Forever ???

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At the wedding reception on Saturday, family and friends shared stories about Melissa and Stephan, and their many years of being together, prior to their wedding day. And in fact, The date … May 5th, 11 years prior, was the day that Stephan had asked Melissa to be his girlfriend.

Most couples meet at some point in their lives, and date and later marry. Melissa and Stephan met in high school. There is an old Facebook photo from that time period, long ago, of the two, standing in front of a “Just Married” sign. Portents of the future, they say now.

Who knew that back then, that eleven years later, they would meet in a chapel to make it official. There is a history there for sure.

Both sets of parents had introduction stories about the “other.” When they either first met Melissa, in Stephan’s parents case, or when Melissa’s parents first met Stephan. We got to hear what the parents were thinking at that time, and their concern over “longevity of such a young relationship.” Who could tell, if they would make it, or survive the test of time, and still be together.

A few years into Stephan and Melissa’s relationship, Stephan went into free fall. He was not sure that he wanted to be with Melissa forever, since he had NOT had another girlfriend before, and wasn’t really sure if “this was it …” so to speak.

The next day, he broke up with Melissa. He went home that night and told his mother what he had done. And she asked him bluntly … what the hell did you do that for ??

Thankfully, he had been talking all along with Jessica, Melissa’s younger sister, and his closest friends about the breakup. After receiving wise counsel from all, he had decided that Melissa was the girl he wanted to be with for life. He had to devise a plan to “get her back.”

With Jessica’s advice he went out and bought a “Promise Ring.” The very next day, he met with Melissa to give her that ring.

With that promise of love and devotion, Stephan and Melissa began walking the long path of 9 more years to the altar.

Stephan had figured it out. The girl he asked to be his girlfriend ended up being the woman he would marry on Saturday, last.

A moment happened at the reception that I had Stephan to myself. Oddly, during that night, people had the opportunity to speak one on one with bride and groom, individually.

When the moment came for me, I hit my mark. I told Stephan the story about the “wedding vows on the fridge story.”

Yes, you both had eleven years together before the wedding. You hit some hard times, well, things that were hard on lives so young. You built businesses, and then found a home together. Now you are married. And this is where the “Rubber meets the Road.”

They did not recite the traditional wedding vows …

Wedding vows may also take the following form: I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

They instead, opted for the HANDS reading that I wrote about the other night.

So I told Stephan about the vows as they are stated. And that now they were married, what happens when shit really hits the fan? What happens when good goes bad, easy goes hard, wellness turns into sickness. When better gets worse, when richer goes poorer, such and so forth.

I told him about people I knew, who got married, because it was the “thing to do at the time.” They really did not think about Forever very well. And for some of them, when things did go south, as they sometimes did, they did not make it, and for many of those couples, break up and divorce was in the cards for them.

I warned him. Told him to be vigilant. To Be a good Boy Scout and “Always be mindful and prepared” because you never know when shit is going to get real.

Right now, in Hubby’s family, shit is getting real. And the writing is on the wall, and death is a forgone conclusion, for Hubby’s Mom. She is frail, and weakening badly. She is not eating. (Once a sick person or an elderly person decides to stop eating) you know, the end is not far away.

My father in law, over dinner, with all of us sitting around him, related my Mother in Law’s frail condition. At one point he was free, and I implored hubby to go talk to his father, and tell him what he needed to hear from hubby. Which he turned around and spat words in my face to the effect that … “I should butt out of his family life…”

He did go talk to his father in the end. And when he left the reception we both spoke to him, offering them whatever help they could ever need, that we would be ready and willing to do whatever needed to be done, when it was necessary.

We are going to lose a family member, the question is When ???

So we are steeled right now for the inevitable. Many of my nieces and nephews are young, many of them have never experienced death in real-time. Stephan needs to know what to do when this event comes around. And how he is going to support Melissa when the time comes.

Warnings that Wedding vows talk about.

Marriage is not always a bed of roses. Life has a funny way of throwing wrenches into life at the worst possible moments.

