Fifty One … Made It Another Year

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“… They show how the change came over them. When many hundreds of people are able to say that consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why one should have faith.”

We Agnostics, page 51.

Tonight, we ended the month of July, with me in the chair, and we talked about God, Prayer, and Faith.

One over arching comment I heard from my friends is that for many of them, the thought of God, the practice of prayer, the admission of humility and the profession of faith, is a natural part of who they are.

They don’t necessarily “think” about God or Prayer, or Humility, or faith, every minute of the day. Those constituent parts of who they are present in everything that they do, every day. These parts are, in and of themselves, separate, but are unified in a single thought … Presence and Service.

The old story rose in my mind as I sat and listened. And I told it again. Even if my friends have heard me tell this story over and over.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away … Cue the Star Wars Theme …

God has been an integral part of my life, for the whole of my life. Memere and Grammy made sure that I knew of God, and that God loved me.

Memere, one day, when I was very young, took me to church and presented me to God, standing on the altar of that church, where she had a conversation with God, about me.

That visual is burned into the back of my mind.

I served God to the best of my ability, to the extent that in my second year of college, after high school, I ended up in Seminary, studying to be a priest.

I devoted my life to God, in every way possible. But I was not like the others. I did not do evil things that the others had done. I never broke my vows to Mother Church, during that year, and I thought that would get me by.

It didn’t.

At the end of that year, the rector, whom I had issues with personally, said to me that I was not “one of them.” Therefore, it was his decree that I would be told to leave the seminary.

Talk about being resentful and angry about God.

My alcoholism took off full-bore. And lasted until my 26th year of life. I told God to go to hell, that I did not need Him. Took back my will and my life, and pursued life.

I had come out of the closet not long after.
That only added to my alcoholic woes.

On one morning, as I sat in that bar nursing a drink at 7 a.m. fate strolled in to greet me and I danced. That morning would be the last morning.

What I did not know would eventually almost kill me.

On July 8th 1994, I got those words. “You are going to die.” A few days later I called Todd home from vacation and told him I was going to die.

As God as my witness … I may have turned my back on God. But God, in His wisdom, got my attention once again.

Never be thankful for a terminal disease.

Sometimes a fatal disease is just that, a fatal disease.

I took my life in my own hands that morning, and did what I did. And I am the one to blame for my misfortune. It is my fault.

God got my attention. Then He stepped out of Heaven and soothed my soul.

What Todd did for me, I will never forget, will always be grateful for, and remember as long as I breathe air. I will tell his story as many times as I can, because if this story dies. I die with it.

It is the power of God that makes this story critical.

Todd promised me, if I turned my will and my life over to him and trusted him with my life, that he would see to it that I survived. I may have kicked and screamed for a while, but that did not last very long.

As my friends died around me, one after another, and every day that I lived, is a testament to the Power of Todd, Read: GOD.

On the day I said goodbye to him, standing next to his car, as he got into that car, and shut the car door, he forgot to give me one small piece of information,

“What was I supposed to do now.”

I lament that he did not give me that much-needed piece of information. We were so caught up in goodbye that I don’t think that thought crossed his mind, in that moment.

When he drove off, my life drove off with him.

I could not make it alone. I had no idea what to do or how to do it.

All of the people who were still alive, already made the trek West. I was the only one who stayed. I stayed because of my heart. I stayed because I was sure, my father would die, and I would make my stand and go to my mother, and reclaim her from my father, and care for her for the rest of my days.

Obviously, that plan never happened.

My parents would rather eat dirt, than accept me as a human worthy of love.

On January 7th 2018, my father died. I got that one wrong.

My mother spit in my face, once again, saying to me that I was a mistake and should never have been born. This is the very same woman I was hedging my bets of saving and being part of her life.

Got that one wrong too.

I did drink again.

At the end of my drink binge, I called out to God. Begged Him for help.

I prayed three prayers in order of necessity.

  • A hangover
  • An Alcoholic
  • And Get me to a Meeting

God did those very things for me, in the order I needed them, miraculously.

I was on the return arc, when Troy walked into my business and his first words to me were: I did not drink today …

Troy was that blessed alcoholic whom God sent. Troy took me to my next, First Meeting. I stayed for the later 10 pm meeting and met the folks who would bring me back to life again. Those original folks are still in my life to this day.

God granted me a few dispensations. And created a number of miracles.

I ended up crossing the border, attaining Canadian Citizenship, I am still sober, almost seventeen years later. And had you told me, back in Miami, back in the day, that my life could have looked like it does today, I would have laughed at you and called you crazy.

God moved heaven and earth. And God’s saving grace has made me whole.

There IS a GOD, and I am not God.

Although, I did meet God. I spoke to God. I worked for God. I served God, every day I walked into work and served those men, who are all dead now, until they all took their last breaths on this earth. I was with many of them. When their families tossed them into the gutter and into the streets, I was there, with a few friends, who cared for the sick, until they eventually died, in our arms.

