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.

Reflections Step Seven

The month of July, this year, has been a month of reflection and thought. It is like I have been working through a personal inventory of myself, and what I have learned about myself. My good points, and my bad points.

I have a particular Gay experience to draw upon. I have said, in the past that, things were not so easy, in the very beginning.

Living with AIDS, was not easy. Watching other people CRACK UP in front of me and my friends was disturbing. Loosing everyone, I thought would be in my corner, was a terrible by product of getting sick.

Ignorance was rife …

I learned early on after that, that it was not so important what people SAID, what was more important what people DID.

Living on the edge of society, well under the poverty level, procuring services that decided life or death, was paramount. I learned what were Cast Iron Panties, and how to put on those Cast Iron Panties very early on.

Several times I actually had to use them. Let me tell you that, if you said you’d do something I needed, on any level, and you failed to do that thing …

Hell hath no fury like an AIDS sick man.

A very TRUE STORY…

Back in the late nineties, after I got sick, for years, I had tried to get disability Insurance from the Government and I failed several times.

At the last, I stopped taking my medication for a month, I did not shower, or change my clothes, once. About a month in, I had a disability appointment with someone who could sign off on my application and grant me much needed financial support.

He, in the past, denied me that financial support.

So unwashed, sick and dirty, I walked into his office and sat down in front of him. He started talking to me. I took a deep breath and I coughed on him.

He stopped talking right then and there, and signed that application with not a further word of argument.

True Story …

You learned the character of the people around you, by their words, and indeed their actions. This piece of advice still applies today.

I know how alcoholics treated me when I came into the program twenty five years ago. Had that experience been more positive and supportive, this year I would have reached twenty five years sober.

Alas, that was not my experience.

Todd knew more about humility, honesty, and love, than any man or woman I know, to this very day.

Had he not stepped in and took me into his orbit, and taught me all the lessons he had, I would have surely died.

I spoke about this tonight, in my Step Group Study. In this meeting are a handful of LONG SOBER men whom I like and trust.

When I returned to the rooms in 2001, it was people who first hugged me and welcomed me into the SOBE room. They really cared about me, and that meant the world to me, and kept me IN the Room.

When I moved to Montreal, I looked for those same attributes in the people I met when I first arrived. In the first little while good people were Hit and Miss.

When I found the group I would HOME in for twelve years, the way I got sober and stayed sober, was by watching everyone else around me. I listened to them talk, lots of talk. I watched them make decisions, good and bad.

Most importantly, I paid attention to my friends who drank again, and again, and again.

I stuck and stayed while masses of people were drinking again.

I knew what NOT to do. I knew who to avoid, and who to stay away from.

Alcoholics are fallible people, we know this. Bill said as much in many of his talks before General Conference Meetings, for years.

None of us are perfect, none of us are better than another. Least of all ME.

Many years ago, I entertained a long sober man and asked him to sponsor me. An NDG man. For all intents and purposes, I stay away from NDG Men.

Why you ask ? I’m Gay.

Nothing turns my stomach quicker than a heterosexual man who needs to talk to hear himself talk, the pussy loving, hockey fan, who just has that air of heterosexuality about him. Men who overcompensate for being straight. Pissing contests are usual. And the size of their penises.

For a few years, I hung out with these men, because they were sober longer than I was, then. I did not go to their meetings, BUT I did attend several Twelve Step Retreats in Vermont with these men.

Imagine being the only queer banana in a car, driving to Vermont with overcompensating heterosexual men.

God give me strength.

At the very first group meeting, at the very first retreat I was at, in Vermont, I came out to the group of men. Because I was the only queer member in that group, for several retreats.

I quote …”Oh we accept you and we love you and we want to be your friend.”

That was all well and good. All that changed when we hit our first communal meal together.

I went through the buffet, got my food, and found a seat at an open table. I sat down, and I waited. And I watched.

I watched every single man, who said they accepted me among them, grab their own food, walk by my table, and sit somewhere else, not one of these men chose to break bread with me.

This happened at every retreat I was at, over and over.

Right then and there, the nails in their coffins were hammered.

Some time would pass, and my NDG sponsor having witnessed the worst painful experience I had ever experienced in Sobriety, spoke to me and he humiliated me in front of our group.

