Out of Chaos Comes Order …

o-BRENE-BROWN-ORIGIN-MAGAZINE-facebookEvery night that we sit with the Big Book and read it, repeatedly, eventually hindsight takes place and wisdom appears. This does not happen overnight, because we know that sobriety does not happen overnight.

Everything in its own time they say …

“A complete change takes place in our approach to life. Where we used to run from responsibility, we find ourselves accepting it with gratitude that we can successfully shoulder it. Instead of wanting to escape some perplexing problem, we experience the thrill of challenge in the opportunity it affords for another application of A.A. techniques, and we find ourselves tackling it with surprising vigor.” pp 275-276 Ed. 4

We don’t know what we don’t know. I know today, that I have specific insight into who I was, at particular points in my personal story.

Growing up in an alcoholic home, I learned, quite forcefully, how to take care of said home. Cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of a pool and mowing the yard. Grocery shopping and cooking dinners were necessary at times as well.

I knew how to do all those things, before I flew the coop, so to speak.

The problem was, that before I got where I was intending to go, my alcoholism was already there, waiting for me, like it knew me intimately, and had plans for me that I really did not ponder as the moving truck pulled up to the building I was moving into.

The following five years was a blur, until I hit my twenty-sixth year of life, and death was staring me in the face. There were no options, but to kiss my ass goodbye and wait to die.

That is, until Todd (read: God), stepped into my life.

At the first, as he demanded my sober heart and mind, what I did not know, I did not know, and Todd had to re-educate me. Chaos reigned in my head and I had lost control of my faculties.

I was powerless over the fact that I was going to die, miserably.

Yes, I got sober. But more importantly, I had a job. A job that paid the bills and kept me alive. Keeping me alive trumped meetings, and the people in those meetings. The first year of my sobriety was a horse race that was bet against me by the very same people who were tasked at carrying the message of sobriety to me and making sure I made it.

However, with a number painted on my back and weekly bets being placed on my eventual slip, what was I supposed to do, when I was locked into one meeting location, because in those days, sobriety in Fort Lauderdale circa 1994 was sketchy?

I went to meetings, and did what I had to do to stay sober. All the while, Todd was keeping me alive, against all the odds.

Had Todd not taken me in and taught me everything that I had to learn, again, I would surely have died like everyone else.

We all know this story. When Todd departed my life, I could not keep it together.

On December 9th, 2001, I walked back into the rooms in SOBE.

The first of two major decisions were made. The second would follow very soon after I got sober, with a government invitation to Canada and a Birthright that was mine to claim.

I was not going to make another terrible mistake.

Soberly and gingerly, at 4 months sober, I came to Canada for a visit. I stayed two weeks, went home, packed my few personal items and my clothes and got back on a plane and I did not look back.

The second major life decision was complete.

A very good thing was that during my first visit I had found a home group, a doctor, and a temporary place to live.

I like to say, at this point that, I met all the right people, at all the right moments, for all the right reasons. I had walked into the sobriety circle. And all the right people took me in and cared for me, in ways, that one does not see in today’s sober circles.

Things are just not the same. However hard I try to carry on that tradition myself.

I had rehab to attend. I had a counselor who kept me on the beam. And all I had to do, in that first year, was stay sober. I learned how to build my life around my meetings. To this day, almost seventeen years later, that particular infrastructure is still in play.

The first job I was given, was to set down chairs and tables, then learn how to make damned good coffee. Today, almost seventeen years later, I am STILL setting down chairs and tables and making damned good coffee.

Whatever you place before your sobriety, will eventually FAIL !!!

I have read the book countless times. I have worked steps over and over. I have been to thousands of meetings, and have had thousands of conversations about sobriety.

I know what I did not know, now, when I did not know what I did not know, then.

The proof is in the pudding. If only, (I know I should never utter those words, IF ONLY) someone had the insight into my sobriety, like Todd had insight into my life, things might have turned out very differently. But they did not.

Life had to take the course it took. Because at each point on that chaotic timeline, I had to learn lessons the hard way, because I really was not sober at all, in the first four years I had racked up in time.

I had the TIME. But I surely was not SOBER.

Sad indeed.

I don’t have fifty years of continuous sobriety. like some of the founders in the book, or like the handful of founders I know today. All I have is what I have worked for.

I took it easy. I followed directions. I did not take chances on making stupid mistakes.
I can safely say, that my stupid mistake generator has been offline for a long time now.

