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 !!!

You Wanna Argue with Happy ??

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Hindsight, they say is 20 /20 …

Seeing what is going on right now, won’t be the same as seeing it further down the road.

Some people did not get that memo when they came in.

Marcus Aurelius says that life is a river. It is always moving. What is in front of us in the moment, won’t be in front of us for very long. Because, very soon, what we are seeing, will become “what we have already seen.”

I heard a story tonight, that I had not heard from my friend, the last time I heard his speak. He is right, when he opened with …

I’m sitting up here. And for the most part, I know almost everyone sitting in this room. Some from the day I showed up, until tonight. Many of us, in that room, are kind and generous of heart and spirit. We’ve all had a “change of values,” now we have some time under our belts.

Keeping it real, simple, and humble is the key to happiness.

Each of us, know what we know, because of the people we know, the friends we have, and the company we keep. We know, that if we ask, it will be given, in the order of need. There isn’t anything one of us won’t do for someone in need. Even if they be US.

Last weekend I went to Ottawa to see my best friend. I Instagrammed the entire weekend. One of my long time friends, follows me. And tonight she said to me that “I look happy.” It’s a refrain she has used with me before. I went through a change in life, prior to my fiftieth birthday. A change she and everybody else noticed.

All of my friends, love me, each in their own ways. Each of them keep me humble. Sadly, some people missed that lesson, when it was taught.

We see it often. People with a little time, but mostly, with people with serious time, outgrow their pants, they cop resentments, and their ego’s grow beyond acceptable measures. They might not go back out and DRINK, but they are sure as shit DRY DRUNK.

Thank God I have good friends, who keep me in the stream.

I do very simple things. They are not very difficult. Like many of my friends, we all know what works. It’s very simple, the “plan for living.” Outlined in the book, we know where it is located, and we can turn to that plan in any given moment.

Sadly, there are those who have forgotten, the Simple Plan.

I know, the simple plan works. If I need to go fishing … I fish in the rooms. I don’t fish in the greater stream, they call, the outside world. I repeated this lesson to a friend tonight, who needs to go fishing. I told him to “fish in the rooms.”

Because the rooms are a Big Ocean. Filled with gifts, you might not be able to hook, in the real world, because of who we know, and that ripple of “who we know” grows exponentially, on any given night.

Our matriarch took Twenty Five Years tonight. She is a woman of grace and serenity. All the women I know, in the rooms, as far up the road, she is at, are all graceful and serene.

All I want, out of this life is grace and serenity. I don’t care what I have to do to find it, as long as I am in their company. Because if I keep doing simple things on a regular basis, and I keep showing up and be counted … I will be graceful and serene.

You can’t argue with Happy, can you ?

We know what it means to be happy, and how to get there.

My friends are happy, joyous and free. I want to be like many of my friends. Each of my friends, have pieces of the puzzle of life, I want. And the best way to attain those puzzle pieces is to spend time with each of my friends, doing simple things, like showing up, being present, and telling the truth.

We are grateful people.

I think that is the greatest gift.

GRATITUDE …

Monday: Dr. Bob’s Nightmare

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We begin the month of Monday’s for Monday Night in the Big Book, Once again. And tonight’s fare came from Dr. Bob’s Nightmare.

In Ernest’s Book, The Spirituality of Imperfection, chapter six talks about story tellers, and the need we have to find them. And when we venture out to seek, we eventually find that others, had been looking for us.

And once we find each other, we can, finally, tell someone our story.

And so it went on that night, when Bill, faced with the failure of his business deals in Akron, stood in the Mayflower Hotel, thinking a drink …

In that moment, as Lorna Kelly said to us … “Heaven held its breath, waiting to see what Bill would do.” We speak of spiritual moments in our lives, and for Bill, his very next decision was “Spiritual.” Instead of thinking the drink, he thought that what he really needed was another alcoholic.

He walked over to that church directory located on the other side of the room, and he started making phone calls, looking for a prospect. When all seemed lost, he dialed that last number on the list in front of him, and Henrietta Sieberling answered.

