Friday … Thoughts

Friday, Thank God it’s Friday, Friday, Fridaaaaaaaaay !!!

Basking in the afterglow of Thursday’s experience, sharing the book. I called my friend and told him what had happened last night, and today we had a second conversation about it.

You never know when inspiration is gonna hit, because specific spiritual experience is always a surprise. I just know that in my experience, if i wanna see a spiritual experience, I have to go to a meeting, and watch my friends, continue to get sober.

I’ve listened to people read the book, in a meeting setting. Several times. I’ve read the big book, in a meeting setting, several times. It has been my experience, that if I am going through a hard time, in any way, that if I sit in a big book meeting, I am not going to drink.

I’ve used that tactic before, and it worked. What stunned me afterwards, was the number of people who have read the big book, in the same room, decide, after reading said book, to drink again.

We talked tonight about criticism. Whether that be negative or positive criticism. Most people stay away from criticism. And if someone has something critical to say, they usually couch that criticism, in the form of a suggestion.

For the longest time, even as long as I’ve been sober, I always second guess myself. I am my own worst critic. And all along, I go to different meetings, and I share here and there. For a little while, like a year, whenever I would open my mouth, not sure if what i was about to say, was correct, or wrong, or maybe I should just shut up, I would talk. Sometimes just to hear myself talk.

Hoping against hope, that someone, anyone, would give me something ? Anything ?

I don’t know what old timers think about me, or about anything I say in open community. As I said, I share at discussion meetings, and when nobody said anything to me, nor do they even intimate, something in my direction, I have thrown caution to the wind. And I just let it fly.

But I know that before I speak, I’ve done my homework. I collect data in meetings, and then when appropriate, I let it fly. I read the book. I go to meetings. I work with others. I don’t criticize my guys openly, or even to their faces.I take the same tack my sponsor uses with me. If I talk to my sponsor and tell him a story, about me, or something that is weighing on my mind, my sponsor will tell me a story about him, and that story is not necessarily a sober story, but it could be a life story. Within that story, is usually couched a lesson.

With Todd, if he wanted me to learn something, he used work, or a chore, to make his point. Everything I did in that bar, during those two years, there was a lesson couched within my work. Everything I did came with a life lesson, that Todd thought I would need, HAD I reached the point of no return, with my AIDS diagnosis. All the major lessons, were about survival, and self care. He believed that if I could learn to do something that I did not necessarily want to do that was either difficult, or dirty, or repugnant, there was a reason he pushed my envelope. Because in the end, when I succeeded at doing something for him, that if I needed to do something for myself, I would know what to do, if shit got real, or I got sicker, or if my health took a bad turn for the worse.

Gratefully, it did not get that bad. I skated above the fray, that entire period, while people were sick and dying left and right.

I’m still waiting on someone to say something to me.

I recounted to a friend, that when I hit my emotional bottom, after the Pulse shooting, I was angry and upset for a long time. The only thing old timers said to me during that period of time was this: They noticed I was angry, and they were not afraid to point out to me that I was angry. One old timer woman, at a Sunday meeting I used to go to, one night I was setting up and she walked in to my tossing chairs across the room, quite angrily. And she looked at me and said this: “You know you are angry, and I’d like you to leave this meeting and not come back, you are scaring the women.” I left that meeting and did not go back.

Nobody in all that time, offered me one clue to how to cure my anger or get over it. None of those old timers gave me anything about coping with anger or dealing with my anger, or anything sober, that might help me stop being angry in sobriety.

I rode that roller coaster ALONE, for two years, because nobody wanted to touch me with a ten foot pole. Nobody said anything to me. Not a word. In the Big Book meeting I sat in for fourteen months, not one human, gay or straight, said one word to me, in any form suggestion or criticism, i walked this road all by myself. Until the roller coaster came into the station and stopped.

That is a thing. I guess he fact that I am good, in sobriety. I am fully engaged, doing service, going to meetings, reading the book, I try not to be self centered, or egotistical, or arrogant or angry, people just leave me alone. So I am doing the best I can, with everything I have, and everything I do in sobriety.

I work my ass off, unlike many people I know in the rooms today. they will all show up, because I have keys to every meeting I go to, and I am the one who sets up and makes coffee, several times a week. They know the room will be ready and the coffee will be ready when they get there. The only criticism I would get is this … “If the coffee were to happen to be late, or the urn of coffee was not good, you bet your ass, they would say something about my coffee.” You know you’ve arrived when someone tells you that your coffee is shit !

Lastly, I know I’ve lost some readers, over the past week. because of some of the information I am posting here about my personal life and choices. That’s ok. I get it. Chastity is not a topic people want to hear about, or about my former sex life. Suffice to say, I’ve been permanently locked for two days now, and I’ve had my rage cage for three days. I love this cage. And I love that I am so good with my decisions. it has totally changed my perspective on life and my surrender.

