Insight

What happens when insight hits you, smack in the middle of the forehead, and the forest and the trees can be seen all at once, clearly ? It’s not like I already knew what I know now, it’s just that over the past little while, my fog has cleared a little further.

Hindsight they say is 20/20.

I’ve heard it said, by long sober people, that it takes a LONG time in sobriety, to really crystallize how lonely and isolated we were in our drinking days. LONG TERM sobriety. This piece of advice came from Lorna, who has long since passed a couple of years ago. I still glean wisdom from several of her talks.

I’m not LONG sober, but my chunk of time is significant for me.

A fellow told me last night, that he heard from a secondary source, a complaint about me, regarding a couple of newcomer girls who had issues with me, and instead of coming to me directly, they went to a first source to talk, who then went to a secondary source to get to me. Which really bothers me that people don’t have the balls to walk up to me and say, “hey I’ve got a problem or fuck off for that matter.”

I spoke to one of my lady friends and she said I needed to let up on myself and remember that newcomers come in like porcupines. Sometimes they stay and sometimes they don’t. And for the most part, usually the problem is not with ourselves, but lies with others. Sometimes I don’t recognize that.

The process of self evaluation has been happening for some time, as I finally can put pieces together, that had been disjointed for a long time.

Working steps, with multiple people over the years, has dislodged some thoughts in my head that had been foggy or just that in reality, I had not been seeing myself very clearly. Or did not want to really admit to myself how selfish my drinking career really was. In All My Affairs …

The problem with thoughts, right now, is that, there are not very many people who I would trust with my thoughts, because good solid sober old timers are far and few between. I’m not saying that I am a snowflake, by any means, I’m just saying that there aren’t many people, I know, who have sensibilities to handle a conversation about “The Gay.”

I’ve been reconstructing my drinking history, in clearer terms as of late, and Lorna says that Wisdom sets in “when you call something by its proper name.” It’s an ancient Chinese saying …

Have you ever heard of a Modern Chinese saying ???

I’m calling my drinking history by its proper name. SELFISH.

How isolating is it, when you realize, and not for the first time, how isolating drinking is, when the only reason you are drinking, is because it was the vehicle to “BE SEEN.”

How alone I felt in a room full of people, and believing that the only way I could make my way into that crowd was to drink myself sick, and hopefully reap some fireworks from it. Which at the time usually worked.

Conquest be damned. I always got what I wanted. However, I can safely say that I was not the “Backstabbing” kind of gay man, that many others were. Backstabbing was a fine art, back in the day. If someone could screw you over for a quickie, that’s what happened. And be damned the consequences.

Alcoholism is an isolating disease, when you begin to see it in Long View. Or even begin to be able to see it in long view. I know about the long view, because Lorna introduced it to those of us who were paying attention. At least I listen to her often enough and have been able to apply most of the advice she had given in one of her shares. So I am beginning to see the Long Game in starker perspective.

I’m really not sure where I am, because I feel like I am standing in a forest populated by a handful of good trees, and A LOT of dead trees, just taking up space. The rooms are full of dead space trees right now, and not a whole lot of people are engaged with the business of the day.

We call them “Chair Warmers …”

And like I have said before, people don’t really care for me, and although it bothers me a great deal, I cannot let that get to me and take me down another rabbit hole of beating myself up, because “nobody likes me.”

My friend reminded me last night to be a bit more gentle with myself and remember that most of the problems lie with others and not necessarily with me.

I just know that right now I am a bit rattled. I shared that tragic story the other night, and it haunts me still. I haven’t written down that story in full in a very long time and every time I go back and read it, it triggers flashbacks and horrid pain of just how bad I had become in the middle of one of the most tragic events in my life, that had it gone on, without intervention that came, I probably would have died, even before I got sick in the year 1994.

It is a truism, that not everybody is going to like you, or have to, or must like you. Thursday night I was talking to a friend outside the room, and his sponsor walked up and I stuck out my hand to shake his, and he hesitated, and I saw that hesitation, like he had to decide whether or not he really wanted to shake my hand at all. I don’t get that.

I am kind to everyone. But in the same breath, I intentionally ignore some folks because of the way, I perceived them, at one point or another, in the way they have treated me in the past.

Maya Angelou says that: “People won’t remember what you said, or what you did, what they will remember is now they made you feel.”

I have a memory like an elephant.

And I judge others by the way others have treated me. I stay away from those people intentionally. I don’t acknowledge them, I don’t talk to them, I sit in my seat and pretend they don’t even exist, which is not really very sober, and I get that. Some people are just cowards, and liars, and fakers, and I just don’t have tome to even want to invest in those kinds of people because they have no desire to be kind to me.

