Selfish Pursuits

We’ve been focused on The Book this week, and the two fold nature of alcoholism. The allergy to alcohol and the mental obsession of the mind. Which then follows into the spiritual malady that takes place when we introduce alcohol into our systems.

When I was a teen ager, I drank with my friends. Often. Whenever there was a party, we had that party all planned out, from beginning to end. We had plans that were executed to make sure everyone went home, a little more sober, than when they drank at said party.

All these years later, as I attempted to make amends to long since friends, none of them seemed to want to reconnect nor know me today. And they all have their reasons, and I know some of them.

I was working my way out of my closet. When it comes to the allergy, I cannot square that in my lexicon. I think I bypassed the allergy and went straight to Obsession.

My shrink, at that time, was coaching me out of the closet, so I trusted, implicitly, what he said to me. Because there was nobody else, giving me advice, as to how I was supposed to “Break Into” the gay community of the late 1980’s.

He told me, and I quote “The only way in, was through a BAR. I want you to go to said bar, sit down and have a drink, hell have two. FIREWORKS will happen. Wait for Fireworks.”

That was the advice I got. And I stuck to that advice.

Drinking became an obsession. Because as deluded as that advice was, it deluded me into fantasy and wishful thinking. These fantasies and deluded thinking, took me in and stunted my mental growth from the age of twenty one until I hit thirty four, when I put down the drink for the last time.

I drank because it would bring me what I wanted. When it was good, it was good, but in the end, it got very bad. I drank for fireworks, every time.

And it was in a bar at seven in the morning, on that fateful day that brought me more than fireworks, it brought me death along with them.

When I got sick, the mere thought of fireworks, became a MUTE point. I could not get laid for the life of me. Nobody wanted to have sex with a marked human being who was going to die. That was a bitter pill to swallow. But I swallowed it nonetheless.

When Todd moved away, left to my own devices, and nobody to tell me otherwise, I took a stab at selfish pursuits once again. That did not end up good, in any sense. What it brought me was drug addiction, in a dead end location, alone, and no way out. And I had to just bide my time and hope that the cavalry would show up.

The cavalry did come.

But my drinking obsession was not over. I just could not fathom, growing up or accepting that one very important portion of my life was over. That was the second bitter pill I needed to swallow.

In the end, that black outs got too much. And I finally put down the drink and came to my next first meeting to start over again.

In sobriety, I’ve read the book, as we continually read the book during the week at assorted meetings. And I am reminded WHY I am alcoholic and why I put down the drink. Because I am not like normal people. One drink is too many and a hundred drinks are not enough.

God, it seems, is still is action mode. He’s always in action mode. it is just sometimes, I don’t want to listen to Him. At my own peril.

It is what it is.

I know my selfish behaviors. The ones we never talk about in open community. The ones that haunt every man in the rooms today. But there was another option. And I spoke about it. And now I am doing something about it.

You can’t rid yourself of character defects and shortcoming, if you do nothing about them, wishfully thinking that if you just wait them out, they will disappear, the longer one is sober.

It doesn’t work that way.

Sobriety is ever changing, if you are up for the never ending ritual of change. You won’t get better or become better, or become spiritually fit, unless you allow God to prune the bush every once in a while.

I heard it said, for one friend, that when he got sober, his sponsor told him that “if it was in the book, he believed it, and that settled it for him.”

He is Very Long Sober today.

I want to become Very Long Sober like him too.

But in order to become that, I have to work.

People Come and Go So Quickly Here. Montreal Festivals and Goings On.

It is Sunday today. And from the Wizard of Oz, and Dorothy,
“People come and go so quickly here!”

It is a sad day today. One of my best friends left Montreal with his dad, moving out East to Halifax, Nova Scotia for work. It is also coming to the end of the Semester for Universities here. Other friends will be leaving the country for the Summer, in a few days, to go back home to visit family and to work for next Falls tuition.

I hate goodbyes !

