Help Will Always Come

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Staying the course, and always doing the next right thing, is good sound advice.

When the chatter in my head is running at fever pitch, and my emotions seem to rule every decision or thought at times, I know that I need to stop and take a break.

Read: I need to STOP and Pray !!!

Funny how things fall into my lap, when I most need them. Or, little signs from somewhere outside of myself, seem to appear, in front of me, at the oddest moments.

I have told the story about my I-Phones tendency to shuffle me a speaker, one speaker in particular, when I really need a talking to. It seems to know me better than I know myself at times, which begs the question … Are Our I-Phones sentient ???

Thursday night, after the meeting I was really emotional and I realized that I was not done mourning the passing of my father. Because of a comment made about him, amid a conversation with a friend, at the earlier meeting.

We were talking about care giving and being a care giver for family and significant others and how tasking that is on everyone involved. A few days prior to this chat, the National News carried a story about just this topic, and how the province of Quebec is going to step up and help care givers of patients and family in assisted living facilities.

I told him the story about my father, when I was in eighth grade, how, when his mother had a very serious stroke, and in a VERY LUCID moment, outside of his alcoholism, he thought that IF he took ME to Connecticut to see her, he believed, from somewhere deep within him, that if she looked at me and recognized me, that she would in essence,
WAKE UP!

What we did not know about serious stroke paralysis was apparent.

Who knew from the now famous “Stroke Treatment” delivered within a very short time from falling into stroke, can avert serious paralysis. That drug did not exist in the early 80’s.

We took a night flight out and arrived late that evening in Connecticut. My uncle picked us up and took us to his house. The next morning we ate breakfast and they drove me to The New Britain General Hospital.

I was not prepared at all for what was coming.

We got to Grammy’s room, and she was laid out, drooling spittle, half her face was in her lap, and the entire right side of her body was paralyzed. I took one look at her, and I fainted. My head hit the tile floor and I ended up in the emergency room that morning.

She indeed, did NOT wake up. However, she knew who I was. I could not rouse her from her lethargy. I sat on her bed for a few weeks time, to no avail.

In the end, a few weeks later, I returned home defeated. My father was crushed.

It is my belief that he held that little trip against me and never forgave me for not being able to do the job, HE BELIEVED, I needed to do for him. His alcoholism cranked up to 200%. And the abuse ratcheted up 200% as well. Whenever he drank, it was me he came after.

Which is why, as time went on, I found other houses to stay in, so I did not have to be at home. I spent an inordinate amount of time sleeping at successive friends houses over the ensuing years, just to get away from my father.

A functional abusive alcoholic can have lucid moments of brilliance and compassion and thought. Interspersed with the drinking came incredible kindnesses. My father paid dearly, in “Things” to assuage my pain that he himself caused me.

When my friend mentioned to me the other night that “My father KNEW that  my grandmother loved me more than any other, i.e. my brother, it was me he took on this trip because “we” (my grandmother and I are spiritually connected).

When I got very sick, it was Grammy who visited me and stayed with me, when everyone else fled the scene. It took a psychic to tell me this, because she would come into my apartment and my bedroom door was always closed, (at that point) at which time she would move pictures on the walls, and scatter magazines all over the floor, until I invited my friend to come over and tell me what was going on …

In his words to my ears: He told me Grammy was standing in my living room, and had been there for a long time, looking after me, and she could not quite figure out how to get through the door, (after which time, I never slept with another bed room door closed, to this very day). She still visits me on occasion here !!!

That comment unnerved me to the degree that I came home an emotional mess and when I got home, I sat down and wrote it all out and did my Step 4 at the same time.

I went to bed Thursday night, not so myself.

Friday, I left for the meeting as usual. I got to the church, and unlocked, and began my set up routine. I was still, not in the right frame of mind. I grabbed the coffee pot, from the cabinet and lo and behold, a single sheet of paper fell to the floor at my feet, from the stack of papers we have to one side of the cabinet.

I picked it up, as it fell face down, on the floor, and took a look at the newspaper clipping. It was a newspaper clipping telling the story of the house where Bill W. was born, in East Dorset, Vermont.

The house is NOT on any map. You would have to know, before hand, where you were going in order to get there, because there aren’t any signs along the way saying …

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THIS WAY TO BILL’S HOUSE !!! This is the actual house as it is.

Anyways, I read the article and thought to myself, wow, I had never seen this article in the cabinet before, so there has to be a reason it fell out, onto the floor, at just the most opportune moment.

Which hearkened me back three years to the weekend that my then sponsor, my best friend Joe, and I, were on our way to a men’s intensive at Mad River Barn, not far from East Dorset that very weekend.

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And ON THE WAY … We visited Bill’s house where he was born. We also visited Bill and Lois’ grave, just up the road in a very small and non-nondescript cemetery. If you did not know the cemetery was there, you’d not know to go there and pay your respects to the Founder and his wife.

Coming back to the present moment, I was in my head, clearly not myself, standing there alone in a church basement, with this piece of paper in my hand, and the very clear and resonant memory in the front of my brain.

Another of life’s synchronicity.

These little spiritually ignited occurrences happen often to me. And when I most need them, HP does the trick and sends me a sign from above, to remind me, that I am well cared for, and there is always someone up there, looking out for me.

The weekend was a success. It has been Hotter than Hell in Montreal since last Friday, and the heat wave will continue through Thursday night, later this week.