One never knows when shit is going to get real.

Hubby strode up behind us while I was talking and rolled his eyes at us, and turned to Stephan and said … “Ignore everything Jeremy has just said, because he likes to talk.”

He was afraid I was putting the Fear Of God into our young married man.

Forever is a long time. And Marriage is Forever.

We only hope that Stephan and Melissa last the test of time, till death they do part.

The Thursday Before Christmas

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The mass exodus of people going home for the holidays is in full swing. Our numbers have dropped by more than half, over the week. Tonight, we sat half the room. The final list is out of who will be open and who will be closed on Christmas.

This year, Christmas is on a Monday, and we will host a meeting on Christmas Night, at Notre Dame de la Salette, for Monday Central. Monday Central is the Oldest Meeting in the city, by years. It was opened by the founders of Montreal sobriety, all those years ago.

Many of my friends will be away for the holiday, so I am cooking Christmas dinner on Wednesday, next week, when folks return home. Christmas is a very quiet affair, here at home. It isn’t about money and tons of gifts.

We will keep it simple again this year. Hubby was not pleased with that assessment, but it is what it is. It’s not like we both NEED anything particular, as in THINGS.

A few of my friends are still in the thick of exams through tomorrow. I’ve been working with many of them, to keep them, above water, working to keep them from going under and ending up “in the weeds” so to speak.

Over the last week, I’ve been talking to my friends and fellows, and many of them are freaking out over what they hear coming out of my mouth. When I took my cake last week, I had said that sobriety is work. It takes work, and if you aren’t doing WORK, then why are you sitting in the room ?

I believe that if you aren’t studying your friends and those folks who have time and even those who don’t have a lot of time, then why bother getting sober ! If you are just going to a meeting and occupying a chair, because we’ve told you to do meetings, and when you leave that hall, you forget what you have just heard, then why go to meetings, if you aren’t taking anything away from the experience.

My friends freak out when they hear me say that I own this space and that when I get home from a meeting, I do home work. I write everything down and I study my friends like lab rats. I know my friends intimately. More intimately than they probably know themselves.

This little fact tends to freak people out on a grand scale, because I’ve breached their anonymity, by writing down my thoughts about them. If I told you their names, and shared specific personal information about them, THEN, I would be breaking anonymity, as far as I am concerned, I can carry any message from a room, as long as I keep the human I am talking about anonymous.

If I have a conversation with you, my life is my business. If I give you advice, and you shake your head at me or tell me to fuck off, it is open season.

I get sober, and stay sober, by watching everything that my friends and fellows do. If you succeed, I succeed. If you fail, I learn from that failure, and I do not repeat your failure behavior. I collect every piece of wisdom I hear. I write it all down, and post it here.

If I am not sharing the messages I am hearing from you, out there, then why am I getting sober, in the first place ? Tonight, my thirty year sober friend said to me, on the way home, when I told her how I get sober said … Why are you taking folks inventories ?

I don’t … I just collect words and I parse them and I use them to my advantage.

The only two things people are concerned with are One, their anonymity and Two, doing actual work to get sober. They don’t want to be talked about and they also don’t want to work for their supper …

I’ve seen, over the past few months, how specific people have stopped coming to specific meetings, for one reason or another. Their absence is noticeable. I know they aren’t showing up.

People do not like the fact that they are subjects of sober scrutiny. I’m finished with people and places that don’t do me any favors. People have proven to me that they cannot be accountable, nor reliable.

They do not bother to step up and be counted as sober folks and help people who are in the weeds and in pain. They’d rather just walk by and say nothing, and not offer a single word of support or love.

ANGER

Anger has arisen in the rooms as of late. And it isn’t just with me either. The waves of ANGER have risen among men and women alike. Since my meltdown, we all learned that many alcoholics, men and women alike, LIVE in FEAR.

You don’t know, if you don’t ask or witness this but, many people have extenuating circumstances to their lives. Many people have deep seeded problems that lie, in the darkness of our minds, never to see the light of day.

