Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Six Months And One Day

Six months and one day ago I was alone, homeless, broke, hopeless, dealing with untreated mental illness and didn't have a reason to live.

Now I am not able to say if I came up with the idea that going to sit in a roomful of drunks, junkies and degenerates was better than stepping in front of an oncoming light rail or if G-d Hisownself was responsible, but either way, I made my way to a meeting.

As I walked to the York Street Club, my mind actively plotted how it would end me were it not satisfied with the outcome of this meeting because anything, including death, was better than what I was dealing with, or rather NOT dealing with. My mind had convinced itself that a meeting was only an hour long, and given the 30 minute walk there and back, it could have me stepping in front of a light rail in time to make the drive time newscast if this AA bullshit didn't seem like it would do anything.

The topic of the AA meeting that I first attended was "What G-d Has Done For Me" and when I heard this I laughed not so silently to myself as I already knew what G-d had done for me.

G-d had fucked me.

G-d had taken from me the love of my life.

G-d had robbed me of my livelihood.

G-d had made me homeless.

G-d had deprived me of my very will to live.

Whether or not this was some cruel cosmic joke or some cruel cosmic coincidence I did not know. Either way I was intent on sitting through this meeting as my mind had decided that was what I was going to do and if it didn't work, well, I had a date with a light rail.

Sitting there in that room of sober drunks and me, I passed judgement on this and derisively mocked that until a large, shiny jowled man sitting right next to me said "My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic." His voice hit me with the force of a lead pipe to the head as I had not noticed him sitting there when I sat down. He spoke tersely and forcibly and without embellishment and while I don't remember everything he said, I do remember his closing words "Like G-d will fuck up my life any worse than I have."

That was six months and one day ago.

In that time I have carried Joe's wisdom with me and "Like G-d will fuck my life any worse than I have." has become a very powerful mantra for me.

In that time I have not drank or drugged.

In that time I have started looking for a job and have even had several interviews.

In that time I have started developing a community of people who care about me and I have cried from happiness because of it.

In that time I have started to live honestly and embrace my past misdeeds.

In that time, three people have allowed me to stay with them from time to time so I am no longer sleeping in an abandoned house.

In that time I have begun to deal with my mental illness by attending group and individual counseling sessions and sticking to a medication schedule.

Please keep in mind that my life, by any measurement, still sucks. I've no job, no source of income, no permanent place to live, rely on public assistance for food and healthcare and still have terrible days that see me sobbing uncontrollably for seemingly no reason at all.

However, what I can say exists in my life where before it didn't is an emerging sense of possibility. This has been given to me by people I have met both in and out of the rooms who have gone down this road, suffered what I am suffering and can give me the experience, strength and hope that I don't yet have.

They can help me match serenity to calamity and know that while it won't get all better right now, what I have gone through and what I will yet go through will someday help someone, somewhere.

Just like Joe's words of wisdom helped me exactly when I needed it.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Alone No More...

A funny thing happened a few weeks back.

One morning I awoke after spending a night of being VERY ill, the majority of which was spent VERY near the loo.

You will be spared the gory details.

Needless to say, after a night of "sleeping" on the bathroom floor, curled in a fetal position using a rolled up towel as a pillow, I was in NO shape to stand up. let alone go out into the world and make my way thereabouts.

As I had a headache and to move any part of my body for any reason left me feeling nauseous and dizzy, I didn't call or text or email or tweet or Facebook anyone regarding my condition. As I have in the past, I was just planning to suffer though my seasonal bout with the flu in the stoic manner that I like to think I do.

The next day the nausea and had abated sufficiently that I was able to call and text and email and tweet and Facebook.  Upon checking Facebook, texts and tweets, I saw that several people had contacted me asking where I was, if I was OK and to call or text or Facebook as soon as I could.

Something was amiss.

This was not what usually happened.

I was not quite sure how to deal with this.

Let me address some relevant background info. The majority of the last twenty or so years has involved me lying, deceiving, cheating or in general being a terrible human being. People that had the misfortune of crossing paths with me usually went away worse for the experience. I would imagine that if you take a survey of my former bosses, friends, co-workers, roommates and significant others, you would find that the majority of them have negative memories of me.

The end result of this has pattern of behavior is that I have VERY few people in my life whom I can say that I am close with.

That now appears to be changing.

People contact me to see if I wish to do things - get coffee, go shopping, take in a movie, eat lunch, etc.

These people know of my past, they know of my misdeeds yet they don't care.

They accept me for me - the good, the bad and the worse.

On pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book of AA , we read The Promises:
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. 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...Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change...We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
This is happening for me.

I am amazed that people care about me, wish to spend time with me and seek me out for help.

I am starting to know a new freedom and a happiness that comes from knowing that people know about my past and they don't care.

I can see that my attitude and outlook on life are changing in that I am not hiding my past, my troubles and my current situation - underemployed, broke and in recovery.

I suddenly did realize that G-d is doing ALL these things for me because I most certainly am not capable of doing this for myself.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


This is the season of miracles.

The birth of Christ and the lights of Hanukkah remind us of miraculous events that took place so long ago and so far away. 

If you watch the news, read the papers and listen to friends and neighbors, miracles don't seem so common anymore. 

War and violence and hate are everywhere we turn.  

A common reaction to this is to ask "If G-d loves us, why do all this terrible, evil things occur?" People might wonder "If G-d is all good, why are children in Africa born HIV positive?" We question: "If G-d is present in the world, why are people discriminated against or killed because they are transgender or black or gay."

These questions are asked out of a universal human need to seek meaning behind seemingly meaningless suffering. We inquire because as people who need comfort, we will find no comfort if we were not to ask.

In the program of AA, it is suggested that if we wish to find serenity and peace, we should accept life on life's terms. Page 448 of the Big Book reads as follows:
Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation--some fact of my life --unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
When I read this, I am reminded that the G-d of my understanding wants me to have peace and abundance and happiness. But how can I have peace and abundance and happiness in a world filled with evil and greed and hate?

It seems upside down.

Then it hit me with all the force of a frying pan to the face: It is not G-d that is upside down, it is me! It is not G-d's expectations that are weird, it is my view of the world I live in!

This realization took me back to a passage in the Talmud (book of Jewish law) I read several years ago that tells the story of a rabbi whose son fell ill and was at the brink of death when his father's prayers brought him back to life. When he came to, his father asked him what he saw in heaven. The son replied: "I saw an upside-down world. Those who are on top here, are on the bottom there; and those who are here regarded as lowly, are exalted in heaven."

If we flip the question, we flip the answer.

The question to ask is not "Why is there evil in the world?" but rather "Why is there good in the world?"

There is evil in the world not because G-d doesn't love us, but rather there is good in the world because G-d loves us.

When looked at in this way, miracles become commonplace and G-d's grace becomes evident in everyday events. 

The person who finds a job after being on the street for months. 

A trip to the emergency room that turns out to be nothing to terrible. 

An alcoholic or addict who stops using, starts working the steps and begins to experience the promises

We begin to see our Higher Power working in and through these and other situations and we realize that each and every moment we are here is exactly what it is: a miracle. 

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.