Re-Orientation Part 2

I wrote about the Fall/Winter re-orientation the other day. Today begins my own. After last weeks meltdown and discussions with other old timer friends, I have decided to delete certain meetings from my schedule going forwards.

Sunday remain, at the Old Brewery Mission, Monday and Tuesday, I will be off for two days, dropping both Monday Central and Tuesday Beginners, both full of kids, and both full of newcomers and slippers. I cannot sit in rooms of strife and misery any longer.

Between the arguments between the kids over pronouns and gender qualifications, and the battle between the non-binaries and Trans folks, and the constant revolving door habits of so many of our kids, I just can’t partake in their strife and misery any longer.

Many old timers are saying the same. If you don’t want the solution, and you want to constantly live in your problems, and you surely are not talking to me (read:us) then why bother ? I’ve been sober long enough to know my emotional and mental limits, as to how much misery I can stand on any give night.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday remain the same. Since I am doing service and opening and making coffee all three nights. it pays to have church keys on my key ring.

For the time being, 4 meetings will be my max limit through Fall and Winter. Since I have keys, I won’t have to wait outside when temps drop and it begins to snow.

I’ve got several irons in the fire right now, and working with others, has become my primary focus as of late. I work steps and read the Big Book with a lady friend on Thursday mornings. I have a new fellow I am in conversations with. And my regular cohort of guys remains constant.

We go into Fall/Winter anniversaries in a few weeks. God willing, Juan will hit his five years on November 11th, and I will hit 18 years in December. Oddly, I have to work almost an entire calendar year before I take my chip. A whole 11 months to work out the issues I hit the year prior, and to work on my steps for a while.

Working steps in the fall of each year is a good schedule. Because we read the book, and do some step work, then have some (real time) practical application of what was brought up on the last pass.

I ratcheted up my prayers, and my meditation is getting stronger. Albeit, meditation is never a perfect process for me. But I have been able to amend my prayers to include some new forms of prayer. I have 3,7, and 11 next to my computer, and I have some meditation practice on my phone. There are some good apps for that as well.

They say that prayer changes everything. And every time we pray we ratchet up our spiritual practice and our lives do get better. On Universal Time.

Fall has been pushed off for another week here. As temps are going to be in the high twenties for the next week and a few days. It’s gonna be a warm week, as the weather people said last night.

Where leaves are turning in other places and provinces, we have not hit the all important cold snap to goad the trees into turning just yet. But a good Fall, would be nice. We’ve had several shitty Fall turnings over the past few years, where leaves just fall from trees, without turning, or we get shit faded colors that don’t burst with color.

We’ll see what Mother Nature has for us this year.

We need that first really cold snap to hit first.

More to come.

Short Changed …

Do you ever feel shortchanged in life ? Like one is not getting the whole story, or ALL of the TRUTH available ? Do you ever feel like the people you surround yourself with, or had surrounded yourself with were not being completely forthright with you ? Like they had the market on full disclosure and that you were not worthy of that full disclosure ?

Being Gay in a very Straight sober world has its PERKS, but it also has its drawbacks. I’ve been pondering this same truth about myself recently.

I sat with my sponsor the other day, and I shared with him my observations of people in our rooms here. Everything I said to him, about what has been my experience over the last eighteen years, he agreed with me. Because he has seen the same things with his own eyes.

A couple months ago, I changed up my game, and began attending a stand alone, closed men’s meeting, with a handful of men, I know well, and they know me well, because we attend other meetings together, and have been for a very long time.

One of those men, my new sponsor, I really enjoy sitting with him, because every time we sit together he tells me stories about his life. Usually, I leave home on a Wednesday night, uber early, so that I arrive at the hall, early, because I know my sponsor is going to be there. Which is where we began talking a couple of months ago. Talking more that we had been talking because of the spare time we have alone together to chat about life.

I used to hang around a group of long sober men, who, in reality, were not very sober, themselves. I used to go to Vermont with these men for step retreats. Being the only queer man in the sessions, nobody really engaged me honestly, and none of them desired to break bread with me either.

