Friday Night

My friend Jacob, in his Rocket Tights from LED Queens. I have a pair myself.

Tonight we had a great discussion about One Day at a Time.

And I thought to myself, how crazy my life once was. This being July and all, and I reflect on my life, as it turned out. From what it began as twenty five years ago. Then I was age 26.

When I got sick, I could not focus my thoughts, until I learned how to do that, thanks to Todd. I relate this story, as it happened.

The week I was diagnosed, I had gone to the store and bought poster board squares. I plastered them to my kitchen wall, and drew out a calendar, for three months. I numbered the months, as usual. And I began counting the day until I was supposed to die.

I had 576 days … according to my doctor.

I was waiting to die. This was even before I got suicidal. And that episode go me into recovery, at Todd’s insistence.

His lover, Roy, was my first sponsor. He came over the house one day and saw my calendar on the wall, and asked me what I was doing ? I told him, “counting the days until I die…”

He stepped into the kitchen and ripped the calendar off the wall and tore it up into pieces. He then said, You are not going to do this.

When he left, I went out and bought more poster board, and did it again, the same reaction happened. I then did it a third time. And once again, he ripped them down off the wall.

Over the next eighteen months, Todd taught me focus and control. He gave me a method to cope. And it worked famously.

I lived.

But, for the longest time, I was living with one foot on the floor, and the other on a banana peel. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, because, I was still waiting to die.

I was sick for a long time. But I felt that my suffering was salvific. And that if God has a sense of humor, he would not let me die, miserably, like all of my friends did.

I lived.

The change happened, I reckoned tonight, about the ten year mark, that would have been in 2004. I was already living here in Montreal, and my doctor treated patient Zero, the French Flight Attendant.

He promised me life. A good life. If I followed his direct orders, which I followed dutifully.

I guess, at some point, in this sober time period, I was more consumed with staying sober, and not thinking about Dying.

My Higher Power was working for me. God, that is …

I stopped waiting to die. Finally.

In the last eighteen years, my life got BIG. And my life got good. At the thirteen year mark, going into fourteen, all 12 Promises had come true, Albeit, very slowly. But they did.

A friend said, tonight, that the main ingredient for a good life in sobriety, all has to do with one thing… GRATITUDE.

He said that if you can be grateful every day, you will stay sober. Despite yourself.

I concur.

Spiritual awakening happen at the oddest times, and we don’t necessarily realize what they are until they are in the rear view mirror and you have some hindsight behind you to look back and say …

Oh Yeah, that WAS a GOD moment, wasn’t it …

Grateful.

When Is Accommodation A Step Too Far ?

The Literature we read in every meeting, was codified into being when the fellowship began, and the meeting scripts and literature were finely tuned.

Being gay in A.A. has not been pretty. I’ve been told to leave meetings, and not come back, because some alcoholics found me “a human who was not condoned to sit in the same room with them.”

That caused a Slip back into drinking and drugs, that almost killed me.

When I moved to Montreal, that happened a second time, in a meeting in the West End of the city. I never went back to that meeting, and in as many years, I’ve never stepped into a meeting with any of those men and women, to this day.

Back when I first got Sober, there were dedicated GAY meetings. For Gay men. Even so, there were also dedicated meetings for the GAY Women. Over the years, as gay men died, I was and still am the only surviving man living with AIDS on the English side.

Over the years those gay meetings closed, because they could not be populated to sustain a meeting. And in the early years, LGBT men and women began to assimilate into Straight meetings, into general population.

I know, for a fact, that way back when, there were TRANS men and women, in the system. And I made sure I knew who they were, so that if I was present in a meeting, they knew that that meeting was safe to attend, that nobody was going to harm them or disrespect them, so long as I was there.

Many of those TRANS people have disappeared. I’ve not seen many of them in a number of years now. My folks on the spectrum, have more than alcohol in their stories, those making transitions, so forth and so on. Many of them went back out under pressure and never returned.

In the last year, we have seen the LGBT Spectrum widen. More than we had seen in as many years. With the broadening of the sexual orientation spectrum, the terms Gender Neutral or Non-Binary have become stock.