I’m in the pot and the water is beginning to boil, and I am feeling the heat, and sooner, hopefully, sooner or later, I am going to need to unload these things on someone, before my pressure cooker explodes.

The Family Afterward

 

Sober Concept Wooden Letterpress Type

This painful past may be of infinite value to other families still struggling with their problem. We think each family who has been relieved owes something to those who have not, and when the occasion requires, each member of it should only be too willing to bring former mistakes, no mater how grievous, out of their hiding places. Showing others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which makes life seem so worth while to us now. Cling to the thought that, in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. PP. 124 B.B.

We’ve never discussed this chapter of the book before tonight. After the reading, I waited for a more educated friend to give his take on this particular paragraph. And so it went. This chapter, written by the first 100 who got sober, are addressing the family afterwards, those families who had seen recovery happen for those first 100.

Well before the dawn of ALANON. Well before there was support for those who had suffered because of an alcoholic in their lives and families.

Which is why, at most large sober gatherings, ALANON is represented and afforded a place at the table. This past weekend, we had a representative from ALANON from Oakville, speak to the Round Up gathering.

In the Promises that come in Step NINE, we are told that
“We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.”

Those who come into the rooms, do so at their own peril, for the road to recovery is fraught with hard truths and hard work, to clear away the wreckage of the past, make inventories, speak those inventories, and figure out what makes us tick, then as the steps progress, we make those lists of people we need to make amends to.

Family, Friends, Employers, Institutions …

I’ve said many times before that sobriety is cyclical. Each pass at the steps, and each discussion, and each share, and each inventory we process, we make our lists. We process that list, and we file it away for posterity.

But as it always happens, some things die-hard. And quite often, the same issues pop up on inventories, over and over again. We read the same book, we work the same steps, and over time, we discuss and retread the same material over and over again.

As the cycle repeats itself, our lives are like the rough rock (read:Jewel) that finds itself on the polishing wheel of the master jeweler, Let’s call him GOD.

When we come in, beaten and bruised, we settle into our seats. Conventional wisdom speaks to the need to begin steps right away. I’ve heard this said by many old timers with solid track records in working with others.

I take a more Liberal View of Recovery.

I’ve been around a few 24. I know what happens when people come in the door the first time. We welcome people from far and wide, and invite them in for coffee and conversation.

People need to find their feet, so to speak. Before we throw steps at them, they really need to get a bearing on their surroundings, first. They need to find their seat, and get comfortable sitting in that seat. For many, that takes a long time.

Even though they might walk into a Big Book discussion meeting, does not necessarily mean that we throw them into the deep end of the pool right away, which is why we are discussing the book.

Steps begin, as usual. And the first pass at the stone occurs. The first cut is made. Then the Master jeweler looks at the stone to see how his cut looks, and then decides on which next direction he is to take or which cut he wants to impress on the stone.

Each pass at life issues, in the cyclical manner that recovery is, we tread over old material, but each consecutive pass, over the years, we see old pain and experience in the light of the day we are looking at it. In the moment. 

Each day moving forwards allows us to see each issue with new eyes, in new light, with a little more sober experience, strength and hope under our belts.

Every time we tell our stories, they become founts of wisdom for some, and for others, their stories are brutal reminders of just what kind of animal the alcoholic was, before he or she came in.

But in the light of a new day, may come to see the wisdom of the above referenced passage.

Cling to the thought that, in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others.

We all have stories. Some far worse than others. Listen to a gathering of old timers telling stories about their lives, after decades of sobriety. Women and Men.

The themes are usually the same, the circumstances, though, differ widely.

They stuck around until the miracle happened for them. As we are advised, to stick around ourselves.

Families afterwards, and families during the clearing of that wreckage need a place to go to figure out who THEY are. And they figure out, for some, like our ALANON speaker this weekend, had to figure out for herself, because she was clueless at the start, that she indeed had been affected by an alcoholic during her lifetime.

Telling stories is not only beneficial for the drunk, telling stories is also beneficial for the families, friends, and significant others, of those who are with US in the ROOMS.

The offshoot of sister programs for people in recovery are as numerous as the (A) Groups that exist today. Which is why A.A. and ALANON work in tandem with each other so well.

We all have STEPS.

We all figure out who we were when we were using and drinking, and the sister members figure out who they are in tandem. They, like us, find solutions to their problems, as we find solutions to ours.

When I moved away from home I was 21 years old. What did I know of the big wide world I was walking into, I had no idea, but my ALCOHOLISM knew very well.

It knew who I was, it knew what I was. And it dictated where I was going to go and what I was going to do. All that valuable education and values, and morals went out the window when it came to my ALCOHOLISM.