I swore I would never share space with any of those men ever again.

After the shooting at the Pulse Club in Orlando, I was devastated. Because as a kid in my twenties, I drank in that building too. I knew the story of the kid who did the shooting. I knew that he scoped out both Pulse and the Parliament House, where I had my Coming Out Experience.

I wanted to drink so bad. But I knew I could not.

I turned to meetings to save me. Most importantly, a Big Book Reading Meeting. I knew that if I read the BIG Book through, I would NOT DRINK.

There were 45 men and women in that meeting. All the Queer men in the program on the English side, ALL OF THEM, sat in this meeting.

I was a wreck for eighteen months. Emotionally and mentally.

Not One Man or Woman, GAY or STRAIGHT wanted to know me. Not one of those men or women said one single word to me, personally, at any time, before or after any of those meetings over eighteen months.

Not One Alcoholic said those words to me…
“I Know How You Feel, Let Me Tell You How I Dealt With That.”
NOT ONE !!!

I’ve NEVER heard those words come out of ANY sober mouth, in all the years I have been sober, EXCEPT from Lorna Kelly who came from New York to speak at a Round Up. She spoke those words in front of everybody.

I think I was the only who who heard her. To This Day.

And in the end one of those queers, who read the same book I did, got to the last chapter of the Big Book, and we read HOW to stay SOBER and NEVER drink again, HE DRANK AGAIN.

Because he IS constitutionally incapable of being honest with himself.

Now I am not, in any way, stating that I am better than anyone else, but I do know the work I have done in as many years to stay sober. I know every man and woman who participated in my sobriety TO DATE.

Todd taught me about My Place in the World and in the Universe. I know my place in the world. I know, that as long as I serve others, to the best of my ability, I can maintain some semblance of humility.

I commented tonight, at the meeting that last night, I had a visceral reaction to some folks who came into the meeting last night.

I just don’t have any desire to be friendly with some of my heterosexual counterparts, because of the way they treated me over the years. They walk in the meeting and announce their presence, and I’m just like:

SHUT THE FUCK UP AND SIT DOWN.

I was SO uncomfortable sitting in my chair, that at one point, before the meeting, that I actually got up, and walked outside, to sit with my friends who were hanging out, outside the church on one of the benches.

I had no desire to sit there and listen to people I have no desire to want anything that they have. I stayed sober, by watching and listening to everybody else. That may be a good thing, or a bad thing.

I am a Gay man who survived AIDS.

So I am a bit more judgmental of people, in a way that other queer men are not. Not that there are NO QUEER men in the rooms who want to be my friend, so when we sit in the same room, they have nothing to say to me and I don’t have anything to say to them either.

I know who my friends are, and who I take solace from, and those men and women who contribute to my sobriety.

It just struck me odd last night, that I had that kind of reaction sitting in a room, I regularly sit in on a weekly basis. And I brought that up with my old timer friends tonight at the step meeting.

People are not apt to speak to me about anything I say in meetings, and old timers rather keep to themselves, and they don’t usually offer counsel, or criticism, or tell me to just shut the fuck up and listen.

I find that odd. That people won’t call you out, or say anything when we share in meetings. It’s like I am having this particular sober experience, and nobody is playing pin ball with me, there are no bumpers on the side, banging me back into play.

It’s like I am running on my own.

If I don’t ask someone directly for advice, nobody offers advice.

That strikes me as odd too.

Just a few observations about myself.

I Know How You Feel

The One thing that unites alcoholics comes down to one phrase:

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL, LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DEALT WITH THAT

The One Thing we can always count on, in the rooms, is there is usually, I don’t say always, because I am unique, usually someone who identifies with what we say, and can offer wisdom, based on their own experience.

Sadly, I’ve only heard this sentence spoken by one human being, in all my years of sobriety. Lorna, was the woman who shared this piece of advice with us, to give us hope that we were not alone in our struggles.

She gave this advice, because she knew Mother Teresa of Calcutta. They spent a lot of time together, prior to Mother’s death. Mother Teresa knew of every kind of suffering, and she knew how to deal with every kind of suffering. The one area that stumped her, was the Alcoholic.

