At the end of the day, it is character that either makes you a good person or a bad person. At the end of the day, when you speak of others, it is what you say about those people, that tells us just what kind of person you really are.
The Anonymity Statement says:
Who you see here, What you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.
We keep to this statement, when discussing certain topics. I amended my writing method to reflect BRAVING, as stated by Brene Brown.
Over the holidays, we hit more meetings than usual, to keep up with our kids, to make sure they stayed sober, over the holidays. We kept rooms open on the holidays and we were on top of our community as whole. In the end, everybody succeeded. And we were all glad for that.
On Christmas Night, we hit a meeting we don’t usually hit, but it was Christmas, and friends who came to dinner, here at my home, wanted to hit that particular meeting, because it is close to my home.
The room was full. And a number of my friends, were in attendance.
As the share, on the topic, went around the room, one particular man, who struggles himself, chimed in on the discussion. I’ve been around a while, and I know how many passes, many of my friends have made, at trying to get sober. Some make it, many do not.
One thing about recovery … we don’t revel in the suffering of another human being. So when the comment came out of his mouth, everyone took notice of what he said, and I quote:
I really love to watch people go back out and drink. I “get off” on seeing someone fail at getting sober. It makes me feel superior to them.
This very same man, is a member at our Thursday meeting, and had been our Twelve Step Rep. The job, representing our group as a whole, to welcome the newcomer, or those coming back from a slip.
He was the one person we put in the job to be welcoming, to be respectful, to represent the fellowship with respect, character and humility.
Tonight, at the business meeting, we set out to vote on setting new people into term jobs for the group. The Twelve Step Rep, was one of those jobs.
Our man, spoke up, and nominated himself, again, for the job.
There were several of us sitting around that table, tonight, who heard this man speak those words at the Christmas meeting.
This has been a bone of contention between us for weeks now. Because nobody disagreed that the words spoken were disagreeable. And in his defense, we should not have brought up something he said, in Another Meeting, and bring up his words at anther meeting.
The Anonymity Rule applies.
One of my friends brought up the comment. And myself and another, who had been sitting in said meeting, knew of the issue, because we were there.
He argued the anonymity statement, and was offended that we would bring up a comment he spoke, against him.
We disagreed with him.
It all comes back to character.
All of my friends, at differing lengths of sobriety, said that they really did not think that someone who “gets off” on someone else’s misfortunes, should retain the job, of welcoming someone who had an unfortunate slip or someone coming to their first meeting.
It is hard enough walking into the room, the first time. We all know this. Everybody knows this. My friend said tonight, that he would rather see someone who had a little more humility and a little less judgment of those who suffer, giving out the chip.
Needless to say, the meeting did not end well. And the Twelve Step job is still vacant. The chair of the business meeting decided to stay the vote and table it till next month, so we could calm down and rethink our positions on said issue.
Nobody has the right to judge anyone else, we are all in the same boat. Some longer sober than others.
I have my time in the rooms, and I’ve heard many things said, in the anonymity and safety of any room I go to.
I’ve never heard another member say that they “get off” on people’s misfortunes. You might think that, but I’ve never heard the sentiment spoken in open community.
Comments like this leave a bad taste in our mouths.
Let’s say I drank again, and walked into a room, and hit my next, First meeting. And I had to do the walk, up to the table, and take a chip again.
Now, what if I knew, that the human handing me that chip, “got off” on my misfortune ? What would that say about the health of the fellowship, or the group as an entity of sobriety ?
I know better than to talk about my friends here. Because the last time I did that, the flame and vitriol that was directed at me, by sober people was terrible.
We might think many things to ourselves. That all changes, when we make terrible judgment calls about our friends, especially if they are suffering. In open community.
What people hear in meetings, stays with them, when they walk out the door, and sometimes words we hear, affect us, and affects those people if they have a roll to play in a meeting. You might be anonymous in a meeting, but if you say something that is repulsive, everyone who heard you say whatever it was you said, will remember those words.
This is a lesson in sobriety for sure. We can all learn from this situation, and how we should deal with this kind of issue. Sobriety is about getting better and becoming better men and women.
Sobriety is not about getting off on someone else’s misfortunes.
It all comes back to the questions of character and sobriety.
Instead of writing an entire expose of the past year, I thought I would share the first thought that made it into print, the first entry of every month of 2018. A little retrospective, of course. Enjoy !!!
January 2018 …
In 1998, at four years sober, every man I knew, at that four year mark, walked out the doors and drank and used again. Including myself.
At that time, it was the messaging, that just solidified my decision to take my life back into my own hands and go out. When an alcoholic walks up to you and says Get Out and Don’t come back … what are you supposed to do, when you figure out, your options at that point are very slim, on the ground.
February 2018 …
I wrote this letter to my Spiritual Director the other night. It is pertinent to my life today, because it reflects my growth in certain areas of my life at the moment.
