Saturday: Odds and Ends, and Everything In Between

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On my trip to see Alexander, we engaged in serious debate about the state of the world. I am not the best at politics, world issues, and everything in between. Our lives at home consist of one cable news channel, and at 11 p.m. we turn to CTV for our nightly news fix.

I cannot go to bed without the last word coming from Lisa LaFlamme.

I’ve never been totally political, as in, devoted to politics or politicians of any stripe. I’ve always known where I sit on issues of the day. But expanding my brain to other news outlets only began when I moved to Canada in 2002. And over the time I have lived here, I’ve explored other points of view.

Alexander encourages that I step out of my bubble and echo chamber to see the world from other points of view. And this is one reason I love my best friend, because he is from somewhere else, (read:Brazil) and he has world knowledge that I do not. He has a smarts about him that no one I know have themselves.

So I read, I watch, and I listen to other points of view. If you polled me online, I rank in the NDP sphere of thought. But I voted for Justin. And he is proving to be a challenge to me.

Alexander sits on the Conservative side of life. And that is NOT a bad thing at all. Because he forces me to see the world, like he sees the world. He challenges me to spread my vision and take in others words, and not just accept words by people I am accustomed to listening to.

Politics and world events are two different spheres for me. I care very little for U.S. politics. And I do not consume politics like I used to because I cannot be bothered on a daily basis to know or listen to repetitive redundant news about a mad man in the Oval Office.

Cannot Be Bothered.

I spend a good amount of my sober life, buried in books. I learned long ago, while in University, that reading “other literature” that situate itself “around” a topic I was studying, as it went along, was very useful.

Reading side literature around a specific topic whether that literature be fiction or non-fiction, built a world for me to engage with on a wider basis, rather than on a single note in time.

I read, Every night.

There are places in the world that interest me. There are social issues that I am passionate about as well. Issues in the world, and issues right here at home are on my dashboard, quite often. I worry about our less fortunate, our homeless, and our indigenous population.

Because I am in the rooms, I’ve seen so much suffering. Friends of mine, in the program have gone on to work in those specific areas of helping the less fortunate. So I am engaged in their work.

Studying Religion and Pastoral Ministry opened my eyes to World Religions, as well, taking care of those people I am engaged with on a daily basis. I have stayed away from posting anything incendiary on this blog, certain world issues, that I am not clearly well-rounded or well versed on, to write coherently or knowledgeably.

I’ve always been interested in Israel and Palestine. Our Jewish Community here in Montreal served my early sobriety solely. The Chabad organization does work all over the city for many people, I just happened to be one of those people.

During my studies I spent time at the Ghetto Shul at McGill during my Judaism studies. And I often said that if I would become anything other than a Christian, I would certainly be a Jew. Palestine is a new subject for me, since being introduced to that area by a friend who wrote a book on the subject, from a point of view we don’t hear about ever.

When I finished the book, all I could write about was what was in Ben’s book, by the words he wrote. Which began my reading slant into books that were written, on the ground, within the Palestinian community. There are not many in circulation, that don’t begin with a premise situated in Israel, and merely spits on Palestine.

I need to figure out what I know, what I need to know, and where I sit on the spectrum of politics and on the ground situations. I know where I would like to be, but that point needs to be plotted on a map so that I can see it clearly.

Israel and Palestine is such a deep topic with some serious history, people, and problems, that I am unable to touch because of the complexity of the state of that area of the world. But while in Ottawa, I picked up another tome that I am reading at the moment.

I just cannot read a handful of books and expect to be able to write anything that is worthy of print on this blog, because that would be stupid and green of me.

The entire Middle East is a quagmire of instability, political strife and religious intolerance. And we just cannot say, incendiary things about people we know little about or those points of views or lives that we don’t even care about informing ourselves about, because it is easier to hate outright, then find a point of agreement or understanding.

How many people do you know who really care about the Middle East beyond blanket hatred of those we don’t even know, or care to know ?

Because they are not “Christian?” or “Jewish?”

