A Little More Sober …

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It has been miserably HOT here. It has been more than a week of high 30’s into the mid 40’s with humidexes in the high 40’s. We broke several records this week. And they are saying, on the news that upwards of 44 people in the province are dead, because of the high heat.

We have too many apartments without AC across the city. And even some of our oldest hospitals were in serious jeopardy without AC in patient rooms. Many people IN those hospitals almost died, and all the medical services could offer was a sponge bath and a twice daily walk through corridors that had air, to keep sick patents alive.

It has been very ugly for sure. We have been waiting on God to make it rain, BIG TIME tonight. The severe storm warnings went up early today, but not a drop has fallen on the city as of 2:25 am. But the weather people tell us it will be in the 20’s tomorrow.

It rained once 5 days ago, and for all of ten minutes. I mean the rain fell, but as it hit the ground it evaporated on the steaming pavement below. It did not a drop of good.

I am working on another round of steps with a young lady of my acquaintance. She is a few years sober, but she is a wealth of insight. Tonight I saw another lady friend of mine at the meeting earlier, and shared with her an observation I made of something she said last week, at another meeting. And told her I was working with my young lady friend. My friend is sober a while now. And confirmed for me this thought …

The number of old timers, to “work with” has been slim on the ground. Many of our old timers have fallen off the radar as of late, OR, they are in rabbit holes of their own making. We’ve been trying to help them all when we can.

But my elder lady friend said that she read through the book with another young woman, who was sober just a few years, as they read together, and she told me that it was very humbling for her to sit with someone younger in the program than she was.

I have found that my young lady friend, has perspective on the book, that I have never seen or heard before. I have more notes in my book tonight, than I had written in that very same book, all the years I’ve been reading this particular copy.

I wrote an inventory, and we went over it Tuesday evening. I had followed her directions, but when we got to the end of what I had written, she said, what about the rest of it ? And I said to her, what about it ?

She said to me that I needed to do a fears inventory along with my sex inventory as well, as stated in the book, as it is written. She asked me if I had ever really completely completed a proper 4th step before ? I said no.

She said that she needed to look at my history to see if any issues, based on the already spoken inventory had bled over, and if I didn’t complete the step entirely, then it was not properly done.

Not one human I have ever sat with ever said those words to me, because I know we are all reading the same text, that hasn’t changed in 80 years.I guess this is my chance to really work steps fully and properly.

Nobody I have ever worked with before, ever ventured through the entire step 4 as it is written in the book. I laughed and said that I’ve never sat with a straight male sponsor who ever broached those two inventories with me.

I don’t think any of them wanted to know my exact honest history, so to speak. She sent me home to write it all out, for the first time in forever.

This evening I told my lady friend at the meeting about this conversation I had had with my younger lady friend, and she said to me, Then she IS the one person who knows what she is doing, follow what she tell you to do. So I am going to sit this portion on Monday evening with her.

My young lady friend got sober in Chicago, and has certain perspective about The Work. I sat and wrote the other day, stuff I haven’t thought about in eons.

A side story …

A long time ago, in years nine and ten, I was home grouped in a meeting on the far west west end of the city. There, at that time, was a group of hens who had, at that time, thirty plus years of sobriety each. They took me in and showered me with care. But there was something not just right about the people, in that space.

They celebrated my tenth anniversary with me. They dipped my two year chip in gold, and had it engraved for me as a gift for my tenth.

Soon after, I had an encounter with a member that was toxic and dangerous. It did not end well, and I was only so sober at that time. I promptly resigned from the group and gave back my keys and never spoke to any of them again, since.

And now I know, seven years later, that I was not very sober then, knowing what I know now about sobriety and myself.

For the last seven years, every time I cross paths with certain women from that older group, they ignore me like I do not exist. It happened not long ago that I was visiting Verdun for a series of meetings, and they came all the way from the West end to Verdun, and sitting outside, they all walked past me like I was not even there. Which bothered me intensely. But I shrugged it off …

Tonight, one of the matrons from that West End meeting spoke tonight for us at St. Matthias. After the meeting ended I visited the bathroom, and prayed.

I came out and strode up to our speaker, One of those women that ignore me in public spaces, and I said to her that “I remembered her kindnesses to me. I carry my ten year chip in my wallet and that I thought about her often, and I did not forget her kindness.

Then I added that – at ten years sober, in my experience now, I may have accrued ten years of time, But at that time, I had not accrued, ten years of sobriety, just yet. I know that now.

And I told her that. I told her that I really did not begin to grow up fully, until hit the twelve year mark and a sponsor in New York City, set me on the path to enlightenment. And I know from twelve to almost seventeen years this year, I have grown up a great deal. She asked me how I was feeling, and I said I felt good.

She shook my hand and we left it at that.

Upon reflection of that little conversation, I made an amend to that woman, seven years in the making.

Let’s just say this round is proving to be very difficult but freeing at the same time, as the days pass by, I learn something new about myself. I guess because I am paying attention to God.

Last week, at the same meeting, I was talking to another friend, we were talking about care giving, and I mentioned a story about my father. When I was young, and my grammy had a stroke, he took me out of school, and flew me 1500 miles to her bedside in the hospital.

I firmly believe in my soul, to this day, with what little we knew about strokes in the early 80’s … That if he took me to her bedside and she recognized me, that she would, in essence, wake up. (in the end, she did not wake up) And my friend said to me, that night that my father had a moment of clarity, in his alcoholism.