It has been UNBEARABLE !!!

I am chairing this month at the Monday meeting, and we read from the Big Book. Before the meeting I was sitting outside the hall, thumbing through my Big Book, looking for a suitable passage to share with the group. And I happened upon the story:

Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three … Pioneer of Akron’s Group No. 1 The first A.A. group in the world …

And I came to the end of the story where he is having breakfast with Bill and his wife Henrietta, and Bill says to her:

“Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.”

This one sentence is A.A. Gold…

The reading, in the end, speaks about an Absolute State of Grace and Gratitude.

Which brings me this realization as I am sitting here typing these words that:

If you don’t have a topic for a meeting, the default is ALWAYS

GRATITUDE !!!

We’ve come full circle now.

I Never Want …

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In keeping with the theme of BRAVING …

I never want to reach a point, where I become bored, where I am not connected, where I feel useless, and a drink seems like a good idea.

Any day, can be a day, where a drink seems like a good idea.

The purpose of sobriety is to find that which is Greater than ourselves, from Outside of ourselves, the key that will sustain us, to Stay Stopped, one day at a time.

People come, and People go. Some stay, many do not.

At some point, we realize that being just a visitor in a meeting, only lasts for so long. At some point, you get to make a choice, to either do something, or you don’t.

I know what this means. And I’ve said it before.

We welcome people from around the globe. We see our friends, often. And for the newcomer, I am patient. I know what it is like to walk into a strange room, and not know what to do. Where do I fit in, how will I ever find the path, friends, sobriety ???

One day at a time.

I have watched the chair dance for years and years. That is why chairs are set up, in the way they are, like a well planned game. Where one sits, in any given room, tells some of us, how integrated into the meeting you are.

People who attend often, sit in the same seats, week in and week out. There are always seats, set, against the back wall. With rows and rows of seats to choose from, I know that most people won’t sit up front, automatically. They hang back, in the pack, and many people, who sit “on the bubble” populate the row against the back wall.

Yes, that may be the case. But other folks sit in the back row, due to the time of arrival to any specific meeting. Which is why they tell us twenty minutes before and twenty minutes after.

The only way to work your way into a meeting, is to work your way into a meeting.

Reading the book, will come, in time. But it is suggested by good people, that the sooner that you join us, find a job, find a sponsor, read the book, and work your steps, then, and for some, they finally find themselves connected, useful, and happiness comes.

A friend of mine, who has considerable time, said to me tonight, that after all his years in, he finally figured out what Higher Power meant for him. Finding that which is greater than yourself, from a location, outside of ourselves, takes time.

Sometimes it takes a LONG TIME …

But you know, however hard one finds the suggestion … Prayer does work.

Hearing continual stories about how hard some people fight even the thought that prayer is something we should do often, only solidifies the idea that Prayer Does Work.

My friends often tell me how their brains work. Some, often find, that the obsession of
“A drink seeming like a good idea” still persists.

I know, from hearing this from folks, in the middle of the stream, connected, and seeming happy, that when they found the thought of prayer, not such a bad idea, once they begin praying, that obsession of

“A drink seeming like a good idea,” does go away.

The book is written to tell us what our problem is, who we are, and why we are here. It gives us the plan for living, and offers us a spiritual solution that HAS WORKED for millions of people.

I’ve heard what happens, when one comes in, arrogant and shut down, and feels like they just don’t connect, to anyone, or anything, thinking that they will never be happy

SOBER …

Wait for it …

Don’t leave until the miracle happens for you.

A very long time ago, a woman in the rehab connected to the very first meeting I walked into over twenty-five years ago, said that to me …

Stick around until the miracle happens.

Had the people around me, in those meetings, had not bet on my demise, then, others told me to leave and not come back, had someone offered me a way INTO the book and sobriety, like my friends did when I came back the second time,

I would have stuck around, and never left.

But my path was what it became.

Continual attempts at sobriety, coming and going, only lasts so long. One too many passes into a room, then back out of said room, the chances of sticking and staying, grow slim.

Some people get more than one kick at the can. Some of those who kicked the can, more than once, GET IT. And they sit down and they stay.

Sadly, numbers are not what they used to be.

We know tonight, what happens when being a visitor in a meeting, dies …

The thought that, “A drink sounds like a good idea” takes hold, the obsession returns, and we take our chances, back in the world, that really is not a place, for some, who drank like I did, or like many have, themselves.

If you come to a room, jump in with both feet, and get WET.

You will find your way, I promise you that. The Book Promises that as well.

If only folks took the time to read the book, which is why people like me exist, in the rooms, to read said book with you.

Reading is fundamental.

It was good that when I came back, over the first four months of my sobriety, I was unable to read a book myself, outside of Harry Potter.

So I went to meetings every day, where someone else, read the book TO ME, reading it for everyone, that was sitting in that particular meeting.

I heard the book read. And it stuck for me, because I had no place else to go.

Which is why I am still reading the book, to this very day.

Because, THERE IS A SOLUTION.

The idea that “A drink seems like a good idea” has gone.

Because I do the work required to never get to the point in sobriety that:

A DRINK SEEMS LIKE A GOOD IDEA ….

At What Point Can We Get Honest ?

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I heard one of my friends tonight say, about a conversation he had earlier, with a friend, that he was not sure he could be honest with said friend about the topic they were discussing.

