The One thing that unites alcoholics comes down to one phrase:
I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL, LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DEALT WITH THAT
The One Thing we can always count on, in the rooms, is there is usually, I don’t say always, because I am unique, usually someone who identifies with what we say, and can offer wisdom, based on their own experience.
Sadly, I’ve only heard this sentence spoken by one human being, in all my years of sobriety. Lorna, was the woman who shared this piece of advice with us, to give us hope that we were not alone in our struggles.
She gave this advice, because she knew Mother Teresa of Calcutta. They spent a lot of time together, prior to Mother’s death. Mother Teresa knew of every kind of suffering, and she knew how to deal with every kind of suffering. The one area that stumped her, was the Alcoholic.
She would ask Lorna about alcoholics, about meetings, and about Lorna’s story. She was so interested, Lorna once quipped to Mother, “Mother, are you sure you don’t have a problem?” At which point, Mother would genuinely giggle out loud.
The one thing Mother Teresa did not have was A STORY. She did not have those words of everlasting life…
I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL, LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DEALT WITH THAT.
I keep Lorna, close to my heart. Since she passed a few years ago, her words ring truer every day that I stay sober, because it is she I go back to when I need the voice of an elder who I knew personally, had conversations with, and fellow shipped with here in Montreal.
I had several conversations earlier tonight with friends. And the wisdom I draw upon, is mostly observational and my skills at listening attentively. I trust very few people in sobriety, with ME. I share myself quite liberally with my peers, and those I work with on a regular basis.
My experience with long sober people is hit and miss. As How it Works says, “We are not saints.” That can be said for every one of us. We have learned recently that, under the cover of anonymity, people feel safe to say just about anything in open community, with the proviso that, nothing they say, can be used against them, somewhere else.
My lady friend who chaired the business meeting that got very ugly, said to me tonight, that the wisdom she drew was this … “There are points in my journey that I have shared certain things, “in community” that, now make me cringe, that I even said what it was I said.”
Alcoholics are not perfect. By any stretch.
But we try, at least. I’ve been trying for a very long time, to keep it together and become more spiritually fit, as was pointed out to us this evening, by our speaker. I might be sober, but, if I am not spiritually fit, then why bother?
It concerns me, deeply, the lengths I go to to work my program, be present, do service, and help others. What is most egregious is that, there is not one old timer, that I know, over as many years, who has walked up to me and asked me out for coffee, to chat, to point something out, or just to connect.
I have experience with men who have time, and have wronged me in the worst way, who, still to this day, have never returned to set the record right. So I stay away from those men. I don’t talk to them, I don’t attend the same meetings they populate, and I surely don’t carry their numbers in my phone.
I just don’t find it advantageous to go out of my way to be friends with someone who really does not care about me, period!!!
I sit in meetings right now, and I wonder, does anybody notice? Not that I am speaking about my ego, because I am not.
I’m speaking honestly.
I have three friends, right now, who have my number. My best friends, and a young man I work with occasionally. They are the only three people who use my number regularly. Old timers come to meetings, say hello, and beyond that, any other words are negligible.
Over the last many years, when I was in the dumps, and in need of another human being, to step up and say those magic words to me, when I was at my worst, during the very worst period in my entire sobriety, not one man or woman came and said anything to me.
Yes, I admit that an Angry, Gay, Alcoholic, is not pretty. Being who I am, being a Gay, HIV+, Crazy, Alcoholic does not register, because there is NO ONE in rooms who share any segment of my story, with me.
Yes, we might be alcoholics, but nobody seems to be interested in conversation, beyond pleasantries while sitting in the same room.
I thought to myself, before I started writing this piece, that I feel like I’ve been sold a harsh bill of goods. Like I have been short changed. Since the day I got sober, no one has presented the book to me, in any form, that resembles any sober method, I have heard worked in other places.
Last fall when I worked my last round of steps. I was given a glimpse of what the secrets of the Big Book Held for me. By someone not my gender, nor my age, nor the length of sobriety. I chose her because of who she was and what she represented to me at the time. Yes, we read the book, I worked my steps again, but when we got to page 164 … she was done, so to speak.
She had walked me through the front of the book, and I was on my own to divine whatever it was I am supposed to figure out, with another layer of sobriety laid open.
I’ve said this before … Sober, Old Timers, are thin on the ground. Sober, Spiritually Fit, Old timers, are even more rare. The choices in our section of town are thin.
I stay away from Terminally Straight Men, for obvious reasons.
What does a hockey loving, pussy chasing, terminally straight man, have in common with a Gay, HIV+, Crazy alcoholic, beyond a shared addiction to alcohol. I’ve watched men like this in community. Their history with interactions with me, were less than stellar.
