Gratitude in Action

Where would we be without the founders? When it seemed all might be lost, and men of good substance and good character found themselves in the throws of alcoholism, the solution came down to one interaction of a man in his own throws of a desire to drink, and the almost miraculous need to work with another alcoholic, started this great ball of sobriety rolling.

That day, standing in the lobby of the Mayflower hotel, Bill Wilson’s business meeting went down the tubes, he stood there contemplating a decision that would change the world. There were just two choices. One, to drink, or Two, to make a phone call.

Old timers I have met in my years, have stood in the lobby of said hotel and told their story of what the room looked like, how many feet stood between Bill, as he stood there, between the lobby bar, and the phone directory on the opposite wall, on the other side of the room.

Many years later, here in Montreal, a man in the throws of alcoholism, in the year 1943, wrote to New York for help. Help arrived for him. In 1944, the fellowship began, here in Canada. Dave B, got sober, in spite of himself.

A year later, into his own sobriety, Bobbie said to him, “It is time for you to carry the message to another alcoholic, we think it is time you helped someone who needs help.”

New York GSO sent Dave, 400 letters, they had received, and so A.A. was born in Quebec. From a humble apartment not far from where I live today, a rag tag bunch of drunks met in a living room, while their wives congregated in the bedroom or the kitchen.

This was before the dawn of the hallowed church basement.

The little living room meeting, grew exponentially. A group of three men, turned into twelve and then twenty five.

In the beginning there were three meetings in Montreal. I’ve been a member at all three of those original meetings.

We take for granted, many of us, that we have a meeting list, that is chock full of meetings, in various languages, in various locations, every day of the week.

Imagine in 1944, there were no meetings, but the one living room.

Gratitude is a word we hear often in the beginning. Oh, you must have gratitude, or, you must cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Many of these suggestions go unheard and untouched by many. Because when many come in, they have no idea why they need to be grateful to sit in a church basement, with these people, they don’t know, AND for the rest of their lives.

How can we have gratitude, when we ourselves, most likely haven’t even admitted to our innermost selves, that we are alcoholics.

Sobriety comes in stages, by fits and starts, by trial and error, but eventually, we find our grooves, and we settle in for the long haul.

Tonight, we attended the 60th anniversary of the first meeting I homed in when I moved to Montreal, Tuesday Beginners. And the read tonight, from the Big Book, was Gratitude in Action. the story of Dave B, and the dawn of the fellowship here in Montreal.

Out of all the people sitting in the room tonight, THREE of us have had interactions with Old OLD timers, who knew Dave B, in the flesh, old OLD timers who went to meetings with Dave B, and had their own stories of him, aside from what view we get from the book.

In years Nine and Ten, I went looking for OLD OLD timers. I spent more than a year, combing the city for them. I lucked out and found a handful of men, who knew Bill and Dr. Bob, and Dave B. Three founders. I also met men who were participants in the very first phase of the fellowship as it had its humble beginnings. I spent all that time collecting their stories, and here, deep within the memory of this blog, are those memories.

Every minute of sobriety, even the most mundane moments, had their precise usefulness. I talked with one of my oldest friends in the room today, at the meeting earlier tonight. He was there when I came in, during a time, that Tuesday Beginners was a very unique meeting. It was unique for its people who were there when I came in. Mostly women. It was unique for the fellowship that existed then, and the specific men and women who populated that meeting.

I commented to him that, we’ve never seen another iteration of that kind of community, anywhere in the city. And it is true, that a generation of people have long since moved on to other places, or have grown old and don’t make it out, and several have died of old age.

It is good to be reminded of gratitude every so often. Because you really don’t know how grateful I am for the people, the meetings, and the immense amounts of time people spent with me, to help me stay sober.

Before the dawn of cell phones, we had what was called LAND LINES.

You know, that phone attached to the kitchen wall ???

We did not sit at home waiting for that 2000 pound phone to ring, we went to break bread before and after, we hung out together for hours before and after a meeting. You don’t know a good thing, till it’s gone.

A sober friend might be the most important person in your life right now. And the more sober friends you have, will make the journey so much sweeter. I had all that and a whole lot more.

I met the right people, or the right people, were in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason. I’ve said this before, in an earlier post, I listen to a lot of people on a weekly basis. And over time, I’ve watched many of my friends grow up. I know everything that they did in sobriety.

Because what do we do in meetings? We listen to others, figure out their own lives, in front of us, in real time. We hear them talk themselves through situations that used to baffle them. We listen to them justify just about everything under the sun.