Every decision I made in sobriety, was well-tested and advised over, one issue at a time, one decision at a time.

Into years two and three, life threw me several curve balls, but I tackled them soberly.

And in the ensuing fourteen years, we have conquered every obstacle, soberly, together.

I’ve never had to go outside the SOBER circle ever, for anything. ANYTHING.

The Book is correct …

There is no more aloneness, with that awkward ache, so deep in the heart of every alcoholic that nothing before, could ever reach it. That ache is gone and never need return again.

Now there is a sense of belonging, of being wanted and needed and loved. In return for a bottle and a hangover, we have been given the Keys of the Kingdom.”

Sixteen

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A month shy of my sixteenth sober anniversary comes on the ninth day of November, when my fellow, Juan, picks up another year sober.

The rat has been unusually quiet, as of late. I am much more serene than I have been in a long time. Over the past little while, I’ve consolidated my energies. And to this date, I have deleted people, places and things from my life that I just don’t have the mental or emotionally energy to put towards any more.

The joys of being 50 I guess.

I am a bit more selfish with whom I socialize with. I’ve paid my sober dues to people in the rooms for the last ten years. Many of the dues I paid were never reciprocated in any way, shape, or form. I don’t owe anyone any more favors. And I said that to a lady friend not long ago.

My friends have repeated the same refrain that they believe I need to hear and that is:

You have sixteen years of sobriety. That’s nothing to smirk at. It’s a good chunk of time. You know what to do. You have a routine that works, and people who love you. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks or says. You aren’t them. Your experience is unique in the rooms and nobody can take that from you. They are correct.

The last eighteen months have been terribly emotional for me. I hear Lorna in my mind speaking the words of: “I’ve never been so ANGRY, RESENTFUL and BITTER in my life in sobriety, after all these years.”

But I am not fully on the page with being totally, “Compassionate, Understanding, and totally 100% Serene, just yet.” But I am working on it.

I do not trust entire communities of people. I know them more intimately than they know themselves. Because I have studied my friends like lab rats for the entire run of my sobriety.

Wisdom sets in little by slowly. I do know this for sure: Hindsight is my greatest teacher. People have come and gone from my life. People have died, people have gone back out and drank and used. And with this much time, I can safely say, looking back at all these goings on, with regards to decisions and actions, there were patterns of behavior and patterns of decisions, inaction, or purposeful action, that led to what each of them did.

I know what that looks like today. Very Useful Lessons about Sobriety.

When I speak to people, they really don’t want to hear my critique of their sobriety. So I write it down. I write everything down. I pay good money to keep this private place safe from prying eyes. I paid a price in allowing every Joe and Charlie to read my rantings and ravings.

Over sober time, one grows up in many ways. One begins to see the patterns as they reveal themselves to you, the longer you spend in a particular meeting. I am soberly invested in three communities now. I really pay attention to my friends. Not that they admire that attention I give them, and some of them would rather I just keep to myself.

I do that now. Because not many people care for my brand of sobriety.

They want lip service and no responsibility for their actions or decisions. Which keeps them numb and dumb. I don’t know why people like it that way, when the program of recovery IS a program of action. People don’t want action, they want simple stupidity.

I am SO OVER simple stupidity.

We spoke of willingness. You either get it or you perish. We spoke of spirituality and spiritual principles. You either find them or perish. You practice what you are told to practice on a daily basis, or you perish, and you languish in numb and dumb.

I hate people. I dislike people. I resent people. I do not trust everybody equally.

When we come in, we are supposed to be kind to everyone. Allow everyone a little latitude. We are supposed to be understanding, because when I came in people were all those things to me. Sadly., members today are not so kind and giving.

I saw an old sponsor tonight for the first time in a long while. The very same man who used to demean me and call me derogatory names. I fired him because of this practice. Why are double-digit sober men such assholes, I ask you ?

Tonight, I said hello and the first words out of his mouth were:
Well, you have some grey hair don’t you !!!

I’ve lost thirty pounds. I look better than I have ever looked before in my life. Not since twenty-five years ago looking. He did not notice that. He noticed my grey hairs.

UGH !!! I hate men.

Alcoholics are sick people trying to get well. Some of them, are trying to get well. Others, on the other hand, are just plain SICK. They are numb and dumb. And many of those sick double-digit sober men have legions of long sober women, who continually blow smoke up their asses, as they pledge their loyalty to them and laud them as paragons of sober living. I tend to disagree with these people, vehemently.

