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.”

Sunday Sundries: We Are Not Saints

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It was a full day today. My friend got on the bus a few minutes before I arrived at the station to meet him, so I took a later bus out to the West Island. The crowd was smaller today, than yesterday.

We heard a number of speakers, from Ontario, Lexington, Kentucky and Tampa. My experience of the weekend, was not the same as in weekends past. I heard many similar ideas tossed about. The themes of powerlessness, the loss of choice, and decisions we make.

I heard it said, from one of the speakers today that, “An alcoholic can make the decision to stop drinking. We have that capability, to decide. The problem arises when we attempt to stay stopped.”

A phrase I head a very long time ago from a wise woman, when I first got sober, all those years ago, was repeated over the weekend.

Stick around until the miracle occurs …

Two of our speakers were military veterans of war. So my friend, I was running with for the weekend, had a great deal in common with them, and found affinity, and made some serious contacts for his future.

I believe that if I am kind to my friends, that is what I am meant to do here on earth.
To Be Kind…

There are many issues faced by our sober community here. Things I observe. Words I hear spoken. Attitudes I am not inclined to encourage or be around, for that matter.

I had a conversation, well, I attempted to have a conversation with the long sober woman who spoke last night. And it seemed to me, she did not want to offer me anything of substance. Like it was beyond her to actually sit and listen to me.

I told her of my travels and some of my concerns. When I broached to topic of my emotional meltdown in a meeting, some time ago, and what took place on that very day, she looked me dead in the eye and said that my behavior in that meeting was unacceptable, and that I should have kept my mouth shut and not gotten emotional.

So much for compassion and tolerance for those with different struggles.

The only thing a meeting is concerned with is keeping people sober. Anything beyond that is unacceptable, she reiterated !!!

Alcoholics Anonymous is not for the emotionally challenged she said. Her caveat was, that probably, most alcoholics don’t know how to handle that kind of thing, beyond staying stopped from drinking, because that’s what a meetings for, right ?  Not to take that next drink, nor deal with an emotionally upset man sitting at the table.

Her curt answer struck me as odd, seeing she talked about all the good we could do for each other, and all she could muster with me was an admonishment for my poor behavior in front of other alcoholics.

ODD !!!

I also told her of the brain drain with old timers flying the coop, and going down their proverbial rabbit holes. She said to me that their rabbit holes were not my problem, and not my concern. But if we see folks walk away, it falls upon us to repeat to them, that there is no graduation date, no end point in sobriety. And invite them to show up, even if they don’t want to.

On the way home, I learned that our long sober woman, when picked up at the airport the other day, was abusive to her handler. She was not kind to the young woman charged with taking care of her during her stay here. She insulted and demeaned her, and in the end, that same young woman, told the committee that she would no longer serve her charge, and that somebody else could do it.

Damage Done.

How it works says that “We are not saints. But we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”

In the end, as the story was related to me, that woman was invited to Montreal to speak because she had serious double-digit sobriety, and was a pillar in her home community. And she showed up here and was a Cast Iron Bitch to the committee.

You can’t get up there and preach goodness and sobriety to a room full of people seeking a way to live their lives sober, and then turn around and be unkind and bitchy.

I did not seek another audience with anyone else the whole weekend. I welcomed the other speakers and thanked the veterans for their service, because my father served with them in the very same theater of war in Viet Nam.

The witness of true sobriety were those two veterans. Hearing their stories of war, and the suffering they witnessed, and came home as damaged as my father was when he returned from the war. My father, though, never dealt with his demons. He just drank them away hoping that they would disappear, which was what these two men attempted to do as well.

The end result was a crash and burn and entrance into the rooms, where they both figured our what to do and with which professional. They both got sober. Got married later on, had children and lived successful lives sober, to this date.

The damage of war, is sometimes insurmountable. As we see today, in our soldiers who have gone to war in Afghanistan and other places. What we have on hand today, is helping some of our men, acclimate to sobriety. With the help of our little village of long sober and many not so long sober folks.

It Takes a Village.

The weekend was very beneficial for outreach to the young people who showed up for the weekend. Connections were made. Conversations were had. Now it falls to us to foster those connections going forwards.

I have MP 3 copies of all the talks which I will burn to my computer this week, then hand the box off to make the rounds of anyone who might want them for themselves.

Again, as I saw it, and experienced the weekend, once again, I am reminded, strongly, what I am going to take away as lessons in a good way, but also, in lessons of what I experienced, as in, I know what I am not going to perpetuate.

I might have half the time that many of the speakers had over the weekend, but I am no fool, nor am I stupid. I watch how people treat each other. And when I see long sober people acting like assholes to my community, the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

I don’t care if you are a sick alcoholic like the rest of us, if you cannot act accordingly, then I have no use for anything you have to say to me or to us for that matter.

There is no excuse for unkindness.

That’s why I stay away from old timers. Because they aren’t prefect. And many of them have treated me unkindly, and not so soberly. I know who I trust and who I talk to on a regular basis. And that is just fine with me.

Other Alcoholic Rabbit Holes are none of my business.

I choose what I take on and what I do not.
I’ve learned at least that in sixteen plus years of sobriety.

There but for the Grace of God go I …