I hope that things have gotten a bit better than they were a few days
ago. Sometimes it’s a bitch having to recite and accept those pesky
They might come in handy when necessary, but when they become prayer
mantras, that’s the worst, because you know, you have to totally “Turn
it over, right ?”
How many times had I heard, Stick with the Winners, and Stay until the Miracle happens, and This Too Shall Pass … UGH
March 2018 …
It has been a few days since my last update. It has been a busy time
for everybody all around. We have a family wedding in May, it will be
the first time, in many years that the entire family will be in the same
location at the same time, to celebrate my niece Melissa and her
husband to be, Stephan’s wedding.
We have watched our nieces and nephews grow up into fine young
adults. And we spoil them whenever we get the chance. Holidays are
always a big deal for our family. We will be traveling to Southern
Ontario (on the train) a first for us.
In July, one of my guys, Juan is going to marry his fiancée Nadia, in a very intimate setting here in Montreal. We’ve been working very hard at keeping them “on the beam” so to speak. Juggling school, work, wedding preparations and life, is a tall order. But, like they say, “we have a program for that!”
April 1 2018 – Easter Sunday
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
John 20: 11-18
Now Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do
not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go
instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and
your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
May 2018 …
Two years ago, this very week, May 1st, 2016 to be exact, Fort
McMurray, in Alberta, Western Canada was a tinder box, and went up in
flames. We covered that tragedy here on the blog. Hundreds of thousands
of people were displaced, thousands upon thousands of homes were burned
to the ground.
But, resilient as people are, Fort McMurray is on the rebound as rebuilding has been going on since the all clear was sounded.
Seasonal changes have been occurring … This is fact.
Winters have been long and arduous. The snow pack is deep, again this
year. Snow has been falling to the ground across Canada into the month
of May this year. Here in Quebec, Winter went so long, we thought it
would never end.
June 2018 …
Have you ever loved something so much, that you thought at one point,
that you would do that thing for the rest of your life ? Climb the
ladder of success, in a field/job, a sport, in music, or a trade ?
And what happens when you reach the point of success, let’s say, “going to an Olympics in Beijing as a Canadian athlete at the top of ones game.” And then having the tables turn on you, and that sport you loved, and gave it all of your heart and soul, and then that passion for the game DIES within, and alcohol becomes your best friend and companion.
July 2018 …
Staying the course, and always doing the next right thing, is good sound advice.
When the chatter in my head is running at fever pitch, and my
emotions seem to rule every decision or thought at times, I know that I
need to stop and take a break.
Read: I need to STOP and Pray !!!
Funny how things fall into my lap, when I most need them. Or, little
signs from somewhere outside of myself, seem to appear, in front of me,
at the oddest moments.
I have told the story about my I-Phones tendency to shuffle me a speaker, one speaker in particular, when I really need a talking to. It seems to know me better than I know myself at times, which begs the question … Are Our I-Phones sentient ???
August 2018 …
My birthday was the 31st of July. The morning of my birthday, when I got up and out of bed, I was still alive. I saw my doctor a couple of days before my birthday, and once again, I thanked him for keeping me alive another year.
This incarnation of my blog reached it’s First Anniversary. Thanks to
cowards and their dishonesty. People would rather eat dirt, than be
Without my doctor, where would I be right now ? I Don’t Know …
The people that mattered, celebrated my birthday, each in their own special ways.
September 2018 …
Summer is officially over. We did not Labor, over the Labor day weekend.
However good news did come.
October 2018 …
Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond
Have you ever wondered, how did we get here? Where did we come from?
Why here and Why now? Why are some countries rich, and others poor? Why
do human live where they live today, and where did the first peoples
Being an avid reader poses challenges now and then. Picking up a
substantive book, and reading it from cover to cover, requires time,
treasure and commitment. I have several substantial books in my “read”
library stack. It took me quite a while to consume Guns, Germs and
Steel. Not only does this book require time and treasure, it demands of
its reader, patience, understanding, and a desire to learn; something
that I found, was enlightening and educational.
Jared Diamond begins some 13,000 years ago, when the world was first
populated with hunter gatherers. The continents were finding their
places, ice ages, came and went. And early humans, as archeologists have
studied began to populate the earth. When oceans were shallower, and
land bridges existed, in several locations on the earth, people moved
here and there.
Indigenous peoples worldwide don’t garner very much respect from the
conquering peoples who overtook them. There were multiple indigenous
communities worldwide, before the proverbial “white man” came and either
infected them with disease, enslaved them to serve, relegated them to
reserves or killed them outright in wars and conquests.
This book is methodical in its approach to humanity. And in pain
staking detail we learn what peoples lived in prehistory. We learn where
they lived to begin with and where they moved, on the earth as time
We learn how advances in food production, disasters of germs and
disease, and the advancing industrial revolution, where guns and steel
overpower those who did not have them.
