What Will The Newcomer Think?

Today I was wearing a variant of this outfit, in Blue, rather than Black, but Under Armour in any case. I saw this photo in one of my streams and decided on replicating it in my wardrobe. I have several different iterations of said color scheme. Any color goes with white 3/4 tights, as long as your sock and shirt colors match.

I devote myself to breaking the mold of just what a 50+ year old man can wear in public. And the men who know me all have smart ass remarks about my looks. I really do not care what people have to say about my looks or my methods.

I’ve learned not to care what others think about me. I have more people who support me, rather than deride me openly.

Today in particular, my old sponsor who is up in the twenty six year range was sitting outside the church with another elder friend at thirty years sobriety. My old sponsor looked at me and said:

“You know you should really stop wearing your underwear out in public, I mean really, what will the newcomer think if they see you dressed that way?”

I should have pulled down my pants and showed him my brightly colored patterned underwear that I WAS wearing underneath my white tights.

But I digress …

I had posed a question to my elder friend sitting next to him, and he turned his face away from me, and answered my question by posing the answer to another man standing ten feet away, as if to say, he acquiesced to my old sponsors admonition about my wardrobe choice tonight.

I noticed …

Newcomer won’t come near me because they all think me a little strange, but I do have my friends in the younger bracket. I mean, I will socialize and I do, and I share when necessary, but overall, I am interested in their progress and mainly keep tabs on my kids where ever I go, on any particular night.

I told the story about the boy I cornered with the three, seven, eleven shuffle last week. He’s been MIA for days and skipped all the meetings we used to share in common. I hope I did not scare him away because I asked him to pray, as the Book Says … and that He does not DO GOD.

Oh well, you win some and you loose some, I guess.

We spoke about Step Seven tonight:
Humbly Asked Him to Remove our Shortcomings.

I always tell the same story when talking about Step Seven.

Many years ago, just after I was diagnosed, and getting sober at the same time, I have said before that Todd knew more about sobriety than any man I knew or have known since.

He was in essence: God. As I understood Him.

One night, on a busy weekend, I was on duty and the main bathroom was packed and someone put a RED CUP in a toilet backwards. The toilet was overflowing with shit and piss and other sundry fluids.

Todd called me over and said to “Clean the bathroom.” My response was “I don’t do toilets!” He said a second time “Clean the bathroom” Which my response did not change. He went into the kitchen and brought out a pair of rubber gloves and demanded quite forcefully, that I should reconsider and go and Clean the Bathroom.

I had nowhere to go but to follow orders.

I did indeed don the gloves and attacked the bathroom and the backed up toilet. At the end of shift, Todd spoke to me saying this:

Do you know why I had you clean that messy toilet? Everything he told me to do was connected to some lesson about the present and maybe the future. I said No…

His answer was loving and kind. He said that if I could clean a shitty toilet, that if I got really sick and ended up in a shitty diaper one day, that I would then know what to do for myself.

Lesson learned. Humble Pie it was …

Many men I knew who were vibrant and alive, ended up sick, demented, and lying in their own shit. I had a friend for a while who was damned to diaper living and it was demeaning. It was terrible for him. And I swore then and there, I would rather die than to end up sick, demented, and lying in a shitty diaper.

Thank God I never saw that kind of sickness in my own life. And for that I am forever grateful for small mercies.

Humility … for me, is knowing my place in the world. I am not better than anyone else, I know what I know, because I’ve studied life for the whole of my life and I’ve been sober quite a long time now. You cannot take that away from me. My life experience nor my sober knowledge.

I am not the center of the universe and my belly button is not the center either, and finally:

There is a GOD, but I am NOT GOD.

I know what enough means, and I am ok with having enough. Because for many years in early sobriety, we had very little, and for a long time, we did not have Enough. And we had to make it work.

Enough is not lost on me.

Keep it simple, Help someone else, because you can, and not because you expect something in return.

Last week, I went to intergroup to buy a chip for one of our men at the men’s meeting on Wednesday night. I did not say anything about it, but I got his cake, card, and candles.

We gave him the whole ritual of cake and chip.

On Saturday morning, my sponsor called from Vermont. I missed his call because it was early and I was still sleeping. He called to tell me that he had heard about the anniversary celebration, and he said: “Well Done.”

I had not told him about what I was doing, because he’s out of country right now, but several of the men in the group called him to tell him what I had done, a good thing for someone else.

