Sobriety tells us that one thing will change, when we come in. Sobriety says that the only thing that will change is EVERYTHING.
I know, for me, that it was only time that would turn my life into what it is today. Back then, telling someone to buckle up and ride the coaster until it stops, people usually got it.
Now, in today’s I-Phone world of I want it NOW, and quite possibly, could you give that to me, YESTERDAY ? That’s what we deal with today.
Telling my friends to buckle up and ride the coaster does not translate very well, in the climate where, we can get it NOW, at just a few clicks.
I have really great friends. People who love me for me, and I love them for them.
Today, people are kind to me, just because. I put myself out there, here, and because of that, the universe gave me a gift of kindness from a perfect stranger, who read something I wrote here.
While I was writing the post that appears below this one, for the kindness on its way to me tomorrow, I got two phone calls.
A few months ago, I met a young man, fresh and raw. He was days sober. And he was at one of my home group meetings.
That night, he came into an empty room, as I was sitting there, alone with him. He got down on his knees and prayed the OH GOD Prayer …
Those words are simple … OH GOD I NEED THE PROMISES NOW.
I did not know this young man. But I was present for the prayer. That night a relationship began, and still goes on today. He had lost his girl friend because of his using. He just lost a job that was his life, because the mall that housed his business, raised the rent to a level that they could not possibly afford. Overnight, they moved out and the business never recovered.
With days of sobriety under his belt, I said a few words to him.
Buckle up and ride the coaster until it stops.
What he did have that many don’t, was someone to ride the coaster with him, until the ride stopped.
The first phone call I got this afternoon, was from that same young man. At 6 months and a little longer, he had applied for a job, out of province. That recovery business, hired him on the spot. He called to tell me he was moving away in a few days time.
The conversation continued. And he said this, after while: I really appreciate your support, and I value your friendship, and I commented to him that in the beginning it was he who opened the door to our friendship, and that it would be up to him to shut it.
He then said:
What door, there is no door, I ripped it from the hinges.
Now I will be traveling to Nova Scotia to visit him once he gets settled and finds a good place to live where he can host guests.
He rode the coaster, good and bad, tough and easy. Finally the coaster has pulled into the station. Tonight, we got off the ride together.
Really grateful for people in my life. And for the kindness of strangers.
The second phone call was from another good friend who only had good things to say to me about his life. We’ve been friends since the very first meeting he walked into. I’ve been present for both of these men, 100%.
Sobriety is not easy. but when grace comes and settles in, life gets really good, and the only thing I can say is this …
If it were not for the rooms, I would not have everything that I have.
Times are changing. Our Friday location at St. Viateur Church up on the mount, is going through changes within the parish.
We’ve been in the same room, for more than 60 years. The incarnation of the meeting, has changed over time. And for the last 6 years, we rebuilt a meeting that was falling apart, after the last incarnation, and her people had moved on.
What began as 5 people and a coffee pot, morphed over time to a cohort of over 50 folks. We broadened from the back room and few people to a two room meeting, split up to give everybody time and place to share.
A couple of weeks ago, the church told us, that we had to move out of our room, along with all the other meetings, that used the same space, throughout the week.
They offered us a room, in the church proper, and early this past week, myself and a friend, moved all of our supplies from the basement hall to the church hall room. It is half the size of the full room we had been in. The room does not have a kitchen. We do have one bathroom and sink set up to fill the coffee and tea pots. Since we don’t have a kitchen, we went to styrofoam cups and later paper warm cups, so we don’t have to wash cups in a sink in the bathroom.
The hall will happily seat 50 people. I arrived uber early tonight with a couple of fellows and we set up the room, in the same fashion we used to have in the old room. Save, that the group cannot split up into two, sitting everybody in the same room, for the entire hour.
You cannot throw alcoholics into change, because it throws them off kilter. We welcomed everybody, to the room. Our first meeting in the new space was a success. People seem to like the cozy comforts of the room.
The reason we had to move is this … There is a daycare up in the parish building. That room needs renovation. Before they can move downstairs into the basement hall, that room needs to be retrofitted for safety and regulations, as a child care facility, as per the city and province.
You can’t just toss a daycare, into a room, that is not safely set up for that purpose. We all had to move out so they are now retrofitting the room for the kids. The room upstairs is being renovated. Once all the work is done, the kids will either stay downstairs, or move back up.
We have this new room until October. Between now and then, we are negotiating with the parish rector to remain in our original space, because finding another church, IN this neighborhood, is unlikely. We won’t be able to recreate the old dynamic, in another church anywhere in this locale.
