The Lisbon Patient

A number of years ago, back in 1993, the year prior to my AIDS diagnosis, a serious problem began to arise in communities, that were thought to be anomalies. That problem was HETEROSEXUAL Elderly Men and Women, who became infected with AIDS.

In Fort Lauderdale, in those times, the ratio of Women to Men were 10 to 1. For every man living in any condo community, there were upwards of 10 Women. It became apparent that those men and women were sexually active, either between themselves, or with others, outside of any specific community. If the virus was introduced to a community, Women were becoming a serious statistic.

We called it the “CONDO COMMANDO EFFECT.”

Educational awareness programs were begun. And the AIDS crises centers and Planned Parenthood got involved. It just so happened that the first test center I visited, was a Planned Parenthood office, in Fort Lauderdale.

So nobody can tell me that Planned Parenthood was not useful.

The story I can share about this time, was that after my test results came back Negative, we also learned, in hindsight, that the test results of AIDS patients who WERE actually positive, came back Negative. However, an entire community of elderly people, were mistakenly diagnosed with AIDS, when we learned that test results were mistakenly switched with a living facility and an AIDS test clinic.

The other night, a report was shown on the CTV National news about a man who is 99 years old. And has been living with AIDS for more than twenty five years. He was actually infected in his seventies. Because they said, in the report, that he has been living with AIDS for a quarter of a century. Which would turn into a window in his seventies. The physician treating him, also said, that he believed that the man had been INFECTED years earlier.

The television news report was focused on the man’s LONGEVITY.

Longevity is a key indicator of life expectancy for people living with AIDS. Because when I was diagnosed there were no specialized doctors, but those who worked off hours, hunting for needles in a haystack and drawing at straws to try and keep people alive, against the odds.And there were no drugs to take either, not for another handful of years to come.

I was one of those people.

I crossed the twenty five year mark this year. Today I am 51 years old. I survived several death calls, and live to tell the tale.

They say that the reason the Lisbon Patient is still alive, is because of his lifestyle, his attention to life, AND his taking his pills religiously, every day.

They did not name him or show is face, because his family fears retribution and hatred. It seems, even in Lisbon, AIDS is not a very welcome illness.

We know today that AIDS has moved from a terminal death sentence to a daily managed chronic illness.

I lived through phase two of the AIDS crisis. I was a second generation gay man who contracted AIDS in the mid nineties. I know of some men, who were diagnosed much, much earlier, in the eighties.

Very few of those men survived. However, there are pockets of men in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, who did live, and still live today.

Out of the 500 men who were diagnosed in my Social Circle, only two of us are still alive. My friend Mark, who lives in Florida, he was diagnosed years before I was, and then, myself.

Longevity and Quality of life are paramount when dealing with ANY Chronic Illness or Terminal Disease. After a few years waiting to die, when I did not die, I went to work for Cedar’s Sinai Cancer Hospice, where I spent time working with people who were very ill. Some of them survived, many did not.

My experience, strength and hope was not wasted.

I was very lucky that I had the right doctors, who believed in very specific treatment strategies back in the day. In 1996, I moved to Miami, in search of a doctor that specialized in AIDS treatment. I believe he set me on the path to living a long life, because he took care of the TOTAL patient. We had comprehensive IV, drug, treatment, mental and social treatment.

That founding treatment set my body up for success.

When I moved to Canada and met my doctor I have today, he promised me a long life, if in trade, I did him a favor. For more than ten years, I tested every drug that went into market here in Canada. We saved lives for sure.

I can tell that story confidently, because I am still alive.

AIDS in our fifties is another story about Longevity.

The Lisbon Patient shows us that men in their late nineties, who live with AIDS, as a chronic Illness, survive.

The Lisbon Patient is a Rubicon. Something we should all look at as example of what can be possible, if we too, take care of ourselves.

It’s all about LONGEVITY.