I’ve said this before, I only take to being ignored, so far. Especially, if ignoring me includes a meal. If you cannot bother to break bread with me and share a table with me and get to know me, then why bother ???
People like to quote the book to me. And tell me how inclusive they are, as fellow alcoholics, and how people care about each other, until it comes time to sit down for a meal, as one, two, then ten men, walk by and sit somewhere else, to eat, rather that be caught dead at my table,
I have your number…
So I wonder, does it matter that I go to meetings? Does it matter to anyone that I have been spinning my wheels for a long time, and that long sober counsel is evidently missing from my life. And that I am drawing at straws to figure out how to stay spiritually connected to my higher power.
I do homework. I am always looking to find the next best thing to learn about myself. Cue me some Brene Brown, some Oprah, and Ted Talks, and sober shares by old timers who live somewhere else, who came here to speak at a Round Up, so I have them on my phone. So I can readily go back and listen to them talk to me.
You know, I could sit in the middle of a meeting and yell “FIRE” and see if I get a reaction. I know, it is against the law to walk into a space and yell the word “FIRE!”
I don’t know if people, listen to me, to the degree that I listen to them? I’ve spent the better part of my sobriety, listening to everybody else. And from that listening exercise, I have observational data about my peers. If you sit in the same room for any length of time, let’s say 12 years, and you’ve watched people come and go, some stay, some grow up, others, not so much, you learn a lot about your peers.
I said this yesterday, In as many years, I know, directly, everything that my friends did in sobriety. I listened to them talk, to bitch and moan. I watched them make decisions, and act, and from all this data, I got sober, by either doing what was working, or NOT DOING what did not work.
I made decisions based on how others attacked similar problems and situations. I sought the advice of people I trusted. I stayed sober, by the book, doing what I was told to do, by those who came before me, and set the table for my success.
Sobriety in 2019, is not the same sobriety of 2001.
I said this earlier, old timers might still be around, who were sober when I came in, whether they are stable, spiritually fit, sane, old timers, is the question. I can count on one hand, how many people, from my specific sobriety period, who are still sober, on their first pass.
I’ve practically outlived my friends, in sober terms.
I don’t necessarily believe I am always spiritually fit, and I admit there is always room for improvement. I don’t always have all the answers, but if faced with working with others, I draw on years of observational data, and years of listening to people suss out how to deal with situations we find ourselves in today.
There are very few, if any, folks, who will approach me and offer an opportunity to share, beyond sitting in the same room for an hour.
I don’t know why.
It think it goes like this … Friendship is Reciprocal. Or Supposedly, that’s how friendships work. At least, my friends reciprocate.
If pressed, in sobriety, when you ask an alcoholic to do something, the stock answer is always Yes. Inside a meeting.
Usually, if you ask an alcoholic to do something outside a room, the yes answer is a 50 / 50 chance.
If you sit at home, hoping that certain alcoholics are going to think about you, or call you, or invite you out for coffee, or even call to see if you are ok, after some particularly, serious meeting, or issue I laid on the table for consideration, the reciprocal action is absent.
I stopped being kind and over extending myself, my husband, and my dinner table, to people who never reciprocated. I’ve changed up my holiday roster of invitees. I don’t feed old timers, like I used to, I stopped associating with the old, catty, and vindictive queers.
Not One Gay Man, in the rooms, has anything in common with me. And they have made that perfectly clear to me over the years. You know, after a few meetings, who are your friends, and who puts up with you, because you share a meeting. And I know who does not care for me, or my style of sobriety.
There is no love lost on many people. I know, for the last seventeen years, who stood with me during my stormy period and who did not. I kept on, keeping on, by doing what it was I was told to do when I first got sober.
Suit Up, Show Up, Make Coffee, Shake Hands, Be Present, Listen
These simple guidelines did the trick. I am still sober.
I tell them to young people, and they look at me with the Side Eye. Like I am someone from outer space. Folks getting sober, make life so much more complicated today. When a simple suggestion, if followed to the letter, WILL produce immediate results, folks would rather eat dirt.
Fuck me for trying …
I’m feeling all kinds of fucked up right now.
Not sure what I should do right now, so I will sleep on my words, and tell my best friend, tomorrow.
At least I have three friends, at the moment, I can count on.
Old Timers, not so much.
I go where I think I need to go, and talk to people I am familiar with, who at least, have known me for a long time, who don’t necessarily communicate outside a meeting, because they have lives, too.
It is Friday. The Best night of the week, at least it used to be.
It is Winter …