There are a couple of choices still. But some feel that if every meeting in the area, utilizes the same space, 7 nights a week, we loose the distinctive feel of the meeting. Because the one church open for business with a rector who is familiar with our work, will rent his space, for very little money, because he knows what we do. He has three meetings now in that space. We all go to those other meetings in his ballroom in the basement.
The dynamic of that room is far different. it is not the room the Friday meeting wants to inhabit, in any case. So we shall see what comes of the renovations and what will happen next fall.
They say, or it has been said, “That at some point, you are going to hear someone tell your story.”
When it comes to storytelling, there is not another human being, on the English side, who has a story like mine. All the men I knew, in early sobriety, who had AIDS, are long since dead. I am the last.
Which leaves a sparse gay community of men, in my social circle, who are still alive today. I don’t have anything to do with those gay men, because our community is quite fractured.
Reciprocal friendships are hard to come by.
I am grateful that I have a handful of reciprocal friends. It may be a character defect that, people might think of us, by the by, and make the out call. I don’t sit at home and wait for an out call. I cannot be bothered to do that today.
I spoke about the Old Brewery Mission Meeting, that I attend on Sunday mornings. I like my Mission folks. They are great men and women. The Matriarchs are headed to Egypt right now for a three week tour of Cairo, the Nile river, and Saqqara.
The cycle of speaker/chair was interrupted Sunday. So I stepped in to chair and one of my friends, was asked to speak, as we restart the chain again.
Like I said above, at some point someone is gonna tell your story. I also said that nobody in this city, has my specific story. But, I heard my friend, on Sunday, tell his story. There are common themes between us.
When we drink and/or use, that theme is a constant because, if you are in the room, you abused the drink and the drugs. I’ve been dissecting my story over the years, and I can say that, when I was much younger, I was a good kid. I was a good son (take that or leave it), I was a good citizen, a good employee, and I was responsible, until alcohol took over.
As a younger employee, I really was not interested in drinking all the time, it wasn’t something I did regularly. Only when invited out to drink with friends, or when we threw a party in high school.
When alcohol was present, I became absent. I know this.
I had some of the best jobs a kid could have, growing up. I did really well, under pressure, and I did my job, as was needed.
When I moved away from home, with the delusion that was given to my inner memory bank, I was of single vision.
“Drink your way in, Wait for fireworks.”
I had eyes for one particular apartment, in a particular complex, that I clearly could not afford. I had a new car, that I could not afford either, and I had a job, that I went to, but in the end, everything was lost.
It is amazing to me, how selfish I became when it came to the procurement of alcohol. You cannot imagine, the amounts of alcohol I poured into my system on a weekly basis. And how narrow my honesty became.
The alcohol might have “gotten me in the door” but it did not “keep me in the club,” so to speak. Addicts and Alcoholics will lie, cheat and steal from their mothers, to score …
I justified my alcoholism against the abuse heaped upon me by my father. I called it Pay Back. All the lies I told, to hit my father where it hurt, worked.
I got the car.
But a lifetimes worth of resentments followed. And my father went to his grave, never knowing me, or even speaking my name on his deathbed.
We believe, for a while, that the drink and the drugs work, because we are getting one over on everybody else. Until that stops working.
UNTIL A STOP SIGN APPEARS….
Like my friend on Sunday, we both got hit with the Stop Sign.
We both got deathly ill, and death WAS a foregone conclusion. We were both supposed to die. Thankfully, we are both, still, very alive.
We both knew what we did, once doctors told us we were going to die. My friend had serious health issues, that he found a work around to drink. Even at the worst of times, he figured out how to get and drink alcohol.
In my worst of time, waiting for the other shoe to drop, was excruciating. I was watching what was going on around me, in real time. The very ugly, painful, miserable, march to death, for my friends with AIDS.
I knew what was coming, and I had decided from the get go that I was not going to go out that way. I wasn’t doing drugs so much, but I was surely drinking to kill myself. As fast as I could hasten death, would have been good.
My friend, at his blotto end, found recovery, via rehabilitation.
I did not.
Rehab came to me, in the guise of Todd (read:God).
I had a room to go to. And I had a job. The room was not so healthy for me, neither was the bar, because what right alcoholic in recovery, makes his money working in a bar, of all places ?
I did. Because Todd was my boss.
All those negative things we do in active addiction, at some point, comes to a halt. And we have a choice to make. Go on to the bitter end, or we decide to live.
Selfish things, became something I was made aware of early on. The easiest way to change this tape, in our heads, is to actively do work against our wills.
Those would be: Hitting a meeting, or working with others.