In Order to Move Forward, We Must Review the Past…

We’ve all done things, that we might not want to own up to. It is difficult watching the massive amount of strife going on all around us.

The easy out for what ails us here in Canada, is N.I.M.B.Y. (Not in my back yard). It is far too easy to just turn the channel and ignore what is going on in the world, but I cannot.

In the past little while, a good number of the women I grew up with for the last 40 years, have stated truths, that I had no idea had happened. What do you say to your friends, when they say, out loud, that they too, have been sexually assaulted as young girls.

In a time when we all spent inordinate amounts of time together, sharing meals, homes, and bedrooms. Somewhere in the middle of our lives going on, my friends were violated.

I had no idea.

Human beings are flawed. None of us are perfect. Show me a human being without a skeleton in their closet. I was raised by parents who had skeletons in their closets.

I was having a conversation in my head the other day with the brother who refuses to acknowledge my existence, when I ponder my dead father, and the possibility that my mother will die, and as I was told, nobody would tell me. So I talk to them in my head, when I sleep.

How can you be angry at me for my choices, when it was You to begin with who pushed me out into the street alone, with no street smarts, and left me to the wind, because you could not reconcile your skeleton with my reality.

My father abused me, in every way possible.

So when my friends say, out loud, their truths, I can safely admit that I get it. I understand.

They call it the Reckoning …

The world has exploded and chaos reigns at the moment. It is not safe for any of us, right at the moment. It has been said by wiser men than I that,
“People who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it…”

Drinking is not an outside issue for many of us. The severity of just how much one drank, and the situations that followed are what worries us.

I can share a story about high school. A story that many of the boys who participated in this story, would never admit that they participated in them.

I know this because, at one time or another, I went looking for old friends, and they point blank told me to get lost. They had moved on, and I was not invited to join them, because “I” had the drinking problem, don’t you know.

Much drinking took place in my social circle. We even had our own dedicated “Funnel” that was employed at odd times of serious drinking.

Boys and girls drank together. Not that I knew what went on with my friends, to a great degree. But when boys and girls would drink together in the same room, the girls were afforded their dignity. I know this because if girls were invited to the party, they were given certain directions, prior to drinking with us.

We had designated drivers, and after such heavy metal drinking parties, my friend’s sister would gather the girls to clean them up, and change their clothes, and drive them around town, while they puked, to get it out of their systems, before a second designated driver, brought them safely home.

My best friend, who was my best friend for a number of years, transgressed our friendship, by sexually violating my cousin one night. That transgression cost us a friendship, when my father made a call, fifteen hundred miles from home, to my cousins father, who flew to Florida to confront my best friend to ask him “why did you take my daughter’s virginity?”

I don’t know, to this day, the words spoken by my uncle and my father to my then, best friend, because decades later when I quizzed him about that night, he rebuffed me and hung up the phone.

Not a shining moment for him I guess.

Drinking does take a toll on the drinker, and every single person in the orbit of said drinker. Because if you drank like we did, and we know, right at this very moment, a certain man, drank as hard as we did when he was a kid, and he refuses to own up for his actions.

I can tell you from personal experience, that blackout drinking is common. I can also tell you that my friends who were educated in religious institutions, along side the secular schools, drank hard, and some even harder than we did. Because if you were educated by the Brothers of St. Christopher, You’d Drink Too !!!

There are regrets I have to this day. Mistakes I have made. People I have hurt. Memories that won’t go away. Visuals that are burned into the back of my brain. There are things each of us, will take to our graves.

Sometimes, letting sleeping dogs lie, is the best advice.

There are just some stories that will never be righted, for one reason or another. There are some people, who will never allow us to be recognized as humans, imperfect humans, who just would like to be loved.

For once in our lives.

Fifty One … Made It Another Year

IMG_0109

 

“… 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 !!!

When Passion Dies

Olympic-Stadium

Have you ever loved something so much, that you thought at one point, that you would do that thing for the rest of your life ? Climb the ladder of success, in a field/job, a sport, in music, or a trade ?