When I hit the skids and had my emotional breakdown, and my emotional control went wacky, people were clearly freaked out. People are afraid of me, afraid of the anger I was displaying. I wasn’t acting out or hurting anyone, but I was sharing in open community, what was going on inside my head, in real-time.

People fear what they ONE, either don’t know, or TWO, what they fear themselves. I am not the only human in the rooms here, who has been through the emotional wringer over the past year.

I had a conversation with an old friend, a lady friend, who is long sober, who has also walked through the anger wing of sobriety herself. And she took a sober hostage along the way, and he was so scared of her, that he dumped her clean and clear.

Alcoholics do not do anger … Because they live in FEAR.

The rooms, might not be the best place to figure out your emotional business in open community, but I did not have a professional therapist in my back pocket, and for the life of me, NOT ONE ALCOHOLIC said the words, “I know how you feel, this is what I did !” Not One of my fellows even offered to help me out or point me in the direction of help, at any point of my insufferable journey of self discovery.

I walked it ALONE.

The only saving grace was that I knew what to do. I kept showing up, and I did service. Because I knew if I did those TWO things, I would stay sober.

And FUCK what everyone else had to say about my suffering.

They were too busy judging me and tutting behind my back to each other, because not one of them offered any kind of sober help or even simple love.

People might be sober, and now I know that many of my friends suffer in silence, their own demons. I know this because they all ran in the other direction when I was in the thick of my anger and pain. They saw in me, something of themselves. Their own anger and pain because of abuse or something from their past.

Folks don’t want to look at themselves. But when you are freaking out, in front of them, and they see fear, anger, pain and suffering, all my friends walked away.

I know what my experience has been. And how people treated me.

And to this day, One person has come to me and made amends, because now SHE can empathize with me, my anger and pain, because she walked through her own, over the past year, and she needed to know what I did when she walked away.

I told her the truth.

People don’t like the truth.

And they surely don’t like my scrutiny about their behavior.

It is what it is …

If we do not learn in sobriety, then why bother getting sober in the first place, if you are just sitting in a room, taking up space, while you bury what is within you, never to see the light of day, until one of us goes off the deep end ourselves and suffers seriously.

Alcoholics, many of us, are not well, across the board, and over the past year, we have seen these things take place. And we watched them react in fear.

Because FEAR is the default …

That is scary …

Friday: After the Honeymoon Ends …

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The fact of life, when you are sober is, Life Does Not Stop, It Keeps On Going.

I know that feelings pass, as the days go by. The less we hold on to impermanent things, the better off we are. I’m sad about the death of a man who was uber talented. But that was yesterday. Being so many degrees separated from the epicenter of tragedy, tells me that I can mourn and move on.

So we move on.

I left really early, so I could commune with the dead via music. I arrived at the church with PLENTY of time to do my thing, ALONE. About ten minutes to seven, I was finished setting up and I went to sit outside.

Squirrels were bouncing through the tree canopy. And something very spiritual happened. Something I know to be true to me, that hasn’t happened in a very long time.

Birds are a very significant signs in my life. As I was sitting outside on the steps, I looked in a tree nearby, and there was a Red Breasted Robin sitting in the branches.

She came out of the tree, and landed about six feet from where I was sitting. And she came close and ran around the ground around where I was sitting.

The red breasted robin is significant, because the robin is a spiritual manifestation of my grammy. When ever she comes to visit, it is the robin who shows up.

All my dead relatives came back as birds. My grammy, my grampy and Memere.

That was spiritually significant. I had not been visited like that in a very long time.

We sat a full house, and then some. Lots of visitors from out of town. We are amid the summer visitor rush. The Friday night meeting is unique in many ways. There is not another meeting like ours, in all the city, on the English side.

Tonight’s read spoke about: The Honeymoon. Or as some may call it, the Pink Cloud period that sometimes takes place, in the weeks and months following our entry into the rooms.

Once you sink into your chair and you find your voice, one begins to participate in greater abilities. It seems, for some, that the realities of life, have been suspended.