He knew in that moment he made that decision, clearly from someplace, outside of himself, that i was the key to her recovery. And he also knew that grammy loved me more that anyone else, which is why he flew me out there.

I went home, angry and conflicted. And brooded over it.

When grammy did not wake up or get better, and we came home, that alcoholism and the abuse escalated seriously. I don’t think he ever forgave me for failing his quest. I will never know now.

Friday when I left for the Friday meeting, I was not really feeling myself, but I did what I always do. I opened the cabinet and took out our coffee pot, and as I turned back around, to walk towards the kitchen, a single piece of paper fell to the floor face down.

Now, I was not feeling myself, and I was emotionally off kilter, so to speak. I picked up the paper and turned it over in my hands and began to read the article printed on it.

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It was an article about the house where Bill W. was born, in East Dorset Vermont. It does not appear on ANY map, and if you need to go there, or even want to go there, you first need to know where you are going, by the highway systems through the mountains and valleys of Vermont. Which made me ponder the memory of three years earlier.

My then sponsor, my best friend Joe, and myself were on our way to a men’s intensive retreat. On the way, we stopped in East Dorset to visit that house: the home, the entire property.

I was immediately put straight … It was a message from outside of myself, reminding me that I am never alone.

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We even visited the hallowed graveyard where Bill and his wife Lois are buried. We stood on his grave with a group of women, there for a retreat themselves on the property. and recited the serenity prayer standing around their graves.

That memory is seared into my brain.

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Over the past few months, little signs from God have been coming to me fast and furiously, over several mediums. I have speakers loaded onto my phone. And for about a month, my I-phone shuffle would send me one particular share from a woman I met in 2012, whom I adore, who was friends with Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Anyways, my phone kept shuffling her to me in the oddest moments, over an entire month. I suspected that I needed to hear something she said, which is why that one share kept rotating into my playlist over and over again. Because I guess, once was not enough, I kept listening to her talk to me. That proved to be very beneficial to me looking back at it now.

Not sure where all of this is going … This week is anniversary number 24 of my AIDS diagnosis in 1994. I’m still alive, and God has been talking to me quite often, funny that, I hear Him. I recognize the voice and the messages coming, as they come to me. From whomever they are coming from. I know, if it is coming from outside of me, then it must be Godly advice.

Funny how God works.

Sitting on Step Work

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A very long time ago, when I got sober, this time around, I took every piece of advice I was given as Gospel. I never questioned anyone about their wisdom, or what they knew. If they were sober longer than I was, then everything that came out of their mouths was Gospel. Back in the day, it was very different, than how it is today.

I’m not sure if it is all about me, or all about them ?

I heard a friend of mine speak tonight, and I’ve been in a holding pattern for two years, waiting for God to show me, who I am supposed to speak to next. After the meeting I spoke to that friend, and told him some things about my observations.

I’m sitting on my fourth step. And it’s about to blow.

Like I said, a long time ago, I heard one piece of advice when it came to steps …

“When you write out your fourth Step, get rid of it promptly. Do Not Sit On It for very long, because the written word is like TNT. If you allow it to gather in your brain, and fester for too long, prior to doing your fifth step, disaster is coming … SOON !!!”

I took the day to sit and pray. To Sit and Listen to an Old Timer, I met in person, here in Montreal. One of two alcoholics, who presented sobriety from someplace else, to us here.

One was a woman, who was sober more than thirty-five years upon her death in 2016. The other is a long sober man, who changed my life, with one piece of advice. For these two specific people, I have their shares on my phone. And in my I – Tunes.

A while back, and I wrote about this then, that I have been going through serious heartbreak, and it has been a very emotional journey over the last two years. I was in the mall, grocery shopping one afternoon, listening to music, as I am wont to do.

Funny that my I – Phone, when it is on shuffle, does strange things that I cannot explain, because since the day I put music and shares on my phone, not once, did that shuffle bring me a speaker in the music rotation shuffle program. It never shuffled there before.

All of a sudden, like a voice from heaven, it shuffled me Lorna. It not only did it once, it kept repeating this action, five times over two weeks. I thought it funny, but I stayed on and listened to her talk to me, as if there was something I needed to hear. During this time, I needed spiritual help, that wasn’t coming from my own personal community, and hasn’t yet …

Today, as I ate lunch, I went to a virtual meeting, with Lorna speaking.

The thing that popped out today was this thought …

It’s not the newcomer that we should worry about. It is the person with TIME, real-time, that they need to be looked after. This thought rings true today. My patience for old timers runs short, because of the way I am treated in community by a good number of folks with serious time. The other, is the rate of old timers going down the proverbial rabbit hole themselves. I’ve written about this before.

Tonight I told my friend that I’ve been doing the next right thing, because that’s what I was taught to do from the very beginning. They told me service will keep you sober, that if you have anything on your heart or mind, then, bring it to a meeting.

Without the counsel of a sponsor with merit or anyone for that matter, I’ve been relying on my close circle of friends to keep me “On the beam.” I go to meetings, because I have responsibilities to those meetings, by way of service commitments.