None of my friends died alone. Not One Of Them.

Nobody knows the intricacies of this story. Nobody really cares, even the gay men I know today. They know nothing about AIDS or Living with AIDS. They really don’t care for my stories, because they cannot identify.

If my story dies, I will die with it.

Which is Why, till the day that I take my last breath, I will utter the name of Todd and thank God for saving my life, all these years.

I made it to 51.

Let’s PARTY !!!

I Never Want …

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In keeping with the theme of BRAVING …

I never want to reach a point, where I become bored, where I am not connected, where I feel useless, and a drink seems like a good idea.

Any day, can be a day, where a drink seems like a good idea.

The purpose of sobriety is to find that which is Greater than ourselves, from Outside of ourselves, the key that will sustain us, to Stay Stopped, one day at a time.

People come, and People go. Some stay, many do not.

At some point, we realize that being just a visitor in a meeting, only lasts for so long. At some point, you get to make a choice, to either do something, or you don’t.

I know what this means. And I’ve said it before.

We welcome people from around the globe. We see our friends, often. And for the newcomer, I am patient. I know what it is like to walk into a strange room, and not know what to do. Where do I fit in, how will I ever find the path, friends, sobriety ???

One day at a time.

I have watched the chair dance for years and years. That is why chairs are set up, in the way they are, like a well planned game. Where one sits, in any given room, tells some of us, how integrated into the meeting you are.

People who attend often, sit in the same seats, week in and week out. There are always seats, set, against the back wall. With rows and rows of seats to choose from, I know that most people won’t sit up front, automatically. They hang back, in the pack, and many people, who sit “on the bubble” populate the row against the back wall.

Yes, that may be the case. But other folks sit in the back row, due to the time of arrival to any specific meeting. Which is why they tell us twenty minutes before and twenty minutes after.

The only way to work your way into a meeting, is to work your way into a meeting.

Reading the book, will come, in time. But it is suggested by good people, that the sooner that you join us, find a job, find a sponsor, read the book, and work your steps, then, and for some, they finally find themselves connected, useful, and happiness comes.

A friend of mine, who has considerable time, said to me tonight, that after all his years in, he finally figured out what Higher Power meant for him. Finding that which is greater than yourself, from a location, outside of ourselves, takes time.

Sometimes it takes a LONG TIME …

But you know, however hard one finds the suggestion … Prayer does work.

Hearing continual stories about how hard some people fight even the thought that prayer is something we should do often, only solidifies the idea that Prayer Does Work.

My friends often tell me how their brains work. Some, often find, that the obsession of
“A drink seeming like a good idea” still persists.

I know, from hearing this from folks, in the middle of the stream, connected, and seeming happy, that when they found the thought of prayer, not such a bad idea, once they begin praying, that obsession of

“A drink seeming like a good idea,” does go away.

The book is written to tell us what our problem is, who we are, and why we are here. It gives us the plan for living, and offers us a spiritual solution that HAS WORKED for millions of people.

I’ve heard what happens, when one comes in, arrogant and shut down, and feels like they just don’t connect, to anyone, or anything, thinking that they will never be happy

SOBER …

Wait for it …

Don’t leave until the miracle happens for you.

A very long time ago, a woman in the rehab connected to the very first meeting I walked into over twenty-five years ago, said that to me …

Stick around until the miracle happens.

Had the people around me, in those meetings, had not bet on my demise, then, others told me to leave and not come back, had someone offered me a way INTO the book and sobriety, like my friends did when I came back the second time,

I would have stuck around, and never left.

But my path was what it became.

Continual attempts at sobriety, coming and going, only lasts so long. One too many passes into a room, then back out of said room, the chances of sticking and staying, grow slim.

Some people get more than one kick at the can. Some of those who kicked the can, more than once, GET IT. And they sit down and they stay.

Sadly, numbers are not what they used to be.

We know tonight, what happens when being a visitor in a meeting, dies …

The thought that, “A drink sounds like a good idea” takes hold, the obsession returns, and we take our chances, back in the world, that really is not a place, for some, who drank like I did, or like many have, themselves.

If you come to a room, jump in with both feet, and get WET.

You will find your way, I promise you that. The Book Promises that as well.

If only folks took the time to read the book, which is why people like me exist, in the rooms, to read said book with you.

Reading is fundamental.

It was good that when I came back, over the first four months of my sobriety, I was unable to read a book myself, outside of Harry Potter.

So I went to meetings every day, where someone else, read the book TO ME, reading it for everyone, that was sitting in that particular meeting.

I heard the book read. And it stuck for me, because I had no place else to go.

Which is why I am still reading the book, to this very day.

Because, THERE IS A SOLUTION.