We have a handful of kids in this gender non-binary grouping. Along with the Gay men and women, and TRANS men and women.

The discussion at business meetings and Group Consciences has turned into fighting matches to AMEND our hallowed literature scripts to accommodate everybody in a meeting.

We’ve now reached the point where the words MEN and WOMEN have been removed from the preambles across the city. The word GOD has been removed to Higher Power, for those who do not even deign to say the word God in community.

AA Preamble. Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help other to recover from alcoholism.

This is the way the script has been read for over 80 years.

We’ve now amended that script to say “People.” And Not Men and Women.

Tonight … Was a business meeting that got heated and contentious.

At the Group Conscience a couple of weeks ago, the issue of wording came up and the script changed, voted and with a majority of support is what we read right today.

There are two TRANS women in our group. They come tonight to the business meeting because they had a bone to pick, because they are upset the wording was changed with out THEIR approval or discussion.

They did not attend the group conscience meeting, so they did not get the opportunity to be dissenting voices to the changes.

They came tonight and wanted to verbiage to be changed BACK from “People” to “Men and Women, AND People.” Words were spoken, curses were offered as well. The discussion got very heated.

At one point, I put the motion on the table to change the verbiage back to Men and Women and People.

Sadly, our NON-BINARY kids were in the meeting. Those who offered the change to “People” at the meeting.

I put the motion on the table and we voted.

The motion was voted down. So the verbiage remains “People.”

Our two TRANS women left the meeting in tears, because they feel slighted that Men and Women have been removed from the script, and they, as trans women want inclusion as Men and Women stated in the original.

They left, after Myself and my friend Jim spoke to them. I was outside with one of our women, and Jim was inside with the other. We tried to smooth it over and talk openly and honestly.

We both failed at that.

They will come to the next business meeting next month and try again to raise the issue to put it to a vote to change the wording back to

“Men and Women, with the additional People.”

We’ve tried with difficulty to open the meetings to everyone and not single anyone out or intimate that Everyone is not welcome. That sexual orientation and identity are outside issues, and this is a meeting, and we do things one way and one way only.

We’ve been very accommodating to everyone.

But the Non-Binary camp is powerful and they want things the way they want it, and they don’t want to bend and see that the trans community is just as welcome as they are, and that if we are going to amend the literature as they would like, we have to accommodate everyone equally.

This is the issue of the week right now.

I don’t know quite what to do now.

Suggestions are welcome.

Thinking Out Loud

I mentioned in earlier posts that we have a good number of young people who are on the gender fluid spectrum. There are also a handful of trans young people as well.

When I was a much younger gay man, I encountered many men who did drag, and they were very well known in our community. Many of them went on to gender reassignment. I know, for them, that the transitions took a very long time. Every one of them had to adhere to a specific schedule of transition, as mandated by doctors, social services, and psychologists.

I witnessed many of my friends make that transition, very successfully.

In today’s day and age, the gender spectrum is wide open, and I have said before that many of our kids subscribe to “Whatever you want to be today.” That is causing a bit of consternation with some of my friends.

Because these young people want to be recognized in the one place they feel safe, In A Room with us. And some of our young people have gone so far as to introduce gender neutral terminology in meetings, meaning, they want gender identifiers stripped from our meeting scripts.

They also want everyone else in the room, to wipe binary gender words from our vocabularies NOW. They wish all scripts to be gender neutral, so as not to disrespect our kids decisions to move from binary identifiers, to gender neutral identifiers.

This is causing quite a stir in our communities.

I’ve known every gay kid who has come through the pike in as many years. And I know all the trans kids who are also on this journey as well. Many of them are having a very hard time staying sober.

Which brings me to a mental health observation question. All these kids are in flux right now. They don’t know if they are coming or going. And neither do we. I worry that my kids are not getting, nor have gotten any mental health assistance. I believe they are walking the gender fluid road, all by themselves. Nobody, right now, as I see it, in front of me, are talking about mental health issues with our kids.

How do you navigate gender reassignment in the open, and you decide that you want to swing from one pole to the other, based on your desires, right now? My kids are conflicted themselves, and to me, it seems, that there is no mental health guidance for our kids.