I did hit meetings. but more importantly, I did not only work with others, I worked for others. Todd knew, that the less I thought about ME, or thought about what was going on in my head, the better.
The Brain/Thought Partition method worked wonders.
My friend having lived this long, volunteers several days a week, at Hospitals, Rehabs, and the Old Brewery Mission. He knows what to do today, to lengthen his life.
It was through hard work, on a daily basis, that saved me. You cannot avoid the specter of death, when everyone around you is dying. And selfishly, they choose to drink and drug themselves sick, into death. I watched this selfish behavior go on under our roof.
True, that family, friends, lovers, and employers had tossed all of these very sick men to the curb to die alone. We could not care for so many, all at once. It was way too much to take in and handle.
It was truly the worst of times.
But, there were some of us, who did whatever we could, on a nightly basis, to ease the pain, somewhat. We had what were, at the time, the best healthcare providers, we could find. Because there were NO dedicated doctors or clinics.
Hospitals would begrudgingly take AIDS patients into lock down, sterile wards, as nurses and doctors would MOON SUIT UP to touch us, fearing for their own lives, like we were there to INFECT THEM, by our mere presence in their wards. That was truly heartless and cruel.
Friends, seeing what had gone on with patients in hospitals, decided that they would never go to a hospital. But die, outside, on their own terms. Is that selfish ? I mean, really, when you have no choice, but to take what is left of your life, into your own hands, what is the other viable choice?
Todd knew many things about me. He knew how destructive I could become, if left alone. He also knew, the dark inner sanctum of my heart, and he went to great lengths to keep me at arms length from any man, who walked into the bar on any given night.
He was protecting me from myself, across the board.
You cannot remain selfish, when the work you do, every night, is working with others, or for others. I had a job. A really great job. I loved that job.
I wish I could go back in time and revisit that time, with one proviso: All the people who were there, need to be there again.
The Promises speak of many things changing, as we get sober. They don’t all come at once, and for sure, they might take a lifetime. I know how long they took to come to me.
The job we have in sobriety, is to be vigilant, on all those warnings that the Promises speak of, as changing. If we remain in our alcoholic stupor, we will suffer the negatives, for as long as they are given fuel.
We have a choice in sobriety, which wolf we are going to feed.
Illness, with a death diagnosis, does not discriminate.
When it comes to death, when someone mentions that word within a share, I sit up and listen. That commonality, is stark among us. People get sick, some get better, or end up in remission. But a good percentage do die.
Death is the end for everyone.
For some of us, we have faced our death days, and lived to tell the tale.
Which I do proudly, whenever I get the chance.
If you want to get OUT of yourself, work with OTHERS.
The only thing that is constant in this life is CHANGE. Whether we like it or not, or if it is good or bad, comes quickly, or takes its sweet time, change happens.
When it comes to change within a meeting, there is bound to be friction. It is a known fact that there are business meetings, then there are BUSINESS MEETINGS. The latter are much worse than the former.
And I’ve sat both, in as many years…
Our Friday group prides itself with serious time, as in members with serious time. And the various others, who are scattered over the time-line. I am the G.S.R for our Friday meeting, hence it is my job to chair, moderate, and attempt to keep everyone on the same page and not let the proceedings, get out of hand.
The Friday meeting is the “Meeting of the week!” It is the only meeting of its type, IN that particular neighborhood, Outremont, it is the only ANGLO meeting, in that area all week, and it is populated by a broad spectrum of “people.”
PEOPLE: being the operative word here.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other, so that they may solve their common problem and help others to achieve sobriety.
We all know that the spectrum of orientation identifiers has broadened, in the last decade or so. In the last five years, and even closer, the last year or so, our Friday membership calls many “people,” as members.
The Friday meeting has had its share of controversies over the years. And when time got tough between the addicts and alcoholics, the latter calling for the banning of the former from the room, caused major heartache for months and months, until God sorted it all out, and the room survived, as well as her “people.”
With the appearance of trans-rights and the broad spectrum of people who don’t necessarily identify as Men or Women, today’s discussions are centered upon the word PEOPLE.
We do not discriminate based on addiction, or sexual orientation. We learned that lesson the hard way. The clause in our preamble reads,
We are committed to the primary purpose, and the third tradition, as it states in our literature, You are an AA member if YOU say so.
In order to bring all the parties back to the table in civility and respect, the alcoholics decided, after months of heart wrenching silence between friends, that we cannot tell anyone who walks through our doors that they cannot belong and stay.
In that fight, I took the side of the addicts, because many of them are founders of the meeting, way back from the day when there were only less than a dozen people showing up for the Friday meeting. Now we are a compliment of almost FIFTY members.