I’m really in a good place.

God is good. In all things.

If I know I’ve done a good job, I don’t need to hear from anyone. And I do a good job, all the time, to the best of my ability.

Goodnight.

Memory – One on One

And Now for something Entirely Off Topic …

I started High School in 1982. That’s 37 years ago. That first week, we would walk off campus to the Catholic Church that was just a block up the street from our school. There I met a lot of people and the leader of a rag tag bunch of youth workers, who ran one of the best youth groups, the Miami Catholic Diocese had ever seen.

I would soon join this church. My parents were still excommunicated from the church for my mother choosing birth control after my brother was born in 1970, in Connecticut, because she was RH Positive and the doctors told her she could not have any more children, so she had a Tubiligation.

It was a really good thing my parents stopped at two, because I imagine what kind of abuse they would have suffered like I had in my life.

The church was not pleased at all. In my later years of High School, they would meet with the Pastor or this church and he would absolve them of their sins and welcome them back into the church fully.

But I digress …

Some of my BEST friends came from that Youth group. All of them have moved on in the world, I’ve only contacted one of them, and the others have no digital footprints. So I don’t know where they all are, but I wonder. Some of the best times I’ve had in my life were there, and I still have a handful of friends off Face Book that I keep in touch with on Messenger

This music reminds me of them from so many years ago.

Yesterday I was napping and my mental stereo was on and I was singing an old hymn that we used to sing on the world famous retreats that we used to go on, as part of this rag tag youth group.

I got up, and loaded my I-tunes. And I searched “The Imperials – and Petra” both of these bands are contemporary Christian artist of the mid eighties and early nineties. The other one was Children of the Light, “Come on in the Water’s Fine.” This song, would play as the dining hall was readying for diners who were waiting outside the doors.

This song would start as the serving team were standing on chairs clapping their hands to the beat, welcoming diners into the dining hall, it was ritualistic and the most amazing event I’ve ever attended.

For all those years we listened to a lot of Christian music. We went to concerts together with other parishes and other denominational churches like Old Cutler Presbyterian Church which was not far from home.

I was listening to my music I had loaded on my phone this morning while grocery shopping, and there are a handful of Imperials tunes that are sacred and special to me, and 37 years later, I am listening to the song and I am singing the words, as if it was yesterday …

I remembered every single word of every song I listened to.

That first year on retreat, we were introduced to Christianity, and turning our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him. I did not know that concept in tenth grade, but I do today, because I am sober.

Imagine a rag tag bunch of kids have just spent a weekend at a camp talking about Jesus, and on the ultimate Saturday night, there was an Altar Call and we all committed our lives to Jesus. We had gone to the mountain and met God, for the first time in our lives.

Then we had to come home …

Sunday night at church, I spoke to the congregation, I was sobbing uncontrollably because I’d never felt such love in my life as I had that weekend. And I had to carry that feeling into the world with me on Monday morning when I went to school, a New Christian Soldier.

What do you tell a rag tag bunch of kids who proudly carry their bibles into battle for the souls of your friends, and everyone is looking at you like we were all crazy. What did I know about proselytizing ?

My Satanic friends who believed in the Devil came out of the woodwork and the even threatened my math teacher and his family, that was not good at all. It was not pretty at all.

But we had to carry Jesus around with us for all eternity. It did not go as planned. Because I would love Jesus and Hate him in the span of just a few years when I would enter seminary and Love Jesus, and then by years end, when asked to leave said seminary, I hated Jesus more than I loved Him.

Now sober almost eighteen years, I know God. As I understand Him. I met and had a relationship with God through the human visage of Todd. He was the most sainted representation of God I will ever know. That man saved my life, and also, God spared me from death and suffering.

Why ? I have no idea, what made me so special to save?

You’d have to ask Todd that question.

Be Still my Soul and Know that He is God…

I remember how I stood and sobbed as I said the prayer that brought me into life with Jesus as a Kid. And now, when I say my Third Step Prayer daily, I say that prayer all over again, in different words, but the thoughts and actions are the same.

Every Day I commit my life to God in Sobriety, because He is in control of my life and my sobriety. And If I help one person in this life in the ways that Todd taught me to do, then I have done my job.

I have done that, and continue to do that daily, as I am able.

Monday: “Todd” As I Understand Him

baptism-jesus

At this evenings Monday Meeting, we read Step Three.

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

Step Three is all about the “DECISION.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s a janitor …

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

Thankless, Mundane, Work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was HUGE.

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

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

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

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

Meditative …He sees this benefit himself.

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

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

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

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

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

YEAH BUT …

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

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

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

Was that ODD or was that GOD ???

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

There IS a GOD and I am not He.

