Honest Appraisal

Yesterday my wise friend said a few things to me, directly.

He told me I needed to stop talking and start walking. He also said that, now that I had created a huge space in my life, by taking away the part that was problematic for a period of time, that I would need to find something to fill that gap with. He said I needed to shut up and put up.

Sometimes your friends know what is good for us. For me.

Tonight we talked about Step 10. “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”

A long time ago, at one point, in the history of my former home group, that I am part of again today, we were three men. At one point, a group of women walked in, and asked to join the group.

We were overjoyed.

Those women, who came from different places, now residing here, came to us, with a practice already in place, with the women each of them were working with. They came religiously, Early! Two by two. Hours early. And they read their Big Books together. And each night, we heard them mention doing something particular … A written tenth step with a phone call the next morning with their respective sponsors.

They guys were watching this, and we said out loud, to each other, AND to the women present, that we too wanted to do this too. Women here, only work with women, not the men. So we, the men, had to figure out what it was we were seeing done, and to replicate it ourselves.

It took some time. But eventually we figured it out.

I have a specific ritual I follow daily. I start my day with meditation, I read my teacher’s morning post, that he puts up daily. And I go into my day. I don’t usually plan my days, because they are open, and I wait for opportunity to show up.

At the end of my day, I used to practice a certain task.

Monday morning, I took the action to remove that practice from my life, for a permanent period of time. Forcing me to straighten out my life, once and for all. To be honest with another human being, with my failures and faults, to own up to them and to begin trying something new, in the space that is now open to me.

My friend told me to find the action I needed to take to begin walking the walk, instead of just talking about it. Direct …

I’ve been coasting in sobriety for a long time, waiting patiently for the right old timer to walk up to me and say – Hey let’s do something together.

I’ve been waiting. But honestly, the sober bracket I am in is empty of others in the same bracket I am in, the 17 to 20 year bracket. Most of the old timers I know are over the 25 to 30 year bracket and are on their own journeys. So they don’t necessarily engage us younger men. That is lacking.

Tonight I made the God connection that began on Sunday. I know what to do. But I’ve been slacking. Too much. I have not stepped up into my own sobriety and do something concrete, because I’ve been coasting for so long, waiting for inspiration.

On the odd occasion, as it happens for me, God tried to get my attention, and I missed the calls. The end stage is, if you aren’t paying attention, God drops the wall on you. (Cue Sunday’s Prophetic Dream).

Ok, I heard you. I am listening. I took that dream to the only other human, familiar with the issue, because he has his own and we talked. And he set me straight, so to speak.

I know the book. I know the steps. I know the work. I just have not been connecting all three together.

I have the time, and now I have the inspired thought and I know what I have to do. The ball, had already been set in motion, with a handful of people I am present for.

I need the focus, the direct focus to make solid changes that stick.

Taking away a waste of effort and juice, was the first necessary step to become focused, unlike I have been all along.

When you point inner energy into a specific effort by removing the wastage, and the blocking, physically and spiritually, you get true energy that is useful and you get to utilize that energy in pin point form.

If there is something wrong in the world, it usually follows that the problem resides in me. I am not the center of the universe. And acceptance is the key to all of my problems.

I went to great lengths to stop a problem. I needed to find the focal point, and I need to shut up and put up, stop talking and start walking.

I think I know what that means at the moment.

More to come.

17 Sober Holidays

Another successful holiday is in the books. The plans I’d spent weeks and months putting together, came to fruition. The good thing about being sober, so long, is that, we get to chose with whom we celebrate the holidays with and why.

In my experience, And I said this to one of my guys tonight, after dinner, was this … Not in the last few years, have I ever witnessed another sober human being, walk up to me and say those magic words, and they are:

“I Know How You Feel, Let Me Tell You How I Dealt With That.”

Lorna and Bob, two long sober members from New York spoke these words to us, in person, a number of years ago. There are only a few people, guys I work with, who heard these words too, because I have shared them with my guys. It was obvious, when we sat together as a Round Up Group, many folks I know, forgot those words. And I muse that, when I was in a difficult place, nobody had those words, as Lorna says are “Of Ever Lasting Life.”

There are folks, I know today, when I show up to particular meetings, out of my regular schedule, like tonight’s meeting on Christmas Night, at my old home group where I spent the first TWELVE YEARS of my sobriety, say to me, “Why don’t you call me ever?” Most people I socialize with already have my number, because I give it freely.

If I give someone my number, there is a reason I do that. So that THEY would use it, when I ask them to use it. People don’t like being told what to do, even when they tell me they are in difficulty, and they ask my advice and sit and listen to what I say in response. Usually couched in my response, if not spoken directly is this … “If you ask me for advice, and I give it freely, because I make time for all of my friends, is that you reciprocate!”