If we don’t read, or listen to other points of view and study areas of the world that interest us, and take the time to get informed, how can we relate what we are reading/studying?

That is a thing …

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Colorful Metaphors

Any Star Trek fan knows the line from Star Trek IV the Voyage Home, where Kirk and Spock are on a bus, and Spock relates his confusion of people’s use of “Colorful Metaphors.”

I don’t know if it is age, or my sensibilities to certain colorful metaphors and words, used by people I listen to, or something else, but I’ve grown weary of people using certain language.

Since the dawn of the Pod Cast, when I got my I Phone for Christmas, my nightly bed time schedule was shifted when I started listening to Pod Casts. They competed with my traditional book reading time before bed.

Over the past few months, I’ve listened to a number of Pod Cast presenters. And I’ve come to the point that the Ardent Screaming Host, or the host who litters his show with the word FUCK, every other word, I just delete their shows from my phone.

I love me some Bill Maher. But he is incessantly insane. And over the last month, I’ve also grown weary of him as well, because his devolution into insane screaming by the end of the hour podcast.

People who talk on the Pod Cast, are not bound by ethical language rules. Although many men and women, do take listeners into consideration when it comes to words. Others, not so much. I just don’t have the mental energy to listen to people swear and use foul language. It is just no longer appealing.

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Social Media

Over the last year, I have had to unfriend many people from my Face Book Profile. Certain friends litter my time line with shit I am not interested in, and they persist. Others, all they can do is post POST after POST of political bullshit, incessantly.

I went as far as to neuter my feed from showing me anything related to topics I have no interest in. That meant turning certain people off, for my own well being and sanity.

Aside from news online, that I do consume, Face Book and Twitter are two sources of news and current events that I utilize on a daily basis. But I don’t do either on my phone, so I deleted the apps from my phone.

  • I make phone calls on my phone.
  • I listen to music on my phone.
  • And I Pod Cast on my phone.

That’s it.

I am trying to set some news boundaries for myself. I have built a wall around me on social media that is useful, because I have a life, and I am not connected to social media 24/7. That is insane.

I turn on my computer when I wake up, I run my set. All those sites I look at and participate in and when I am done, I just shut off the computer until I need it again, and I go read, or better yet, I nap …

All the time…

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Sober Realizations

I wrote to a friend of mine recently …

I no longer have the desire to engage most people who believe so strongly what they do, contrary to any evidence of acceptance and respect of humanity in others. Religion, like politics, are two areas I intentionally stay away from, because I know who I am, and what I know, and that is good for me. Sobriety teaches me that I don’t always have to argue when it is not necessary to do so.

He replied that this portion of my comment is a post in itself.

I spend my days working with others. I spend a few nights a week in meetings. Only three meetings a week now, instead of my prior, six meetings a week, spread over two fellowships.

I love what I do. Because the men and women I work with are accountable. We are all moving forwards. And that is a really good thing. Because I am not a born leader, however I think I “could” lead. I’ve had time in the past where what I did and what I said meant something to those I spent time with.

You never know WHO you are going to meet or what conversation you are going to have with them, until the meeting happens, and conversations take place either before or after.

I want a clean break going into my fifties.

God has made that something that I work on daily. Recently, certain friends have gone dark, for one reason or another, that I am not understanding at the moment, but it is what it is.

I have a routine that works. I have a life that is fulfilling. I have friends whom I love and adore. And a best friend, second to none.

Discussion was brought up the other night, by someone I trust, when he asked me why I just did not adopt the baby, and give her a father, who wants to be in her life, and someone she can rely on, because I am reliable and accountable to her and Mama.

And my reply was this … I want the biological father to pay his dues like the law states. Because he is a dead beat and a looser. And I want him to pay up.

I don’t want to step in and absolve him of any responsibility towards the baby.

I need to research this before I head to New Foundland in April.

I think I know what I want of life and of myself. But that is subject to change because sobriety is not a one trick pony.

Shit happens. Life happens. And you never know what to expect when you walk into a room full of your friends and fellows.