I know my friend for many years now. I have many friends, I have known for a long time, and becoming who we are begins with getting better all the way around. We stay clean and sober, and we do the work that is given to us, Willingly.

Willingness is the key.

I have said before that I cannot do life alone. I need my sponsor, my guides and my friends. I need that voice, coming over my shoulder, that says … It’s gonna be OK.

I have a few twenty-four hours under my belt. And for a long time, I did not know what I did not know. And I know the first time I was attempting to get sober, there was A LOT that I did not know. And that worked against me, as represented by the wordsI spoke and the decisions I made, based on self. (not the good self for that matter)

Life is all about becoming who we are supposed to be. Sometimes the road is easy, but in my experience, for many people, the road has been very tough.

I spoke tonight about life. I knew, very early on, in my life, what it was that I did NOT want to be. I heard words that I swore I would never use myself. And I heard thoughts that were repugnant, bigoted and racist.

I knew …

Growing up, if you did not fit in the box my parents wanted you to check, they punished you with silence, and darkness and humiliation and resentment.

Imagine a kid growing up with that kind of negativity and trying to find your way into the world, and survive the slog!

My father went to his grave, hating me, and resenting me for becoming who I was meant to be. My mother is on that very same shit path herself. Last night, I read in this months Grape Vine, about a woman long sober, making peace with her mother, and she asked her what she could do to mend the fence between them ?

The answer was, You Could agree with me sometimes. I’m not always wrong you know.

And I thought about that conversation all day today.

I imagine going to visit my mother, in my brother’s house, where nobody knows me today, and does not want to know me, because of resentment and anger and denial. I imagine having that kind of conversation with her, knowing she spits out the same vile shit, like a script she has mastered over my lifetime.

I don’t ever think I will ever mend that fence, myself.

The second time I got sober, I began with steps that were all about ME. What people did to me, and why they deserve my scorn and hatred. I remember the first round of steps I did, and how LONG my fourth step was, and the hours it took to do my fifth.

Then I burned them.

For years and years, I’ve been working steps with different people, with different lengths of sobriety. And I have amassed a library of knowledge about myself but more importantly, knowledge about everybody else.

God has a funny way with me. The evidence is right there for me to look at. Steps Six and Seven are the growth steps. The change steps. Because we work Six and Seven for the rest of our lives. And further up the road, at Ten, we learn how to do spot check inventories and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Over the years, as I pass through Six and Seven, God shows me Six and Seven, in front of my face. I have learned to see “spiritually.” It has taken a long time to work that vision out. I know I can trust because I can see.

It is the same with some of my friends, when it comes to me. They can see, for me, when I cannot see for myself. And each of them, each in their own ways, have the voice and the temperament to sit me down and tell me like it is, when I fuck up.

Many of my friends know who they are, in each of their varying lengths of sobriety. Many of my friends are honest with me. And I see that virtue in them, in the books I have read on honesty, virtue and honor.

What I see in them, I want to become myself.

I don’t know, at what point, we can trust our vision, and humbly admit we don’t know everything, but I we know some things. In the beginning, I would not say anything to people because I did not know myself what it was I really wanted to say, even if it sounded good in my head.

Over the years, I have worked with others. And over the years I have had several sponsors. And over the years, each of them fell victim to their own character defects.

As I get and stay sober, and life goes on, and shit happens, and things get real, what I witnessed was my friends, my sponsor and other drunks, reacting to the fact that I was having a hard time. I listened to the words they said to me. And I witnessed what each of them did to me, in response to my life getting “Shit Real.”

The rooms really don’t like to see people “In the Mix” People in the rooms, don’t like to witness pain and hardship. And many of my friends and sponsor at the time, pushed me away, freaking out, because I was freaking out, and when I jumped out of my placid, quiet, reserved skin, and became a little odd and crazy, that freaked people out, because I was coming out of my skin, and for a long time at that, that quiet, sane individual became someone they did not know, or want to know.

So they all ran for the hills.

What a shame. And at that point my friends, not knowing what to do with a crazy man, in front of them, all scattered.

There are many ways to get sober. I know a friend, who is more than twenty-five years sober. She, like myself, learned how to get sober, the hard way. We walked into particular meetings, and those men and women, said one thing to us …

If you follow our suggestions, and do not argue, and you work, as we show you what to do, yes, you too will get and stay sober.

There were no two ways about it. It was their way or the highway, so to speak.

She was handed her job. And likewise, I was handed mine. A coffee pot.

We listened to old timers tell us what to do. We both had sponsors who did the right thing at the right time, for the right reason. We learned suggestions. We worked steps. We did service, and to this day, BOTH of us do service, all the time, every day.

Repetition is the key in recovery.

We read the same book, work the same steps. hear the same stories, over and over again. But as we share with each other, as we remain clean and sober, perspective changes.

Each time we make a pass at a particular story or topic or step, we see it in the way we see it IN THAT MOMENT, as it is. not particularly, the way we saw it, the last time we hit that share, or topic or step.

It is like polishing a gem stone. Each pass at the wheel makes the gem better.

We both know what we heard, all those years ago. We both know what we did, over the years, so we know what to do, because we spent the better part of our lives, treading the same things over and over. With all that time between us, and each in our own times, we know what we know, because we heard, we worked, we spoke, and we did.

She has a voice, and I have mine. Based on practical experience, strength and hope.