We learn that in historical times, conquest and war, dispensed with
entire groups of people. You did not only get the peoples who took up
conquest, but the people who suffered because of it. The people who were
here, before we got here, grew into some, successful communities. In
the end, those vibrant indigenous communities were laid wasted by
diseases brought by the conquerors, and the wars perpetuated in the
names of Kings, Queens or Country.
As the continents were solidified, where people lived either assisted
their success or advanced their demise. Where you lived, in relation to
the latitude of your environs, either helped you, or harmed you. The
success of peoples, farming, livestock, and growth all depended greatly,
on where you sat, on the earth, in terms of latitude and longitude.
The spread of all things necessary for life, worked well, in areas
with an expansive East – West axes. Those countries with North – South,
axes, did not fare so well, the population and spread of food, animals
and technology flourished in the Eurasian, East West Expanse of
There is a direct correlation between the location of a people, and
the environment they found themselves in. From the Equator, reaching
either North or South, temperate regions flourished. Guns, Germs and
Steel tells the story of how the world became what it has.
Time, Distance, Location and the problems associated with location
either helped peoples grow and succeed, or they took much longer to
achieve certain benchmarks in their human existence. All things moving
East – West grew faster than those things moving North – South.
Time is measured in hundreds of years, The movement of people,
goods, animals, and agriculture took TIME. And it seems that in
pre-history, time is a very important component in the building of
peoples, world wide.
Jared Diamond spins a very intricate web of story telling about Time,
Talent, and Treasure. How the world built itself, learned how to govern
itself, farm the land, produce food, and be able to store that food
over Time, and then industrialize, are very important factors in human
Guns, Germs and Steel is not a simple story, it is complex on many
levels and explains the difficulty early peoples faced, in maintaining a
home, finding food to eat, and learning the hard way, especially, “what
not to eat.”
Every continent on the earth has a particular Origin Story. Every
peoples who populate the earth, where ever that may be, also have
complex Origin Stories. This very complex but wonderful study of
humanity is one of the best books I have ever read, on the subject of
just How We Got Here !
How each continent and how each people on each continent arrived
where they did, and prospered to the level they are at today is studied
exhaustively in this text. The Origins of People, Language, Customs and
Lives and how all these things moved from one area of the world to other
areas of the world is fascinating.
No stone is left un-turned by page 444 …
Pulitzer Prize books must contain certain factors that I always look
for, IF a particular book has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Because I
have read a handful of winners, that turned out to be real losers.
Guns, Germs and Steel is a Winner !!!
Read This Book !
November 2018 …
I’ve been sitting on my thoughts over the last little while. Two things I try to avoid, discussion of Religion and politics. The world has so much going on, that I have opinions about, that sometimes, I think to myself, “why bother?”
December 2018 …
December 9th 2018 came and went without fanfare.
The phone only rang once all day. The Big Celebration will take place
on Friday night, at our regular Friday Night meeting. It is our
Anniversary Meeting/Christmas Party. And I will take my cake as well.
I’ve been trying to figure out where I sit in the grand scheme of
things, a little drop in the Big Ocean of the Universe. I’ve not quite
figured that out just yet, so I am still flying by the seat of my pants.
A while back I had a conversation with a friend who is at year seven
in his transition, today. Back then, amid some strife in his life, I
told him that “What people think of us is none of our business.”
Not long ago, while talking together he parroted back to me that
phrase, but he could not place where he had originally heard it. And I
said, “that was a sober thought, and it sounds like something I would
have said to you in the past. So it went.
We talked about what he calls being “Emotionally Self Sufficient.”
Not relying on others, judgments, critiques, support or not support for
us, to dictate the men and women we become.
I don’t usually worry about what people think of me, on the whole. It
used to bother me when people, in public would critique my outfits or
judge me one way or another. I kind of grew out of that insanity.
Albeit, the hard way.
It had to be purged amid a pass through my steps this past Fall.
The one thing that haunts me to this day is the nostalgic portion of
my brain that gives credence to the thought that people would grow up
and finally want to make peace, after a lifetime of vitriol and hatred.
In the back of my head I believe that every human has One Redeeming
Quality, that can overcome whatever hardness in their hearts, if only
they would find it within themselves. Alas, that has not happened.
I really cannot stomach that there are people in my life who hate me
and want nothing to do with me because I am Gay and that I chose to take
hold of my life, and go my own way, and do my own thing, and I believe,
I did a good job so far. Some people don’t get it, and fault me for
leaving a nuclear unit to break out on my own. Let’s remember that these
same people, pushed me away and out of that nuclear unit, because I was
So Fuck Me !
There are so many good things in my life today. Today was my Quit
Day, smoking cigarettes. I’ve been on Chantix for more than a week now,
and just crossed the second week dosing of higher doses of medication.