I walked into a meeting with one of my dinner guests tonight, and half a dozen people noticed what I was or wasn’t wearing. I was out of my usual choice of clothing, because I was entertaining tonight, so I went a little conservative, instead of my sporty spice look. They did not ask me how I was doing, or wish me Merry Christmas, they only wanted to comment on my outfit.

A handful of others, as I made the rounds before the meeting, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas that was sitting in the room, and shaking every hand, said to me …”Why don’t you ever call me?” My standard response came out quite easily. “If you really wanted to speak to me, you, yourself, would pick up that 2000 pound phone and use it for the purpose it was made for … To Be Used.

How much does a cell phone weigh, I ask you ?

Folks know I am reachable, 24 hours a day, and that I always answer my phone. I just don’t go out of my way, with just any alcoholic, to spend time, listening to them piss and moan. Tonight, there were a number of miserable young people sitting in the meeting. Kids, who, last year, celebrated their first sober holiday in living memory, many of them made it to year two. Because I told them, to their faces, that “if they stayed sober over last Christmas, that they indeed would stay sober.” Many of them listened to that advice and were successful. A handful did not make it. And were back for round two tonight. I watch my young people closely. I am present for all of them. I show up, so that THEY show up too.

So many people are miserable in their lives, and those people drink. There are also miserable people in sobriety, and they don’t drink. I talk to my guys often about this paradox. People stop drinking, yet they maintain their misery, like a rock around their necks.

When really … They can jettison that rock at any moment. When I say that to them, they look at me quizzically, as if to say, “Yeah Right.” You make it sound so easy. And things are easier said than done. Because folks make that conscious decision to remain miserable and sad.

We read from the Big Book and A Vision For You tonight. The portion of the passage that says at some point we come to the day that we cannot imagine life WITH alcohol or WITHOUT it. THEN, we will know loneliness unlike anything we ever known. And we reach the jumping off point.

We will want the end.

The reading goes on to speak of the fellowship and what we can do for each other, when we reach the jumping off point. When you come to your Home Group, and you connect, and you STAY, your life will change.

I show up so that others see me show up to tell them that ANYTHING is possible. It CAN be DONE. It takes Work. Consistency. Faith. and Action.

People WITH TIME, look at me strangely. People with little time look at me strangely. They cannot figure out, why I am so serene and happy.

Vulnerability takes Courage.

For a couple of years, I’ve been vulnerable. I speak my mind. I share honestly, and to the point. I am out there, in good times, and in bad times. I tell people when I am feeling sad, or angry, or happy. I no longer edit my words in public. People do not like it when I am deadly honest. People cannot understand why I speak honestly and with soul.

I am an Alcoholic who wants to get well. To live a good life. To know why I tick the way I tick, and to work on my character defects and shortcomings.

We might work steps, some more often than others. Many forget that Steps Six and Seven are the steps we work for the rest of our lives, on a daily basis.

My guys know this. And they struggle the same way I struggle, when they come to me and ask my advice, when sometimes I have no idea what to say to them, as I tell them how I dealt with those very same issues. The only way I know how to help another human is to tell them the truth, even if I don’t have a clue, what I am supposed to say, at least I say something.

Over the weekend I was home alone. And I rang up a friend, I’ve known for more than forty years now. Facebook, that necessary evil, makes it possible to keep in touch with people who matter to me, sober or not.

She asked me about me, and I asked her about her. I told her my story, and she told me one of hers. She said, and I quote … “If you don’t concentrate on your step work when it comes to certain people in my life, actually STEP the exact issue, you are going to become as bitter and angry as they are.”

She goes on … You know steps better than I do, of course I do, she’s not one of us. But she knows enough about me today, that she can offer that kind of advice, because I will listen to her when she talks to me. Because, we often don’t have an opportunity to talk for over an hour, like we did Sunday night. She was right. I shared that at the meeting tonight.

Everybody looked at me strangely. What are you talking about? I knew what I was talking about. Now I know what I can do now. The conundrum of sobriety is this … There aren’t a whole lot of people I want to talk to, to any depth, because only a handful of people I know today, would even offer to invest in me. Even sober …

A long timer said tonight, that he’d been hitting many more meetings than usual because his shift at work has changed. But he notices the disparity of not a whole lot of long sober people. They are either moved away, sick themselves, or dead. He hangs around with NEW BLOOD. He sees how many of us, who were around or, more, still around from the years when we got sober together. Few of us, are still around.

There are too many chair warmers. People want to get sober. Yet, they don’t want to put in the time and the work necessary, to get where some of us are, on the path to happy, joyous and free.