I told strategic lies to certain people, because I was drinking my money away, faster than I could make it. And back then making money was the problem I faced over and over.

I’ve been out of my family home for thirty years now. I’ve seen my family, namely my mother and father a few times over the years. And I saw them even less, after I got sober.

I did not see my brother at all, after I moved away except, once, for Christmas many years ago.

All three of them tell the same story about me …

To this day, they blame for all of their problems. AND they blame me for the lives that happened, even though I was not even in the same state, or today, even in the same country.

Even though, when my father died in January, I attempted to make contact, to be a brother, and a son, to my brother and my mother, respectively, they kept the line, that I was not a part of this family, and that I was the cause of all of their problems.

None of them would have ever thought to find help, in ALANON or any sister program, because over the past twenty-five years of my life, I have been in and out of the rooms.

And since I got sober this last very long stretch, I made countless attempts at reconciliation and amends. Every attempt fell on deaf ears.

Fuck me for trying …

I wrote last night, about the forty-five year sober woman who spoke on Saturday night, at the keynote address. And I told that story to the group tonight. About my conversation with her.

She really did not want to make time to listen to me, after learning, after the fact what she had said and done to other sober members, over the weekend.

And her assertion that my behavior as a member of A.A. was unacceptable, casting aspersions, on my ability to know how to behave in a meeting, and I did not argue with her. I took her advice, and just walked away. shaking my head.

She told us her story and we are supposed to hold her up as a paragon of “right sobriety” seeing that she is as old as God. And we are told to never question the wisdom of an old-timer, because they have so many years of lived sober experience.

I call BULLSHIT on that.

I can tell you how many times old timers, or groups of them, have shunned me in a meeting. Telling me to leave, and never come back. That people like me are not condoned in the rooms of A.A. And that maybe I need to find someplace else to get sober, because they did not want me sitting in the same room with many of them.

And on Sunday, I shared ONE particular story of the worst day in my sobriety, when I was an emotional mess, the WORST day of my life in more than twenty-five years. And I told her how an old-timer with more than thirty years of sobriety, shunned me and insulted me and demeaned me.

And she had the balls to say to me that …
I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO BEHAVE IN A MEETING ???

I’ve been nothing but honest whenever I tell my story. I share openly here, because it really does not matter if I break my anonymity. As long as I don’t tell you I speak for anyone other than myself.

I represent nobody or any fellowship.

All I do here is tell stories.
I let you decide whether you want to read, comment or follow.

Every life matters. No matter who you are.

At the end of the meeting a member trans woman walked up to me and whispered in my ear …

I gather, that I understand what you meant when members told you to go. I get it that you were tossed out. She then told me how she was tossed out of meetings, and nail salons, and restaurants, because of who she is today.

Honesty is always the best policy.

You never know when someone in the room you sit in, will identify with you.

And say something kind in return.

Sunday Sundries: It Could’ve Been Worse

toujeo

I am home tonight from my weekend trip to Ottawa this past weekend.

It was WET, COLD and it SNOWED for two days.

Nothing beats spending quality time with my best friend and his girlfriend.

Time Well Spent.

Thursday night, I was packed and ready to go, ready to go so much, that I did not sleep Thursday night. At least, I thought I had packed everything.

Do I openly admit that I am getting forgetful of things, important things too?

Hubby was home on Friday when I left for the bus station. I left uber early, because I thought I would hit an early bus and get into Ottawa earlier than I had planned, to facilitate scheduling on the other end.

I figured just showing up and presenting a ticket for a specific departure time, would grant me passage on an earlier bus, it has happened before. I got to the station and thought better of taking chances, and so I dropped my luggage at the ticket office and paid for a ticket change. And got a seat on a half empty bus at 11 a.m.

It was a smooth ride out. Not too bad. I had two seats to myself on the way out. About halfway to Ottawa I got up to use the restroom, and while sitting on the throne of thought, I realized that I had forgotten my insulin at home.

FUCK !

NO, Double FUCK !!

I called home and spoke to hubby. Then from the bus, I phoned my pharmacy here in Montreal, telling the girl on the other end that I was on a speeding bus headed to Ottawa and that I had forgotten my insulin at home.

That would be my insulin pens, my needles and my alcohol swabs.

Insulin comes in 5 pen boxes, and they cannot be split up. You can’t buy a handful of insulin needles because they come in a BOX too. I only had $100.00 in my wallet and $50.00 in the bank reserve.

Meanwhile, as the bus is almost into Ottawa, hubby gets a paycheck advance from his boss to cover my insulin if I needed to buy it once I got there. There was money in the bank, enough to cover the purchase. however, we were not sure if the insurance would cover another insulin prescription.

