Saturday, April 11, 2009

North Shore AA Round Up

The North Shore AA Round Up is held each year for three days over the Easter weekend at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Burrard and Georgia. The speakers this year have come in from Texas, Toronto, California and Hawaii. The March Hare Band is playing at the sober Saturday night dance. This year it's again sold out.
Celebrate Sobriety 2009 is the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered AA Round up. It's held annually on the Easter weekend, this year at the Coast Plaza Hotel on Comox Street. It's Saturday night entertainment is legendary.
"C&E Christian" refers to those Christians who mostly only attend Christmas and Easter Services . All the churches tend to standing room only this weekend so regulars are reminded to go early. Christ Church Cathedral fortunately is directly accross from the Hyatt allowing some of us to make the dash between the two. Last year Dean Peter Elliott was a speaker at the AA round up though his association with wine was more spiritual than those in recovery whose previous relationship would best be described as downright carnal.
The greatest Canadian Folksinger, Gordon Lightfoot, who once joked on CBC radio at a low point in his career that he had 'liquid inspiration' is performing tonight at the Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts on Homer Street. Meanwhile the Van Dusen Garden's Cherry Blossom Festival is also taking place.
Despite the fact that I have aches and pains and feel crotchety after 10 o clock in the evening I expect to be dancing tonight if only for the thrill of seeing AA newcomers come alive to the concept of dancing without puking and brawling. AA recovery really is about laughter. Now I'll just have to get back to figuring out how I can fit all these wonderful people and events into an expanded Van Dusen gardens.

The thought of sober dancing reminded me of a piece I began on Alcoholic Neuropathy a degenerative condition of the peripheral nerves brought on by excessive alcohol consumption. Here it is. It's really about dancing and what can be lost with addiction but restored with recovery.

Alcoholic Neuropathy
by William Hay

I saw him standing on the volleyball court in the treatment centre. His balance was off and his feet did not seem to work properly. He seemed to be walking on heels and stumbling when the ball came near him. The mates on the court helped him from falling over. He was thankful, smiling vaguely, not used to being among others. His last days of drinking a 40 onzer a day alone in a room. He didn’t remember feeling his feet going.

At the AA meeting, the guy with the gold chains and more chains shared,” I wasn’t able to move. I’d been drinking with my only friend in the flop house for a week or so when he went into DT’s. I watched him raging all night grabbing at bugs and finally choking on his own vomit in a seizure. I tried to crawl to the phone but my legs wouldn’t move. In the morning the bootlegger found us. He called an ambulance. They took my friend to the morgue and me to detox. You’ d think that would have stopped me from drinking.But it didn’t. I relapsed a couple of times more before I finally got into AA and stayed."

I watched as he walked out of the meeting that night and noted the residual limp.

At the hospital I tested the 40 year old’s reflexes and sensation. His feet were off. I told him my findings. But also I told him his liver enzymes and amylase were up. The amylase was from the pancreas. Brought back memories of alchoholics with particularly painful deaths.

He thanked me. It was a couple of more binges before he came to the meeting. He seemed less arrogant, showed some surrender. He limped too. I was glad he met my friend. He told him of his friend, the fellow who died of dt’s.

Then there was the man in his late 70's with 40 plus years of sobriety telling his story. “My wife got it and I was glad. It meant she couldn’t get to the bottle and there was more for me. The ambulance took her away in the morning. The bootlegger came and I didn’t have to share. That’s how far down I got. The wife’s losing her feeling turned her around. She went to AA and eventually got me to come. That’s over 40 years ago. I figure I’d be dead without the program. Certainly she’d never have walked if she’d stayed drinking. And we both used to dance. My wife and I really liked to dance. Even last year the two of us oldies were cutting up the rug. ”

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