This is the Way It Is …

On a Double Decker bus in Ottawa with my best friend …

Watching coming out videos today, bring back certain memories and invoke certain feelings, about my own story.

I traveled to the South Shore last night, for a meeting at the famous Beaver Rehabilitation Center. Over the years, I’ve heard some old timers tell stories of their time there, and a particular nurse who worked there until about a decade ago. On the way the driver of the car, told me her stories of that famed nurse, Joan.

I learned a few more things about new friends last night. Which was nice. and I also learned that the car driver’s sobriety date is the SAME as mine.

December the 9th … She in 1987, me in 2001.

But back to where I am at the moment. I’m kinda sad.

Like I said above, I watched a new coming out video from a young man on You Tube. And I wrote to him, that his story was the most honest, tender and loving story I had ever heard. Coming Out is a daunting proposition.

He faced his trials and in the end he had success. His friends came round, his mom came round, and his sisters came round, eventually.

And I think … People are who they are. And I was and am powerless over people, places and things. The other night we talked about “Acceptance.”

I wonder, why people say the things they do, why they act the way they act, and why the world went sideways when I was a kid. I’m gonna be 52 in a few months and I think to myself, what a waste of time and effort. I really believe I was sold a terrible bill of goods.

People treated me so unfairly. And never gave me the opportunity to speak my words and defend myself. It was better to push me away and shut off my light and silence my ability to speak, rather than hear what I really have to say.

Coming Out, I was sold a bill of goods. I was told certain truths. And I ran with that delusion, until it did not serve me any longer. And I’ve written in the past, quite recently, The life I really wanted and desired, never came to fruition, and in the end I got the life, I got. It wasn’t necessarily the life I wanted, but it is the life I got.

I’m not sure I would have changed the life I have, or the way it played out, because life is good today, and I should not be resentful or bitter about not getting or getting.

We spend inordinate amounts of time sitting in meetings, listening to our friends, or people we think are our friends. And it still makes me wonder about people, when I hear some of the things that come out of their mouths.

And I think to myself, WHY ?

An entire section of my life is non-existent. An entire family of people have nothing to do with me, because of choices I made. But really, I was gay, and gay was abominable, so I had to move away from home, because I was pushed away.

THEN they blamed me and said it was all my fault. That I was the cause of all of their problems. When I was the one who got away from a very abusive situation, and people. I got out for my own good, my own safety and my own sanity.

So Fuck me for self preservation.

So many years have passed and nobody seems to care that I am alive or have a life or have words to speak to certain people. And I find that wasteful today. I think that people have just gone down a rabbit hole and never came back up.

People have a choice. And I wonder, why people made the decisions they did, because at this point in my life, I see the wasted opportunities, the wasted years and years of punishing silence.

Why because I was Gay or later, was diagnosed with AIDS?

I had two coming out experiences. The first was much happier than the second. Because when I came out, it was on my own terms, in the location I wanted, with the people I wanted to be there, when I made my entrance into the gay community of Orlando.

I think to myself, that certain people in my life did what they did and they said what they said and they chose the line they were going to follow, for better or for worse.

I lost on all accounts, because an entire group of people walked away from me, and left me on my own to survive. Thank God, Todd was there, because if it wasn’t for him, I would have died many years ago.

I just think it is utterly so sad that I am where I am, still asking the same questions I asked decades ago. All I want is to speak, to tell my story to people who don’t want to know me. To explain the what, where, why, and how. On my own terms, in my own voice.

But people don’t or won’t deign to stoop to my level and listen to me. I am just not that important. And there is just too much water gone under that old bridge.

I find that utterly sad. It just makes me so sad and sick inside.

My father went to his grave, never knowing me. never speaking to me, and never allowing me to say what I needed to say to him before he died. And that was his choice, not mine. My mother is going to same way, and so is my brother.

None of them want to know. Or want to listen.

So Fuck me for self preservation

Time is a precious commodity, once wasted it can never be regained.

My maths teacher, in 9th grade, used to write this sentence on the black board before every test or exam. And I remember those words till today.

So many people have wasted too much precious time. That we’ll never get back. Time is of the essence.

God is in control. And maybe it is better that way.

