Go to a meeting!

Meeting

I’ve had a tough couple of weeks.  I’m not even sure why but I couldn’t get out of my own head during the day and tossed & turned at night.  I’ve had a hard time letting go of the idea that I could get back things that I’ve lost.  One of my greatest struggles over the past 26 months has been giving IT to God. IT is not just my drinking but my will and my entire life over to the care of God. As I’ve shouted from the highest mountain God took away my thirst for booze so I’m all in with my trust in Him…theoretically..but tactically is where I still struggle at times. I’ve heard Faith & Fear can’t coexist. It’s easy to say I trust His plan but it’s another for me to LET GO and stop thinking about the plans I had in mind.

Whos Will

The good news is that having a tough week doesn’t lead to falling off the wagon as I know where that would lead.  However I’m also not taking any chances. I’ve been collecting tools that I use everyday. Sometimes the best advice is the simplest…

Go to a Meeting! 

Don’t drink and go to meetings
We’ve got a chair here with your name on it
If you hang around a barber shop long enough, you’ll get a haircut
Keep coming back
Meeting Makers Make It
Sit down, shut up and listen
It’s the second meeting that’s the most important one
Seven days without a meeting makes one weak
If I don’t go to meetings, I don’t hear what God wants me to hear
I am the black sheep of the family. I came to a meeting and found the rest of the herd
Bring your body, your mind will follow

In other words:

Meetings are Wicked Important!

I never leave a meeting feeling worse than when I came in. I always leave saying, “we truly are the lucky ones” as most people don’t get to experience what we have.  It’s true that you always hear just what you need. There is no better place to see God’s grace at work. And I see it every time.  

So I have a meeting I can get to every day of the week.  At least one.  Now life happens and you often can’t get to a meeting when you need it.  This was even more true during my first six months when I could of, should have, been at a meeting all the time.  But I had to work and raise my boys so I often had to bring meetings to where I was.

One of my favorite resources, a lifeline, has been Tom Murphy’s ‘Your Daily Reprieve‘.  Tom has a daily email blast that he sends around the world every morning around 5:30 am Eastern time.  It is packed with resources including inspirational quotes, AA sayings, daily podcasts of AA speakers, and links to endless other podcast resources.  I’ve spent hours in my car, my office, airports, hockey rinks, on park benches, and in bed in the middle of the night listening to speaker podcasts that came from Tom’s emails.  You can also google or search YouTube for AA speakers or some of the classic old times such as Joe & Charlie, Sandy Beach, and even Bill W.

One of my favorite sections of Tom’s Daily Reprieve is “Celebrate Your Anniversary” where he lists all of his readers (name, town & years) who have an anniversary in the current month and then he highlights them on the day.  On this month’s emails it reads his April list has “1310 Total Years of Sobriety!”

DailyReprieve

Tom’s email has also been a lifeline to help me find meetings whenever I travel.  Readers send Tom an email in preparation for a trip or moving and he blasts it to his 3000+ subscribers (30k daily readers).  I’ve used this when traveling to Cincinnati, Dallas, Montana, Poland, Romania and France.  Thanks to a reader & now friend named Crowe I was able to get to a meeting in Paris hanging onto 90 days sober and he again helped me find the American Church in Paris to pick up my 2 year chip earlier this year!  If you have never been to a meeting while traveling I highly recommend it.  A drunk is a drunk in any land or language! 😉

Please email Tom at txm1@comcast.net if you’d like to receive ‘Your Daily Reprieve

ParisChip
So when I have a tough day I get to a meeting one way or another.  It always makes me feel better.  There’s no excuse for not hearing what you need if you just put in a smidgen of effort.

But you can’t leave your house?  You now know how to find meetings online!

You say your power is out?  Read the Big Book!

Ohhh so you say you’re in the pitch dark? ….PRAY!

Finding a meeting is simple   All you need is a resentment and a coffee pot.

