Archives for posts with tag: sobriety

Bill Wilson VT

I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.

Today is my sober birthday.  My 18th year.

The non-sober people who warmly congratulate me on my sober birthday are unaware that within the benign cult of Alcoholics Anonymous abstinence, is not good enough.  The first question many non alcoholics reasonably ask, “Why, after so many years, do you still go to meetings?”  The truth is, sobriety as defined by William Griffith Wilson has become an absolute way of life: a total immersion, a divine calling, a cross onto which we nail ourselves and each other,  a commitment to a God of our own invention that leads unquestioningly to a daily reprieve from the disease of alcoholism.

Last week, I traveled north to East Dorset, Vermont to the birth place and grave of Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I was shown a plank, casually nailed to the wall, behind which Bill Wilson was born.  The gentleman sitting beside me pointed at it, lowering his eyes, telling the story of Bill’s birth with the same reverential gravity christians afford the Nativity.  The following day I sat at my lap top and wondered out loud to fellow gay alcoholics (on a gay sober Facebook page) how things have changed since Bill W and Dr Bob Silkworth framed the beginnings of what would become a world-wide phenomenon.

Much has changed in the rooms of AA since I got sober 18 years ago.   AA has evolved.  When I walked into my first meeting the message was clear.  AA was a ‘bridge to normal living’,  it was the nearest a person like me would get to being ‘born again’.  It was suggested that I look for the similarities and not the difference when people qualified.  It was suggested that I find a sponsor.   A sponsor is a man or woman willing to take an AA new comer through the ubiquitous 12 steps.

Men sponsoring men and women sponsoring women to avoid romantic complications.

Sponsorship used to be a humble service, a helping hand, unraveling the mysteries of AA.  A familiar face to show a newby around the rooms… as well as to go through the 12 steps.  That first year I did whatever I was told to do.  I made tea, cleaned up cigarette butts, I diligently read the Big Book.  I was advised to find a sponsor who had what I wanted… all  I wanted was peace of mind.  I met Vince who took me swiftly through the steps.  I remained willing and teachable.  Vince was the perfect introduction to AA and to him I will always be grateful.  It is because of the solid foundation Vince helped me build in early sobriety that I remain sober today.

Since then, sponsorship has become a monstrous beast riven with ego, co-dependence and self-aggrandizement.  Sponsors congratulate themselves for the number of sponsees they have.  Sponsors throw extravagant anniversary parties, positing their bloated and wholly personal ideas about sobriety, none of which has anything to do with Bill and Bob’s original intentions.  Sponsors have become demi-gods, using and abusing their sponsees at will.

They say: Call me every day, don’t have sex for a year, we’ll do this my way… or the highway.

Originally the newcomer completed the first 8 steps in a day with someone who had already completed all 12 steps.  Step 8 to step 12 would be worked a few weeks later.  Today sponsors can take years to go through the steps, they might not have completed the 12 steps themselves.   Too many sponsors make step work as hard a task as becoming a brain surgeon.

These sponsors use the book of AA against the newcomer, a hopeful… enthusiastic day counter (a day counter is someone who publicly announces how many days sober they are until 90 days have elapsed) may become disillusioned with the huge amount of written work he or she is required to do.  These ghastly sponsors tell the newcomer that they have to be thorough, scrupulously honest, that half measures avail them nothing.

Step 1: the simple act of owning up and surrender is now a protracted treatise on powerlessness and unmanageability.  Step 2: accepting God into my life as a power greater than myself requiring me to bow to anything other than my own will… has become a religious conversion.  Step 3:  the elegant proposal that ones life has been so poorly managed that it is best handed over to a higher power or… God.  Step 4: (a moral inventory) designed originally to swiftly clear away the wreckage of ones past so one might better embrace God and sobriety has become a monster of self-examination, scrutiny and fear.   A monster so fearful most will not get beyond step 4 to step 5.

This is not all.  There are endless stories of Sponsors taking advantage of their sponsees sexually, taking their money, abusing their trust.  In gay AA, because men are sponsoring men, romantic and sexual entanglements are rife.

The problem is:  many gay men I meet in AA or NA are not alcoholics or addicts.  They are lonely, friendless and stuck in a miserable half-life that the gays offer in lieu of community.  They are drinking and taking drugs and hooking up.  The gay dream.  When they realize this is all there is… they turn to AA where they find friends, fellowship and community.  A frat house of sober gays who never had a drinking problem in the first place.

When real alcoholics, desperate drug addicts wander into this clean white environment the gays simply don’t know what to do.  They look askance at the homeless, the beggar and scarcely offer their manicured hands.