Not long ago, one of my kids, after facing a raft of losses in his life, walked into the meeting, on Thursday, a couple of weeks ago, and said to me and to God, as I stood there “Where are the fucking PROMISES?” God certainly has not dropped them on me,” at his almost ninety days of sobriety.

New comers hear us read those pesky promises day in day out, week in and week out. And they suppose that God is gonna drop Promises on them like Manna from Heaven, as needed, with no toil or tilling the ground so that the garden bears fruit.

A garden is not gonna bear fruit or anything, if you aren’t going to get your hands dirty, and get down and dirty in the mud with the rest of us. So many people want the PAYOUT with no LABOR.

I look at them and a giggle to myself. If you only knew.

Promises don’t drop out of heaven like Manna. They come when you invest in THE WORK. And you put your time in getting sober. You just cannot walk in the door and expect God to just lay it on you because you just walked in the room.

Because that’s exactly what I said when I came in this second time around. I actually gave God a list of “Things I wanted, Expected, because I HAD ARRIVED!”

Long Sober folks laughed at me and said: KEEP COMING BACK !

Talk about lessons in humility.

I worked my ass off for the whole of my sobriety. My best friend said it all when I took my 17th chip a couple of weeks ago … I don’t stop, I am always looking for the next big challenge. I ask people for help, even if they are less sober than I am. Newcomers saved my ass this past year. My lady friends who worked steps with me changed my life in ways I cannot explain.

Some of my kids are lock, stock and barrel, Confident Adult Women.

I’ve watched them grow up around me and in front of my own eyes. And that is what I wanted this round. So I asked for help, and help arrived. Because I was willing to sit, read, and to listen.

Because some of my women have solid, hard core sponsors, who don’t hand out bull shit, but expect hard work and honesty from their women. Some of my friends HAVE IT. Many do not. But they could, if they put in the work to get better, instead of pissing and moaning about how miserable they are in sobriety.

And I am oft to say … You know if what we have does not work for you, we’ll refund you your sobriety, and you can go drink again, and see if that works better.

Common wisdom of people who are long sober, or sober longer than I am, say this … Alcoholism might stalk me in the back of my head, and I hear it speak to me and woo me into the false idea that a drink would be nice.

Long timers, who are sober twenty plus years, know the kinds of drinkers and addicts they were when they got sober. They know how insane their lives were, and none of us are going to give it up for the chance to try some new drug or flavor of alcohol that some of our young kids drank or drugged with.

Our young people have that conscious choice in front of them. They can root and stay, and work and learn, and get better, OR they can warm a chair and bide their time, until the opportune moment they can say FUCK IT and go back out and drink and use some more.

Common wisdom also says that the odds of finding a better buzz, or a better drug, on a relapse will be better, is false. Because eventually you are going to wind up in a worse place the next time they chose to use, a bigger jackpot, even jail, or institution, or God Forbid, DEATH.

I know misery. I’ve been miserable too. And I am one of those men who will admit that in open community. Not many pay attention to anything I say.

But if I wear something irregular, they WILL SAY something to me.

Funny that !

I don’t have time for misery or anger or bitterness. My nuclear family have invested, lock, stock, and barrel on the alcohol, and the misery, anger and bitterness. Because they speak to me in those kinds of words.

I know those words. And from my mouth to God’s ears …

I WILL NEVER BECOME YOU !

I’ve been sober now seventeen Christmases. I’ve been sober longer than all the years I spent drinking and drugging. I’ve spent more holidays sober now, than I have ever, in my life, even as a kid. Because in my family, alcohol was a food group. If you did anything, it was bracketed by an alcoholic beverage of some kind. Beer or Spirits.

I’ve never been so cognizant of how subtle the fine line of sanity and insanity. Because I skate on that line often. And I know how precarious that skate is sometimes. So I stick with the winners. I suit up and I show up for my life, on a daily basis.

I heard a guy talk on Instagram earlier before I started writing this post and he said … IF YOU WANT CHANGE, IT IS EVERY DAY.

EVERY DAY !!!

EVERY DAY !!!

CONSISTENTLY, RELIGIOUSLY, WHEN YOU WANT TO AND WHEN YOU DON’T. WHEN PEOPLE SEE YOU, AND WHEN THEY DON’T.

IF YOU AREN’T IN THE ARENA WITH ME GETTING YOUR ASS KICKED LIKE ME, I DON’T WANT TO HEAR YOUR CRITICISM.

Brene Brown … The Man in the Arena Speech. Teddy Roosevelt.

CHEAP SEATS ARE EASY. GET IN THE ARENA AND FIGHT FOR GOD’S SAKE. BECAUSE IF YOU AREN’T FIGHTING LIKE ME, YOU HAVE NO ROOM TO CRITICIZE ME.

