Bloody Mary and the Trinity Square Sermon

Pennsylvania 2014, Poconos Mountains – somewhere about half way… 

 

We had drove for about an hour. Climbing all the way up a twisting narrow road that cut through thick forrest. The trees were so high as to block out most of the fading natural light and cast a darkness over the road. A shadow deep enough to make driving at that speed a little challenging. The tarmac snaked up and up till we reached a flat clearing and on it stood a building. We had travelled a long way to be there. I certainly didn’t have a personal invite and at that point didn’t realise exactly what I was walking into. My good friend and travel companion had spoke many times about the man who was celebrating there that night. As it turned out we weren’t the only ones who had travelled… both in miles and experience! 

The men in that room were of various ages and it turns out some of them were bordering ancient. The top man himself was in his 80’s and a few, one in particular, was quite a bit older. Some of these guys go back almost to the first 100. They had came from many parts of the United States just to be there that night. The experience itself was incredible. There was an energy in that room I’ve never felt before or since. One I will never be able to forget. One thing more than any other sticks with me and I knew it meant something as soon as I heard it. I had no idea what. Three men spoke from a podium for no more than fifteen minutes each. They had been hand picked by the Gentleman in question and what they shared was inspirational beyond words. But the last one, a real big fella who was in his 90’s barely looking a day over 60, stole the show with a poem that ended… “I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon”. There was electricity in the air and I felt plugged into it! I knew right away I would never forget those words. Speaking with the old boy later I felt like I was around somebody who knew something I didn’t. Confirmed by the warmth of his laugh and the knowing look in his eyes as he listened to me, it was a silent “Good luck kid”.

Fort Worth Texas, Dallas Airport – around 2 years later… 

 

I had a 4 hour wait till my flight to Heathrow and was propping up a bar stool chasing that sense of ease and comfort. Half a dozen Bloody Marys, the beers I had sank in Fresno, and a short skin full on the plane into Dallas were starting to take effect. I was busy hitting it hard and amusing myself with the waitress for over an hour. Her cleavage was costing me 20 dollars every round and it was now starting to feel surreal. I was surrounded by Stetson hats, cowboy boots and bootlace neckties. The psychotic party for one was in full swing as ZZ Top blasted out of the sound system. I was reminded of the ‘Titty Twister’, like been stuck in a Tarantino movie. I knew I was heading into blackout and decided to make the call before it was too late. On the other end of the line would be a friend. He had known I was struggling, that I was in over my head and that soon I would probably crash. He didn’t at this point know I was heading home or that I was drunk. It works both ways! In the build up to this train crash I had become totally self absorbed. Self-centredness reigned supreme. He picked up the phone. He had been drinking! Turns out he had had a whole load of shit of his own going on. Shit I had been incapable of seeing due to been a Grade A selfish fucker totally absorbed in me. He had been sober a good while and his crash equaled mine and some. 

Ive Came to Believe that the God of my understanding doesn’t create problems. Humans have always done a grand job of that without needing assistance. Rather he develops solutions by using whatever is at hand. Me and my friend where heading in a parallel direction and it was about to get worse before it got better. 

We met up in a coffee shop in a place called Trinity Square. My evaluation of the situation at that point was… “Deep shit fucked up beyond repair”. I had never in my life felt that bad. He looked worse! As we parted company that day he turned and said “One day we will look back and laugh at this”. I seriously doubted it.

In the weeks that followed we stayed close. A couple of hours together most days. Taking turns to talk and periods of silence and staring into space. We cracked jokes while always on the edge of cracking up without a hope of return. There was times when his sickness would aggravate mine and vice versa. I would make a few days sober then fall back into the bottle and repeat. He went on his own mission to make things worse causing personal chaos that he can describe much better than I can. In short he worked himself chronic with most people. Eventually he was carted off to a rehab in some seaside town promising to get in touch as soon as he was allowed to make contact. I settled down to the thought of a marathon period of rebuilding. One I had no idea how to run. It was very hard work and I had the same conviction as listening to that parting comment in Trinity Square. Even though many people who matter commented on the fact I was doing better than I thought it still felt like the circus was in town and the monkey on my back was here to stay.

Weeks passed and with the help of others I managed to stay sober. Then the phone rang. It was him. He had walked out of the rehab and was at a train station heading home. I worried for him. I remembered us been on a platform not that long ago and I was convinced he would throw himself under the next train. But something had changed. There was an enthusiasm in his voice when he told me he knew what he was doing and what was going to happen next. 

Back home he took to the task. He stayed close to those who could help. We met up regularly and talked about what happened, where to go next, and what was it that was deeply wrong with us. No darkness remained hidden! Impressively he went about cleaning up the shit he had made and managed to gain a foothold when some wanted to cast him off. He got put on shift in the Bentnick Hotel and spread some peace to those going through personal nightmares of their own.