I talk to newcomers and I tell them what I did, and I make simple suggestions. Not many people want to hear what I have to say, because I, like my elder lady friend, come from the sober school of hard knocks.

Sobriety is not easy. And people know that from the get go.

But if you say something that is not easy … They respond with I just Can’t !

So I ask, why not ? What have you got to lose, but the old way you used to live ?

They say that honesty is the best policy. But when do we know what honesty is, and when do we know that what we have to say matters, is truthful, honest and comes from a place of humility?

That, is a tall order. And can take a lifetime to learn.

Over the years, I have worked with men and women. many of them are not in my life anymore, because when I hit the rough spot, who I became was unacceptable to their sensibilities. All that sober knowledge I spent teaching them, went for naught.

Because each of them sunk into their character defects. I saw it. I heard it, and I spoke about it too. Being honest in all my affairs was a mantra I use to this day.

I was honest with them. They did not like that. So that made me less sober or trustworthy.

Fuck Me for Trying !!!

I know today, the odds, when people come in the rooms. By what they say, and what they do, and who they listen to. The fighters and arguers, never make it. Those who justify their addictions, never get better. Until they decide to get honest.

I know sober folks who are constitutionally unable to be honest with themselves.

If I attend a meeting, for a long time, for a specific reason, to learn something, and people treat me badly, that is not on me, it is on them. When people who used to be my friends, turn out to NOT be friends, and do not have the ability to reciprocate kindness, that is on them and not me.

There are LONG SOBER men and women, whom I have known for the whole of my sobriety. We are talking people with decades of sobriety, who treat me with ignorance and silence. That just floors me.

I know who I am today. And I know what I know about each person I know. Because I have spent the better part of sixteen years and a few months, watching and listening to them in meetings.

I got sober, on the backs of every single person in every single meeting I went to. Every single day of this sober segment.

I know every decision they made. I know every mistake they made. I heard every word they said, in meetings, over and over. I watched people go back out, come back in, go back out and come back in.

I also watched some people die in that process.

If you did something and succeeded, I used that myself. If you did something and failed, I chalked it up to lessons learned. I made mistakes. I said things. I decided things too.

For the most part, I did my best, with whatever I had at the moment.

Not everybody was amused. Many people judge and are critical of me.

That is on them and not me. People are who they are, and will do what they do, so I should not let that bother me, but it does. Some don’t seem to learn and get better. They just want to be who they are. And their growth becomes stunted.

I am honest with people. Almost to a fault and that scares people, that I could know what I know, it is only that I know because I have tested all my methods over the years and I know what works.

I am in the book. I am in my steps. I am in meetings, and I do service. All the time.

I am always looking for the next greatest teacher or lesson. And right now, I am in a brand new incarnation of who I want to be, based on those I surround myself with.

I trust few.

We are all growing up to who we want to be.

Each at our paces.

I am powerless over people, places and things.

And what ever happens, a drink will not solve them.

So I hit another meeting …

Tuesday: Let’s Talk About Sex !

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You know a meeting is going to be interesting, when we hit page 69, in the Big Book. The Paragraph that begins with … Now About Sex !

A fellow who is a bit dyslexic, shared last night, that instead of going to page 69, he went to page 96, where it says:

Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at once. Search out another alcoholic and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer …

Kind of apropos when you go back to page 69, and we hit the sex inventory.

Sex is a taboo topic across the board.

Yet, sex is one of those issues that either keeps people suffering in their addictions, because let’s face it, sex and alcohol, go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other, can you? OR, sex, is one of those issues that send people back out to drink and use again, because they cannot either, one, face the issue head on, or, two, cannot get enough of it.

Shame, Fear and Guilt rank right up at the top of the list of reasons why we shy away from this topic. I mean really, I don’t know one single old-timer, in my time, in the room, who dared even to ask about my sex inventory. What straight man or woman wants to hear a gay man’s tale of woe?

Both men and women feel Shame, Fear and Guilt. Equally. 

They just rarely admit that in open community.

Everybody struggles with this question … How can I have sex sober, when all I know is sex while drunk and high? Many of my gay male friends struggle. I don’t have all the answers. All I know is what worked for me.

We all know the First Year Rule… No relationships for the first year.

How many people, follow that advice ? NOT MANY !!!

Really, do we really know ourselves in early sobriety, if we have not written a complete and honest (what is considered honest, in your first year) inventory ? Do we really know what makes us tick, if our sponsors don’t run through the ENTIRE inventory process ?

We all struggle. We just won’t openly admit that to many. Even our sponsors.

Until we do a fifth step and our sponsors look at us and say … YEP I did that !!!

I heard many good things last night. Honesty and forthrightness is common in our Monday group of young people. They are starving, well, not necessarily starving, but they are eager to jump right into dicey discussions, because we don’t often, NOT often enough, speak about this topic.

One of my friends says that sex is like oxygen. You need both, on a daily basis. And if he needs to check how sober he is, on any given day, he looks at his sex conduct.

When my father died, I wrote my sex inventory, in a letter to my brother. Telling him the story he needed to hear, right from the horse’s mouth.

My sex education began at home. With reading material my father had left out for public consumption. My father, when I hit puberty, in my early teens, did talk to me about sex, because he thought that would be helpful to me. Sadly, I was already gay by then, and he did not mention men to me at all.

In school, sex education began in Junior High. That was an eye-opening portion of our lessons. Right down to the actual birth of a baby, live and in color, in film format.