Because I surely don’t want to make these kinds of decisions.

Acceptance is the key to all of my problems.

When Can We Use Our Voices?

For as long as I’ve been sober, one question dogs me every night. I think to myself, and I had this conversation with a friend on the way home tonight,

At What Point Do We Get To Use Our Voices ?

When we come in, the only thing we need to do, first, is find a chair. For a while, people sit in their respective chairs, some longer than others. I did a lot of listening, I mean I still listen, but listening at over seventeen years is different than listening with a few days.

The method I used to get sober, firstly, was my day count. The first ninety days, all I did was show up and count my days along with the others, who were counting their days.

When I moved to Montreal, and rooted in my home group, I sat down, and I began to listen. I listened to everyone intently. I heard many things. Good things, bad things, happy things, and sad things.

I watched people come, and I watched people go. I watched some die.

Over all, I watched what people did in their lives. I listened to them justify just about everything under the sun. I listened to people battle over God, in fact, I am still listening to people battle over God.

I’ve stopped trying to explain Him.

I know every decision my friends made over the last seventeen plus years. I know the successes and the failures. I know all of the good and all of the bad. I know what every one of my friends did over the years. I listened to them talk, then I watched them act.

I learned what TO DO and what NOT TO DO.

If it worked for you, it worked for me. If you made a stupid decision, I did not make the same stupid decision, myself. And sure as shit, as my friends, many of them drank again, and again, and again, I AM STILL SOBER.

By the Grace of God.

At some point we begin to find our voices. We share in discussion meetings, and we talk to our friends and sponsors. Eventually, we get to chair simple discussion meetings, for a while, until we hit the magic date, when we get to actually CHAIR a speaker meeting.

Because we need to learn how to listen for speakers. You just cannot jump into the deep end of the pool, without the experience of learning what a “Speaker” sounds like, then, on your first run, one needs to actually FIND a speaker for your meeting.

That was daunting at first

I kept my opinions to myself for a long time. I never rocked the boat, so to speak. I never questioned the authority of someone who had serious time, or more simply, more time than I had. I learned from everybody.

Over the years, I listened to people, and watched them come and go, while making serious decisions, getting “involved” with someone, and better yet, some really pondering drinking again.

I knew what I knew about people, as time went on. And I can safely say, with some serious hindsight, that the first ten years of my sobriety were a washout. Because looking back, I did not know what I did not know.

Now this far up the line, I see the folly of some of the things I said, the people I got involved with, and the drama I took part in. I know today, and I heard this from one of my sponsors once ….

Just Because Someone has TIME, does not mean they are SOBER.

I’ve learned what that statement meant the hard way.

But still, I question myself, whenever I want to speak my mind, or talk about an issue at a business meeting, or even, admit, that I am either angry, conflicted, or just plain pissed off.

A few years ago, I hit a serious emotional bottom, after the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida. Because when I was a twenty one year old kid, back then, I used the drink in that exact bar myself. So the killing of fifty innocents, really wound me up and turned my life upside down.

It was what happened after that night, with certain sober people, that turned me off to many people in my orbit. I had listened enough, and I respected too easily, and I allowed people to humiliate me in public.

Because I learned to never question an old timers comments to me, EVER.

Because what did I know, with the little time I actually had ?

I was sober 15 years by then.

I went through a very angry stage in sobriety and people were openly afraid of me. And I was asked to leave several meetings, because nobody wanted an angry gay alcoholic in their midst.

I found vulnerability. I found my voice. I found my courage. And I found the Arena that I was going to fight my battle in. Thank you Brene Brown for that.

I speak my mind in certain places, and at certain meetings. I test out my words, against my friends, and the old timers I count as my friends today.

Before I say anything, I usually ask someone about what I have to say. I did that for a long time. I would never say anything controversial, before running it past a second opinion.

Nowadays, I call it like I see it. I just don’t care if you like me or not. I’ve listened enough, and I think, these days, I’ve earned the right to say what it is I have to say, within means.

There are many kinds of people in our rooms. Those who care about their sobriety, the ones who actually to THE WORK, and grow up. There are those who just go to meetings, because they know it’s what they have to do to stay sober, but they don’t put any effort behind showing up.

