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.




Wednesday: Thoughts and Things

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It is pouring down rain at this very moment in Montreal.

The time has come to make some changes again. The writing has been on the wall, and Heavenly Father is gently pushing me in new directions. I can trace back, not so long ago, what this looked like, when the Elders came to me and ministered to me. Elder Spencer is still a part of my life today.

General Conference took place last weekend. I participated via stream. Lots of good things shared and spoken.

I guess I want to talk about gifts and movements.

I thought about this the other day, and I’ve been ruminating on it ever since.

Am I the only drunk who goes to meetings and pays attention ? It seems that not many people pay the amount of attention to what they hear, like I do. You hear that Anonymity Statement, we have a few in the rooms here. Each of them different.

But the one I go with is this …
You can carry the message outside this room, but names and personal details stay here. We use this one on Friday Night at the A.B.S.I. meeting.

I go to several meetings, or have been. I’ve since cut my meetings by one.

In talking to my friend Sean the other night, he’s got time, like I have time. He is sober as long as I am sober now. He has a family, kids, (plural) and he does business in Asia a lot of the time. Seeing him often, is hit and miss. But we spoke.

Getting back to Heavenly Father and the prompts…

You know it’s time to go when these things begin to happen.

  • When your ideas on certain subjects begin to lose traction, and people begin moving away from you or avoiding you, it’s time to go.
  • When what you are hearing from your friends, push you to realize that, between us, we are on totally different pages, in sobriety, it is time to go.
  • When you realize that some people just do not like you. When you realize that some people do not respect you, and treat you differently, among your peers, it is time to go.
  • When you begin to regret walking into a particular meeting because of the people you share that room with, and the purpose of that meeting, becomes inconsequential to the people in the room, it is time to go.
  • And finally … When sober people you either know, for a long time, or men and women you work with, find out you are human and not Vulcan, and they turn on you and walk away, IT IS TIME TO GO !

I’ve been going to meetings for the whole of my sobriety. This blog is a testament and a record of most of the meetings I have attended over the past 16 years.

In those sixteen years, I have had to shut down, export, import and re-Domain this blog three times. Each reason is different. And usually has to happen when flamers and hackers and Evangelical Christians come knocking on my front door.

I opened this domain and blog in response to an alcoholic who thought I had broken his anonymity by telling a story about him on my former blog. He never bitched about what I wrote about until I started talking about him specifically. Yes, he lives here, and goes to the same meetings I do, but he has no respect for me, nor my presence, nor my life.

Anyways … I was thinking, Am I the only drunk who pays attention at meetings, pays attention so hard, that I come home after a meeting, I transcribe what I heard for you here and for me as well ?

I mean, how the fuck do we learn how to get sober, if we don’t study our friends behaviors, choices and actions over time ?

That’s how I got sober. By watching my friends do STUPID things over sixteen years.

Watching other people ACT is the best way we learn how NOT to BE.
Which is how WE Become US.

I am done with going to places where people don’t respect me. I am done going to meetings where people ignore me around other people, and treat me disrespectfully.

Sean, told me to go to meetings where I am a trusted custodian. Those would be the Monday Central Meeting and the Friday North End English Meeting.

Newcomers.
Simple Service.
Respect.

We all have gifts. Heavenly Gifts. Before we got here, Heavenly Father, or the powers that be, handed us a script. A job, so to speak.

Past Lifers would say that if we got here again, then, there was something we missed or screwed up, on our last visit. And now we get to work it out all over again, hoping we hit the mark this time, and not have to do this all over again …

Re-incarnators talk about how we get to reincarnate with people we knew in the past life we just left, or several lives before that. The proviso is that, we come back with a contract, which is unlike the former contract we were on. This time around we may be together for the whole journey, or maybe part of it.

There are reasons God put us here. Mainly, to learn Love, Dignity and Respect. To help our fellows and our friends. To learn how to GIVE, and not take.

The world need to learn how to LOVE … AGAPE LOVE …

Gifts … We all have them. We may not know what they are, it is our job to figure that out while we are down here, in the ways we relate to others, the work we do, and the service we give to our friends, family, peers and fellows, men and women alike. The love we share, the respect we give, the dignity we attribute and give to others.