AA is not therapy. And We do not concern ourselves with outside issues, meaning that, I might suspect there is a problem with my kids, because I see them struggling. They are sometimes angry, and upset, if someone uses the wrong pronoun in the rooms they get indignant. So that is a problem.

Who is managing the mental health of our gender fluid spectrum kids? I am not a therapist nor am I a psychologist. I only know what I am seeing in front of me.

And what I am seeing, and hearing from others, is varied, depending on who you speak to any any given moment. Most of my friends are accepting and supportive of each other. But the extent that the new gender fluid rules of engagement, are causing some folks to think on single binary terms.

Many people do not understand gender fluidity as I do. The landscape in front of us is changing rapidly, and we are endeavoring to meet the needs of our kids, as they need them, but this is to the peril of generations of meeting procedures and policies.

Our kids are battling the Bottle and the Drugs. And I am sure that mental health issues are right up there on the front dashboard for all of them.

And I am concerned. And I don’t know quite what to do, or what to say, or who to talk to about this, beyond asking some of our spectrum kids about it, but I am not sure that would be a good thing.

Confused !!!

Friday May 3rd 2019

Times are changing. Our Friday location at St. Viateur Church up on the mount, is going through changes within the parish.

We’ve been in the same room, for more than 60 years. The incarnation of the meeting, has changed over time. And for the last 6 years, we rebuilt a meeting that was falling apart, after the last incarnation, and her people had moved on.

What began as 5 people and a coffee pot, morphed over time to a cohort of over 50 folks. We broadened from the back room and few people to a two room meeting, split up to give everybody time and place to share.

A couple of weeks ago, the church told us, that we had to move out of our room, along with all the other meetings, that used the same space, throughout the week.

They offered us a room, in the church proper, and early this past week, myself and a friend, moved all of our supplies from the basement hall to the church hall room. It is half the size of the full room we had been in. The room does not have a kitchen. We do have one bathroom and sink set up to fill the coffee and tea pots. Since we don’t have a kitchen, we went to styrofoam cups and later paper warm cups, so we don’t have to wash cups in a sink in the bathroom.

The hall will happily seat 50 people. I arrived uber early tonight with a couple of fellows and we set up the room, in the same fashion we used to have in the old room. Save, that the group cannot split up into two, sitting everybody in the same room, for the entire hour.

You cannot throw alcoholics into change, because it throws them off kilter. We welcomed everybody, to the room. Our first meeting in the new space was a success. People seem to like the cozy comforts of the room.

The reason we had to move is this … There is a daycare up in the parish building. That room needs renovation. Before they can move downstairs into the basement hall, that room needs to be retrofitted for safety and regulations, as a child care facility, as per the city and province.

You can’t just toss a daycare, into a room, that is not safely set up for that purpose. We all had to move out so they are now retrofitting the room for the kids. The room upstairs is being renovated. Once all the work is done, the kids will either stay downstairs, or move back up.

We have this new room until October. Between now and then, we are negotiating with the parish rector to remain in our original space, because finding another church, IN this neighborhood, is unlikely. We won’t be able to recreate the old dynamic, in another church anywhere in this locale.

There are a couple of choices still. But some feel that if every meeting in the area, utilizes the same space, 7 nights a week, we loose the distinctive feel of the meeting. Because the one church open for business with a rector who is familiar with our work, will rent his space, for very little money, because he knows what we do. He has three meetings now in that space. We all go to those other meetings in his ballroom in the basement.

The dynamic of that room is far different. it is not the room the Friday meeting wants to inhabit, in any case. So we shall see what comes of the renovations and what will happen next fall.

More to come.

Giving It Away

Lorna Kelly …

On the way to the meeting tonight, I listened again to Lorna speak. I constantly learn new things on every pass. And she says, in the beginning of her shares …

“It would be arrogant of me to think that something I say could possibly help you, when in reality, God thinks I need a lot of help …”

We talked about giving it away. The reading from A.B.S.I was a wonderful read tonight. It brought back many wonderful memories for all of us sitting at the table. Among our group is our local rehab coterie of men and women who come from far away, to get a handle on their stories, and to stop putting gas on an already burning fire that is addiction.