If you cannot break bread with me, I have no use for you.

For all those years, and even before, all my straight sponsors, save, just one, David, never gave me the full truth about alcoholism and The WORK. My step work was always cut short, incomplete.

Last year, when I sat with Noah, I chose to work with him, because I liked what he had to say, every time I heard him speak in a meeting. He knew what he was talking about, every time, with a conviction that was attractive to me. So I asked him to read me through The Book and The WORK.

I knew his sponsor, and he IS a no nonsense human being, who tells it like it is, every time, without fail. I loved that about him. So I knew Noah, got the very same truth, he would tell everybody else.

It was the first time, in all of my years sober, that someone told me the truth, and worked me through a full set of The WORK. He made me think, he asked me hard questions, and pushed me to grow up.

You can learn from many people in the rooms, no matter how long they are sober, if you listen well to them share, and you know just who they, themselves are working with.

I heard a lady share tonight, that “Sobriety, is cumulative. It is not just one thing that you do that makes the difference, it is all its constituent parts that make up the whole experience.”

She is right.

I read, A Lot. I pray as well. I read spiritual literature. I read The Book, and I work with others. I go to meetings, I do service. I do everything that was taught to me since the day I walked into my first home group here in Montreal. And I’ve been able to carry forwards that ritual work for all my years in sobriety. I still do the same thing I did eighteen years ago.

I make COFFEE !

I make coffee because I can get there as early as I want. Usually a hour or two prior to the first human being arriving. Because I know that if I build in that time, I usually get to have a one on one conversation with the first person who arrives as we drink our first cups of freshly perked coffee.

I got to have one of those conversations tonight, and it was fruitful.

The men I know, in the men’s meeting, tell me the truth. They are honest with me, because I try to be honest myself. I learn how to be sober, by doing what good sober people do. Good sober men are few.

There is a difference.

I know what I know today. And I know what I want for my sobriety now. Having thought about it over the past week or so. I’m tired of being short changed by men who think they are sober, but won’t tell the truth or give me all the facts, or give me true sober work.

I know what’s in the book. I’ve read it several times over. I’ve changed up my game enough to give me access to new men and women. Most importantly, the men at that men’s meeting on Wednesday.

If you feel like your sobriety has been short changed, there is a solution.

You just gotta do the footwork and find a meeting where there are long sober men and women who will tell you the truth.

I’ve been GAY a very long time. And I know most uber straight men don’t want anything to do with me, and I know that, by what they do, and what they don’t do, in front of me. If you have to overcompensate, and constantly piss in front of me and tell me how big your dick is, I don’t have any use for you.

My sponsor agreed with me on this the other day.

Even my Gay brothers in the rooms want nothing to do with me. Is it my backstory or that I am not a gay like them? I will never grow up to be a fumpy old gay man. I don’t dress like them, I don’t act like them, and i sure as shit don’t want whatever it is they have.

I sat in a room with all of them for fourteen months reading the Big Book, during the hardest emotional bottom I’ve ever experienced in sobriety yet. And in all that time, not one gay or straight man or woman, ever walked up to me and said …

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL, LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DEALT WITH THAT.

These are the the most important life saving words an alcoholic has, because we have back stories. Experiences. Life Experience. In all its forms.

I’ve NEVER heard these words come out of ANY sober mouth, anywhere in this city, in ALL of my sobriety.

That is a shame.

Because it took a lady from New York to come here, talk to us, and share those words with us.

I won’t be sort changed any longer.

Working with Others

I listen to a very small number of sober folks today. I hear a lot of talking, but most of it goes in one ear and out the other, because why waste mental space on people who don’t have anything I want, RIGHT?

For a very long time, I was not sure I had anything to offer the public, in the way of working with others. I stuck close to service. I made a lot of coffee, and have at least two church keys on my key ring today. I am an opener of meetings, a setter upper, a greeter and an all around welcome wagon to several meetings across town today.