Which has seriously curbed my desire to smoke. That is a thing.
Working with others has kept me busy and on point. Trying to be the
best human I can, and teaching lessons to others, that I learned myself
many, many years ago, today. Not too many people pay attention to my
stories, but there are three men who will listen.
And when I say to them, TRUST ME … I know what I am talking about,
because it comes from a place deep within my soul. From the man who
saved my life, and said those words to me, when I needed to hear them,
and I have survived more than twenty five years now.
Hindsight is truly a gift these days.
Christmas shopping is going on. I did the bulk of my shopping on
Tuesday. I had to travel into the Village for some things. And the
central village Metro Station is closed for renovations until next June
2019. So I had to figure out how to get out of our intermodal Berri
Station, which houses several Metro lines on three levels, down into the
ground. The main Montreal bus station and all associated towers and
service offices. There are many ways out of the station, but if you take
the wrong tower exit, you end up in a particularly “other” area of town
that you actually wanted to end up in.
There is a little snow on the ground. It is unseasonably below
average cold, but it should warm up into positive numbers come the
weekend. Long range forecasts says that snow showers will fall on
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We are hosting a Christmas Dinner party
for a friend, his wife and her mom. Their Second Christmas dinner here
at our house.
It will be grand.
All in all life is good. I am still sober. And all is well.
I have learned over many, many years, that everybody needs a second set of eyes on them. And not many people are afforded this little perk in life. The world operates on the “I can do it myself” mentality. Some make it and prosper, others, find their way into our rooms, and have to begin again, from the ground up.
Recently, I was reading a book. And was pleasantly surprised to learn a piece of truth, that just made everything make sense all of a sudden.
In my life, when my husband was diagnosed as Bi-Polar in 2003, he was very ill and was down for the count for almost an entire calendar year. What I learned in that time was the “Importance” of those second set of eyes.
When it comes to Mental Health, we should not try to go it alone. Because for the most part, a doctor, (If you can find one) sees you, (after whatever wait time you have to sit through) gives you a diagnosis, then begins the arduous task of giving one medication, one goes home and begins said treatment plan.
Then What ???
Who is gonna be there to see if what the pills that one is taking is doing the right job, and if not, have the ability to observe from the outside, what is going on in the inside of our “Significant Other.”
I know a lot of kids, in my community, going it alone. They don’t have that second set of eyes on them. In the past, I tried to be that other set of eyes for them, to the best of my ability. All of them, today, are “out there.”
Every once in a while, when sitting in a particular room, those boys and girls sitting with us, connect. And if we are wise, those of us, who know what to do, quietly bring one or two on board with us.
Quiet and Considerate action can be fruitful, if your bank is topped up and you know what to do for your fellows. A long time ago, Todd took a liking to me, and when it was necessary for him to step in and take control, that is exactly what he did. And I live to tell that story, as often as possible.
I get to take the knowledge in my bank and share it with a chosen handful of men, in my life. They trust me enough to listen. And I find that once we begin talking, we find commonality.
I don’t think we are meant to go at life alone, forever. At least, I have not had to Go It Alone for the last little while. If you can step up and be that second set of eyes for someone or to step up and mentor a young person, or go above and beyond the call and really step up your game with your kids, that is the way to go.
We only get this one life. And the faster one realizes that, “You Can’t Take It With You” when you’re dead, we then get to decide how we are going to spread our wealth and treasure with someone who just might need it, when necessary. It does not take much to help our fellow boys and girls.
All you have to do is step up and be counted. To offer a conversation, at first, and see where that goes. You might be surprised that within a simple conversation, we find ways to give back. Quietly and Humbly.
This Christmas is all about Giving It Back.
A number of years ago, when my great aunt Georgette was still alive, and was in the Grey Nuns Convent, just up the block from my home, she would call me into her office and assign me a Giving Back Job, every Christmas.
Every year was a different situation.
One year, I had to provide a Christmas dinner for a family who did not have the money to buy food. Turkey and all the fixings.
A second year, a young family could not afford gifts for their kids, so we shopped for a family and their kids.
A third year, a family could not afford a Christmas Tree and decorations. So we bought them a tree and all the doo dads to go with it.
When I was a kid, my step mom provided fantastical holiday gatherings at her house. My father was not such a fan, but it is what it is.
I have kids to give to this year. I have family that come to our home for Christmas Dinner. Chosen family. The gift of today is the ability to choose our family, when the nuclear family fails to represent.
We don’t need shiny objects or surplus doo dads that we really do not need. I think the best way to be kind, is to find one person, in your “sphere of influence” that has shared with us a passion or a desire.
It is in the listening to another, that we learn just what we can do to make a difference in someones life.
Do you listen to your friends ? Attentively ???
It is Christmas. Find that one human whom you can make a difference for, and then go do it.
Just don’t think about how much it might cost you, because the return on investment could be astronomical. You never know.
