Unsolicited Preaching

This post may offend some of the more religiously inclined… this don’t bother me, just thought you should have a warning.

I officially have laryngitis – thanks Doc, I kind of figured that. I’ve been asked to refrain from talking, yelling or singing (My Doc has a sense of humor). This is hard to do really, the singing part… I don’t really yell often. Not talking is proving to be harder than i thought too, but I’ll get there. What the doctor didn’t say was laughing is bad too – when I laugh I seem to lose more of my voice… no no jokes damn you. Continue reading

Mumblings

The sick thing keeps holding on and continues to be sick – I wasn’t actually referring to the President but it applies there too.

My cough remains (and it drains me, saps all my energy) and the more I talk the less I can talk – it seems. I folded a load of laundry this weekend and had to take a nap after as I was beat. The only thing that has been alleviated since I started the antibiotic is pain. My throat doesn’t hurt any more and that’s a really nice thing – thank you science.

I’m going to call my doctor this morning and try to see him to see if this is something else or just a virus thing. Hopefully he can get this all sorted out.

Work folks think it’s a nice change from me talking all the time and my friend Vanessa is happy I’m not singing at my desk all day (I’m never sure if she doesn’t like my singing or just finds it odd that someone sings at the job). Continue reading

The Journey Out of AA – so far

It’s been a little over five months since I published my story “Walking Away from AA” where I talked about my decision to leave Alcoholics Anonymous after almost 22 years. I stated then that I didn’t have a desire to drink, but I had a desire to be more honest and truthful with all aspects of my life.

Being sober – living a life without drugs or alcohol – is for me. It’s a cheaper life, more enjoyable and less messy… things I need and want. Belief in a “higher power” or “faking it until I make it” aren’t for me, I can’t live that lie anymore. I gave it a fair shot – lying for AA, lol.

So what’s changed really?  Continue reading

Angry Gay Rant of the Day

I happen to be gay.

I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. I didn’t wake up one day and decide “hey let’s be ostracized and hated for the people we love” – I just have always been this way. I happen to like the way I am. Most people know I’m gay, I don’t hide the fact that I like men. I am not overly flamboyant or girlie nor do I wear lots of rainbows, dresses or sparkly clothing – neither do the men I like.

I am not the stereotypical gay male – most of us aren’t the characters you’ve come to know and love on TV or in movies – we’re just ordinary people who happen to love other ordinary people. Some of us ARE more fabulous than others but the same could be said about straights as well. We are all unique and we all have a right to love whom we want – gay or straight, male or female, binary or non-binary… love is love. Continue reading

Keeping the Spirit Quiet

“There is, however, a vast amount of fun about it all. I suppose some would be shocked at our seeming worldliness and levity. But just underneath there is deadly earnestness. Faith has to work twenty-four hours a day in and through us, or we perish.” Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill’s Story, Page 16

“So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn’t we laugh? We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.” Alcoholics Anonymous, The Family Afterward, page 132

People in Alcoholics Anonymous and many of the other 12 step programs, millions if not billions of people, have escaped certain death. We reached a point in our lives the way we were living it where there was no hope – many lost friends, family, spouses and careers as a result of addiction.

There was a vision in my head of what an AA meeting must look like –

old men, white t-shirts and overalls on – the smell of cigarettes and bad coffee waft through the room and man after man shares about his tragedy and how horrible life is…

That was the vision, and in truth I’ve been to a few meetings like that, you can switch out old men for young men or black women or what have you – there are meetings that resemble my old vision all over the country if not the world. Fortunately for me, and people like you, there are many more meetings that aren’t like that at all.

I had been in the background at meetings my mother attended when i was a child – they seemed pretty somber to me and I didn’t see many people happy, smiling or laughing – maybe the rose-colored glasses were covered in dirt, which is likely. So I entered my first meetings as an alcoholic myself expecting much the same. Instead I found a Pacific Group.

The Eau Claire Pacific Group in Eau Claire WI was a different kind of meeting for me. There was applause, laughter, oohing and aahing. I saw genuine smiles and people who talked about getting better. That first night I decided to stick around, because obviously these people didn’t know what AA was all about (I was a little over 1 month sober and thought I had it all figured out already).

I don’t stick around at meetings that aren’t fun with people talking about the joy of living now that we’ve escaped certain doom. I “don’t want what they have” as we say… I want more, I expect more. The Big Book even promises more – there are promises all over the book that I seek during my journey. One of my favorites that has come true again and again in my life is:

“At once we begin to outgrow fear.” Alcoholics Anonymous, How It Works, page 68

and most other people like the promises after Step 9 (I think they are over read personally)

“…We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us…” Alcoholics Anonymous, Into Action, Pages 83 and 84

So we want to shout it from the rooftops, we have found a solution – we found a way to resurrect the dead… a speaker I like says it “I’m looking at a room full of dead people sitting upright” or something like that. We were the dregs of society that no one really wanted around anymore, but here we are – recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body… “miracles” they say.