Friday: The Quality of Surrender

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It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The first really BIG weekend in Montreal has begun. The F1 Grand Prix, is the penultimate event of the season for the city and the millions of people who come from far and wide to participate.

It only gets better from here, with the Festival Season that opens over the next month.

I did nothing all day. I did my shop early and came home and crawled back into bed. I’m not opening any longer, which frees me to head out a little later than usual. I got ready to go and took my time in getting to the church. The transfer out was quick, and I arrived at the church to find a friend sitting on the church steps, enjoying the sun, so I sat with him for a bit and chatted.

A new group of young men are on the stage to open and set up. We, (read: the group conscience) spoke and we handed the keys and responsibilities to them, so that they would be responsible and show up and become service hounds in the process.

Experience over the years has taught us one true thing …

Service will keep you sober.

The reading WAS Step Three …Actually … The Step Three Prayer.

I heard many things spoken. But one young man said something that I actually wrote down. Step Three is an important step. It is the first step where a prayer is asked of us.

It asks of us to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him.

Step Three reads: Made a decision, to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

This appears on Page 63 of the Big Book.

The three most important words in the Big Book, appear on page 112.

Read This Book …

This young man said: Surrender has to come first, before we utter this prayer out loud. Our surrender affects everything else that comes afterwards.

The Quality of my surrender dictates how everything will turn out.

How much do we surrender when we pray ? 10%, 50%, 100%

I can concede that I need to “Turn it over,” But in my case, my surrender usually has conditions, or the usual, “Yeah BUT.” My sponsor said to me, not long ago, that I needed to open my fist and turn my hand towards God and Let Go Absolutely.

With No Conditions, or Explanations or Expectations.

Surrender is the whole point of getting sober.

I can’t – He Can – So I will let Him.

We cannot do this thing alone, which is why we need to go to meetings, and we also need others. I know, for me, that when I pray to God, I am either going to get an Up/Down response, or if the Up/Down does not come, I need to go to a meeting and listen to my friends and get a vertical person to person response.

If God does not talk to me directly, I usually find that He speaks through other people in any meeting I go to. It usually works that way for me.

Lately, God needs my attention. And I either accept that or I do not. I know that when God needs my attention, he removes something from me, in order that I have more of me to pay attention to Him.

That is either the removal of people, places, things or activities.

We believe that we always need to be engaged. Always doing something, helping everyone else, trying to wrest control over a situation that might be OUT of control.

I’ve been spread too thin for too long. People have taken advantage of my good will. And eventually, I get pushed over my personal limit of Fuck It …

So I sat in front of the church this evening, with nothing to do, talking to a friend.

That was a particularly good God Moment.

When I got sober the second time, I was ready to surrender. And in the moment when I got on my knees and prayed to God, I surrendered.

The rest you can say is history.

Because I am right here, right now.

And We did not drink today.

And together, the entire room, spoke with one voice, The Third Step Prayer.

It was a good thing …

Physician Heal Thyself … “Absolutley, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly”

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Tonight, January 9th …We read, Physician Heal Thyself. A story about Humility. A story about Higher Power, A story about Turning it Over.  And this topic that I had written on some time ago, repeats itself. So I present it again.

An old friend came to the meeting tonight. A friend I have known since he came in some time ago, and I had an amends to make to him, because, on a particular night, I stood in front of a meeting, and spoke. It was the first time I had spoken at a meeting in over five years. In retrospect, I was not very sober.

I might have had some time, but on that particular night, I was all over the map. And not seeing this friend since, I have had time to see the past, in the light that I see it now.

Lessons come, but the real nugget only comes in retrospect.

And my friend said to me that he was in the market for a sponsor, that his double digit sponsor was fading away into the air and away from meetings. On the way to the metro the discussion we were having had a sense of urgency to it, incomplete though it was.

Hopefully we will cross paths again.

Juan is set to speak, for the first time in his sober journey at St Matthias on the 26th. I wasn’t sure he would accept, but he did gladly. Its a very important job when you get to do it for the first time. I’ve never heard him tell his story to a room, no one has. But I know his story from our work together over the past two years.

I’ve had some time to regroup, and re-order my life. Now I know, really, at this point, what I want, where I am going, and what I need to do to get there. I’ve made some new contacts in other meetings. I’ve taken on a service position at the Area level for the Friday meeting, which is a two year commitment. I’ve joined the Thursday night meeting, officially, and I chaired the business meeting last week. The Monday Big Book meeting has become part of my regular meeting schedule.

We are off to a good start. Everybody has work to do. We are all ordering our lives accordingly, using new tools, (read: Bullet Journal).

With that I give you … Absolutely, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly, Redux.

RARELY have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided that you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.

At some of these we balked. We thought that we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.

Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power – that One is God. May you find him now.