When I moved away to be Gay, alcohol, I was told, would “grease the wheels.” All I had to do was sit in a bar and drink, and wait for fireworks.

Back in the day, we all had certain assets. I knew what mine were.

Nightly BINGO was on the table, all the time. I moved into an apartment complex, right near the Tragic Queendom. That little section of town, just off Hotel Plaza Boulevard, was chock full of complexes filled with boys who worked in the Queendom.

Yes, that’s right … MANY a gay boys work at the Tragic Queendom.

If there was alcohol, drugs were not far behind. And sex, well, that was a given. I loved that period of time, mainly for “some” of the people who were alive back then. I could care less about many of the boys I was involved with. Because, let’s face it, we were not men in our twenties, because the mainstay of my twenties was irresponsibility.

Really not a MAN quality for sure.

I got burned more often than I cared to admit or cared for. Sad really. But who knew, I was in it for the long haul way back when? I did not hit that point, until I hit the ripe age of thirty-five.

There was no book on good gay sex, or how to be a good gay man. I mean, I knew how to date, and drink, and have sex. Beyond that, all bets were off. Rent needed to be paid and food put in the fridge, stuff like that.

Blender or Bottle …
The one relationship, I was truly fond of was Charlie. I really liked him. We spent a lot of time together, watching Mary Poppins, drinking and having sex. I don’t know what it was, but he was the real deal. There was no ruse or pretension. We both knew what we wanted from each other, and I think that was what was the difference from all the other boys I had dated in that period of time.

Either he or I would call and ask only one question. Bottle or Blender. If that was the question asked, sex was imminent.

No fuss, no bull shit.

Money was hard to come by, for me. Even when I was employed for what little time, I remember being employed. A lot of the time, I think about the time I spent traveling from point A to point B. Riding the Orlando, Daytona corridor and up to the Palm Coast, down to Fort Lauderdale and even Miami.

The pivotal period of time came when I hit twenty-five. And on that auspicious night I walked into the Stud, for the very first time. I had darkness in my heart and mind, and from the shadows, off stage, Todd (read: God) was watching.

Todd, the only human being, in my life, that harnessed the Power of God.

Knew, from our very first conversation, what was going on in my head. And in one fluid action, he sealed that deal for me. And endeared me to himself forevermore.

He knew, I wanted something hard. Little did I know, then, that He would have my better interest in mind. Because He did.

That fantasy life, I thought I wanted and dreamed and pined about, never came to fruition. Not Ever. Not One drop from that well.

Even working in a leather bar all those years did not produce one drop of sweet, dark, nectar. Even when I begged a certain couple to engage me.

Boulder-dash !!!

Todd was protecting me from myself, all along. And let’s face the reality, no one wanted to have sex with a man with AIDS, at least me, for that matter. Because many other infected men were riding the hobby-horse, all over the place. I just could not tap that well, for the life of me.

ONCE … not long into the drama, I was bar tending one night, and I happened upon someone who drew a fancy to me. It was probably the shorts and leather I was wearing that particular night.

After hours, we hit the COPA for drinks and some dancing. Later we went to his place to do the deed. I needed to DISCLOSE.

We were half-naked walking in the front door, and I just blurted it out. It was the first time, I would have had sex, after my diagnosis. I may have been deathly sick, but I looked good doing it, for better or worse.

I saw fear cross his brow … I never watched some one put their close back on so fast in my life. It was like the SLO MO film being rolled backwards right in front of me.

He asked me to leave and never speak to him again. And for that matter, he continued to patronize the bar, for the next year, ignoring me like I did not even exist.

HARSH !!!

A few years into sobriety, I hit that wall of people in the rooms, who did not want me around them. Which sent me into my head, and opened that chasm of the HOLE in my SOUL. And that whole sordid affair with a slip, drugs and alcohol.

IF ONLY …

We cannot live in If Only’s though.

Today, I know very well, that I cannot be trusted, in many cases, to my own thoughts alone. If for one moment, I don’t use the barometer check, I am in trouble.

All I need to do is close my eyes and visualize Todd. And ask one question:

W.W.T.D.

What would Todd Do ???

When I met hubby, fifteen years ago, we had a short few months of dating and sex, and shaking up together, before the walls caved in on us, and he got very sick. From his nervous breakdown, to today, I can count on one hand, the number of times we have had sex, in fourteen years.

Because within his treatment for Bi-Polar disorder, what the doctors did not tell me, when we began his treatment, was this …

The man who went into treatment, was NOT the man I got on the backside.

Those toxic drugs cleaved away half of his brain. And the man I knew from me. He was entirely another human being when he woke from his slumber off the sofa.

Lazarus might have been raised from the dead, but he was no longer Lazarus.

In the gay world, disease is a deal breaker. Some said walk away, others counseled me to stay the course. I stayed the course. And a good thing too.

Relationships are not all about sex when intimacy is the goal. The good thing today, is that we have intimate time together. Sleeping next to each other, napping, or at night, is a most intimate time for both of us.

Just laying next to him in bed is just something else.

The breathing, the rhythm. The quiet. Intimate …

We reviewed our conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, and what should we have done instead?

In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal or our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test – was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed.

Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it.

I can honestly answer these questions today. I know what my ideal is. One thought that always reminds me of who hubby was, and is, is this …

I never want to break his heart.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

Monday: The WORK that keeps on Giving

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We heard many good things about step work tonight. The good thing about or little community is the variance of people, time, and experience. Having a cross-section of people talk about experience, is good for everyone in the long run.