We are loud though… I guess. My home group meets at a church and we are probably 50 strong each week. We have fellowship before and after the meeting and we catch up with friends we might not have seen for a week or more. We laugh, we hug and give one another a hard time. During the meeting when we celebrate birthdays (1 or more years of continuous sobriety) we sing loudly and horribly off-key – on purpose. This is a big deal – someone who at one point couldn’t go a single day without a drink of alcohol has found a solution (most people call that solution God) and is now a contributing member of society… that’s a BFD. We have a “Rule 62” which tells us not to take ourselves too seriously – so we try to enjoy life.

But the church says we’re being too loud during the music lessons. Now as a functioning, contributing member of society – whom, according to the big book, ceased fighting anything or anyone… I’m supposed to just leave this be. But it’s hard… I would think a church would be happy that a group of men have found the spirit, the joy of living that the church talks about (or at least I figure that’s what they talk about) and would be happy to hear us laugh love and live in their basement each Wednesday night… it should be the great news that is spoken of on Sundays  “Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday nights and Saturday mornings the hopeless have found hope – here in our house of worship” I’d sell the shit out of that and encourage members of my congregation to attend and find the power greater than themselves that will lead them back to the church…

But I’m not the guy in charge there or anywhere, no matter how many times I think I am – The Director job has been taken by someone else and my job is just to help others. I have to stop and think about what would happen to the alcoholics that needed a meeting if we were asked to leave? What if all the groups were asked to leave the church as a result of my meeting being loud (and happy, joyous and free).

Each AA group is autonomous except in matters affecting other groups of AA as a whole. (Tradition 4) So there you have it… I have to be responsible again and try to get my fellow members to be a little more quiet before and after the meeting. Because we have a home here and we still have many other alcoholics to show the way out – it’s the only thing we have to do to stay sober – help another alcoholic, and to do that we have to have a place to share our message. This will be hard, but we’ll find a way to make it work.

(I thought this was just going to be a rant about asking us to be quiet, but once I started writing I saw my own defects and those of my group and that we needed to change… it’s interesting to see different results come out then I expect)

21 July, 2014 00:59

pretty much sums it up

Mark.

View original post

Put the “fun” in Funerals

I’ve been thinking about funerals lately – near death experiences by a couple of folks have put dying in my rotating thought patterns. Then I start thinking about wills and cremation and making sure there is a gold coin in my mouth before I’m burned – just in case I end up at the river Styx and need to pay Charon, being stuck on this side of the river would be rather boring I’d think.

Who’s funerals do I have to attend? Seems an odd question doesn’t it? There must be some kind of etiquette that tells me  the ones I have to go to. Obviously close family, but not the bible thumping crazy aunt – unless she’s come into a fortune and me getting a chunk of it is dependent on attending the morbid death ritual – and even then, probably not. Co-workers (current job or all the others? Fellow AAs (maybe just the ones that weren’t annoying)? Certainly former sponsors, certain ex bosses and a lover or two…

I figure that I had to make my own rules for this kind of thing and decided that if I would invite them to my own wedding – not for gifts, but because I actually enjoy their company – then I’d be willing to put up with a funeral. Granted, I have no intention of getting married, much to selfish to give up my free time, but if I were and wanted to invite some people – those are the people that I’d miss if they were dead – most likely… maybe… I guess Continue reading

Programs, Pamphlets and Power

At a retreat recently a speaker shared something from one of AA’s pamphlets that I either hadn’t heard, forgot about or didn’t sink in when I read it. I loved it when he was saying it and it’s been floating around in my head for a few weeks now. What do you think?

P-41 A Member’s Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous

Tonight, if I could find one fault with A.A., it would be that we have not yet begun to tap the potential hidden in the last seven words of the Twelfth Step: “practice these principles in all our affairs.”

It occurred to me not long ago that whenever I am sitting in an A.A. meeting, I am never aware that I am sitting next to another white man, another Catholic, another American, or a Frenchman, Mexican, Jew, Moslem, or Hindu, black man or brown. I am aware only that I am sitting next to another alcoholic. And it seemed deeply significant to me that this feeling of common humanity had been purchased by me at the cost of considerable pain and suffering.

Should this hard-won understanding of, and feeling for, others be confined to the meeting halls and members of A.A.? Or does it remain for me to take what I have learned and what I have experienced, not only in A.A., but in every other area and endeavor of my life, to lift up my head, and to assume my rightful place in the family of man? Can I there, in the household of God, know that I am not sitting next to another white man, another Catholic, another American, nor yet a Frenchman, Mexican, Jew, Moslem, Hindu, black man or brown, not even another alcoholic, and can I finally — at long last, please God — come home from all the wars and say in the very depths of my soul, “I am sitting next to another human being”?

