A Little More Sober …

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It has been miserably HOT here. It has been more than a week of high 30’s into the mid 40’s with humidexes in the high 40’s. We broke several records this week. And they are saying, on the news that upwards of 44 people in the province are dead, because of the high heat.

We have too many apartments without AC across the city. And even some of our oldest hospitals were in serious jeopardy without AC in patient rooms. Many people IN those hospitals almost died, and all the medical services could offer was a sponge bath and a twice daily walk through corridors that had air, to keep sick patents alive.

It has been very ugly for sure. We have been waiting on God to make it rain, BIG TIME tonight. The severe storm warnings went up early today, but not a drop has fallen on the city as of 2:25 am. But the weather people tell us it will be in the 20’s tomorrow.

It rained once 5 days ago, and for all of ten minutes. I mean the rain fell, but as it hit the ground it evaporated on the steaming pavement below. It did not a drop of good.

I am working on another round of steps with a young lady of my acquaintance. She is a few years sober, but she is a wealth of insight. Tonight I saw another lady friend of mine at the meeting earlier, and shared with her an observation I made of something she said last week, at another meeting. And told her I was working with my young lady friend. My friend is sober a while now. And confirmed for me this thought …

The number of old timers, to “work with” has been slim on the ground. Many of our old timers have fallen off the radar as of late, OR, they are in rabbit holes of their own making. We’ve been trying to help them all when we can.

But my elder lady friend said that she read through the book with another young woman, who was sober just a few years, as they read together, and she told me that it was very humbling for her to sit with someone younger in the program than she was.

I have found that my young lady friend, has perspective on the book, that I have never seen or heard before. I have more notes in my book tonight, than I had written in that very same book, all the years I’ve been reading this particular copy.

I wrote an inventory, and we went over it Tuesday evening. I had followed her directions, but when we got to the end of what I had written, she said, what about the rest of it ? And I said to her, what about it ?

She said to me that I needed to do a fears inventory along with my sex inventory as well, as stated in the book, as it is written. She asked me if I had ever really completely completed a proper 4th step before ? I said no.

She said that she needed to look at my history to see if any issues, based on the already spoken inventory had bled over, and if I didn’t complete the step entirely, then it was not properly done.

Not one human I have ever sat with ever said those words to me, because I know we are all reading the same text, that hasn’t changed in 80 years.I guess this is my chance to really work steps fully and properly.

Nobody I have ever worked with before, ever ventured through the entire step 4 as it is written in the book. I laughed and said that I’ve never sat with a straight male sponsor who ever broached those two inventories with me.

I don’t think any of them wanted to know my exact honest history, so to speak. She sent me home to write it all out, for the first time in forever.

This evening I told my lady friend at the meeting about this conversation I had had with my younger lady friend, and she said to me, Then she IS the one person who knows what she is doing, follow what she tell you to do. So I am going to sit this portion on Monday evening with her.

My young lady friend got sober in Chicago, and has certain perspective about The Work. I sat and wrote the other day, stuff I haven’t thought about in eons.

A side story …

A long time ago, in years nine and ten, I was home grouped in a meeting on the far west west end of the city. There, at that time, was a group of hens who had, at that time, thirty plus years of sobriety each. They took me in and showered me with care. But there was something not just right about the people, in that space.

They celebrated my tenth anniversary with me. They dipped my two year chip in gold, and had it engraved for me as a gift for my tenth.

Soon after, I had an encounter with a member that was toxic and dangerous. It did not end well, and I was only so sober at that time. I promptly resigned from the group and gave back my keys and never spoke to any of them again, since.

And now I know, seven years later, that I was not very sober then, knowing what I know now about sobriety and myself.

For the last seven years, every time I cross paths with certain women from that older group, they ignore me like I do not exist. It happened not long ago that I was visiting Verdun for a series of meetings, and they came all the way from the West end to Verdun, and sitting outside, they all walked past me like I was not even there. Which bothered me intensely. But I shrugged it off …

Tonight, one of the matrons from that West End meeting spoke tonight for us at St. Matthias. After the meeting ended I visited the bathroom, and prayed.

I came out and strode up to our speaker, One of those women that ignore me in public spaces, and I said to her that “I remembered her kindnesses to me. I carry my ten year chip in my wallet and that I thought about her often, and I did not forget her kindness.

Then I added that – at ten years sober, in my experience now, I may have accrued ten years of time, But at that time, I had not accrued, ten years of sobriety, just yet. I know that now.

And I told her that. I told her that I really did not begin to grow up fully, until hit the twelve year mark and a sponsor in New York City, set me on the path to enlightenment. And I know from twelve to almost seventeen years this year, I have grown up a great deal. She asked me how I was feeling, and I said I felt good.

She shook my hand and we left it at that.

Upon reflection of that little conversation, I made an amend to that woman, seven years in the making.

Let’s just say this round is proving to be very difficult but freeing at the same time, as the days pass by, I learn something new about myself. I guess because I am paying attention to God.

Last week, at the same meeting, I was talking to another friend, we were talking about care giving, and I mentioned a story about my father. When I was young, and my grammy had a stroke, he took me out of school, and flew me 1500 miles to her bedside in the hospital.

I firmly believe in my soul, to this day, with what little we knew about strokes in the early 80’s … That if he took me to her bedside and she recognized me, that she would, in essence, wake up. (in the end, she did not wake up) And my friend said to me, that night that my father had a moment of clarity, in his alcoholism.

He knew in that moment he made that decision, clearly from someplace, outside of himself, that i was the key to her recovery. And he also knew that grammy loved me more that anyone else, which is why he flew me out there.

I went home, angry and conflicted. And brooded over it.

When grammy did not wake up or get better, and we came home, that alcoholism and the abuse escalated seriously. I don’t think he ever forgave me for failing his quest. I will never know now.

Friday when I left for the Friday meeting, I was not really feeling myself, but I did what I always do. I opened the cabinet and took out our coffee pot, and as I turned back around, to walk towards the kitchen, a single piece of paper fell to the floor face down.

Now, I was not feeling myself, and I was emotionally off kilter, so to speak. I picked up the paper and turned it over in my hands and began to read the article printed on it.

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It was an article about the house where Bill W. was born, in East Dorset Vermont. It does not appear on ANY map, and if you need to go there, or even want to go there, you first need to know where you are going, by the highway systems through the mountains and valleys of Vermont. Which made me ponder the memory of three years earlier.

My then sponsor, my best friend Joe, and myself were on our way to a men’s intensive retreat. On the way, we stopped in East Dorset to visit that house: the home, the entire property.

I was immediately put straight … It was a message from outside of myself, reminding me that I am never alone.

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We even visited the hallowed graveyard where Bill and his wife Lois are buried. We stood on his grave with a group of women, there for a retreat themselves on the property. and recited the serenity prayer standing around their graves.

That memory is seared into my brain.

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Over the past few months, little signs from God have been coming to me fast and furiously, over several mediums. I have speakers loaded onto my phone. And for about a month, my I-phone shuffle would send me one particular share from a woman I met in 2012, whom I adore, who was friends with Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Anyways, my phone kept shuffling her to me in the oddest moments, over an entire month. I suspected that I needed to hear something she said, which is why that one share kept rotating into my playlist over and over again. Because I guess, once was not enough, I kept listening to her talk to me. That proved to be very beneficial to me looking back at it now.

Not sure where all of this is going … This week is anniversary number 24 of my AIDS diagnosis in 1994. I’m still alive, and God has been talking to me quite often, funny that, I hear Him. I recognize the voice and the messages coming, as they come to me. From whomever they are coming from. I know, if it is coming from outside of me, then it must be Godly advice.

Funny how God works.

Friday … Redux: Now, Later, Maybe, Never

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Tonight, we return to an old post, because we have come full circle on a Step, that I wrote about over a year ago, but is relevant, because I heard it mentioned tonight at the Friday meeting, from an old timer.

We return to May 26, 2015 and the post, Now, Later, Maybe, Never:

This post came, amid our Joe and Charlie tapes and Step Nine. Tonight, we read from A.B.S.I. “To Take Responsibility.”

Learning how to live in the greatest peace, partnership, and brotherhood with all men and women, of whatever description, is a moving and fascinating adventure. But every A.A. has found that they can make little headway in this new adventure of living until he first backtracks and really makes an accurate and unsparing survey of the wreckage they have left in their wake.

Some time ago now, I made a phone call to my mother, on the occasion of a death in our family, because I thought it was the right thing to do. I was wrong.

The conversation went the way it did, and ended up in her taking my inventory, and blaming me for all of her problems, and also, all the problems for my brother. I did not get a word in edgewise, and she hung up on me, leaving me to wonder just what the fuck was up with her and why had she turned into a bitter old woman.

A friend with lots of time, likens amends to planting potatos. You put the seeds in the ground and you wait for the plants (read: Crops) to grow. If you dig them up prematurely, there won’t be any vegetables to harvest. So you have to wait out the process, and not act prematurely.

I am an idealistic man with dreams of peace on earth and everybody finally getting along, because we aren’t getting any younger, so I made that call, with the faint hope that I could speak truthfully. Again, that didn’t happen.

I am amid my steps again and working through Step Eight right now. I don’t really have any fresh amends to make. Because I don’t live in that space. The bulk of my amends fall into the Never category.

I believe that if you are going to point the finger at me for all of your problems, then be respectful and allow me room to speak myself.

Another old timer with LOTS of time, spoke too tonight. He has a large family with lots of siblings. When he went to make his amends, he got read his inventory as well. In speaking to his siblings about the past, (everybody being raised in the same house for twenty years) you would imagine that the experience would have been the same for all living under the same roof.

But what he found was that the siblings came out of this discussion looking like they were raised on different planets. With such different perspectives and so on.

I’m willing to listen to people in my family tell me their points of view, but, they, in turn, should afford me the same right to speak my mind as well. Which had never happened to this date.

You just don’t drop your ATOMIC bomb, then run home and hang up on people, so you don’t have to listen to anyone elses rebuttal or explanations.

That is not fair at all. But when has life EVER been fair …

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We return to old words for the rest of tonight’s post …
May 26th, 2015 …

It is said that alcoholism is a three fold disease. Spiritual, Mental and Physical.

In steps One, Two and Three, we realize our powerlessness, we come to believe in a Power Greater than Ourselves, and we decide to turn it over. For many, this might be their first time around with (a) god. But many know who God is, and they have turned away for one reason or another. That solves our spiritual problem.

In Steps Four, Five, Six and Seven, we set to paper all those things that hold us back. Resentments, Guilts, and Fears. After an exhaustive, moral personal inventory, we clear away the wreckage of our pasts. Then we unload it upon someone we trust. We figure out from that inventory our character defects and our shortcomings.

It is also said that we continue to work Six and Seven for the rest of our lives.

That solves our Mental problem.

In Steps Eight and Nine, we make our lists of those we need to make amends to, and prepare to do so, as we are able, with this proviso …

An Amends list is not something to take lightly, depending on how much damage you have done to yourself and others. (read: Family, Friends, Employers etc …)

Many come to this point and balk. So Joe and Charlie give us this tool:

  • Make Four lists:
  • Those we can make amends to NOW
  • Those we could make amends to LATER
  • Those whom we could MAYBE make amends to at some point
  • And those we will NEVER be able to make amends to

Reading the text out of the Big Book, Bill covers almost every single situation that might turn up for someone working at this juncture of The Work.

Many an old timer took to the work slowly. But it is what it is. Amends cross many areas.

  • Personal
  • Business
  • Family and
  • Financial

At some point in ones sobriety, we should complete this list, in any way possible, because we drank, for some, in any way possible. And if we had to Beg, Rob or Steal it, alcoholics and addicts have done that. It may take a lifetime, but we only have ONE lifetime.

So we better make it a good life, in the end.

I’ve done these lists. There are people on each of these lists. With the dawn of sobriety the second time, I had to make amends to certain people, which I did early on, because I could.

When I got sober the second time, about a month in, I met those friends I ditched opting for a geographic, instead of honesty and respect. Those amends were made directly, face to face.

Let me tell you, that was not easy. It took everything I had to look my friends in the eyes and ask for forgiveness.

With the dawn of Facebook, I made amends to my friends whom I had not seen in many years. Many of my drinking friends, are sober themselves, so that made it a bit easier, because they were in the program, and the amends were mutual and went both ways.

There is one woman, a good friend of mine, who is still in my life today, who WAS in my life through every stage of my life in recovery the First and Second time.

We had THAT discussion.

She forgave me. But to this day, my heart aches, every time I think about her or see activity on Facebook, because I have unfinished business with her. You see, she was the only friend who was financially involved with helping to take care of me when I was really sick, my family had long since backed out of any responsibility or desire to help me.

And she carried me to my geographical move and then she left and went on to her own geographical cure. I was all the way OUT, she was only PARTIALLY the way out.

Life went on. But I owe her more than asking for forgiveness. One day I hope to make full financial restitution to her in my own way, for everything that she did for me. But I have yet to say these words to her, because they have been a long time coming.

Then on the final list, are those who I will NEVER be able to make amends to. Those are the people who walked out of my life for various reasons, (which are all about them, and not about me, but really, it is all about me no matter how you cut it).

I was an Alcoholic. I was Gay, I was living with AIDS, and I reside in Canada.

All these things are liabilities.

So fuck me for surviving…

We’ve come a long way over the last year or so. Each pass at the steps gives us perspective, insight and then the gift of hindsight. The greater the vision, the greater the effort to sober up.

We grow up when we get sober, and hopefully, we do it right this time.

Maybe NOW, Maybe LATER, MAYBE sometime, and sadly, quite possibly NEVER.

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Steps come up in order for a reason. Every time I come around to this point, I return to old words to see where I am on them, Right Now.

Facebook is still the bane of my existence, but it has proved very helpful for the family who have decided to be IN my life TODAY. And the friends who still call me their friends as well.

I try, every day, to be a good man, making good decisions, and right decisions. I am not the man I was a year ago, or a decade ago. I live in the now. Every day.

I can’t sit here and wait for people who don’t want to be in my life, to get here, because that is wishful thinking. I must go on. The best way I know how.

I love my friends, and my family. Life is beautiful and it would be wasteful to pin ones hopes on reconciliation, when the reality is that it may never come in my lifetime, and maybe, one day, all I will get is to stand over someones grave and have THAT discussion I want to have now.

The dead are just that dead.

More to come, stay tuned …