Do you know what your gifts are ? Are you aware of them ? I am of Mine.

And to a greater degree now.

I’ve listened to my friends for a LONG TIME.

I hear them, they make stupid decisions, do stupid things, they hurt, they drink, they use, some get back, many don’t.

I seriously pay attention to every human being who talks in front of me. I KNOW all of my friends intimately. They probably don’t know that, until I walk up to them and say such things like …

  • Been there, done that.
  • Maybe you should try something else.
  • I can help you through this portion of your journey.
  • I see you did this, and paid dearly for it, now I am giving you a tool to make sure you don’t make that same mistake again …

And you know what they do ?

  • They take a step backwards,
  • They look at me with those eyes like
  • Are You Fucking with Me ?
  • You can’t be serious ?
  • Fuck your advice, even if you are sober sixteen years and haven’t drank or used in all that time.
  • Even if you have experience,
  • I don’t want YOURS !!!

Fuck me for trying …

When these things happen, IT’S TIME TO GO  !!!

I have ears to hear, and eyes to see. I mean that’s what God gave them to us for right ? I use those gifts to help my fellows, and I know today, none of that matters to a majority of them.

Which is why I need to move on to better pastures where the grass is green and the sober time is low, and people who want my message may be receptive to it. Because a few people with little time, and a lot of people with A LOT of time, have no need for me or want me around.

Thanksgiving is Sunday, here in Canada.

And I joked with a friend who works up the block that, within days of Halloween Night’s end, Christmas decorations will go up. Every year it is a contest to see who is gonna jump the gun this year and play Christmas music in their stores, and put up decorations in their shopping malls or stores.

Saturday: Elder Speak …

Spencer 3

Elder Christensen, Right of frame.

Once again it looks like you are passing through rough water. I find it helpful sometimes when things like this happen to consider the destination. If the place I am going outweighs the pain, setbacks, and annoyances of the journey, then the trip is worth it.

I suppose what I am saying is take a moment perhaps to consider your goals. You recently hit a huge milestone in sobriety and in life, and now looking forward it might be a good idea to think about the big picture of who you want to be and what you want to accomplish.

When you have a vision for yourself, annoying and offensive people and situations cease to be worth your mental energy worrying about. Understand also that your experience will always set you apart from people who don’t get it yet. Sometimes a teachers greatest asset is being patient with stupidity.

kneel

If life gets too hard to stand, Kneel.

I talk to God, an awful lot. And I know this about God, that if I pray, and wisdom does not come to me personally, then I need to go out and listen to my friends talk.

Wisdom direct, is a vertical process, top – down.
Wisdom indirect, is a horizontal process – person to person.

They say, that our minds are not some place we should go often, or ALONE.

I sought spiritual advice last night at the meeting, from a man I trust with my troubles. Before I went to bed, I sought advice from one of my spiritual directors, who use to live here, but now is back in Provo, Utah, and Brigham Young University.

Thankfully we have a Google Hang Out tonight. And it’s General Conference Weekend in Salt Lake City, at the Temple. One of my favorite Speakers, Elder Robert D. Hales, has been admitted to hospital, at 85, he is not doing so well.

Last General Conference he gave a talk on Becoming a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I wept listening to his talk. He is involved with The First Quorum of the Seventy.

Last night, I scheduled off from my service commitment for next week, opting to see if I could get a reservation at my bed and Breakfast in Ottawa for Thanksgiving weekend next weekend.

Yes, Thanksgiving comes early in Canada. The second Sunday in October.

Then we hold our breaths because the Halloween shops opened over a month ago, to get a jump on business. And after Thanksgiving, it is a game to wait and see WHO puts up Christmas Decorations first, in the city malls and stores.

That usually does not take long at all.

Last year, the Pharmaprix we use regularly, started playing Christmas music in November, and people freaked out and went crazy.

It was obvious that they had to turn it off because of the backlash from customers.

I’ve decided to back off the meeting that is causing me strife. I don’t need the headache, and its not like I need to hit a meeting every night of the week. I’m far enough from the drink, but I know, that I am never far from a drink.