My insulin runs me over $185.00 up front. And usually it pays 80% 20%.

When I got to Ottawa, I stopped at the first pharmacy on the way to the apartment. They called Montreal and transferred my prescription to Ottawa. They ran my card, and the payment went through.

I had to buy an entire BOX of insulin, an entire box of needles, and another box of alcohol swabs. The grand total of that little forgetful mistake cost me $85.00.

That sunk my weekend into the hole right off.

Now I have more than eight months worth of insulin in the fridge, enough needles for months and months, and two boxes of alcohol swabs. Thank God sealed insulin does not go bad, if refrigerated.

Friday we hung out at coffee shops and played Backgammon. Rafa is a game player so we played games all weekend. I like Backgammon. We played two days worth of it.

Friday night after dinner we played a board game called PANDEMIC.

pandemic

I’ve never played this game before, but it was very cool. Each player picks a “role” from a bunch of cards. And each player has specific abilities in the game of pandemic. With all the players engaged at trying to stop pandemic from infecting the world, each player PLAYS against the GAME.

As each turn goes around, you draw cards from two piles. One pile of country and city cards, the other, pandemic cards that plague a city around the world. Each major city center is connected by lay lines to other cities in each region.

As the game progresses, each player works against the game to stop pandemic, but the game plays against each player as well, and each pandemic (there are 4 in total ) need to be cured, and cities cleansed. We lost that game, because at the end, the game forced the hand and we ran out of turns together.

This is a multiple player board game. We played three people, but with extension packets, you can play up to seven people at the same time.

Saturday we went to Wakefield, Ontario. A little town about a fifteen minute drive outside the city in the hills. It is a small community of artsy people. There is a town center with shops and stores, and a central hub Coffee Community Cafe.

I really enjoyed that visit. Rafa and his girlfriend are looking to buy a house outside the city to start their family and to bring the extended family into the house for a multi-generational home for their kids, in the future.

I have photos but I am too pooped to upload them right now.

Saturday it started snowing early, so that curtailed the traveling to a meeting. So instead we stayed in and watched Star Wars (Rogue One) a really decent stand alone Star Wars Movie. I had not seen it when it was in theatre.

Then we watched a Steven King movie called “IT”

I noticed while watching this movie that there were a bunch of pop culture references that have been used in SNL skits and other media around the tubes.

It was time well spent.

Everyone went to bed early, as Rafa and Megan were battling a cold between themselves. I brought a book that I have almost finished on the bus ride back. The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb. It’s a Vietnamese story.

I have been sunk in South East Asia for more than a year now. I’ve read a handful of books in that region, including the Shantaram Series by Gregory David Roberts.

Today, Sunday we hit another coffee-house and played more backgammon, before I had to head to the station for my return trip.

This time the bus was PACKED ! It had snowed quite a bit between Ottawa and Montreal, because the closer we got to Montreal, the deeper the snow pack was on the roads and in parking lots along the way.

I have a multitude of music on my phone. I picked one band. Linkin Park. They are my favorite band. And since Chester Bennington’s suicide a few months ago, I listen to them as often as I can. I had enough music that it played from the moment we left Ottawa until we arrived in Montreal, without repeating a single track.

It seemed the ride back into Montreal was LONG … Because it was pitch dark by the time we hit the station here. On the way out of Ottawa there was a multiple car accident on the highway and several rescue trucks were on the highway and several drivers had stopped to help people who were hurt. That slowed us down for a bit …

I got home around 7 when all was said and done.

Everybody has a plan. Rafa and Megan are going to be married, down the line. Juan and Nadia are getting married in July this summer. Houses, Kids, Jobs, Retirement plans. It seems everyone has a plan.

Hubby and I don’t have a plan …

While in Wakefield on Saturday afternoon, we talked about PLANS and CONTINGENCY plans. We also discussed the fact that I might be entitled to inheritance from my father’s will. Because I am his first-born son. However, my family wanted to fuck me over and have the whole of my life, there might be legal grounds for me to pursue Legal Rights to inheritance of any monies in his estate.

Even if they deny me inheritance and write me out of their wills, which I am sure they have already done, the money might be there to be had. Even if it is resentment money and that money would be dirty money, that I might not want to keep, if I did win an inheritance law suit, it would be my choice what to do with it.

I am calling a lawyer this week, to get that ball rolling.

My mother will have a shit fit and my father will be choking in his URN. Because my brother had him cremated and sent to Virginia. Where my mother now lives.