She would ask Lorna about alcoholics, about meetings, and about Lorna’s story. She was so interested, Lorna once quipped to Mother, “Mother, are you sure you don’t have a problem?” At which point, Mother would genuinely giggle out loud.

The one thing Mother Teresa did not have was A STORY. She did not have those words of everlasting life…

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL, LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DEALT WITH THAT.

I keep Lorna, close to my heart. Since she passed a few years ago, her words ring truer every day that I stay sober, because it is she I go back to when I need the voice of an elder who I knew personally, had conversations with, and fellow shipped with here in Montreal.

I had several conversations earlier tonight with friends. And the wisdom I draw upon, is mostly observational and my skills at listening attentively. I trust very few people in sobriety, with ME. I share myself quite liberally with my peers, and those I work with on a regular basis.

My experience with long sober people is hit and miss. As How it Works says, “We are not saints.” That can be said for every one of us. We have learned recently that, under the cover of anonymity, people feel safe to say just about anything in open community, with the proviso that, nothing they say, can be used against them, somewhere else.

My lady friend who chaired the business meeting that got very ugly, said to me tonight, that the wisdom she drew was this … “There are points in my journey that I have shared certain things, “in community” that, now make me cringe, that I even said what it was I said.”

Alcoholics are not perfect. By any stretch.

But we try, at least. I’ve been trying for a very long time, to keep it together and become more spiritually fit, as was pointed out to us this evening, by our speaker. I might be sober, but, if I am not spiritually fit, then why bother?

It concerns me, deeply, the lengths I go to to work my program, be present, do service, and help others. What is most egregious is that, there is not one old timer, that I know, over as many years, who has walked up to me and asked me out for coffee, to chat, to point something out, or just to connect.

I have experience with men who have time, and have wronged me in the worst way, who, still to this day, have never returned to set the record right. So I stay away from those men. I don’t talk to them, I don’t attend the same meetings they populate, and I surely don’t carry their numbers in my phone.

I just don’t find it advantageous to go out of my way to be friends with someone who really does not care about me, period!!!

I sit in meetings right now, and I wonder, does anybody notice? Not that I am speaking about my ego, because I am not.

I’m speaking honestly.

I have three friends, right now, who have my number. My best friends, and a young man I work with occasionally. They are the only three people who use my number regularly. Old timers come to meetings, say hello, and beyond that, any other words are negligible.

Over the last many years, when I was in the dumps, and in need of another human being, to step up and say those magic words to me, when I was at my worst, during the very worst period in my entire sobriety, not one man or woman came and said anything to me.

Yes, I admit that an Angry, Gay, Alcoholic, is not pretty. Being who I am, being a Gay, HIV+, Crazy, Alcoholic does not register, because there is NO ONE in rooms who share any segment of my story, with me.

Yes, we might be alcoholics, but nobody seems to be interested in conversation, beyond pleasantries while sitting in the same room.

I thought to myself, before I started writing this piece, that I feel like I’ve been sold a harsh bill of goods. Like I have been short changed. Since the day I got sober, no one has presented the book to me, in any form, that resembles any sober method, I have heard worked in other places.

Last fall when I worked my last round of steps. I was given a glimpse of what the secrets of the Big Book Held for me. By someone not my gender, nor my age, nor the length of sobriety. I chose her because of who she was and what she represented to me at the time. Yes, we read the book, I worked my steps again, but when we got to page 164 … she was done, so to speak.

She had walked me through the front of the book, and I was on my own to divine whatever it was I am supposed to figure out, with another layer of sobriety laid open.

I’ve said this before … Sober, Old Timers, are thin on the ground. Sober, Spiritually Fit, Old timers, are even more rare. The choices in our section of town are thin.

I stay away from Terminally Straight Men, for obvious reasons.

What does a hockey loving, pussy chasing, terminally straight man, have in common with a Gay, HIV+, Crazy alcoholic, beyond a shared addiction to alcohol. I’ve watched men like this in community. Their history with interactions with me, were less than stellar.

I’ve said this before, I only take to being ignored, so far. Especially, if ignoring me includes a meal. If you cannot bother to break bread with me and share a table with me and get to know me, then why bother ???