Twelve years would pass, before I hit the presentation of THE WORK. Twelve years of running by the book in service, presence, and sharing when appropriate. Still, I was not sure, that I had anything to give away, which helped me, in retrospect, hone my skills at listening attentively, feeling compassion, empathy, and gratitude.

Until the time came when I heard the message I needed to hear, from the right person to change my life and my sobriety.

Lorna warns us of the fragility of people with “Time” in the rooms, not necessarily the newcomer, per se. She says that “Those are the people we should pay close attention to.” For certain reasons, I don’t need to elaborate right now.

Bob, another member who came here in 2012, to the West Island Round Up, the same event Lorna attended too. It was Bob who turned me on to THE WORK, (i.e. the Big Book), and Prayer, (i.e. the 3, 7, 11 shuffle). He told the crowd of people gathered there all this same information. Nobody listened to him.

I, on the other hand, went to him, after his talk and inquired about how to make all this work. He told me what to do. I went home, and did exactly as he said to do. I wrote down the 3rd, 7th, and 11th step prayers, and laminated them and put them on my computer.

And I prayed every day, several times a day, for as long as it took to change my life. Because he told us that if we did pray, and in time, we would become spiritually fit and then the universe (read: God) would order things as He saw fit.

That took about seven months of fervent prayer, not always perfect, but I did my best to pray, honestly and humbly.

One Tuesday night I was sitting in a meeting, and about halfway through my phone rang … very out of the ordinary. Who would be calling me, I had no idea. Nonetheless, I stepped outside and answered the call.

A good thing too.

On the other end was a hysterical young person, who got my number from who, I don’t know, but he called me. That was the day I had something to offer another human being in the program.

That sparked a series of life events that changed the course of my sobriety.

Today I sponsor a few men and women. I have worked my steps. Several times. I’ve read the Big Book through from cover to cover, four times in six years. I finished my last round of steps last fall, with a young person I really wanted what they had. That was a good thing.

A Vision for You says … “Obviously, you cannot transmit something you haven’t got …” It took me a long time to trust that I had something to give away, and we don’t know that we’ve even got it ourselves, Lorna is apt to say, “Until we give it away.”

That’s my story and I am sticking to it…

Giving It Away

Lorna Kelly …

On the way to the meeting tonight, I listened again to Lorna speak. I constantly learn new things on every pass. And she says, in the beginning of her shares …

“It would be arrogant of me to think that something I say could possibly help you, when in reality, God thinks I need a lot of help …”

We talked about giving it away. The reading from A.B.S.I was a wonderful read tonight. It brought back many wonderful memories for all of us sitting at the table. Among our group is our local rehab coterie of men and women who come from far away, to get a handle on their stories, and to stop putting gas on an already burning fire that is addiction.

We’ve taken them to our hearts in a way that we have not seen in a long while. They have endeared themselves to us, and we have adopted them into our family. In a little over a week, they will leave Montreal for places far and wide. And hopefully, something they have heard in the past twenty one days will stick.

Talk about memories, always gives rise to much Gratitude.

When this kind of discussion begins, everyone always starts with the day they walked into our specific room, feeling how they felt, when they walked in the door, and how warmly they were met and how they were cared for, in ways they did not imagine could be possible.

Lorna is apt to say, and she does say, that “Every time I speak, I must get my story straight, because every time I tell it, I see it differently, than the time before.” She goes on to say that “Only those folks with long term, LONG TERM sobriety, can really get their stories in a cellular way. We learn how isolated we really were in the bitter end of our disease.”

Working with others came up as well. Nobody has a firm grasp on how that works, because for every man and woman sitting in the room, there are ways of reaching out and working with others.

Some feel that stepping out of their comfort zone and chatting up a newcomer is daunting. And it is.

Over the last little while, I have been testing my chops in asking hard questions and seeking hard answers. Because I question what I know and how I know it, and how to apply what I think I know, against, what I do not.