Greg – RagamuffinDad

Jeremiah 29 11

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Who brought the kid to AA? Parents in Recovery

Sitting in my WGAT (What’s Good About Today) meeting this morning I was positioned so that I could see out the window.  About ten minutes into the meeting I saw a father alone in the parking lot straining to one side carrying a large baby car seat.  He was rushing to get from his car into the the room.  When they entered the room he made a beeline for the kitchen and a minute later made his way to an open seat with the baby in one hand and a cup of joe in the other.  He laid the baby carrier on the rug in front of his seat, sat down and let out a slow, audible exhale and then smiled.  In less than a few minutes a woman next to him was holding his adorable baby while he soaked in each speaker as it went around the room.  This five minute scene made my day.

fatherbaby
There is something warming that I feel in seeing children at meetings. I don’t shy away from bringing my own kids.  My seven year old Brody will sit on my lap lost in his iPad until I hear the occasional snicker when someone cusses through habit.  My older son Aidan has been to each of my anniversary meetings and has recently joined a group of us at a commitment where we spoke to a group at a local detox facility, most of whom were young opiate addicts. I don’t find this unhealthy at either age.  Aidan and I always have open discussions about what we hear each time.  There’s a stereotype of AA meetings being desperately sad, smoke filled rooms where you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.  That couldn’t be further from the truth. And the alternative is far worse…

One of the few childhood memories I have of my own father was visiting him for a weekend from my north shore hometown of Marblehead to south of Boston in Mansfield.  I remember hanging around a bar room all day; knocking balls around the pool table, drinking Roy Rogers (coke & grenadine), playing with cards, …and then being bored to death the rest of the long day. I still have a taste for vinegar on my fries that I was enticed to try by the women who paid me extra attention at the bar.  I remember the small cooler he kept on the floor of the passenger side and feeling small sitting next to him on the big front bench seat as he drove.  One weekend he had my older cousin and I in his car after spending much of a Saturday on his regular stool and decided it would be a perfect time to drive north to New Hampshire to go camping. My cousin, who had never been north of Boston, jumped out of the car at a red light next to Wonderland Race Track in Revere.  Luckily I convinced him that I needed more cloths and gear to go camping and he drove me to my house in Marblehead.  I jumped out of the car as soon as it came to a stop across from my house.  He parked and fell asleep with the car running and I remember my neighborhood friends peeking in the window at the strange man snoring.  Luckily he was gone the next time I looked.  My older brothers lived with my father longer than I did so I only have a few such memories. Even then I didn’t blame my father nor was I angry at him.  I saw him as sick even as a child and I was more right than I knew at the time.

I love the recovery fellowship I’m apart of on Twitter.  I’ve created a ‘list’ called Friends of Bill (https://twitter.com/GregMKelly/lists/4-friends-of-bill) that allows me to view updates from all my sober friends.  (if you haven’t heard the term “Friends of Bill” it’s in reference to Bill W. the founder of AA).  I was told early on to stick with the winners in AA in order to get what they have.  I gravitate to parents who have their children as part of their motivation.

One such friend, Melissa, had her children removed from her home almost a year ago because of her drinking.  She is one of the strongest fighters I’ve seen grab hold of recovery.  She is fighting not just to get her children home but to be an all around healthier person and parent.  From my outside view I see how God has worked in her life and how something changed in her so that she’s no longer suffering daily to stay sober.  She’s talked about how she’s disgusted now at the thought of drinking.  She’s given up completely on the idea that one day she’ll be ‘fixed’ enough to drink again.  She’s a recovery winner which is why I love following her progress and hearing about the healing going on in her young family’s life.

It reminds me of the promises on pages 84-85 of the AA Big Book where it says:

“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality-safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.”

This promise came true for me and it was nothing short of a miracle.  I have no doubt that it was the prayers…the psychic change… of asking God for help and he took it away. The only thing that changed from my earlier attempts to stop drinking was the prayers. They say that you can only do this successfully if you’re doing it for yourself and not someone else.  You often hear that you can’t get sober or stay clean because of someone else’s ultimatum or threats.  I do believe this and it wasn’t until I was dropped to my knees in desperation that I finally asked God for help….every day, on my knees, I begged God for help.I cried in fierce prayer to God so many times I couldn’t count them if I tried. I gave Him my addiction, I begged Him to take compulsion to drink, I gave Him my whole life, my self will, and He took it all from me. My children have played a huge role in keeping me from taking my life back from God.  I had a mantra I would say to myself for months throughout the day, “God’s will be done.” which was to remember that my own self will made a disaster of my life and it wasn’t until I gave it to God did my life improve.  My kid’s father today is not only sober but I’m also a really good father and role model for them.  It doesn’t take going to meeting for them to hear about recovery as they’ve lived it and seen remarkable change in their father.  And they know I credit God.