There are entire communities of straight men, whom I avoid like the plague. Some terminally straight men, just rub me like sand paper. And I’ve told them so. Many straight men, don’t get me. They don’t socialize with me, and many of them have no desire to welcome me or be my friend, when it comes to workshops and step retreats.

I did straight retreats for three years with a particular group of men, who talked the talk in front of me, but when it came to meals, in the massive cafeterias, none of them would be caught dead breaking bread with me at the same table.

I only take to being ignored so much, before I wig out.

The queers in Montreal are all in the same boat, as far as I am concerned. I am unique among them, because none of my peers have an AIDS story. None of my friends, lived the life I have lived, themselves.

All the AIDS men I knew from early sobriety are dead. Among the English community, I am a dying breed. I am the only one left, on the English side.

I don’t dress like I am fifty two years old. I refuse to become a J.C. Penny catalog model, and wear frumpy clothes and become Old, Fat, and Catty.

So I don’t socialize with any of my queer brethren. They come to meetings I go to, and they are cordial, but beyond hello, nobody bothers to be my friend.

I am good with that today. It really does not bother me any more.

I have my meeting schedule, which I change up seasonally. I’ve added the Sunday Morning Brewery Mission Meeting, along with Thursday’s, and Friday nights. In the spring I will return to Monday Central when it warms up to safely commute this distance I need to travel now that it is Minuses and bitterly cold at night.

But I wonder, still, when do I know enough to say what I think? Because over the last little while, when I have spoken about certain things, with certain people, some of them told me to my face to Go Fuck Myself, because what did I know at sixteen and seventeen years of sobriety, when it came to speaking to someone with more double digit time than I had ?

So I back off and I listen more. I listen to old timers talk, and I hear them go down their proverbial rabbit holes. I watch them wig out and business meetings. I see them come and go, some don’t return.

I have a lot of observational knowledge about people and the rooms in Montreal that I frequent. I’ve heard a lot of things over time. And I have certain opinions about sobriety.

I know who WORKS, and who does not. I know who CARES and who does not. I know who MATTERS and who does not.

I know who is sober, has time, and is reputable. And I know who is not.

I even know who the douche bags are.

We all know who the douche bags are. We see them often, and we hear them pay lip service to sobriety. We hear the douche bags talk about their respective wives, with disdain. We know who cheats, and we know who works very hard at getting one over on their wives.

And recently, we’ve heard douche bags say some pretty awful things in open community. Some of their words came back to haunt them, as in a recent post I put up the other night.

It’s not like anyone else is NOT listening themselves.

We all sit together in the same meetings, so witnesses to douche bags comments are numerous. It’s just now, we can all call a spade a spade.

But we are reminded of the Traditions, and the 12 Concepts and the rules of engagement when it come to recrimination beyond the anonymity principle in meetings.

So a handful of us have spoken our concerns about the douche bag in question. He knows we have his number. We’ve made that perfectly clear, to Him and to our peers. We don’t agree with statements made in open community regarding the misfortunes of others.

I asked his sponsor tonight about this issue, which was his first time hearing about the kerfuffle. There are two sides to a sobriety disagreement, and several ways we could have handled it. Were we right, to say something, YES and NO. Should we have chosen another venue to voice our concerns to the douche bag, YES.

There is no Right nor Wrong answer to the question.

It’s a teaching moment for everybody.

We have a voice for a reason. And if we don’t use it then:
SILENCE GIVES CONSENT.

I’ve heard that for many years.

Going into year eighteen, I know how to speak, and I do so. It may not be nice, sometimes, but the only way you learn is to practice your skills. We just don’t sit in meetings like mushrooms being fed shit, night after night.

At some point, we need to test the water, and say something.

Good or Bad. Right or Wrong.

For our group purpose there is but one authority, a Loving God who expresses Himself in our group conscience.




Tuesday: The Importance of Time

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So you went back out, and you either DRANK or USED or BOTH.

What happens now ?

What happens with all that time you banked, before you walked out the door ?
Do you loose that time, or does that time still matter ?

There are two schools of thought on these questions. I’ve heard them discussed over the years, but in recent years, I’ve heard no mention of the options in open community.