Moving around jobs to better his own situation has always been accompanied by a never ending commitment to help those who ask him. Myself included. His crash was public and massive. His comeback has been monumental. Ive learned so much and am incredibly proud of him. Throughout all the rigorous honesty he has always pointed and never lectured. A few years have passed and we got to “look back and laugh”. The growth has been amazing and the journey though rarely easy has at times been very exciting. I wouldn’t change a second of it. But above everything… I got to see a sermon.

“The Steps are not the work, they remove the blocks that stop you from performing the work” – Don P

“Nothing is important life is just a comedy ~ Aye a fucking black one” – In conversation

“… tried to carry this message…” – 12

 D&O in Fresno

Darkness and the Ragamuffin

“Fear – it was an evil and corroding thread, the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It brought about trains of circumstances we felt we didn’t deserve but did not we ourselves set the ball rolling…“

Recently I was invited to give a talk on anxiety. I had been asked to do so by a group of people who had identified themselves as suffering from it and were becoming aware of the negative and destructive impact it was having on their lives. Speaking on topics of that type will always fall on deaf ears unless you can share some experience of your own. It helps the listener tune in rather than mugging you off as just another bozo on the bus. Gaining some identification from the small crowd wasn’t what started this prose. That bit went well. Short and sweet that it was it was still a fucking horror story. People gripped by fear love horror, it alerts them to the fact they’re not quite as bad as they first thought… not yet!

It was more my identification with them as the conversation moved to a solution. Thats what got me scripting this. That look of trepidation, the doubt and disbelief that normally precedes the search for an easier softer way. In an instant I could almost taste the warm nighttime air of the desert as it gripped me, lost in that surreal Californian city as I headed off in search of an easier softer way looking very disheveled – like the Ragamuffin Man. 

Fear has a hundred forms. Anxiety is one of them. Its at the bottom of the list just above worry and sitting precariously below panic and its big brother terror. All fears are born out of the overpowering desire to control imaginary outcomes. Sweeping away the wreckage of the future. An interesting proposition until you give it some thought. Like a drug it would be thrilling and empowering for a short time and then life would become mechanical and boring. Most fun is in the hunt with its surprise twists and turns. A sense of power arises from overcoming challenges when the odds were against us.

No amount of worry or anxiety can alter whatever is going to happen. I had to learn to alter my attitude regarding the need to control. I know this to be true as experience has taught me this. But some things slip through. Some things are just too damn important. Thats the way it had been for months leading up to Fresno. I had felt the darkness begin to rise up in me with a whisper that got louder and louder. Until with nowhere to go but to face myself it began to scream. I had to change my attitude, alter the sails, learn to trust if I was going to recover from the wreckage. Trust means nothing without faith. Trust is a belief that tomorrow will be ok. Faith shows thats possible because so was all our yesterdays. Ok is a very long way from perfect. Some yesterdays were pretty shitty, but we survived them. I have survived everyday of my life so far even the good ones. Faith tells me that will remain the same for everyday but one. Im not planning on caring too much when that day shows up.

Since I got sober many things have happened that I’m unable to explain. The situation leading up to that, and many other experiences I can’t find the words for. Whatever it is I continue to seek the experience. The hunt with its surprise twists and turns that make life really interesting is always accompanied every Step of the way by that old darkness. Its whispers get louder and louder, little by slowly, trying to grip me and send me off looking for an easier softer way. Until theres nowhere to go but face myself. I follow the process to that regularly and something new always comes up. When I say new I mean new angles. Its the same shit with all of us. Just different people, places and things.

In the midst of all this the story of Job (Jobe) sort of showed up without an explanation. I knew nothing of it and don’t suppose most people do. Its an interesting one. Briefly, he had been a righteous and good man all his life and the devil didn’t care too much for that (I guess I’m safe there). Ole Nick decided to see if he could break him and reigned down all sorts of naughty shit in Jobs direction. Cut a long story short Job held firm. But it was with his attitude to his friends’s negativity that ties in with what I’m getting at. They turned up at his wilderness apartment wanting to analyse, deconstruct, blame and find the faults that had lead to his recent misfortune. Job been as seriously pissed off as he so rightly was still had enough about him to realise he was still in the game and no amount of fear created by overthinking the future was going to change anything. Sounds like it was touch and go for a while but he made it in the end. Trust is nothing without faith. Faith without works is dead, there is action and more action. The things that bother me and sneak in to steal peace of mind won’t magically fix themselves. I’ve still got to show up for life, but keeping things right sized as they are in the here and now makes sense. Whats the alternative? Arrive in a different time zone with a brush and shovel making sure everything is neat and tidy for when I eventually land there for real? Insanity! Yet the world over people are attempting to do just that. Along with searching for some easier softer way to escape the intense psychotic pain they experience through doing so. Good luck with that.