Make a difference in someones life this Christmas.
I have an uncanny ability, to see dead people. For the whole of my life, every family member, in my family, who has passed on, has come back to me, specifically. I’ve spoken about this many times before. But it bears repeating for this entry.
I was born to a couple, who, in the 1960’s were avid Catholics, who towed the party line when it came to sex and procreation. Be fruitful and multiply the church said. No Birth Control. No Premarital Sex. So Forth and So On.
My parents did not heed those words very carefully, and I think that if the local priest found out about the Premarital Sex, they would have been in hot water, so to speak. But eventually the church would catch up to them many years later when my brother was born, and the doctors told my mother that she could not have any more children. With that said, doctors performed a tubiligation. A No No when it comes to religion.
My parents were summarily EXCOMMUNICATED from the church.
So, I was born. And we were off to the races. For the whole of my life my parents beat into me a trinity of vitriol. The main point was this:
“You were a mistake and should never have been born.”
They kept that line going for more than fifty years. FIFTY YEARS.
The last time I saw my parents alive, and in person, was on New Years Day January 1st, 2001. Almost a year, till the day I got sober again, on December 9th, 2001. But I was stone cold SOBER the day we had a very abbreviated visit. Little did they know what would happen over the next calendar year for me and for them.
Being legally Gay was nail number ONE. Legally changing my name to protect my body and soul from defilement by my parents who hated me, was nail number TWO. Then jumping the border in April of 2002, was nail number THREE.
They were not happy I jumped the border, in order to survive and to get a life I thought was mine for the taking, since nobody was interested in being family, or better yet, being my friend. My brother included.
To this day, I am a mistake. I am the cause of all my families problems. And as my mother told me the last time I spoke to her in person, that litany was repeated, with another piece of information, she dug deep into my heart, because she is a stone cold bitch… “If I die, nobody is going to call you.”
My father came back, a couple of weeks after he died to say he was “sorry.” My mother had visited me prior to this a number of years ago. This time she appeared and stayed here for two days and nights. Repeating the litany of vitriol and telling me she was dead. Kind of odd, that in person she said just the opposite to me, in person. And now that she was supposedly DEAD, she came back to rub it in my face.
I wonder if God had anything to do with this skullduggery ???
I cannot for the life of me reconcile how parents can create a child then spend its entire life, telling him that he was a mistake and should never have been born, and hating on me so hard.
Well, I know how they do it. Because both my brother and myself lived in the same house they did when they copped resentments and dug in for the kill, with shutting off family light switches for LIFE !
If they hated, the kids were to hate. If they did not like someone, the kids would not like them either. In obedience of my father’s hateful edicts and rules. Summarily, I did not agree with blanket hatred, but my brother was eager to please. And my father bred my brother and trained him very well, in the fine art of spiteful hatred, just BECAUSE.
When my father died, nobody called. I learned of his death from my cousin, who lives in B.C. who sent me a death notice on my Face Book account. That was a shit show. For it only took three day for my brother to deign to call me back after the horrid message I left him.
He did not want to hear anything from me, nor wanted to hear my side of any story at all. With that he hung up and that was the last time I spoke to him, on January 10th, 2018.
So my mother shows up and tells me it’s over. Nobody called, and to this day not one person in the family I speak to, nor anyone else, can corroborate this news FROM my mother in spirit form, to me in HUMAN form.
FUCK ME !
The Big Book tells us that “Resentments are the number one offender for an alcoholic.” We do not have the luxury of justified anger nor resentment, lest it drags us back to drink, or better yet DEATH.
My parents feed off anger and resentment, Like Good Alcoholics will. So I should forgive them and let it go right? WRONG!
I did not get my day in court. I did not get to speak my mind to anyone. Because if anyone allowed me to speak my mind, that would legitimize my existence, and they would be forced to listen to me speak about my EXPERIENCE.
My parents and brother are all about DE-LEGITIMIZING my existence. Because if they allowed me my voice to speak, they would have to accept my existence and my experience as valid and worthy of attention.
Not So Fast Grasshopper …
The delusion, well, the Utopian delusion, that I believe that in every human there is a kernel of compassion, and goodness. If they choose to tap it. And I woefully believed that one day we would all grow up, and come to the table and reconcile and sing Kumbaya together …
Well, that delusion is now smashed !!!
I haven’t seen my brother in probably thirty odd years. When I was sick and dying he NEVER called, nor did he ever visit me. Not ONCE. Never called to see where I was, or why I left, and what the real story was, because he was defiled by my parents, because he was the one who STAYED.
I was the one who LEFT. Because over my lifetime, I knew what they were thinking, because I spent a lifetime listening to them talk between themselves and others, about social, sexual, and political topics.
GAY and AIDS were at the top of that list, not to mention Blacks, Jews, and Homosexuals.