The city is going through its Spring transformation. Last weekend began the very important Three Week Planting Blitz. The weekend of the 24th of May, yearly, is the weekend that “planting” takes place, as the weather is warm, and everybody who has a garden, or the popular city gardens open for planting.

Last weekend was pretty hit and miss, but this weekend was pretty ok. Garden Centers in town are busier than normal these three weeks, with people buying all their plants and flowers and veggie plants.

We had a brief rain squall this morning while I was out at The Mission.

Our planting and growing season is short, so while the getting is good, gardens, and also, the fields up North of Montreal, and in the Townships get down to business. We only get a few good months of growing before we start heading downhill into Fall.

The city spends a good amount of money in planting parks and green spaces with myriads of flowers and greenery, only for the clean up crew that comes through every fall, and just yanks whatever is in the ground, flowers, shoots and roots, and tosses them in trucks for disposal every year.

Along Ste Catherines street, new trees were planted last year as they began to rehab the sidewalks and they put in planters and new trees. They are rebuilding the entire street from East to West over the next three years. They worked on our end of the city already, down at The Forum and Cabot Square, because of all the new condos that have opened over the last three years.

The new Children’s site, where multiple condos are going up as we speak, will bring thousands of new residents to our neighborhood. All those tall buildings are going to kill our most excellent view from our living room.

If you are into fresh foods and veggies, the all important garden markets are in full swing. Up at Jean Talon, on the North End, where Little Italy sits, down near us, the Atwater Market, and up on the Plateau, there is a garden market over at the Mount Royal Metro. I saw that the community garden market down in Little Burgundy was open now, right down the hill from home.

There are several community garden markets and many community gardens that grow food for the people who live here, who, usually cannot afford the prices shops charge for good veggies and fruit and greens.

One of my friends went and got some spice plants and some nice veggies. The community markets open in the spring and offer, FOR FREE, veggies and plants for your kitchen, garden, and for those who have them, balcony gardens.

Very soon … as June opens in a few days, Festival Season begins in Montreal. With the Montreal Grand Prix, the PREMIER event of the Season, down at the race track on Parc Jean Drapeau. The city brings in Millions of dollars on the four day event every year.

If you love music, and you either live here, or close to Montreal, Montreal is the place to be for the summer. The multiple various jazz festivals, both on the English and Francophone sides are popular. These outdoor concerts bring in millions of people to the city every summer. Along with the outdoor offerings are many indoor, ticketed events that cost a little more, but are so worth the price of admission.

There are so many things to do in Montreal in season. There are parks to go to, museums to visit, cafes to eat in, bars to drink in, movies to see, concerts to attend, so many things.

This is our bread and butter, while the weather is good for every conceivable outdoor event you can think of. And only in Montreal, can you climb a mountain in the middle of the city. The biggest green space in the city.

If you have never been to Montreal, or you visit, Montreal is a beautiful city in the Summer. I invite you to come visit. Enjoy all that our city beautiful has to offer. Bring your kids, there are plenty of activities for families across the city, all summer long.

More to come.

Inside the Circle

The week has come to an end. And Friday’s have always been the best night of the week, because of the people I share company with.

I was taught a long, long, time ago, that if I ever needed anything, ANYTHING, I would need only look as far as the circle. Looking back, I never had to go outside the circle for anything. Whatever that Anything was.

Suffice to say that tonight, several key friends showed up. People I trust, whom I am able to talk to about a myriad of subjects.

My kids have been on my mental radar the entire week. I’ve been talking to my friends about how I can help them. Each person I spoke to, gave me a distinct answer.

Worrying that I could not do anything, turns out that, I actually can do something. Tonight, I spoke to several key people in the circle, familiar with my worries.

I learned who can help me on a greater scale. I learned where I can go to find more help, specifically built to help my kids on the fluid spectrum. I told my friends tonight everything I observed and what I worried about. And with that said, I got solid solutions.

I also spoke to other friend familiar with specific kids in difficulty, and I am pleased that my friends will step up and do what needs to be done to help them. I’m gratified that within the circle we learn to trust each other, and know that if we ask for help, help will come.

