The Funny Five- Edition 23

In an attempt to perhaps illicit a smile during a stressful moment of the day I now present the Funny Five. I’m happy to say I don’t have to go on and on about the possible side effects like they do in some anxiety pill commercials. These shouldn’t cause diarrhea or death. You might feel a desire to either boo or chuckle a little. Hopefully it will be the latter.

  1. I wonder if a cat is ever allergic to itself.
  2. A lot of sports have wrapped up. Thursday it was the final of the Stanley Cup, Friday it was the NBA Championship, Saturday, a Triple Crown winner at the Belmont, Sunday the French Open final. Finally, I’ve got time to put away my Christmas lights.
  3. One of the questions coming out of the G7 summit this weekend from Justin Trudeau: “Is there a Trump Hotel in hell?”
  4. The Blue Jays have won four games in a row. As nice as it is to hear that, I probably wouldn’t start planning the World Series parade yet.
  5. Robert Di Nero slammed President Trump at the Tony Awards last night. At 7 this morning, the IRS began his audit.
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My Trip To Halifax

I just came back from my first ever FCM Convention. (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) There are a lot of acronyms one has to learn when you enter Municipal government. I had the great opportunity to network with many of my colleagues plus take in a number of informative sessions, go on some historic tours and hear from four leaders of the federal government including Prime Minister Trudeau. Here are a few thoughts from my experience in the incredible city of Halifax.

And so to the recycling plant.

First thing that struck me is how long that Halifax has been recycling. They are innovators and have been diverting from the land fill since 1992..

-Halifax contracts out its MRF operation including processing and marketing functions. It employs 40-50 staff.

I was surprised that the city has a 2-stream recycling bag based program. One blue bag for containers and another bag for fibre and not carts.

-The MRF handles 36,000 tonnes per year-80% from residential and 20% commercial

-The residential diversion rate away from the landfill is at 58%.

-Surprised that sorting is done by humans in the MRF

-Organics are also collected and placed in another location. All of the “refined” product is given away.

-The city of Halifax continues to educate even after some 25 years of recycling which is something that we in Lethbridge will have to do as well.

My co-councillor Belinda Crowson took the library tour while I just went on my own. It is renowned around the world for its construction.  I was struck by the openness of the facility-5 stories high, study pods, a great concert area, an Indigenous circle and something I think the Lethbridge Library could embrace is a rooftop coffee shop.

library

Also, everything is free including memberships. There were a number of areas that were sponsored which could also be an avenue our library might incorporate. When I arrived at the library at 8:45 on a Sunday, there was a huge lineup of people ready to go in.

Halifax has the historic Citadel in the heart of the waterfront. While its history is far different from what we have in Lethbridge, my initial thought is how can we embrace our past to a greater degree and present it so that it truly becomes a destination point. That’s a discussion for another day but I think one worth looking into.

The Halifax Explosion tour was an education historic look at one of the most devastating man-made disasters in Canada but it was also a look at the Fire department of Halifax. I was quite surprised to hear that their fire corps is a convergence of Full time fire fighters and Volunteers. It is something that by their own admission has taken time to accept. It is a money saver but my first impression is that it is not something that would happen in Lethbridge.

Historical note: 2 thousand people died in the explosion, 4,000 injured many of whom were blinded by debris. It was the start of the CNIB in Canada. The state of Massachusetts was among the first people who sent aid. Nova Scotia sends a Christmas tree to them every year to plant.

The block beside City Hall was something that really impressed me. It’s something that I believe our Master Plan people can have a look at. There is main corridor with picnic tables and a War Memorial at the end. Something that could replicated behind our City Hall. It was a very welcoming spot for some rest and a grilled cheese sandwich which was provided by a food truck.

cityhall

I loved the numerous bump outs near the wharf and the convention centre. Great idea that can be incorporated in our downtown.

It was nice to hear from the leaders of our political parties. One main theme that I got out of it was that, federal, provincial and municipal leaders have to get along. We need to create partnerships. There is a lot of federal money for infrastructure. We all have to work together to make that money go from being available to actually being used. I loved the thought from Elizabeth May of the Green Party that we should do away with partisanship. It can be crippling.

May

Fighting The Battle Against Alcoholism

Over the years I have been a witness to friends who have struggled with alcohol abuse. One good friend died way too young. He couldn’t overcome the power of his addiction and ultimately paid the ultimate price. Another good friend found the strength to take on the beast and today is 30 years sober. I couldn’t be more proud of him and I asked him to share his story. He continues to attend regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and is a sponsor to many individuals who are going through the struggles he went through. To honor the A.A. tradition of maintaining “anonymity at the level of press, radio and films” I will not reveal his name but I think it’s really important to hear what I think is a remarkable victory by one man and to provide optimism to others who don’t think it’s possible to get that victory.

Was there ever any indicators growing up that could have foretold your battle with alcohol?

I was adopted at the age of three. Growing up, I felt like I didn’t fit in. My adopted parents were quite smothering and overprotective. I remember wanting to drink in my early teens. I heard about guys getting totally blasted and I wanted to do that just to escape all the negative feelings I had building up inside me but my parents were strict and I wasn’t able to go out much so the opportunity wasn’t there.

How old were you when you had your first drink?

My first drink was probably in my early teens. Nothing serious- I might have a few sips at family occasions. It was very minor.

Take us through how drinking became a part of your life?

As soon as I was away from my parents’ control, I started to rebel and drink whenever possible. When I moved to Lethbridge to take radio arts, I began drinking as often as possible. When I got my first job (1090 CHEC) and started to earn my own money, I continued to drink excessively whenever I could. I never ever drank socially- as in just having one or two drinks and leaving it alone. I quickly got into a pattern of drinking as much as I could for as long as I could.