The gays have created a ghetto at the edge of AA where they get away with murder.  Literally.  Only last week I heard of another man who killed himself because he couldn’t connect or feel included by gay AA.  If this gay sober cabal were working to keep the majority sober (happy joyous and free) then I would have no argument with gay AA but the facts are: many, many gay men leave AA after 5 years.  This is evident from the ‘countdown’ where we celebrate anniversaries. After seven years there is a chasm, a ten-year gap… between those who stayed and those who left AA.

The enthusiasm (pink cloud) a new comer experiences during the first five years tails off into abject misery as they realize AA isn’t about making friends, fucking cute sober boys and going to sober circuit parties.  It is about being present for ever.  For ever and ever.

As with any small, incestuous group of men and women desperately holding onto cultish beliefs… anyone who challenges what and how they believe is destined to be ostracized. It happens in Gay AA, LA AA, Men’s Stag AA.   Christ,  I sat in a men’s stag AA meeting above a Palisades bank at 7am for nearly a decade.  I witnessed and experienced bullying, homophobia, misogyny, ageism, racism… every day.  Yet, somehow within the rooms of AA, this is perfectly acceptable.  I returned recently to that room above the bank after having written about the ogres who live there.  Those I had written in my blog looked disgusted… then conveniently reimagined AA in their own image.

A sniveling, grey haired, Dickensian lawyer called John told the group how ‘unsafe’ he felt that I was sitting in ‘his’ home group.  Choosing to ignore the AA ‘suggestions’ and ‘traditions’  he personally attacks me.  His greasy hair limp on his pink, mottled forehead, his uneven yellow teeth, his waxy hands trembling with fury.

Another pompous member of that same group, perhaps the vilest of them all, surrounded by the vapid newcomers he sponsors… momentarily forgets his ‘singleness of purpose’ and tangles himself in a crippling scribble of resentment and self pity.   To the amusement and horror of the other alcoholics in the room he lambasts a recent widower who had foolishly delivered a favorable pitch about forgiving and forgetting.  Warning (me obviously) that he holds onto resentments… then magnificently back tracks… realizing how pathetic he sounds to those recent converts to Alcoholics Anonymous he hopes to inspire.

Too many men have left that dank room above the bank and killed themselves.

Online, the gays reacted very badly to my mild critique, my gentle questioning.  They told me I wasn’t sober… that I was ‘dry’, (dry is a pejorative term in AA meaning sober without working the 12 steps of AA) they tell me to go have a drink.  They tell me to leave AA.  More evidence of the sickness that exists not only in gay AA but also within our larger gay community.

I am not leaving AA any time soon.  If I drink (as they suggest)  I will return to AA a hero.  If I don’t drink I will return to AA a hero.  There’s very little they, my detractors, can do.  When they tell me to drink they are really telling me to kill myself… and many will attest that is exactly what the weak-willed have done.  Excluded by the cult of gay AA they have taken their own lives.

Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose — that of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Bill Wilson Grave VT

 

As I embark on my 15th year of sobriety are things as I imagined they would be?

Well…they are as they are.

In God‘s perfect world there is nothing I can’t handle.

I have enough.

Enough is all I have.

What was it like before I got sober?  It was a daily, living hell.

This is the day I that I yearly recommit to sobriety and this is the day that forces me to take stock and move forward unburdened.

The day where I take a thorough inventory, both good and bad.

Some things need left behind.  You know what I am talking about.

Some things need embracing.

Life needs to be lived.

For all the love/health/death/aggravation of the past year…today I am strong and secure.  Today.

It seems that although forgiveness is key…it is a hard thing to swallow.

There were many times when I was with him that I wanted to drink.  Not because I wanted to get drunk but because I wanted to be where he was.

I didn’t want to feel apart from him.  I wanted to share his experience.  Our experience as he experienced it.  Making love after a couple of glasses of wine.

Wanting so much to feel that warm glow that I remember being ever so slightly tipsy affords me.

So glad I didn’t.  Could you imagine giving up sobriety for him?  For anyone?  I shudder when I think about it.

The desire to fit in never really goes away.

So, yet again, fate has been kind.  I’m lucky to have escaped without totally ruining my life.  I’m telling you if I was drinking now I would never be able to deal with half of what is being thrown at me.

Even though we have been estranged.  My relationship with AA has really been the best thing that ever happened to me.

Even though I don’t want to believe it.

My relationship with LA AA has been particularly beneficial.