Some sober folks are in the cheap seats, and they want to criticize, and not do any heavy lifting. Sobriety isn’t cheap seats, work. Sobriety is IN THE ARENA FIGHTING FOR ONES LIFE and SANITY.

Merry Christmas !



Pivotal Moments in Time

I hope that for the rest of your life, every night that you close your eyes, that you see my sons dead body in front of you …

It was April of 1993.

It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of times.

Little did I know, on one particular day, how bad things could get. What I did not know then, was that things would get progressively worse, and almost take me down with it.

We had worked a fortnight, building the bar from the ground up. I did not sleep, for many hours, during the build period. And it was with great pride and respect, to my fellow men, that the bar opened with great fan fare at the beginning of April 1993. I bar tended that night. And made a ton of money.

The following Sunday, I was at my day job, I still had a day job then. It was a normal day, so I thought, until my mother called me. Which was totally out of character for her, because we had a love hate relationship. She asked me if I had seen James at all, which I replied … NO.

She then offered that his mother had called MY Mother, telling her that James was missing and that I needed to find him.

I met James in a bar one night, and we hit it off. Life, as a young alcoholic who was drinking to be seen, made being seen, a priority. And while it lasted, I took advantage of every moment that I was being seen. I did not know that James was a serial LIAR, and that he would end up being the most irresponsible, deceptive and secretive man I had ever met.

He strung a series of lies together, and disappeared for days, weeks, and months at a time, without a word. He cheated behind my back, and never amended his behavior.

But what stung the most was his most dastardly act.

We had not been together for some time, by the time my mother made that call, that Sunday afternoon, about him being missing.

I would eventually quit my day job, opting to work full time at the bar, in the ensuing days. I sent word out that James was missing, and nobody had any idea where he was. Six days later, it was the cops who found him.

I got a call that morning, by the Fort Lauderdale Police, that James’s body had been found, in an apartment on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale. It was a nondescript apartment complex, I had never visited before.

A detective met me at my car, and asked me to sit in his cruiser with him, while the coroner did his job. It was hours, before they released me. James was dead. How and why he died, I would not know for some time, the answers came in stages.

The next day, I received a call from the coroners office, asking me to come to the morgue and identify what was left of James. I remember it clearly, as if it were yesterday. Because of the curse his mother uttered to me, after I had done, what I had to do.

I walked into the hallway of the building, an exam room to the left and one to the right. It was hazy, because I was sobbing.

The coroner slid back the curtain, and I could see James, stuck amid a scream, plainly etched on what was left of his face. He was still wearing jewelry I had given him. It only lasted a couple of minutes. I made the positive ID and was stuck in place, as I sobbed uncontrollably. It was the most piteous of sobbing. I just could not contain myself.

James was gone. I had just signed the papers to ship his body home to his family. I called to tell them that he was on his way home, wherein his mother laid out that curse, that reverberates in the back of my brain.

To This Very Night …

I tell you this story, because it was a pivotal moment in my life, a year before I had my last drink. The first time.

I left the coroners office and headed for the bar, where I was employed full time now. I cried all the way there, and then some more.

I drank enough liquor that night to kill an elephant. That was just the beginning…

A week would go by, and I was inconsolable. Todd and Bill knew they had to do something, because I was drinking way too much. Their first attempt to help me, was to get me into therapy. So I sat for weeks and weeks, in a Survivors of Suicide Therapy group.

Every night, the same stories. Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters, telling the same stories of how their respective family members had killed themselves.

Do you think that stemmed my drinking ???

Not One Bit !!!

At one point, my after hours drinking, became, sitting in a bar at Seven in the Morning … I crossed that invisible line I drew for myself. Because I realized that I had begun drinking in the morning. Which was a harbinger of really bad things to come.

It was on one of those Seven AM Drinking sprees, that was my death knell. I know, well, I did not know, or want to know the ramifications of my personal behavior.

But my alcoholism was always tied, inextricably to SEX.

When someone you trust tells you that to become “ONE OF,” and the only way to become ONE OF, was to go to the bar and drink. Alcoholism was just waiting for me, the very first day I was let out of the chute.

It was only a few number of years, before I crossed that invisible line in “alcoholic” behavior. From twenty One to Twenty Five I was an uncontrollable alcoholic, but nobody ever said the word STOP.

Alcoholics have certain parameters we use to judge how BAD our drinking would get. Drinking in the morning is one of them. There is a fine line there, between nightly drinking, and drinking in the morning.

I NEVER drank in the morning. I never had liquor in any home I ever lived in. I always had to go out to get it.

A year would pass.

I sat in that therapy room for months, listening to the same odd stories of death and loss, and that only made me drink MORE.