The idea that “A drink seems like a good idea” has gone.

Because I do the work required to never get to the point in sobriety that:

A DRINK SEEMS LIKE A GOOD IDEA ….

Sufficient Memory …

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“…We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.” pg. 24

“yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find the fellowship, and so will you.” pg. 152

The former passage, I read with my sponsor as we are working through the Big Book together right now. And I have to say that, right now, tonight, I have more notes and perspective written in the margins and underlined in the passages, than I have ever had before. My book is marked up and high-lit with notes from my sponsor that I had never seen in all the years I have been reading my book with people in the past.

The second passage comes after we open A Vision for you, as we read, the harrowing passages about oblivion coming to the words …

“As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settle down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily we did – then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the Four Horsemen – Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy drinkers who read this page will understand.” pg. 151

Throughout the Book, we are visited with the ghosts of former alcoholics who went to the bitter end, blotting out everything around them. Over and over again, Bill and the first 100 writers of the book, tell us stories.

For all those men and women, the miracle happened and they got and stayed sober. So that the rest of us who have come along behind them, can know how bad it got for them, and for many, we heard tonight, all went there, themselves …

A Vision for You does not start out strong in the hope department for sure. It throws down the gauntlet, one more time, then proceeds to tell us that once we get sober, and clean up our lives, shit does get real … and that The Most Satisfactory years of your existence are ahead.

Many of my friends, farther back on the road, have walked, in as many months, a very hard road. I watched many of them struggle, but they persisted. Shit is getting real for many people. And I get a front row seat to watch and participate in the rehabilitation of lives on a nightly basis.

It is like day and night for many. Life is good all the way around. Many of our Down and outers, who never imagined that life could get so good, are besides themselves with gratitude. We all survived the bitter end. And together, we are beginning to see the light.

I’ve never wanted to be so sober, as I do today. My friends are the best people in the world. I cannot begin to tell you how great life is for many of them. One of my best friend and his wife hiked Machu Picchu for two weeks and climbed over 17,000 feet into the sky. Amazing …

Our intrepid chair tonight, invited us to read the first two pages of A Vision for You, as a whole, and many of us revisited the last drink.

And I can tell you that many of us, CAN, with SUFFICIENT FORCE, bring into our consciousness of the suffering and humiliation of our last drink.

I heard many things tonight. And I pondered my own story again.

When I got sober the first time, Todd was there. That voice of calm, the voice of wisdom and the voice of control was always with me. Yes, I was working in a bar, but that bar was the safest place I could be, given the circumstances we had been visited with at the time. AIDS was the great equalizer. Many went to their deaths, miserably.

Thankfully, due to Todd, (read: God) I live to tell that particular story.

When Todd moved away, I could not keep it together by myself. I just could not fathom, living by myself, on my own, without Todd behind me.

When I went out, it was my own fault. I listened to all the WRONG voices. When those final weeks of my drinking took place, it was binge drinking one night a week, because I just could not stomach drinking every day.

I was still, drinking to fit in. Drinking to be seen. Drinking to be noticed.

Nobody noticed.

I would drink, until I fell down. In a room with a couple hundred other men doing the same thing. But nobody noticed me. So I drank more. Thinking that if I kept drinking, SOMEONE would NOTICE me …

At the bitter end, Black Out after Black Out … I came to believe that I could no longer drink any more. I called out to God, and He answered me in due course.

The rest is history they say…

But I still wonder, who was it that picked me up, off the dance floor after I collapsed, took me outside, got me a taxi, drove me home, AND got me in through TWO locked doors, into my apartment ???

I don’t know the answer to that Million Dollar Question.

Someone did notice me, and did me a great favor.

There must have been angels in that club, watching me.

Walking from home to the SOBE room, where I finally arrived in, I had to walk past the building that housed the club, I used to drink in. On the way out and on the way back.

A few weeks after I got sober, I heard they shut down the club for good.

I like to say, with a giggle … The last alcoholic left that building, so they had to close …

I mused tonight, that I needed a steady hand on my shoulder. I cannot go through life and NOT have that steady hand on my shoulder. I cannot do life alone. I know that today.

I knew it long ago, but when Todd left my life for good, there was nobody to take his place, and I foundered.

It wasn’t until I walked back into the rooms, in South Beach, that Fonda, Ed, Charlie, and Shane stepped up and took me in and cared for me.

When I moved to Montreal seventeen years ago, I did it the right way. I stepped into the room, with the people who would change my life. I needed that steady hand on my shoulder, and I got it in spades.

The right sponsor at the right time appeared, and took me on a journey, that first year. I was Never Alone. Not for one Minute. He showed me Sobriety. He showed me everything that this city could offer me, now that I was sober.

He took me places and showed me life. And little by slowly, A Vision for You Came to pass for me and countless others. The most satisfactory years of my life WERE ahead of ME.

And they are STILL AHEAD of me YET !!!

Life did not only get better, it got richer beyond my wildest imagination.

I’ve survived twenty-five years of a death sentence. I live every day to tell people that story to the degree that many of my friends roll their eyes at me when I mention it.

So I don’t talk about it any longer.

We live in the Solution today. You too can live in the solution.

With all the good, there is also bad. Sober people, are sick people, at the root of life. Those who do not work, falter and get sick. They freak out, and I see this happening around me, in old-timer disease.

I can see when old timers freak out and go down the rabbit hole. I can see it, when they cannot see it themselves. I spoke to one particular guy about it when he freaked out and he said to me, all twenty-six years of his sobriety said … How dare you call me on my shit, when you are only sixteen years and a few months sober ???

Go fuck yourself !!!

Alcoholics get sick. When they stop working and go into Ego and Resentment.

If you are NOT in The Work, then why not ?

Our kids work their asses off, day in and day out. We do not get a day off. There are no free passes to sobriety. It is just NOT GONNA HAPPEN without our doing anything.

Because when we sit back and wait for it to happen, we too could end up going down the rabbit hole ourselves.

I’ve been seeing it happen all around me, so I buck up on program. I listen to speakers on my phone. I hit meetings, and I am in the Book right now. With a young lady friend who has infinite amounts of wisdom to give us all.

When I realized I wanted what she had, I asked her to walk me through the book.

I have not looked back yet.

I love my life and those people who are IN IT TO WIN IT with me.

The whole point of getting sober, is to one day be:

Happy, Joyous and Free …

Some say I look happy. I feel joyous.

I AM FREE ….

Saturday: Thoughts

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I heard a young lady share this thought last night on Humility …

Humility:
Learning to be Honest in who you are, and letting go the consequences of that Honesty.

The reading from A.B.S.I. talked about Step 5 …
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

When we come in, it seems like we have finally arrived, finding people who understand us, finally. So we get into steps at some point, and we get to our inventory, and it isn’t until we sit with another alcoholic and we share that inventory with them, do we find spiritual peace.

In my case, in my experience, I would do my inventories, and talk about them incessantly. But there was always something I was keeping to myself, and from God.

And it wasn’t until this round, over the summer, that my spiritual director, figured out what I was trying to say, and why I was keeping it inside, and not letting it go.

And he tossed me a Bible story about Leah and Jacob.

And finally, she had to let go the expectation that after bearing the seven sons of Israel, that Jacob would love her, which he never did come round to doing. And God spoke to Leah and said, ‘Now turn your eyes to God and let me take it away from you.”

Se had to turn ALL of her expectations over to God. Which was what I had to do. Nobody in the rooms had that exact Spiritual Insight for me. It took my Spiritual Director from outside to see it and be able to show me what I needed to do.

Finally, after more than a decade and some, I found that lasting peace, I needed to have to get on with my life after fifty.

I have a friend, we all have that certain man in the room who gives the same advice, over and over. When he came in, he was shot to death, and suicidal. But there was a sliver of faith within him that kept him from killing himself.

For many, when it came to drugs and alcohol, no matter the environmental conditions outside, rain, wind, hurricane, snowstorm, if there was drugs or alcohol at the end of that trek, we were definitely going to go out and get them.

Sobriety is WORK. Sobriety takes WORK. Sobriety is not EASY.

He tells us over and over that, we really need to shut the fuck up and listen when people tell us that we need to get honest, and do the fucking work, as the book lays out.

There is no hemming and hawing. This is the deal. You come in and you want to get sober, well, this is your chance. Here is the book, READ the BOOK, and DO what it says.

It’s not rocket science.

If you go about your sobriety with the same zeal that you drank and drugged, then you too can get sober, and be free of the shackles that kept you bound to substances.

I know today, that I am not meant to help everybody and that not everybody wants my spin on sobriety. And I am good with that.

I’ve made my Fuck It List. And I wiped several more people off with that list.

And you know, since I started making that list daily, I can sleep at night. The rat has stopped spinning on his wheel.

My friend Sean said to me last night, that he has noticed that I am having better weeks, consecutively. If he can see it, then that is a good thing.

Something is working in my favor.

More to come.

Friday: After the Honeymoon Ends …

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

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

So we move on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My warning to newbies is always the same …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never left … tee hee

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

The honeymoon was definitely OVER.

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

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

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

Putting a home together took YEARS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That did not last for long.

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

Fear of People and of Economic Insecurities will leave us …

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

In year thirteen and beyond life got exponentially better.

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

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

Sobriety grew on us and not without its challenges.

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

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

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

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

Three – Seven – Eleven …

My sobriety was definitely enhanced.

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

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

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

In ten days, I will be Fifty years old.

Hallelujah !

It works if you work it.