Sunday Sundries: We Are Not Saints

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

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

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

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

Stick around until the miracle occurs …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ODD !!!

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

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

Damage Done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Takes a Village.

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

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

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

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

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

There is no excuse for unkindness.

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

Other Alcoholic Rabbit Holes are none of my business.

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

There but for the Grace of God go I …

Sufficient Memory …

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“…We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.” pg. 24

“yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find the fellowship, and so will you.” pg. 152

The former passage, I read with my sponsor as we are working through the Big Book together right now. And I have to say that, right now, tonight, I have more notes and perspective written in the margins and underlined in the passages, than I have ever had before. My book is marked up and high-lit with notes from my sponsor that I had never seen in all the years I have been reading my book with people in the past.

The second passage comes after we open A Vision for you, as we read, the harrowing passages about oblivion coming to the words …

“As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settle down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily we did – then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the Four Horsemen – Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy drinkers who read this page will understand.” pg. 151

Throughout the Book, we are visited with the ghosts of former alcoholics who went to the bitter end, blotting out everything around them. Over and over again, Bill and the first 100 writers of the book, tell us stories.

For all those men and women, the miracle happened and they got and stayed sober. So that the rest of us who have come along behind them, can know how bad it got for them, and for many, we heard tonight, all went there, themselves …

A Vision for You does not start out strong in the hope department for sure. It throws down the gauntlet, one more time, then proceeds to tell us that once we get sober, and clean up our lives, shit does get real … and that The Most Satisfactory years of your existence are ahead.

Many of my friends, farther back on the road, have walked, in as many months, a very hard road. I watched many of them struggle, but they persisted. Shit is getting real for many people. And I get a front row seat to watch and participate in the rehabilitation of lives on a nightly basis.

It is like day and night for many. Life is good all the way around. Many of our Down and outers, who never imagined that life could get so good, are besides themselves with gratitude. We all survived the bitter end. And together, we are beginning to see the light.

I’ve never wanted to be so sober, as I do today. My friends are the best people in the world. I cannot begin to tell you how great life is for many of them. One of my best friend and his wife hiked Machu Picchu for two weeks and climbed over 17,000 feet into the sky. Amazing …

Our intrepid chair tonight, invited us to read the first two pages of A Vision for You, as a whole, and many of us revisited the last drink.

And I can tell you that many of us, CAN, with SUFFICIENT FORCE, bring into our consciousness of the suffering and humiliation of our last drink.

I heard many things tonight. And I pondered my own story again.

When I got sober the first time, Todd was there. That voice of calm, the voice of wisdom and the voice of control was always with me. Yes, I was working in a bar, but that bar was the safest place I could be, given the circumstances we had been visited with at the time. AIDS was the great equalizer. Many went to their deaths, miserably.

Thankfully, due to Todd, (read: God) I live to tell that particular story.

When Todd moved away, I could not keep it together by myself. I just could not fathom, living by myself, on my own, without Todd behind me.

When I went out, it was my own fault. I listened to all the WRONG voices. When those final weeks of my drinking took place, it was binge drinking one night a week, because I just could not stomach drinking every day.

I was still, drinking to fit in. Drinking to be seen. Drinking to be noticed.

Nobody noticed.

I would drink, until I fell down. In a room with a couple hundred other men doing the same thing. But nobody noticed me. So I drank more. Thinking that if I kept drinking, SOMEONE would NOTICE me …

At the bitter end, Black Out after Black Out … I came to believe that I could no longer drink any more. I called out to God, and He answered me in due course.

The rest is history they say…

But I still wonder, who was it that picked me up, off the dance floor after I collapsed, took me outside, got me a taxi, drove me home, AND got me in through TWO locked doors, into my apartment ???

I don’t know the answer to that Million Dollar Question.

Someone did notice me, and did me a great favor.

There must have been angels in that club, watching me.

Walking from home to the SOBE room, where I finally arrived in, I had to walk past the building that housed the club, I used to drink in. On the way out and on the way back.

A few weeks after I got sober, I heard they shut down the club for good.

I like to say, with a giggle … The last alcoholic left that building, so they had to close …

I mused tonight, that I needed a steady hand on my shoulder. I cannot go through life and NOT have that steady hand on my shoulder. I cannot do life alone. I know that today.

I knew it long ago, but when Todd left my life for good, there was nobody to take his place, and I foundered.

It wasn’t until I walked back into the rooms, in South Beach, that Fonda, Ed, Charlie, and Shane stepped up and took me in and cared for me.

When I moved to Montreal seventeen years ago, I did it the right way. I stepped into the room, with the people who would change my life. I needed that steady hand on my shoulder, and I got it in spades.

The right sponsor at the right time appeared, and took me on a journey, that first year. I was Never Alone. Not for one Minute. He showed me Sobriety. He showed me everything that this city could offer me, now that I was sober.

He took me places and showed me life. And little by slowly, A Vision for You Came to pass for me and countless others. The most satisfactory years of my life WERE ahead of ME.

And they are STILL AHEAD of me YET !!!

Life did not only get better, it got richer beyond my wildest imagination.

I’ve survived twenty-five years of a death sentence. I live every day to tell people that story to the degree that many of my friends roll their eyes at me when I mention it.

So I don’t talk about it any longer.

We live in the Solution today. You too can live in the solution.

With all the good, there is also bad. Sober people, are sick people, at the root of life. Those who do not work, falter and get sick. They freak out, and I see this happening around me, in old-timer disease.

I can see when old timers freak out and go down the rabbit hole. I can see it, when they cannot see it themselves. I spoke to one particular guy about it when he freaked out and he said to me, all twenty-six years of his sobriety said … How dare you call me on my shit, when you are only sixteen years and a few months sober ???

Go fuck yourself !!!

Alcoholics get sick. When they stop working and go into Ego and Resentment.

If you are NOT in The Work, then why not ?

Our kids work their asses off, day in and day out. We do not get a day off. There are no free passes to sobriety. It is just NOT GONNA HAPPEN without our doing anything.

Because when we sit back and wait for it to happen, we too could end up going down the rabbit hole ourselves.

I’ve been seeing it happen all around me, so I buck up on program. I listen to speakers on my phone. I hit meetings, and I am in the Book right now. With a young lady friend who has infinite amounts of wisdom to give us all.

When I realized I wanted what she had, I asked her to walk me through the book.

I have not looked back yet.

I love my life and those people who are IN IT TO WIN IT with me.

The whole point of getting sober, is to one day be:

Happy, Joyous and Free …

Some say I look happy. I feel joyous.

I AM FREE ….