Anne, Dr. Bob’s wife, knew people. She had been looking for a solution for her husband’s inability to Not Drink. That night Bill was invited to Henrietta’s to meet Dr. Bob and his wife. Thinking that he could handle very little, Dr. Bob offered a mere fifteen minutes to Bill, for his trouble. Six hours later, after that first conversation began, two men sat together, sharing their stories with each other, when Bob tells us in his story …

“Of far more importance was the fact that he (read: Bill) was the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what he was talking about in regards to alcoholism from actual experience. In other words, he talked my language.”

This story also mentions Spiritual Principles. And for many in a room, whether there is a God, or whether one believes in said God is the first stumbling block for a lot of folks.

I listened to my friends talk tonight. atheists, Agnostics, Believers and those in-between. Many of them have faith, one way or another. Each of them knows, what works for them.

The book goes on to say …“But if you really and truly want to quit drinking liquor for good and all, and sincerely feel that you must have some help, we know that we have an answer for you. It never fails, if you go about it with one half the zeal you have been in the habit of showing when you were getting another drink.

Your Heavenly Father will never let you down.”

Funny that the chair read these two pages to us, but omitted that very last sentence in her read. And someone in the crowd offered up that thought to complete the read, on the second pass.

The movement from Self Seeking and Selfishness, will change. And we learn the wisdom in seeking to help others, because at some point we came in, and were found ourselves, and over time, we too were relieved from the bondage of the craving and the consumption of alcohol.

And we learn the Four Reasons … of why we carry the message to others …

  1. Sense of Duty
  2. It is a Pleasure
  3. Because in doing so I am paying my debt to the person who took the time to pass it on to me.
  4. Because every time I do it I take out a little more insurance for myself against a possible slip.

I heard one of our young women talk about the highlight of her week last week: When having a good time meant imbibing and ending up in a gutter with vomit in her hair, last week she got together with other women and they talked about The Work.

The highlight of her week.

Who knew, she said, “that sharing the message would be the highlight of her week, when in the beginning she admitted saying that she did what she was told to do because she had to, in order NOT to drink. Over the years she learned just how good it would feel to share her story with other women over coffee …”

When I came back, I had no other choice. I did everything I was told to do. I connected and remain connected to this very day. Having a service commitment, made me useful and gave me a purpose for getting out of bed every day.

Making coffee all these years later, the best music to my ears is hearing some drunk come in the room and complain that he did not like my coffee …

The reply is standard … Keep Coming Back.

You will Learn to Love My Coffee …

Friday: Humility … God Giveth and God Taketh Away

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My story begins a long time ago, in a nondescript church, with Memere and God.

On that day, she had a conversation with God, and the covenant was made. And for the whole of my life, God was there, running in the background, even if I did not always want Him or see Him.

When we are born, we are given a body, a soul and a spirit. Our bodies, some say, are the temples of God, created in His image, and we should take care of that body, soul and spirit. Because it is the only one we have, and this is not a dress rehearsal, this IS the BIG SHOW.

When we reach the age, where addiction begins, nothing else matters, but the consumption of whatever we are addicted to, unto the bitter end.

I know what Humility is. I have spent an inordinate amount of time seeing where, I had to humble myself before God. And there were those times.

I am a man who desires structure. A man who desires to be with others, and not left on his own. I need that communion with those who participate in my life. I need a steady hand, every day that I live this life. I am nothing without those around me.

For a great portion of my twenties, I craved a new addiction, “Acceptance.” And what ever I had to do to get it, I did it. Not only did I never “find my way into acceptance fully,” it seemed, in retrospect, that “I would never arrive.”

My drinking career did not last that long. But for a very long time, I was abusing myself, disrespecting my body, my soul, and my spirit. And I had turned away from God, because I had forgotten that a covenant existed between God and myself.

If you think you can run your life, for the whole of your life, addicted and abusive, your God-given body, soul, and spirit is polluted.