I step out and ask questions, to which some old timers look at me cross eyed and tell me just to shut up and say nothing, keep my mouth shut and sit here and be shoveled shit night after night like they do.

NOT !!!

It was twelve years before I walked into working with others, because I did not know what I did not know. I did not know I had what it took, nor that I really had a grasp on my own story, to be able to help another human being with their stories.

When I met Bob, and he turned me on to Intentional Prayer, the Three, Seven, Eleven shuffle, he told me that at some point, those words would work themselves into my heart, and out to the universe. And he said to me that if I did this prayer ritual, my life WOULD change.

And it did…

The first time my phone rang in the middle of a meeting, was a surprise. I did not know the boy on the other end, of the line, and I did not know how he got my number, but at that point, he was hysterical, and he called me, of all people.

I finished the meeting and went to him, which began a two year odyssey of sobriety. It was a hard slog, and we learned a lot about each other. But in retrospect, I think an entire group of people had an idealistic vision of me as a placid, non feeling, eunuch, that felt nothing and could do no wrong. And that was sustainable until it wasn’t.

One fateful business meeting was all it took, to shatter the placid calm, layer of myself, when in a moment of stress I raised my voice, and all of my guys went running for the hills, never to speak to me ever again.

That was not a very good outcome of working with others.

Business meetings will do that to you, eventually.

At least I have my guys today, that I have been working with for multiple years, and out of that work, came two best friends who care about each other, their significant others, fiancees, and wives.

Along the way, I have a friend, outside the rooms. A young man who we have cared for, for many years, who stood up for me at my wedding as my best man. Two days ago, his wife gave birth to their fist son, Benjamin.

His first wards to me were these …”Oh My God, his feet are so small!” And I replied, “Yes, you have a little person to care for now, do your best.”

I’ve seen marriages, proposals, and now children come for my friends. My best friend Juan and his wife were married last July and my best friend will be married in 2020. And my buddy in the states is a new father.

We could not be happier for all of them.

Lorna goes on to say that “She does not know if she even ‘has it’ until she has given it away.”

Working with others begins with a conversation. A common idea, a common feeling, a common story element, that brings two people together to talk about that commonality. What happens next is all up to our Higher Powers.

I have a friend, I’ve been working with for a little while. He is newly sober, and came to a meeting one night and begged God the Promises. And I told him to hurry up and wait !

That begging began a discussion, that is still on going.

You never know, one of my best friends said tonight, that something you might say, the littlest of compassion, or the kindest of words, can change the trajectory of someones life in a way we might never have seen, had we not stepped up and shared a little bit of ourselves with someone in difficulty.

It happens … Not very often, so when it does, people pay attention to little things.

Kindness and warmness of heart is key. We never know when someone walks into our space where they are, in their lives, so we talk, honestly and truly. The Friday meeting is a special meeting, because it is the only one of its kind, in “living room” appeal.

Tonight, we tripled our attendance. The weather is growing warmer by the day, and so people are coming out of hibernation, and returning to the old haunt once again, and we could not have been more grateful tonight.

You don’t know what you don’t know. And you don’t know that you have it, until you give it away. And if you don’t try, you remain ignorant of your own abilities. So we encourage our men and women to step boldly into their sobriety and step up and be counted.

You never know if something you have can change a life for the better.

If not Now, When ? If not Me, then Who?

Every day we have a chance to be kind. It is far too easy to be kind, than to be unkind. It takes more energy to be unkind and uncharitable.

Spend your energy wisely.

It will do you and the one you help more good than you ever imagined.

One Day at a Time.

Gratitude Overflowing …

Old Brewery Mission

It is Monday. The weather is frightful. With minus (17c) outside and winds are gusting upwards of 70 km. In other places, roads are impassible and cars are piled up on the highways in Ontario.

Thankfully, I had done all my shopping over the weekend, so as to not having to go outside, until I need to hit a meeting. I can usually shop for four or five days at a time.

