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.

Sobriety Challenge

Procrastination is “Sloth” in five syllables.

We’ve heard over the last little while, what one needs to do to get sober, and then stay sober. One of my friends tonight said that when he came in, a few years before me, that at that time, he was so tired and burned, and mentally empty, that he had to just chill out for a while, and allow the message to seep into his addled brain.

After a little while, and going to meetings, he began to get involved a little deeper. At a particular business meeting, he was not sure about taking a service position, and an old timer looked at him and asked, “Why did you not take a position?” He did not have an answer. She then said to him:

WELL YOU ARE JUST A TAKER.

That really riled him up to the point where, Fuck You could be heard within his head. For a while he ruminated over that judgment. But not long after he decided he should bite the bullet and get active.

When I came in in 2001, I was just as tired and my brain was mush. Thank God I could go to the same meeting, seven nights a week, in the same location, at the same time, a 10 pm meeting, not far from home. A walkable distance.

For months, I sat in those meetings, and listened to people read me the books, because each night was a different presentation. So at least I was sober, albeit, a little bit, and I was hearing the Big Book being read to me.

When I moved to Montreal and got situated at Tuesday Beginners, I’d been going to meetings all over the island, and met my next sponsor. At eleven months I was ready to engage, and I asked about step work of him, and his response was “well I don’t do step work.” Much to my surprise.

He did not remain my sponsor very long afterwards. And that man eventually drank again.

My next sponsor bought me a fourth edition Big Book, and got me involved in my first seventeen week Big Book Study. One of many to follow.

Over the years, I’ve read the entire book, cover to cover, five times in as many years. A full read cover to cover, in a meeting setting, takes about fourteen months in total.

I did my last round last summer into the fall. And I hit Big Book meetings, and a Step/Traditions meeting as well. So I am reading both texts during the week, and dong step work in the Twelve and Twelve meeting on Wednesday nights. I’ve got anew sponsor now, and that is working for me.

Thursday night, we heard an old timer speak truth. He said that if you come in and you don’t stay, then you just Keep Coming Back, until it sticks. He also said that at some point warming a chair becomes useless, at some point you are going to have to start reading the Book, and doing the work.

Because once we stop drinking, the reason why we drank was a lack of power. And in sobriety, lack of power can be our downfall, unless we do the work necessary to change that trend to find a Power Greater than Ourselves to help us make sense of sobriety.

He also said, to those of us with some time and experience, that if we are further up the pike than others, and we have something that works, a method, a path, a way to really step up your game, then it falls to us to share that with somebody else, and not put our lamps under a bushel basket, to use a biblical analogy.

I’ve been talking to a new young person as of late, because we hit the same meetings, and he has a little light, and is receptive about The Work and The Book. So we’ve been talking over coffee and before meetings as of last week.

A few nights ago, I presented him with a sobriety challenge, since he was so keen to share about the book and how important to the book and work was to him.

After following Bob’s Three, Seven, Eleven shuffle … The prayers right out of the book, in steps three, seven and eleven, that changed my life in spades a few years ago, the very same shuffle I still do to this day, I gave him this very same plan. Bought him a journal for his tenth step inventory, and directed him to a You Tube Video of Lorna talking about Nikos Kazanzatkis when he says that:

TO ALWAYS CHOOSE THE SURE THING IS TREASON FOR THE SOUL.

Bob says that if you don’t pray, then why not, because every time you pray, you ratchet up your spiritual life and your sobriety. He said that if I prayed my life would change, and I believed him and I did what he told me to do, without fail or complaint.

MY LIFE DID CHANGE IN SPADES.

If you are always going to the easy path, and not stepping out of your comfort zone and reaching for the Brass Ring, then why bother, you are not going to learn anything new or see something new in sobriety.

I had it all written out on index cards. With the journal, and the step work.

When I asked him about his prayer life, he said he had one, but it was the easy out. He did not prescribe to the book. So I asked him for thirty days to do the Shuffle with me.

He balked.

Oh, I don’t pray. I don’t do God. And I don’t do what the Big Book says, even though we talked over the last month about:

PEOPLE WHO GO TO BIG BOOK MEETINGS AND READ THE BIG BOOK, USUALLY DO WHAT THE BIG BOOK SAYS…

It was obvious my sober young man, is not one of those people.

On Thursday he came to the meeting and avoided me he did not say one word to me or come over to greet me either. Tonight, he skipped the meeting all together.

It was obvious to me that I was barking up the wrong tree, and that I was wasting my time. And I should just let this lie for now.

So you see … If you cannot step out of your comfort zone and push your program forward and you rest on the time you have and you don’t expand your horizons in sobriety, then you are JUST WARMING A CHAIR.