I know, that if I don’t know, then I need to go to a meeting and do service. Because that’s all I know how to do, because it works. I suit up and I show up. I offer kind words to my friends, I offer advice where I think it might stick. Often it does not stick, because people look at me and smile that smile of … Thanks but no thanks …

I know today, that one particular young woman, from our Monday meeting is still sober because I gave her one piece of advice when she was in difficulty, and it stuck, and she is still sober to this day, despite herself.

I’m not sure what to do with heartache that won’t be soothed. I don’t know what to do with the fact that people I need to speak with, don’t want to speak with me. I’ve heard it said recently that

“Sometimes God breaks our heart to save our souls.”

That resonated with me sooo much. There are facts about my life that I cannot change. Perceptions that people have about me based on who I used to be, and decisions I made about my life

“Life preservation decisions, that I thought were tantamount to my physical, mental, and spiritual survival.”

That’s how someone showed me that making life preservation decisions are not ego driven, nor wrong, nor self-centered.

Some people have me stuck in the past, and have had me stuck in the past for the whole of my life. They blame me for all of THEIR problems, never wanting to hear my side of the story, that would explain WHY I made the decisions I did, and whom forced me to make those decisions because I felt I was trapped in a life and a title and a family name that was doing me no favors, when those people constantly parroted the words:

YOU WERE A MISTAKE AND SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN BORN, YOU ARE THE CAUSE OF ALL OF OUR PROBLEMS AND IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT. AND WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE ALREADY, FOR GOD’S SAKE … GOD HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THESE ISSUES.

This litany of vitriol made me sick inside. It made me feel less than and unimportant. I may not have been SO sober the first time around, but the first of two life preservation decisions were made. The second followed the second time I got sober. Admittedly, I was much more sober the second time around when I made that decision, than when I made the first. Chalk that up to more experience and hindsight.

I have never felt so much anger, resentment, hatred, and fear, and also on the flip side, so much happiness, compassion and joy,  I have felt in sobriety.

Lorna said that and it resonates with me so much. Because when she rotated into my shuffle, I needed to hear those exact words when they came at me when they did and the right moment for the right reason.

Whispers from heaven indeed.

I’m resentful at other gay men in the rooms, who have no use for me. Men who belittle me and slander me behind my back and talk shit in my face, calling me names and judging me in front of others.

I am from a generation of gay men, whom my contemporaries have no idea OF or use FOR. AIDS distinctly puts me in a class by myself because I am the ONLY AIDS survivor from that time period STILL ALIVE today in this city, on the English side.

I am resentful at old timers who spurned me and humiliated me in front of others, then castigated me for having emotions and openly sharing them in open community, when I lost emotional control over the Pulse Nightclub shooting, that turned my emotional world upside down. Too concerned about what I am wearing on the outside, instead of what is going on inside my head and in my heart. A little fucked up if you ask me.

Instead of anyone, even the gay men I know, who DID NOT SAY those words of everlasting life:

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL, LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I DID …

Not in over two years now, has ANYONE. not one of my friends here, shared those words with me to assuage my intense emotional being inside, and that breaks my heart into pieces. I don’t understand people. They are self-absorbed and self-centered. They don’t really care about me, as I have seen from many people.

They will smile that “thanks but no thanks smile” when they walk in a room, but beyond that one pleasantry because we sit in the same room together for that hour, they have no use for me and want nothing from me, nor offer me anything of substance beyond their criticism.

I AM A STRONG PERSON, BUT SOMETIMES I REALLY NEED SOMEONE TO TAKE MY HAND AND SAY TO ME THAT EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT !!!!

Why is that so hard for some people to even consider, seeing how much many of us suffer in silence in the rooms, and even when we say that out loud, nobody steps up and says anything of substance to us.

I mean why are you even sitting in a room acting like you are sober, when clearly you are not. And you are just taking up space, where someone who really wants it, waits in the wings for that seat you are occupying, while doing nothing to better yourself !

For God’s sake, I am trying my damnedest to be the best man I can be, by studying my friends like lab rats. Because if you do sobriety like I do, then everybody who sits in a room and or stands and speaks is fair game.

I’ve watched a multitude of people get sober over almost seventeen years and I know mostly everything about them based on every word they have spoken in my presence over the years. I know every choice they made, every decision they made, every bad choice, every good choice, every success and every failure too.

I know what works and what does not work, and all of that is sitting in my sober bank ready for optimal use at any given moment.

THAT IS HOW I GOT SOBER AND THAT IS HOW I STAY SOBER.

By watching my friends either FUCK UP or SUCCEED.

 

There comes a point in sobriety when warming a chair is no longer an option, you either have to SHIT OR GET OFF THE POT !!!

There will also come a time when “Coming and Going,” Looses its appeal and dies. You either come in, sit down and stay, or you go back out and never come back. As was warned by a speaker last week from the chair.

I don’t know what I am doing, but the Next Right Thing has served me well.

Frustrated …

 

The Family Afterward

 

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This painful past may be of infinite value to other families still struggling with their problem. We think each family who has been relieved owes something to those who have not, and when the occasion requires, each member of it should only be too willing to bring former mistakes, no mater how grievous, out of their hiding places. Showing others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which makes life seem so worth while to us now. Cling to the thought that, in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. PP. 124 B.B.

We’ve never discussed this chapter of the book before tonight. After the reading, I waited for a more educated friend to give his take on this particular paragraph. And so it went. This chapter, written by the first 100 who got sober, are addressing the family afterwards, those families who had seen recovery happen for those first 100.