The weather people tell us that Spring is on the way, in a few weeks time. And they call it “an abrupt turn into Spring from Winter.” Like it’s gonna happen overnight.

I’ve been spending my Sunday mornings at the Old Brewery Mission, making new friends and networking into another phase of my sobriety. I’m in talks with a few friends who work “in the system” of rehabs, to find a suitable place for me to set down some foundation, and do some work in other areas of the city, with new folks coming in.

It is quite a chore, because not all rehabs run on the same system of hiring and responsibilities. It is harder in some circles to get a job in that field because of the paperwork and commitment one must make to the cause. And I understand that needed commitment. On Friday night, I spoke with a friend who explained the system to me. Over the next little while, he is going to see if he can find me a spot, doing some rehab work, either for pay or no pay. It’s not like I am looking for steady employment, because I cannot, due to my disability payments, bring in steady amounts of money.

I make enough to survive. I am just looking for something else to do, in sobriety, to augment my own program and see if I can work in that field and maybe do something good for others.

The Sunday meeting facilitates meeting other people, you don’t necessarily see in other meetings, because of the progressive nature of the chair/speaker system. Every week the chair changes and also the speaker changes. One week you speak, the following week you find a speaker and that speaker, chairs the next week, ad finds a speaker, so forth and so on.

Other than that, all is well.

Friday: G.O.D. Group Of Drunks

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It has been an interesting week. I’ve always wondered when the other shoe was going to drop for me. Medically …

It seems 50 is going to bring me challenges that I was not expecting in any way. Over the past few months, I have had episodes of serious pain, in my back. So severe that I had to get serious pain killers. Thankfully, I’ve only had to take one so far.

I’ve been to see a osteopath, and she worked on me for an hour a few weeks ago, so I have access to her as often as needed. At $100.00 a visit, that ain’t cheap. But insurance now covers 80%.

Two weeks ago I saw my doctor. who went into my image file when I had my osteoporosis check up and bone density tests and my x-rays of my back, and he missed this little problem, when those tests were done, because we were not looking for a problem, with my bones. So it was overlooked.

He looked again, now that I presented pain issues in a location that had not, in the past bothered me. And he found bone deterioration disease in my spinal column. Namely in L 3-4 and 5. On Sunday last, I had a CT scan on my back. This week, my doctor told me that I really needed to be seen by a spinal surgeon. He therefore took that scan to a consult with said spinal surgeon, that I am still waiting to hear from.

With that said, I am on desk duty. No heavy lifting of furniture, which means that set up has come to an abrupt end. I had to call in the reserves to help me out. My friends all stepped up to do what I cannot do any longer.

Thank God I can still make coffee …

Tonight we read about the fellowship and its humble origins. Appropriate that I started a new round of Big Book study, with one of my guys, before the meeting tonight. A.B.S.I. touched on that topic tonight.

We Should Not Toot Our own Horns, nor take credit and be self-congratulatory.

We all put our pants on one leg at a time. I am not the center of the universe. There is a God, and I know that I am NOT God.

What we cannot do alone, we can do, sitting in a room with our friends, together. If I pray, if we pray, it does not matter to WHOM we are praying, but that we ARE Praying.

A very respected old-timer once said that in a meeting …

IT DOES NOT MATTER WHOM YOU PRAY TO, ONLY THAT YOU PRAY…

It’s that simple.

I also know that if I pray to God, which I do … And I don’t get a direct answer from God, then I know I have to hit a meeting, and listen to my friends. With the proviso that if I go seeking an answer, I have to be attuned to listen for that voice coming from around me.

We take very seriously the work we do as a group, on Friday night. And when one of our people fades, and hits the skids, everybody steps into action. On Monday, I went to the meeting and met a friend, sitting on the periphery. Looking forlorn and lost.

She had drunk again.

Not long before, she was standing up front handing out Beginners chips…

I asked her what happened ? She told me.

Giving someone sober directions, while in an alcoholic stupor, does not work.