Going to meetings can carry you only so far. At some point, you will have to get off your ass and do something concrete, or you will turn and isolate, stop going to meetings, rest on your laurels:

AND DRINK AGAIN.

I know a certain path that works for me, that guarantees me not to drink on a daily basis. I know it works, because I am working on eighteen years this year, and I haven’t had a drink in all that time.

And when I challenge people with something new that I think can help someone get farther up that road …

THEY LOOK AT ME LIKE I AM FROM MARS …

Fuck me for trying.

Working with Others

I listen to a very small number of sober folks today. I hear a lot of talking, but most of it goes in one ear and out the other, because why waste mental space on people who don’t have anything I want, RIGHT?

For a very long time, I was not sure I had anything to offer the public, in the way of working with others. I stuck close to service. I made a lot of coffee, and have at least two church keys on my key ring today. I am an opener of meetings, a setter upper, a greeter and an all around welcome wagon to several meetings across town today.

Twelve years would pass, before I hit the presentation of THE WORK. Twelve years of running by the book in service, presence, and sharing when appropriate. Still, I was not sure, that I had anything to give away, which helped me, in retrospect, hone my skills at listening attentively, feeling compassion, empathy, and gratitude.

Until the time came when I heard the message I needed to hear, from the right person to change my life and my sobriety.

Lorna warns us of the fragility of people with “Time” in the rooms, not necessarily the newcomer, per se. She says that “Those are the people we should pay close attention to.” For certain reasons, I don’t need to elaborate right now.

Bob, another member who came here in 2012, to the West Island Round Up, the same event Lorna attended too. It was Bob who turned me on to THE WORK, (i.e. the Big Book), and Prayer, (i.e. the 3, 7, 11 shuffle). He told the crowd of people gathered there all this same information. Nobody listened to him.

I, on the other hand, went to him, after his talk and inquired about how to make all this work. He told me what to do. I went home, and did exactly as he said to do. I wrote down the 3rd, 7th, and 11th step prayers, and laminated them and put them on my computer.

And I prayed every day, several times a day, for as long as it took to change my life. Because he told us that if we did pray, and in time, we would become spiritually fit and then the universe (read: God) would order things as He saw fit.

That took about seven months of fervent prayer, not always perfect, but I did my best to pray, honestly and humbly.

One Tuesday night I was sitting in a meeting, and about halfway through my phone rang … very out of the ordinary. Who would be calling me, I had no idea. Nonetheless, I stepped outside and answered the call.

A good thing too.

On the other end was a hysterical young person, who got my number from who, I don’t know, but he called me. That was the day I had something to offer another human being in the program.

That sparked a series of life events that changed the course of my sobriety.

Today I sponsor a few men and women. I have worked my steps. Several times. I’ve read the Big Book through from cover to cover, four times in six years. I finished my last round of steps last fall, with a young person I really wanted what they had. That was a good thing.

A Vision for You says … “Obviously, you cannot transmit something you haven’t got …” It took me a long time to trust that I had something to give away, and we don’t know that we’ve even got it ourselves, Lorna is apt to say, “Until we give it away.”

That’s my story and I am sticking to it…

Help Will Always Come

Hogwarts-castle-harry-potter-166431

Staying the course, and always doing the next right thing, is good sound advice.

When the chatter in my head is running at fever pitch, and my emotions seem to rule every decision or thought at times, I know that I need to stop and take a break.

Read: I need to STOP and Pray !!!

Funny how things fall into my lap, when I most need them. Or, little signs from somewhere outside of myself, seem to appear, in front of me, at the oddest moments.

I have told the story about my I-Phones tendency to shuffle me a speaker, one speaker in particular, when I really need a talking to. It seems to know me better than I know myself at times, which begs the question … Are Our I-Phones sentient ???

Thursday night, after the meeting I was really emotional and I realized that I was not done mourning the passing of my father. Because of a comment made about him, amid a conversation with a friend, at the earlier meeting.

We were talking about care giving and being a care giver for family and significant others and how tasking that is on everyone involved. A few days prior to this chat, the National News carried a story about just this topic, and how the province of Quebec is going to step up and help care givers of patients and family in assisted living facilities.

I told him the story about my father, when I was in eighth grade, how, when his mother had a very serious stroke, and in a VERY LUCID moment, outside of his alcoholism, he thought that IF he took ME to Connecticut to see her, he believed, from somewhere deep within him, that if she looked at me and recognized me, that she would in essence,
WAKE UP!

What we did not know about serious stroke paralysis was apparent.

Who knew from the now famous “Stroke Treatment” delivered within a very short time from falling into stroke, can avert serious paralysis. That drug did not exist in the early 80’s.