Well before the dawn of ALANON. Well before there was support for those who had suffered because of an alcoholic in their lives and families.

Which is why, at most large sober gatherings, ALANON is represented and afforded a place at the table. This past weekend, we had a representative from ALANON from Oakville, speak to the Round Up gathering.

In the Promises that come in Step NINE, we are told that
“We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.”

Those who come into the rooms, do so at their own peril, for the road to recovery is fraught with hard truths and hard work, to clear away the wreckage of the past, make inventories, speak those inventories, and figure out what makes us tick, then as the steps progress, we make those lists of people we need to make amends to.

Family, Friends, Employers, Institutions …

I’ve said many times before that sobriety is cyclical. Each pass at the steps, and each discussion, and each share, and each inventory we process, we make our lists. We process that list, and we file it away for posterity.

But as it always happens, some things die-hard. And quite often, the same issues pop up on inventories, over and over again. We read the same book, we work the same steps, and over time, we discuss and retread the same material over and over again.

As the cycle repeats itself, our lives are like the rough rock (read:Jewel) that finds itself on the polishing wheel of the master jeweler, Let’s call him GOD.

When we come in, beaten and bruised, we settle into our seats. Conventional wisdom speaks to the need to begin steps right away. I’ve heard this said by many old timers with solid track records in working with others.

I take a more Liberal View of Recovery.

I’ve been around a few 24. I know what happens when people come in the door the first time. We welcome people from far and wide, and invite them in for coffee and conversation.

People need to find their feet, so to speak. Before we throw steps at them, they really need to get a bearing on their surroundings, first. They need to find their seat, and get comfortable sitting in that seat. For many, that takes a long time.

Even though they might walk into a Big Book discussion meeting, does not necessarily mean that we throw them into the deep end of the pool right away, which is why we are discussing the book.

Steps begin, as usual. And the first pass at the stone occurs. The first cut is made. Then the Master jeweler looks at the stone to see how his cut looks, and then decides on which next direction he is to take or which cut he wants to impress on the stone.

Each pass at life issues, in the cyclical manner that recovery is, we tread over old material, but each consecutive pass, over the years, we see old pain and experience in the light of the day we are looking at it. In the moment. 

Each day moving forwards allows us to see each issue with new eyes, in new light, with a little more sober experience, strength and hope under our belts.

Every time we tell our stories, they become founts of wisdom for some, and for others, their stories are brutal reminders of just what kind of animal the alcoholic was, before he or she came in.

But in the light of a new day, may come to see the wisdom of the above referenced passage.

Cling to the thought that, in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others.

We all have stories. Some far worse than others. Listen to a gathering of old timers telling stories about their lives, after decades of sobriety. Women and Men.

The themes are usually the same, the circumstances, though, differ widely.

They stuck around until the miracle happened for them. As we are advised, to stick around ourselves.

Families afterwards, and families during the clearing of that wreckage need a place to go to figure out who THEY are. And they figure out, for some, like our ALANON speaker this weekend, had to figure out for herself, because she was clueless at the start, that she indeed had been affected by an alcoholic during her lifetime.

Telling stories is not only beneficial for the drunk, telling stories is also beneficial for the families, friends, and significant others, of those who are with US in the ROOMS.

The offshoot of sister programs for people in recovery are as numerous as the (A) Groups that exist today. Which is why A.A. and ALANON work in tandem with each other so well.

We all have STEPS.

We all figure out who we were when we were using and drinking, and the sister members figure out who they are in tandem. They, like us, find solutions to their problems, as we find solutions to ours.

When I moved away from home I was 21 years old. What did I know of the big wide world I was walking into, I had no idea, but my ALCOHOLISM knew very well.

It knew who I was, it knew what I was. And it dictated where I was going to go and what I was going to do. All that valuable education and values, and morals went out the window when it came to my ALCOHOLISM.

I told strategic lies to certain people, because I was drinking my money away, faster than I could make it. And back then making money was the problem I faced over and over.

I’ve been out of my family home for thirty years now. I’ve seen my family, namely my mother and father a few times over the years. And I saw them even less, after I got sober.

I did not see my brother at all, after I moved away except, once, for Christmas many years ago.

All three of them tell the same story about me …

To this day, they blame for all of their problems. AND they blame me for the lives that happened, even though I was not even in the same state, or today, even in the same country.

Even though, when my father died in January, I attempted to make contact, to be a brother, and a son, to my brother and my mother, respectively, they kept the line, that I was not a part of this family, and that I was the cause of all of their problems.

None of them would have ever thought to find help, in ALANON or any sister program, because over the past twenty-five years of my life, I have been in and out of the rooms.

And since I got sober this last very long stretch, I made countless attempts at reconciliation and amends. Every attempt fell on deaf ears.

Fuck me for trying …

I wrote last night, about the forty-five year sober woman who spoke on Saturday night, at the keynote address. And I told that story to the group tonight. About my conversation with her.

She really did not want to make time to listen to me, after learning, after the fact what she had said and done to other sober members, over the weekend.

And her assertion that my behavior as a member of A.A. was unacceptable, casting aspersions, on my ability to know how to behave in a meeting, and I did not argue with her. I took her advice, and just walked away. shaking my head.