It was a very fruitful weekend. Lots of serious discussion about the future. I spoke with hubby over dinner about exactly that … The Future …

It seems, that “A PLAN” is in the works. A new law was passed here in Quebec about employers offering an opt in/opt out choice of 3% of gross pay being funneled into a bank run RRSP … That’s a retirement plan here in Quebec.

We talked about having a fifteen year plan, because by then, he will be retirement age and I don’t expect to be living in this same apartment for another fifteen years. We’ve just negotiated another years lease here this past week.

More to come.

Friday: Significant Horizons

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Do you realize just how fucking lucky you are that you are in the fellowship

One of my friends, a very wise man said that tonight. We work with others, because it helps US stay sober. Most of us, have a very low batting average, when it comes to people sticking and staying, in the room.

People are suffering. And they, tonight, openly admitted such truths to the rest of us.

I know, that if I don’t know what to do, or where to turn, or whether I am coming or going, I stick to the basics. Most people shake their heads when I repeat this advice in open community, but it works …

If I don’t know whether I am coming or going, I make coffee. I put chairs down and set up tables. I have keys to the church and I use them religiously. I am always there, early. I know that if i show up early, others will show up early too.

I turn my will and my life over to the care of my higher power, (read: My friends), every day. I know that they have my back. Sadly, those same friends, who are struggling right now, don’t think to call me … go figure …

Our stories are well told. And not earned. Our particular suffering gives us insight to each other, that people, in the outside world, just do not have. Our shared struggles gives us the ability to help each other in ways, we will not find outside the rooms.

The city has begun rolling up the Terraces, that have been open all summer long. The weather is growing colder by the night, and soon, very soon, I imagine, the snow will begin to fall.

NOW is the opportune time to get people connected to the system that works for many of us, sooner than later. Because if we do not act now, numbers will definitely drop off.

As is the case, in this time of year, as nights grow longer and the weather gets cold, people begin to calculate just ow much time it takes them to make a transit from home to a meeting.

AND they will find every excuse NOT to show up.

If the weather goes south, and snow begins to fall, people will think to themselves, Ah, it’s cold and snowing and I can’t bring myself to head out to a meeting.

And we remind them this fact …

When you were drinking and drugging, how often did you brave a freaking snow storm to score a drink or a drug ???

People tend to forget the lengths they went to, to SCORE.

The meetings are getting Solemn. And Deep, and Difficult.

I can’t make someone show up, nor can I force them to trust me. Not many of my kids trust me with their lives just yet, so they struggle from one day to the next, when I offer them simple suggestions they just look at me askance …

Like, Really, Is it really that simple ??? Why yes, it is just that simple.

It’s obvious that they really don’t want to go to any length to get and stay sober.

But the alternative is also an option. A good number of my friends are looking at the stark alternatives to coming and showing up. They know what the flip side of this sober equation is.

To Drink or to Drug.

My friend reiterated tonight that we forget, or don’t fully realize just how fucking lucky we are to have the rooms and the fellowship. My friends really don’t have a clue about being lucky.

Our resident old-timer man said tonight that “WE ARE THE LUCKY ONES.”

It took a long time for him to Get That Fully. YEARS and YEARS.

We are lucky, we have each other, we have the rooms and we have a WAY OUT.

I may not have ALL the answers, but I do have a way of life that works.

Our old-timer also said that, “If you want to hear the voice of God, come to a meeting.”

The fellowship is easy. It is not rocket science. The book lays it out simply.

If you read the book, and do what it says to do, in the order as the steps appear, you too will get sober, despite yourself.

People are just not listening to simple reasoning.

They’d rather walk around in the dark grasping at straws, and fumbling, when really, all they have to do is pick up that 2000 pound phone and show up early.

How freaking difficult is that advice ???

Alcoholics are self-centered to the extreme and we abhor authority and direction, but when we come in, and we let go and let God, we find safety, within that very same framework the fellowship provides for us.

Simple direction. Simple suggestions. A simple program of action.

People just do not want to put in the effort, time and care.

And they will suffer for their inaction.

At least I will stay sober during the holidays, because I know what to do, even if my friend do not. And they might bitch and complain about me doing so much service, but it needs to be done, or there would not be a meeting to go to, or coffee to drink and books to read.

If service is not done, where would we all gather on a Friday night ?

A good friend took her Thirty Year Cake last night and she mentioned that at Thirty years, she had reached the point where she saw Significant horizons in her life.

It really take A LOT of time in the rooms to have these observations and realizations come to pass. I know certain things at Sixteen years, almost.

I have reached, also, certain significant horizons in my life.

Horizons are on the way, as long as we stick and stay.

Just keep coming back.

One day at a time.