And what happens when you reach the point of success, let’s say, “going to an Olympics in Beijing as a Canadian athlete at the top of ones game.” And then having the tables turn on you, and that sport you loved, and gave it all of your heart and soul, and then that passion for the game DIES within, and alcohol becomes your best friend and companion.

When I was a boy, I had a gift for music. Beginning as a small child with a little organ, and graduating into the BIG LEAGUE with a double Decker two keyboard Wurlitzer organ that I was a master at playing.

I took private lessons, had lessons in school, and competed at Regional and State musical competitions. 12 years of music, died, on one fateful evening, when my drunken father grabbed my organ seat,(Leather bound, heavy mahogany furniture) and threw it at my mother, to try to hurt her.

I grabbed my fathers throat and said to him that after that stunt I would never play that organ again, so he might as well, send it back to where it came from.

All those years of musical genius went down the drain. And I never touched another keyboard for the whole of my life.

The passion died, because of principle, not because the gift died within me.

When I hear someone talk about a passion that is specific, let’s say, sport, not everybody is cut out to train and compete at the Olympic Level.

The stress of being a young athlete, away from home, not knowing ones asshole from their elbow, and finding the companion of alcohol to fill the whole of the need for external approval, is a killer.

I know this also, the lesson about approval comes to mind with Todd all those years ago, thinking that I needed him to tell me that I did a good job, every time I did a particular job, because I did not trust myself or my inner self. He taught me that lesson, hard and fast.

When you cannot look yourself in the mirror and be kind to ones self and always beating ones self up, always needing someone else to affirm us, is the death knell for mental health and stability.

Oh how the mighty fall. I’ve known athletes who threw in the towel and sabotaged their careers because of drugs and alcohol.

Once you get that Olympic Tattoo on you, you can never remove it. It will always be the constant reminder of who you once were, and where you had been. Only Olympic Athletes get that specific tattoo. it is a rite of passage.

RTXT3VO-jpg_213819

But we come in and we are messed up emotionally and mentally. Character defects running rampant. Arrogance and egotistical behavior abound, until we hit the proverbial wall of humility and humiliation, because of our attitudes, lies, and cheating.

And if we don’t get right, we will never get sober, ever !

Humility is a long hard lesson to learn for a lot of people, myself included.

But I know what it looks like and feels like today.

We all sabotage our lives with drugs and alcohol. The good news is, that there Is a Solution. One of the only solutions that work …

You – We – Us – Together – In a Church Basement – As often as Necessary !!!

You don’t have to go to the bitter end and sabotage a life of promise, you can always make that choice, for many, they could not make that choice alone.

Save for a few friends who did.

Self Sabotage is a familiar story line.

Sad that such promise went to pot, because of insecurity, ego, arrogance, and cheating.

Olympic careers are made out of a life of hard work, dedication and stamina

Very sad, that such a passion died for one of our young people.

But he is sober a few years now. Regretting nothing, because he is renewed every day.

Because he is with US now.

The Family Afterward

 

Sober Concept Wooden Letterpress Type

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.

Sunday Sundries: We Are Not Saints

o-BRENE-BROWN-ORIGIN-MAGAZINE-facebook

It was a full day today. My friend got on the bus a few minutes before I arrived at the station to meet him, so I took a later bus out to the West Island. The crowd was smaller today, than yesterday.

We heard a number of speakers, from Ontario, Lexington, Kentucky and Tampa. My experience of the weekend, was not the same as in weekends past. I heard many similar ideas tossed about. The themes of powerlessness, the loss of choice, and decisions we make.

I heard it said, from one of the speakers today that, “An alcoholic can make the decision to stop drinking. We have that capability, to decide. The problem arises when we attempt to stay stopped.”

A phrase I head a very long time ago from a wise woman, when I first got sober, all those years ago, was repeated over the weekend.