(These are the politically correct terminologies, the words my father actually used, should never be spoken in public)
My parent could quote you Bible verse and scripture, when in reality, they had a Bible, but never tapped it in my presence. They usually stuck to the seven phrases, Evangelical Christians use against all things homosexual.
So my brother is eternally mad at me, saying that I chose not to be part of the family, what he lacks is the WHY I chose to walk away, and who forced me to walk away, with variants of hatred and death coming from their mouths.
When people tell you shit like “you’re a mistake,” and when you are going to die, to try and hasten your death, by asking you to “Just Die Already,” something is wrong with that picture, don’t you think?
I had every right to protect myself from people who, I knew, that if I died they would be next of kin, and could come in and take me where ever they figured they thought I should spend eternity, by myself, in some unmarked grave somewhere, or better yet a box, stuffed in a closet, God Forbid !!
They would never have had an urn of my ashes in their house… No way Jose.
So I took those matters into my own hands to prevent that from ever happening. Then I jumped the border, much to their consternation.
I am damned if I do and I am damned if I don’t.
How do you reconcile this dilemma? I have no idea.
A wise friend told me tonight that:
“And yet…you’re here, and not a day goes by that you don’t cast your own light on the lives of others, including mine. In spite of your founding environment, you succeeded in pursuing a life of purpose and kindness to others. I hope you never lose sight of the good, my friend Jeremy, because there’s so much of it in you.”
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike.
Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.
1. If one member suffers…
In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims.
We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity.
The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.
With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.
I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).
2. … all suffer together with it
The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit.
If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person.
A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).
I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.
Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49).
To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command.This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.
It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives.
This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.
Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.
It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6).
Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within.
Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change.
The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel.
For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).
It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.
Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils.
May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary.
A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.
In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation.
Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319).
She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.
May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.
I heard one of my friends tonight say, about a conversation he had earlier, with a friend, that he was not sure he could be honest with said friend about the topic they were discussing.
I know my friend for many years now. I have many friends, I have known for a long time, and becoming who we are begins with getting better all the way around. We stay clean and sober, and we do the work that is given to us, Willingly.
Willingness is the key.
I have said before that I cannot do life alone. I need my sponsor, my guides and my friends. I need that voice, coming over my shoulder, that says … It’s gonna be OK.
I have a few twenty-four hours under my belt. And for a long time, I did not know what I did not know. And I know the first time I was attempting to get sober, there was A LOT that I did not know. And that worked against me, as represented by the wordsI spoke and the decisions I made, based on self. (not the good self for that matter)
Life is all about becoming who we are supposed to be. Sometimes the road is easy, but in my experience, for many people, the road has been very tough.
I spoke tonight about life. I knew, very early on, in my life, what it was that I did NOT want to be. I heard words that I swore I would never use myself. And I heard thoughts that were repugnant, bigoted and racist.
I knew …
Growing up, if you did not fit in the box my parents wanted you to check, they punished you with silence, and darkness and humiliation and resentment.
Imagine a kid growing up with that kind of negativity and trying to find your way into the world, and survive the slog!
My father went to his grave, hating me, and resenting me for becoming who I was meant to be. My mother is on that very same shit path herself. Last night, I read in this months Grape Vine, about a woman long sober, making peace with her mother, and she asked her what she could do to mend the fence between them ?
The answer was, You Could agree with me sometimes. I’m not always wrong you know.
And I thought about that conversation all day today.
I imagine going to visit my mother, in my brother’s house, where nobody knows me today, and does not want to know me, because of resentment and anger and denial. I imagine having that kind of conversation with her, knowing she spits out the same vile shit, like a script she has mastered over my lifetime.
I don’t ever think I will ever mend that fence, myself.
The second time I got sober, I began with steps that were all about ME. What people did to me, and why they deserve my scorn and hatred. I remember the first round of steps I did, and how LONG my fourth step was, and the hours it took to do my fifth.
Then I burned them.
For years and years, I’ve been working steps with different people, with different lengths of sobriety. And I have amassed a library of knowledge about myself but more importantly, knowledge about everybody else.
God has a funny way with me. The evidence is right there for me to look at. Steps Six and Seven are the growth steps. The change steps. Because we work Six and Seven for the rest of our lives. And further up the road, at Ten, we learn how to do spot check inventories and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Over the years, as I pass through Six and Seven, God shows me Six and Seven, in front of my face. I have learned to see “spiritually.” It has taken a long time to work that vision out. I know I can trust because I can see.
It is the same with some of my friends, when it comes to me. They can see, for me, when I cannot see for myself. And each of them, each in their own ways, have the voice and the temperament to sit me down and tell me like it is, when I fuck up.
Many of my friends know who they are, in each of their varying lengths of sobriety. Many of my friends are honest with me. And I see that virtue in them, in the books I have read on honesty, virtue and honor.
What I see in them, I want to become myself.