We know all the good and all the bad. We know who succeeded and who did not. We know everybody who chose to drink again, and we even watched friends loose their battle with the bottle and die …

The solution exists, for those who need it. All you need is to ask, and it will be given you. You cannot imagine the immense wealth of education you find sitting in a church basement, several times a week.

If it were not for the multitude of WOMEN and MEN who took time to show up and talk, I would not be who I am today. Because, who I am is an amalgamation of every single woman and man I know to this very day.

All of them participated in creating the life I have, because I listened to them talk, and create their own lives of success and sobriety.

There is no better formation ground for personal growth, than inside a church basement. What the greater world out there does not know, and has no idea of, unless of course they are powerless over the drink, never know what they are missing.

People in the real world, OUT THERE, follow the distinct pattern of life, education, work, marriage, children, cars, houses, and money. I tried that life and failed miserably, because I was powerless over my addictions.

I thought I had to walk that walk, like my father before me. He had the life, the wealth and the material success, amid the functioning alcoholism that pervaded his life. I walked that same road for a while, until it stopped working for me.

Had Todd NOT SAID STOP, when he did, I would surely have died many years ago. He started this road to my success. If it were not for his love and devotion to saving my life, I would not be here today to constantly repeat this portion of my story, over and over again.

God exists. I know that deep within my soul.

Remember all those good people who played a role in your own success, and when you do, you grasp the notion of Gratitude In Action.



300,000

It only takes one word, one story, or one action, to impact a life.

We don’t know, sometimes, that what we do, changes lives. We don’t know that something we said might have been the words needed, or the story, poignant, or the action necessary.

I heard it said tonight, “The More I help others, the More I see God.”

St. Matthias turned 71 years years old today, as the one meeting in Montreal, that has been in the same location for 71 years. The English fellowship began in 1945, in the home of Dave B. There were only a handful of men in those days. But from a few sprung more than a dozen, and that dozen turned into twenty five people.

In The Mid Nineteen Forties, the fellowship rented a room, at the Old Montreal Forum (right up the street from my home)  at a prodigious $10.00 a month. Pretty cheap as rent goes for a meeting in 1945. But, the alcoholics as they were, back in the day, enjoyed playing cards till the wee hours of the morning. I guess they needed someplace to be. I can identify.

Sadly, the Forum decided that playing cards till the wee hours of the morning was unacceptable, and tossed the merry sober bunch out onto the street. It was then in 1947 that the St. Matthias group began.

For Seventy one years, people have come through our doors. Calculating the numbers, by our matriarch tonight, she mused that probably, 300,000 people have walked through our doors.

Imagine, just for a moment…

Imagine, just for a moment, That somewhere in the endless reaches of the universe, on the outer edge of a galaxy of a hundred thousand million suns, deep within a cluster of slowly forming planets, that a small sphere of just the right size, lies just the right distance, from its Mother Star, cooling in the coldness of space, try to imagine … 

One of my lady friends drove us to the church this evening, with a car load of groceries, that had been purchased and put together, for tonight’s festive anniversary. With ten members, we dished out a smorgasbord of food, enough to feed over 100 people.

We had set out 140 chairs, and the excess back row at twenty. So 160 chairs.

Every seat was filled.

A few months ago, my lady friend told her story to us. I have said before that a segment of our women have serious death spiral stories, enough of a death spiral, that upon hearing said story, you would think, “there is no way she can pull out of this and survive.” But she and a handful of other women did just that. They survived, got sober and thrived !!!

Tonight, we were blessed to hear her husband share his story.

We don’t know, what we don’t know, when we show up. Bedraggled, and sullen, short on time, and short in temper. We don’t necessarily trust the people we have walked in on.

And we surely, may not be ready for the HUG. You know that HUG that can only come from a recovering alcoholic!

When we hear the words; Love and Support and Hope and Life, we might not believe with our own ears, what we are hearing. But I know, for me, and our man tonight, the people who were here, when we got here, said just those words to us, and to everybody else who came in after us.

They loved us, until we could love ourselves, beyond our wildest dreams.

Imagine, that if 300,000 people graced our little basement hall, ponder a moment the odds of just how many of them are still sober today.

That number itself would be sobering for sure …

At the end of the night, we did a Sober Countdown. With over 100 people sitting in the room, as a whole, when counted, we had collectively lived 938 sober years,, 78 months, 2 weeks and, 4 days as a whole.

Not many OLD, OLD timers come out much any more. And we did not see the really high number sober folks as in past years. But we hit some in the high 40’s.

In 52 days, by the Grace of God, I will hit Seventeen years of continuous sobriety. A good portion of those seventeen years has been spent, in our little basement hall, every Thursday night. I’ve been on Set up and Coffee for a long time. Our group is heavy on itinerant members who travel often for business and in the Winters, many of them migrate South for the season, so for those months, we fly by the seat of our pants, filling in all the jobs with a short crew of folks who are in town, on any given Thursday.