You might just learn something you did not know, or realize something you had not before, and it wasn’t until that particular moment that God opened up your eyes and spirit. And you heard something you realized you really needed.

But did not realize you needed it until right then.

This is the filler that happened between the lines over the last little while.

Sobriety is Magic. Sobriety is Miracles. Sobriety is God, it is Us and it is We.

I love the “We” that I am part of today.

“The WORK” Listening, Choices and Actions.

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Because we need happy dog photos right about now …

On the way home last night, my friend Juan and I were talking about The Work. Juan just crossed the two year mark last month, and we’ve bumped up The Work for him.

The good thing about having some time under my belt, is this …

I’ve practiced all the suggestions I had been given up to this point, and I know that some of those suggestions worked for me. Many of those good suggestions came LATE in my program, in means of time. In the beginning, it was those simple suggestions that got me started, and that I have maintained for the last fifteen years.

Last night we reflected as a group, “What if someone, when we were in our twenties, said the word STOP ” Would we have listened. And what that might have looked like in retrospect.

These days, with some time, when appropriate, I offer the suggestions I have learned since, to people, who are in their infancy stage of sobriety, the first few years …

The benefit in this actions is that with Them, I can give them some serious nuggets of truth and work, so they get this information early on, and can either choose to put it into action, or ignore everything that I had said to them.

Better to have a bank full of knowledge now, to be able to use that knowledge, than spending a decade or more seeking knowledge, and it come too late in the game, so to speak. Some of the knowledge I learned from years twelve to fifteen, would have been really useful, early in my sobriety, but it is what it is.

In year twelve, I learned, new to me at least, that spirituality was the keystone to getting sober. I knew about prayer long before this, but it had never been made aware to me just how hard I needed to practice my spiritual program, in order to really light the fire in my belly, and for some serious change to come to pass.

I’d read the book, worked steps, successively over twelve years, but I had not really connected with the Greater Power than myself to the extent I really needed to. It took someone from someplace else, to show me what I really needed to do.

THE WORK became the name of the game. INTO the Big Book, Like a trooper in the Marines. Word for Word, Prayer after Prayer. WORK, WORK, WORK, like your life depended on it. Or else one would perish without it.

And I did exactly as I was told to do it.

And the universe shifted for me in ways I had not imagined.

When Juan crossed the two year mark, we began to look at prayer, directly from the book. We set out an ambitious program of prayer and meditation for him. He is practicing the art of finding “Stillness.” Learning how to just “Be Still.”

This is not easy, in a world full of noise and activity.

But if you practice, every day, one finds it.

Had I known this practice early on, to the degree I learned it later on, maybe  my world would have shifted earlier than it had. But once again, lessons come, when they are going to come. When we are ready to hear those lessons and make them work.

Where were we in our heads early on, First, in our drinking careers, and Second, when we were/are in early sobriety ? Would we listen or not?

I know, for myself, how hard I worked to get sober, and the lengths I went to for a meeting, to have friends, and to learn how to be ME. I was involved going into year two, and things got very ugly, right away.

For every day that went by, and challenges came at us, then, I would go to a meeting. I would talk about what was going on, and I would get advice, that I listened to as if it were gospel. I did this day in and day out.

I did stay sober. I did the best that I could have done. And in the long haul, all that investment into my sobriety, it paid off in spades.

I go to the speaker meeting on Thursday nights and I listen. This is another art that one must learn how to do. Every story is important, for the speaker and for the crowd.

We talked last night about choices…

Early on, as I sat in the rooms, I had my life going on. And I was learning, for me, what were good choices. Did I make some bad choices, no. I think I did my best.

All along I was listening to my friends and fellows, and I was watching the choices they made, along the way. And in this witness, I could ask a question, “Should I do what these guys were doing, or not? Were they making wise choices?”

For the most part, I did NOT DO what my friends were doing. I DID NOT make the same choices that some of my friends made. And I sure as shit, DID NOT engage in behavior that some of my friends were exhibiting.

And now I see, today, when I listen to those same friends share at a meeting, just how cracked they still are, because of choices and actions they made early in their sobriety.