“When life takes the wind out of your sails, it is to test you at the oars.” – Robert Brault

“I am open to the guidance of synchronicity and do not let expectations hinder my path.” – Dalai Lama X1V

“Life is like improvised jazz. We cannot regulate the variables. We must play it with panache and flair the best we can.” – Haemin Sunim

D&O in Fresno

Spiritual Warfare

“On the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month the guns fell silent…”

For a short while… After 4 years of a living hell that with all the best of intentions we are unable to fully comprehend… the guns fell silent! Just a few weeks ago I was looking at some recent photos of the battle fields of France. Even after 99 years the landscape has only partially recovered. The mud is long gone, trees have obviously grown back but the visible signs of the trenches are still there. A fitting tribute to a destruction and suffering of the highest order. The guns fell silent in France and brought an end to an episode and nothing more!

The thoughts and feelings of those guys on both sides when the reality of the ceasefire kicked in is again something we who weren’t there are unable to fully absorb. Regardless of who claimed victory it must have been a huge relief. That silence. That peace.

Unique in its own right because without that extreme human riot the absolute beauty of one second of pure silence can be vacant in a whole lifetime.

Whole lives have been lived without ever experiencing the total wonderment of a moments peace. The world and its people have constantly been at war. We are at war with ourselves.

Somebody with a greater understanding than me once said “All wars are fought due to mans inability to be in a room by himself and sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up” – Spiritual Warfare!

The ego will constantly try to force the idea of separation into the human consciousness… Im right and you are wrong! Like there is such a thing. Right and wrong! Never has there been and never will there be a situation where everybody concerned is satisfied. Somehow it just doesn’t work that way.

Five years ago I found myself at a point in life I just couldn’t go on with. I could sit in a room by myself, in fact thats what the majority of my days consisted of. I could sit down, again most of the time thats what I did. But shut the fuck up… not for one second. Even in my sleeping moments my head was screaming! A Passchendaele and Flanders in my own personal living room. I prayed for a ceasefire and eventually one came. A surrender in a war I had been fighting for over 40 years. A war with myself. Drink drugs violence ego and insecurity had been the machinery of war that I had bombarded myself with in a continuously progressive way. Like France the guns fell silent to an episode. The world and its people are constantly at war. It appears we are made that way. The constant illusion of separation fed by the ego.

We have the option to opt out but that feeling of separation (the ego rebuilds and reconstructs) makes it difficult to “Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up” but I felt it for the first time way back and looked for it ever since…

A few weeks ago I was waiting with my mate outside a locked up yoga studio at 6:55am five minutes before the session was due to start when the instructor turns up in a taxi. I made the comment to him that me and my friend had decided to give him a few more moments then go find a bar. We laughed and hugged then went inside and hit the mat. It wasn’t the first time a drink had crossed my mind since getting out of bed that morning. In fact theres very few days when its not my first thought. Theres hundreds of times Ive found a bar at 7 in the morning if not a shop that serves booze well before that. Theres something about morning drinking that really stroked my nuts from the very first time. Something non drinkers will never understand. That opt out feeling of surrendering to what is…

I remember been around 14 years old coming down stairs first thing and going out into the back garden. My old man was sitting there in his work clothes but obviously not going to work. I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a glass and went back out and joined him. I cant remember much about what was said that day, it was sometime ago, but I remember that total feeling of been at peace. That middle finger, go fuck yourself to the rest of the world. That pure silence response to the bullshit that humans in general seem completely unable to take a break from. Most if not all of them appear incapable of stopping themselves from adding to the noise of that circus ground cluster fuck. They are absolutely unaware of it. Its not their fault, the world is full of sick people – Im one of them!

“Selfisness, Self-Centredness that we think is the root of our troubles” Right or wrong!

So opting out without taking a drink takes a lot of hard work and practice. The ego screams separation. All that right and wrong bullshit! “Selfishness Self-Centredness…”

The guns fell silent just to mark an end to an episode. One I am doomed to repeat if I “fall victim to the delusion that happiness and satisfaction can be wrestled from this world…”

There is a lot about this world I don’t like. People, Places and Things that just don’t sit easy with me. But Im no better qualified to judge whats right or wrong anymore than they are.

The real peace that those guys must have temporarily felt as news of the ceasefire spread round the trenches can be experienced by one thing only. Surrendering to the fact that the war was always internal “This world and its people are often quite wrong and that is as far as most of us ever got…

“Above everything we must be rid of This selfishness, we must or it kills us” – Big Book p62.