Until the night that TODD SAID STOP…

He was through watching me drinking myself into the ground. The month before I got sober, July of 1994, I was diagnosed with AIDS. And NOW, I was drinking to kill myself. I was not going to go down in misery, like MANY of my friends had sunken into and died. Alone …

I hit my first meeting. And I stayed sober for four years, because Todd swore that he would never let me die. In that he succeeded.

But the Alcoholic Will Drink Again …

Alcoholics Anonymous is not perfect. And alcoholics are imperfect as well. But an alcoholic TODAY, would never tell someone, sitting in a meeting to GO AWAY and NEVER COME BACK ! Because if you misspeak and say something crass or irresponsible, you might just sign someone’s death certificate.

My eighteen month slip was long and arduous. But I made it back, thank God. Times have changed. And I am still sober today.

I heard a suicide story tonight. And clearly, I identified. I was right back there, standing in the coroners office. And said as much to our speaker after the meeting.

There are pivotal moments in our lives when SHIT HAPPENS.

Some people make it, many others DO NOT.

Like we heard tonight, you know something is wrong, when you STOP going to meetings. And the committee in your head starts to speak in whispers.

That glass of wine, isn’t a slip.
You’re not an alcoholic.
Nobody will know.

Suffering tragic loss, in any form is devastating. Sometimes you just cannot drag yourself back from the brink of death. Or another drink …

Then again, The Grace of God can be miraculous.

Sometimes getting out of hell, needs a little miracle, to jump start the process of healing and sobriety.

I know few people in this place, whose miracle came, not a minute too soon, for us. And I stand with my friend tonight, speaking words of truth when we both can say, that the second time around is NOT a cake walk.

The first time is a gift, the second time, you have to work for it.

I was telling a friend of mine, before tonight’s meeting, that not a whole lot of people, like or even respect my sober journey. Most people think I am a little off base and crazy. But I told him how I operated. It was his choice to either take what I offered him or throw it into the dustbin of pointless conversations.

There are no pointless conversations in sobriety. Because you never know when something you say will impact someone in a way you never expected. And my friend said to me that he knows, for sure, that there are specific young people, who heard me speak words to them, and because of those words, those young people are still sober today.

Because of one act of kindness in a time of intense need.

Suicide is a serious issue. You never know when shit will happen. We just need to be present and listen intently to our friends, and know, for certain, that the time to act is NOW, and not LATER.

There is help out there. If you ever think that the end is better than perseverance though pain, to get to the other side,

THERE IS HELP.

MAKE THE CALL.

You are Not Alone !!!


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 ….

The Selfish Game …

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Tonight, we talked about Selfishness and Self Centered-ness.

Alcoholics have a particular ability, when we are IN The Work.

At some point, we are part of “community.” We find our places, we like to go. We find the people, we want to be our friends. We find a sponsor, who is going to be the sounding board for all of our nonsense, and bullshit. I heard a friend say tonight, that the man he works with is a noble, kind and loving human being.

Many of us, in that room, strive to be noble, kind and loving.

Being Noble, Kind and Loving, should be prerequisites to working with others.

They say that alcohol and drugs are but the symptom of a more serious problem. Those key words like: Selfish, Self Centered, and Fearful, are some of those things we deal with on a daily basis. Ego is anther one of those things I heard mentioned tonight.

The Big Word my friend used in this context was:

Concupiscence. Ardent, Longing, Desire.

He mentioned the word in, not the sexual connotation, but in the “Wanting More for himself.” And not in a selfish way. I think, that once we get a handle on our addictions, and we begin to rebuild our lives, from the ground up, at some point, we begin to become Right Sized, then we can safely begin to entertain … Wanting more for Ourselves.

If you are just sitting in a room, hoping Osmodically, that you are gonna GET IT, or FIND IT, you aren’t … One has to put in the work.

Some people, some of my friends, all they want, out of this life, is something more for themselves. Some of those wants might be grandiose, or grand. Been there, done that myself.

I’ve learned over the years, that I do want more for myself, but within reason.

It may not sound like I read the book, or practice all that needs to be practiced, on any given day, but in sixteen years and a few months, I have internalized a lot of the book, and what it tells us to do, on any given day. I’m no MONK, and I am surely not a SAINT.

But I try, on a daily basis, to be right sized. Working with others, keeps us right sized. Because I have known some, whose heads get too big, and they outgrow their pants, and when that happens, people are in trouble.

Over the last little while, an old timer with serious time, has gotten on his high horse. He’s outgrown his pants. His ego is riding the hog. And he shot his mouth off at a business meeting, and everybody sitting there witnessed it.

Last week, as alcoholics are won’t to do … I called him on his bullshit. Who else, can spot bullshit and ego at fifty paces ? WE CAN.

