Fifty One … Made It Another Year

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“… They show how the change came over them. When many hundreds of people are able to say that consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why one should have faith.”

We Agnostics, page 51.

Tonight, we ended the month of July, with me in the chair, and we talked about God, Prayer, and Faith.

One over arching comment I heard from my friends is that for many of them, the thought of God, the practice of prayer, the admission of humility and the profession of faith, is a natural part of who they are.

They don’t necessarily “think” about God or Prayer, or Humility, or faith, every minute of the day. Those constituent parts of who they are present in everything that they do, every day. These parts are, in and of themselves, separate, but are unified in a single thought … Presence and Service.

The old story rose in my mind as I sat and listened. And I told it again. Even if my friends have heard me tell this story over and over.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away … Cue the Star Wars Theme …

God has been an integral part of my life, for the whole of my life. Memere and Grammy made sure that I knew of God, and that God loved me.

Memere, one day, when I was very young, took me to church and presented me to God, standing on the altar of that church, where she had a conversation with God, about me.

That visual is burned into the back of my mind.

I served God to the best of my ability, to the extent that in my second year of college, after high school, I ended up in Seminary, studying to be a priest.

I devoted my life to God, in every way possible. But I was not like the others. I did not do evil things that the others had done. I never broke my vows to Mother Church, during that year, and I thought that would get me by.

It didn’t.

At the end of that year, the rector, whom I had issues with personally, said to me that I was not “one of them.” Therefore, it was his decree that I would be told to leave the seminary.

Talk about being resentful and angry about God.

My alcoholism took off full-bore. And lasted until my 26th year of life. I told God to go to hell, that I did not need Him. Took back my will and my life, and pursued life.

I had come out of the closet not long after.
That only added to my alcoholic woes.

On one morning, as I sat in that bar nursing a drink at 7 a.m. fate strolled in to greet me and I danced. That morning would be the last morning.

What I did not know would eventually almost kill me.

On July 8th 1994, I got those words. “You are going to die.” A few days later I called Todd home from vacation and told him I was going to die.

As God as my witness … I may have turned my back on God. But God, in His wisdom, got my attention once again.

Never be thankful for a terminal disease.

Sometimes a fatal disease is just that, a fatal disease.

I took my life in my own hands that morning, and did what I did. And I am the one to blame for my misfortune. It is my fault.

God got my attention. Then He stepped out of Heaven and soothed my soul.

What Todd did for me, I will never forget, will always be grateful for, and remember as long as I breathe air. I will tell his story as many times as I can, because if this story dies. I die with it.

It is the power of God that makes this story critical.

Todd promised me, if I turned my will and my life over to him and trusted him with my life, that he would see to it that I survived. I may have kicked and screamed for a while, but that did not last very long.

As my friends died around me, one after another, and every day that I lived, is a testament to the Power of Todd, Read: GOD.

On the day I said goodbye to him, standing next to his car, as he got into that car, and shut the car door, he forgot to give me one small piece of information,

“What was I supposed to do now.”

I lament that he did not give me that much-needed piece of information. We were so caught up in goodbye that I don’t think that thought crossed his mind, in that moment.

When he drove off, my life drove off with him.

I could not make it alone. I had no idea what to do or how to do it.

All of the people who were still alive, already made the trek West. I was the only one who stayed. I stayed because of my heart. I stayed because I was sure, my father would die, and I would make my stand and go to my mother, and reclaim her from my father, and care for her for the rest of my days.

Obviously, that plan never happened.

My parents would rather eat dirt, than accept me as a human worthy of love.

On January 7th 2018, my father died. I got that one wrong.

My mother spit in my face, once again, saying to me that I was a mistake and should never have been born. This is the very same woman I was hedging my bets of saving and being part of her life.

Got that one wrong too.

I did drink again.

At the end of my drink binge, I called out to God. Begged Him for help.

I prayed three prayers in order of necessity.

  • A hangover
  • An Alcoholic
  • And Get me to a Meeting

God did those very things for me, in the order I needed them, miraculously.

I was on the return arc, when Troy walked into my business and his first words to me were: I did not drink today …

Troy was that blessed alcoholic whom God sent. Troy took me to my next, First Meeting. I stayed for the later 10 pm meeting and met the folks who would bring me back to life again. Those original folks are still in my life to this day.

God granted me a few dispensations. And created a number of miracles.

I ended up crossing the border, attaining Canadian Citizenship, I am still sober, almost seventeen years later. And had you told me, back in Miami, back in the day, that my life could have looked like it does today, I would have laughed at you and called you crazy.

God moved heaven and earth. And God’s saving grace has made me whole.

There IS a GOD, and I am not God.

Although, I did meet God. I spoke to God. I worked for God. I served God, every day I walked into work and served those men, who are all dead now, until they all took their last breaths on this earth. I was with many of them. When their families tossed them into the gutter and into the streets, I was there, with a few friends, who cared for the sick, until they eventually died, in our arms.

None of my friends died alone. Not One Of Them.

