Weddings …

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A funny thing happened in 2018 … We were invited to not one, not two, but THREE weddings this Summer.

Our niece Melissa and her hubby Stephan were married in May, down in Ontario. It was the first time we have ever traveled like that. The first time on a Via Rail Train. It was a hellish weekend for sure, as I wrote on that particular weekend (here on the blog)

Today, was wedding number TWO.

My friend Juan married his sweet heart, in a small and intimate wedding at St. Patrick’s Lady Chapel, at the Basilica.

I Instagrammed the entire day for you. Go —> over there and check it out.

You never know what kind of impact you are going to have on someone who needs The Solution, Finds that solution, and Listens to advice, when necessary. You never know the entire impact you will have on One Human being, let alone that human beings family.

I’ve said before, Sometimes I talk, and Juan listens. Sometimes Juan talks, and rages, and screams, and gets angry, and I listen. Then other times we are together and words are not necessary.

I was absolutely GOBSMACKED today.

From the wedding chapel, we walked to Old Montreal, which was not very far. We arrived at the hotel where the reception was being held, early, so we waited.

At 5 pm the terrace on the 4th floor opened. It was open bar, had an open Oyster Bar, and lots of nibble food. We were sitting off to the side, because I did not know anyone there, besides the bride and groom. We tried to blend into the furniture.

After a little while, Juan’s sister, who played the guitar and sang “Here Comes the Sun,” at the wedding, walked up to us and sat down with us, and began to talk. She wanted me to know how grateful she was and that her entire family was, for the work that I do with her brother.

She said that he speaks very highly of me and that everybody knows who I am because Juan talks about me incessantly. She wanted to tell me that she was grateful that she got her brother back, from a hopeless state of being, into the man he is today.

I did not know what to say after that.

It’s an anonymous program right.

Nobody mentioned it, but it was plainly visible on her face.

As the reception in the hall was starting up, we took our seats. We were on the entrance side of the hall, Juan and the family were sitting on the far side of the room, near the dance floor.

A little while later, the bridal party arrived, and were introduced. We all got up from our chairs, and proceeded to the dance floor, to see Juan and Nadia dance their first dance as husband and wife.

They said a few words of thanks.

Juan’s father, took out a script from his jacket pocket and grabbed the mic. Amid thanks to the guests for coming, he singled me out, in a room full of people, I did not know, and whom did not know who I was, And addressing me personally, in front of everyone, thanked me for giving their family back their son. That the man Juan is today, is a direct reflection of what I particularly do for Juan, on any given day. He said, so gratefully, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Juan’s family has seen its share of alcohol.

As Juan’s father finished his speech (IN SPANISH), his brother Rodrigo, took the very same script and read it in English. Once again, singling me out in English as well.

Needless to say I was GOBSMACKED !!!

That has never happened to me in public before. Having a family, get up, in front of their family and friends who traveled from far and wide, to be there, thank a complete stranger. Because at that point, only Juan’s sister had recognized me earlier in the evening. I had not met any of the other family, YET !

Towards the end of the dinner service, I asked Juan to send his father over to my table so I could introduce myself to him formally. Because up to that point, we’d never met.

Juan’s father Rodrigo senior came to our table and took my hand in his and in broken English proceeded to thank me again, profusely, saying that his family is so grateful for what I have done for their son. He was besides himself.

I don’t know about you, but it really isn’t about me.

It’s about helping others, to the best of our ability. Because you never know what kind of impact you will have on a single human being, let alone his entire family.

I’m totally grateful, gobsmacked, and humble.

Kinda chokes me up as I write this down.

June 10th 1935 … The First Day

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Pioneers of A.A.

Dr. Bob and the nine men and women who here tell their stories were among the early members of A.A.’s first groups. All ten have now passed away of natural causes, having maintained complete sobriety. Today, hundreds of additional A.A. members can be found who have had no relapse for more than fifty years. All of these, then, are the pioneers of A.A. They bear witness that release from alcoholism can really be permanent.

Dr. Bob’s Nightmare

A Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The birth of our society dates from his first day of permanent sobriety, June 10th 1935.

To 1950, the year of his death, he carried the A.A. message to more than 5,000 alcoholic men and women, and to all these he gave his medical services without thought of charge.

In this prodigy of service, he was well assisted by Sister Ignatia at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, one of the greatest friends or fellowship will ever know.

83 years ago today, the fellowship marks its beginning. The first day of Dr. Bob Smith’s permanent sobriety date. This also marks what we now call Founder’s Day and Gratitude week, all over the world.

On that fateful day, as Bill’s business went South, and he stood in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, heaven held its breath, waiting to see what choice Bill would make next. There he stood in that lobby, the bar to one side and the phone and church directory to the other.