We spend a little time with our fellows, and some of those fellows become friends as we find our ways. That is a good thing. We may need a little respite from the insanity we have come to learn how to let go of.

My warning to newbies is always the same …

You might be sitting on your pink cloud and everything seems in order as the insanity you walked away from is abated for a while. But like all things natural, life does go on around us. It just does not take a vacation.

It is just waiting for us. And hoping that we’ve learned something minimal by now is the key, so that when the cloud edge comes, you don’t fall off of it, and hit the ground with a THUD. Some go back out, and drink and use again, shit happens.

I’ve seen this happen. So I encourage our men and women to stick close to others in the rooms. Find commonalities. Use the rooms as they present themselves to you.

You CAN, figuratively, GET anything you need from the rooms. That worked for me famously. But times have changed. The rooms fifteen years ago, are not the rooms of 2017.

For me, the first eleven months were really great. I was connected. I had a sponsor that i was connected to with an umbilical cord through my first anniversary.

Sobriety, like life, happens, and sometimes sober people do really Un-Sober things.

At the eleventh month mark, I met my then boyfriend, and the race took off.

That Christmas of 2002, hubby went home to Ottawa and he gave me keys to the apartment we live in today, and said I could stay here, while he was gone.

I never left … tee hee

That was the beginning. Once that train left the station, it never stopped.

The honeymoon was definitely OVER.

Learning how to have a sober relationship took A LOT of work. Learning how to be responsible for another human being, was the beginning of my reaching the point I had been looking for for the whole of my life.

When does a boy become a man ??? Gay or Straight, the answer is the SAME.

Boys become MEN when we learn to put the needs of our significant others before our own.

Putting a home together took YEARS.

This apartment was sterile, dirty white. Take out containers were all over the place. The tv was black and white and had rabbit ears. We did not have a computer. We did not have food in the fridge. We did not have two nickles to rub together.

There were 300 empty beer bottles on the balcony, that took months and months to return, so we could buy groceries. Hubby was a pot head, so we had to cleanse the apartment of weed, rolling machines and papers … UGH !!!

Yesterday I was reorganizing the closet and I found another rolling machine, and a package of papers … Does this ever end ???

Needless to say, it was one thing after another. Mental illness happened. I learned how to care for my boyfriend who was sick for almost a year. That was a huge challenge.

Then he woke up, and we got married …In November 2004.

The Honeymoon was deferred until December that year. Things were honeymoonish for a few weeks.

That did not last for long.

Thirteen years would pass, until that final PROMISE came to pass …

Fear of People and of Economic Insecurities will leave us …

The grind of life took us on a life changing journey together. And we survived it.

In year thirteen and beyond life got exponentially better.

It was clearly NOT a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination.

We both worked our asses off. Went back to school, we amassed 5 University degrees between us.

Sobriety grew on us and not without its challenges.

Life is SO much better today than it was a little more than fifteen years ago.

I had 11 months of non stop meetings. I had 11 months of a sponsor who was part of my life on a daily basis. I had aftercare rehab counseling for two years when I got sober this time. I had everything I needed and NOT a single thing more.

I worked my ass off, for twelve years in sobriety, before BOB came into my life and turned my sober life upside down. I thought I was doing everything right, WRONG …

Bob introduced me to Intense Prayer and Meditation, like I had never heard before.

Three – Seven – Eleven …

My sobriety was definitely enhanced.

Twelve through fifteen was all about learning MORE about the book.

Year Fifteen has been one Hellacious, Terrible, Emotional, Nightmare.

I never want to go through this kind of pain ever again in my life.

In ten days, I will be Fifty years old.

Hallelujah !

It works if you work it.

Tuesday … This is where we are

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It is a usual phenomena that discussions arise from topics at several meetings over days and weeks at a time. And the readings are repetitious because we read and reread the same books over and over again. Sometimes, we hit similar topics across several texts and when I sit down to write there is a coherent flow to the discussion.

Attending two fellowships that share books and ideas, there arises, at times, topics and discussions that are common to both, and writing towards both, sometimes falls right into place.