My best friend, an alcoholic was on the other side. After a serious physical confrontation one night, our friendship seemed to end, for as long as it took for God to sort this issue out.
In the end … God did for everyone what we could not do for ourselves.
Today, the buzz word is People.
Within our numbers, are some who took issue with the words MEN and WOMEN, in the preamble. Which has not changed since the dawn of the fellowship. Three months ago, one of our young men, set a motion on the table of our business meeting.
His motion was to amend the Preamble, to read, Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of “People,” who share their experience, strength and hope with each other …
There are other “people” who sat at that table, that night and seconded the motion for consideration. The motion went into the minutes of the meeting.
Our policy, on the ground, simply, is to give each motion, placed on the table, three months grace period for conversation and consideration for everyone who is an active member to assess their positions on any given motion discussed.
Tonight, we all agreed, after three months of back and forth on this issue that we really need guidance from the Area Committee, and guidelines for figuring out how we should properly deal with this request.
If a change is made to a group that is crucial, like format, preamble, chips, or any major change to the inner workings of the group, then we convene a much deeper and specifically charged Group Conscience, to decide what the final vision will be.
For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority, a loving God as He may expresses Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants they do not govern.
The “People” who first placed this motion of the table for consideration, have not been present IN the meeting, over the last many months, as in attendance, and they have not been present in further business meetings, where this old business is still on the table for consideration.
Tonight, for the first time, in as many months, the person who set the motion on the table was in the room, but decided against attending the business meeting afterwards.
Among our group, the discussion has gone around and around. We’ve discussed the absences, of those who made the initial presentation. We’ve discussed the reasoning behind he verbiage change to new group members who do not necessarily understand the growing complexity with gender identification within a meeting.
Alcoholics are alcoholics. Why fix something that hasn’t been broken. The preamble is read at every meeting, and very few, (I can count two) meetings, here in the city who have amended their preamble to read either shorter or longer texts.
The Group Conscience was brought up, as the legal formality to make any pertinent changes to meeting formats. That motion was put down quite succinctly by many.
We attempted to vote on the verbiage. It was a close, vote, but the YAY’s were the majority. And the members sitting around the table, due to the absence of those who first made the motion, negated the vote, and tabled a motion to carry the topic till next month, and next week I need to meet with the inter-group secretary to put in place safeguards and set rules of order so that by the end of February, we can finally sort this issue out, once and for all.
I can tell you that this is the first meeting, in my repertoire that the sexual orientation identification discussion has arisen. Times are changing and as a meeting, the Friday meeting, is a welcoming room to everyone.
Nobody is turned away, for any reason.
This does not make my job any easier. As Chair of the business meeting. After the meeting, on the way home, I received high marks from my friend for being impartial and respectful to everyone sitting at the table. That was a good thing, I guess.
But it isn’t about me in the end. It isn’t my job to judge or adjudicate.
“My spiritual awakening was electrically sudden and absolutely convincing. At once I became a part – if only a tiny part – of a cosmos that was ruled by justice and love in the person of God.”
I spoke to a very, long sober woman, on the way home tonight. When I am conflicted, I usually know who to talk to.
She reminded me that the “ROOMS” are like One Big Hospital. However, at any given time, we are not all on the same floor.
And that if something is bothering me to the point of obsession, the only thing I can do is look in the mirror and the only inventory I can take is my own.
We see each other, night after night. And all we can see, is what is on the outside, and usually, we don’t necessarily, get to see, or know intimately, what is going on in the inside of our friends and fellows.
The same goes for everyone else.
The lesson of approval is sitting on my dashboard right now. This was a lesson that was one of the harshest lessons Todd ever had to teach me, the hard way.
I know what that lesson felt like in real-time.
I hated the mirror in the bathroom for a very long time. Today, we have three mirrors in the apartment. The bathroom mirror, there is one in the bedroom, and another at the front door.
The only time I ever looked in the mirror, was when I took my pills every night.
The first two years of sobriety, were spent, always looking at my shoes. I never looked you in the eye, and I never took off my baseball cap to uncover my face. It took two years for that to change.
One day I walked into my aftercare office and I wasn’t wearing the cap, and one of the counselors remarked to me that …”Hey, you did not look at your shoes once today, I can see your face.” It was a watershed moment in my sobriety.
Being sober, is contingent and directly related to what everyone else is either doing or NOT doing. If that makes me a little bit critical, then so be it.
I was reminded again tonight that, the only thing that I can change is me.
However difficult I find it – changing others is not my job.