Nobody knows the intricacies of this story. Nobody really cares, even the gay men I know today. They know nothing about AIDS or Living with AIDS. They really don’t care for my stories, because they cannot identify.

If my story dies, I will die with it.

Which is Why, till the day that I take my last breath, I will utter the name of Todd and thank God for saving my life, all these years.

I made it to 51.

Let’s PARTY !!!

Thursday: Presence

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It is BRUTALLY COLD outside. ( -23c / -32 w.c. ) At this hour. It is so cold that skin that is open to the cold will freeze in moments, if you aren’t protected. The weather people have been warning us for days about this cold snap that will last at least for another week at best.

The City has opened the Metro Stations as warming centers for the homeless. Shelters are stacking more beds, and the city shelter bus transport system is working over time to make sure that people are not sleeping on the streets and in the parks.

But, let’s be honest too. There are those who will NOT accept shelter assistance. Even if it is minus 30 outside. There are those who prefer to sleep on the streets. And again, this year, people will die from cold and exposure. The story is the same across Canada, in many cities, especially in the Prairie Provinces.

A question that was posed to me a very long time ago was this … Not that I came from a four season city, but I live in one now. If you went out to score drugs or alcohol in the middle of a blizzard, or go out in the COLD to SCORE, then you are able to hit a meeting, no matter how cold it is.

I learned when I moved here, what it was going to take to make it out when it is brutally cold outside. Every year I polish my cold weather gear. Since I changed up my wardrobe months ago, My sporty training gear that I do wear, has to be warm.

I spent a pretty penny purchasing Professional Hockey Thermal Gear this year. I went to a local hockey outfitter and I bought the exact same warming system that professional hockey players wear on the ice. Tonight a friend of mine asked me if I was cold, and I told her no, I am pretty well insulated.

I saw an old, lady friend from the Tuesday meeting. She had not seen me in many months, and she was floored when she learned how hard I had been training these past few months, and the way the KETO diet works, and how much weight I have dropped in the last calendar year.

I notice, on a nightly basis, those young people who are suiting up and showing up. They all have been schooled in where to sit ( UP FRONT) and not in the back. They sit AT the table at the other meetings, we call that (Front Row Sobriety). Our young people struggling through their first sober holiday season, have been present.

And WE are present for THEM.

I spoke to a friend tonight about paying it forward. He agreed. If we can circulate young people into service positions now, and hope they maintain a connection to others, in that service, they will stay sober in the long run.

One of our elder men spoke tonight. There are a handful of old sober men, (read: 30 Plus years sober) who suit up and show up and are engaged. A common complaint within our elder men and women community, is that at some point, old timers or elders, think that they have had enough, that they have served enough, and they back off. Some show up, others DON’T. And a handful of them DRINK AGAIN.

Darkness and Cold are harbingers of bad news. If you don’t suit up and show up and remain connected and PRESENT, for yourself as well as for others, You Are SUNK.

I’m happy to report that our young people are actively involved in meeting fellowship and service. We have worked hard to get them to stay and connect, from the very first, NOW, and not wait until they have a bit more time under their belts.

The sooner we get them connected and serving their fellows, the better off they will be for the future. Our Monday crowd is on the beam, so to speak. They are showing up, even when it is brutally cold outside.

New Years is coming up, here in Montreal. And the biggest bash of the city, the FINAL 375th Anniversary Montreal Celebration, takes place on New Years Eve, in the Old Port. OUTSIDE !!!

I was secretary tonight and in  my announcements, I told the crowd that if they wanted to brave the cold like a good alcoholic to ring in the New Year, that was a choice they could make.

But I also gave the crowd a couple of other choices too. The Montreal Young Peoples conference is hosting a New Years Dance and Party, like they do every year. And they bring them in too. Everybody shows up for this yearly event, which is INSIDE.

The third choice is out on the South Shore, that’s a drive from here, across highways that are all torn up and useless due to construction and demolition. But the South Shore groups are hosting a New Years Dance, with food, fun and a live band.

People have choices. I am sure that in every city where people are sober, You Too can find someplace Sober to be for the New Year.

I spoke to a friend the other day about New York City and the Ball Drop. Some people get to Time Square in the afternoon, and they get PENNED IN, for HOURS. In the BRUTAL COLD, with no bathrooms, no drinks, no food. NADA. Just to see that damned ball drop in Time Square.

I watch that ball drop from the comfort of my warm and toasty living room.

Can you imagine that hell on earth, all to say that you at least experienced New York on New Years Eve, I’d rather eat dirt …

Remember that PRESENCE is the greatest gift you can give your family and friends this holiday season, just by suiting up and showing up, You Too can change a life for the better. Because you are there for them, like we were there for you, when you came in.

Now we teach that if this is your first sober holiday, that let this year be a template for you for years to come, when next Christmas you will know what to do and where to do it, so that you keep a room open for those kids who might need it, because this year, you needed it and we were there for you.

Paying it Forward.

If you practice the sober plan of living and you build it into your life, you will always have someplace to BE, something to DO and people to give TO. Year after Year, for the rest of your life.

Sobriety is NEVER boring.

I hope for all of you this New Year.