“I should be content to look at a mountain for what it is and not as a comment on my life” -David Ignatow.

“I leave you with a new commandment, Love each other as I have Loved you” – The Carpenter.

D&O in Fresno.

Journey of a Single Step

(fear of failure)

When this topic first came out (from Drunkless.com) it got me thinking (Dangerous Pastime). I tried to recall moments where I could highlight the fear of failure. I quickly gave up when I remembered I suffer from an ISM (Insanely Short Memory). The book says there are a hundred forms of fear and I can identify with that. But when fear is on me its not always easy to label its cause. Then my mind quickly thew and idea at me. The opposite of fear in whatever form is Faith and the Seventh Step started to dominate my thoughts on where I’m going with this.

Lets forget about the addictive substance / behaviour for a moment and focus on the one problem we all share… Life! Its unmanageable by me. My everyday fear of failure is one I have of just not been able to show up for it. To loose the will to participate in the game, to retreat back into myself and my thinking. To disconnect and isolate!

Every morning I awake to the dis-ease whispering or screaming at me “Todays the day, why bother, why is this pain still in my head?” Then I remind myself its not that long ago that it never whispered and always screamed. Its getting better. Progress not perfection.

My faith has developed through the understanding that no matter how quiet it whispers or how loud it screams I have managed to survive everyday of my life so far and will continue to do so in all but one. The Power behind me is far Greater than any fear before me! This fear of been unable to show up for life, to fail today when I succeeded yesterday is bullshit, its akin to Homer Simpsons philosophy of “If at first you don’t succeed… Quit!”

Action and quickly into it has to be my first thought, if I wait then the screaming will get louder and Im up against it. ‘Before we begin’ – thats what it says in the book! I counteract both fear and the possibility of failure by connecting straight away to that that I made a decision to receive guidance from. Asking my thoughts be especially divorced from self-pity, dishonest and self seeking motives. Im winning before Ive even stepped out of bed! It doesn’t feel like that straight away but the tide is turning and I have enough experience to be aware of that. It was only 24 hours ago since I done this last, it worked then and my Faith is now one day stronger.

But its still a trudge… When I first came into the Program ‘Before we begin’ was a long way away. I was on that Pink Cloud and life was wonderful, I was so grateful to be sober. I know Im not unique in that experience, its a good way to start. It gave me a glimpse of what life can really be like. Reality however is a little different. We cannot constantly maintain that natural sense of euphoria. But we can develop it. The Homer Simpson mindset of quit when the going gets tough is really that ‘fear of failure’. But if I hide from the lows then how can I ever experience the highs? My search for balance is born out of the understanding that both are impermanent. This search for balance demands effort and action, along with the faith that I can do it – if I just release the desire to control outcomes and not resent whatever gets in the way.  This for me is the essence of Step 7 “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings”. Humbly isn’t some aspect of language, it isn’t in the manner that I ask, its about what I offer in return! During my time in a treatment centre the age old question of whats the difference between defects of character and shortcomings came up. Everybody including myself gave their opinion. The Old Timer who manages that facility, a wonderful man with 20 plus years in the Program insisted it was just Bill Wilsons use of ‘Language’, that it was just two ways of saying the same thing. As much as Ive grown to love and respect the old man over the years I have to disagree! Its quoted that our friend Bill even said the same thing himself. For what its worth I think (just my opinion) he just got so sick of people asking him that question it was easier to tell them what they wanted to hear. I believe it is the true Step of Faith! That I agree to do whatever it takes no matter how difficult it seems if the God of my understanding strengthens my legs enough to stop them from buckling along the Journey.

A brief Yoga session and some Prayer and Meditation after I step out of bed doesn’t seem too much like hard work when I remember I agreed to Go to Any Lengths!

I step out the door and head for work feeling the apathy drain leaving me. Im ready to face an imperfect world occupied by imperfect people, myself included. The Journey into self to face myself must be accompanied by a constant thought of others. The willingness to open up and be honest, expressing empathy and compassion in all relationships and encounters, not just with the still suffering!  That doesn’t come natural to me, on the contrary, but its the only way I can enlarge my spiritual life and gain immunity from drinking & drugging for the next 24 hours. If I do that I grow without discouragement, knowing non of us have ever maintained anything like perfect adherence to the principles of Recovery. So when the dis-ease whispers or screams “Thou dares not fail”  I can calmly reply “Grant me the acceptance, courage and wisdom to know and do the next right thing”.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~ Chinese Proverb.

Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without the loss of enthusiasm” ~ Winston Churchill.

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them” ~ Bruce Lee.