I can make the decision to say hello to people who won’t necessarily say hello to me first. And for the most part, those people who want nothing to do with me, I’d rather eat dirt then say anything to them.
In the world, we are born and are raised in a family to do certain things and achieve certain goals as they come. We go to school, we graduate, get a good job, find a gal, get married and pop out a few kids.
Thankfully, I did not choose that route.
But even as a young gay boy, and a serious alcoholic at that, I could not make it work in the big wide world around me. Seriously !!!
Over my lifetime, God attempted to get my attention. And I did have my good moments at certain periods in my life. When I got sober the second time, I turned my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understood Him.
I committed, I relocated, and I turned it all over.
The rest they say is history.
I am always in seeking mode. I’m always looking for the next great lesson. However slow in coming they are. But I persist.
The rooms provide, if you know how to make them work for you.
You just got to keep showing up. And doing something small, every day, in a good way, that you had not done, in the past.
Little Small Changes – Build to Big Life Changes.
A good friend of mine hit the TEN year mark tonight. I watched him get sober.
He has a good sober wife, a three-year old son, and a life of his dreams.
All possible because one certain man showed up for him, every day, in those first years of sobriety. Just his friends mere presence, in a particular meeting, that guy just kept showing up. He was reliable. And my friend depended on that guy, always being in the same chair, day after day, week after week and year after year.
I am that guy, for my friends today. I show up. Sit in the same seat. Day, Week, Month and Year after Year. I am always present, even if I don’t want to be. Because one day, that simple presence may change a life for the better.
If we skip a day, we might miss a miracle on the way.
It is the best day of the year, and the most IMPORTANT day of my life.
I have reached the ripe age of Fifty … Harry would be 37 years old today.
I woke up very early this morning, as the sun was coming up. Just to be quiet for a time and appreciate that when I did get up this morning, that my heart was still beating.
I survived. I made it all this way. Miraculous, really. Who knew I’d live this long ?
What has changed ? I jettisoned a whole bunch of takers from my life. I re-ordered my priorities, and closed the book on the last chapter of my life.
Today, we begin writing the next decade …
When I turned 40, and the years that followed, I realized that I KNEW things for sure. It was only after I crossed the 40 mark that that began to dawn on me. So I suppose that whatever I am supposed to know now, will materialize on the days, weeks, months, and years that will follow.
Another personal cull is waiting in the wings, and I will know that list by the close of business today.
All I know is that NOW, instead of Forty years, I now have Fifty years of practical life experience and a BUNCH of sober knowledge about many people. Intimate knowledge that has helped the cull process.
I really know who I want in my life, and who I don’t. I know what I am willing to invest in and what I won’t. I have sobriety that was proofed in the furnace of vulnerability. I got down and dirty in the arena, while everyone else watched from the stands.
Only three people got in the arena with me.
If you aren’t in the arena with me, getting your ass kicked, I don’t need your feedback.
I’ve changed things up here on the blog. Added a few things, took others away.
I’ve decided to embrace the wisdom and look of a fifty year old. So that is a thing.
There are a few things I really need to focus on over the next little while.
Fifty feels good right now. That may change. We’ll see …
Last night, I went across my social media accounts and the blog, and got rid of all kinds of old information, photos and material.
You will see, today, the fruits of that late night effort. The blog has been scrubbed of old and outdated personal information. The photo log on the sidebar has been freshened up with new images, reflective of where I am in my life.
The last week of March, I began the Keto Genic Diet. Next week is the beginning of May. I will accrue two months and a little longer on the diet. At the end of May, I drop labs across the board. This Keto Diet, removes sugar, carbs, sweets. soda, and junk foods and moves towards an entirely new dietary regimen.
I continue to drop weight. Hence the sporty tone of the blog and my present state of mind. A gym and exercise schedule has been added to the dietary regimen. I am hoping that this change of lifestyle has changed the insides, as I was told they would, if I adhered to the diet religiously.
I’ve updated the Gravatar and updated the About Me section on Gravatar and above in the About Me Page up top.
The march towards fifty continues. As it goes, every day it feels a little more comfortable and this new way of life has been working well.
People are noticing the changes in my looks and my figure. This week people have been commenting to me that I’ve seriously changed physically, and they all tell me that I’ve never looked better in as many years.
Something seems to be working.
It is not too late to change your life.
My friends all care about me, and when it mattered, they spoke to me and told me that I needed to make some changes in my life. And I listened to them.
And now we are here, today.
Thanks to all my new subs and my dedicated readers to the blog.
“Because without you, I am indeed, talking to myself …”