I don’t know, at what point, we can trust our vision, and humbly admit we don’t know everything, but I we know some things. In the beginning, I would not say anything to people because I did not know myself what it was I really wanted to say, even if it sounded good in my head.
Over the years, I have worked with others. And over the years I have had several sponsors. And over the years, each of them fell victim to their own character defects.
As I get and stay sober, and life goes on, and shit happens, and things get real, what I witnessed was my friends, my sponsor and other drunks, reacting to the fact that I was having a hard time. I listened to the words they said to me. And I witnessed what each of them did to me, in response to my life getting “Shit Real.”
The rooms really don’t like to see people “In the Mix” People in the rooms, don’t like to witness pain and hardship. And many of my friends and sponsor at the time, pushed me away, freaking out, because I was freaking out, and when I jumped out of my placid, quiet, reserved skin, and became a little odd and crazy, that freaked people out, because I was coming out of my skin, and for a long time at that, that quiet, sane individual became someone they did not know, or want to know.
So they all ran for the hills.
What a shame. And at that point my friends, not knowing what to do with a crazy man, in front of them, all scattered.
There are many ways to get sober. I know a friend, who is more than twenty-five years sober. She, like myself, learned how to get sober, the hard way. We walked into particular meetings, and those men and women, said one thing to us …
If you follow our suggestions, and do not argue, and you work, as we show you what to do, yes, you too will get and stay sober.
There were no two ways about it. It was their way or the highway, so to speak.
She was handed her job. And likewise, I was handed mine. A coffee pot.
We listened to old timers tell us what to do. We both had sponsors who did the right thing at the right time, for the right reason. We learned suggestions. We worked steps. We did service, and to this day, BOTH of us do service, all the time, every day.
Repetition is the key in recovery.
We read the same book, work the same steps. hear the same stories, over and over again. But as we share with each other, as we remain clean and sober, perspective changes.
Each time we make a pass at a particular story or topic or step, we see it in the way we see it IN THAT MOMENT, as it is. not particularly, the way we saw it, the last time we hit that share, or topic or step.
It is like polishing a gem stone. Each pass at the wheel makes the gem better.
We both know what we heard, all those years ago. We both know what we did, over the years, so we know what to do, because we spent the better part of our lives, treading the same things over and over. With all that time between us, and each in our own times, we know what we know, because we heard, we worked, we spoke, and we did.
She has a voice, and I have mine. Based on practical experience, strength and hope.
I talk to newcomers and I tell them what I did, and I make simple suggestions. Not many people want to hear what I have to say, because I, like my elder lady friend, come from the sober school of hard knocks.
Sobriety is not easy. And people know that from the get go.
But if you say something that is not easy … They respond with I just Can’t !
So I ask, why not ? What have you got to lose, but the old way you used to live ?
They say that honesty is the best policy. But when do we know what honesty is, and when do we know that what we have to say matters, is truthful, honest and comes from a place of humility?
That, is a tall order. And can take a lifetime to learn.
Over the years, I have worked with men and women. many of them are not in my life anymore, because when I hit the rough spot, who I became was unacceptable to their sensibilities. All that sober knowledge I spent teaching them, went for naught.
Because each of them sunk into their character defects. I saw it. I heard it, and I spoke about it too. Being honest in all my affairs was a mantra I use to this day.
I was honest with them. They did not like that. So that made me less sober or trustworthy.
Fuck Me for Trying !!!
I know today, the odds, when people come in the rooms. By what they say, and what they do, and who they listen to. The fighters and arguers, never make it. Those who justify their addictions, never get better. Until they decide to get honest.
I know sober folks who are constitutionally unable to be honest with themselves.
If I attend a meeting, for a long time, for a specific reason, to learn something, and people treat me badly, that is not on me, it is on them. When people who used to be my friends, turn out to NOT be friends, and do not have the ability to reciprocate kindness, that is on them and not me.
There are LONG SOBER men and women, whom I have known for the whole of my sobriety. We are talking people with decades of sobriety, who treat me with ignorance and silence. That just floors me.
I know who I am today. And I know what I know about each person I know. Because I have spent the better part of sixteen years and a few months, watching and listening to them in meetings.
I got sober, on the backs of every single person in every single meeting I went to. Every single day of this sober segment.
I know every decision they made. I know every mistake they made. I heard every word they said, in meetings, over and over. I watched people go back out, come back in, go back out and come back in.
I also watched some people die in that process.
If you did something and succeeded, I used that myself. If you did something and failed, I chalked it up to lessons learned. I made mistakes. I said things. I decided things too.
For the most part, I did my best, with whatever I had at the moment.
Not everybody was amused. Many people judge and are critical of me.
That is on them and not me. People are who they are, and will do what they do, so I should not let that bother me, but it does. Some don’t seem to learn and get better. They just want to be who they are. And their growth becomes stunted.