Mental Health assistance for our kids is thin on the ground, but there are communities within the circle that CAN help. I know where they are now, and what solutions they offer to our kids.

You might not think we cover all the bases, but as the playing field changes, we adapt. I did not know what we could do for my kids, but I do now.

All will be well.

A good night was had by all.

Thinking Out Loud

I mentioned in earlier posts that we have a good number of young people who are on the gender fluid spectrum. There are also a handful of trans young people as well.

When I was a much younger gay man, I encountered many men who did drag, and they were very well known in our community. Many of them went on to gender reassignment. I know, for them, that the transitions took a very long time. Every one of them had to adhere to a specific schedule of transition, as mandated by doctors, social services, and psychologists.

I witnessed many of my friends make that transition, very successfully.

In today’s day and age, the gender spectrum is wide open, and I have said before that many of our kids subscribe to “Whatever you want to be today.” That is causing a bit of consternation with some of my friends.

Because these young people want to be recognized in the one place they feel safe, In A Room with us. And some of our young people have gone so far as to introduce gender neutral terminology in meetings, meaning, they want gender identifiers stripped from our meeting scripts.

They also want everyone else in the room, to wipe binary gender words from our vocabularies NOW. They wish all scripts to be gender neutral, so as not to disrespect our kids decisions to move from binary identifiers, to gender neutral identifiers.

This is causing quite a stir in our communities.

I’ve known every gay kid who has come through the pike in as many years. And I know all the trans kids who are also on this journey as well. Many of them are having a very hard time staying sober.

Which brings me to a mental health observation question. All these kids are in flux right now. They don’t know if they are coming or going. And neither do we. I worry that my kids are not getting, nor have gotten any mental health assistance. I believe they are walking the gender fluid road, all by themselves. Nobody, right now, as I see it, in front of me, are talking about mental health issues with our kids.

How do you navigate gender reassignment in the open, and you decide that you want to swing from one pole to the other, based on your desires, right now? My kids are conflicted themselves, and to me, it seems, that there is no mental health guidance for our kids.

AA is not therapy. And We do not concern ourselves with outside issues, meaning that, I might suspect there is a problem with my kids, because I see them struggling. They are sometimes angry, and upset, if someone uses the wrong pronoun in the rooms they get indignant. So that is a problem.

Who is managing the mental health of our gender fluid spectrum kids? I am not a therapist nor am I a psychologist. I only know what I am seeing in front of me.

And what I am seeing, and hearing from others, is varied, depending on who you speak to any any given moment. Most of my friends are accepting and supportive of each other. But the extent that the new gender fluid rules of engagement, are causing some folks to think on single binary terms.

Many people do not understand gender fluidity as I do. The landscape in front of us is changing rapidly, and we are endeavoring to meet the needs of our kids, as they need them, but this is to the peril of generations of meeting procedures and policies.

Our kids are battling the Bottle and the Drugs. And I am sure that mental health issues are right up there on the front dashboard for all of them.

And I am concerned. And I don’t know quite what to do, or what to say, or who to talk to about this, beyond asking some of our spectrum kids about it, but I am not sure that would be a good thing.

Confused !!!

Gratitude

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.

It came on God’s time, not mine.

And I am not God.

Thank God.

Gratitude !!!

Seasonal Changes

The weather has been stellar over the past few days. Stellar enough to crate the winter gear, and closet the winter coats. I’ve changed up my wardrobe, and ordered some new clothes suitable for warmer weather.

My usual train of thought is this … Everything I buy, clothes wise, needs to be suitable to wear all year round, meaning, I don’t change up many things seeing I have been in sport mode for a couple of years now. So if I buy it, I need to be able to make it work, in four seasons.

I’ve amended that worry, and have invested in clothing that will work in Spring, Summer, and Fall. It’s all good.

With the weather getting warmer, the season of the terrace begins furiously. The sooner a bar or restaurant can roll out its terrace, outside, the better. That means more shift work for wait staff, more business for the location, and options to sit outside and eat and drink.