Last week at a meeting a young man living in a local recovery house for men talked about seeing his kids over the weekend before returning sadly to the house.  He agonized out loud about how much his children are suffering from being apart from him.  Clearly it was hurting him very much.  After the meeting I asked him if he remembered how old he was at the time of his earliest memory as I barely remembered anything from before the age of eight or ten.  As we talked I told him that my youngest son will never remember me drinking but he gets to see his healthy father all the time.  I suggested to him that his children won’t remember this time away from their father especially if he gets healthy this time for good.

Lastly, Aidan asked me last summer if he could have a friend sleep over. It was a friend that I hadn’t met yet so I spoke to his mother on the phone and we agreed that he could.  When Aidan introduced me to his friend he asked, “You look so familiar.  Do you play in a punk band?”  I smiled at Aidan with a ‘is this kid for real’ look but the boy continued by asked if  I knew his father who grew up in Charlestown, and several other questions before reluctantly giving up.  Thirty minutes later he came out of Aidan’s room confidently declaring that he figured it out.  “I went to a meeting with my mom and heard you speak a while back and I remember really liking what you had to say.  It made an impact on me.”  Aidan followed up by saying he goes to meetings too and asked if he could go again soon.  I told them both that they just made my day.

Children see the drinking and are impacted negatively every day by alcohol, drugs, and addiction.  Not many are untouched by it, including my brothers and I and my own children. I not only remember spending entire days at bars with my father but I used to take my own kids to the ‘social club’ across the street from my old house. The club Christmas party was a highlight we looked forward to as a family and anytime we were together with friends they witnessed all of the adults drinking.  They see the fun times parents have with drinking and have to suffer the consequences too often.  Witnessing the miracle of recovery isn’t so bad. 

Greg – RagamuffinDad

IMG_0851

What’s Good About Today? John F. Willey

RIP John Willey

My home group is a wonderful meeting at 7:00 am everyday but Sunday in Amesbury, MA called ‘What’s Good About Today‘ or WGAT.  The meeting is as positive as its name despite being a large meeting which averages ~70 people each morning dealing with all stages of recovery.  Some of the local, angry dry drunks frequently refer to it as the meeting with bunnies and puppies!   The format is that after the intro’s the discussion goes around the room with most people starting with “My name is Greg and I’m an alcoholic and what’s good about today is….”  I love the diversity of the meeting ranging from wise old-timers, steady “yuppy-row”, young desperate opiate addicts, to candid Hell’s Angels … yet it’s amazing how we’re all so similar.

I found the meeting a few days after my last drink when I came in so raw and met my first temporary sponsor, Tim, one of my closest sober brothers, Tom, and several others who have helped me so much in my recovery.  Due to my work I rarely make it during the week but I start my Saturday’s with this new family.  My two young sons have both been on several occasions including my two anniversaries when most every speakers commented on their father which was so powerful for them to hear.  It is truly a special PIC which I never leave in a bad mood having found something said that I needed.

My other home group is the sober community I’ve pieced together over the past two years on Twitter (which I’ll talk about often).  I was fortunate last summer to come across a woman named Catherine (@TheBubbleHour) who along with a group of women hosts a online weekly recovery webcast called The Bubble Hour (www.thebubblehour.com).  Catherine reached out to me when she saw that my twitter handle, NewburyportDad, referenced her home town.  Now living in NYC she and her husband where traveling to Plum Island (Newburyport) and she wanted to know of any good meetings.  Of course I told her of WGAT and we ended up attending that Saturday together. Catherine was one of those visitors who spoke wisdom and touched most in the room.  She’s continued to visit WGAT whenever back from NYC visiting her family.