That old-timer told me to go fuck myself.

Who was right and Who was wrong ?

That particular old-timer tonight said that He did not believe in Altruism.

When we take an hour out of our nights, and go make coffee and set down chairs and tables, and we set up a meeting, ONE, we are helping ourselves, First … TWO, we are doing it because we are helping those who are gonna show up, on any given night.

Every time we put the needs of another before our own, we think altruistically.

I know, sure as the sun rises every day, that the day I decided, many years ago, in early sobriety, that the needs of my then boyfriend, were more important than my own, when he got terribly mentally sick, and I decided to STAY and not RUN away, I put all my eggs in his proverbial basket. And I took care of him.

That is when This Boy Became a Man.

I am sure as shit, I know this for sure. Because I spent the better part of my life waiting for the moment when I would cross that proverbial bridge, into my Man Hood.

It was only, in the service of someone I loved, that I became the man I am today.

Being in the rooms, helped me more than I could ever have imagined. Watching and Listening to other addicts and alcoholics, get clean and sober, and grow up themselves, helped me grow up myself.

All these years later, I can call bullshit and ego at fifty paces. Many of us can.

It takes courage for someone to say to themselves, and maybe to you, that,
“yeah, I think I am being an asshole …”

Rather than the affirmative response, you get told to Go Fuck Yourself.

How dare you call me on my shit, when you only have sixteen years of sobriety ?

Well, I am in the book, I do the work, I do the prerequisites, and I am sober. Sober to the degree I am at, at the present moment. And YOU my friend are an asshole and you have outgrown your pants, and your ego is getting a little grand for the rest of us. And not many of us are going to take the time to say something because they know you are going to tell them too … To Go Fuck Themselves on Holy Sunday …

One of my friends plays a “Selfish Game.”

She opens a conversation and talks until the other person, stops; and asks about HER. If it takes too long, she cops a resentment. Because for a long time, life was all about HER.

That’s why, the first question I ask of my friends, is All About Them.

Solar Eclipse

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Funny this … There are only TWO Jeremy’s in the English Montreal Sober Community.

We’ve been friends for as long as we’ve both been sober. In the beginning, you could find us in the same rooms, at the same time, often.

Everybody knows who we are. Each of us have our particular stories. We are an age apart, but once we cross the threshold, everything that is different between us, disappears, for one common goal.

To stop drinking and using …

Nowadays, when we both find ourselves in the same room, which is not very often, I call this a Solar Eclipse. Solar eclipses are predictable, but happen very rarely.

Jeremy said tonight, of us, his friends, that If you want to be like someone in the room, go stand next to them. And quite possibly, strike up a conversation.

The Friday meeting, in particular, many of the people I want to be like, or have something I want for myself, are my close friends who go to that meeting.

Sobriety is a selfish program, they say … Individually, we have to get sober for ourselves. If we think, we can get sober, for anyone else, that is false, and we will fail. We have to do for ourselves, and ourselves only.

What we cannot do alone, we CAN DO together.

Each person who occupies a chair, is there for themselves. But when all these singular minds gather, our singleness of purpose is clear … Experience, Strength and Hope is the job we all have to give each other, selflessly, unselfishly, humbly and honestly.

As is often, each man and woman I know in the rooms I attend and do service in, each of my friends have something to give, in either the way they stay sober, or what they bring to a meeting on any given night.

Another of my friends, who works in a private rehab here in the city spoke as well.

The reading tonight, spoke of not being alone.

Many minds reading this particular passage, took us in several directions.

My friend said that “there are suggestions we are given, when we get sober.” We all hear them, spoken to us, from people, “In the Know.” We all hear, but not many follow to the letter, what we are, sometimes, Strongly Suggested to do …

Relationships are one of those suggestions. And the suggestion to STAY OUT of them for the first year. How many of us followed that little piece of advice ?

My friend, when he drank, always to excess, did not know how alone he was, till the drink and drugs, brought him to his knees. For many, the drink does not create connections between people. For many, drink and drugs, removed us from others, and created for us, each in our own ways, OUR OWN PRISONS.

When he finally got into rehab, himself, he heard the words.

Coming from oblivion, he did not have any semblance of ability to relate properly to anyone, even himself.

When we come in, what do we really know about ourselves ? Until we make that decision, that we are One, alcoholics, and Two, are willing to go to any lengths to get and stay sober.

He took that advice, not to get involved to heart. He spent that first year, like I spent that first year, learning how to be alone with ourselves. Because if we don’t know who we are to begin with, how can we be in relation with another, with honestly, nothing to really give, but what we “think” we have to give.

The first time I got sober, living with AIDS, I was thrust into being ALONE, in a way that broke my heart and broke my spirit. Nobody wanted to be in “relation” with anyone doomed to die a miserable death, sick and lying in ones own shit.