Going back to my 7am meeting in the Palisades.   That’s why I’ve been waking at 5am, write this blog then schlepping down the mountain to that little room.  It was the men in that room that persuaded me to move here to California.  After a couple of years of getting involved I stopped going.  The personalities there started to annoy me.  I stopped listening.  So, this time, I have been pretending I don’t know anyone.  Like it’s my first time.  Listening for the similarities, going back to basics.  Relearning the language of AA.

It has been a time of great reflection.  AA birthdays always make one think of how life might have been if I hadn’t stopped drinking.   Good God.   I was always so angry.  Every day.

My anger is so destructive.  I wonder if it has anything to do with that massive head injury I suffered when I was a kid?

Even though you might not believe it, I really hate me when I am angry (really hate me) and as you have seen these past few months I am not well served when I get angry.  Letting myself down like that.  Love, it seems, not only brings me sorrow but makes me very angry.  Angry is not the man I want to be.

My real father was a very angry man.  Not my step-father.  My real father was pathologically angry.  My step-father was just frustrated by me. If I hadn’t been around he would have been much calmer.  Probably.  There I go again, letting him off the hook.

So, I shall be off in a minute.  Making my entrance again with my usual flair.

I had my Manhunt date Number Seven last night.  It was lovely.  Let’s see what happens.  I told him about the blog and (you wont believe this) I decided that after this entry I wouldn’t write about what happens between us.  Do I wish I hadn’t written about Jake?  No, he deserved it.  To be written about.  But, I may have learned my lesson.  Some things just need to be not written about.

I’ll tell you this before I keep my mouth shut:

We walked up Abbot Kinney in Venice.  We ate at all the food trucks.  It was really, really sweet.

The house is now officially on the market.  First viewing today.  I am in two minds.  Part of me doesn’t want to sell.  Part of me is desperate to.  I will never have the opportunity to own such a gorgeous house ever again but buying a small place in NYC is perhaps a better idea.

Jerome popped by yesterday and said, “You have too much stuff.”

He’s right.

I spent a great part of yesterday getting rid of half of my books.  I now have a much leaner library.  Dictionaries gone.  Thanks internet.  Thanks Kindle.  Thanks new technology.  Thanks spell-check.

I am not the sort of person who hoards crap.  Everything I have is beautiful and could probably sell for exactly or even more than I bought it.

I love heavy, white linen.  When the house is rented I put colored sheets on the bed.  Now I live here full-time I have stripped off the dark green sheets and remade the bed with my freshly laundered, white Irish linen.

It is still dark.  Waiting for the dawn.  The light on my desk attracts moths.  Tiny little moths.  I crush them and put them in the bin.

A HUGE cricket just landed on my desk.

Street Art 2010I woke at 5.30am and made my way to JFK.  My driver, a jolly chap from the Dominican Republic, saved us from smashing into the back of a reckless driver weaving all over the freeway.

I am suddenly OVER Virgin Airlines who have managed to lose the Marc Jacobs sunglasses they told me they found last week when I arrived.

I am sitting next to a very effusive Jewish girl who is typing and organizing and eating and reading prayers out loud, asks the same questions repeatedly and is THOROUGHLY irritating but funny.  My expectation is to sit next to a cute, quiet male who will speak when spoken to and not read prayers out loud.  My resentment stems from this unrealistic expectation.

I expect to get to the air port and have my sunglasses waiting for me.  God has other plans.

Last night had dinner with Dan and Cooper at Prune on 1st street.  Delicious baked marrowbone (a la St John’s in London), pot au feu and trifle.

Without a doubt I am falling in love and have to be incredibly careful that this love does not become a dangerous obsession.  Remember what happened last time?   Expectations and Resentments.

I spent a great deal of time seeing old friends whilst in NYC and meeting some new ones.     I saw Daniel R briefly and met up with the last of the book agents.  Very nice man who I found myself explaining my circle plan.

I am being remarkably well behaved.  I am not flirting, intriguing or altering my route for the wrong reasons.  I see and immediately own up to the men I objectify.

I spoke to another man with a dog in the street called Chandler who then later found me via this blog.  Thanks!  Keep in contact.

I called John in LA who is in the doldrums.   We Sex Addicts, what a glum lot we can be.  Saying that, I had a very healthy time in NYC.   I enjoyed spending time with Benoit and being around his book launch and his boyfriend.  I enjoyed what I heard in the rooms-especially from our compulsive brethren.    I related to other men who spoke movingly about multiple, on-line identities.    I felt as if I had a greater understanding of my addiction so am less at the mercy of it.

I am going back to LA to get on with the goat and chickens house that needs built ASAP.  I am having a final meeting with the solar guy and waiting on a price and timetable from The Edible Garden.