People like to quote the book to me. And tell me how inclusive they are, as fellow alcoholics, and how people care about each other, until it comes time to sit down for a meal, as one, two, then ten men, walk by and sit somewhere else, to eat, rather that be caught dead at my table,

I have your number…

So I wonder, does it matter that I go to meetings? Does it matter to anyone that I have been spinning my wheels for a long time, and that long sober counsel is evidently missing from my life. And that I am drawing at straws to figure out how to stay spiritually connected to my higher power.

I do homework. I am always looking to find the next best thing to learn about myself. Cue me some Brene Brown, some Oprah, and Ted Talks, and sober shares by old timers who live somewhere else, who came here to speak at a Round Up, so I have them on my phone. So I can readily go back and listen to them talk to me.

You know, I could sit in the middle of a meeting and yell “FIRE” and see if I get a reaction. I know, it is against the law to walk into a space and yell the word “FIRE!”

I don’t know if people, listen to me, to the degree that I listen to them? I’ve spent the better part of my sobriety, listening to everybody else. And from that listening exercise, I have observational data about my peers. If you sit in the same room for any length of time, let’s say 12 years, and you’ve watched people come and go, some stay, some grow up, others, not so much, you learn a lot about your peers.

I said this yesterday, In as many years, I know, directly, everything that my friends did in sobriety. I listened to them talk, to bitch and moan. I watched them make decisions, and act, and from all this data, I got sober, by either doing what was working, or NOT DOING what did not work.

I made decisions based on how others attacked similar problems and situations. I sought the advice of people I trusted. I stayed sober, by the book, doing what I was told to do, by those who came before me, and set the table for my success.

Sobriety in 2019, is not the same sobriety of 2001.

I said this earlier, old timers might still be around, who were sober when I came in, whether they are stable, spiritually fit, sane, old timers, is the question. I can count on one hand, how many people, from my specific sobriety period, who are still sober, on their first pass.

I’ve practically outlived my friends, in sober terms.

I don’t necessarily believe I am always spiritually fit, and I admit there is always room for improvement. I don’t always have all the answers, but if faced with working with others, I draw on years of observational data, and years of listening to people suss out how to deal with situations we find ourselves in today.

There are very few, if any, folks, who will approach me and offer an opportunity to share, beyond sitting in the same room for an hour.

WHY ???

I don’t know why.

It think it goes like this … Friendship is Reciprocal. Or Supposedly, that’s how friendships work. At least, my friends reciprocate.

If pressed, in sobriety, when you ask an alcoholic to do something, the stock answer is always Yes. Inside a meeting.

Usually, if you ask an alcoholic to do something outside a room, the yes answer is a 50 / 50 chance.

If you sit at home, hoping that certain alcoholics are going to think about you, or call you, or invite you out for coffee, or even call to see if you are ok, after some particularly, serious meeting, or issue I laid on the table for consideration, the reciprocal action is absent.

I stopped being kind and over extending myself, my husband, and my dinner table, to people who never reciprocated. I’ve changed up my holiday roster of invitees. I don’t feed old timers, like I used to, I stopped associating with the old, catty, and vindictive queers.

Not One Gay Man, in the rooms, has anything in common with me. And they have made that perfectly clear to me over the years. You know, after a few meetings, who are your friends, and who puts up with you, because you share a meeting. And I know who does not care for me, or my style of sobriety.

There is no love lost on many people. I know, for the last seventeen years, who stood with me during my stormy period and who did not. I kept on, keeping on, by doing what it was I was told to do when I first got sober.

Suit Up, Show Up, Make Coffee, Shake Hands, Be Present, Listen

These simple guidelines did the trick. I am still sober.

I tell them to young people, and they look at me with the Side Eye. Like I am someone from outer space. Folks getting sober, make life so much more complicated today. When a simple suggestion, if followed to the letter, WILL produce immediate results, folks would rather eat dirt.

Fuck me for trying …

I’m feeling all kinds of fucked up right now.

Not sure what I should do right now, so I will sleep on my words, and tell my best friend, tomorrow.

At least I have three friends, at the moment, I can count on.

Old Timers, not so much.

I go where I think I need to go, and talk to people I am familiar with, who at least, have known me for a long time, who don’t necessarily communicate outside a meeting, because they have lives, too.

It is Friday. The Best night of the week, at least it used to be.

It is Winter …




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

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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.