We took a night flight out and arrived late that evening in Connecticut. My uncle picked us up and took us to his house. The next morning we ate breakfast and they drove me to The New Britain General Hospital.

I was not prepared at all for what was coming.

We got to Grammy’s room, and she was laid out, drooling spittle, half her face was in her lap, and the entire right side of her body was paralyzed. I took one look at her, and I fainted. My head hit the tile floor and I ended up in the emergency room that morning.

She indeed, did NOT wake up. However, she knew who I was. I could not rouse her from her lethargy. I sat on her bed for a few weeks time, to no avail.

In the end, a few weeks later, I returned home defeated. My father was crushed.

It is my belief that he held that little trip against me and never forgave me for not being able to do the job, HE BELIEVED, I needed to do for him. His alcoholism cranked up to 200%. And the abuse ratcheted up 200% as well. Whenever he drank, it was me he came after.

Which is why, as time went on, I found other houses to stay in, so I did not have to be at home. I spent an inordinate amount of time sleeping at successive friends houses over the ensuing years, just to get away from my father.

A functional abusive alcoholic can have lucid moments of brilliance and compassion and thought. Interspersed with the drinking came incredible kindnesses. My father paid dearly, in “Things” to assuage my pain that he himself caused me.

When my friend mentioned to me the other night that “My father KNEW that  my grandmother loved me more than any other, i.e. my brother, it was me he took on this trip because “we” (my grandmother and I are spiritually connected).

When I got very sick, it was Grammy who visited me and stayed with me, when everyone else fled the scene. It took a psychic to tell me this, because she would come into my apartment and my bedroom door was always closed, (at that point) at which time she would move pictures on the walls, and scatter magazines all over the floor, until I invited my friend to come over and tell me what was going on …

In his words to my ears: He told me Grammy was standing in my living room, and had been there for a long time, looking after me, and she could not quite figure out how to get through the door, (after which time, I never slept with another bed room door closed, to this very day). She still visits me on occasion here !!!

That comment unnerved me to the degree that I came home an emotional mess and when I got home, I sat down and wrote it all out and did my Step 4 at the same time.

I went to bed Thursday night, not so myself.

Friday, I left for the meeting as usual. I got to the church, and unlocked, and began my set up routine. I was still, not in the right frame of mind. I grabbed the coffee pot, from the cabinet and lo and behold, a single sheet of paper fell to the floor at my feet, from the stack of papers we have to one side of the cabinet.

I picked it up, as it fell face down, on the floor, and took a look at the newspaper clipping. It was a newspaper clipping telling the story of the house where Bill W. was born, in East Dorset, Vermont.

The house is NOT on any map. You would have to know, before hand, where you were going in order to get there, because there aren’t any signs along the way saying …

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THIS WAY TO BILL’S HOUSE !!! This is the actual house as it is.

Anyways, I read the article and thought to myself, wow, I had never seen this article in the cabinet before, so there has to be a reason it fell out, onto the floor, at just the most opportune moment.

Which hearkened me back three years to the weekend that my then sponsor, my best friend Joe, and I, were on our way to a men’s intensive at Mad River Barn, not far from East Dorset that very weekend.

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And ON THE WAY … We visited Bill’s house where he was born. We also visited Bill and Lois’ grave, just up the road in a very small and non-nondescript cemetery. If you did not know the cemetery was there, you’d not know to go there and pay your respects to the Founder and his wife.

Coming back to the present moment, I was in my head, clearly not myself, standing there alone in a church basement, with this piece of paper in my hand, and the very clear and resonant memory in the front of my brain.

Another of life’s synchronicity.

These little spiritually ignited occurrences happen often to me. And when I most need them, HP does the trick and sends me a sign from above, to remind me, that I am well cared for, and there is always someone up there, looking out for me.

The weekend was a success. It has been Hotter than Hell in Montreal since last Friday, and the heat wave will continue through Thursday night, later this week.

It has been UNBEARABLE !!!

I am chairing this month at the Monday meeting, and we read from the Big Book. Before the meeting I was sitting outside the hall, thumbing through my Big Book, looking for a suitable passage to share with the group. And I happened upon the story:

Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three … Pioneer of Akron’s Group No. 1 The first A.A. group in the world …

And I came to the end of the story where he is having breakfast with Bill and his wife Henrietta, and Bill says to her:

“Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.”

This one sentence is A.A. Gold…

The reading, in the end, speaks about an Absolute State of Grace and Gratitude.

Which brings me this realization as I am sitting here typing these words that:

If you don’t have a topic for a meeting, the default is ALWAYS

GRATITUDE !!!

We’ve come full circle now.

Friday: Prisons

Prisons

There are those who suffer within prisons of their own making. In some cases, society has also built a wall around you.