The length of my arm, so to speak.

Monday and Friday serve their purpose well. And I don’t have to sit in a room with people who are Spiritual Sand Paper.

You know what that feels like, “Sand paper on a baby’s ass ???”

God is listening. And I hear Him quite clearly.

The Spiritual Connection and the Spiritual Principles are there for a reason.

I know how to use them …

 

 

“The WORK” Listening, Choices and Actions.

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Because we need happy dog photos right about now …

On the way home last night, my friend Juan and I were talking about The Work. Juan just crossed the two year mark last month, and we’ve bumped up The Work for him.

The good thing about having some time under my belt, is this …

I’ve practiced all the suggestions I had been given up to this point, and I know that some of those suggestions worked for me. Many of those good suggestions came LATE in my program, in means of time. In the beginning, it was those simple suggestions that got me started, and that I have maintained for the last fifteen years.

Last night we reflected as a group, “What if someone, when we were in our twenties, said the word STOP ” Would we have listened. And what that might have looked like in retrospect.

These days, with some time, when appropriate, I offer the suggestions I have learned since, to people, who are in their infancy stage of sobriety, the first few years …

The benefit in this actions is that with Them, I can give them some serious nuggets of truth and work, so they get this information early on, and can either choose to put it into action, or ignore everything that I had said to them.

Better to have a bank full of knowledge now, to be able to use that knowledge, than spending a decade or more seeking knowledge, and it come too late in the game, so to speak. Some of the knowledge I learned from years twelve to fifteen, would have been really useful, early in my sobriety, but it is what it is.

In year twelve, I learned, new to me at least, that spirituality was the keystone to getting sober. I knew about prayer long before this, but it had never been made aware to me just how hard I needed to practice my spiritual program, in order to really light the fire in my belly, and for some serious change to come to pass.

I’d read the book, worked steps, successively over twelve years, but I had not really connected with the Greater Power than myself to the extent I really needed to. It took someone from someplace else, to show me what I really needed to do.

THE WORK became the name of the game. INTO the Big Book, Like a trooper in the Marines. Word for Word, Prayer after Prayer. WORK, WORK, WORK, like your life depended on it. Or else one would perish without it.

And I did exactly as I was told to do it.

And the universe shifted for me in ways I had not imagined.

When Juan crossed the two year mark, we began to look at prayer, directly from the book. We set out an ambitious program of prayer and meditation for him. He is practicing the art of finding “Stillness.” Learning how to just “Be Still.”

This is not easy, in a world full of noise and activity.

But if you practice, every day, one finds it.

Had I known this practice early on, to the degree I learned it later on, maybe  my world would have shifted earlier than it had. But once again, lessons come, when they are going to come. When we are ready to hear those lessons and make them work.

Where were we in our heads early on, First, in our drinking careers, and Second, when we were/are in early sobriety ? Would we listen or not?

I know, for myself, how hard I worked to get sober, and the lengths I went to for a meeting, to have friends, and to learn how to be ME. I was involved going into year two, and things got very ugly, right away.

For every day that went by, and challenges came at us, then, I would go to a meeting. I would talk about what was going on, and I would get advice, that I listened to as if it were gospel. I did this day in and day out.

I did stay sober. I did the best that I could have done. And in the long haul, all that investment into my sobriety, it paid off in spades.

I go to the speaker meeting on Thursday nights and I listen. This is another art that one must learn how to do. Every story is important, for the speaker and for the crowd.

We talked last night about choices…

Early on, as I sat in the rooms, I had my life going on. And I was learning, for me, what were good choices. Did I make some bad choices, no. I think I did my best.

All along I was listening to my friends and fellows, and I was watching the choices they made, along the way. And in this witness, I could ask a question, “Should I do what these guys were doing, or not? Were they making wise choices?”

For the most part, I did NOT DO what my friends were doing. I DID NOT make the same choices that some of my friends made. And I sure as shit, DID NOT engage in behavior that some of my friends were exhibiting.

