Archives for posts with tag: AA

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It’s been some time since I turned my back on this blog.  I rather ostentatiously announced that I would never blog again.   But it’s been a tumultuous year inter personally and internationally.   Not a great year to ignore.   The most important reason for not blogging?

Last year I met someone I have grown to respect tremendously, even though in the peripheral vision of the public eye he is perhaps one of the most private people I’ve ever called a friend.  He has become one of those closest to me.  In its former incarnation my blog had become a risky means to communicate my triumphs, failures and frustrations.  Those around me felt uncomfortable, aware they could end up in this personal blog at the mercy of my public point of view.

The closer I became to my friend, the more I grew to love his gentle disposition, his trust and generosity.  I did not want to endanger our friendship nor cause him or his family anxiety.   I stopped writing.  This week I mentioned to him why I had stopped writing my blog and how I might start writing again.  He was very supportive.

2.

I am an oaf.  The older I get the more clumsy I become.  Some people become physically inept.  I’ve become mentally less agile.  Tripping over myself when I get excited.  Wading through molasses when I get tired.   Writing this blog every day kept me alert.

There’s a red squirrel living in the barn, aggressively defending the ancient black walnut tree.  He’s not at all like a British red squirrel.  He’s more like a stoat.  He spent the autumn collecting walnuts, filling a cavity at the base of the tree with his foraging.   He sits peeling walnuts, industriously creating a midden beneath him.   When I don’t see him I worry the barn cat ate him. I hadn’t seen him for a week after the heavy snow but today he was back on his branch.  His fluffy tail and chattering warning off the grey squirrels who, even though they are thrice his size, run from him when he spies them stealing his stash.

The Little Dog is getting old.  He sleeps more.  His soft jowl is grey.  He has fatty lumps forming on his chest.  He loves a long walk and streaks ahead of me and Dude.  He must be 12-year-old.  Maybe.  I’ve no idea how old he was when we found him at the rescue.

I don’t have a TV.  It keeps me from the worst of the news cycle.  Twitter and Facebook keep me up to date.  The second screen.  Bloody hell.  I’m addicted to that thing.  I’ve tried hard to not look.  Tried an app that tells me how many hours a day I spend engaging with it.  Shocking.  My head down like a pious monk looking at the little screen.

3.

Last Easter Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich stayed here with me in Tivoli. They’ve bought a very scruffy farm in Poughkeepsie.  They are vegans. They eat tapioca for breakfast. I’ve never known two people to bicker as often as they do.  We went for long walks.  Dennis says, “You realise Trump is going to be our next president?  He’s going to win.” At lunch he repeated his assertion.  My nice white, affluent friends smile knowingly.  Crazy Dennis Kucinich.  They didn’t believe him, I didn’t want to believe him.  A few weeks later the two gay men who live opposite this house put up a Trump/Pence sign on their lawn and… I knew Dennis was right.  President Trump was inevitable.

There were many dinners and lunches prepared on North Road this year.  It seemed to irritate my nice friends whenever I cautioned a Trump presidency.  “Only angry white men will vote for him.” they said.  They assured me there weren’t enough angry white men to defeat the women and the people of color Trump had offended.

They think I am an angry white man.

Trump won the primary.  The establishment attempted to shame him with crude tape recordings, unseen tax bills, the stories of unpaid artisans.

I felt isolated every time I repeated my assertion.  How could I be so sure?  “Do you have a degree in political science?”   I was asked by an affluent gay man peering at me suspiciously.  “No, I listen.”  I said. “I listen to people far away from the shrill, gay echo chamber.  I sit with AA people.  Local working people, the kind of people who plough your drive or file documents in the local hospital or work in the probation department… the kind of people sophisticated city folk never engage.  They love Trump.”

The AA folk I met all over the state confirmed my suspicion that things were not as the pollsters claimed.  The double-digit Clinton lead.  The hyperbole.  In hind sight the polls now seem like establishment propaganda.

On the TV despondent hacks wondered why every time Trump made a gaffe or said something untoward his ratings soared.  Upstate, men and women of all ages had already decided Trump was their guy.  They did not care about pussy grabbing.  Ruth said, “He can grab my pussy.”  They did not care about Trump’s debate performance or his racism.  The language Trump used… they could understand.  I heard their roar of approval echo over the mountains and into the valley every time Trump shat all over the politically correct.

My nice liberal friends were too busy believing in Clinton’s invincibility.  They refused to listen to anything other than hollow reassurance from other liberals that a Trump presidency was totally impossible.

Some polls, discredited by the establishment, indicated Bernie Sanders was the only Democrat in the race who could comfortably beat Donald Trump.  My nice white friends scoffed.  “We don’t want a Bernie revolution.” Amy said.

“When Trump’s elected you’ll wish it was Bernie’s revolution rather than Trump’s.”  I replied.