Many of us, with some serious time, have tried every “new thing on the block” to spice up sobriety. Over the years, visitors have come from other places to share with us, how they approach THE WORK.

For me, and many of my friends, this little jaunt into “New Methods” began in the year 2012. New Yorker’s who live here, part of the year and back home, at other times, had a method. Many saw it, watched it work for others, and then attempted that work for themselves.

I met a few people over the years, who taught me new methods of The WORK and also about Prayer. It was then, that I began to arduously make prayer work for me. Not that I had not set myself the duty of prayer before. Bob just told me how to step up my game. I followed his direction, and that changed the entire ball game for me.

Today, I hear some of my friend talk about where they are. Some have grown tired of trying new things, and many of us are in a place today, where we recognize that being perfect is not necessary. And that like some, we just want to be loved, and feel ok.

The push for continual growth has slowed for many. Many of my friends are in a “down time” place today. Those with time, have a desire to feel where they are and to experience life as it comes, “in the moment.” However, the work continue, in any case.

We’ve not seen “new methods” come to us over the last little while. So we have been regurgitating the latest method were had been working with. For many, that has grown old and tired. Some have disappeared, a few have resurfaced over the past little while.

Everybody is different, and no two people follow the same proscriptions for sobriety. I think it bears saying that, listening to each other, and sitting with each other often, that is where God is going to speak to us. Through others, in community.

I know that if I don’t hear from God directly, I need to hit a meeting and listen attentively.

Steps are progressive. They never end. You work steps, over and over. The longer you stick around, we grow up. I heard a man say, tonight, that when he realized that he had, Grown Up, in sobriety, that the steps became useful, because he recognized his own progress.

They say that when we started drinking and using, the age we were, AT THAT TIME, is where we stop growing up. Which then tells you, when you got sober, what age you will begin at. I was twenty-one for a long time. A very long time.

Folks who come in late, (in terms of age) don’t necessarily recognize how emotionally and mentally immature they are when they come in. But like my friend mentioned tonight, when he came in he was 41. With a mental age of 21.

When I came in at 34, I was stuck in the mental age of twenty-five, when my drinking was just off the charts, and I was going to die. We’ve all recognized, in ourselves, just how much many of us have grown up, over the years.

Tonight we read Page 75… The reading dealing with steps 5 through 7.

How after we speak our inventory, we go home and take out the book, and review the first five proposals, taking time to realize if we have done things right. Have we a firm foundation. Have we skimped on the cement, Have we left anything out…

There is ONE paragraph on Step Six. Not a whole lot of direction or advice on what to do. Then the book launches in the Seventh Step Prayer …

God, I am now ready for you to have ALL of me, good and bad …

I have heard, over the years that Steps 6 and 7, are the steps we live in for the rest of our sober lives, even having worked all the way through Step 12.

Character Defects and Shortcomings … They never go away. We just learn how to mitigate the damage we can wreak on others.

I told this story tonight. It’s an OPRAH story about Step Work.

By Steps Six and Seven, we should have conscious contact with a Power Greater than Ourselves. In any case, we should have figured out that equation by now.

Many don’t …

Anyways. Oprah talks about God in this way …

God speaks to us. All the time. On the first pass, God whispers to us. If we miss the first whisper, He whispers again. If we miss it the second time, God hits us over the head with a TWO by FOUR. If we miss it the third time, God drops a WALL on top of US.

That is exactly how God has gotten my attention in the past. I kind of need that critical, in my face, kind of God experience. Kind of like egging God on to show himself.

I know better. NOW. Because I know God exists. I’ve met Him in the flesh.

How often I forget that truth.

Over those years following 2012, I was attending Men’s retreats in Vermont, with a bunch of evangelical straight sober men, who talk out of one side of their mouths, then do the opposite in action.

Working through character defects and shortcomings was an In Your Face, God experience. I missed the whispers. I got whacked by the two by four, then had the wall dropped on me. Before I actually realized what was going on.

That’s the way it has been for me. Things I need to see, in myself, come to me through other people around me. I see what I need to recognize, through the behavior and defects and shortcomings of other sober people standing in front of me.

Which is why I don’t travel in those circles any more. God abhors a hypocrite.

So do I …

Life is cyclical. And runs in cycles. The longer you are sober, the more WORK you do, and the more you grow up and remain sober, these life cycles continue to rise and fall.

Issues we see on our dashboard, early on, are seen with the eyes and perspective of early sobriety, on the first pass of Steps. Those issues and lessons come and go. If we are wise, we learn on that first pass, in perspective.

Those issues don’t go away. They just get “put to bed” for the time being. Until we hit another round of steps, and life continues to grow. Sooner or later, those old problems and old issues rise again. Cyclically.

BUT, now, we see those same old problems and issues with new eyes and new perspective. And that growth continues, the longer we are sober.

It is like a jeweler who polishes Gem Stones. Each issue that rises, gets a cut on the jewelers wheel. Each cut, brings that Gem Stone (read: YOU) into greater perfection. Life is cyclical, and gem stones are continually cut and polished.

We may never reach total perfection, but if we stay sober and we do the work and we grow up, we are a little closer to who we could become, rather than who we once were.

Life can be good. But that takes time and work.

Stick around till the miracle happens.