We’ve taken them to our hearts in a way that we have not seen in a long while. They have endeared themselves to us, and we have adopted them into our family. In a little over a week, they will leave Montreal for places far and wide. And hopefully, something they have heard in the past twenty one days will stick.

Talk about memories, always gives rise to much Gratitude.

When this kind of discussion begins, everyone always starts with the day they walked into our specific room, feeling how they felt, when they walked in the door, and how warmly they were met and how they were cared for, in ways they did not imagine could be possible.

Lorna is apt to say, and she does say, that “Every time I speak, I must get my story straight, because every time I tell it, I see it differently, than the time before.” She goes on to say that “Only those folks with long term, LONG TERM sobriety, can really get their stories in a cellular way. We learn how isolated we really were in the bitter end of our disease.”

Working with others came up as well. Nobody has a firm grasp on how that works, because for every man and woman sitting in the room, there are ways of reaching out and working with others.

Some feel that stepping out of their comfort zone and chatting up a newcomer is daunting. And it is.

Over the last little while, I have been testing my chops in asking hard questions and seeking hard answers. Because I question what I know and how I know it, and how to apply what I think I know, against, what I do not.

I step out and ask questions, to which some old timers look at me cross eyed and tell me just to shut up and say nothing, keep my mouth shut and sit here and be shoveled shit night after night like they do.

NOT !!!

It was twelve years before I walked into working with others, because I did not know what I did not know. I did not know I had what it took, nor that I really had a grasp on my own story, to be able to help another human being with their stories.

When I met Bob, and he turned me on to Intentional Prayer, the Three, Seven, Eleven shuffle, he told me that at some point, those words would work themselves into my heart, and out to the universe. And he said to me that if I did this prayer ritual, my life WOULD change.

And it did…

The first time my phone rang in the middle of a meeting, was a surprise. I did not know the boy on the other end, of the line, and I did not know how he got my number, but at that point, he was hysterical, and he called me, of all people.

I finished the meeting and went to him, which began a two year odyssey of sobriety. It was a hard slog, and we learned a lot about each other. But in retrospect, I think an entire group of people had an idealistic vision of me as a placid, non feeling, eunuch, that felt nothing and could do no wrong. And that was sustainable until it wasn’t.

One fateful business meeting was all it took, to shatter the placid calm, layer of myself, when in a moment of stress I raised my voice, and all of my guys went running for the hills, never to speak to me ever again.

That was not a very good outcome of working with others.

Business meetings will do that to you, eventually.

At least I have my guys today, that I have been working with for multiple years, and out of that work, came two best friends who care about each other, their significant others, fiancees, and wives.

Along the way, I have a friend, outside the rooms. A young man who we have cared for, for many years, who stood up for me at my wedding as my best man. Two days ago, his wife gave birth to their fist son, Benjamin.

His first wards to me were these …”Oh My God, his feet are so small!” And I replied, “Yes, you have a little person to care for now, do your best.”

I’ve seen marriages, proposals, and now children come for my friends. My best friend Juan and his wife were married last July and my best friend will be married in 2020. And my buddy in the states is a new father.

We could not be happier for all of them.

Lorna goes on to say that “She does not know if she even ‘has it’ until she has given it away.”

Working with others begins with a conversation. A common idea, a common feeling, a common story element, that brings two people together to talk about that commonality. What happens next is all up to our Higher Powers.

I have a friend, I’ve been working with for a little while. He is newly sober, and came to a meeting one night and begged God the Promises. And I told him to hurry up and wait !

That begging began a discussion, that is still on going.

You never know, one of my best friends said tonight, that something you might say, the littlest of compassion, or the kindest of words, can change the trajectory of someones life in a way we might never have seen, had we not stepped up and shared a little bit of ourselves with someone in difficulty.

It happens … Not very often, so when it does, people pay attention to little things.

Kindness and warmness of heart is key. We never know when someone walks into our space where they are, in their lives, so we talk, honestly and truly. The Friday meeting is a special meeting, because it is the only one of its kind, in “living room” appeal.