Stick around until the miracle occurs …

Two of our speakers were military veterans of war. So my friend, I was running with for the weekend, had a great deal in common with them, and found affinity, and made some serious contacts for his future.

I believe that if I am kind to my friends, that is what I am meant to do here on earth.
To Be Kind…

There are many issues faced by our sober community here. Things I observe. Words I hear spoken. Attitudes I am not inclined to encourage or be around, for that matter.

I had a conversation, well, I attempted to have a conversation with the long sober woman who spoke last night. And it seemed to me, she did not want to offer me anything of substance. Like it was beyond her to actually sit and listen to me.

I told her of my travels and some of my concerns. When I broached to topic of my emotional meltdown in a meeting, some time ago, and what took place on that very day, she looked me dead in the eye and said that my behavior in that meeting was unacceptable, and that I should have kept my mouth shut and not gotten emotional.

So much for compassion and tolerance for those with different struggles.

The only thing a meeting is concerned with is keeping people sober. Anything beyond that is unacceptable, she reiterated !!!

Alcoholics Anonymous is not for the emotionally challenged she said. Her caveat was, that probably, most alcoholics don’t know how to handle that kind of thing, beyond staying stopped from drinking, because that’s what a meetings for, right ?  Not to take that next drink, nor deal with an emotionally upset man sitting at the table.

Her curt answer struck me as odd, seeing she talked about all the good we could do for each other, and all she could muster with me was an admonishment for my poor behavior in front of other alcoholics.

ODD !!!

I also told her of the brain drain with old timers flying the coop, and going down their proverbial rabbit holes. She said to me that their rabbit holes were not my problem, and not my concern. But if we see folks walk away, it falls upon us to repeat to them, that there is no graduation date, no end point in sobriety. And invite them to show up, even if they don’t want to.

On the way home, I learned that our long sober woman, when picked up at the airport the other day, was abusive to her handler. She was not kind to the young woman charged with taking care of her during her stay here. She insulted and demeaned her, and in the end, that same young woman, told the committee that she would no longer serve her charge, and that somebody else could do it.

Damage Done.

How it works says that “We are not saints. But we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”

In the end, as the story was related to me, that woman was invited to Montreal to speak because she had serious double-digit sobriety, and was a pillar in her home community. And she showed up here and was a Cast Iron Bitch to the committee.

You can’t get up there and preach goodness and sobriety to a room full of people seeking a way to live their lives sober, and then turn around and be unkind and bitchy.

I did not seek another audience with anyone else the whole weekend. I welcomed the other speakers and thanked the veterans for their service, because my father served with them in the very same theater of war in Viet Nam.

The witness of true sobriety were those two veterans. Hearing their stories of war, and the suffering they witnessed, and came home as damaged as my father was when he returned from the war. My father, though, never dealt with his demons. He just drank them away hoping that they would disappear, which was what these two men attempted to do as well.

The end result was a crash and burn and entrance into the rooms, where they both figured our what to do and with which professional. They both got sober. Got married later on, had children and lived successful lives sober, to this date.

The damage of war, is sometimes insurmountable. As we see today, in our soldiers who have gone to war in Afghanistan and other places. What we have on hand today, is helping some of our men, acclimate to sobriety. With the help of our little village of long sober and many not so long sober folks.

It Takes a Village.

The weekend was very beneficial for outreach to the young people who showed up for the weekend. Connections were made. Conversations were had. Now it falls to us to foster those connections going forwards.

I have MP 3 copies of all the talks which I will burn to my computer this week, then hand the box off to make the rounds of anyone who might want them for themselves.

Again, as I saw it, and experienced the weekend, once again, I am reminded, strongly, what I am going to take away as lessons in a good way, but also, in lessons of what I experienced, as in, I know what I am not going to perpetuate.