It only took mere seconds, the choice Bill eventually made. And in that choice the fellowship of A.A. was on its way to being born. After several failed calls, Bill reached, one Henrietta Sieberling who put him in contact with Ann, Dr. Bob’s wife.

Quoting Dr. Bob …

“Of far more importance was the fact that Bill was the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what he was talking about in regards to alcoholism from actual experience, in other words, he talked my language.”

Heaven Held Its Breath

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Lorna Kelly, reverently speaks about Bill W. when she tells the story of the time, she herself, visited the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, Ohio. This is the actual phone, still located in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel, that Bill used on the day that changed the world.

Bill had traveled to Akron for business. That day, Bill had met with other business men, hoping to score a deal and make some money. Sadly, the business went South, and Bill walked away from that meeting, dejected and depressed.

He stood in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel that day. Bill was sober. But was standing at the crossroads of his sobriety. His day was shot, and he had but one choice to make, between two extremes.

On one side of the lobby was the bar. The Easy Choice. The most logical, for most men.

Nikos Kazantzakis once said that “Always choosing the sure path is treason for the soul.”

On the other side of the bar, was the phone, and the church directory.

In that moment, the angels in heaven, must have been holding their breaths, wondering, “which way will he go?” “What is Bill going to do?”

The world did not know this innocuous situation would be as critical as it became.

Bill could have chosen the sure thing … The bar and a drink.

But Bill was sober. And he thought to himself, in that moment of desperation, that he needed another alcoholic. And in a moment, he turned, away from the bar, towards the phone.

Bill made several calls, none of which produced his desired intention. The last number he called was to Henrietta Sieberling. And it was Henrietta who sent him to the home of one Dr. Bob and Ann Smith.

Ann knew her husband had a problem with alcohol. And she tried in vain to try to get Bob sober, one way or another. In the end, it was a single conversation that ignited the spark that became the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Bill had once said that, “He needed Bob as bad as Bob needed him.” from ABSI, from tonight’s reading.

Bill arrived at the home of Bob and Ann. Bob, none to sure of what to expect, deigned Bill fifteen minutes and not a minute more. Bill walked in, with everything that he had. His story. His experience. And his own story of alcoholism.

It is in the telling of ones story, not dogma, not preaching, nor from ones ego, that we can reach another alcoholic.

Bill sat with Bob for more than six hours, that first night. In the end, Bill spent two weeks in the home of Bob and Ann, helping Dr. Bob get sober.

It was an easy sell, the basic premise of getting sober. The identification was there from the very beginning. But Dr. Bob was a little slow on the uptake, and sputtered and ground himself into the ground on a few occasions with bouts of drinking ending up on an errant sofa in the end.

That day, as Bill spoke with Dr. Bob about his own Experience, Strength and Hope, the fellowship began.

The Book reads: Dr. Bob’s Nightmare … Pg 171, the first story in the Book.

A co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The birth of our society dates from his first day of permanent sobriety, June 10th, 1935.

To 1950, the year of his death, he carried the A.A. message to more than 5,000 alcoholic men and women, and to all these he gave his medical services without the thought of charge.

In this prodigy of service, he was well assisted by Sister Ignatia at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, one of the greatest friends our fellowship will ever know.

Alcohol and drugs are the great equalizers. They do not discriminate.

Once one walks over the threshold of any meeting, we are all equal. And the cure for what ails us, is the experience, strength and hope of one another. The allergy of the body and the obsession of the mind, is solved, in spiritual principles.

Because at some point, somewhere, in that moment of indecision, the only thing that will stand between you and a drink, will be your Higher Power.

Gratitude week is always celebrated around the anniversary of Dr. Bob’s date of sobriety.

June 10th, 1935.

You Wanna Argue with Happy ??

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Hindsight, they say is 20 /20 …

Seeing what is going on right now, won’t be the same as seeing it further down the road.

Some people did not get that memo when they came in.

Marcus Aurelius says that life is a river. It is always moving. What is in front of us in the moment, won’t be in front of us for very long. Because, very soon, what we are seeing, will become “what we have already seen.”

I heard a story tonight, that I had not heard from my friend, the last time I heard his speak. He is right, when he opened with …

I’m sitting up here. And for the most part, I know almost everyone sitting in this room. Some from the day I showed up, until tonight. Many of us, in that room, are kind and generous of heart and spirit. We’ve all had a “change of values,” now we have some time under our belts.

Keeping it real, simple, and humble is the key to happiness.

Each of us, know what we know, because of the people we know, the friends we have, and the company we keep. We know, that if we ask, it will be given, in the order of need. There isn’t anything one of us won’t do for someone in need. Even if they be US.

