Re-Orientation Part 2

I wrote about the Fall/Winter re-orientation the other day. Today begins my own. After last weeks meltdown and discussions with other old timer friends, I have decided to delete certain meetings from my schedule going forwards.

Sunday remain, at the Old Brewery Mission, Monday and Tuesday, I will be off for two days, dropping both Monday Central and Tuesday Beginners, both full of kids, and both full of newcomers and slippers. I cannot sit in rooms of strife and misery any longer.

Between the arguments between the kids over pronouns and gender qualifications, and the battle between the non-binaries and Trans folks, and the constant revolving door habits of so many of our kids, I just can’t partake in their strife and misery any longer.

Many old timers are saying the same. If you don’t want the solution, and you want to constantly live in your problems, and you surely are not talking to me (read:us) then why bother ? I’ve been sober long enough to know my emotional and mental limits, as to how much misery I can stand on any give night.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday remain the same. Since I am doing service and opening and making coffee all three nights. it pays to have church keys on my key ring.

For the time being, 4 meetings will be my max limit through Fall and Winter. Since I have keys, I won’t have to wait outside when temps drop and it begins to snow.

I’ve got several irons in the fire right now, and working with others, has become my primary focus as of late. I work steps and read the Big Book with a lady friend on Thursday mornings. I have a new fellow I am in conversations with. And my regular cohort of guys remains constant.

We go into Fall/Winter anniversaries in a few weeks. God willing, Juan will hit his five years on November 11th, and I will hit 18 years in December. Oddly, I have to work almost an entire calendar year before I take my chip. A whole 11 months to work out the issues I hit the year prior, and to work on my steps for a while.

Working steps in the fall of each year is a good schedule. Because we read the book, and do some step work, then have some (real time) practical application of what was brought up on the last pass.

I ratcheted up my prayers, and my meditation is getting stronger. Albeit, meditation is never a perfect process for me. But I have been able to amend my prayers to include some new forms of prayer. I have 3,7, and 11 next to my computer, and I have some meditation practice on my phone. There are some good apps for that as well.

They say that prayer changes everything. And every time we pray we ratchet up our spiritual practice and our lives do get better. On Universal Time.

Fall has been pushed off for another week here. As temps are going to be in the high twenties for the next week and a few days. It’s gonna be a warm week, as the weather people said last night.

Where leaves are turning in other places and provinces, we have not hit the all important cold snap to goad the trees into turning just yet. But a good Fall, would be nice. We’ve had several shitty Fall turnings over the past few years, where leaves just fall from trees, without turning, or we get shit faded colors that don’t burst with color.

We’ll see what Mother Nature has for us this year.

We need that first really cold snap to hit first.

More to come.

Solutions – Blow Up – Part 2

Last week, before the Thursday meeting, I was talking to one of my best Lady friends before the meeting. And I told her about my woes about watching kids stuck in the revolving door, that it is becoming too much to sit in certain meetings, listening to miserable people, when they know that the solution, or the path to the solution is sitting probably a few chairs away from them, yet they won’t ask for help, for certain reasons.

She said this … She is 70 years old and sober as long as myself. She said that she only goes to meetings where she is being fed good food, so to speak. She does not go to meetings where it is gloom and doom and misery.

She also said that ladies in our age bracket, life wise, and sober wise, do not waste their time trying to help those, who don’t want the help we offer, nor ask for it in any case, or don’t want the solution and that they constantly want to live in the problem, once again, knowing the solution, or the path TO the solution is not far from where they are sitting.

Most old timers from “our grouping” who have Booked, Done Steps, Got sober and are happy sober, there are a specific group of men and women in this grouping, they won’t touch newcomers with a ten foot pole, because, we all know right now, it is useless, because none of them are really serious about the solution. They’d rather spin inside the revolving door, rather than settle down and do the work necessary to get and stay sober, so why waste our time?

We have better things to do, for those who really need it and want it too. There are a handful of people we know who work for their bread and butter, and we know who just won’t work at all and are starving because of their penchant for the drink.

Last week I spoke to my best friend, and I wrote what he said to me then, that I should stop overextending myself. That if people don’t want what I have, then let them be, and stop going to meetings where all people want to do is spin their wheels.

I cannot save everyone, and that’s not my responsibility either. He knows what I do for the chosen few I work with, and we do well together, because my guys work for their bread and butter. 100% !