Friday: Change is not Easy !!!

A.A. #3 Bill D.

The only thing that is constant in this life is CHANGE. Whether we like it or not, or if it is good or bad, comes quickly, or takes its sweet time, change happens.

When it comes to change within a meeting, there is bound to be friction. It is a known fact that there are business meetings, then there are BUSINESS MEETINGS. The latter are much worse than the former.

And I’ve sat both, in as many years…

Our Friday group prides itself with serious time, as in members with serious time. And the various others, who are scattered over the time-line. I am the G.S.R for our Friday meeting, hence it is my job to chair, moderate, and attempt to keep everyone on the same page and not let the proceedings, get out of hand.

The Friday meeting is the “Meeting of the week!” It is the only meeting of its type, IN that particular neighborhood, Outremont, it is the only ANGLO meeting, in that area all week, and it is populated by a broad spectrum of “people.”

PEOPLE: being the operative word here.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other, so that they may solve their common problem and help others to achieve sobriety.

We all know that the spectrum of orientation identifiers has broadened, in the last decade or so. In the last five years, and even closer, the last year or so, our Friday membership calls many “people,” as members.

The Friday meeting has had its share of controversies over the years. And when time got tough between the addicts and alcoholics, the latter calling for the banning of the former from the room, caused major heartache for months and months, until God sorted it all out, and the room survived, as well as her “people.”

With the appearance of trans-rights and the broad spectrum of people who don’t necessarily identify as Men or Women, today’s discussions are centered upon the word PEOPLE.

We do not discriminate based on addiction, or sexual orientation. We learned that lesson the hard way. The clause in our preamble reads,

We are committed to the primary purpose, and the third tradition, as it states in our literature, You are an AA member if YOU say so.

In order to bring all the parties back to the table in civility and respect, the alcoholics decided, after months of heart wrenching silence between friends, that we cannot tell anyone who walks through our doors that they cannot belong and stay.

In that fight, I took the side of the addicts, because many of them are founders of the meeting, way back from the day when there were only less than a dozen people showing up for the Friday meeting. Now we are a compliment of almost FIFTY members.

My best friend, an alcoholic was on the other side. After a serious physical confrontation one night, our friendship seemed to end, for as long as it took for God to sort this issue out.

In the end … God did for everyone what we could not do for ourselves.

Today, the buzz word is People.

Within our numbers, are some who took issue with the words MEN and WOMEN, in the preamble. Which has not changed since the dawn of the fellowship. Three months ago, one of our young men, set a motion on the table of our business meeting.

His motion was to amend the Preamble, to read, Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of “People,” who share their experience, strength and hope with each other …

There are other “people” who sat at that table, that night and seconded the motion for consideration. The motion went into the minutes of the meeting.

Our policy, on the ground, simply, is to give each motion, placed on the table, three months grace period for conversation and consideration for everyone who is an active member to assess their positions on any given motion discussed.

Tonight, we all agreed, after three months of back and forth on this issue that we really need guidance from the Area Committee, and guidelines for figuring out how we should properly deal with this request.

If a change is made to a group that is crucial, like format, preamble, chips, or any major change to the inner workings of the group, then we convene a much deeper and specifically charged Group Conscience, to decide what the final vision will be.

For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority, a loving God as He may expresses Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants they do not govern.

The “People” who first placed this motion of the table for consideration, have not been present IN the meeting, over the last many months, as in attendance, and they have not been present in further business meetings, where this old business is still on the table for consideration.

Tonight, for the first time, in as many months, the person who set the motion on the table was in the room, but decided against attending the business meeting afterwards.

Among our group, the discussion has gone around and around. We’ve discussed the absences, of those who made the initial presentation. We’ve discussed the reasoning behind he verbiage change to new group members who do not necessarily understand the growing complexity with gender identification within a meeting.

Alcoholics are alcoholics. Why fix something that hasn’t been broken. The preamble is read at every meeting, and very few, (I can count two) meetings, here in the city who have amended their preamble to read either shorter or longer texts.

The Group Conscience was brought up, as the legal formality to make any pertinent changes to meeting formats. That motion was put down quite succinctly by many.

We attempted to vote on the verbiage. It was a close, vote, but the YAY’s were the majority. And the members sitting around the table, due to the absence of those who first made the motion, negated the vote, and tabled a motion to carry the topic till next month, and next week I need to meet with the inter-group secretary to put in place safeguards and set rules of order so that by the end of February, we can finally sort this issue out, once and for all.

I can tell you that this is the first meeting, in my repertoire that the sexual orientation identification discussion has arisen. Times are changing and as a meeting, the Friday meeting, is a welcoming room to everyone.

Nobody is turned away, for any reason.

This does not make my job any easier. As Chair of the business meeting. After the meeting, on the way home, I received high marks from my friend for being impartial and respectful to everyone sitting at the table. That was a good thing, I guess.

But it isn’t about me in the end. It isn’t my job to judge or adjudicate.

Thursday: “It’s Ok … I’m GOOD”

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We hear many things, when we get sober. Many of those little things we hear, over our time, in the rooms, is Good Sound Advice …

If you take away the drugs and alcohol, the problem still exists. That problem is US, and the grey matter that resides between our ears.

The drugs and alcohol are just a symptom.

It is important that we pay close attention to the newcomer, at their first meeting, or those coming back from further experimentation.