And now I see, today, when I listen to those same friends share at a meeting, just how cracked they still are, because of choices and actions they made early in their sobriety.

I hear old timers talk about the good ole days. And then there are those folks who came in around the same time I did, and/or after. I’ve got fifteen years of listening to bank on. And over the past few months, I’ve heard a number of my fellows, who came in after I did speak.

No two sober journeys are the same. Nobody takes the same road.

And in listening, I see the track that my friends took. I hear the challenges they faced, the choices they made, and what happened because of those choices and actions.

And I think to myself, Thank Christ, I did not make those same choices way back then because I would be as cracked as some of my friends are still today.

We all come to sobriety with our assorted sacks of baggage. We come with all the stuff, we had in our lives, like jobs, family, people, issues, etc …

When we begin to get sober, they tell us that, we have to find the way to work in a sober program, every day, to mitigate our stinking thinking. And to begin the clean up our lives and make them better. That is just the beginning.

I did not have a life to speak of when I got sober early on. I had plenty of time on building the infrastructure of meetings, home groups and service that was solidly in place, as life began to happen around me.

They told me to build my life around my sobriety, not my sobriety around my life. And that if I put anything before my sobriety, I would eventually loose it.

I guess I was listening to the right people, or I was just gullible enough to believe what these people were saying was true. In the end, fifteen years later, I see the wisdom of every suggestion I was given, and now I know that in doing exactly as I was told, I got here.

A lot of my friends, who are sober today, but are cracked in the head, heard much of the same advice I heard, from the same people, in the same meetings, from the very beginning.

Today, I know, that some of my friends, did not listen, nor heed the advice we all heard together, and in not doing so, caused YEARS of strife, pain and fucked up-ness.

I did not second guess what I was hearing from certain people, at the same time I was watching others acting on their will, and that did not end well. Some of my friends drank again, some returned, many did not. Some are DEAD.

As I listen to folks speak these days, I say to myself, I busted my ass to get sober. And I really pounded the pavement, unlike some folks I see today who have some time, who skated along, and are still cracked in the head.

And this is not my ego, at all. And I am not judging my friends. But it is truth, when I hear my friends talk, and they tell stories about what went down in the years after we all came in together, and how much they suffered, because they did not heed the warnings, they made the choices they did willingly, and suffered for those choices.

Meanwhile, I would often say to myself, along the way … Uh, I don’t think I should do the same. I think I will do THIS instead. And a good thing too.

This begs the question … What did I do right, that my friends did not do right ?

Maybe its not a question of right or wrong, but the choices we all make in our lives.

No two people are the same, and no two people make the same choices.

Numbers of folks have come in, in the last fifteen years. And each of those people, chose a path, based on what they were given, what they have heard, and what they chose to do.

I know the path I took. I know that I stuck very close to my friends and fellows. I always had someone in the game with me, at every stage of the game, in multiple places, at the same time. I was never alone. I never made one single decision by myself. Every time I had to do something, either big or small, I passed that decision by at least three people, before I acted on those decisions.

That plan was a success, and paid off in spades, later down the line.

I never went with my first choice. Never go with your first choice.

Many of my friends, did not enjoy the company of people to get them through, early on, like I had, but some did. I had gotten connected to Chabad Lifeline, I was connected in meetings. I had counseling, advice, therapy, meetings, I had all this structure to keep me on the beam. And those people did wonders for my sobriety early on.

I lucked out, that the right people were in my life at the time I really needed them. I don’t know a single soul, who had that kind of grace, in their lives.

Once again, GOD.

That was the path that was chosen for me, because I happen to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, who stepped into my life and made things happen for me.

In hindsight, all those good graces, came from a Divine Source. I surely was not in control, God was. And I know, that staying on that spiritual beam early on, to the extent that I knew spirituality then, made the difference.

In year twelve, The spiritual fire had been lit anew. A larger, greater fire of truth was opened to me. The flicker of faith was already there, it just needed some fuel to get it burning brighter.

And so it did.

And now we are here, one day into year sixteen.

What is life going to do next. What is the next big adventure, and what choices am I going to make.

That chapter is still waiting to be written.

Let’s get it on, shall we …