I did not expect praise nor did I do it for the praise, it was the right thing to do for someone. Kindness goes a long way in making friendships work.

But it was nice to hear the words … Well Done.

Something Todd would have said to me.

It made me smile inside.

Reflections Step Seven

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

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

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

Ignorance was rife …

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

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

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

Hell hath no fury like an AIDS sick man.

A very TRUE STORY…

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

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

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

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

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

True Story …

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

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

Alas, that was not my experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why you ask ? I’m Gay.

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

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

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

God give me strength.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because he IS constitutionally incapable of being honest with himself.

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

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

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

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

SHUT THE FUCK UP AND SIT DOWN.

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

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

I am a Gay man who survived AIDS.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s like I am running on my own.

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

That strikes me as odd too.

Just a few observations about myself.

Friday: Humbly, On Our Knees …

17191492_1866704746945038_5263523050693755398_n

In the Original Manuscript of the Big Book, on page 26 of that manuscript, Step Seven reads: Humbly, on our knees, asked Him to remove our shortcomings, holding nothing back.

There are such religious notions, peppered throughout the Original Manuscript. Not all of them made it into the first printing of the Big Book in 1939.

I actually have a First Edition Big Book, printed in 1939.

Some of the more drastic “suggestions” that might seem, just a little too harsh for the sensibilities of those who see the Judeo-Christian influences in the Big Book, a problem in getting sober, were scrubbed from the final copy that went to print.

In one pass at my Steps a few years ago, in reading the Twelve and Twelve, approached Step Seven with this process: Read Step Seven, and find every word Humble or Humility.

Step Seven is the Step where we encounter this term. Humility.

  • What does it mean,
  • What does it look like,
  • And how do I find it for myself ?

For me, as I have stayed sober, Humility has been defined and refined over my years.

One friend tonight said that for him, “Humility was the recognition that he was not as big as he thought he was, but also that he was not as small as he thought he was either.”

Others talk about being “Right Sized” What does “Right Sized” mean ?

My definition of Humility, at this moment, means, “I don’t know.” I also add that, one specific old timer has offered to me that, “If I think I know something, I’d better sit down, and keep my mouth shut.”

Humility asks us to be Vulnerable to that Power Greater than Ourselves.

We constantly work towards turning it over, to that Power, which I choose to call God, every day.

Humility has been the lesson that has been hammered home in my life over the last year.

When the Orlando Tragedy happened, I threw in my spiritual towel and I cursed God. I fell apart in public, and fell to my knees, sobbing, pleading God to help me, because I was bereft, and had no idea how to begin to figure out why I was on my knees sobbing.

It all begins, when we get on our knees.

We might not know the reason why ? But to defer to God, and set one’s self before God in humble supplication, begins on one’s knees.

I learned that in Seminary. Why we prayed, and why we knelt and what it meant as men who came together to learn how to follow God. The men who were leading us, in the end, turned out, not to be the finest example of humility, based on the scandals they caused during their tenures in their priesthoods.

I wanted, so badly, to count myself as a man who would serve God. I made God that promise all those years ago, as a teen-ager, with stars of God in my eyes.

That promise to serve God would take my entire life to figure out.

It has to be the right time, the ground fertile, and I would be able to fulfill that promise, one way or another.

A year ago, I fell to my knees, and was rebuked by a man who was LONG sober, rebuking me that “You think you are so special, that we should treat you differently, You are such a child.”

I could have slapped the shit out of him right then and there. I could have hurt him seriously, in that moment, but my better judgment took over, and I got up, wiped my face and walked away, keeping my mouth shut, and not saying a word or acting on my impulses.

Thank God, Elder Spencer came into my life.

I don’t think I would have made it without him, today.

Sometimes, I have shared, that I need to be Bitch Slapped by God, in order for Him to get my attention.

Oprah has a better definition of this process:

God speaks to us in a whisper. If He whispers and we miss it the first time, He will whisper again. If we miss it the second time, He hits us over the head with a 2 x 4, if we miss Him the third time, finally, He drops a wall on top of us.

I actually lived this out a few years ago.

I’m not sure God was trying to get my attention, with a catastrophic massacre of kids in a nightclub to get me to notice Him. But He had my attention for sure.

Which led to an entire year of trying to find God, after I had cursed Him as I sat where I am sitting right this very moment.

Enter Elder Spencer … There are no coincidences. Only God.

I was there at one time, now I am here.

Now I Know !

The message is loud and clear. My life and sobriety are all about God and His goodness and kindness. I can let go of that old, tired and miserable story.

Sobriety today is about Humility, Faith, Love and the Atonement. 

The Atonement makes everything work.

Without it we are nothing, and can be nothing.

Humbly, on our knees, we asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Holding Nothing Back.

Friday – Humility, “This IS the life you wanted Right???”

tumblr_o7czpwsj0z1rnsok6o1_540

And the week ends, on the best night of the week, with all of my best friends in my life, all in the same room. And one of my very best buds celebrated 5 years sober. Congrats to him.

But more on that later …

“To those who have made progress in A.A., humility amounts to a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be.”

I feel like I’ve been stuck on Step Seven for more than a year. The way life has played out, i guess I am just more conscious of what is really going on, because at one point, God had to drop a wall on me so that I would look up, (from my proverbial smart phone). Not that I am always looking down at it. I don’t. But it does deliver tunes where ever I go.

When the reading was read, I was trying to find words to speak. It took a while, but eventually I had a thought.

There are three things that get in the way of humility for me, they are:

  • Myself
  • My will
  • And my Expectations

For a very long time, in my life, I did not know what was best for me, as the story goes.

Life was an abject failure until I hit the proverbial brick wall, they call AIDS.

And even after that happened, I still did not know what was best for me. When everybody bailed, and Todd had stepped in, I would begin, in earnest to learn a little humility.

Looking down into a toilet, that has a cup stuck inside, backwards, and there is shit and piss all over the floor, because said toilet has overflowed, and it is your job to stick your hand in there, get the cup out, then clean the bathroom.

I did what I was told to do, even if I did not want to, because those were the rules.

In the end, the lesson about the toilet was this:

If you learn how to clean up shit, when you get really sick, as was supposed to happen, and I ended up in a diaper, like many of my friends at the end of their lives, I would know what to do… Thank God I never got that sick…

Those two years with Todd, was the primer in learning how to be right sized, because I was faced with certain death, and there were things to learn, for that period. I amassed a huge bank of knowledge and lessons that would get me back into life.

But with Todd gone now, and left to my own devices, with no one to guide me further, I failed at life, miserably.

Fast forward a couple more years, and at a meeting I heard the words:

Go away, Leave this meeting and Don’t Come Back …

That was detrimental. And almost killed me.

I detached from the fellowship. I stopped communicating, and took back my will, because I thought very hard about being told to go. That was like ingesting poison.

I took leave of my senses and my friends, and stepped into a vortex of drugs and alcohol.

So much for willfulness.

Where I ended up, in that rehab house when it was all said and done, someone, a friend, sent someone to get me and take me away. Out of humiliation into humility.

Out of humiliation and into humility is a theme tonight.

I did not go quietly, back into recovery. I still had drinking to do, I chose not to go for help, until I hit another brick wall, in a haze of blackouts.

It was then, I realized, that prayer was all I had, when I took my last drink.

I got on my knees and I asked God for help.

He listened…

The rest is history.

I was not very humble when I walked into that first meeting when I got to Montreal. I was, and I don’t know where it came from, honestly, Cocky.

I had been sober a few months. I moved here. And funny, that, I walked into a meeting one night, and had verbal diarrhea. I spouted off some shit, like a list of expectations for God, now that I had come back …

Funny that, the old timers all laughed at me and told me to keep coming back.

Needless to say, that night, I got knocked off my high horse, the first time.

When ever I take my will back, or I get in my own way, or I expect things from God, myself or another human being, humility goes right out the window.

A friend of mine talked about becoming RIGHT SIZED.

My entire journey in recovery, has been a long lesson in getting RIGHT SIZED.

I chose to move here, because I wanted a better life. I needed a better life, because the one I left in the states, was toxic, terrible, and sick.

I changed everything in Sobriety. And then the geographic. The final swing of the proverbial ax.

Now that I look back on my time here, When I finally let go and let God, life began to get better, incrementally.

All these years later, I know a few things:

  • I don’t need many “things”
  • I don’t need an ego
  • I work every day to be a better me, even on my worst days
  • I’ve learned what “just enough means”
  • I’ve learned to live inside my means
  • I’ve learned the value of money. Having it, Not Having it, then Having it
  • I learned what it meant to finally Become a Man

Over the past fifteen years, as life came and went, every challenge was a test of my skills in sobriety, my skills in being a partner/boyfriend/then husband. Learning how to put the needs of others before my own.

They say that we are who we are, from the five people, we spend the most time with.

I am in good company, if I do say so myself.

Expectations, are as bad as Resentments and Anger.

Because, you know, Expectations always lead to Resentment and Anger. Plain and Simple.

A little more than two years ago, I embarked on a relationship with Baby Mama and Lu. I did that because prior to that decision, I knew Mary, in the meeting. I was there the night she walked into a meeting bewildered, because she learned she was pregnant.

After Three Pregnancy Tests…

All the women rallied round her. But that would not last. Promises were made, words were given. But in the end, words meant nothing. All the women failed in the one job that was needed. Someone to be with Mama, on the day Lu was born.

Two weeks prior to Lu’s birth, the women all fucked off. I did not know this was going on behind my back. And it came as a complete surprise to me when she told me she was returning to New Found-land to have the baby.

ALONE …

Lu was born, and the next day, I decided to call Mama. That one phone call, tuned into the relationship we have to this day. A year later, I would be at the airport the day they returned to Montreal to live.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, I had gathered a number of women back into the fold, to help me welcome Mama and Lu and get them settled, in what I thought would be a forever home.

Those women, gave me their words, and for a while, went through the motions.

WHAT GOOD IS A HUMAN BEING, IF NOT FOR THEIR WORDS AND ACTIONS ???

I take very seriously, someones WORD.

Coming out of the AIDS crisis, when your life depends on the words, services or actions of another human being, if you tell me you are going to do something, then DO IT.

Don’t Fuck Me Over. Which happened countless times over the years…

How many times, in my life, have I relied on people’s words, and be terribly betrayed.

Even to this day, I only ask things of people, when I need things.

This all falls under Expectations.

Over the last year, those women disappeared, one right after the other. And at one point, Mama decided it was time to leave.

I expected my women to stand up and be counted. Because they told me that they were all worthy to be counted. And they weren’t.

In the end, ONE woman went to say goodbye, because then she realized, just what she could milk out of the situation, to appease me.

And this is what I have learned about humility …

Fifteen years ago, I made a decision that would change my life. And the journey began in earnest. There was no time to waste, because I don’t know how long I am going to be here, really …

And I turned my will and my life over to the care of a Power Greater than myself, whom I choose to call God.

Thus goes the story.

When needed God would prune my tree. When needed God would adjust my course. When needed I would get what I needed, when I needed it and not a minute before.

For the past two years, I have been totally committed to Mama and Lu. I was the only man in their lives, besides Grand Pa (and Grand Ma). Baby Daddy pays child support because we went after him legally, but aside from a deposit, he wants nothing to do with Lu.

He was the one who suggested to Mama, when she got pregnant, to get an ABORTION.

My expectations of my women were too high. They did not meet my muster, because none of them had what they really needed or the ability to do the job.

And on Tuesday night, as I sat in the meeting, my heart breaking inside, several of my women were sitting in the meeting, not caring one bit that Mama was just a few hundred yards away from the meeting hall (across the street actually), and only ONE went over to say goodbye.

I became LIVID. I stormed out of the meeting and came home. I called my sponsor and raged and ranted and raved, with many four letter words attached.

I was unhinged.

The take away from this:

HUMILITY.

My relationship with Mama and Lu was my own. This was a defining moment in my life, and it was all my own. In the end, this one relationship changed my life, even beyond my own marriage.

It was a job, a relationship I took on as my own. It started with me, and it went with me, and Mama and Lu are in New Found-land now, and it goes on with me. This was my duty, not the duty of anyone else, because I believed God’s will was to be a man and to help to the best of my ability. This was all my own and not anyone else’s.

This is the life I wanted. It was a choice I made to be present and accountable.

And God blessed it and made it work, for as long as it did. But like I said above, there was not enough of me to go around, when everybody else fucked off on us.

No matter what happened, I remain accountable. Humbly and Honestly.

I cannot rely on people, who don’t have it in them to be accountable and present. Even if they think they are, actions speak louder than words.

And that’s the way it all played out.

This isn’t about me, I am not the center of the universe, I must decrease so that HE may increase.

This is how my life turned out, because I asked for this life, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to be the best ME in my life.

God helped me live my best life. It all comes down to Humility.

This is, hands down, the best my life has ever been.

Even if Mama and Lu are far away. I did not fail them.

And they know that.