I broke my fast last night, because I can only sit in the same room with my husband before I want to strangle him ! Sometimes he drives me crazy, because he never leaves the house unless he goes to the gym in the mid mornings, then he works from home all damn day long, sitting not ten feet from my desk all day long! UGH!!

I’m ruminating and it 4:44 in the morning right now and I am wide awake because I could not sleep, so I got up to write some more ramblings of an alcoholic, yet sober, mind.

Am I crazy ?

I know, over the last two years, those men and women who have contributed, solidly to my sobriety. And I know who didn’t, and who doesn’t right now. I sit in certain meetings week after week, with the same old timers, who do not contribute one word to me in positive reinforcement or saying anything of advice to me on anything I say in a meeting. They just let me shoot off my mouth when a stream of consciousness hits me, and I go off like a rocket, like I did last night.

Right now all everyone has to say to me is stupid smart ass comments about my looks, my jewelry, or my outfits. And last night I swore at two men who shot their mouths off at me, and told them to keep their smart ass comments to themselves. Weren’t they shocked that I spoke like that to friends !

I’m wasting my time sitting in meetings that aren’t feeding me …

Waste Of Time…

The Alcoholic WILL DRINK AGAIN !!!

The Book does say that: “The Alcoholic will drink again.”

There is a very solid reason why they tell us, that the girls work with the girls and the guys work with the guys, (caveat) “unless you are Gay.”

Tonight we read Step One – out of the Twelve and Twelve. Because the chair needed to hear, “Going back to basics.”

We all know that Step One is the Step, one has to get right, the first time, and every day hence… Every day we wake up and do a Step One, just to get out of bed, on the right side of said bed. I mean really, if you don’t say the words Thank You, when you wake up, every morning, you are doing something wrong.

Those of us with some time, work tirelessly every day, in meetings, and on the outside, helping others. Shit, I devote my entire waking time, week in and week out, taking care of others, in a multitude of ways, week in and week out.

The men stay away from the women, and the boys stay away from the girls, for obvious reasons. Some of our girls won’t even deign to say hello to me when they walk in the doors to a meeting, like I am some monster out to get them and do serious harm to them.

Fuck me for trying.

There is a particular gaggle of girls who travel in a pack. Most of them are first timers, but several of them are back around again. I speak to some of them, who will listen when I speak, then there are those who care not for anything I have to say to them, even if it means their lives in the balance, and alas, they drink again.

A couple years ago, when the first round took place, they all came in, just prior to the holidays, so keeping them ALL SOBER, was my first order of business. I opened meetings on Christmas and New Years. I set out chairs and I was present.

And from my mouth to God’s ears I said to them, “If you make it through Christmas, I guranteed them, that they would stay sober.” They all made their first Christmas sober, all stayed sober, into the next year, Last Christmas came and again, I was present, and I was out there, with them, and they all made a second Christmas, sober.

One by One, each in their own ways, decided to drink again. Tonight, the one remaining girl in the gaggle, spoke, AFTER I had shared, on my Step One. And much to my surprise, after two years working indirectly to keep her sober, night after night, meeting after meeting, talking to her her from the sidelines, because the girls won’t listen to the men at all …

She Drank Again. With two years and a bit under her belt.

I was shocked. But not surprised. Because over the last few months, one of the long sober woman leading this rag tag bunch of girls, drank again. Watching your sponsor drink again, is a solid shock to the sternum. And it usually strikes the fear of God into them.

When that long sober woman drank again, I was present, I knew about it because I was told about it, and I tried to mitigate the fallout. Alas, in the long run, I failed at my mission to help them all stay sober.

I am disappointed that the girls won’t cross the divide and call us when they have nowhere else to turn. When the women fail in working with women, then what do they do? Drink again, like they have no other option?

I really don’t know what to do but wish them well, and see them into this next round of sobriety from the sidelines, because we must stay on our side of the proverbial street.

People know what to do if they want to drink. They know where to go and if push comes to shove, they have options. They can ONE, go back out and drink, or TWO, they can speak to one of us, and we will be glad to help when necessary.

Sadly, the girls stay away from the men and the boys, for those obvious reasons.

Hence … The Alcoholic Will Drink Again.

What Will The Newcomer Think?

Today I was wearing a variant of this outfit, in Blue, rather than Black, but Under Armour in any case. I saw this photo in one of my streams and decided on replicating it in my wardrobe. I have several different iterations of said color scheme. Any color goes with white 3/4 tights, as long as your sock and shirt colors match.