Consternation at the dinner table.  “Trump isn’t going to win,” they said.  “He can’t win.” What seemed evident to me became increasingly absurd to others.  The choice was obvious:  It was either Sander’s revolution or Trump’s.  Revolution was what the people craved.

Hillary Clinton won the Democratic presidential nomination.  They kicked Bernie to the curb, unwilling to work with him.  Clinton’s affable, dull running mate (whose name I’ve forgotten) made no impression on the nation and Pence effortlessly destroyed him during the vice presidential debate.

The affluent white people I know in New York City have become complacent, deaf to the pleas and need of the rest of the nation.  Whilst my city friends were slightly inconvenienced by the banking crisis, the working poor suffered real consequences: they lost their homes, their jobs and their dreams.  They foolishly believed affable President Obama would help them, but Obama ignored the opiate epidemic claiming the lives of desperate Americans, he ignored the many suicides of hopeless young men.  Whilst we were applauding Obama’s inclusive rhetoric, cheering his trans toilet initiative.  A black president honoring the trans community…  I heard a different story from my local white friends of all ages, smoking cigarettes after the AA meeting.   They recoiled from the trans toilet debate… unable to register their disdain for fear of PC retribution.

Meanwhile Robby Mook, Clinton’s gay campaign manager, deliberately chose to spurn the votes of the working poor and went after the soft Republican vote believing them more educated and therefore outraged by Trump’s racism and misogyny.  It was a catastrophic decision.  Mook’s strategy was informed by the ringing lies he heard in the pink echo chamber.  The same hall of whispers I am privy to.  They said, Clinton will win because Trump is a clown.  I was getting blocked on Facebook for pleading with people to get ready for President Trump.  Empirical evidence rather than scientific opinion.  I was listening to my AA friends.  I was looking at the Trump/Pence signs sprouting up all over New York state.

The gays alienated themselves from anyone who didn’t think like them or look like them or agree with their blind devotion to Clinton.  The merest questioning of her integrity was perceived as heresy.  The more they blocked me the more I realised just how hopeless those people would be the morning after the election.

I was invited to an upstate ‘Pink Belt’  gay pool party.  The hosts and guests were short, buff and white.   In spite of my fear of mediocrity I had a very pleasant time.  The short white host saw me out.  I mentioned my fear of gay pool parties as I thanked him for inviting me.  “Don’t worry,” he smiled “I’m out of shape too.”   I paused and looked into his big blue eyes.  

The gays sneer at the working poor who vote against their own interests… forgetting the working poor have no interests.  They have no Obama Care, they have no home to call their own.  They limp from one bill to another, doing their best, never daring to dream.  Trapped by debt, obesity, addiction and religion.  The working poor do not have ‘interests’ to vote against nor common cause.  They were angry, raw and unrepresented whilst Obama touted gender neutral bathrooms.

Where was the change they could believe in?  Where was the change we could all believe in?

In the early hours of the morning November 9th 2016 I was on a late train from Grand Central Station to Poughkeepsie NY.  There was a middle-aged woman wearing an ‘I’m With Her’ baseball cap.  She had been at the Javitz Convention Center waiting for Hillary’s victory speech. She sat on the train weeping.  Her face wet with tears.  The conductor asked if she was ok.  She railed against Trump.  The conductor said, “Oh dear, things are going to work out just fine.” Young people started laughing, jeering at her.  Trump supporters.  She sobbed inconsolably.  The mob sneered at Obama even though many had voted for him.  They were excited, they were excited for a new American dawn.

Hillary Clinton beat Robby Mook on his chest with both her fists when she realised she had lost the race.

In the UK the Brexit referendum happened earlier in 2016.  My Mother and Brother voted to leave the EU.  Leave won the popular vote.  Hate crimes became a daily occurrence.  I felt sad and shocked.  England shrank before my eyes.  The sickening thud of jack boots on the streets, austerity leading inevitably to the solutions of the anti-establishment right-wing. I lamented our decision.  Others came to their senses too late, wishing their protest vote hadn’t had such an impact.

All over the world people are shaking the tree, expecting it to afford them cover.

Ori posted a picture on Instagram.   A dinner with friends the night after the 2016 presidential election.  10 white, identical looking gay men in their thirties… commiserating.  ‘This is why we lost the election’ I wrote beneath the picture. ’10 white gay men believed Clinton would win because they repeated wishes as if they were facts.’  He blocked me.  Nobody wants to believe that they are part of the problem. 

In the aftermath of the presidential election Hillary Clinton vanished into the woods of Chappaqua.  The rich got richer. Those friends who scorned my prediction were gracious enough to acknowledge I was right.  But what of it?   Clinton supporters are still unable to grasp what is happening, they blame the Russians, they blame Wikileaks,  they blame the electoral college, they blame the polls, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders… they blame everyone but Clinton.   Their fury is palpable.  Their distress acute.

We wait for January 20th.

 

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