Tonight we heard that, we need to pay attention to those folks in the Double Digit sobriety range. We know, in our community here, that people with double-digit sobriety are JUST AS LIKELY, to go back out, as someone with little time under their belt.

The warnings are the same. We hear them spoken over and over again.

  • Get to a Meeting
  • Do Service
  • Join a Home Group
  • Connect with others
  • Tell the Truth – Always
  • Work your Steps
  • READ the BOOK
  • Learn Rigorous Honesty

Some of us, have experiences under our belts that many people do not. And that little factoid is “Personal Mortality.” We are all going to die, at some point. But life can turn on a dime in sobriety, and some of us get smacked upside the head with a terminal illness.

When that happens, we do one of two things. ONE, we go off the deep end, and we prepare to die, we give in, we suffer and we drink. and we DIE, or TWO, we turn to those who know us and love us, and we fight to live, we work, DAILY, Not To Drink.

I heard a familiar phrase tonight… “It’s OK … I’m Good…”

Something I have learned at this stage of my game is that “feelings are real” and that sobriety is NOT a cakewalk, all the time.

Shit Happens.

We learn a great deal about the people around us, when Life Goes South …

We learn, quite easily, THOSE we do not want to be like. That is a really great lesson, in the rooms. If you show up at a meeting, we must be good to everyone, because you never know what battle is being waged in their lives.

But there are those, “Who are Constitutionally Incapable of being honest with themselves.” And sometimes, it is those people who push those buttons we have within, and words are said … And we know intimately that we do not want to be like them.

People suffer in the rooms, because they choose to suffer, needlessly, or there are those who suffer, because of honest struggle, with either emotional, mental or medical problems, not of our own making.

Many of us grow up with having to be “The Strong One.” Never admitting frailty or that we have fear or pain, or that we are having a hard time. That is a serious problem, when we get sober.

If we are always ON – if we always ACT like we have our shit together, all the time, when life gets real, and we find ourselves on the bitter end of life and we are suffering, IF WE DON’T ADMIT THAT LIFE HAS BECOME DIFFICULT AND WE CANNOT MAKE IT ON OUR OWN, that we need our friends, and we don’t tell them as such, that is to our own peril.

The rooms provide. Not always to our specific needs. But there are those, Good, Long Sober folks, who are there, like the North Star. Ready, Able and Willing to Love us.

Warts and All …

How do we find these people ? We go to meetings. We connect. We learn to know our fellows, beyond sitting next to each other in those same chairs, night after night.

Because if we DON’T connect, and we suffer alone, and life gets real, and there is no one there in our lives to carry us when we cannot walk alone, life gets really tough.

The warnings are there. Spoken in such a way that everybody listened.

You go to a meeting. And you keep going to meetings. When we are feeling good, When we are feeling bad. When we look good, and When we look haggard and poor.

If we don’t connect and stay connected, we are disconnected at our own peril.

You can do anything, just as long as you don’t drink.

I know, my brain, is not someplace I like to go alone. For many, we get sober, and we gain some time, we do the work, and at some arbitrary point, we decide that “We are Good, that we are CURED … ”

That little internal message is the death knell for people, all across the spectrum.

Because once it begins playing, and we believe our internal messages, the story goes: Ok, I’m sober a while, I’ve done the work, It’s OK, I’m good.” The next piece of information goes like this … Ok, I’m Good, I am cured.

What happens ?

I’m good, so I don’t have to go to meetings any more, as long as I don’t drink.

I can attest to you that an alcoholic who just does not drink, is MORE dangerous, than someone who is actively drinking. If you remove that alcoholic who is sober, from their routine of meetings, and you set them loose with themselves, the end is nigh …

We are going to go ONE of THREE places:

  1. We are going to go back out and drink or use
  2. We are going to go insane, or
  3. We are going to kill ourselves or someone else

A dry drunk is dangerous to themselves and to the people around them, especially, if those people around us are children. Sons and or Daughters.

If we don’t STICK to Meetings, religiously, and we DON’T heed the warnings as we are hearing from the chair, we are SUNK.

100 % SUNK.

There are not many people in the rooms that I trust 100% with my shit. Because I know how people treated me, when I was in the thick of sober suffering at fifteen years sober.

There were, and ARE, a handful of men and women who loved me through my pain, because I kept showing up. I kept making coffee, I kept putting down chairs.

People with time, NOTICE people who stick around. Sticking around means ONE of TWO Things … They ONE, either need that service because it is what we learn to do in ALL cases, or TWO, shit is going down in their lives, so you better pay attention and be PRESENT.

I know my friends, intimately. And I know, by action, or sometimes, by inaction, that they really need to connect and stay connected, because they are on that illusive bubble.

I know now, what I know, because I walked through a forest, not long ago and now I am on the other side. I know the warning signs. I know what I did. I used the sign posts, the slogans, I stayed close and I did what I learned to do when I came in almost sixteen years ago.

All those little things we hear when we first come in are still in play.

And it may not come to pass, and it may come to pass, sooner than you think, but if you ignore suggestions, and those little things we plug into conversations, if you don’t listen or you ignore the locally posted signs, there for your own survival, You do that at your own peril.

Shit happens. And if you are smart, you will be honest, ALL the TIME. And you won’t drink over it.

How can we be honest all the time ? We find those people who are honest with us, and in turn we can be honest with them. Find them.

Because one day, those people will save your sobriety.

And most likely, Your Life …