-from the pamphlet A Member’s Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous

There are days when I think about all AA has done for so many very different people and how amazing the transformations of their lives is. This program of action, to change and help others is really the key to what is wrong every where. Imagine a world where the everyone cared not just for themselves and their pocketbooks but for their common man – instead of reaching out their hand for another dollar for their war-chest they’d offer it to the new man and help pull him up and show him a better way.

The program of AA has been borrowed and adapted to many different fellowships – Alanon, NA, CA, SA, OA, GA… the list goes on and on. I know handfuls of people who – normal in every  aspect that I can see – who use our steps and traditions to guide their lives, they too say it’s life changing.

So why aren’t we standing on the rooftops, screaming from the top of our lungs, opening churches and the like?

In the book the Bridge Across Forever, Richard Bach and his wife get stuck traveling into different realities… in one of those realities they find a mystical book, seemingly dropped from the heavens with all the answers to lifes mysteries. Richard and Leslie want to take that book with them to share with everyone that here is finally the answer, here is something we can all agree upon. But the other Richard from that alternate-reality shows them what would happen if they did. Suddenly we’d have the War of the Book as people who interpreted it one way disagreed with anthers interpretation of it and people would die to see their way was followed.  Like the crusades of our reality the truth would be forced upon people or they’d be killed for not believing.

That’s what comes to mind when I think about an AA church or of forcing this upon others, it’s not how were supposed to do it. Its about attraction, not promotion… I’ve had many religious folk ask me about prayer, meditation, helping others and resentments – I’m glad I can help, I’m glad someone else helped me to do those very things…. that’s the key, get out of self and help others.

 

Pondering in the Dark

The kiss was electric, sounds cliche I know, but it was that kiss that changed it all. It was our first date and I couldn’t tell if he liked me at all, I decided to take a chance and ask for a kiss. He turned, grabbed a hold of me and gave me one of the best kisses I’d ever had – I felt good from my head to my toes and I wanted more, all of his kisses were like that.  As we were moving forward with the wedding plans, because I said yes, a thought occurred that disturbed me:

I have to care about being alive and now I have to try to stay alive longer.

That was the lingering thought during the rest of the engagement – the kiss was electric, the sex ok… but having someone to live for… not something I had thought about, it was an inconvenience. That isn’t to say that I don’t have other people in my life, but none of them need me to stick around. When you commit to someone else “for life”, til death do us part and all that jazz… then you should actually try to be there with them as long as you can.

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses. You build up a whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life… You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ or ‘how very perceptive’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. Nothing should be able to do that. Especially not love. I hate love.”  The character “Rose Walker” in The Sandman #65

So, kind of happy that that all didn’t work out. I figure 15 more years is all I really want (I don’t think want is the right word).

I was re-reading the Harry Potter series over the holiday break and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was obsessed with living forever and I just can’t relate… after a while you’ve done everything you really wanted to do, what the hell would you stick around for? It’s different if you have kids or that other person I suppose, then you’re rather obligated to be there as long as you can. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had none of that, he had worshipers and fear but why would that be worth sticking around for, I think it would get boring.

I’m not seeking death, not yet anyway (give me 15 years), and this isn’t a “cry for help” it’s just casual observations from my mind. The only thing that seems really suicidal in my own behavior lately has been a weird craving to buy a pack of cigarettes – WTF is that about? no clue

“Life is a disease: sexually transmitted, and invariably fatal.”
― Neil Gaiman

Then if you bring religions into it and we talk about afterlife or reincarnation – I just can’t grasp why that would be something you’d want. Here I am, having lived a life to it’s fullest (or as full as I cared to muster), then I’m dead and wait… what? now I have to sit around on a cloud for eternity (oh wait I’m gay… burn in hell for eternity). What’s appealing about that. They say things like “spend eternity with the ones you love”….. Seriously, I love my family and friends, but I can only take so much of them before I need to get away… if you want to give me something to look forward to in an afterlife, give it some rocking special effects or great music or excitement… you know, the stuff I was supposed to be searching for and enjoying in life. And reincarnation… why would I want to do it again? Hell no.

“You get what anybody gets – you get a lifetime.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

In this life I’ve done all those things I’ve wanted to do, someone asked me once “Like what?” I’ve sung at the Kennedy Center, had a story or two published, loved someone so much it hurts, escaped the cold winters of WI, made amends for the mistakes in my past and learned to be myself.

I think that’s enough.

Newcomer

Here we go again, I think as we stand and grab hands. We sure do pray a lot here, but at least everyone doesn’t hug me here like they did at the NA meeting I attended.

“Who keeps us sober?” comes a voice from across the hall and then the chanting begins:

“Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen”

I try to let go of the hands but this group does another ritual – “Keep coming back, it works if you work and you’re worth it” they say while pumping our hands in unison together. The man next to me has sweaty hands and I try to wipe off my hands without him noticing, I don’t know why it matters, he must know he has sweaty hands. Try as I might every time I hear that prayer and any of the chantingI picture a Borg Cube talking about assimilation. Continue reading