Sunday: Kindness

Today was a special day. My best friend and his fiancee were coming to Montreal for the day, for Meg’s moms birthday brunch. They were going to see the Carol King Bio Show at Place des Arts afterwards.

I started the morning off at the Old Brewery Mission for my Sunday meeting. Looks like I am going out to the famed Beaver Rehabilitation Center on Wednesday night this week, with the ladies from the Sunday meeting. And one of them is speaking for me at the end of the month.

Afterwards I headed to Place des Arts to meet the party. I got to Complex Dejardins early, and before everyone else arrived. It only took me almost half an hour to find the restaurant, in the maze of the entire complex. Luckily it was sitting in a dark corner where construction walls were up, which made it harder to find.

Eight of us were there. Raf and Meg, her brother Eli, and his girlfriend, Meg’s mom, and two others I did not know. After a leisurely brunch, gifts were exchange for the two birthday girls.

And they had a bag for me. With the above items in it.

  1. A Tea Towel that Raf’s grandmother painted. She paints many of them as a hobby. So I got one.
  2. Raf’s favorite soccer team jersey Palmeiras on the left, and
  3. An official Brazil Jersey with the Number 10 – Pele’s number.
  4. And A door hanging Holy Spirit, a Brazilian tradition to hang over the front door of the apartment.

These days two of my favorite soccer players Lionel Messi at Barcelona and Paulo Dybala for Juventus, both wear the number ten for their respective clubs.

I was not expecting gifts today because it was not my day, so to speak. But I got a fine brunch and gifts from my best friend today. it was just good to get to spend a couple hours with him and Meg.

Because of the terrible snow conditions both here and back in Ottawa, I won’t be going down until April when his school term ends, and Spring finally arrives.

A good day was had by all.

Vanity

Do you ever ponder your body ? Do you think about changing something about your looks, often ? Are you obsessed with the way you are ageing?

Since beginning my gym career, I have realized that Gym Mirrors work against you, ALL THE TIME. It does not matter that you wear; tights and loose t-shirts and fitness clothing. Mirrors never lie, and in my humble opinion, the mirrors at my gym tend to accentuate the one part of my body that I am most self conscious about, my tummy.

Twenty five years ago, when I was diagnosed with AIDS, I was much thinner than I am today, MUCH. It did not help that I was terminally ill and slated for death. Many AIDS patients developed what is called “Wasting Syndrome” where your body fat melts and you become skin and bones, which usually led to a very speedy death.

I was on that road for a while. Until my doctor found the miracle drug that would change the game forever. MEGACE, was an oral suspension liquid that was dosed in shot form, once a day. You filled your little shot glass and hoped that it would do the trick.

IT DID.

Hunger is one thing that sick people loose from the get go. Things are really bad, and if you do not eat, or cannot eat, then the slide into death is fast and furious. Even today, we see it in patients who are terminal, and especially in the elderly population. It’s like they know the end is nigh, and hunger leaves them, and people stop eating, or their caloric intake falls exponentially. Hence, death is imminent.

Over a years time, I progressed from 98 pounds to almost 200 hundred pounds. I got so fat, I outgrew all of my clothing. With the weight gain, I gained what is called lypodystrophy. Which is fat gain in certain parts of your body, like your ass, your stomach or your chest.

I also suffer today, from a genetic dystrophy because of my diabetes. And I have a base layer of fat in my stomach, that no amount of exercise or stretching or crunches has ever been able to mediate.

Not long ago, I saw a young guy on Instagram talk about “Cool Sculpting.” This is a cosmetic procedure that freezes fat in the body and the frozen fat, works its way out of the body after each cycle of treatment is completed.

I thought to myself, I’m gonna go check this out and see if I could be a prospective patient. I filled out the questionnaire and had my intake appointment this afternoon. It was all straight forward. They explained that we have two types of fat, One, Fat that is attached to our organs, and Two, fat that is loose in the body, and not connected, that can be suctioned and removed by treatment.

I had both …

I think to myself that I have a few issues that are vanity related that bother me to no end. One, is my teeth situation, which is being worked on at this very moment, so I am spending money hand over fist for oral surgeries, every other week. They begin the rebuild in the coming weeks, so they will begin putting teeth back into my mouth, instead of taking them out.

The other vanity issue is my physical body. And I think, at fifty one years old, is vanity really a problem? My one mantra that I maintain is that:

I will not become Gay, Old and Fat !! Nor Frumpy for that matter.