Option #1: Time on the Continuum exists and is still in motion, your slip is but a blip on the time line, so keep moving forwards.

Option #2: You HAD time, but you slipped, your continuum has stopped running, NOW you go to the BACK of the line and start over.

This came up today while talking to my best friend.

I’ve mentioned over the past few months, the number of friends I have who decided against better advice, to go back out and drink and use.

Here, in Montreal, my “Core Group” is trying to figure out how to help our friends, and get them back on the horse and reconnected.

We decided, as a group, to give keys, jobs and responsibilities to those who need to reconnect. Service will keep you sober, because you become accountable. Turning, back benchers and slippers into Service Hounds is what we have decided to do.

Will it work ? That is yet to be seen.

When I accrued my four years and had orchestrated my slip, I really had nothing to return to, as in accrued sober knowledge and time. I was too busy trying to survive.

That was the greater challenge, even if I took that life for granted, and pissed away that time endangering my life with more drugs and more alcohol.

I have a friend, one of our men, who went out at almost the four year mark. He was good, and stable. In the end, he fucked off, and isolated, and that black hole swallowed him whole.

My friend speaks of it this way … “He needs to practice his Emergency Exit Plan.”

Everyone needs an Emergency Exit Plan …
Everybody, no matter how long you are Clean and Sober.
You need to put your oxygen mask on FIRST, before you can help someone else !!!

Had he done that, he could have avoided using again.

I’ve learned in sobriety that in certain cases, I must be liberal in my approach to my friends and fellows.

My friend, returned with three years banked in the hopper.

Does he go back to the end of the line, or does he just keep going ?

He has ALL that TIME, in history, knowledge and sobriety.

He knows what to do, it isn’t like he forgot.

Pushing him to the back of the line, is detrimental, I believe to his well being.

The time one spends on a slip has to be calculated on where you land when you return.

If you have some serious time banked, and your slip is brief, (sometimes that can also be disastrous) You need to figure out where you are in your head and in your life.

The worse the slip, the harder the climb back into life.

Some people don’t make it back. They resign themselves to sobriety loss, and decide to just pack it in. They might be in a meeting, but they have disconnected.

Time has no meaning for them any more.

What does my friend do ? Well, right now he is doing service and he’s pounding his meetings. He feels shame and fear because of what he did to himself, and now what came of his actions upon those he worked with and friends he has known.

We know he is his own worst critic.

My friend and I talked about the TWO OPTIONS plans.

We agree that Option #1 – works for him.

He needs to get back on the horse. Yes he is marking new time, but with years of sober time banked behind him. So he has all that experience to work with, in figuring out what he wants to do now.

There are those who come back, and they reconnect, but they need to re-engage with The Book, The Steps and Meetings. (also contingent on how long they were absent).

We need to provide for everybody ALL the TOOLS they need to recover.

We are human, and we need to be reminded that (If we had time) that time still exists, on the continuum. You just don’t STOP living, because you slipped.

So let’s give you tools and trades to get back into the game as quick as possible, so that this time, you STICK and STAY.

We don’t need to punish people by telling them to go to the back of the line, now you start over in sobriety, that none of your past time matters …

That is NOT true.

All time matters. It matters by the strength of that banked time.

In my case, my past time was pretty non-existent. What I got the second time around mattered more now, than it did the first time around. The messaging was off, I wasn’t in the book, I wasn’t connected to a sponsor and I was my own worst enemy.

So the second time I DID start over from scratch.

Because I had nothing to bank on …

What if YOU have TIME to bank ON ? And you SLIP ?

Would you rather get back on the horse and pick up where you left off, or would you like to go back to square one, and start over, as if your past banked time, did not exist in the first place ? Or that your past time did not matter ?

The choice is yours.

Wednesday: Time

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There are 24 hours in a single day.

I’ve learned from some learned men about the importance of making sure that you maximize your time, each day, and that one does not waste time on projects, people or things that aren’t going to best utilize your time or efforts.

I have a certain routine that I follow, on any given day. I’ve said before that I do not “block” anything in the morning, unless of course that involves labs or my doctor.