When I arrived at the point that God felt I was ready to work with others, he opened the gates and sent me my troop. And ever since then, I have endeavored to be absolutely, completely, thoroughly, honest. Over the past few days, it has been said that I have kept my troop honest. Which filled my heart with joy overflowing.

There are things we do daily, weekly, and often that keep us on the path to staying honest in all our affairs. Over the past few weeks, we have heard stories, and I have written about them here. The overarching theme lately has been, what happens when we are dishonest, when we keep secrets and when we tell lies.

I can’t repeat often enough, the warnings we are hearing from the chair at speaker meetings. Because now, I listen to my friends talk about their stories, and the varied choices they had made and continue to make, and I utter that prayer …

There but for the Grace of God go I … I could be them !

How it Works, is a staple reading, you hear at almost every meeting, one way or another. It is repetitive, and the words never change. They were written decades ago and are words of wisdom from a bygone era. After hearing this reading read, one too many times, I heard a particular woman, get up and read this passage, slowly, passionately, word for word, slowly, methodically, with a sense of meaning I had not heard before in the past.

There are two types of How It Works Readers…

  • The Machine Gun barrage – from beginning to end without a breath
  • The Toss it all Together reader – who does not respect the comma or period.

Tonight, we listened to it read at the top of the meeting, and we heard the reading parsed by our speaker tonight.

“Absolutley, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly”

There comes a time in sobriety, that we think we have this all wrapped up, and we are doing well, and have no fear of that first drink. Scary …

But when the chips are down, and we are against the proverbial wall, are we able to speak to our friends and fellows, and tell them that “maybe we are not doing so well, and that we may be in trouble, and that the outsides might not be congruent with our insides?”

We go into meetings, and we always want to look good on the outside, because we want our fellows to see calm, sober, good looking people. But just beneath the surface, the reality might be that we are not really calm, or sober, or good looking.

Sometimes, we are just not 100%.

The truth is when we are able to say, “I am not okay!”

If we are rooted in honesty, even if it hurts, we can share anything with our friends and sponsors. This is where, secrets and lies, arise. They say, and I heard it again tonight, that “While we are in meetings, our alcoholism is out in the parking lot doing push ups … Waiting patiently for us outside.”

And you never know, when it is going to happen. We begin to keep secrets, and our old alcoholic behavior rears its ugly head. Our old thinking returns, old patterns return, and we slip into old behavior, oh so quietly. And we might not recognize it right away, and if we don’t, we are off to the races.

They tell us that when we hit a slip, that it is premeditated. That often, what starts as an errant thought, becomes an errant action. Time and time again, we listen to stories of people who go back out, and when they return, we hear what happened and what led them back out the door.

Sobriety Looses Its Priority.

What happens when we keep secrets and what happens when we begin telling lies, not to others, but lying to ourselves to begin with? It begins with us, in our heads. If we are not vigilant we can fall into this trap. Secrets and Lies.

It might be simple and innocuous, but after a while, becomes a snowball heading down the mountain at 100 miles per hour.

I sat there tonight, listening to a man tell a story about being sober a LONG time, falling into old behavior, and then he kept a secret and told a few lies, and then ended up in a bar, with not one beer, BUT TWO …

Then follows years of getting stuck in the proverbial revolving door. Our man is one, that I have seen in my time, who collect enough beginner’s chips to tile a bathroom with. He goes to meetings, but is unwilling to get honest. Sponsors turn him away and won’t take him on, because, let’s face it, if we are being honest, if you aren’t in the game, most men or women would not take you on, unless you are ready and willing to get honest, because this is your life/our life we are talking about.

The warning is very stark and very real.

We heard it again tonight, those similar words,

“Please, for the love of God, Do Not Do what I did.”

If you are out there in the room, and you are pondering a slip, or you are in any way feeling squirrely, or you are coming back, please, talk to someone, don’t leave this room with shit on your shoulders.

When I hear stories like this time and time again, I come home and I write them down, then I turn around and speak to my troop about warnings and prevention.

I remind them that this is not a game to be taken lightly. They need to be in the game 100%, and we work tirelessly, to maintain The Work at maximum efficiency.

Winter has not been kind to our numbers. For the last few months, on both the sides of women and men, we have heard how they have battled the bottle in sobriety.

I go to my meetings, and I know my friends, and I get there early enough that I get to spend twenty minutes talking to them. We know who the front row sobriety folks are, and we also know who the back benchers are. Which is why, at certain meetings, we have moved seats forward and off the back wall. We put out more chairs in the room proper, to make sure, everyone is sitting among everybody else.

That is why we stress, at my home groups that, the twenty minutes before and the twenty minutes after are the most important minutes in a meeting, because we get fellowship, phone numbers and friends. Not necessarily in that order.

The warnings have been clear … Absolutely, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly.

Anything else, is a recipe for certain disaster …