I gave her sober advice any ways. Welcomed her, told her we loved her and asked her to sit within the group, and NOT on the periphery.

She did not make it through the meeting in one piece.

She left before I could get to her, by the end. I did not see her go.

Tonight, as a group we spoke about what we can do together, and how we all keep RIGHT SIZED, and everything in perspective. That perspective only works when where are sitting in the same room together.

At the end of the meeting another friend took her two-year cake.

As the crowd of congratulations dispersed, my young lady was standing in front of me, all smiles. She has been sober three days. She thanked me for speaking to her and keeping her within the group circle and not having tossed her aside because she drank again.

She took a chip on Wednesday night.

What we cannot do alone, we CAN DO together.

It takes a village …

And we are a village, for sure.

You never know when you are going to save a life.

Constant Vigilance !!!

Monday: Not Resting on our Laurels

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We often take for granted, what we do every day to stay sober. We often forget that sobriety is a full-time job. And we often forget what that last drink tasted like and what it did to us, and where we ended up.

Once we put down the DRINK, the game becomes all about the “THINK.”

We move from our drinking problem, into the thinking problem.

Tonight we read from the book and Step Ten. And what is always the case, when we get here, is that we all say out loud … “Well, I could do this better.”

Taking that daily inventory and those simple questions:

Was I Selfish, Dishonest, Resentful or Fearful ?

Add to this list: What are my motives ? Should I really do this or say that ?

I know, back in 2012, when the women of Tuesday Beginners began to introduce a certain structure to our lives, by way of the work they were doing with their own sponsees, I learned a new way to work my program.

That structure became a solid tool that I used with every single person I worked with since. And it did work.

Writing is something I do, often. Taking to someone about my list has been, not so much. I’m not connecting with another human on a regular basis, like I used to. But, I often find myself in places with certain older men and women, who remind me to check my motives.

In the recent past, they have cautioned me against speaking AND acting. I ignored that advice, which turned into one huge Shit Storm.

I need to practice keeping my mouth shut in public. Because I know, not many people are interested in hearing what they really need to do, even if I think they need to hear it.

My friend Philippe talks about the Book and the Work as necessities. Getting honest and doing the work, because sobriety IS WORK.

You cannot get sober by Osmosis.

But for the most part, people don’t want to break a sweat. They want to come to a meeting, sit there and suck it up like a sponge, then walk out of the room, and in a matter of minutes forget, everything that they just heard.

They don’t go home and write it down. They aren’t learning on the same scale that I am. Because alcoholics are a science project to study, intimately.

I go home, write, dissect, and I learn everything I can about everyone around me. That’s how I got sober and continue to stay sober. By watching and noting stupidity, strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures.

What we have is a daily reprieve, contingent on the maintenance of our Spiritual condition.

There is no One Way to do Step Ten. There is no grand plan, or method.

Once of my friends, at the last World Convention, in Atlanta, went to find those men and women who did it, “The Right Way.” In the end he was surprised to find that even with those OLD TIMERS who were 50 plus years sober, at that event, there was no RIGHT method.

The only thing that mattered was that, we took inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

I don’t work with others, like I used to.

The one thing my guys have going for them is this …

We work, on a daily basis, on our Spiritual Teachings. Based on Spiritual Principles as taught to us, by men who teach us how to do that.

If you are not reading the Book, then why not ?
If you aren’t working your program, then why not ?
If you aren’t going to meetings, then why not ?
If you aren’t working with others, then why not ?

Sobriety is a gift. And sharing that gift with another is vitally important to staying sober.

One alcoholic working with another.

Doctor Bob’s Humility Prayer on his desk … A friend spoke these words tonight:

“Perpetual quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble. It is never to be fretted or vexed, irritable or sore; to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me.

It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised, it is to have a blessed home in myself where I can go and shut the door and pray to my father in secret and be at peace, as in a deep-sea of calmness, when all around and about is seeming trouble.”