Just getting home from work, Anthony H. appears on the caller ID. I already know what it’s about. “I’m sorry Without, but I just can’t sponsor someone who’s...”
“...Not working the program, I know,” completing the sentence. Yet another pretentious sponsor, I almost voice. Do-gooder Christian’s make the worst sponsors for former atheists, and the others are so hard to find.
“That’s alright,” I say, “I’ll just go without a sponsor for the time being.” This shuts him up enough for me to fire back, “So, are you going to pin night anyway?”
“Uh, umm, I, ah, I don’t think.. .”
“Didn’t think so,” I kill the tension. “I gotta go. Bye now.”
I sigh of relief; I realize I’ve got two hours to kill before leaving for pin night, where I have no idea who will present me. Even though I’ve got Nathan A. as a backup at my home group, The Mar League, I make phone calls with a tinge of desperation in my voice searching for a replacement. The closest I get is my first sponsor, George D., who returns my voice-mail less than an hour before the meeting starts.
“I’d love to, but I’m in Anoka,” which is a suburb of the Twin Cities too remote for this late a request. He sincerely continues, “but I am honored; I really am.” And he really is. George is one of those people in the program who doesn’t lie. When he doesn’t want to do something, he’ll tell you exactly why without mincing words, so I know he’s sincere. He should’ve been the one to pin my six-month medallion on me. He earned it. Like June L., he’s one of the people I feel I failed the first time around.
On the bike ride over I think of all the vengeful comments to make finally settling on nothing at all. After all, the group as a whole never failed me. That’s the nice thing about A.A. groups: they’re always there as a whole, even if the occasional individual member may drop the ball.
Anthony H. arrives late with infant daughter in tow. The speaker has already started. I glance at him and he gives me his infamous all-is-well, ear-to-ear grin. With a Mona Lisa smile, I flash him the okay sign and raise an eyebrow in question. It takes a moment for it register, then the fear cracks his patent grin and for the next hour he sets off scrabbling to find both someone to hold his young daughter and someone else he can borrow a medallion from, I can only guess.
The speaker was good and helped me relax. Pins were presented, a six-year here, a 25-year there, then the time came for moi and Anthony too looked relaxed.
Anthony H. and I go back to when I tried getting sober the first time two years prior, which was really just a trial run. At that time he maintained the phone list for Mar League, and I decided to help him out with it, which he mentioned.
I kept it brief and to the point. The group was there for me, I said. Sponsors on the other hand didn’t even justify a mention. Sponsorship is too important a role for any one alcoholic to pass judgment on in an acceptance speech.
I do remember saying this though, “When the going gets tough, I no longer reach for bourbon. It’s like I don’t even desire it anymore.” I mention how I know I’m working the program slowly compared to others and left it at that.
I partook of the wonderful potluck dinner people brought. While eating, I sat with a group of happy sober party people. We had a lot of laughs. I’m a slow eater, so when almost everyone else had left, a stranger approached. He congratulated me, and we spoke of deep things. He seemed very sincere, so I asked his name, which he gave as Marcel O.
“So, how much sobriety do you have?” I calmly ask.
“A few weeks,” he answers. Holy crap, I think to myself. This guy needs help now. So, I jotted down my number on a napkin and gave it to him with instructions to call me at anytime, day or night. I didn’t ask for his.
I ended the evening by rolling up my sleeves and washing dishes, my tie getting soaked. There was a lot of dishes and three of us to help: one original washer, myself, then a dryer who rotated out a few times. We made it fun. I love getting wet. I guess that’s why I was born under the sign of Aquarius.
As a consolation prize, I ended up with a case of diet soda, which I never drink, but figured Darla V. would. However, that brings up the age-old man problem of how to tell your lady you acquired a diet product without telling her it was intended for her alone. This isn’t even subconscious: I want her to loose weight. Men, subtle hints are the only way to go. Anything more will only get you out of the frying pan into the preverbal fire. So, I brought it home with the intent of leaving it in the fridge and letting her have at it. She does not yet know about my inability to stomach diet soda. I miss her and hope to see her this weekend.
On the ride home, I’m reminded how important it is for me to purchase a decent headlight, as a drunk pull away from a curb right in front of me. I wave as I pass, hearing his curbside inebriated cohorts laugh at him.