Tonight, we tripled our attendance. The weather is growing warmer by the day, and so people are coming out of hibernation, and returning to the old haunt once again, and we could not have been more grateful tonight.

You don’t know what you don’t know. And you don’t know that you have it, until you give it away. And if you don’t try, you remain ignorant of your own abilities. So we encourage our men and women to step boldly into their sobriety and step up and be counted.

You never know if something you have can change a life for the better.

If not Now, When ? If not Me, then Who?

Every day we have a chance to be kind. It is far too easy to be kind, than to be unkind. It takes more energy to be unkind and uncharitable.

Spend your energy wisely.

It will do you and the one you help more good than you ever imagined.

One Day at a Time.

Gratitude Overflowing …

Thank God It’s Friday

Yes, it is Friday. A good week was had by all. The weather is warming up, ever so slowly. It is much warmer today, than it as been in a while. We might get a dusting of snow over the weekend. We’ll see.

last evening, I had dinner with a friend. We have a new A&W Burger joing just up the block so we usually go for food there before the meeting on Thursday.

This morning, I wasn’t sure I wanted to get out of bed, so I slept until 11 then got up because I had things to do. Coffee went on sale and we needed a few cans for Thursday. Coffee is one of those cyclical items that go on sale at least once a month. At $7.00 a can, you can’t go wrong.

Laundry is washing at this moment. This weekend we have to box up the apartment, and get sorted, because they are putting in hard wood floors on the 5th. We have to move all the small stuff, books, book cases, and smalle furniture, the guys who will be laying the floors will move all the big stuff as they lay the floors in pieces. We were told that it would only take a day to get them all in, because we only have two rooms.

More to come.

Holy Snow Storm Batman!!

This is Ste. Catherine’s Street, just outside the Forum, where I was at the gym this morning.

BUT FIRST !!

They warned us that the weather was going to go bad as Saturday night progressed. AND IT DID.

I went to bed early last night, because I had to be up for 8 a.m. this morning to chair the Old Brewery Mission meeting. I was up and ready to go and headed out. I was layered well, and had winter boots on.

There was snow all over the place. Snow had piled up so high that the outer door to the building was barricaded by a snow drift that was four feet high and about three feet deep. In front of the door, on the outside.

I pushed my way out the door, as piles of snow fell on the floor inside, when the door closed behind me. There was almost a foot of snow on the ground as I made my way to the tunnel and down to Georges Vanier Station on the Orange line.

The wind was blowing so hard and snow was piled up so deep, that it took me almost fifteen minutes to walk 1000 yards downhill. There was so much snow that the wind had blown snow all the way down into the tunnel on both the car side and on the pedestrian walkway.

I made it to the train and Juan was already on it, when we arrived at Place D’Armes. We trudged through feet of snow to the Mission. It was well attended. People braved the first major snow storm of the season to make a meeting. Juan spoke, and we gave out a two year chip.

After the meeting we trudged back to the Metro Station and got back on the train coming this way. We were both headed to our respective gyms to train for a bit.

I thought that the gym would be empty because of the storm. There were a handful of people. I got my lifting in and a couple of miles run on the tread mill. I was trying to keep up with one guy to my right and another woman to my left. we were all running “run” programs, but they were running a bit faster than I had been.

On the way home, I took a photo (above) of what it looks like outside at this hour. They have not plowed any of the sidewalks, and barely the roads either, because snow is still coming down.

I thought to walk home would be painless … I WAS WRONG!

Just four blocks through snow drifts more than a foot deep all the way home. I had to stop several times to get my footing because the wind was pelting me with snow, and my glasses were frozen on my face. They warned us of possible frostbite.

They say this will be the coldest storm in Montreal’s history.

All the Homeless Shelters are working over time to make sure nobody is left outside. They opened a new shelter in the old Royal Victoria Hospital, not far from here. They have 100 beds open. Which makes a small dent in shelter traffic. But no shelter is turning anyone away. Human nor animal.

People with pets are an issue here, and now shelters are taking the homeless with their pets, where before, you could not bring a dog into a shelter. Which is why many people stay on the street.

Holy Snow Storm Batman !!