I have a close-knit group of friends now. Some of my best friends have a fraction of sober time that I do, yet they are men, in my age group, who love me for me, who have stood with me on the firing line and supported me through my angriest phase of sobriety.

I know how people have treated me over the last year, which is reflective in which meetings I go to today, who I socialize with and who I give my time to.

My friends are suffering. Not many of them know how to pick up the 2000 pound phone. That has always been an issue in the rooms. We ALL have SMART PHONES, yet we don’t necessarily use them as they were intended to be used.

I follow a specific pattern in sobriety. I do specific things. I offer the same council to everybody. I offer simple suggestions, which, when you put them all together, will give you a complete recipe of how to get and stay sober.

Many of my fellows don’t believe a word I say in public. They just shake their heads in dismay, like, is this guy for real ? Is it really that simple ?

Yes, it is that very SIMPLE…

This far along in my sobriety, nobody has come into my sober orbit, with anything new to try. Meaning, I have not met another sober member from anywhere else, who has a new fangled way of working the program. I am still running on the New York, Atlantic Group, Big Book Sober Program, I learned from a group of folks over years ago.

However, I did work another round of steps with my Mennonite an Mormon Elder Spiritual directors this past summer into the fall. That was very fruitful. I finally ticked ALL the shit I have been sitting on for all these years, which has spiritually freed my soul to sing joyfully.

It has been a year since my Elder Christensen went home to Idaho. Spencer is now at Brigham Young University in Utah, studying medicine. I love my Spencer. He is the smartest spiritual young man I have ever met. That’s what struck me from the very first conversation we had when we met over a year ago, now.

He gives me faith and he gives me love of Heavenly Father.

You cannot go wrong with a Mormon Elder in your life. At least I can’t.

I’ve learned that there is light after the darkest of days. I’ve learned that I can feel, and walk through those feelings, damned what anybody else thinks about me. And I did that over the last eighteen months, and I did not drink over any of it.

Because I followed a strict sober recipe.

Go to meetings. Speak honestly. Do service. And fuck all everybody else in the room.

All along this journey, people feared me and avoided me like the plague. Nobody from the meetings I had been participant in, said anything supportive to me, at any stage of the game. Not One Soul offered me friendship nor companionship, or even kindness.

They just let me come and go, rant and rave, and not one of them did anything to help me ease the Dis-Ease I had walked through for so many months on end.

And I hate every last one of them. They can all go fuck themselves.

I stayed sober and I grew up, in spite of my emotional and mental problems. And I survived to see my fiftieth birthday and survive twenty-five years living with AIDS.

I AM a survivor.

Despite what anyone else thinks, says, or believes about me.

Today, I could care less what people think of me, because for a long time, I harbored resentments about those very same people because they ignore me in public and are uncharitable and unkind to me in front of others.

Now I know, they are just the same old numb and dumb sick alcoholics.

Sixteen is just around the corner.

Praise God I don’t have a desire to drink or use.

Monday: You are NOT ALONE any more …

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In the Book of Genesis, God said that it was not good for Adam to be alone, So he took a rib from Adam and created Eve. Adam was no longer alone.

  • How many of us grew up alone ?
  • How many of us are alone ?
  • And how many of us drank ALONE ?

My grandmothers, the two women I hold in my heart, believed in me. And while they were in my life, for those brief years, I was not alone. My father, in his misguided way, thought that we, as a family, were better off :

ALONE …

And over my childhood, alienated every family member out of our lives, so he could shape his family, in his own image, without the influence of anyone else.

As a thirteen year old, loosing that connection to the women who helped me stay alive, amid the violence and alcoholism that pervaded our family, was catastrophic.

For everyone.

I always kept to my room, even when my father took the door off the hinges. I was never alone, my father was always in my face. But there were times, when I was alone. And looking back now, I see how alone I really was.

Everybody knew about the alcoholism. Nobody spoke of it, or offered a solution to the problem. And Nobody wanted to hear what I had to say. Nobody allowed me to speak my mind or my heart.

When I had a job, that job was my life. There were several successive jobs that I really loved, and did well. I was not alone at work. The last job I had before I moved away from home was in a travel agency, where alcohol was served during business hours.

Over the ensuing years, those people I worked with got sober, while I remained a spinning tornado in their lives. In hindsight, none of them offered me “The Solution,” until I found my way to the rooms, by force when Todd saved my life.