Yesterday we talked about “Are we there yet.”

This evening, I hit my Tuesday meeting. And we are in the back of the Big Book, and today’s story … He sold himself short. How the fellowship started in Chicago.

In the fourth edition, the first section of stories are from the first 100 founders, who were drunks, got sober in the 1930’s and subsequently started A.A. in their respective cities, in the U.S. and Canada. The Montreal story, of Dave B. falls in this section and tells the story about how A.A. came to Quebec.

Let’s return to Chicago.

In regards to yesterdays question of “Are we there yet,” We get this response from our man…

These last eighteen years have been the happiest of my life, trite though that statement might seem. Fifteen of those years I would not have enjoyed had I continued drinking. Doctors told me before I stopped that I had only three years to live on the outside.

This latest part of my life has a purpose, not in great things accomplished but in daily living. Courage to face each day has replaced the fears and uncertainties of earlier years. Acceptance of things as they are has replaced the old impatient champing at the bit to conquer the world. I have stopped tilting at windmills and, instead, have tried to accomplish the little daily tasks, unimportant in themselves, but tasks that are an integral part of living fully.

Where derision, contempt,and pity were once shown me, I now enjoy the respect of many people. Where once I had casual acquaintances, all of whom were fair-weather friends, I now have a host of friends who accept me for what I am. And over my A.A. years I have made many real, honest, sincere friendships that I shall always cherish.

I’m rated as a modestly successful man.My stock of material goods isn’t great. But I have a fortune in friendships, courage, self-assurance, and honest appraisal of my abilities. Above all, I have gained the greatest thing accorded to any man, the love and understanding of a gracious God, who has lifted me from the alcoholic scrap heap to a position of trust, where I have been able to reap the rich rewards that come from showing a little love for others and from serving them as I can.

Over the last twenty two years, I have heard doctors tell me that I was going to die a handful of times, in the beginning, I really was GOING to DIE, and over the decades I heard it again and just twice in the last ten years. I have outlived all those predictions, much to the surprise of the medical establishment.

The only things I can attribute my survival to are my resolve to live each day fully, to have learned how to pin point direct energy to serve me best, the medication I take daily, but most importantly, my faith in a God who sustains me.

If I had no faith, which I did not during the death march, I would have died. God, read:Todd, stepped out of heaven and onto earth in the vision of the man who saved my life from utter despair. I got to see, meet and live with God incarnate, I truly believe that to my innermost self.

Death brings life into perspective as in what I CAN do and what I DO do. This passage from the last two pages of the read resonated with our folks tonight. When the chips are down, and we think, we don’t have enough, or aren’t where we should be at any given moment on the continuum, we are reminded quite succinctly, what we DO get in the rooms.

You can’t put a price on respect, dignity, love and friendship. And the wisdom that comes when you stick and stay is invaluable. Not to mention, in my case, living through my 40’s now and learning what real wisdom is. That has been a theme in the 40’s. Wisdom …

If you tell folks that it isn’t in what you gain materially that matters, and that money is good, but having just enough is the lesson, how to make it, what to do with it, and what NOT to do with it. Living in Quebec, Anglo’s won’t get rich here. So you make do with what you can do to make what you can in salary. That is a recent bitter pill for some.

University Degrees, for the most part, aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, for many in this city. I don’t know many people who parlayed studies into degrees, be they B.A.’s, M.A.’s or PHD’s, into money spinners. And several of my friends went back out and drank after this happened to them. It happened to me too, two degrees not worth the paper, and no opportunities for a Religion and Theology major who is Gay to be had.

Sobriety is about the journey, and what we learn along the way. Showing up day after day, night after night, week after week, month after month, year after year, life changes the longer you stick and stay. And all this to say that life can be rich, even if you are not, because what we get together, is more important and is worth more, than what you might get on your own.

Are we there yet? Probably not. But you are HERE right now. So let’s remind ourselves, just what you have gained in staying, and what is possible.

Things that you cannot put a price on.

That matters …