I devote myself to breaking the mold of just what a 50+ year old man can wear in public. And the men who know me all have smart ass remarks about my looks. I really do not care what people have to say about my looks or my methods.

I’ve learned not to care what others think about me. I have more people who support me, rather than deride me openly.

Today in particular, my old sponsor who is up in the twenty six year range was sitting outside the church with another elder friend at thirty years sobriety. My old sponsor looked at me and said:

“You know you should really stop wearing your underwear out in public, I mean really, what will the newcomer think if they see you dressed that way?”

I should have pulled down my pants and showed him my brightly colored patterned underwear that I WAS wearing underneath my white tights.

But I digress …

I had posed a question to my elder friend sitting next to him, and he turned his face away from me, and answered my question by posing the answer to another man standing ten feet away, as if to say, he acquiesced to my old sponsors admonition about my wardrobe choice tonight.

I noticed …

Newcomer won’t come near me because they all think me a little strange, but I do have my friends in the younger bracket. I mean, I will socialize and I do, and I share when necessary, but overall, I am interested in their progress and mainly keep tabs on my kids where ever I go, on any particular night.

I told the story about the boy I cornered with the three, seven, eleven shuffle last week. He’s been MIA for days and skipped all the meetings we used to share in common. I hope I did not scare him away because I asked him to pray, as the Book Says … and that He does not DO GOD.

Oh well, you win some and you loose some, I guess.

We spoke about Step Seven tonight:
Humbly Asked Him to Remove our Shortcomings.

I always tell the same story when talking about Step Seven.

Many years ago, just after I was diagnosed, and getting sober at the same time, I have said before that Todd knew more about sobriety than any man I knew or have known since.

He was in essence: God. As I understood Him.

One night, on a busy weekend, I was on duty and the main bathroom was packed and someone put a RED CUP in a toilet backwards. The toilet was overflowing with shit and piss and other sundry fluids.

Todd called me over and said to “Clean the bathroom.” My response was “I don’t do toilets!” He said a second time “Clean the bathroom” Which my response did not change. He went into the kitchen and brought out a pair of rubber gloves and demanded quite forcefully, that I should reconsider and go and Clean the Bathroom.

I had nowhere to go but to follow orders.

I did indeed don the gloves and attacked the bathroom and the backed up toilet. At the end of shift, Todd spoke to me saying this:

Do you know why I had you clean that messy toilet? Everything he told me to do was connected to some lesson about the present and maybe the future. I said No…

His answer was loving and kind. He said that if I could clean a shitty toilet, that if I got really sick and ended up in a shitty diaper one day, that I would then know what to do for myself.

Lesson learned. Humble Pie it was …

Many men I knew who were vibrant and alive, ended up sick, demented, and lying in their own shit. I had a friend for a while who was damned to diaper living and it was demeaning. It was terrible for him. And I swore then and there, I would rather die than to end up sick, demented, and lying in a shitty diaper.

Thank God I never saw that kind of sickness in my own life. And for that I am forever grateful for small mercies.

Humility … for me, is knowing my place in the world. I am not better than anyone else, I know what I know, because I’ve studied life for the whole of my life and I’ve been sober quite a long time now. You cannot take that away from me. My life experience nor my sober knowledge.

I am not the center of the universe and my belly button is not the center either, and finally:

There is a GOD, but I am NOT GOD.

I know what enough means, and I am ok with having enough. Because for many years in early sobriety, we had very little, and for a long time, we did not have Enough. And we had to make it work.

Enough is not lost on me.

Keep it simple, Help someone else, because you can, and not because you expect something in return.

Last week, I went to intergroup to buy a chip for one of our men at the men’s meeting on Wednesday night. I did not say anything about it, but I got his cake, card, and candles.

We gave him the whole ritual of cake and chip.

On Saturday morning, my sponsor called from Vermont. I missed his call because it was early and I was still sleeping. He called to tell me that he had heard about the anniversary celebration, and he said: “Well Done.”

I had not told him about what I was doing, because he’s out of country right now, but several of the men in the group called him to tell him what I had done, a good thing for someone else.

I did not expect praise nor did I do it for the praise, it was the right thing to do for someone. Kindness goes a long way in making friendships work.

But it was nice to hear the words … Well Done.

Something Todd would have said to me.

It made me smile inside.

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 !!!