I am honest with people. Almost to a fault and that scares people, that I could know what I know, it is only that I know because I have tested all my methods over the years and I know what works.
I am in the book. I am in my steps. I am in meetings, and I do service. All the time.
I am always looking for the next greatest teacher or lesson. And right now, I am in a brand new incarnation of who I want to be, based on those I surround myself with.
I trust few.
We are all growing up to who we want to be.
Each at our paces.
I am powerless over people, places and things.
And what ever happens, a drink will not solve them.
At the wedding reception on Saturday, family and friends shared stories about Melissa and Stephan, and their many years of being together, prior to their wedding day. And in fact, The date … May 5th, 11 years prior, was the day that Stephan had asked Melissa to be his girlfriend.
Most couples meet at some point in their lives, and date and later marry. Melissa and Stephan met in high school. There is an old Facebook photo from that time period, long ago, of the two, standing in front of a “Just Married” sign. Portents of the future, they say now.
Who knew that back then, that eleven years later, they would meet in a chapel to make it official. There is a history there for sure.
Both sets of parents had introduction stories about the “other.” When they either first met Melissa, in Stephan’s parents case, or when Melissa’s parents first met Stephan. We got to hear what the parents were thinking at that time, and their concern over “longevity of such a young relationship.” Who could tell, if they would make it, or survive the test of time, and still be together.
A few years into Stephan and Melissa’s relationship, Stephan went into free fall. He was not sure that he wanted to be with Melissa forever, since he had NOT had another girlfriend before, and wasn’t really sure if “this was it …” so to speak.
The next day, he broke up with Melissa. He went home that night and told his mother what he had done. And she asked him bluntly … what the hell did you do that for ??
Thankfully, he had been talking all along with Jessica, Melissa’s younger sister, and his closest friends about the breakup. After receiving wise counsel from all, he had decided that Melissa was the girl he wanted to be with for life. He had to devise a plan to “get her back.”
With Jessica’s advice he went out and bought a “Promise Ring.” The very next day, he met with Melissa to give her that ring.
With that promise of love and devotion, Stephan and Melissa began walking the long path of 9 more years to the altar.
Stephan had figured it out. The girl he asked to be his girlfriend ended up being the woman he would marry on Saturday, last.
A moment happened at the reception that I had Stephan to myself. Oddly, during that night, people had the opportunity to speak one on one with bride and groom, individually.
When the moment came for me, I hit my mark. I told Stephan the story about the “wedding vows on the fridge story.”
Yes, you both had eleven years together before the wedding. You hit some hard times, well, things that were hard on lives so young. You built businesses, and then found a home together. Now you are married. And this is where the “Rubber meets the Road.”
They did not recite the traditional wedding vows …
Wedding vows may also take the following form: I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
They instead, opted for the HANDS reading that I wrote about the other night.
So I told Stephan about the vows as they are stated. And that now they were married, what happens when shit really hits the fan? What happens when good goes bad, easy goes hard, wellness turns into sickness. When better gets worse, when richer goes poorer, such and so forth.
I told him about people I knew, who got married, because it was the “thing to do at the time.” They really did not think about Forever very well. And for some of them, when things did go south, as they sometimes did, they did not make it, and for many of those couples, break up and divorce was in the cards for them.
I warned him. Told him to be vigilant. To Be a good Boy Scout and “Always be mindful and prepared” because you never know when shit is going to get real.
Right now, in Hubby’s family, shit is getting real. And the writing is on the wall, and death is a forgone conclusion, for Hubby’s Mom. She is frail, and weakening badly. She is not eating. (Once a sick person or an elderly person decides to stop eating) you know, the end is not far away.
My father in law, over dinner, with all of us sitting around him, related my Mother in Law’s frail condition. At one point he was free, and I implored hubby to go talk to his father, and tell him what he needed to hear from hubby. Which he turned around and spat words in my face to the effect that … “I should butt out of his family life…”
He did go talk to his father in the end. And when he left the reception we both spoke to him, offering them whatever help they could ever need, that we would be ready and willing to do whatever needed to be done, when it was necessary.
We are going to lose a family member, the question is When ???
So we are steeled right now for the inevitable. Many of my nieces and nephews are young, many of them have never experienced death in real-time. Stephan needs to know what to do when this event comes around. And how he is going to support Melissa when the time comes.
Warnings that Wedding vows talk about.
Marriage is not always a bed of roses. Life has a funny way of throwing wrenches into life at the worst possible moments.
One never knows when shit is going to get real.
Hubby strode up behind us while I was talking and rolled his eyes at us, and turned to Stephan and said … “Ignore everything Jeremy has just said, because he likes to talk.”
He was afraid I was putting the Fear Of God into our young married man.
Forever is a long time. And Marriage is Forever.
We only hope that Stephan and Melissa last the test of time, till death they do part.