She told us her story and we are supposed to hold her up as a paragon of “right sobriety” seeing that she is as old as God. And we are told to never question the wisdom of an old-timer, because they have so many years of lived sober experience.

I call BULLSHIT on that.

I can tell you how many times old timers, or groups of them, have shunned me in a meeting. Telling me to leave, and never come back. That people like me are not condoned in the rooms of A.A. And that maybe I need to find someplace else to get sober, because they did not want me sitting in the same room with many of them.

And on Sunday, I shared ONE particular story of the worst day in my sobriety, when I was an emotional mess, the WORST day of my life in more than twenty-five years. And I told her how an old-timer with more than thirty years of sobriety, shunned me and insulted me and demeaned me.

And she had the balls to say to me that …
I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO BEHAVE IN A MEETING ???

I’ve been nothing but honest whenever I tell my story. I share openly here, because it really does not matter if I break my anonymity. As long as I don’t tell you I speak for anyone other than myself.

I represent nobody or any fellowship.

All I do here is tell stories.
I let you decide whether you want to read, comment or follow.

Every life matters. No matter who you are.

At the end of the meeting a member trans woman walked up to me and whispered in my ear …

I gather, that I understand what you meant when members told you to go. I get it that you were tossed out. She then told me how she was tossed out of meetings, and nail salons, and restaurants, because of who she is today.

Honesty is always the best policy.

You never know when someone in the room you sit in, will identify with you.

And say something kind in return.

At What Point Can We Get Honest ?

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I heard one of my friends tonight say, about a conversation he had earlier, with a friend, that he was not sure he could be honest with said friend about the topic they were discussing.

I know my friend for many years now. I have many friends, I have known for a long time, and becoming who we are begins with getting better all the way around. We stay clean and sober, and we do the work that is given to us, Willingly.

Willingness is the key.

I have said before that I cannot do life alone. I need my sponsor, my guides and my friends. I need that voice, coming over my shoulder, that says … It’s gonna be OK.

I have a few twenty-four hours under my belt. And for a long time, I did not know what I did not know. And I know the first time I was attempting to get sober, there was A LOT that I did not know. And that worked against me, as represented by the wordsI spoke and the decisions I made, based on self. (not the good self for that matter)

Life is all about becoming who we are supposed to be. Sometimes the road is easy, but in my experience, for many people, the road has been very tough.

I spoke tonight about life. I knew, very early on, in my life, what it was that I did NOT want to be. I heard words that I swore I would never use myself. And I heard thoughts that were repugnant, bigoted and racist.

I knew …

Growing up, if you did not fit in the box my parents wanted you to check, they punished you with silence, and darkness and humiliation and resentment.

Imagine a kid growing up with that kind of negativity and trying to find your way into the world, and survive the slog!

My father went to his grave, hating me, and resenting me for becoming who I was meant to be. My mother is on that very same shit path herself. Last night, I read in this months Grape Vine, about a woman long sober, making peace with her mother, and she asked her what she could do to mend the fence between them ?

The answer was, You Could agree with me sometimes. I’m not always wrong you know.

And I thought about that conversation all day today.

I imagine going to visit my mother, in my brother’s house, where nobody knows me today, and does not want to know me, because of resentment and anger and denial. I imagine having that kind of conversation with her, knowing she spits out the same vile shit, like a script she has mastered over my lifetime.

I don’t ever think I will ever mend that fence, myself.

The second time I got sober, I began with steps that were all about ME. What people did to me, and why they deserve my scorn and hatred. I remember the first round of steps I did, and how LONG my fourth step was, and the hours it took to do my fifth.

Then I burned them.

For years and years, I’ve been working steps with different people, with different lengths of sobriety. And I have amassed a library of knowledge about myself but more importantly, knowledge about everybody else.

God has a funny way with me. The evidence is right there for me to look at. Steps Six and Seven are the growth steps. The change steps. Because we work Six and Seven for the rest of our lives. And further up the road, at Ten, we learn how to do spot check inventories and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Over the years, as I pass through Six and Seven, God shows me Six and Seven, in front of my face. I have learned to see “spiritually.” It has taken a long time to work that vision out. I know I can trust because I can see.

It is the same with some of my friends, when it comes to me. They can see, for me, when I cannot see for myself. And each of them, each in their own ways, have the voice and the temperament to sit me down and tell me like it is, when I fuck up.

Many of my friends know who they are, in each of their varying lengths of sobriety. Many of my friends are honest with me. And I see that virtue in them, in the books I have read on honesty, virtue and honor.

What I see in them, I want to become myself.

I don’t know, at what point, we can trust our vision, and humbly admit we don’t know everything, but I we know some things. In the beginning, I would not say anything to people because I did not know myself what it was I really wanted to say, even if it sounded good in my head.

Over the years, I have worked with others. And over the years I have had several sponsors. And over the years, each of them fell victim to their own character defects.

As I get and stay sober, and life goes on, and shit happens, and things get real, what I witnessed was my friends, my sponsor and other drunks, reacting to the fact that I was having a hard time. I listened to the words they said to me. And I witnessed what each of them did to me, in response to my life getting “Shit Real.”