I was a lone drinker, however, I drank in a bar, with people around me. I had many bell weather friends, but nobody who knew anything about life beyond drinking, drugging and having sex.

When I moved away to be Gay, I was told, by a shrink, that in order to fit in, I had to drink. So that is what I did. I never found the holy grail. I never found the answers I was seeking or the total acceptance that I was craving.

Being a lone alcoholic is a terrible way to live. Being around people, en mass, was not the answer. Nobody was paying attention, except to know what they wanted to take from me in the end.

It wasn’t until I got sober in 1994, that Todd had come to me, and picked me up off the parking lot pavement and took me in. For that first couple of weeks, he had stationed Danny in my apartment to keep an eye on me when we weren’t working at the bar.

Those first two years, with Todd, were the greatest period of my life. I was not alone any more. Todd was there to show me how to survive. How to live soberly, and he kept me above the water, when everybody else was sinking fast.

As long as He was there, I was fine. It was when he moved away, and I found myself alone, WITH TOOLS, but not having the ability to make things work by myself.

I just could not do it ALONE.

When I returned from my slip, I found a place to live, from a woman who thought it would be good to rent to me so that I would not be alone. And from that apartment, came the job that would change my life.

Still drinking, I had to get to the end. And I did eventually.

The day Troy walked into my life an uttered those simple words …

I did NOT drink today … He led the way into sobriety again, the second time.

When I moved to Montreal, Tuesday Beginners became my home. I went there religiously for the following eleven years. That was the home group that made this life possible. Because my Home Group was hallowed ground.

My first sponsor, David, attached himself to me with an invisible tether. For a year, he took care of me, and I was not alone.

On my first anniversary, he ceded control, and that very night, was the first night I spent with my then boyfriend, who is now my husband.

God spoke and said that “it is not good for Jeremy to be alone …”

I’ve not been alone, from that moment on … To This Day.

There have been times, as I sat, where I am sitting at this very moment, in the middle of the night, as midnight closed in on me, mentally and emotionally, and felt that I was terribly alone with my sorrows, my trials, and my tribulations, when hubby was sick.

As long I was hitting my meetings, I was never alone.

I am better at being alone today. And I love the hours of the day when I am home alone. Because for many hours of the days, weeks, months and years, I am never alone.

I don’t think I could ever live alone again. And I am not sure what I would do if I ever found myself alone, for some UN-forseen circumstances.

The rooms provide.

That is a refrain that I repeat to my friends. The rooms of 2001 and beyond, here in Montreal, are not the same rooms in 2017. People have long since come and gone.

The rooms, and their people, are not as giving as they once were. But there are exceptions to that rule. Because, if you ask, people show up and step up.

That is a given, in many situations.

People today, still have problems asking for help. But I tell my friends that if they need something, anything, to bring it to a room and put it down on the table.

You might never know the results you might get, if you choose NOT to ask them.

In our story tonight, “He lived to drink” a successful, evangelical young man, with promise, God, family and a good job, falls into the addiction to alcohol.

All it took, was that FIRST drink, on his FIRST visit to a cocktail bar with friends from school.

From that point on, he was off and running.

He ran so far, that he ended up on skid row …

“It still did not register that the drinking might be the cause of all of my misery. I sold my blood. I prostituted myself; I drank more. I became homeless and slept in the bus and train terminals. I scrounged cigarette butts off the sidewalks and drank from a common wine bottle with other drunks. I drank my way to the men’s municipal shelter and made it my home. I panhandled. By this time I lived only to drink. I did not bathe or change clothes; I stank; I became thin and ill; I had begun to hear voices and accepted them as death omens. I was frightened, arrogant, enraged, and resentful of man, God, and the universe. there was nothing else to live for, but I was too frightened to die …”

It was at this point that a woman who was a social worker on skid row and a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous sat me down in her office and told me her story – how she drank, what happened, and how she got sober. No one had ever done this before.

I had been been preached to, analyzed, cursed, and counseled, but no one had ever said, “I identify with what’s going on with you. It happened to me, and this is what I did about it.” She got me to my first A.A. meeting that same evening.

Once our man, a black man, accepted goodness and love into his life, and he opened his heart to his fellows and later God, He realized that he was not alone.

And it is for this reason, in A.A., that you are not alone any more …

And that you never have to drink again …