Last weekend I went to Ottawa to see my best friend. I Instagrammed the entire weekend. One of my long time friends, follows me. And tonight she said to me that “I look happy.” It’s a refrain she has used with me before. I went through a change in life, prior to my fiftieth birthday. A change she and everybody else noticed.

All of my friends, love me, each in their own ways. Each of them keep me humble. Sadly, some people missed that lesson, when it was taught.

We see it often. People with a little time, but mostly, with people with serious time, outgrow their pants, they cop resentments, and their ego’s grow beyond acceptable measures. They might not go back out and DRINK, but they are sure as shit DRY DRUNK.

Thank God I have good friends, who keep me in the stream.

I do very simple things. They are not very difficult. Like many of my friends, we all know what works. It’s very simple, the “plan for living.” Outlined in the book, we know where it is located, and we can turn to that plan in any given moment.

Sadly, there are those who have forgotten, the Simple Plan.

I know, the simple plan works. If I need to go fishing … I fish in the rooms. I don’t fish in the greater stream, they call, the outside world. I repeated this lesson to a friend tonight, who needs to go fishing. I told him to “fish in the rooms.”

Because the rooms are a Big Ocean. Filled with gifts, you might not be able to hook, in the real world, because of who we know, and that ripple of “who we know” grows exponentially, on any given night.

Our matriarch took Twenty Five Years tonight. She is a woman of grace and serenity. All the women I know, in the rooms, as far up the road, she is at, are all graceful and serene.

All I want, out of this life is grace and serenity. I don’t care what I have to do to find it, as long as I am in their company. Because if I keep doing simple things on a regular basis, and I keep showing up and be counted … I will be graceful and serene.

You can’t argue with Happy, can you ?

We know what it means to be happy, and how to get there.

My friends are happy, joyous and free. I want to be like many of my friends. Each of my friends, have pieces of the puzzle of life, I want. And the best way to attain those puzzle pieces is to spend time with each of my friends, doing simple things, like showing up, being present, and telling the truth.

We are grateful people.

I think that is the greatest gift.

GRATITUDE …

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 …

Thursday: Let’s Make a Deal

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Every so often, one is in the right place at the right time, to hear a message that speaks directly to you. A few days ago, I said something in a meeting, about myself. Tonight, I heard those same words, spoken back to me, confirming that observation I had made about myself was, indeed, true.

Those words are: “When I Think I Need!”

Our lady speaker tonight, is the sponsor of one of our members of the Thursday meeting. Our speaker is 74 years old, and has been sober, more than 44 years. She comes from Old World Montreal, and Griffintown.

For the history buff, Griffintown, is located in a very desirable location in the city. It is in the East end, and close to Old Montreal. A very long time ago, the only desire of folks who lived in Griffintown of old, was to GET OUT OF GRIFFINTOWN, and not go back.

It was said tonight, how ironic that many of us could not afford to get into Griffintown today. Because real estate prices are astronomical. Way back when, Griffintown was a terribly POOR section of the city. Many had next to nothing, but family, and whatever two nickles they had to rub together.

Come from nothing, stories of alcoholism, are fraught with pain and serious issues.

We laughed and we were struck, stone cold silent, too.

Two things that stuck out for me tonight. One, she mentioned a story about the old television game shows, like Let’s Make a Deal, and The Price is Right. The venerable Monty Hall and Bob Barker. Two men, the world over, came to know very well, if you grew up, in the era, of these shows among many others.

When I was a boy, my mother’s mother, Memere, spoke very little English. Coming from Quebec, she was entirely French. And in those days, she used to talk to me in French, that I remember. To help her learn English, Learn how to grocery shop in English, and Learn her numbers, so forth and so on, watching TV game shows was what we did daily.

The second thing that struck me was, ” When I Think I need …” I heard her say these words, at the tail end of her share tonight. It came back to me this way, because the other night, we were talking about Step One, because a newbie was in the room.

I have said, in the past, that the first time I was getting sober, the messaging was way off. And because of that, I did not stick and stay. And I surely did not trust a single soul, that they would honestly, have my back, and know better than myself, what was good for me.

At one point, sitting in a late night meeting, my brain went into “I Think I Need” mode. And got stuck there for a very long time. I did not know any better, knowing for sure that I could not or would not trust anyone, with what was going on in my head.

Suffering from “I THINK I NEED, and, The HOLE IN MY SOUL” I was going to end up in really big trouble. At the time, I put my plan into action, I had no idea, what I was going to end up doing and sacrificing, to fill that HOLE.

I know today … that if I even Think that I need something … it is probably true that I really don’t need anything, but MORE A.A.

The second time when Todd (read: God) stepped into my life, turning my will and my life over to Todd (read:God) on a daily basis, taught me, what it was I really needed.