I am not the run of the mill fifty year old, as compared to the men in this same age bracket, I call my friends. I really don’t want to become any of them either. Each has their own issues, looks and attitudes.

This little exploration of Vanity was vetoed over dinner.

I guess that is that for now.

Maybe if we hit the lottery, we can ponder vanity when it is more cost effective.

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.




Misfortunes of Others

At the end of the day, it is character that either makes you a good person or a bad person. At the end of the day, when you speak of others, it is what you say about those people, that tells us just what kind of person you really are.

The Anonymity Statement says:

Who you see here,
What you hear here,
when you leave here,
let it stay here.

We keep to this statement, when discussing certain topics. I amended my writing method to reflect BRAVING, as stated by Brene Brown.

Over the holidays, we hit more meetings than usual, to keep up with our kids, to make sure they stayed sober, over the holidays. We kept rooms open on the holidays and we were on top of our community as whole. In the end, everybody succeeded. And we were all glad for that.

On Christmas Night, we hit a meeting we don’t usually hit, but it was Christmas, and friends who came to dinner, here at my home, wanted to hit that particular meeting, because it is close to my home.

The room was full. And a number of my friends, were in attendance.

As the share, on the topic, went around the room, one particular man, who struggles himself, chimed in on the discussion. I’ve been around a while, and I know how many passes, many of my friends have made, at trying to get sober. Some make it, many do not.

One thing about recovery … we don’t revel in the suffering of another human being. So when the comment came out of his mouth, everyone took notice of what he said, and I quote:

I really love to watch people go back out and drink. I “get off” on seeing someone fail at getting sober. It makes me feel superior to them.

This very same man, is a member at our Thursday meeting, and had been our Twelve Step Rep. The job, representing our group as a whole, to welcome the newcomer, or those coming back from a slip.

He was the one person we put in the job to be welcoming, to be respectful, to represent the fellowship with respect, character and humility.

Tonight, at the business meeting, we set out to vote on setting new people into term jobs for the group. The Twelve Step Rep, was one of those jobs.

Our man, spoke up, and nominated himself, again, for the job.

There were several of us sitting around that table, tonight, who heard this man speak those words at the Christmas meeting.

This has been a bone of contention between us for weeks now. Because nobody disagreed that the words spoken were disagreeable. And in his defense, we should not have brought up something he said, in Another Meeting, and bring up his words at anther meeting.

The Anonymity Rule applies.

One of my friends brought up the comment. And myself and another, who had been sitting in said meeting, knew of the issue, because we were there.

He argued the anonymity statement, and was offended that we would bring up a comment he spoke, against him.

We disagreed with him.

It all comes back to character.

All of my friends, at differing lengths of sobriety, said that they really did not think that someone who “gets off” on someone else’s misfortunes, should retain the job, of welcoming someone who had an unfortunate slip or someone coming to their first meeting.

It is hard enough walking into the room, the first time. We all know this. Everybody knows this. My friend said tonight, that he would rather see someone who had a little more humility and a little less judgment of those who suffer, giving out the chip.

Needless to say, the meeting did not end well. And the Twelve Step job is still vacant. The chair of the business meeting decided to stay the vote and table it till next month, so we could calm down and rethink our positions on said issue.

Nobody has the right to judge anyone else, we are all in the same boat. Some longer sober than others.

I have my time in the rooms, and I’ve heard many things said, in the anonymity and safety of any room I go to.

I’ve never heard another member say that they “get off” on people’s misfortunes. You might think that, but I’ve never heard the sentiment spoken in open community.

Comments like this leave a bad taste in our mouths.

Let’s say I drank again, and walked into a room, and hit my next, First meeting. And I had to do the walk, up to the table, and take a chip again.

Now, what if I knew, that the human handing me that chip, “got off” on my misfortune ? What would that say about the health of the fellowship, or the group as an entity of sobriety ?

I know better than to talk about my friends here. Because the last time I did that, the flame and vitriol that was directed at me, by sober people was terrible.

We might think many things to ourselves. That all changes, when we make terrible judgment calls about our friends, especially if they are suffering. In open community.

What people hear in meetings, stays with them, when they walk out the door, and sometimes words we hear, affect us, and affects those people if they have a roll to play in a meeting. You might be anonymous in a meeting, but if you say something that is repulsive, everyone who heard you say whatever it was you said, will remember those words.