Catherine introduced me to sweet, 86 year old ‘old-timer’ named John F. Willey with 45 years sobriety.  John also lives in NYC and grew up in the Merrimack Valley of Boston’s North Shore.  As his family’s patriarch, he was traveling through the area for a family vacation on Bailey Island, Maine. Catherine had told him he had to contact me and visit us at WGAT!

John lit the room up when he spoke.  One of our regulars remembered John from the “Waco Meeting” in Haverhill back in the day.  His positive message of sticking with the winners and stepping out of your comfort zone to meet others in need of help has inspired me to do just that.  John added me to a regular email that he sends out and we’ve kept in touch since.  Less than a month ago I received his email update, titled LIFE and it read in part:

Last year Catherine informed me about a PIC in far off Amesbury, Massachusetts named “What’s Good About Today. ” I went and never forgot the sense of Optimism that pervaded the meeting.  Today I awoke to a refrain that would not stop, “What’s good about today” over and over. I decided I had to contact Catherine to respond to the refrain; either that or go nuts. Then I remembered the Optimist’s Creed.

As you ramble through Life, Brother,
Whatever be your Goal,
Keep your Eye upon the Doughnut
And not upon the Hole.

Tuesday night Catherine let me know that John was in a NYC hospital and asked me to please pray for him.  She visited John yesterday and reported that despite the gravity of his health he remains his positive self.  “He told a guy with 6-7 months who went to see him today – if you go out, I’ll haunt you!”  She also read this Top 10 list to John which I told her I’d share at WGAT tomorrow morning:

Top 10 things I learned from John Willey (aka. What’s Good About Today)

1. I’m so damn grateful to be sobah! This should be your daily starting point.
2. God gave you free will and a brain. Use them! That is, get off your ass and take action, make a change.
3. Get the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth. If you really listen, you’ll learn something to be excited about.
4. Be excited about life!! It’s an honor to be here to grow and learn.
5. Keep learning. Read everything. Study. Don’t stop.
6. Forget about your mother issues and your father issues. It’s over. Know they did their best. And get into action. (See item two)
7. Twelve step service isn’t about the other guy and what he does or doesn’t do. Did it keep you sober today? Then it was a success.
8. Be willing to change your mind. You can change your perspective about anything, at any time.
9. Laugh and show up. Even when you don’t feel well. Do it anyway. It’ll help you (and you may help someone else.)
10. The first forty years of sobriety are the hardest. So just keep coming back.
John’s sober anniversary 4/7

BTW, John is also an author and his biography, Living the Life I Always Wanted, highlights that despite some bumps along the way, John has lived an amazing life surrounded by adventure, loving relationships, and friends. He did not sit and watch life go by but participated in it every step of the way. Learn from his experiences and find inspiration in Living the Life I Always Wanted. You can find here:

http://www.amazon.com/Living-Life-I-Always-Wanted/dp/1450290310/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1461332221&sr=8-6&keywords=John+Willey

JohnFWilley

Have you every met someone in this fellowship that makes you feel so blessed to be a part of this?  John & Catherine both are two of those people.

Updated 4-25-16
Last night Catherine informed me that John passed away yesterday.  Over the past several days, she had the privilege of visiting with John and his family. She described John as comfortable and lucid.  He knew the end was near and he was ok with it although sad about leaving his wife, Barbara.  He did have a son on the other side that he would soon be reunited with.  Friday night she let me know he had been moved to hospice care where he was surrounded by lots of family members.  Catherine and I discussed how it was like a scene out of A Wonderful Life.  Here is a man totally at peace with leaving this life for another.  He no longer has to worry about ‘One Day at a Time’ as he could see the finish line in sight and he knew he used his final 45 years to finish strong.  I described the odd feeling over the past few days of not praying for healing and recovery but instead for John’s family.  As our local WGAT prophet, Rodney, likes to quote most of us Ragamuffins can etch the same epitaph on our tombstones, “I’ve Been Worse.”
RIP, John Francis Willey

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Please join us all in praying for John, his wife Barbara and family and all of those he helped through his many years of service.

