Brene Brown – The Anatomy of Trust and Vulnerability

“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

Trust – is choosing to make something important to you, vulnerable to the actions of someone else.

This mirrors A Vision for You, when it says: “Obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got.”

I have a marble jar. I’ve been working to fill it, over these very trying months of my life.

And I have spent time listening to Brene Brown, Timber Hawkeye and others talk about The Anatomy Trust, Vulnerability, Shame, Guilt, Peace, Letting Go, and the Fine Art of Not Giving a Fuck, and finally, The Fuck It List…

When my emotional roller coaster left the station, I observed something that shook me to my sober core. My friends, fellows, sponsors, allies, did not want to hear my pain. They did not want to listen to me, honestly and compassionately, and without judgment.

As the months wore on, the people who did not want to listen to me, became afraid of me, and some, even asked me to go from meetings because of their fear factor.

Men and Women who were double-digit sober, MUCH more double digit sober than I am right now, thought out loud that “Oh, you want us to treat you special, unlike everyone else in the room!” No … I just want to be treated as a human being in difficulty.

I have friends, well, they’re not friends any more, who just cannot sit with me and listen to me talk when I need to talk. If only to hear words come out of my mouth, that seem important to me in the moment.

Yesterday I was sitting with a friend, well, I thought she was a friend. We were talking about HER. There is a situation on the table, she wants to invest in. And she wanted me to walk her through this process, because I have personal experience, in this area.

I have friends, well, fellows, who will invest every dollar of their mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical selves with people far away, or on people who have a very low R.O.I. (Return on Investment).

I’ve been floundering here in my own stew of emotional and mental soup for months, and every time I want to talk to and/or in front of these people, they tell me to SHUT UP.

I’ve learned that I have a choice in the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHY …

I don’t have to engage in every problem in a room. And I don’t have to invest in something that is wasteful and/or a waste of time.

I’ve done this over and over again.

Timber says that WE need to be LIGHT.

Light as in a LIGHTHOUSE.

A lighthouse is static. Stands in one place, and shines its light for ships to see to navigate away from rocks and danger.

For years and years, I thought I needed to shine my light in people’s faces, as if to say …

“Here is the light, do you see it, I am the light …”

NO, WRONG …

I just have to sit still and be present, and keep my mouth shut until it is necessary to speak.

One attracts more bees with honey than with vinegar.

It is apparent to me now, many months later, that as long as I am serving other people, talking about what THEY want to talk about, and helping THEM, as long as the conversation is serving THEM, everything is kosher.

As soon as there is a break in the stream of consciousness, and I turn from helping THEM into hoping they will listen to ME, to help ME, that’s when they tell me to SHUT UP.

Does that seem right to you ? Because it doesn’t seem right to me.

Timber tells us to make a list of our CORE VALUES. Write them down. All those things that we want to be, the men and women we want to become.

When you finish writing, take that list and compare it to WHO you ARE right now.

Right away, we begin to see just how much work we have to do with US, to become the people we want to be.

I have that same list for my friends. People are people and I have to let them be who they are, without expectations, judgments or conditions.

We have to allow people to be who they are warts and all.

But in these times of troubles and strife, I need my friends to help me. I bowed down and asked for help. I’ve asked people to help me, to rise up and do for me when I could not do for myself.

Barely a handful of those people did RISE UP and helped ME.

I’ve learned that I don’t always have to be the voice of reason and sobriety. Not everyone wants to listen to me give them unsolicited advice, because someone, or a friend is in difficulty. I gotta let them work it out. And not get involved in their spiritual journey.

That is one of the Great Sins …

One, to get in the way of YOUR spiritual journey, and TWO, getting in the way of someone Else’s spiritual journey.

I’m tired of my friends, telling me to just SHUT UP.

Essay – Vulnerability

It is Tuesday, a day off. I watched a You Tube Video about Candice Neistat, with Bryan Elliott, which lead to a TED talk with Brene Brown, about vulnerability.

Bryan shared a quote from Brene that said:

“The depth that we are willing to be vulnerable is the measure of our courage.”

When He heard that quote, it floored him. When I heard the quote from him, I had to go to the source to understand its context.

I’ve been working to understand what the entire last year has been about, and why things panned out the way they did, and I think it comes down to being totally vulnerable, honestly and authentically.

Over my life, there have been times when I have been brutally honest, and totally vulnerable. Take for instance, finding out I was sick and was going to die.

Utter devastation makes one vulnerable, because we have lost control, we are not in control, and we end up, out of control, in many ways.

In a sense, I was too vulnerable for my own good, because in that vulnerability to be honest and authentic, scared everyone away. I was in the mix, and my friends and family could not handle the honest, gut wrenching truth.

The person that I was truly vulnerable with, was Todd. He was humble and a force to be reckoned with, when it came to my dignity and my life. Over those years, I shed a great many tears in front of him, with him, and because of him. That is something that I can say, changed my life.

A little while later, I stood up, in front of a room full of alcoholics like me and was vulnerable, once again. I alienated them, and they asked me to go away. So much for wearing my death on my sleeve.

Imagine having your heart crushed by someone when you are sharing the deepest darkest fears of your soul. In the attempt to recover from numbing your emotions for so long.

Brene says that you cannot selectively numb certain emotions, and not affect the others along with them.

In sobriety, I have been vulnerable to a certain degree. And it has taken almost all of my sobriety, to finally tap that well of vulnerability, like I have tapped over the past year.

I may not have tapped it, but it certainly tapped me.

People who are authentic:

  • Have the courage to be Imperfect
  • They are Compassionate to themselves first, then to others
  • They believe connection is the result of Authenticity
  • And they Believe that they are Worthy
  • That fully embracing their Vulnerability makes them Beautiful
  • And that Relationships are Fundamental parts of existence for us all
  • Connection is why we are here on earth. To Connect and not be Alone

Brene goes on to say that Vulnerability is at the core of:

  • Shame
  • Fear
  • And the Struggle for Worthiness
  • Which is the Birthplace of Joy, Creativity, Belonging and Love

I can see, in hindsight, where I shut down that part of myself. Not necessarily a good thing, but it is what it is. You might think that I was stoic, on certain occasions, but I don’t think it was stoicism, but maybe fear, numbness and an inability to articulate what was going on in my head.

I’ve spoken about those points in life where I was totally vulnerable and sunk in a pit of despair. I can name them, because the list is very short.

  • The day I identified James’s body at the morgue after his suicide
  • The night I told Todd that I was going to die
  • The day I said goodbye to Todd
  • And the emotional response I had to the Orlando Massacre

The last episode was the worst, in many, many years. I had not cried, as I did, since James’s death, the many nights I cried on Todd’s shoulder, struggling with death and his insistence on my survival. Many tears were shed during those two years of intensive work on myself, at Todd’s direction.

That Tuesday night, at the meeting, when I fell apart, it was a cathartic response, to the story that we were reading from the back of the Big Book, the emotional state I was in, because of the massacre, and the fact that only one human being thought to call to see if I was ok.

Then the reaction of my sponsor who humiliated me and accused me of expecting to be treated differently than the others in the room, when all I wanted was a little compassion, that my fellows and my sponsor could not accommodate.

Instead of understanding and compassion, for my vulnerability, I was humiliated and shut down, by people who were incapable of understanding.

I had friends, who were long sober. Whom I thought loved me. They cared for me and supported me, and did charitable acts for me, inside of an organization that I belong to, that I have not set foot in since many months ago.

I ran my steps with a woman I trusted. I told her my deepest and darkest secrets, and she knew my story, and had been involved with my sobriety for a very long time. When I got through my steps she said to me that I was angry and that she and the other women were afraid of me and that I should, in essence, go away …

I raised my voice at a business meeting, then ensued a mass running for the hills by my friends, fellows and sponsees. I had a rough night, and got punished for it with silence and judgment by people I spent an inordinate amount of time with. And when it came time to speak to that truth, I did so. Which probably alienated them all the way gone.

So much for being vulnerable.

I have some fatal flaws that always get in the way of my relationships with others.

  • I have an idealistic belief that every human being has ONE redeemable quality, that lends to forgiveness and love.
  • I believe in people, from the get go.
  • I trust people, from the get go, which stems from the rooms and my belief that most people are good.
  • I am also judgmental of some. I can spot bullshit and arrogant men, and people who would do me harm, at 50 paces
  • Living with AIDS gives me certain perspective on people, a talent I learned to save my own peril from those who would do harm to me.

This is what I have been feeling and experiencing over the past year. And now I understand it as well.

The price I paid for vulnerability was the loss of many people in my life, who either could not stand my depth of honesty or their understanding and commitment to compassion and love.

Such is life in the world of the alcoholic.

I also know today, that resentment and anger, pointed towards people,is sometimes pointless and wastes valuable energy towards others, when I should be pointing that energy towards myself. And that I need to be a bit more compassionate, understanding and forgiving, and also have a sense of pity for certain people in my life.

It is not always my fault for the reaction or beliefs of certain people in my life. I did not create them, and I am not responsible for their reactions to me, and/or towards me.

Not everyone we know, Not every one we meet, and Not everyone we spend time with are meant to be in our lives forever. In each interaction, there is a lesson to be learned about them and about ourselves.

This has been a year of learning about myself and others, in regards to the way others react to what is going on in my life, in the sense of honesty, integrity, vulnerability and authenticity.

It is true that, for the most part I am totally honest in some ways, but reserved in other ways. I don’t necessarily share my opinions, but when I do, they certainly cause people to look at me with second glances.

Hence, the loss of so many friends and fellows over the past year.

I get a sense that vulnerability comes in waves, as I am able to deal with them. And it seemed to me that they came fast and furiously for a while. It was BANG, BANG, BANG, one after the other.

That dam, failed. And vulnerability came.

I had no way to stop it once it began.

Not sure if I am done with it, but it makes sense now.

We shall see …

When Can We Use Our Voices?

For as long as I’ve been sober, one question dogs me every night. I think to myself, and I had this conversation with a friend on the way home tonight,

At What Point Do We Get To Use Our Voices ?

When we come in, the only thing we need to do, first, is find a chair. For a while, people sit in their respective chairs, some longer than others. I did a lot of listening, I mean I still listen, but listening at over seventeen years is different than listening with a few days.

The method I used to get sober, firstly, was my day count. The first ninety days, all I did was show up and count my days along with the others, who were counting their days.

When I moved to Montreal, and rooted in my home group, I sat down, and I began to listen. I listened to everyone intently. I heard many things. Good things, bad things, happy things, and sad things.

I watched people come, and I watched people go. I watched some die.

Over all, I watched what people did in their lives. I listened to them justify just about everything under the sun. I listened to people battle over God, in fact, I am still listening to people battle over God.

I’ve stopped trying to explain Him.

I know every decision my friends made over the last seventeen plus years. I know the successes and the failures. I know all of the good and all of the bad. I know what every one of my friends did over the years. I listened to them talk, then I watched them act.

I learned what TO DO and what NOT TO DO.

If it worked for you, it worked for me. If you made a stupid decision, I did not make the same stupid decision, myself. And sure as shit, as my friends, many of them drank again, and again, and again, I AM STILL SOBER.

By the Grace of God.

At some point we begin to find our voices. We share in discussion meetings, and we talk to our friends and sponsors. Eventually, we get to chair simple discussion meetings, for a while, until we hit the magic date, when we get to actually CHAIR a speaker meeting.

Because we need to learn how to listen for speakers. You just cannot jump into the deep end of the pool, without the experience of learning what a “Speaker” sounds like, then, on your first run, one needs to actually FIND a speaker for your meeting.

That was daunting at first

I kept my opinions to myself for a long time. I never rocked the boat, so to speak. I never questioned the authority of someone who had serious time, or more simply, more time than I had. I learned from everybody.

Over the years, I listened to people, and watched them come and go, while making serious decisions, getting “involved” with someone, and better yet, some really pondering drinking again.

I knew what I knew about people, as time went on. And I can safely say, with some serious hindsight, that the first ten years of my sobriety were a washout. Because looking back, I did not know what I did not know.

Now this far up the line, I see the folly of some of the things I said, the people I got involved with, and the drama I took part in. I know today, and I heard this from one of my sponsors once ….

Just Because Someone has TIME, does not mean they are SOBER.

I’ve learned what that statement meant the hard way.

But still, I question myself, whenever I want to speak my mind, or talk about an issue at a business meeting, or even, admit, that I am either angry, conflicted, or just plain pissed off.

A few years ago, I hit a serious emotional bottom, after the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida. Because when I was a twenty one year old kid, back then, I used the drink in that exact bar myself. So the killing of fifty innocents, really wound me up and turned my life upside down.

It was what happened after that night, with certain sober people, that turned me off to many people in my orbit. I had listened enough, and I respected too easily, and I allowed people to humiliate me in public.

Because I learned to never question an old timers comments to me, EVER.

Because what did I know, with the little time I actually had ?

I was sober 15 years by then.

I went through a very angry stage in sobriety and people were openly afraid of me. And I was asked to leave several meetings, because nobody wanted an angry gay alcoholic in their midst.

I found vulnerability. I found my voice. I found my courage. And I found the Arena that I was going to fight my battle in. Thank you Brene Brown for that.

I speak my mind in certain places, and at certain meetings. I test out my words, against my friends, and the old timers I count as my friends today.

Before I say anything, I usually ask someone about what I have to say. I did that for a long time. I would never say anything controversial, before running it past a second opinion.

Nowadays, I call it like I see it. I just don’t care if you like me or not. I’ve listened enough, and I think, these days, I’ve earned the right to say what it is I have to say, within means.

There are many kinds of people in our rooms. Those who care about their sobriety, the ones who actually to THE WORK, and grow up. There are those who just go to meetings, because they know it’s what they have to do to stay sober, but they don’t put any effort behind showing up.

There are entire communities of straight men, whom I avoid like the plague. Some terminally straight men, just rub me like sand paper. And I’ve told them so. Many straight men, don’t get me. They don’t socialize with me, and many of them have no desire to welcome me or be my friend, when it comes to workshops and step retreats.

I did straight retreats for three years with a particular group of men, who talked the talk in front of me, but when it came to meals, in the massive cafeterias, none of them would be caught dead breaking bread with me at the same table.

I only take to being ignored so much, before I wig out.

The queers in Montreal are all in the same boat, as far as I am concerned. I am unique among them, because none of my peers have an AIDS story. None of my friends, lived the life I have lived, themselves.

All the AIDS men I knew from early sobriety are dead. Among the English community, I am a dying breed. I am the only one left, on the English side.

I don’t dress like I am fifty two years old. I refuse to become a J.C. Penny catalog model, and wear frumpy clothes and become Old, Fat, and Catty.

So I don’t socialize with any of my queer brethren. They come to meetings I go to, and they are cordial, but beyond hello, nobody bothers to be my friend.

I am good with that today. It really does not bother me any more.

I have my meeting schedule, which I change up seasonally. I’ve added the Sunday Morning Brewery Mission Meeting, along with Thursday’s, and Friday nights. In the spring I will return to Monday Central when it warms up to safely commute this distance I need to travel now that it is Minuses and bitterly cold at night.

But I wonder, still, when do I know enough to say what I think? Because over the last little while, when I have spoken about certain things, with certain people, some of them told me to my face to Go Fuck Myself, because what did I know at sixteen and seventeen years of sobriety, when it came to speaking to someone with more double digit time than I had ?

So I back off and I listen more. I listen to old timers talk, and I hear them go down their proverbial rabbit holes. I watch them wig out and business meetings. I see them come and go, some don’t return.

I have a lot of observational knowledge about people and the rooms in Montreal that I frequent. I’ve heard a lot of things over time. And I have certain opinions about sobriety.

I know who WORKS, and who does not. I know who CARES and who does not. I know who MATTERS and who does not.

I know who is sober, has time, and is reputable. And I know who is not.

I even know who the douche bags are.

We all know who the douche bags are. We see them often, and we hear them pay lip service to sobriety. We hear the douche bags talk about their respective wives, with disdain. We know who cheats, and we know who works very hard at getting one over on their wives.

And recently, we’ve heard douche bags say some pretty awful things in open community. Some of their words came back to haunt them, as in a recent post I put up the other night.

It’s not like anyone else is NOT listening themselves.

We all sit together in the same meetings, so witnesses to douche bags comments are numerous. It’s just now, we can all call a spade a spade.

But we are reminded of the Traditions, and the 12 Concepts and the rules of engagement when it come to recrimination beyond the anonymity principle in meetings.

So a handful of us have spoken our concerns about the douche bag in question. He knows we have his number. We’ve made that perfectly clear, to Him and to our peers. We don’t agree with statements made in open community regarding the misfortunes of others.

I asked his sponsor tonight about this issue, which was his first time hearing about the kerfuffle. There are two sides to a sobriety disagreement, and several ways we could have handled it. Were we right, to say something, YES and NO. Should we have chosen another venue to voice our concerns to the douche bag, YES.

There is no Right nor Wrong answer to the question.

It’s a teaching moment for everybody.

We have a voice for a reason. And if we don’t use it then:
SILENCE GIVES CONSENT.

I’ve heard that for many years.

Going into year eighteen, I know how to speak, and I do so. It may not be nice, sometimes, but the only way you learn is to practice your skills. We just don’t sit in meetings like mushrooms being fed shit, night after night.

At some point, we need to test the water, and say something.

Good or Bad. Right or Wrong.

For our group purpose there is but one authority, a Loving God who expresses Himself in our group conscience.




17 Sober Holidays

Another successful holiday is in the books. The plans I’d spent weeks and months putting together, came to fruition. The good thing about being sober, so long, is that, we get to chose with whom we celebrate the holidays with and why.

In my experience, And I said this to one of my guys tonight, after dinner, was this … Not in the last few years, have I ever witnessed another sober human being, walk up to me and say those magic words, and they are:

“I Know How You Feel, Let Me Tell You How I Dealt With That.”

Lorna and Bob, two long sober members from New York spoke these words to us, in person, a number of years ago. There are only a few people, guys I work with, who heard these words too, because I have shared them with my guys. It was obvious, when we sat together as a Round Up Group, many folks I know, forgot those words. And I muse that, when I was in a difficult place, nobody had those words, as Lorna says are “Of Ever Lasting Life.”

There are folks, I know today, when I show up to particular meetings, out of my regular schedule, like tonight’s meeting on Christmas Night, at my old home group where I spent the first TWELVE YEARS of my sobriety, say to me, “Why don’t you call me ever?” Most people I socialize with already have my number, because I give it freely.

If I give someone my number, there is a reason I do that. So that THEY would use it, when I ask them to use it. People don’t like being told what to do, even when they tell me they are in difficulty, and they ask my advice and sit and listen to what I say in response. Usually couched in my response, if not spoken directly is this … “If you ask me for advice, and I give it freely, because I make time for all of my friends, is that you reciprocate!”

I walked into a meeting with one of my dinner guests tonight, and half a dozen people noticed what I was or wasn’t wearing. I was out of my usual choice of clothing, because I was entertaining tonight, so I went a little conservative, instead of my sporty spice look. They did not ask me how I was doing, or wish me Merry Christmas, they only wanted to comment on my outfit.

A handful of others, as I made the rounds before the meeting, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas that was sitting in the room, and shaking every hand, said to me …”Why don’t you ever call me?” My standard response came out quite easily. “If you really wanted to speak to me, you, yourself, would pick up that 2000 pound phone and use it for the purpose it was made for … To Be Used.

How much does a cell phone weigh, I ask you ?

Folks know I am reachable, 24 hours a day, and that I always answer my phone. I just don’t go out of my way, with just any alcoholic, to spend time, listening to them piss and moan. Tonight, there were a number of miserable young people sitting in the meeting. Kids, who, last year, celebrated their first sober holiday in living memory, many of them made it to year two. Because I told them, to their faces, that “if they stayed sober over last Christmas, that they indeed would stay sober.” Many of them listened to that advice and were successful. A handful did not make it. And were back for round two tonight. I watch my young people closely. I am present for all of them. I show up, so that THEY show up too.

So many people are miserable in their lives, and those people drink. There are also miserable people in sobriety, and they don’t drink. I talk to my guys often about this paradox. People stop drinking, yet they maintain their misery, like a rock around their necks.

When really … They can jettison that rock at any moment. When I say that to them, they look at me quizzically, as if to say, “Yeah Right.” You make it sound so easy. And things are easier said than done. Because folks make that conscious decision to remain miserable and sad.

We read from the Big Book and A Vision For You tonight. The portion of the passage that says at some point we come to the day that we cannot imagine life WITH alcohol or WITHOUT it. THEN, we will know loneliness unlike anything we ever known. And we reach the jumping off point.

We will want the end.

The reading goes on to speak of the fellowship and what we can do for each other, when we reach the jumping off point. When you come to your Home Group, and you connect, and you STAY, your life will change.

I show up so that others see me show up to tell them that ANYTHING is possible. It CAN be DONE. It takes Work. Consistency. Faith. and Action.

People WITH TIME, look at me strangely. People with little time look at me strangely. They cannot figure out, why I am so serene and happy.

Vulnerability takes Courage.

For a couple of years, I’ve been vulnerable. I speak my mind. I share honestly, and to the point. I am out there, in good times, and in bad times. I tell people when I am feeling sad, or angry, or happy. I no longer edit my words in public. People do not like it when I am deadly honest. People cannot understand why I speak honestly and with soul.

I am an Alcoholic who wants to get well. To live a good life. To know why I tick the way I tick, and to work on my character defects and shortcomings.

We might work steps, some more often than others. Many forget that Steps Six and Seven are the steps we work for the rest of our lives, on a daily basis.

My guys know this. And they struggle the same way I struggle, when they come to me and ask my advice, when sometimes I have no idea what to say to them, as I tell them how I dealt with those very same issues. The only way I know how to help another human is to tell them the truth, even if I don’t have a clue, what I am supposed to say, at least I say something.

Over the weekend I was home alone. And I rang up a friend, I’ve known for more than forty years now. Facebook, that necessary evil, makes it possible to keep in touch with people who matter to me, sober or not.

She asked me about me, and I asked her about her. I told her my story, and she told me one of hers. She said, and I quote … “If you don’t concentrate on your step work when it comes to certain people in my life, actually STEP the exact issue, you are going to become as bitter and angry as they are.”

She goes on … You know steps better than I do, of course I do, she’s not one of us. But she knows enough about me today, that she can offer that kind of advice, because I will listen to her when she talks to me. Because, we often don’t have an opportunity to talk for over an hour, like we did Sunday night. She was right. I shared that at the meeting tonight.

Everybody looked at me strangely. What are you talking about? I knew what I was talking about. Now I know what I can do now. The conundrum of sobriety is this … There aren’t a whole lot of people I want to talk to, to any depth, because only a handful of people I know today, would even offer to invest in me. Even sober …

A long timer said tonight, that he’d been hitting many more meetings than usual because his shift at work has changed. But he notices the disparity of not a whole lot of long sober people. They are either moved away, sick themselves, or dead. He hangs around with NEW BLOOD. He sees how many of us, who were around or, more, still around from the years when we got sober together. Few of us, are still around.

There are too many chair warmers. People want to get sober. Yet, they don’t want to put in the time and the work necessary, to get where some of us are, on the path to happy, joyous and free.

Not long ago, one of my kids, after facing a raft of losses in his life, walked into the meeting, on Thursday, a couple of weeks ago, and said to me and to God, as I stood there “Where are the fucking PROMISES?” God certainly has not dropped them on me,” at his almost ninety days of sobriety.

New comers hear us read those pesky promises day in day out, week in and week out. And they suppose that God is gonna drop Promises on them like Manna from Heaven, as needed, with no toil or tilling the ground so that the garden bears fruit.

A garden is not gonna bear fruit or anything, if you aren’t going to get your hands dirty, and get down and dirty in the mud with the rest of us. So many people want the PAYOUT with no LABOR.

I look at them and a giggle to myself. If you only knew.

Promises don’t drop out of heaven like Manna. They come when you invest in THE WORK. And you put your time in getting sober. You just cannot walk in the door and expect God to just lay it on you because you just walked in the room.

Because that’s exactly what I said when I came in this second time around. I actually gave God a list of “Things I wanted, Expected, because I HAD ARRIVED!”

Long Sober folks laughed at me and said: KEEP COMING BACK !

Talk about lessons in humility.

I worked my ass off for the whole of my sobriety. My best friend said it all when I took my 17th chip a couple of weeks ago … I don’t stop, I am always looking for the next big challenge. I ask people for help, even if they are less sober than I am. Newcomers saved my ass this past year. My lady friends who worked steps with me changed my life in ways I cannot explain.

Some of my kids are lock, stock and barrel, Confident Adult Women.

I’ve watched them grow up around me and in front of my own eyes. And that is what I wanted this round. So I asked for help, and help arrived. Because I was willing to sit, read, and to listen.

Because some of my women have solid, hard core sponsors, who don’t hand out bull shit, but expect hard work and honesty from their women. Some of my friends HAVE IT. Many do not. But they could, if they put in the work to get better, instead of pissing and moaning about how miserable they are in sobriety.

And I am oft to say … You know if what we have does not work for you, we’ll refund you your sobriety, and you can go drink again, and see if that works better.

Common wisdom of people who are long sober, or sober longer than I am, say this … Alcoholism might stalk me in the back of my head, and I hear it speak to me and woo me into the false idea that a drink would be nice.

Long timers, who are sober twenty plus years, know the kinds of drinkers and addicts they were when they got sober. They know how insane their lives were, and none of us are going to give it up for the chance to try some new drug or flavor of alcohol that some of our young kids drank or drugged with.

Our young people have that conscious choice in front of them. They can root and stay, and work and learn, and get better, OR they can warm a chair and bide their time, until the opportune moment they can say FUCK IT and go back out and drink and use some more.

Common wisdom also says that the odds of finding a better buzz, or a better drug, on a relapse will be better, is false. Because eventually you are going to wind up in a worse place the next time they chose to use, a bigger jackpot, even jail, or institution, or God Forbid, DEATH.

I know misery. I’ve been miserable too. And I am one of those men who will admit that in open community. Not many pay attention to anything I say.

But if I wear something irregular, they WILL SAY something to me.

Funny that !

I don’t have time for misery or anger or bitterness. My nuclear family have invested, lock, stock, and barrel on the alcohol, and the misery, anger and bitterness. Because they speak to me in those kinds of words.

I know those words. And from my mouth to God’s ears …

I WILL NEVER BECOME YOU !

I’ve been sober now seventeen Christmases. I’ve been sober longer than all the years I spent drinking and drugging. I’ve spent more holidays sober now, than I have ever, in my life, even as a kid. Because in my family, alcohol was a food group. If you did anything, it was bracketed by an alcoholic beverage of some kind. Beer or Spirits.

I’ve never been so cognizant of how subtle the fine line of sanity and insanity. Because I skate on that line often. And I know how precarious that skate is sometimes. So I stick with the winners. I suit up and I show up for my life, on a daily basis.

I heard a guy talk on Instagram earlier before I started writing this post and he said … IF YOU WANT CHANGE, IT IS EVERY DAY.

EVERY DAY !!!

EVERY DAY !!!

CONSISTENTLY, RELIGIOUSLY, WHEN YOU WANT TO AND WHEN YOU DON’T. WHEN PEOPLE SEE YOU, AND WHEN THEY DON’T.

IF YOU AREN’T IN THE ARENA WITH ME GETTING YOUR ASS KICKED LIKE ME, I DON’T WANT TO HEAR YOUR CRITICISM.

Brene Brown … The Man in the Arena Speech. Teddy Roosevelt.

CHEAP SEATS ARE EASY. GET IN THE ARENA AND FIGHT FOR GOD’S SAKE. BECAUSE IF YOU AREN’T FIGHTING LIKE ME, YOU HAVE NO ROOM TO CRITICIZE ME.

Some sober folks are in the cheap seats, and they want to criticize, and not do any heavy lifting. Sobriety isn’t cheap seats, work. Sobriety is IN THE ARENA FIGHTING FOR ONES LIFE and SANITY.

Merry Christmas !



A Second Set of Eyes

I have learned over many, many years, that everybody needs a second set of eyes on them. And not many people are afforded this little perk in life. The world operates on the “I can do it myself” mentality. Some make it and prosper, others, find their way into our rooms, and have to begin again, from the ground up.

Recently, I was reading a book. And was pleasantly surprised to learn a piece of truth, that just made everything make sense all of a sudden.

In my life, when my husband was diagnosed as Bi-Polar in 2003, he was very ill and was down for the count for almost an entire calendar year. What I learned in that time was the “Importance” of those second set of eyes.

When it comes to Mental Health, we should not try to go it alone. Because for the most part, a doctor, (If you can find one) sees you, (after whatever wait time you have to sit through) gives you a diagnosis, then begins the arduous task of giving one medication, one goes home and begins said treatment plan.

Then What ???

Who is gonna be there to see if what the pills that one is taking is doing the right job, and if not, have the ability to observe from the outside, what is going on in the inside of our “Significant Other.”

I know a lot of kids, in my community, going it alone. They don’t have that second set of eyes on them. In the past, I tried to be that other set of eyes for them, to the best of my ability. All of them, today, are “out there.”

Every once in a while, when sitting in a particular room, those boys and girls sitting with us, connect. And if we are wise, those of us, who know what to do, quietly bring one or two on board with us.

Quiet and Considerate action can be fruitful, if your bank is topped up and you know what to do for your fellows. A long time ago, Todd took a liking to me, and when it was necessary for him to step in and take control, that is exactly what he did. And I live to tell that story, as often as possible.

I get to take the knowledge in my bank and share it with a chosen handful of men, in my life. They trust me enough to listen. And I find that once we begin talking, we find commonality.

I don’t think we are meant to go at life alone, forever. At least, I have not had to Go It Alone for the last little while. If you can step up and be that second set of eyes for someone or to step up and mentor a young person, or go above and beyond the call and really step up your game with your kids, that is the way to go.

We only get this one life. And the faster one realizes that, “You Can’t Take It With You” when you’re dead, we then get to decide how we are going to spread our wealth and treasure with someone who just might need it, when necessary. It does not take much to help our fellow boys and girls.

All you have to do is step up and be counted. To offer a conversation, at first, and see where that goes. You might be surprised that within a simple conversation, we find ways to give back. Quietly and Humbly.

This Christmas is all about Giving It Back.

A number of years ago, when my great aunt Georgette was still alive, and was in the Grey Nuns Convent, just up the block from my home, she would call me into her office and assign me a Giving Back Job, every Christmas.

Every year was a different situation.

One year, I had to provide a Christmas dinner for a family who did not have the money to buy food. Turkey and all the fixings.

A second year, a young family could not afford gifts for their kids, so we shopped for a family and their kids.

A third year, a family could not afford a Christmas Tree and decorations. So we bought them a tree and all the doo dads to go with it.

When I was a kid, my step mom provided fantastical holiday gatherings at her house. My father was not such a fan, but it is what it is.

I have kids to give to this year. I have family that come to our home for Christmas Dinner. Chosen family. The gift of today is the ability to choose our family, when the nuclear family fails to represent.

We don’t need shiny objects or surplus doo dads that we really do not need. I think the best way to be kind, is to find one person, in your “sphere of influence” that has shared with us a passion or a desire.

It is in the listening to another, that we learn just what we can do to make a difference in someones life.

Do you listen to your friends ? Attentively ???

It is Christmas. Find that one human whom you can make a difference for, and then go do it.

Just don’t think about how much it might cost you, because the return on investment could be astronomical. You never know.

Make a difference in someones life this Christmas.

Remember, Miracles count double on Christmas Eve.

A Year Later

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My birthday was the 31st of July. The morning of my birthday, when I got up and out of bed, I was still alive. I saw my doctor a couple of days before my birthday, and once again, I thanked him for keeping me alive another year.

This incarnation of my blog reached it’s First Anniversary. Thanks to cowards and their dishonesty. People would rather eat dirt, than be honest.

Without my doctor, where would I be right now ? I Don’t Know …

The people that mattered, celebrated my birthday, each in their own special ways.

A week has passed.

This is what I know right now.

I really do not care if people like me or not. I really don’t care what people think about me, what I wear in public, or how they perceive me.

I know who my friends are. And right now, I know, for sure, that most people, do not care for my brand of sobriety or lifestyle.

I’ve learned how to be Honest. I’ve learned how to be Vulnerable in public. I’ve seen how other people react to my honesty. They don’t like it at all. And would rather eat dirt, than to say anything directly to me. And that’s ok with me.

I don’t need validation from anyone but God. I also know, that if I need to hear God, I know where to go to hear His voice.

The other day, we talked about Acceptance. Page 417, in the Big Book. Acceptance is the answer to all my problems. That’s what the book says.

I know, from years of listening to people SPOUT the wisdom of Acceptance, that some think that Acceptance, says that I have to accept people who use the Looser Line that says: Well that’s just who I am.

They use Acceptance like a Get Out Of Jail Free Card.

It allows alcoholics who don’t care about personal growth or empathy for others, to just sit in the place of being an ASSHOLE.

There are so many assholes out there right now, it is astonishing.

All I want out of this life, is to be Honest. To know how to do the Right Thing, even if it goes against every bone in my body. I work very hard to be a good human being to everyone. Even when much of the people I see, DON’T.

They don’t care about anyone but themselves. People are so consumed with the clothing I wear, and sit in judgment so deep, that it makes me sick.

One of my friends hit a First tonight.

He mentioned Brene Brown. He too, has listened to every one of her talks, and read several of her books, like I have over the past two years. He did it in just a few months.

But he spoke language I Understood and Identified with.

I don’t trust a whole lot of people, that I cannot throw very far. And that’s ok with me. I might not be connected to certain people, like some of my friends are, but if I have to compromise my standards and values, for someone in particular, to want to work with me, I’d rather go it alone.

Because the choices in Men of Sober, Good Standards, LONG Sober, are very few and far between. I know who to talk to. And I know who to avoid.

I’ve lived another year of experiences. Some of those experiences were good, some were not. People don’t have to like me. And I have grown to accept that.

I’m a strange Gay Man of fifty-one years, twenty-five years living with AIDS. And almost seventeen years sobriety. No one has the same life qualifications and identifications.

Once again, I know who my friends are.

And for the moment, that will have to suffice, until conditions change on the ground.

I do what needs to be done. I serve my community. I help my friends. I am kind.

I know my values and my morals. I may not always know the right thing, but like my friend tonight, I trust the little voice in my head more today, than I have in the past.

If it Doesn’t Feel Right, then Don’t Do It.

The Man in the Arena Speech

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It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt …

“If you are not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback !!!”

Monday: Sober Observations

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“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

Trust – is choosing to make something important to you, vulnerable to the actions of someone else.

This mirrors A Vision for You, when it says: “Obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got.”

I have a marble jar. I’ve been working to fill it, over these very trying months of my life.

And I have spent time listening to Brene Brown, Timber Hawkeye and others talk about The Anatomy Trust, Vulnerability, Shame, Guilt, Peace, Letting Go, and the Fine Art of Not Giving a Fuck, and finally, The Fuck It List…

When my emotional roller coaster left the station, I observed something that shook me to my sober core. My friends, fellows, sponsors, allies, did not want to hear my pain. They did not want to listen to me, honestly and compassionately, and without judgment.

As the months wore on, the people who did not want to listen to me, became afraid of me, and some, even asked me to go from meetings because of their fear factor.

Men and Women who were double-digit sober, MUCH more double digit sober than I am right now, thought out loud that “Oh, you want us to treat you special, unlike everyone else in the room!” No … I just want to be treated as a human being in difficulty.

I have friends, well, they’re not friends any more, who just cannot sit with me and listen to me talk when I need to talk. If only to hear words come out of my mouth, that seem important to me in the moment.

Yesterday I was sitting with a friend, well, I thought she was a friend. We were talking about HER. There is a situation on the table, she wants to invest in. And she wanted me to walk her through this process, because I have personal experience, in this area.

I have friends, well, fellows, who will invest every dollar of their mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical selves with people far away, or on people who have a very low R.O.I. (Return on Investment).

I’ve been floundering here in my own stew of emotional and mental soup for months, and every time I want to talk to and/or in front of these people, they tell me to SHUT UP.

I’ve learned that I have a choice in the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHY …

I don’t have to engage in every problem in a room. And I don’t have to invest in something that is wasteful and/or a waste of time.

I’ve done this over and over again.

Timber says that WE need to be LIGHT.

Light as in a LIGHTHOUSE.

A lighthouse is static. Stands in one place, and shines its light for ships to see to navigate away from rocks and danger.

For years and years, I thought I needed to shine my light in people’s faces, as if to say …

“Here is the light, do you see it, I am the light …”

NO, WRONG …

I just have to sit still and be present, and keep my mouth shut until it is necessary to speak.

One attracts more bees with honey than with vinegar.

It is apparent to me now, many months later, that as long as I am serving other people, talking about what THEY want to talk about, and helping THEM, as long as the conversation is serving THEM, everything is kosher.

As soon as there is a break in the stream of consciousness, and I turn from helping THEM into hoping they will listen to ME, to help ME, that’s when they tell me to SHUT UP.

Does that seem right to you ? Because it doesn’t seem right to me.

Timber tells us to make a list of our CORE VALUES. Write them down. All those things that we want to be, the men and women we want to become.

When you finish writing, take that list and compare it to WHO you ARE right now.

Right away, we begin to see just how much work we have to do with US, to become the people we want to be.

I have that same list for my friends. People are people and I have to let them be who they are, without expectations, judgments or conditions.

We have to allow people to be who they are warts and all.

But in these times of troubles and strife, I need my friends to help me. I bowed down and asked for help. I’ve asked people to help me, to rise up and do for me when I could not do for myself.

Barely a handful of those people did RISE UP and helped ME.

I’ve learned that I don’t always have to be the voice of reason and sobriety. Not everyone wants to listen to me give them unsolicited advice, because someone, or a friend is in difficulty. I gotta let them work it out. And not get involved in their spiritual journey.

That is one of the Great Sins …

One, to get in the way of YOUR spiritual journey, and TWO, getting in the way of someone Else’s spiritual journey.

I’m tired of my friends, telling me to just SHUT UP.