The rooms really don’t like to see people “In the Mix” People in the rooms, don’t like to witness pain and hardship. And many of my friends and sponsor at the time, pushed me away, freaking out, because I was freaking out, and when I jumped out of my placid, quiet, reserved skin, and became a little odd and crazy, that freaked people out, because I was coming out of my skin, and for a long time at that, that quiet, sane individual became someone they did not know, or want to know.

So they all ran for the hills.

What a shame. And at that point my friends, not knowing what to do with a crazy man, in front of them, all scattered.

There are many ways to get sober. I know a friend, who is more than twenty-five years sober. She, like myself, learned how to get sober, the hard way. We walked into particular meetings, and those men and women, said one thing to us …

If you follow our suggestions, and do not argue, and you work, as we show you what to do, yes, you too will get and stay sober.

There were no two ways about it. It was their way or the highway, so to speak.

She was handed her job. And likewise, I was handed mine. A coffee pot.

We listened to old timers tell us what to do. We both had sponsors who did the right thing at the right time, for the right reason. We learned suggestions. We worked steps. We did service, and to this day, BOTH of us do service, all the time, every day.

Repetition is the key in recovery.

We read the same book, work the same steps. hear the same stories, over and over again. But as we share with each other, as we remain clean and sober, perspective changes.

Each time we make a pass at a particular story or topic or step, we see it in the way we see it IN THAT MOMENT, as it is. not particularly, the way we saw it, the last time we hit that share, or topic or step.

It is like polishing a gem stone. Each pass at the wheel makes the gem better.

We both know what we heard, all those years ago. We both know what we did, over the years, so we know what to do, because we spent the better part of our lives, treading the same things over and over. With all that time between us, and each in our own times, we know what we know, because we heard, we worked, we spoke, and we did.

She has a voice, and I have mine. Based on practical experience, strength and hope.

I talk to newcomers and I tell them what I did, and I make simple suggestions. Not many people want to hear what I have to say, because I, like my elder lady friend, come from the sober school of hard knocks.

Sobriety is not easy. And people know that from the get go.

But if you say something that is not easy … They respond with I just Can’t !

So I ask, why not ? What have you got to lose, but the old way you used to live ?

They say that honesty is the best policy. But when do we know what honesty is, and when do we know that what we have to say matters, is truthful, honest and comes from a place of humility?

That, is a tall order. And can take a lifetime to learn.

Over the years, I have worked with men and women. many of them are not in my life anymore, because when I hit the rough spot, who I became was unacceptable to their sensibilities. All that sober knowledge I spent teaching them, went for naught.

Because each of them sunk into their character defects. I saw it. I heard it, and I spoke about it too. Being honest in all my affairs was a mantra I use to this day.

I was honest with them. They did not like that. So that made me less sober or trustworthy.

Fuck Me for Trying !!!

I know today, the odds, when people come in the rooms. By what they say, and what they do, and who they listen to. The fighters and arguers, never make it. Those who justify their addictions, never get better. Until they decide to get honest.

I know sober folks who are constitutionally unable to be honest with themselves.

If I attend a meeting, for a long time, for a specific reason, to learn something, and people treat me badly, that is not on me, it is on them. When people who used to be my friends, turn out to NOT be friends, and do not have the ability to reciprocate kindness, that is on them and not me.

There are LONG SOBER men and women, whom I have known for the whole of my sobriety. We are talking people with decades of sobriety, who treat me with ignorance and silence. That just floors me.

I know who I am today. And I know what I know about each person I know. Because I have spent the better part of sixteen years and a few months, watching and listening to them in meetings.

I got sober, on the backs of every single person in every single meeting I went to. Every single day of this sober segment.

I know every decision they made. I know every mistake they made. I heard every word they said, in meetings, over and over. I watched people go back out, come back in, go back out and come back in.

I also watched some people die in that process.

If you did something and succeeded, I used that myself. If you did something and failed, I chalked it up to lessons learned. I made mistakes. I said things. I decided things too.

For the most part, I did my best, with whatever I had at the moment.

Not everybody was amused. Many people judge and are critical of me.

That is on them and not me. People are who they are, and will do what they do, so I should not let that bother me, but it does. Some don’t seem to learn and get better. They just want to be who they are. And their growth becomes stunted.

I am honest with people. Almost to a fault and that scares people, that I could know what I know, it is only that I know because I have tested all my methods over the years and I know what works.

I am in the book. I am in my steps. I am in meetings, and I do service. All the time.

I am always looking for the next greatest teacher or lesson. And right now, I am in a brand new incarnation of who I want to be, based on those I surround myself with.

I trust few.

We are all growing up to who we want to be.

Each at our paces.

I am powerless over people, places and things.

And what ever happens, a drink will not solve them.

So I hit another meeting …

Monday: “Todd” As I Understand Him

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At this evenings Monday Meeting, we read Step Three.

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.”

Step Three is all about the “DECISION.”

Bill was of several opinions when it came to this step. In essence, he was “All over the place” when it came to God. The proof we all see, is right in the books, as they were written and published. The words have not changed, over all these years.

Bill is great at CONTRADICTING himself over and over again, repeatedly.

At our Friday meeting, we read the book As Bill Sees it. We’ve read this book several times over. We just have not had the courage to pick something else, so A.B.S.I. is re-read over and over.

Over the years, I’ve watched countless people, struggle with God. People who come from faith traditions of their own (read: Family) struggle the most. Followed closely by those who find the word GOD objectionable from the Get Go.