I hear old timers talk about the good ole days. And then there are those folks who came in around the same time I did, and/or after. I’ve got fifteen years of listening to bank on. And over the past few months, I’ve heard a number of my fellows, who came in after I did speak.

No two sober journeys are the same. Nobody takes the same road.

And in listening, I see the track that my friends took. I hear the challenges they faced, the choices they made, and what happened because of those choices and actions.

And I think to myself, Thank Christ, I did not make those same choices way back then because I would be as cracked as some of my friends are still today.

We all come to sobriety with our assorted sacks of baggage. We come with all the stuff, we had in our lives, like jobs, family, people, issues, etc …

When we begin to get sober, they tell us that, we have to find the way to work in a sober program, every day, to mitigate our stinking thinking. And to begin the clean up our lives and make them better. That is just the beginning.

I did not have a life to speak of when I got sober early on. I had plenty of time on building the infrastructure of meetings, home groups and service that was solidly in place, as life began to happen around me.

They told me to build my life around my sobriety, not my sobriety around my life. And that if I put anything before my sobriety, I would eventually loose it.

I guess I was listening to the right people, or I was just gullible enough to believe what these people were saying was true. In the end, fifteen years later, I see the wisdom of every suggestion I was given, and now I know that in doing exactly as I was told, I got here.

A lot of my friends, who are sober today, but are cracked in the head, heard much of the same advice I heard, from the same people, in the same meetings, from the very beginning.

Today, I know, that some of my friends, did not listen, nor heed the advice we all heard together, and in not doing so, caused YEARS of strife, pain and fucked up-ness.

I did not second guess what I was hearing from certain people, at the same time I was watching others acting on their will, and that did not end well. Some of my friends drank again, some returned, many did not. Some are DEAD.

As I listen to folks speak these days, I say to myself, I busted my ass to get sober. And I really pounded the pavement, unlike some folks I see today who have some time, who skated along, and are still cracked in the head.

And this is not my ego, at all. And I am not judging my friends. But it is truth, when I hear my friends talk, and they tell stories about what went down in the years after we all came in together, and how much they suffered, because they did not heed the warnings, they made the choices they did willingly, and suffered for those choices.

Meanwhile, I would often say to myself, along the way … Uh, I don’t think I should do the same. I think I will do THIS instead. And a good thing too.

This begs the question … What did I do right, that my friends did not do right ?

Maybe its not a question of right or wrong, but the choices we all make in our lives.

No two people are the same, and no two people make the same choices.

Numbers of folks have come in, in the last fifteen years. And each of those people, chose a path, based on what they were given, what they have heard, and what they chose to do.

I know the path I took. I know that I stuck very close to my friends and fellows. I always had someone in the game with me, at every stage of the game, in multiple places, at the same time. I was never alone. I never made one single decision by myself. Every time I had to do something, either big or small, I passed that decision by at least three people, before I acted on those decisions.

That plan was a success, and paid off in spades, later down the line.

I never went with my first choice. Never go with your first choice.

Many of my friends, did not enjoy the company of people to get them through, early on, like I had, but some did. I had gotten connected to Chabad Lifeline, I was connected in meetings. I had counseling, advice, therapy, meetings, I had all this structure to keep me on the beam. And those people did wonders for my sobriety early on.

I lucked out, that the right people were in my life at the time I really needed them. I don’t know a single soul, who had that kind of grace, in their lives.

Once again, GOD.

That was the path that was chosen for me, because I happen to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, who stepped into my life and made things happen for me.

In hindsight, all those good graces, came from a Divine Source. I surely was not in control, God was. And I know, that staying on that spiritual beam early on, to the extent that I knew spirituality then, made the difference.

In year twelve, The spiritual fire had been lit anew. A larger, greater fire of truth was opened to me. The flicker of faith was already there, it just needed some fuel to get it burning brighter.

And so it did.

And now we are here, one day into year sixteen.

What is life going to do next. What is the next big adventure, and what choices am I going to make.

That chapter is still waiting to be written.

Let’s get it on, shall we …