There is the rub …

Alcoholics are seasonal creatures. And tonight, I spoke the warning to my Tuesday group. Seasonal sober people are legion. Those who come in late in the year, in the Fall or towards the Winter, make it through maybe a couple of seasons.

As Fall turns to Winter, folks will triangulate the time they spend above ground, from Home to any particular meeting, because the colder it gets outside, and the depth of snow on the ground, dictates who will venture out into the cold, and for how long, to reach their desired destination.

In the Winter months, attendance numbers drops drastically. There are two groups. Those who decide to shelter in place, and hibernate for the entire Winter, and those intrepid souls who do come out, in any weather, because their sobrieties depend on making meetings, all year round.

I’ve been sitting in one particular meeting for eighteen years. And have seen a lot of things take place in front of me. And I said so much tonight. Our ladies, think me sexist and making obvious derogatory remarks about women, but the truth is harder than fiction.

I know, for a fact, who made it, and who did not. I know, for a fact who drank again, and who did not. Sit in a room for eighteen years, and you will see what I have seen and can attest to this line of truth for yourself.

As soon as it warms up and the terraces open, on the very first good day to ride ones bike through Montreal, it happens, like clockwork.

Many of my women I speak about fall into the trap, like clock work. They ride their bike, and after a bit, they get thirsty. They roll up to a terrace, park their bikes, take a seat … AND DRINK AGAIN !!!

I said this tonight, and one young lady said out loud that she indeed was a woman, feeling insecure and anxious, about the terraces outside and spoke those words … I want to drink again.

She heard me make the warning. Then she walked out of the meeting before the meeting ended. The rest is up to her higher power.

Seasons …

I am once again, learning the hard lesson that not everybody is meant to be in your life, for the rest of your life, or just for a season. Being a male who is vulnerable, in the rooms, is detrimental to relationships. Because not all people are willing to see themselves, or you for that matter, in all their vulnerability.

I live a sober life, to the best of my ability. But I have my limits of sucking it up and being a trooper and not letting life, as it happens, affect me outwardly. Like I said, I have my limits. I just cannot sit on my emotions and allow them to eat me from the inside out. I might not say too much about that when that happens.

When I am displeased, I try, to say very little. And if I do speak, the message is usually clear. My friends do not like me when I am truthful. People would rather me sit in a room, and go through my life, like SPOK. Be a Vulcan who feels nothing, says nothing, and does nothing, but be a robot who is placid, quiet and in control at all times.

I’m not a robot.

And now I am paying the price for being human. I did not agree with a certain decision, made by someone I loved dearly. I did not say enough to make my point, but kept my counsel to myself. Which has initiated a game of chicken.

Take two sober people. One goes to meetings, works steps, works with others, and does THE WORK. The other, does none of the listed work. I just wrote down. One sober, One a Dry Drunk.

At some point our character defects are going to go head to head. That is where we are right now. Playing chicken with silence.

I hate silence. I think that is the greatest punishment you can heap on another human being. My family did that to me until my father went to his grave in silence. It has taken me more than a year, post death, to finally come around and talk to him, I do that quite often these days.

That is a thing …

The trend of people who walk away, because I have an emotional response to outside stimuli is growing. People cannot cope with their friends being vulnerable. Because for the longest time, the silent understanding in the rooms here is … feel nothing, say nothing, do nothing.

That all changed for me when I hit the hardest emotional bottom in sobriety I had ever hit to date. I had nowhere else to go, but to cope with my emotions, sitting in a meeting, while everybody else just watched me crackle and fall apart. Not one soul said those words to me …

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL, LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DEAL WITH THAT.

I’ve only heard these words spoken by one human, Lorna, God rest her soul. Not everybody who heard her tell that specific story at a round up, heard her.

Sometimes I hate sobriety, because I try to navigate pain the best way I know how. I make it most of the time, but at other times, I am just knuckling it badly.

More to come.

Friday May 3rd 2019

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.

More to come.