I mean really, if you cannot read a book with the word God, in it, without getting offended, I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve spent the better part of my sobriety, apologizing for the word God. Trying, however hard it took me, to get people into their steps and to do their steps, with a viable “work around” for God.

Many of those folks, I had worked with previously, are no longer in my life today.

Thinking about God, tonight, began with a conversation with a friend, before the meeting. My friend has a new job. One that requires, manual labor.

He’s a janitor …

He pushes a broom and a mop and he shovels snow.

Thankless, Mundane, Work.

However mundane, I’ve told him about a portion of my long story.

When I met Todd, more than twenty-five years ago, the way I worked myself onto his “team” was through manual labor. The bar was moving from point A to point B. I knew this move was coming.

And from the very first night, I loved Todd, intimately. I knew the WHY.

From the first moments, in his blue-eyed gaze, I was transfixed. Thinking, in retrospect, Todd, was the first man I ever trusted, implicitly.

I worked like a mad man when the move night arrived. And for weeks after, as we built the bar, in an empty building from the ground up, I proved my worth, through manual labor. He hired me full-time.

It’s what we BOTH did not know then, that would solidify our relationship.

In the world we lived in, there were roles and protocols. Todd lived in His truth, and I knew mine as well. When I got sick, and told Todd that I was going to die, he wept.

Todd’s role in my life had shifted, just a little bit. Well a WHOLE LOT ACTUALLY !!!

When everybody else ran for the hills, away from the fire, Todd stepped into it with all that He had. One look from Him, four simple words from HIM, was all that I needed.

In the beginning, when all was lost, and I was running on empty, emotionally, mentally and physically, Todd was the Pool of Everlasting Water, that never went dry, ever.

Left to my own devices and my mind, falling apart, was not good at all.

Todd put down a rule, that I followed, to the last letter. Because I trusted Him and Loved Him.

He said to me: You have a life outside this building. I know it is difficult. But I have an answer for you. He said that as I approached the building front doors, I needed to prepare to drop anything that was worrying me, AT the DOOR, outside and leave it there.

When I stepped through the doors, and the doors closed behind me, THE ONLY thing you have to worry about is the job you are assigned on any given night, for as long as that shift lasted.

All I had to think about was work, and nothing else.

That was HUGE.

I could sink myself into my world. I could dress any way I wanted. Back then I was still young and beautiful. That always worked in my favor. I was protected by Todd, because I was an untouchable. Without Todd’s permission, men in the room knew that I was off-limits.

Every job. Every task. Every mundane task, every dirty task, I had, had an attached lesson to it. Every night, there was something new to be learned, one way or another.

I have documented all those various lessons, here on the Blog, in the Pages Section.

My friend, tonight, started his new job. Mundane. Thankless. Solitary.

Meditative …He sees this benefit himself.

Every night, in retrospect, I was learning Step Three, on a nightly basis. WHILE, I was getting sober the first time. I have always said that my education inside the walls of the bar, when it came to sobriety, were worth MORE than sitting in the dysfunctional room that I went to meetings in, because of the toxic messages that were thrown at me night after night for the first year.

I learned to Turn it Over, over and over again. Until I got it right.

With Todd, that did not take long at all. Because His words were Gospel. Whatever He said to me, sunk deep into my soul and psyche. I never trusted another man, in my life, like I trusted Todd. Not my father, not my husband today, No One …

I never second guessed Todd and I never spoke back at him either. Ever …

Sadly, today, I second guess God. And I back talk God as well.
My favorite phrase today is:

YEAH BUT …

It is so simple. It is painfully simple. And Being so far away from that Time and Place, knowing what it felt like to sink into Todd (read: God) for all that it was worth, puts me at a disadvantage. And I should know better.

My spiritual director caught this miss-step, and he called me on it.

And I knew he was right. And tonight, talking to my friend, before the meeting, just nailed it for me. And then the chair introduces Step three for consideration.

Was that ODD or was that GOD ???

I’ve met God, Incarnate. He walked with me through the worst time in my life, and I am still alive and can tell you this story.

There IS a GOD and I am not He.

Monday: It’s COLD outside

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We are sitting at a freakish (-10c/w.c. -14c) It is bitterly cold. The first cold snap that has fallen on the city this season. People are in serious denial. On my travels tonight, I heard many of my friends say that they dressed for minor cold, this morning, because it was a bit warmer than it is at this hour. Temps dropped throughout the day and we arrived at the -10c by the meeting hour.

Folks were not properly dressed for COLD.

I had shopped for my Winter wardrobe a couple of weeks ago. I was prepared to brave the cold, as I see just what I can get away with “looks wise” with the proper layering and shoes.

The march towards the holidays has begun. The tree will go up later this week, as we need to shop for new lights and ornaments.

It snowed over the last 2 nights, and there is a fine sheen of ice covering the sidewalks around town. On the way out, climbing the hill from Place des Arts Metro station was a chore. People were slipping and sliding instead of having purchase of their boots.

We read from The Big Book on Monday nights. This evenings fare covered the topic of anger and resentment. Both, the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics, anger and resentment can kill us, or more likely, a stint with a bottle or two.

We’ve been circling around the inventory steps for a while now. Reading the before or after portions of the read, where the inventory is concerned.