We aim to change those numbers, in the future.

We are trying to figure out a better way to carry the message, and get people to engage, as new members. We aim to raise our games when it comes to sponsorship and really working with newcomers.

The Twelve Step Rep job is a tough sell. We don’t see many folks come in the door, the first time, take a chip, THEN STAY …

However among us, those of us with TIME do stand up when called upon to represent the group, for both the women and the men. Not many people want to listen to me, or hear what I have to say.

Tonight, I was talking to a friend about her, and as soon as I turned the conversation onto me, she turned away, and began chatting with anyone standing around us, as if she had not seen them in ages, and needed to suddenly catch up.

I Noticed the snub … From someone I did not expect it from.

As the meeting closed, I did a cursory clean up of supplies and carried them to the kitchen for storage. Everybody was eating, and like I said, nobody really wants to hear me talk, so I took my leave, locked the outer door, and came home for dinner.

I enjoy the supporting role in a meeting. I don’t need to be up front at the table, I am more than happy to come in quietly and make some coffee and put out the chairs and supplies, so that when people arrive the coffee is ready and snacks are on the table to be eaten.

That is the most thankless job in the fellowship. And in as many years, I’ve seen a few alcoholics, have ego attacks and loose their cookies, in front of the meeting itself, pissing and moaning that nobody thanked them.

I survived all of them. Today.

A room ready to rock and roll, as the first guest arrives, usually guarantees that they will return, over and over again, because I make a MEAN POT OF COFFEE. Coffee that will keep you up past your regular bed time…

I know how I got sober. Just like I know how all the elder men and women at St. Matthias got sober. We did it the hard way. Working our asses off for each and every day of sobriety.

Sobriety is not easy. But the book does say that “We tried to find the easier softer way, but we could not …” The Fellowship IS the easier softer way, if only people believed us. First they have to Read the Book, and follow some simple suggestions.

And one day at a time, God willing … They too will get sober, in spite of themselves.

A good night was had by all.

300,000 people … Imagine that …

Tuesday: Significant Horizons: Valerie Plante

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Sunday was our municipal elections here in Montreal. The incumbent mayor Denis Coderre was facing an uphill battle against newcomer Valerie Plante.

I voted for Valerie Plante. She won the mayoral election.

Denis Coderre spent million upon millions of dollars on beautifying the city for the 375th anniversary. He cashed in on the E – Race which stripped many business people of business when their terraces were rolled up for the entirety of the race prep – race day – and race tear down. Millions of dollars lost in revenue and sales.

Traffic is a nightmare, that is, if you drive, which I do not.

He could have spent much of the monies he spent on beauty, on the actual citizens of Montreal, who need more help than they (read: We) are getting.

The vote was stacked against him, as Sunday wore on. In the end, Valerie Plante won the vote for mayor here in Montreal.

I could not be happier for her.

She has made some serious promises to the city, and on November 16th, she will be sworn in as the First Female Mayor of Montreal, in 375 years.

**** **** ****

Monday night we celebrated 72 years of Monday Central, as a meeting. Monday Central began by the esteemed Dave B. Who’s story appears in the Big Book.

Gratitude in Action – Fourth Edition – page 193.
The beginning of Quebec Sobriety in 1944.

After several early incarnations and locations across the city, one of those locations was right up the street from home at the Old Forum location.

Where rent was $10.00 a week, but he meeting was asked to leave that location when members were found up late after hours playing cards and having fun …

I guess late night card playing was against city rules back then.

My friend Yves spoke. I know his story, having heard it previously. Monday night he spent an inordinate amount of time on the transience of life, back in the day.

What does a fifteen year old kid, upon leaving home, do with his life ?

He travels from Coast to Coast to Coast, drinking, drugging and getting into all kinds of trouble.

Upon settling in Montreal, finally, and gaining employment at the Old Royal Victoria Hospital, he meets his match in a doctor who tells him straight, that he really needs help, and this doctor, in his own way, saves my friend’s life.

In January, 2018, he will reach twenty-nine years.

I am thirty-two days out from my Sixteenth anniversary.

I will celebrate on the 14th, seeing that the ninth falls on a Saturday. My best friend is coming up for our main celebration on the 15th. at the Friday Night meeting.

My friend Juan in just a week away from his 3rd. Anniversary on the 11th of November. He will pick up his chip the following Friday at the Friday Night Meeting.

The weather is turning cold. Very cold, Very quickly. We will Dip into the Minuses later this week, and snow is even on tap, if all goes according to Environment Canada.

More to come.