This is a lesson in sobriety for sure. We can all learn from this situation, and how we should deal with this kind of issue. Sobriety is about getting better and becoming better men and women.

Sobriety is not about getting off on someone else’s misfortunes.

It all comes back to the questions of character and sobriety.

Holy Snow Storm Batman!!

This is Ste. Catherine’s Street, just outside the Forum, where I was at the gym this morning.

BUT FIRST !!

They warned us that the weather was going to go bad as Saturday night progressed. AND IT DID.

I went to bed early last night, because I had to be up for 8 a.m. this morning to chair the Old Brewery Mission meeting. I was up and ready to go and headed out. I was layered well, and had winter boots on.

There was snow all over the place. Snow had piled up so high that the outer door to the building was barricaded by a snow drift that was four feet high and about three feet deep. In front of the door, on the outside.

I pushed my way out the door, as piles of snow fell on the floor inside, when the door closed behind me. There was almost a foot of snow on the ground as I made my way to the tunnel and down to Georges Vanier Station on the Orange line.

The wind was blowing so hard and snow was piled up so deep, that it took me almost fifteen minutes to walk 1000 yards downhill. There was so much snow that the wind had blown snow all the way down into the tunnel on both the car side and on the pedestrian walkway.

I made it to the train and Juan was already on it, when we arrived at Place D’Armes. We trudged through feet of snow to the Mission. It was well attended. People braved the first major snow storm of the season to make a meeting. Juan spoke, and we gave out a two year chip.

After the meeting we trudged back to the Metro Station and got back on the train coming this way. We were both headed to our respective gyms to train for a bit.

I thought that the gym would be empty because of the storm. There were a handful of people. I got my lifting in and a couple of miles run on the tread mill. I was trying to keep up with one guy to my right and another woman to my left. we were all running “run” programs, but they were running a bit faster than I had been.

On the way home, I took a photo (above) of what it looks like outside at this hour. They have not plowed any of the sidewalks, and barely the roads either, because snow is still coming down.

I thought to walk home would be painless … I WAS WRONG!

Just four blocks through snow drifts more than a foot deep all the way home. I had to stop several times to get my footing because the wind was pelting me with snow, and my glasses were frozen on my face. They warned us of possible frostbite.

They say this will be the coldest storm in Montreal’s history.

All the Homeless Shelters are working over time to make sure nobody is left outside. They opened a new shelter in the old Royal Victoria Hospital, not far from here. They have 100 beds open. Which makes a small dent in shelter traffic. But no shelter is turning anyone away. Human nor animal.

People with pets are an issue here, and now shelters are taking the homeless with their pets, where before, you could not bring a dog into a shelter. Which is why many people stay on the street.

Holy Snow Storm Batman !!

Thursday – The Show Must Go On

The warnings of our first major snow storm went up this morning. Weather casters in Montreal, have been hit or miss, when it comes to prognostications about SNOW. Forecasting snow, is a fine art, and comes down to hour by hour monitoring of the snow pack as it moves into Southern Quebec. Montreal sits in a geographic location, on a major river, the St. Lawrence Seaway. Whether you sit to the south, or to the North of said river, will dictate just how much snow will fall on top of you.

So they are warning us of upwards of 30+ cm of snow, with winds gusting which will only stir up snow as it falls to the ground. Snow is supposed to begin falling Saturday night, and fall all day Sunday into late Sunday night, at this point.

I spoke at the Old Brewery Mission last Sunday morning. Which then, makes me responsible for finding a speaker for this coming Sunday.

Now, a major snow storm is on its way. And like any smart human being, one does not want to have to trek through a major snow storm to get to a meeting. Alas, I was reminded by a friend, what I would do in a snow storm when I was drinking …

Sadly, I’ve never drank in Montreal, and never had to navigate my way to a bar or a liquor store to drink. Amid a snow storm. That is my out …

My friends tonight, as I polled them for what I should do was this: The Show Must Go On… So my choices of speaker got thin, because I did not want to have to ask someone who drives a car, for safety reasons. Because driving in a snow storm is inherently dangerous on its own.

I figured out, with help, from one of my friends, who to ask. And I did that. So in the end, we will brave a snow storm to bring a meeting to the Old Brewery Mission on Sunday morning.