Can you pinpoint a time when drinking actually took over all of your priorities?

When I was working at 1090 CHEC, I began to put drinking ahead of a job/career which I loved. I got into trouble at work but continued to drink. I probably should have been fired, but things were different back then.

How many times did you try to stop?

 

I never really tried to stop drinking. I would always say that I was going to slow it down. The longest I went without drinking was probably two weeks. I wasn’t trying to stop back then- just trying to keep it under control. When I didn’t drink for two weeks, I felt it was like forever and that I should have a parade in my honour! Most of the time though, I would drink heavily (blackouts most of the time) 3 to 5 nights a week. If I went to three or four days without drinking, I would really get the itch and put together some good drunks.

When you did stop and start again, what was the motivator that got you back off the wagon?

I didn’t need much of a motivator. If there was a band in a bar, a waitress I liked, good day, bad day- all were good excuses to go drink. Three days without drinking? Time to go on a good one! I was definitely a binge drinker!

I don’t know if it’s cliché but it seems that everyone with a drinking problem always hits rock bottom. Is that true and if so when was that for you?

I believe my bottom happened for me as I was facing disciplinary action at my job in Brooks. As I was waiting to talk to the boss about the issue, a very foreign thought came over me. (I believe it was from my “Higher Power”.) I thought, “I should just quit.” I’d never even considered that before that moment.

When the decision to quick drinking was made, did you reach out to anyone or did you try to do it on your own?

I went for counselling about once a week at the AADAC office in Brooks. I did that for a year and a half before I mustered up the courage to go to A.A.

How hard was that period of your life?

The first year, particularly the first few months were very challenging. I got a lot of help from the counselling at AADAC. Before my feet would hit the floor in the morning, I would think, “O.K. How am I going to stay sober today?” Any kind of social event that had alcohol was a huge challenge. I remember being particularly concerned about what to say to my drinking friends. I was terrified of peer pressure. I learned that for me, the best way to deal with peer pressure was to be direct and open about it. I’d say, “No thanks. I haven’t drank for 6 weeks now.” Usually, the response was positive and supportive. If not, I would remove myself from the situation.

You made a choice to change careers and become an addiction counsellor. I imagine you could see yourself in many of your clients. How important was having what you experienced in helping those people?

The ability to identify is really important. “Been there, done that,” is comforting to clients.

You’re now sober for 30 years. How does that make you feel?

It didn’t take long for me to start feeling good about being sober for a few weeks, months, years. 30 years is hard to believe. I’m very pleased with my long-term sobriety. The fact that I can help someone new is a beautiful gift. That’s the most important part of the A.A. program- “We get it by giving it away.”

How close have you come to relapsing?

I was very close to relapsing a couple of times in the first year of my recovery. Once was at the Brooks Rodeo. I had this huge urge to go into the beer gardens and “control” my drinking. Luckily, I thought it through. I realized that one or two drinks would only open the floodgates for a drinker like me. Another time was at the 1988 Calgary Olympics. I was only sober a few months and I put myself in a very slippery situation by going to the beer gardens alone and sitting on a barstool. I ordered a pop and felt like the whole place was looking at me. (Nobody cared.) A couple of Americans were standing behind me and asked, “What kind of beer is good here?” I had this huge urge to say, “Well, let me show you!” In my drinking days, that would have been the start of a huge drunk.  Luckily, I didn’t say anything, finished my pop and got out of there.

I also was close to relapsing after 25 years. I had drifted from my recovery program (A.A.) and had stopped going to meetings. I was isolated, lonely and bored. I was starting to sit on barstools, drinking pop and actually thinking I should perhaps start to drink again. It seemed like just a matter of time. Luckily, through fate, I found myself at an A.A. meeting- almost by chance. Somehow, everything seemed different and my recovery took on a whole new meaning.

Do you think there’s a chance you could still relapse?

There’s always a chance. I like the expression, “My addiction is out in the parking lot doing push-ups.” It’s just waiting for me to get complacent, weak and vulnerable. That’s why going to meetings on a regular basis and working a program of recovery is so important. We need to be in “good shape” to take on that addiction.

As you look back on your life what are some of the things you reflect on in terms of owning your disease, the choices you made and ultimately where you are today?

I know I wouldn’t be alive today had I not quit drinking. I like the saying in the A.A. Big Book, “Our greatest liability becomes our greatest asset.” The fact that I was a falling down, blackout drinker is not something I’m proud of. But I can use those experiences to help the newcomer in the program. It allows us to relate and connect on a real basis. So what was once a huge negative can become a huge positive. That’s the beauty of recovery!

What’s your message to people who are struggling with the bottle today?

My message is- there is life after drinking! I used to think it would be “blah” and boring. It’s actually quite the opposite. There is all sorts of help out there- counselling, detox, rehab, treatment and A.A. But as far as I see it, the bottom line is about one’s willingness. Programs work for those who really want it.

Final thoughts….

Drinking (and other addictions) start out as fun. But eventually, the negative consequences far outweigh any fun. But understandably, we’re terrified of change. You are not alone. That’s the beauty of support groups. You soon discover there are all sorts of people overcoming this progressive disease and living fun, productive, meaningful lives. Hey the A.A. Program is actually much more than quitting drinking. That’s certainly a big part of it but it also provides us with a design for living which makes life much more serene and fulfilling. There is a much better way!

My friend is willing to help you if you want it. Please e-mail me at greetergrammer1@gmail.com and I can connect you.