Greg

A Ragamuffin’s testimony

My final drink was sometime in the wee hours of February 7th 2014 after 1.5 years of attempting to white-knuckle it to sobriety. I woke up in a Charleston hospital with stitches above my eye and no recollection of how they got there during the final night of a business trip. For the first time in my life my will power wasn’t enough to achieve my goals leading me to pick up once again. That last drink cost me my wife and being a full time father. It slammed me down hard, well below what I thought several times before was rock bottom.

I know today that my will needed to be broken for me to surrender. The next day I went to a meeting and got a temporary sponsor who instructed me to open that Big Book I had been driving around with in the back of my Jeep for over a year and read to page 164, twice. I started my 90 mtgs in 90 days (more like 120 mtgs) and I spoke at every meeting, exchanged numbers and most importantly I started every morning on my knees praying to God. I committed myself to my church volunteering to teach Sunday school each week for the first time in my life. I introduced myself to the Bible; the Children’s Storybook Bible, which I read to my youngest son before bed. I read everything I could find on recovery, faith and marriage reconciliation.

Each day was brutally long with lots of breaks to listen to AA podcasts or praying in bathroom stalls at work. The nights were cold, lonely and restless. But the days added up to a new monthly chip which always led to my oldest son getting my previous month’s chip. Before long my youngest boy decided he needed a chip too since big brother got one so I’d have to claim my chips at two different meetings each month. After about three months of the same strict routine each day I looked back and realized that I’d spent the loneliest, most painful time of my life while for the first time in 10 years I’d been alone most nights accountable to no one. Yet drinking or drugs had not once crossed my mind. It had never been an option. The difference has been the program and the prayers I started each day with. I realized that I’d received the first of the promises from this program …from God. Just as described on page 85 of the Big Book, “the problem has been removed”.

Around this time I was watching one of many faith or sobriety movies, Ragamuffin. In it there was a 3 minute clip that dropped me to my knees in tears. The scene recalls the first time Christian singer Rich Mullins heard a powerful sermon from Father Brennan Manning, one of us, who referred to we downtrodden as Ragamuffins – saved sinners who receive God’s mercy and grace. This 3:00 clip changed my relationship with my higher power, Jesus Christ, who Brennan believes will says to us, “I dare you to trust that I love you. Just as you are. Not as you should be. Because none of us are as we should be.” I recorded this clip on my iPhone and share it with anyone who I feel it can help receiving over 2,240 views since June 2014. Here’s the clip:

 

Since that first summer I’ve continued doing everything I can do to grab onto and hold tightly to God and sobriety including being Saved in a southern Pentecostal church, baptized in the rough Plum Island Autumn surf, been to meetings all over the world, and been working the steps meticulously with my sponsor. The only social media I’ve used during my recovery is Twitter (@gregmkelly or NewburyportDad) because it avoids the drama that comes from actually knowing people you communicate with and I’ve been able to build up a wonderful Recovery community. A highlight was meeting a group of women who host a weekly recovery podcast called @TheBubbleHour which they invited me join on week to share my story.  Catherine, one of the women, has even attended my home group meeting with me several times while visiting the area with her husband from NYC.

Catherine invited me to talk about my recovery story last summer which you can find here:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bubblehour/2015/07/13/speakerdiscussion-meeting-with-greg

Today I continue my walk with God, a Ragamuffin, saved sinner and beggar at the door of God’s mercy who each day receive God’s grace to add another day of sobriety and to live as the man I was intended to be. I’m 26 months sober who came here on my knees to stop drinking and became a better all around man. I’m proud of the father and man I am today and although my marriage was not restored I trust God’s plan and each day I pray to release the grip on my own will so Thy will be done. Today I remain very active at my church, reading the adult Bible this time, as well as my local AA community. I continue to have Hope for my future and for my boys’ future. I found a quote on Twitter that I keep close:
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“I choose…My children! Breaking generational cycles – Addiction STOPS HERE!”

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I hope that my testimony and sharing can in some way  help you on your path. 

Greg – RagamuffinDad