I have to do, on a daily basis. And when I don’t, I call a friend, I have a conversation and I do service, until I turn blue.

I’m in a state of not really knowing what I am supposed to be doing. Because I know now that God had “cleaned my clock” by showing me emotion in myself. And in that action, I learned just what my friends think of me. And in the same action, every situation where I was expending energy uselessly, those situations, meetings, and people were removed from me.

That is what I know right now.

I also know that many of my friends suffer from a sickness … “TELEPHONE-APHOBIA.”

The fear of using the phone.

That is a litmus test for people who think they want to know me. I give them my phone number and I ask them to call me. For the most part, my phone is quiet. I only hear from those men who I work with right now, or my best friend.

The Lesson of Approval …

Every night, at the bar, had its meaning. Every night, I sat with Todd, before shift.

I cried. I sobbed. I begged.

He would talk, and I would listen.

Then I would get my nightly work inventory. Along those two years, while I was going to meetings, and not really getting anything useful from them, what I WAS getting, was credible, true, sober lessons, from someone who was not IN the program, but his partner was.

In the beginning, while I was waiting to die, I would work my ass off. If only for one thing:

Approval.

For a long time, I would attack my nightly list. And every time I ticked something off that list, I would go back to Todd for a pat on the back. I needed him to say that I had done a good job. Those words were gold to me.

A while later, he figured out that I had a problem. I thought that if I was doing what I was told, and I was surviving the best way I knew how, that I needed to be told so.

At one point, Todd would have my friend Puddles, give me my nightly list. He would purposely avoid me. He would not talk to me, nor allow me to approach him while I was on shift. On any regular night, I could look across a crowded room, and catch his eye, from all the way across the bar. He had the eyes of Jesus. Blue Grey.

I could not seem to catch his eye either.

At the end of shift, I would get paid out and wait for him to speak to me. Which he did not. So I would go home, bent …

Twelve days went by, with him purposely ignoring me. I needed to learn the lesson about approval. I was a mess the night he finally said something to me, and I sobbed in his arms.

He took me by my chin and said the following …

“One day, you might have a job, where you are working for a son of a bitch who will take advantage of you and disrespect you. And you might have a job, where your efforts will go unnoticed. So you need to always do the right thing FIRST, and not DEPEND on anyone to give you something you can give yourself.”

A few weeks later, a coup would take place in the bar, and Todd and his partner were fired, and escorted out of the bar. And in that moment, those words became true.

I would not last very long, under the regime change. I would find a new job, in a new city, and in the end, I would be alone.

Every memory I have with Todd is wrapped in a particular lesson, that I got to learn in the furnace of Death, Faith, and Spirituality. I have certain gifts, that none of you will ever get, until your appointed time arises.

It’s not about my ego. It’s the plain truth. Many of my friends don’t see it that way, and believe me to be arrogant and prideful. Keeping ones self in check is the job of spiritual practice. If I don’t practice spiritual work, on a daily basis, all my character defects will rise and haunt me.

Recently, as it has gone, every time I hear someone SPEAK and tell their story, I come home, and I listen to myself, tell me my story, again and again. But as I listen to myself talk, I work in what I heard that night from whomever spoke and see where, what I heard can be useful to me.

One day, someone is going to ask me to Speak again. And those nights are far and few between. I’m not on the Speaker Circuit. Like many old timers are. Nor do I want to be on any circuit. I just go to meetings as I always do.

At some point, someone is going to hear something I say, and want to know more, and a teaching moment will appear. That hasn’t happened in a while.

The Spirituality of Imperfection is a game changing book. It will turn your sober journey upside down and make you a better human being all the way round.

I may not be always spiritually fit, which I why I have to practice, every day.

We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection…

I’m not yet perfect.

I know that those people I used to know, saw me in my imperfect state, and that sent them running for the hills screaming …

Better off alone and happy, than need to be approved by everyone in a meting.

I can’t get anyone sober. We are imperfect beings, but it is something when imperfect humans accept us, imperfectly, as we are, without judgment.

Sadly, Some people are incapable of this.