I heard a friend say that at times, God might take something away, but He also gives something back. And my life, as it was lived, up to today, has been a series of God taking things away, however harsh it may have been, in God’s wisdom, I believe He knew what He was doing.

I had abused my Godly Covenant. I had forgotten.

Human beings are supposed to make it in the world, against all that happens, we are supposed to go out into the world, be fruitful and multiply. Well, I may be fruitful, but I sure as shit did not multiply. Thank God …

In the gay world, we are told we must be fit, sexy, tanned, rich and pretty. We are told that in order to “belong” we must imbibe great alcohol and do great drugs, because that is what we gay boys do. At least that was the message I got in my twenties.

I was fooled into a delusion that took me to the bitter end. Because I was none of those things, but for a few short years. Alcohol is capricious, patient and cunning.

I believe now, that God knew exactly what He was doing all the time.

But at the point where I had humiliated myself in public, drank myself into the ground and sexed myself up to the point that I was going to die because of my actions, God needed to get my attention, once in for all.

The Evangelical crowd believed that AIDS was the Gay’s punishment for sinning and that AIDS was what we earned by sinful behavior. They wanted us to die. And they vehemently encouraged us to die.

God brought me to my knees, in grand fashion. With plague …

He took away my ability to be fruitful and to be sexy and to be sexual. He removed me from that insanity, I thought I really needed, come hell or high water.

In retrospect, Was my sex life all that it was cracked up to be? No…

Only when I drank.

Taking away that part of my life was part of the deal. But God did not leave me, he incarnated and came into my life in human form. Todd came and saved my life.

I was going to learn some humility. And that is exactly what had happened.

I learned over the course of two years, what humility meant, and why it was important.

Humility was necessary to survive. Approval may not come all the time. And we must stand up and know that we are good. That we can be good to ourselves.

HUMILITY — Definition: When your toilet is stopped up with a cup placed backwards in the bowl, and shit and piss fill the bowl and is all over the floor, your job is to get that cup out of the toilet and clean that mess… humility …

We know today, well at least some of us do that:

My belly button is NOT the center of the universe. Therefore I am not the center of the universe.

As long as I was orbiting my sun, my moon and my stars, I was good. As long as that hand was there, and I was not alone, I trusted Todd with my life and I flourished.

We know that time came to an end. I did not know what to do. Honestly, I did not know what to do with myself or how I was going to survive on my own.

I tried for a while, until A.A. asked me to leave and not come back.

Never tell an alcoholic to go away and not come back. Because if you do that, their life becomes your problem.

Once you speak words, you can never take them back.

I had to venture on one last odyssey. God was there, on silent mode. But I had to get to the point that I recognized that I was done abusing myself.

And that night, I got on my knees and humbled myself before God.

And with miraculous Godly power, God moved heaven and earth to bring me back into my covenant.

The rest, I can say, is history. Good history.

The steps are written in a certain order and should begin with the First, through the Twelfth. Because we need to admit, come to, and decide that (God) for me, is the director and I am a servant. Then I need to clean house and throw out the trash.

Only then can we entertain the word Humility. Step Seven is all about humility.

A familiar exercise is to read the Twelve and Twelve and Step Seven, and highlight how many times the word humility appears in that step work.

God giveth and God taketh away …

And I know that I could never have provided myself with what God has given me over the last fifteen years on my own. I was no normal mortal human being who was supposed to go into the world and make it on my own.

I had no idea how that was going to work.

Alcoholics and Addicts in recovery, We Get Our Do Over…

In the rooms we find what we have all been missing. I’ve proved, over the years, that God can be found in the rooms of recovery. I’ve seen Him move among my friends.

And He has moved in my life. Over the years, little by little, God has removed certain things from my life. In order that He might give me something better.

An Empty vessel that can be filled with grace. A Body, Soul, and Spirit that is Clean and Sober, that can flourish and be of service to my fellow-man.

Having lived as long as I have, I surely do not take my life for granted.

People rely on me. They trust me. And they love me. If I took for granted one day, of this covenant that I now inhabit, I would surely lose my life …

A long time ago, I had a conversation with God. And I told him that I was ready to sacrifice my life in order to serve God.

An entire lifetime would go by, until I reached the point where the time was right, the moment had arrived, the ground was fertile, and I was ready to step up and serve God with all that I had.

For me, in order to serve God, in hindsight, required great sacrifice.

It has taken me a lifetime to realize just what that meant.

Tonight a friend reminded me of why we were sitting in that room tonight.

Because God giveth …

 

 

 

Sunday Sundries … Good Deed Sunday – Edit : Endings

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It has been downright balmy this weekend. Temps went up into positive territory, and rain followed. Lots of rain …

I should have told this story earlier, but it slipped my mind. I have told you that our Provigo Grocery store on the corner was shutting down, and it has been “ONE VERY LONG GOODBYE!”

On Thursday night, on the way home from St. Matthias, I stopped by the store to say goodbye to my friends. I did not expect what happened in the store. Obviously there was nothing to buy at all, so I stepped up to my friends and began to say that I had come to say goodbye … Then the waterworks started, and we were all crying and sobbing on each others shoulders.

I didn’t know that that goodbye was going to be so difficult. There was light on Friday night, and on Saturday, there was brown paper covering all the windows around the building. Elvis has left the building. More than 45 people are out of a job.

This is a great loss for our neighborhood. But we will adapt, we have no other choice.

**** **** ****

They called for rain last night, and I carried my big umbrella out with me. I stopped at Micky D’s and the Tabamag on my way to the Metro. At the Tabamag, I hung my umbrella from the facing assorted candy boxes, so I could get at my wallet.

I made my purchase, turned around, and walked out of the shop and into the Metro. I got all the way across my transit of two lines going uptown on Orange. I sat down in the car, and thought,

“I left my umbrella at the Tabamag, FUCK !!!”

Thankfully it only drizzled.

I had a baby sitting appointment with the baby this afternoon, and on the way I picked up the umbrella and carried it to the house with me. I did my stint, as my backup arrived, freeing me to leave a bit early to make it back for the evening meeting tonight.

I walked all the way back up the hill to Villa Maria, and once again, realized as I stepped onto the train, that I had left my umbrella somewhere else again !

The text read … “Do you have your umbrella?” No …

The wisdom of the ages dictates that, “if you do a good deed, don’t talk about it, because the charm is lost.”

On the odd occasion, well, really, quite often, I find myself in places with people I love, the people I do whatever I can for, at any moment, for any reason.

I try to always live in the moment. Spontaneity is something most people never get, or they avoid it at all costs.

My friends, the people I love, for what its worth, mean the world to me, because we see each other as human beings. We are also, spiritual beings, having a human existence. And every once in a while, life happens, where love and service collide.

And the SMILE at the other end is PRICELESS !

Life is moving at breakneck speed. And once again, I am called to be present, as I am able. So I am taking care to make sure I don’t over do it again.

We talked last night, about being good to ourselves. Learning from past lessons, has paid off. Now I get to practice those lessons, on future plans.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see with God’s eyes. All one has to do is look with love, at humanity. Then do, DO RIGHT AWAY, what is in front of you, not because you have to, but because you want to, or that you should, because when that moment opens, if you pass it up, you will loose more.

I have a friend, who has a certain world view. She sees herself as less than, a reject and a fuck up. She listens to people make promises they don’t keep, she watches people engage, but when the game gets tough, they walk away.

The other day, I sat with her and I told her that she was loved, and that I would do everything in my power, to help her, as God would want it. Because I believe that everyone in my life, IS a child of God and worthy of respect, love and care.

Basic Humanity 101 …

Sadly, too many people, did not get that memo.

I am truly blessed to have the people I have in my life, who teach me every day, how to be A better man, A better Servant, A better Christian, and a better elder statesman.

Sobriety, this time around, has taught me many lessons.

  • I had the choice of what I was going to do
  • I don’t need approval from those who do not matter
  • I’ve worked damn hard at growing up
  • I trust my advisers, implicitly
  • And I have the best friends in all the world.

My heart is full.