This past summer I worked my last round of steps with my Spiritual Directors. The read tonight, mentions that if we hold resentments within, we rob ourselves of being in “The Sunlight of the Spirit.” And whatever we do not expose to the light, remains in the dark, for as long as life remains hidden.

This last pass at my steps I learned that I had to expose all of my resentments, because I had been holding back, a few tactical stones in my arsenal. Those stones, hanging on in my back pack were becoming too cumbersome and I had to let them go, in order to move forwards with my life.

I want my day in court. I want words to be spoken to me, because I was not the cause of all my families problems. People make choices in life, and that’s the truth. What happened when people made those choices, resulted in my conception and subsequent birth. I had nothing to do with those choices.

My parents like to say that I am the cause of all of their problems.

I’m not.

They owe me words. Apologies. Forgiveness.

I will never get that from them, and they will go to their graves, bitter and resentful. That has nothing to do with me, in the end. it is all about them and not me.

Being totally spiritually free is the key to sober success.

It has taken almost the whole of my sobriety to get here.

And it is about time.

Friday: Personal Inventory

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The mail came this afternoon, and I was totally stoked to see my new Adidas kicks were delivered. Not sure if I will shop at this seller again, because of the drama surrounding their method of delivery. Suffice to say, they got here, in the end.

Weather warnings are up for the city tonight. Depending on where the wind blows from will either bring ample rain and freezing rain, or ample snow. If it snows, it will be the first snow of the season. Montrealers’ are feverishly trying to get their snow tires on, and mechanics Island wide are asking for patience.

People do not have any patience when it comes to critical motor services. They want what they want, when they want it, on their terms. Nobody thinks about the people on the other end of those services, they can only service one car at a time, across the city. Every mechanic who works on tires is suffering the scorn of the many, because they cannot work on ALL the CARS all at the SAME TIME.

People are merciless.

Tonight, we talked about inventories.

People who come to the rooms, and begin working their steps, eventually get to their first personal inventory in Step four. Working beyond that step, we encounter inventories in Steps ten and eleven. The foreign concept of “Personal Inventory” becomes familiar. And if we are diligent, going forwards, we learn how to do spot inventories at night before bed, and first thing the very next morning.

Some get it, many don’t.

It takes a long time to be able to learn how to make the steps sing in our favor. This is the honest truth. It took me a VERY long time to learn how to incorporate all the work, on a daily basis. And still, to this day, I am far from being perfectly able to do it all properly.

But my comments tonight, looked at the wisdom of those around me. Not everybody is at the same place, seeing that people I know are at various lengths of sobriety. The one common problem they share is this: People sure know how to take ones inventory. We are really good at taking each other’s inventory.

And my observations of my fellow-men and women is this: People who are LONG sober, who knew me years ago, have a set perception of me. In that, at some point I pissed some folks off with my acerbic observations of my fellows. They took those observations and took my inventory. And to this day, they LIVE in my inventory.

People are not kind.

People who are supposed to be LONG sober, are not very Sober. I know how those folks treat me in public, in front of others. Ignoring people is a common experience. People are judgmental and rude and obnoxious. I changed up my meetings not far back, and I watched people who live in former incarnation of me. None of them allow me to progress in their sober eyes. They see me one way, and that’s the way it goes.

I was involved with a second fellowship for a long time, working with a number of young people. Many of them worked steps with me, and are still sober today. At one point, I cracked in public, in front of my friends and fellows. My calm, serene, sober exterior cracked. And my friends took inventory, and decided I was then, an untouchable.

An entire community of people, sober a few years, decided that my emotional spit up was unacceptable. Beyond the understanding of people who did not know any better.

Today, many of those young people, still live in that incarnation inventory. There is nothing I can do about that now, and there was nothing I could have done about it then either.

We are very educated in taking each other’s inventories. And we are woefully unable to look at ourselves, and take our inventory at the same time, and see where we might have been wrong, judgmental and short with each other.

There is a learning curve there. It’s not up to me to point these things out to my fellows. I just have to go on with my life.

I worked very hard over the past two years to become the best incarnation of myself that I can be. Life is a fluid medium. Life is always changing. But people are unforgiving with each other, when they form a visual of you and at the same time, not allowing that visual to grow up and become better than we were when shit happened.

I’m not very happy, with my long sober friends. who aren’t really my friends any longer. Because of how they treat me in front of others. I am sure as shit, that I do not want to be like those people.

Most people don’t care for me, or my brand of sobriety. They look at me funny and openly comment that my routine sober functionality is not for them. My simple suggestions and the usage of ones phone is too much to ask of them.

I follow the same routine I learned sixteen years ago. That routine has saved my ass from insanity over and over again. I show up, early. I do service. I reach out.

It is too easy to be judgmental – it is too easy to be unkind. It is too easy to use the same excuse over and over that, effort is in short supply, because people like it Numb and Dumb with Simple Stupidity.

Nobody wants me to point that out. They’d rather I kept my mouth shut.

I am still sober, sixteen years later.

Because of friends who stand with me, every day.

There is a rule of Three, I heard a friend speak about:

  • There are those who will AGREE with you
  • There are those who will DISAGREE with you
  • And There are those who just DON’T CARE one way or another

I don’t have to please everybody, because of the Rule of Three. All I need to do in remember that not everybody is my friend, and that is their problem not mine.

It was a good night. with good conversation.

Grateful …