Hell, even my friends ran for the hills.

Thank God, I was NOT ALONE, ever, for one minute. Had Todd not been there, in the God capacity he appeared in my life, I would certainly have died, miserably, like many of my friends did.

My friend got clean and sober. Like I got clean and sober. In time, we both, met our significant others, IN the rooms. People who learn how to be alone, and spend appropriate time, learning about themselves, WORK the STEPS, at some point do learn who we are, good and bad.

Then and only then, can we be in proper relations with anyone.

The rooms, gives us opportunity how to be in relation with others, simply. Because if we keep it simple, and we go to a meeting, not expecting anything from anyone, let alone ourselves, and we just SINK IN, we learn from others, how to be WITH others.

Which is why, I surround myself, today, with men and women who have something I want for myself. Because in my friends I see attributes I want to emulate.

At the end of tonight’s meeting I told my best friends that each of them had something I want. The ladies, learn how to be ladies. The men, learn how to be men.

That kind of education, you cannot buy. INVALUABLE !!!

But the caveat is this … There are a few unfortunate people, in the rooms, that each in our own ways, we want nothing to do with. For one reason or another.

A LONG SOBER, DRY, MISERABLE, ALCOHOLIC is a black hole of misery. A few of those men and women exist in our circles today.

Recently, I called out one of those long sober, dry, miserable alcoholics at a meeting last Monday night, saying, simply, that he had been exhibiting OLD behavior. AGAIN …

He told me to Go Fuck Myself and Never speak to him again. that’s what comes out of the mouth of a man who has TWENTY NINE years of sobriety.

Many of the men in my life, have contributed a great deal, in helping me become the man I am today. A good handful of women hold that same distinction.

Long Sober women are far and few between, so when they do come around, everybody listens to them.

My friends show me that I can find contact with a Power Greater than Myself, which in turn, allows me to get in touch with THAT WHICH IS THE BEST OF ME.

We all know people, in our social circles in the rooms, who did not heed the warnings that the suggestions offer. There are two types.

One, those who simply cannot fathom being alone, at all. They need that “Other: for validation or to control or be controlled.

or Two, those, who within that first time frame, get involved, because for some, when love comes into your life, and you figure that, “This is it …” There is no better time than the present, we get on board and we ride the ride.

It is either feast or famine in the rooms.

Some of us have lucked out in sobriety, to find that particular significant other, that makes the world go round.

I have friends, who did not heed that sage advice and jumped into NOT Mr. or Mrs. Right, nope, they jumped into the fire with Mr. and Mrs. RIGHT NOW.

And like all things, that cannot be nailed down, they Come and Go.

Sometimes they come back around, and sometimes they don’t.

Some of my friends are struggling, because they cannot fathom, being alone with themselves, on the outside, even knowing they are Not Alone, on the inside.

We might be broken, sodden men and women. But with a common goal, to help ourselves, and help each other, what we cannot do alone, we can do together.

We learn how TO BE ALONE, by being TOGETHER, one hour at a time.

If you want to be like someone, go stand next to them. It won’t happen like OSMOSIS, but One CONNECTION, one CONVERSATION at a time.

We often say at the end of the Monday meeting, to the whole room, that sobriety works, because we do not do the work alone. We do THE WORK together. AND if you like what someone in the room had to say tonight, GO, Talk to Them.

That’s why we also, on Monday, stress the importance of Fellowship.

The meeting that happens BEFORE and AFTER the meeting.

If you come, and you don’t participate, and you isolate, sitting in your chair, you are going to stay miserable and broken. You can only SIT in that CHAIR, and do nothing for only so long.

AT SOME POINT YOU WILL EITHER HAVE TO SHIT OR GET OFF THE POT …

A meeting is there for several purposes. I’ve learned, in my time, just what is possible when like minds unite in a common goal, often.

You are never alone … We are never alone …
As long as you have friends in all the right places.

Monday: The WORK that keeps on Giving

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We heard many good things about step work tonight. The good thing about or little community is the variance of people, time, and experience. Having a cross-section of people talk about experience, is good for everyone in the long run.

Many of us, with some serious time, have tried every “new thing on the block” to spice up sobriety. Over the years, visitors have come from other places to share with us, how they approach THE WORK.

For me, and many of my friends, this little jaunt into “New Methods” began in the year 2012. New Yorker’s who live here, part of the year and back home, at other times, had a method. Many saw it, watched it work for others, and then attempted that work for themselves.

I met a few people over the years, who taught me new methods of The WORK and also about Prayer. It was then, that I began to arduously make prayer work for me. Not that I had not set myself the duty of prayer before. Bob just told me how to step up my game. I followed his direction, and that changed the entire ball game for me.