I might have half the time that many of the speakers had over the weekend, but I am no fool, nor am I stupid. I watch how people treat each other. And when I see long sober people acting like assholes to my community, the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

I don’t care if you are a sick alcoholic like the rest of us, if you cannot act accordingly, then I have no use for anything you have to say to me or to us for that matter.

There is no excuse for unkindness.

That’s why I stay away from old timers. Because they aren’t prefect. And many of them have treated me unkindly, and not so soberly. I know who I trust and who I talk to on a regular basis. And that is just fine with me.

Other Alcoholic Rabbit Holes are none of my business.

I choose what I take on and what I do not.
I’ve learned at least that in sixteen plus years of sobriety.

There but for the Grace of God go I …

Monday: Words Matter

can-front.jpg

Always be mindful of your words. Which words you use, How you use them, Why you use them, and to Whom you use them with.

It has been said that, “It isn’t important what you say, but how you made them feel.”

I never know, on any given day, if anyone I know, pays attention to anything that I say in any meeting that I attend. A very long time ago, I watched someone have a freak moment, when, after making coffee for a period of time, got resentful, and had an ego attack, because people did not verbally Thank Him, in person.

He, in the end, left that particular meeting, calling people who went to that meeting ungrateful. That was a long time ago. I survived him.

Doing service, is a thankless job. Nobody ever says thank you. Not that I’ve been waiting for someone to sing my praises for my ability to make a mean urn of coffee … Or notice that I am the one who sets up chairs and tables at several meetings, during the week.

Marcus Aurelius talks a lot about praise and living a simple and humble life. Not bringing attention to yourself, but also, being mindful of what you do in the world, to be a “citizen, a participant, and a good human being.” Always thinking of the greater good, when it comes to what we do in public. Praise is unnecessary, because in the end, all those people, you need praise from, will eventually die.

We will all die one day and return to The Logos, that which created us …

There are certain young people, I am aligned towards. The ones that I take special interest in, for one reason or another. They know who they are. For the most part, I keep a low profile. I may be the first one in the door, and make any particular room habitable for a meeting, but my service to my friends is something I do for myself. Because I was told that doing service was the best way to remain sober.

A few weeks ago, I told you the story about THE BEER IN THE BOX …

After hearing my young lady friend talk about that beer, that she was hell-bent on drinking, even though she was almost a year sober, I did two things.

Within the meeting, I shared a story I heard told by a WOMAN who was thirty-one years sober, when she, herself, faced a possible slip, and what she did to avoid it.

At the end of that share, I quoted Mother Teresa who said …
“Well Done, You must continue to protect your special gift …”

That gift was the woman’s sobriety.

The second thing I did was to give a simple suggestion.

We all know that sometimes when we talk, nobody listens. Because I know that over my time, I have offered suggestions to my friends, and they smile at me ruefully, as if to say, “Aw, he means well, but I have no intention of following anything he says to me …”

Been there, Done that.

But to my young lady friend, I told her to go home and write out what she was about to do, that would be … TO DRINK AGAIN.

Little did I know, something I suggested, would make all the difference to her, in the end. Because it was that particular exercise she employed, that KEPT HER SOBER.

Tonight she came to the meeting and proudly told me her solution.

She went to the graduation party with her friends. But before the event, she went on to Ebay and purchased a SODA, that was five years old. The age of the beer that was sitting in that box, she had intended to drink, at said party.

I had hoped that her friends, knowing she was sober, would have her best interests in mind when it came to her sobriety.

And I did ask her this question.

At the party, she drank the SODA and NOT the beer. However, her beer was opened, and everyone else, drank from it, so she would be included in the ritual formally.

My young lady friend did take her year chip and is still sober today. She will graduate in a few weeks, and then she is off to Peru, and finally to Seattle for work.

Sadly, she won’t be returning to Montreal.

You never know when something you say to someone will sink in for someone you are talking to, and make a serious difference in their lives.

I do my best for all of my friends.

Sometimes that goodness comes back to me ten fold.