Mischief Managed…

I’ve been to the gym several times this week. And since life rotates on Instagram, I upload a photo, IN the gym, when I go. Yesterday I went to the gym at an odd time. Never go to the gym in the 5 o’clock hour. The gym was crawling with people. Every machine, bike, treadmill was occupied. And the lift room was packed with people.

I, at least, got some treadmill time in. And I came home. Defeated.

Today, I amended that plan, and hit the gym in the 11 o’clock hour. I had a treadmill and a work out mat to do my floor exercises, and space to lift, because traffic was blessedly light during the day. I spent about an hour in the gym. Our treadmills have programs on them, so today I ran an intermediate run program, that as the program runs, the incline on the tread rises, your speed rises and there are down drafts as well. I ran for about an hour. Got my lifting in. And some floor time as well.

What is good, is that I follow a number of guys on Instagram who do the gym as well, and they upload their workout routines so we can see them and duplicate them ourselves. Which is good. I get to practice my form and process, and build a routine that will be profitable in the end.

Snow is coming, it might get brutal.

The Show Must Go On !!!

The 8th day of the New Year

I’ve been sitting in a place of sadness for the past few days. But life had to go on. There were responsibilities to follow through with, and people who I needed to see, and meetings to hit.

Acceptance is the key to ALL of my problems. And moreover, “Nothing, Absolutely Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.”

Where ever you are, in the grand scheme of things, we are where we are supposed to be, at any given moment on the continuum.

My father has been dead, one calendar year, yesterday on the 7th. I have not heard from my mother, nor my brother, on this matter YET !

I feel insignificant. I feel like certain people in my nuclear family don’t even, under the pain of death, admit that I even exist, that my humanity does not even matter, nor makes a difference in this world.

I hit the meeting last night, (boy was it BITTERLY cold outside). And I shared on this topic. Today, I was feeling like shit, and I was up before dawn because my stomach was tossing and turning, so I got up and took something for it, and farted around here for a bit. I went and ran some errands, and spent the afternoon doing nothing special.

I had committed myself to a friend this evening. I knew I was supposed to hit a meeting, off schedule, because I wanted to see one of my friends. I took a shower and got dressed and hit the meeting.

The topic came from Page 417 … Everybody knows 417. That is the reading about Acceptance. And I said out loud, that I hate this passage, and I’ve hated this passage since the day I first got sober, because when I was at my worst, the old timers used to quote this page to me, ad nauseum.

I was like, Go Fuck Yourselves with this acceptance bullshit.

The book is correct, even when I want what I want. Just because we stop drinking and using, our minds still exist. Obsessions and feelings still remain. Some days are better than others. Today I was feeling insignificant. and I did not want to hit the meeting, but I made a promise to show up.

So I Showed Up !

And got bitch slapped in the process by the reading.

That nostalgic side of my brain goes into over drive during the holidays, because I want what I want, come hell or high water. But I know, I’ve always known, that I cannot control other people.

Evil exists. I know it exists.

And I know certain people would rather eat dirt than to allow me to speak my feelings to them. They will never acknowledge my existence, because if they did, they would have to allow me my voice, which they have shut down my light by turning off my light switch. Because that’s how they operate. I watched them do this to others as a kid and now they do it to me, because they are inherently EVIL !

On the way home, I went by the Econo Fitness gym, which is right up the street, and joined the gym. I bought the platinum plan which allows me to access any gym in the system city wide, so I can work out with friends in other gyms, within the gym system.

I called one of those friends on my walk home, and he reiterated to me that he cares, and his wife cares, and his family cares, and that people care that I exist. And that woe are those who cannot see how good a human being I am. Those words came from him, and not me, by the way.

I am the best I can be. I am kind and gracious. I help others. I go out of my way to be a good human citizen of my community. Not a day goes by, that I don’t do something good, because I can, not because I need to do something to make myself or my ego expand, exponentially.

I am a good human being. I am a good friend. A good sponsor. A good husband. And a good member of my city and my community here at home.

Sobriety does that to you eventually.

If you stay with us, it will be like having a gold quiver of bows on your back. And when a problem arises, you will be able to reach back into your quiver and select the right bow, and string it in your bow, and THWANG !!!! Always hit bullseye every time.

Lorna shared this story with us about when she got sober some 34 years ago. She was slipping and not sure she’d stay with us, and the above story was told to her, by her sponsor. And for Lorna, that was the hook.

I know what to do, even when I don’t want to do, what it is I am supposed to do. Those are called direct acts against my will.

The Next Right Thing …