Today, I hear some of my friend talk about where they are. Some have grown tired of trying new things, and many of us are in a place today, where we recognize that being perfect is not necessary. And that like some, we just want to be loved, and feel ok.

The push for continual growth has slowed for many. Many of my friends are in a “down time” place today. Those with time, have a desire to feel where they are and to experience life as it comes, “in the moment.” However, the work continue, in any case.

We’ve not seen “new methods” come to us over the last little while. So we have been regurgitating the latest method were had been working with. For many, that has grown old and tired. Some have disappeared, a few have resurfaced over the past little while.

Everybody is different, and no two people follow the same proscriptions for sobriety. I think it bears saying that, listening to each other, and sitting with each other often, that is where God is going to speak to us. Through others, in community.

I know that if I don’t hear from God directly, I need to hit a meeting and listen attentively.

Steps are progressive. They never end. You work steps, over and over. The longer you stick around, we grow up. I heard a man say, tonight, that when he realized that he had, Grown Up, in sobriety, that the steps became useful, because he recognized his own progress.

They say that when we started drinking and using, the age we were, AT THAT TIME, is where we stop growing up. Which then tells you, when you got sober, what age you will begin at. I was twenty-one for a long time. A very long time.

Folks who come in late, (in terms of age) don’t necessarily recognize how emotionally and mentally immature they are when they come in. But like my friend mentioned tonight, when he came in he was 41. With a mental age of 21.

When I came in at 34, I was stuck in the mental age of twenty-five, when my drinking was just off the charts, and I was going to die. We’ve all recognized, in ourselves, just how much many of us have grown up, over the years.

Tonight we read Page 75… The reading dealing with steps 5 through 7.

How after we speak our inventory, we go home and take out the book, and review the first five proposals, taking time to realize if we have done things right. Have we a firm foundation. Have we skimped on the cement, Have we left anything out…

There is ONE paragraph on Step Six. Not a whole lot of direction or advice on what to do. Then the book launches in the Seventh Step Prayer …

God, I am now ready for you to have ALL of me, good and bad …

I have heard, over the years that Steps 6 and 7, are the steps we live in for the rest of our sober lives, even having worked all the way through Step 12.

Character Defects and Shortcomings … They never go away. We just learn how to mitigate the damage we can wreak on others.

I told this story tonight. It’s an OPRAH story about Step Work.

By Steps Six and Seven, we should have conscious contact with a Power Greater than Ourselves. In any case, we should have figured out that equation by now.

Many don’t …

Anyways. Oprah talks about God in this way …

God speaks to us. All the time. On the first pass, God whispers to us. If we miss the first whisper, He whispers again. If we miss it the second time, God hits us over the head with a TWO by FOUR. If we miss it the third time, God drops a WALL on top of US.

That is exactly how God has gotten my attention in the past. I kind of need that critical, in my face, kind of God experience. Kind of like egging God on to show himself.

I know better. NOW. Because I know God exists. I’ve met Him in the flesh.

How often I forget that truth.

Over those years following 2012, I was attending Men’s retreats in Vermont, with a bunch of evangelical straight sober men, who talk out of one side of their mouths, then do the opposite in action.

Working through character defects and shortcomings was an In Your Face, God experience. I missed the whispers. I got whacked by the two by four, then had the wall dropped on me. Before I actually realized what was going on.

That’s the way it has been for me. Things I need to see, in myself, come to me through other people around me. I see what I need to recognize, through the behavior and defects and shortcomings of other sober people standing in front of me.

Which is why I don’t travel in those circles any more. God abhors a hypocrite.

So do I …

Life is cyclical. And runs in cycles. The longer you are sober, the more WORK you do, and the more you grow up and remain sober, these life cycles continue to rise and fall.

Issues we see on our dashboard, early on, are seen with the eyes and perspective of early sobriety, on the first pass of Steps. Those issues and lessons come and go. If we are wise, we learn on that first pass, in perspective.

Those issues don’t go away. They just get “put to bed” for the time being. Until we hit another round of steps, and life continues to grow. Sooner or later, those old problems and old issues rise again. Cyclically.

BUT, now, we see those same old problems and issues with new eyes and new perspective. And that growth continues, the longer we are sober.

It is like a jeweler who polishes Gem Stones. Each issue that rises, gets a cut on the jewelers wheel. Each cut, brings that Gem Stone (read: YOU) into greater perfection. Life is cyclical, and gem stones are continually cut and polished.

We may never reach total perfection, but if we stay sober and we do the work and we grow up, we are a little closer to who we could become, rather than who we once were.

Life can be good. But that takes time and work.

Stick around till the miracle happens.