Happy memories of the Jerusalem Convention

Having attended the last EMER Regional Assembly and Convention in Israel, I’d like to express my gratitude and let you all know that it was the most wonderful, exhilarating time of my life.

From the moment I left my home in Ireland until I returned, I was “in fellowship”. I was not sure how I would cope with this but it was great. For the first three nights, I shared a room with two fellow SA members. At night, I gave thanks for my day and in the morning we said our prayers together. This was wonderful and on each day many miracles occurred.

We attended an English speaking meeting in Jerusalem and, two nights later, I shared my story at the same venue, even though I was pretty exhausted. What an amazing experience, to be at an SA meeting in Jerusalem with many Orthodox Jews in attendance. I don’t know why this affected me so much but it did.

We connected daily with other members. It was a lovely experience to be given a guided tour of the Old City by an SA member, together with ten or so sober SA members. A wise friend in the programme gave me a top tip; he noticed some of the Jewish community would read their scriptures frequently, especially when queuing, so he started reading his travel-size AA big book also while queuing. I have tried this and found it works a treat.

I’d like to share a few things about prayer and meditation. Because of Jerusalem’s energy and strong religious connections, it was not difficult to connect with a Power greater than myself. On the morning of the EMER Regional Assembly I was "abandoned" to my own devices. It really did feel like that - as if I was losing myself, giving my power away and trying to make a God out of others. However I was glad to have the opportunity to attend to a few of my own affairs and draw up a plan for the day, taking time out for myself.

As it was the anniversary of my brother’s death, I planned a visit to a particular church. After a rest, I made my way to the church and lit the last remaining candle for my brother. I meditated and prayed in the lovely sacristy downstairs, and upon leaving looked up and there was a fellow Irish member.

I joined him for the German language Mass in the Austrian Hospice. Inside the ornately decorated chapel, the priest and congregation were singing beautiful German hymns. We found our place at the back of the church, and in front of me was one of my triggers - an attractive German woman. I prayed for her - whatever I see in her may I find in you, God. She passed a hymn book to us. I declined and for a few moments, went into fantasy land in my head - I prayed and prayed and surrendered with my friend. It worked. I dedicated the Mass to my brother.

From here we had a cup of coffee and decided to go to the Western Wall. Here too, I wrote a prayer for my brother and squeezed it in place with the many thousands of other prayers placed in the Wall. That evening was an early bird meeting for the convention attended by thirty plus members. There were eight Irish members attending. When retiring I had a burning desire to share my difficulties with co-dependency, same sex lust and giving away my power. I wrote a prayerful Step 10 and prayed that I would meet the right person to share it with. I went to the lobby and everyone was in conversation. I paused, prayed and when I turned there was a member standing right there. He asked how I was doing and before I knew it, we were both talking and identifying with each on the very thing I had written. I asked if could I share my tenth step, did so and received wonderful identification. Many things happened that day, and when I retired that night, I was utterly grateful and relieved for such a wonderful enriching day and slept soundly.

The following day was the start of the Convention and I decided I needed some “me” time. I went to the pharmacy to get some cream for my cracked lips and then to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem. It felt like a big deal to separate myself from the Convention even for an hour or two.

I felt very emotional and for the next couple of days had many tearful moments, infused with deep gratitude and sadness. By sharing with some members I received valuable advice - that it’s so important for my recovery to express these feelings and to receive and allow safe male physical love into my life. I was held as I cried in the arms of a very kind member who encouraged me to accept uncomfortable feelings about my same sex lust attraction etc. and to see this as a deep need within me wanting to heal. I was encouraged  to see myself being cradled by God in His loving arms.

The convention was exhilarating - meetings, speakers and chats with members throughout the day. I felt accepted, loved and had, at last, the feeling that I really belonged. Along came the Entertainment - what a blast and just what my Higher Power had ordered - a wild, swashbuckling, singing Jewish festival of dancing and music with fellow males in a safe loving environment. This was very healing for me.

I felt very emotional at the closing ceremony, listening to the members of the Regional Assembly, representing many countries, share one by one their experience and joy of being involved in this convention. When asked where he hailed from, one member replied "Heaven” to which a Jewish member added “of your understanding!”

Members with a year or more of SA sobriety were invited to stand. I stood and looked around the hall feeling very proud of everyone and grateful to God for making this such a warm event.

Finally, I’d like to share an experience at the Recovery Camp by the Sea of Galilee. Two of my fellow Irish lads and I joined members from Spain, England, Israel, Poland and Belgium, for the Recovery Camp on the shores of Lake Galilee. On arrival we began setting up camp, with everyone chipping in together and cooled by a strong breeze - such a wonderful experience of fellowship. After dinner we swam in the Sea of Galilee.

The following morning prayers were at 6am. After this we ate a low carbohydrate breakfast. Camp duties were next. When nobody volunteered for kitchen duties. We were warned that the later we volunteered the more unpleasant the tasks would become! This is exactly what happened as a number of us were given the wonderful task of cleaning the public toilets. It is suggested that we try to leave places in a better condition than they were in when we arrived. Again with enthusiastic fellowship this proved enjoyable although we were late for the Big Book Study which followed.

Afterwards a volunteer was asked to lead a meditation, which could be anything from a formal to a walking meditation. This gave me an idea so I volunteered to lead. We arranged to meet shortly afterwards. Someone had mentioned a swim, another member, the Step 11 prayer. About eight of us met in a circle. One member read Step 11. The Serenity prayer was then recited in Hebrew and in English, then the St. Francis Prayer. We went for a short walk, walking slowly, silently and mindfully, leaving time for a swim afterwards.

We walked slowly in the heat and returning, found ourselves in a circle. Members were invited to express their thoughts on the experience. Again this gave a great feeling of togetherness, and there was still time for a dip before the Step meeting.

After lunch we prepared to leave for Tel Aviv and our flight home to the Emerald Isle. This was the trip of a lifetime. Thank you, Israel,  for fellowship, love and such a warm welcome from our Jewish friends; for the enhanced fellowship with my Irish buddies; for the opportunity to connect with members from other countries and, most of all, for the time of my life which God gave me.

We arrived back to Ireland and it was straight into another convention - The Galway Esker Convention with Bill S. from Nashville as the main speaker for the weekend - but that’s another story!