AND THAT WAS TO STAY OUT OF MY HEAD AND TRUST GOD FOR EVERYTHING.

Even today, I sometimes find myself lacking in this department. But I am more mindful of my thoughts, and my decision-making skills. Lately, my memory has been off. And I find that disturbing. When I need a pick me up, I know that all I have to do is close my eyes, and picture Todd (read:God) in my mind’s eye.

I know today, that I need very little.

I know who to turn to and who to trust. I know who has my back and who it is that will tell me surely, quite honestly, “Maybe you just need to sit and stay a bit harder!”

The words are here, in the program. The people are here, in the program. The answers are here, in the program. 44 years of sobriety, coming from the world of having not very much, and ending up in serious trouble, over and over again, miracles do happen.

At one point, our lady friend tonight, was summoned to her medical office at work, and the doctor had asked her to look at herself in a long mirror. By that time, she was young and pretty. On the flip side, she had not bathed in weeks, deciding to wear the same old clothes, and just adding a compliment of makeup and baby powder to her wardrobe.

The doctor looked at her and said … “Look at what you have become!” He took out his trusty little pad, and began to write. On that slip of paper, he jotted down a number for A.A. and told her that WE had the answers she needed.

WE, as THEM, Back in the Days, when I was just a child …

Thank God for people who work the phone lines. You don’t hear it very often, people actually admitting that it WAS the phone line that got them in the door, but way back when, before the dawn of a cell phone, or the internet, for God’s sake, there was the phone, that brick that usually was stuck to your kitchen wall, or on your bedside table.

As a kid, I had both. A phone in the kitchen, and later on as a teenager, I had a phone in my bedroom, hard-wired into the wall. With a ten foot cord …

She took that number and thought to herself, maybe I should make that call.

It was a good thing she did.

It took a while, but at one point, members brought a meeting to her home. And very gently, after astute observations of her in the meetings, that “She might feel better if she washed herself.” Because, in early sobriety, she could not bathe herself, opting for the more makeup and baby powder route.

We hug in A.A. A LOT.

People would hug her and come away with a layer of baby powder on their clothes, wondering just what she had inside of her clothing.

She bathed for the first time in a very long time.

That was the first miracle for her.

44 years later, many more miracles followed.

We all know what they are tonight. I laughed with her and I was struck silent by much of her story. And several times, while she spoke, I kept asking myself …

For God’s sake … When is the miracle going to happen for her ?

The story was long and arduous. Many people, who come from the world of “not much to very little” have stories unlike the rest of us. And it is well and good that we hear these stories, because it keeps the rest of us humble and grateful for small mercies.

Alcohol is capricious and very capable of removing every good thing in our life.

The good thing is, Once we come in, time and time again, miracles happen, and very often, we get to hear the good stuff, when people get things back in sobriety.

I am grateful for sobriety today.

Thursday: Anniversary Celebration

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It is bitterly cold. There is snow piled up all over the place. The city tells us that snow removal will last through Saturday at best. (and still, side streets will not be plowed, so parking is still a problem).

I took an Uber to the meeting.

A year ago, this week, in the dead of Winter, at (-30c) outside, I called a taxi. I was not yet an Uber customer. That night, with a week to go until Christmas, a taxi driver drove me less than 1.5 km from home to the church for the Thursday meeting. That taxi driver had more than one terminal in his car. And our debit cards, here in Montreal, have smart chips in them. A shrewd thief knows that he can tap a maximum amount out of a card, before the fail safe will ask for a pin to complete the purchase. That night, he tapped out $99.00 and 49.99 on two terminals in his lap. And offered me a third terminal to complete the $8.00 fare.

I did not know that this had transpired until I got home that night and $150.00 was missing from my bank account. I called the taxi company and reported the theft. Then I called the bank and stopped payment of funds for those two transactions.

Bank cards are transaction specific. And the bank could tell me exactly what amount was tapped out, at what time, and by whom. Three transactions appeared in my file. Two taps and a manual card insertion.

It took me nearly a week,  and almost threatening a bank employee with turning my Christmas into a complete failure, to get her to release my money the Friday before Christmas.

Hence … I will NEVER take another taxi in Montreal, ever again.

I took the Uber, and got there, Uber early. I cranked out coffee and set up and had time on my hands, until my friends showed up.

To my surprise, the entire group of young people who go to the Monday meeting, all showed up at the Thursday meeting to hear one of our young women speak. I love my young people, they mean with world to me, because I have been blessed to watch them all grow up and get sober.

One of our Thursday women baked me Chocolate Cheese Cake. My friend Juan, gave me my chip, and it was a really great night.

Tomorrow my best friend comes in from Ottawa, and we will do cake and chip all over again for the Friday community.

One cannot but be grateful for the people who show up to celebrate milestones.