“Therefore, when you members come into the world of A.A. on the outside, you can be sure that no one will care a fig that you have done time. What you are trying to BE – not what you WERE – is all that counts with us.”

Very few people, in today’s rooms, have experience with bringing a meeting Inside the walls of a prison. In the first years of sobriety for me, I participated in bringing meetings inside the prisons here in Montreal. If you have never reached beyond your comfort zone of safe and sober rooms, you are missing out on an experience that will change your life.

The topics of Prison, Suffering, Adversity, Sobriety, were on many minds tonight.

We all have our stories. And every story is important. Our stories, in the rooms are still being written.

A good friend of mine says that, once we relent, and say, We’ve had enough of existing in the prisons of our own making, and we accept the promise of what the book offers, a Spiritual Solution, that WILL change our lives, if we only allow the process to do its work.

Not many people want what we have to offer them. Many still battle within their own heads. Believing that they are good, that everything is just fine, as long as they “cut down” the drink or the drugs.

The holidays are upon us. The time of greatest misery for many in the rooms. Because we can’t just have ONE and be DONE. And hour upon hour the television shows us just what good a time the world is having around us, drinking and celebrating the season of goodness and gift giving.

This is the hardest time to get sober. I got sober in the month of December. it was not a cake walk by any stretch of the imagination. But I persisted. And I won this round.

And in not so long, I will celebrate 16 years sober.

We’ve all experienced the furnace of life lessons. Even in sobriety.

Life is a furnace that continually tests us to make sure we earn our metal.

It gets better.

Yesterday my best friend went to work, having experienced a few days of down in the dumps drama and stress, got on his knees in the office and prayed.

Within an hour of those prayers being said to the Power Greater than Himself, his phone rang, and on the other end was the help he so needed and prayed for.

I told him, He had the number, he used it and called, and help arrived.

Just in time. As needed.

Help will always come when it is asked for.

 

Saturday: Elder Speak …

Spencer 3

Elder Christensen, Right of frame.

Once again it looks like you are passing through rough water. I find it helpful sometimes when things like this happen to consider the destination. If the place I am going outweighs the pain, setbacks, and annoyances of the journey, then the trip is worth it.

I suppose what I am saying is take a moment perhaps to consider your goals. You recently hit a huge milestone in sobriety and in life, and now looking forward it might be a good idea to think about the big picture of who you want to be and what you want to accomplish.

When you have a vision for yourself, annoying and offensive people and situations cease to be worth your mental energy worrying about. Understand also that your experience will always set you apart from people who don’t get it yet. Sometimes a teachers greatest asset is being patient with stupidity.

kneel

If life gets too hard to stand, Kneel.

I talk to God, an awful lot. And I know this about God, that if I pray, and wisdom does not come to me personally, then I need to go out and listen to my friends talk.

Wisdom direct, is a vertical process, top – down.
Wisdom indirect, is a horizontal process – person to person.

They say, that our minds are not some place we should go often, or ALONE.

I sought spiritual advice last night at the meeting, from a man I trust with my troubles. Before I went to bed, I sought advice from one of my spiritual directors, who use to live here, but now is back in Provo, Utah, and Brigham Young University.

Thankfully we have a Google Hang Out tonight. And it’s General Conference Weekend in Salt Lake City, at the Temple. One of my favorite Speakers, Elder Robert D. Hales, has been admitted to hospital, at 85, he is not doing so well.

Last General Conference he gave a talk on Becoming a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I wept listening to his talk. He is involved with The First Quorum of the Seventy.

Last night, I scheduled off from my service commitment for next week, opting to see if I could get a reservation at my bed and Breakfast in Ottawa for Thanksgiving weekend next weekend.

Yes, Thanksgiving comes early in Canada. The second Sunday in October.

Then we hold our breaths because the Halloween shops opened over a month ago, to get a jump on business. And after Thanksgiving, it is a game to wait and see WHO puts up Christmas Decorations first, in the city malls and stores.

That usually does not take long at all.

Last year, the Pharmaprix we use regularly, started playing Christmas music in November, and people freaked out and went crazy.

It was obvious that they had to turn it off because of the backlash from customers.

I’ve decided to back off the meeting that is causing me strife. I don’t need the headache, and its not like I need to hit a meeting every night of the week. I’m far enough from the drink, but I know, that I am never far from a drink.

The length of my arm, so to speak.

Monday and Friday serve their purpose well. And I don’t have to sit in a room with people who are Spiritual Sand Paper.

You know what that feels like, “Sand paper on a baby’s ass ???”

God is listening. And I hear Him quite clearly.

The Spiritual Connection and the Spiritual Principles are there for a reason.

I know how to use them …