When to Speak

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I changed up my routine today, to make time for a noon time meeting, because a lady friend I adore was speaking. The first time I heard her speak, at the Thursday meeting one night not long ago, I was transfixed by every word she said.

Some of our women friends have similar tragic stories that have downward spirals that, at one point listening to her tell her story, I was saying to myself, “there is no way she can pull out of this death spiral she is in…”

Everybody around me is holding their breaths, waiting for the Miracle to Occur.

And for each of them, the Miracle really did happen. Miraculously !!!

Today I heard something I did not hear before …

At her worst, after loosing her kids, and in a funk, trying to get it together, her sponsor tells her … “Just call home, let your kids know you are still alive…”

Little pieces of advice that seem innocuous at the time, turn out to be the beginning of the building of the bridge, that will eventually lead her back to her kids AND sobriety.

She and I have something in common. A very special education in sobriety.

She came in twenty-five years ago, and I, almost seventeen years ago, respectively.

We both came in bedraggled. And we walked into a room and were overwhelmed by the people in those respective rooms. And by the grace, we both DID what we were TOLD to DO.

Without question. Without argument.

Because in her words from the other night …

YOU WANT TO ARGUE WITH HAPPY ???

The goal in this life is to be happy. Across the board, in all our affairs. Some find it, others do not. Some take the long road, others, get it right away and walk the short path.

She said to me today that, sobriety is too loosey goosey. People are too easily distracted by shiny things and their phones. Nobody wants to follow the simple plan that we both know works.

People want to argue semantics and Happy !!!

UGH.

Yesterday I was grocery shopping, as I am wont to do every few days. We collect plastic and we recycle at the store before we shop. While standing at the machine I noticed a familiar face at the can drop next to me.

I knew this man. He was sober, when I first came in, almost seventeen years ago, and worked at the rehab center I was affiliated with back then, where I had after care and my counselor sessions.

Key words … He WAS sober.

I’ve seen him around over the years. Many of the men and women I knew from those years back then, have all mostly disappeared from the area and the rooms. There aren’t many people from the Old World left in Montreal.

Yesterday, he was disheveled. His clothes were torn and dirty. He was wearing a white sneaker on his left foot, and a green high top sneaker on his right.

While I was depositing my bottles he stopped me amid swing to ask me why I was putting metal into the plastic machine. I stopped and responded with, “why would I put metal in a plastic machine?”

He turned away and walked ahead of me into the store. I did not follow him around, because I don’t know him, like I know my friends in town, so striking up a conversation would have been awkward to say the least.

I kinda wanted to ask him where he had slept the night before and had realized he was wearing two different shoes and why his clothes were ripped and dirty.

You kinda know the answer to those questions pretty quickly, on the first pass.

He had a bag of cans he probably collected from metro bins and garbage cans on his way into the store to get his meager change to buy whatever he could afford for that trip.

Outside the store another friend of mine who does outreach to the Indigenous Community here in the city, was standing guard in the hallway outside, watching his people gather.

Where ever people gather, there is bound to be strife among them. Thankfully he is armed with burger vouchers for McDonald’s in the mall right in that area.

People are more amenable when they have food in their stomachs. So before he steps in the say anything, he hands out food vouchers to anyone who wants them.

He does more than that. He is counselor, medic, affairs officer and the grand poobah of the downtown core.

There is suffering all around us. for those of us who live in this neighborhood. I’ve been here seventeen years now, and I know how bad things can get on a good day. Even worse on a bad day.

Sometimes you don’t have to say anything at all. And for the most part, not saying anything is the best policy, because you don’t know the back story you are witnessing at the moment.

Rather not embarrass people on the down and out with observations, they probably already know about themselves, so they don’t need a reminder of how rough they might look at the moment, even if what you want to say would be meaningful to YOU.

So I say hello. I nod. I observe. And I record data.

I know how many of the people I knew who were sober once, are out there on the street today, down and out.

Why some people fall through the cracks and end up back out on the street I don’t know. Some people just fall away. Was it because of people, from the past, who shunned folks away? Those of us who did not attach to certain cliques ?

I met a man who had fifty-eight years of sobriety today. He knew the Montreal Founders. Men and women who are still around from THAT FAR BACK, are few and far between.

They usually come out of seclusion for their cakes to show us, that you CAN be sober for decades and be happily married and happy in general.

Many people at that noon meeting suffer needlessly.

They just don’t connect, even though they know where to go and who to talk to.

And for that we are grateful for small mercies of sobriety. And we utter that slogan, that people usually ignore or don’t know what it means …

THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD …

I could be one of them.

Thursday: Life is Good

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It has been a few days since my last update. It has been a busy time for everybody all around. We have a family wedding in May, it will be the first time, in many years that the entire family will be in the same location at the same time, to celebrate my niece Melissa and her husband to be, Stephan’s wedding.

We have watched our nieces and nephews grow up into fine young adults. And we spoil them whenever we get the chance. Holidays are always a big deal for our family. We will be traveling to Southern Ontario (on the train) a first for us.

In July, one of my guys, Juan is going to marry his fiancée Nadia, in a very intimate setting here in Montreal. We’ve been working very hard at keeping them “on the beam” so to speak. Juggling school, work, wedding preparations and life, is a tall order. But, like they say, “we have a program for that!”

The weather has been UNUSUALLY warm, as of late. We’ve had a long stretch of temps ranging from the lower plus side to the high negative side. Much of the snow that had fallen over the season is melting nicely, and thankfully, the sidewalks are clean of snow and ice. Which is very good news to the city population, because many older folks have suffered greatly, falling and breaking bones this season, because of the foul weather. Many of them have sued the city for damages, that is not a good thing. But necessary.

The great weatherman in the sky tells us, not to count our chickens just yet, and we are told that Winter will continue until Summer. With a clear SKIP of Spring. We are told that more drastic snow will fall, between now and May 1st.

God help us if the weather goes really South …

We will gladly take the weather we have had for the past week over more winter, and if it stays this good for the duration, all the better.

It is good that we have good plans on the horizon. This will be a first, seeing a good friend and his soon to be bride getting married. The whole focus on getting and staying sober, is to finally reap the rewards of hard work, done well.

Our young people are all doing well. Everybody is still sober, from our holiday extravaganza weekends. It is a hard slog for some, but they keep showing up, and they are talking. Which is a good sign. Many of us, have committed to being present, as often as we are able.

I am soon to start a new pass through the Big Book, with a young lady friend of my acquaintance, from the Monday meeting. I listen very carefully to what our young people say in meetings. And over the past year, have been blessed to witness one of our young woman, stand up and be counted among us.

Our Monday meeting has been talking hard topics and the discussion has been very fruitful to the extent that I am learning a great deal about sobriety, that I had never heard before, coming from the mouths of babes. Monday night, I asked my friend if she would be able to share her teaching of The Book with me. From what I am hearing from many of my friends and fellows, men and women, I’ve found that i still have a lot to learn. It may be unconventional, but any chance to walk through the book with new, fresh and younger eyes, is useful.

I’ve stuck close to my core meetings, Monday, Thursday and Friday. And I’ve placed my trust in all of my best of friends. One f them reached his Year Mark a couple of weeks ago, after a tragic crash and burn. Drugs and Alcohol will do that to you. With family, friends, and fellows present, we shared in a very special Year Celebration.

I have kept the same routine going for a long time. That being service. I heard a young man say tonight, that the first thing that he felt good about, when he got sober, and finally got connected, was doing service.

When folks in a meeting,ask you to Come Back, and to Stick and Stay, and put trust in you to do a job for any particular meeting, that is pretty special, but lost on many. But our young man tonight said that he took particular joy in knowing that people were drinking HIS COFFEE, and sitting in HIS CHAIRS.

It begins very simply.

YOU KNOW YOU HAVE ARRIVED, WHEN A CERTAIN MEMBER WALKS IN THE DOOR AND COMMENTS ON EITHER THE GOODNESS OR BADNESS OF ONES URN OF COFFEE …

It is high praise when someone says, “Hey, you make a mean pot of coffee!”

I know, the first job I ever had when I came in was setting up chairs and tables, for months and months, until the good ladies of my initial home group, trusted me enough to make my first urn of coffee.

Sixteen years later, I can make a mean Urn of Coffee with my eyes closed.

The next spiritual experience he spoke about was the first time someone asked him to share at a meeting. Someone, in asking him that, had wisdom that HE actually had something good to share, with a room full of drunks and addicts.

We all sit in rooms together, with assorted days, weeks, months, and years of sobriety. But is oddly the case, not too many people will ask for help, until they are down and out suffering. Even then, it is like pulling teeth, to get people to want to work with us.

It is hard work, going to meetings, and learning how to stay sober, because someone stepped up and took us on, when we came in and trusted us, with what they had to teach us about The Book and Sobriety. And the greatest gift we can offer, is our time, talent and treasure, when it comes to sobriety.

One of our men spoke a couple of weeks ago and told me that I should ask for numbers of new folks coming in, INSTEAD of giving them My number first. Flip the equation, he told me. Go out and get numbers.

Caveat here … We actually have to commit to calling those numbers if they come to us.

I guess I am in a place where, I am seeking something new to learn. And in hanging around with young people in sobriety, I am finding that I can still learn something new, that I am not the center of the universe, not that I think that …

The holidays were a great reckoning for many. Through hard work and perseverance we all came through the other end, mostly unscathed. And far better for the challenge the holidays presented many.

Sit in a room for a few seasons. And commit to being present for the long haul. Read: Commit to a room for a Long Period of Time, and you too will see how your friends a fellows grow up and get and stay sober.

I’ve been at this a long time, and teach-ability is not lost on me.

Everybody is well. It is March. The snow is melting.

It might not be Spring yet, but it sure feels like it.

Save for the first appearance of our Red Breasted Robin at the Friday Meeting church yard. I always see her. She has not appeared just yet, because there is still snow on the ground and in the trees at St. Viateur Church.

Stay tuned …