That does not mean that I won’t block time for someone or do a job in the morning, if someone needs my help, or the situation at that moment requires I be present.

As a rule, my mornings are mine. On certain days, Tuesday and Wednesday, my off days, I have a large block of time that I use to nap in the afternoons.

I told a good friend of mine, recently, who is battling a serious health issue, that, in the beginning of a major illness, we have to recalculate our time, based on the ability our body has to do something.

AND we have to rest, often. Which for him is what he really needs to do right now and not push the accelerator too hard, right now.

Pushing a body that is infirm, to the degree my friend is infirm at the moment, is not suggested. Because, there are times that he feels good, and figures he can overcompensate, and push his body beyond its abilities, and ends up flat on his back, not being able to get out of bed.

If we do not take care of our bodies, all the time, when the chips are down, we are forced to learn just what our bodies will or will not do. And that is a huge rude awakening for many.

At this time in my life, approaching fifty, I can dictate what I will or won’t do, on a daily basis. I have a schedule I follow. I have chores to do at home. There are jobs that need to be done, on the odd occasion. Then I have my three meetings a week.

I sponsor a number of folks, and I always have to be prepared when my phone rings.

I know today, what I will expend energy on. I will never say no to a friend who calls and asks me to be present and/or help them with something. But once again, time is money, and wasting my time, is not something I enjoy.

Case in point … Someone needed my help today. Early.

Last night, I re-ordered my schedule and set my clock for an early rise. Knowing that I would be out of the house, for an extended period of time, I had to re-order my daily schedule of chores. I rushed out to the grocery store to do my daily shop, and get back home because I needed to hit the Orange line, down the hill.

I do my shop, I walk home. Halfway home, I realize that I did not charge my Metro Pass with tickets. Which means I have to go back to through the mall to get tickets, because I won’t use the machines in the stations for small number ticket purchases.

UGH …

The other night, when today’s job was arranged, my friend had a morning appointment up town, and the she was supposed to call.

I waited, and waited, and waited … I sort of figured out that the morning would be a wash out.

An hour later than usual, my phone rang. My friend had realized that her appointment wasn’t this morning, but tomorrow morning.

I got dressed and walked back to the mall. Because of Montreal’s 375 birthday today, the city is all lit up and polished and there were events going on all over the city throughout tonight. I was not sure if buses were free, which is why I needed tickets.

The Metro – was free all day.

I got on the train going uptown to change over to the Orange line one stop up. While the train was in motion, my phone rang in the tunnel. My friend tells me that they have shut down the orange line and evacuated the Vendome Station.

The word was ABORT the MISSION.

Arriving one stop up, I go back upstairs for the return train, coming back to where I had just departed. The Line stoppage was on the telly, and the audible was talking inside the station.

I got back on the green line and returned to Atwater, where I had started.

I had wasted two hours.

On the way home, I needed to go to The Tire, and get my window prep tools so that I could hang the A.C. in the bedroom. Fifty dollars later, I was ready to do some work.

Got home, changed out, and prepped the window with sealant, and set the A.C. in the window. Once one hangs the A.C. you have to plastic over the window above the unit, unless you have a plexiglass sheet that slides into that space. I don’t …

I bought double thickness window plastic sheets. With a little finesse and a roll of duct tape, the job took me half an hour. I had to fix my drapes, because my rods were strained with the thick drapes we have hanging on the windows.

I blocked the morning off for a friend. And that was a wash out.

While I was working on the A.C. my phone rang, and my friend told me her saga of what went down when the trains stopped running. She was in town, up the road, and was calling to see if I would commit to the morning run all the way across town to see a property, now, in the afternoon.

I told her NO.

My afternoons are devoted to nap time. Unless you are sick or dying, I’m not going to change my afternoon rest time.

I’ve learned over the years, that taking care of myself is something I must do to make sure I am optimal when I need to be. I cannot crank life out seven days a week any more. I drove myself sick at the end of last summer doing that to myself.

There are limits to what I will commit to on any given day.

Time is money, and I don’t make any money with the time I spend working with others. So that translates into personal money. Running all over town is not something I enjoy doing, unless it is for someone or something specific.

Read … Don’t waste my time