Saturday, February 11, 2012

Another Interesting Meeting

We changed the format for the candlelight meeting a few months ago, and the second week of the month is now given over to a step speaker, with the step being discussed the same as whatever month of the year it is. So last night's speaker was to talk about their experience with the Second Step. Kate is the speaker seeker for the group, and when she told me before the meeting who she had asked to share, I was a little surprised, because the guy has a significant amount of time--I think it's 17 years now--and she had talked before about "saving" people with a lot of time for the later months and steps because the number of people out there who have worked the steps drops off dramatically once we pass Four. I also had a little bit of trepidation, because obviously I am well aware of the guy, him having been around the entire time I've been around, and I had not been impressed by his program up to this point in time, with the caveat that I've barely seen or heard about him in the last three years or so.
But I have to say that the Kevin who spoke last night was not the Kevin I remember from the first decade I was here: it was a strong, positive, substantive message of recovery. I found out more of his background than I had ever known before, but I also heard a guy who shared a good part of my story after getting and staying clean--a guy who basically has not only matured in the rooms, but has done so in part by taking his role as a father in his daughter's life seriously, by identifying some of the things he didn't like about his own childhood and making a commitment to do things differently. Which he has, according to visible evidence. His daughter is a few months younger than Sabrina, and she was part of the Binghamton East All-Star team last summer; she was one of the less rambunctious, more reserved members of that team, and I remember thinking that she seemed to be a pretty good kid. He was in the stands with his current lady friend, who is also in the rooms, and said hello to me at the Windsor tournament, and I didn't think a lot of it at the time, but I do remember now that he gave his daughter a little encouragement between innings and cheered in an appropriate manner.
And listening to him last night, I also got a reminder that it takes what it takes. Kevin has had a pretty spotty record about being loyal in his relationships (and to be totally honest here, some of my not liking him for some time has been because he acted like a total shit to a woman that I had been rather fond of in active addiction that had been, at the time he was with her, trying to get and stay clean; instead of helping her stay clean, he basically treated her like a whore and fed her disease. At least according to her), but to all appearances he seems genuinely committed to Linda, and I know they went through the hardest situation parents can suffer through a few months ago-- the death of a child--and some of the time, enduring such painful hardship makes a bond stronger and brings out the better angels of our nature. Maybe that's gone on with him, as well. But even more than anything he said last night, I noticed a difference in his non-verbal communication. The player's strut, the air of being on the make, the performer's affectations when addressing a crowd, the little tics and giveaways that a person is lying or fronting--all were very clearly absent last night, and all of them had been part of his projected persona when he spoke at meetings and events for over a decade. Whatever has gone on with him in the last couple of years, it's genuine.
And we are all the better for it. Kevin is now the chair of the A&E Committee, taking over in the wake of the Messagemaster/Richie fiasco last summer, and he acknowledged last night that whatever his personal desires might be on some days, his foremost role there, and his primary motivation in running the committee, is trying to heal a fellowship that has badly splintered. He made reference that surrounding regions used to look to Binghamton for examples in how Area service worked--and how sad it is for those of us who have been here for a long time to see the interest in Area service and Area events withering away.
And he is absolutely right, even though, in his newfound role as conciliator, he was too polite to assign responsibility for that state of affairs. I'm not so reticent, not because I am so eager to place the blame but more in the spirit of identifying a problem in order to be able to do something about it; it is the Messagemaster and his cult of disciples, who have turned off virtually every other well-meaning recovering person in the area with the dishonesty, clannishness, and unpleasantness that accompany every Tribe foray into Area service, every Tribe speaker jam, every Tribe event. And of course it comes from the top; I just got confirmation yet again of what a piece of shit the Messagemaster really is, when Sarah told me recently that he had vowed, in the aftermath of her blowup with him over the entire Campout situation in the summer, to make it "impossible" for her to remain in Narcotics Anonymous through his usual bag of tricks including character assassination, ostracism, and outright lying. This was said, by the way, to a 29YO woman with six months clean who had done nothing more than stand up for herself as a woman (and as an aside, by being friendly with her I have begun--begun, mind you--to reassess my feelings on Rich. The maturation process, the lights coming on, seem--seem--to be happening a bit for him, too. We will see, but he wouldn't be the first one who bloomed in the absence of the malign shadow of the Messagemaster, whom he remains more or less happily estranged from, and that he is carving out his own identity in Narcotics Anonymous. Good for you, Richie, regardless of how it all turns out; you needed to do that for your own well-being). As is par for the course, all of the Tribe have shunned involvement in any Area business or activity since their terms ended in the summer, and since a substantial number of us that have been around for years long ago gave up on the service structure because of the ugliness that ensues invariably when any attempt to get involved is made that doesn't involve abject surrender to the will of the Messagemaster, the Area is really suffering as a result. It's like those of us who feel as though they might want to get involved, and who have much to offer if they wanted to, aren't going to step forward until we know that the asshole isn't coming back.
And then after the meeting, I talked for a good ten minutes with one of the Tribe, a guy who was part of my original generation who has been in and out for virtually the entire time I've been here--a guy who has always looked to the Tribe for sponsorship and guidance and who has been sponsored by the Messagemaster himself for the last year. And who now has twenty days clean. When he first came back last winter, I had a conversation with him about perhaps him needing to go in a different direction, and that it has always fractured me that guys will go back to the same sponsor and "support group" even though they repeatedly relapse--not making the connection that the "support" they are getting 1) isn't working for them, because they keep relapsing, and 2) just might be a big part of the problem. I brought this up to him again last night, after essentially another year of his life has gone by without result, and he seemed a little more receptive to the input, especially when I pointed out to him that while the Messagemaster seems to stay clean (although more and more people are openly questioning whether he actually does so, because he sure doesn't act like he's clean, much less clean for two decades), few of the people around him seem to be able to--most of the Tribe seems to be prone to relapse, even with long amounts of clean time. And conversely, few who have worked the program with sponsors who--provide a strong contrast with the Message, let's say, once they get to a certain level of progress never seem to go back. The two exceptions recently, Brian and Rich A., 1) had stopped working a program with the sponsorship circle they had gotten the long period of time with, and 2) started spending more and more time around the Tribe in the last few years. Relapse after fifteen and seventeen years was unexpected, but it wasn't, considering the company they were keeping at the time, a total bolt from the blue. That made an impression on the guy, and he took my number, not for the first time. I told him with a smile my number hasn't changed since the last two times he asked for it and I've yet to hear from him, and he said this time was going to be different.
I hope so. Underlying all the personality conflicts in the fellowship--and I've certainly had a share in a number of them--is something Kevin alluded to last night. For some of us, the motivation isn't power and control and influence; it's a reaction to practices and behaviors exhibited that ultimately lead to people not staying clean, and to people eventually dying--needlessly--of this disease. I don't dislike the Messagemaster and the Message because I want to stand in his place. I dislike what it is and what it stands for because of the damage it does, because it undermines the strength and unity of the fellowship that all of us need to get and stay well, that we all need to be able to rely upon in order to keep what we have been able to gain. And that's what I really took out of Kevin's message last night; we're all in this together. There was a time when he said the words but didn't act on them, but that time has passed; I really think it was genuine and from the heart last night. And it certainly resonated with me and with everyone there.

No comments: