Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It Takes a Village, Part Two

Last night I wrote about my first two sponsors. Tonight, as promised, I'll tell you about the other three. It's amazing (and a little magical) to me how incredibly different all of the guys are and still each of them was exactly what I needed at that point in time.

When B told me he was moving, I became pretty frustrated. I was feeling like the universe was really trying to make my recovery difficult. In three months' time, I had lost two sponsors and had a potential sponsor snatched away before I even got the chance to ask him. Clearly, I just wasn't supposed to have a sponsor. This is the way addicts think. Oh, it's hard. I must not be supposed to do it. And they was my outlook on life for all the years before I got sober. I had this notion that the easiest thing was always the thing that was “meant to be”.

[About the song: Honestly, I didn't know this blog post was going to be two parts so I only had one song chosen. 
But I love this song and it seems like a good fit here.]

I don't know what happened to change that thought process. I don't remember having any epiphanies around that time. But something changed, because what I did next was completely out of character for me. At the time, I was on a committee that organized a spiritual retreat in the mountains. It so happened that I found out B was moving about two weeks before the retreat so I do remember thinking maybe I would find someone there I could ask.

C2 was the chair of the committee. And to me (I stayed pretty fearful well into my recovery – till probably last Tuesday), he was a scary dude. He was all sure of himself and stand-offish. I have a habit of being the clown when I'm in meetings because I get bored and I need some entertainment. C2 would indulge it for about 12 seconds before he gave me a look that pretty much made me want to shit my pants and run crying from the room. But it was undeniable that he had rock-solid sobriety.

The last day of the retreat came and I still hadn't decided on anyone to ask to sponsor me. Everyone was milling around like it was the last day of high school, hugging each other and telling each other how much they loved them. Never mind that we were all going to see each other later that night at the 6 pm meeting. I was wandering through everyone, feeling out of place as usual, when I looked down at the end of the porch and C2 was sitting down there alone. And out of nowhere I thought, “Maybe I should ask someone I'm afraid to talk to to be my sponsor. That might be growth.” And I walked down and asked him. Of course, I was afraid he would say no so I put all these qualifiers on it. B would still be my “check in” sponsor. All he'd have to do is take me through the steps and I'd already done them once so it really wouldn't be any trouble at all. It would almost be like a vacation for him. When I finally stopped babbling he just looked at me and said, “Yeah. I think I can do that.”

Turns out C2 wasn't a scary dude after all. Well, maybe a little scary but not nearly as scary as I'd imagined. It didn't take very long for me to get comfortable talking to him. And he was just incredible to do the work with. He had a really no-nonsense approach that worked well for me. And little by little I started to notice that my clownery was wearing him down (in a good way). So when he told me I didn't have enough resentments on my fourth step I decided to really test his sense of humor. I told a friend that I was just going to put down every resentment I ever had. A couple I'm not going to mention here because they were totally inappropriate (but one of them made him laugh out loud while he was reading it – that's when I knew I had the right sponsor), but I will share one because it turned out to be pretty funny.

If you're not familiar with the steps, in the fourth step you make four columns. In the first, you write who or what you are resentful at; in the second, you write the reason why; in the third, you say what it affects in you; and in the fourth, you write what your part in it was. That's where you are supposed to see your character defects. So, I wrote that I was resentful at Buffy, the Vampire Slayer because that show was more popular than Charmed and that affected my self-esteem because I loved Charmed.

Now when I wrote that, I had no idea that C2 was a Buffy fan. Apparently a big Buffy fan. I thought we would just have a laugh and move on, but nooooooo. He made me write out my part in it and told me what my character defect was – contempt prior to investigation. He also instructed me to rent or download Buffy and watch it. I'm pretty sure that's very first suggestion from a sponsor I ever flagrantly and willfully ignored. I still have not seen one episode of Buffy. The bitch.

But in addition to showing me how much fun I could have doing step four, the thing C2 gave me was the introduction to doing service work at the national level in addition to just in New York. He assigned me to the literature committee and started introducing me to the some of the most wonderful people I've ever met. Thanks to him I'm a part of my 12-step program in a way I never even knew was available to me. I have friends in just about every city I go to and we are like family. I was in Atlanta earlier this year and the entire weekend I couldn't stop smiling because everywhere I looked was someone else I thought was most awesome person I ever met. And all of that has happened because of you, C2. You've given me a life way bigger than I could have ever dreamed. And every time I see one of my friends from some city I've never even visited, I think of you.

C2 moved from NYC about two weeks before I did. Even though I knew that meant I was going to have to get a new sponsor, I was very resistant. In fact, I was in San Diego for about three months before I finally asked someone to sponsor me. C3 is a great guy – smart, laid back, friendly. So, it was really unfortunate that he got saddled with me at that moment in time.

I had a huge chip on my shoulder when I got to San Diego. I didn't want to do things their way. I had New York sobriety and that was the way it was going to be. I'm not going to dwell on the details of my relationship with C3 because I'm sure I'll try to tell it in a way that doesn't make me look as awful as I was. I will just say that I was arrogant, belligerent, willful and obnoxious. I got to about step two before I just stopped calling and stopped doing the work. And big surprise, I was pretty much a jackass 24/7 during that time.

Finally C3 called me and asked me if I wouldn't maybe like to find a sponsor that I actually wanted to work with. He was so kind and non-judgmental. He would have been well within his rights to just say, “Bitch, I'm done with your attitude and your disrespect.” But he didn't. He just showed me through his actions that even when someone is being a prick, there is always the option to not engage in it. He taught me a lot about humility and respect in the short time he was my sponsor. I've since made amends with him and he always brings a smile to my face when I see him. C3, I hope you realize that I learned things from you that have really changed me. Thanks for being an example of the program in action.

That brings us to T. All I can say is that God made sure T and I met. I was sponsorless and called B to whine about it. He made me promise I would go to at least five meetings a week until I found a sponsor. Ugghh. At the time I was barely making three a week and hating those. But I don't think I ever ignored a suggestion B gave me and I wasn't going to start now. So the first week I had four meetings in by Friday afternoon. I was all set to go to a meeting that night, but then for some reason I just couldn't make myself go. So that meant I had to find a meeting on Saturday. I ended up going to a meeting that I had only gone to once in the 11 months I'd been in San Diego. I figured I was just going to get it over with and I'd have to start again the following week, still looking for a sponsor.

So I walked into this room that I hate. It has no windows. It might as well be a closet. And I sat in the chair in the back row that was right next to the door. I did this because I had every intention of walking out once I knew there was no reason to be there.

Meetings here have leaders – someone who shares his/her story for 15 minutes or so and then calls on others. I had never seen the guy who was leading this meeting before. So I was certain I didn't like him. Then he started talking. Everything he said was setting off bells and lights in my head. Not only did he talk about the program like I was used to, he had a passion that was downright contagious. I was literally on the edge of my seat the whole time he was sharing.

After he got done, other people started sharing and everyone was pretty inspired. It was a really good meeting. Then, out of nowhere he says, “You in the back. Do you want to share?” Who? Me? I don't know what I said, but I remember that I was really pumped up. I hadn't been that excited about sobriety in almost a year.

After the meeting, I went up and asked him if there was any chance we could talk about him being my sponsor. He told me to buy a new Big Books (couldn't use the one I'd already written in) and call him when I did it. Fortunately, the meeting was in a place that sold Big Books so I just marched myself to the counter and bought one. He was outside when I left. I just held the book up to show him I meant business.

From the first day we started meeting, I knew I made the right decision. I'd never had a straight sponsor before so I wasn't sure how that would go. It's gone great.

As I said already, I know a lot of amazing people with lots of sobriety. There are only a few people I know that have as much knowledge of the program and as much passion for sharing it. And even fewer who do it with his humility and maturity.

As a sponsor showing me how to do the steps, he was absolutely fantastic. But I get something even more important from T. I learn about being a grown up by watching the way he handles his own life. The way he deals with his kids. The respect he shows for his wife (who is equally wonderful and sometime it's like having a sponsor team). The way he's handled adversity in his own life. He's about ten years younger than me, but he reminds me of my dad. I was always in awe of the way my father carried himself and treated people with respect and kindness. T has all the same qualities.

Over the last three or four months, people in meetings have been telling me that I've changed, that I've grown over the last year or so. That's got a lot to do with the work that T has shown me how to do. Next we're going to study the 12 Traditions so I can start being more grown up my dealings with the people I do service work with. I can't wait to get going on that.

So there you have it. There are many other people who have had great influence on my recovery the past five years, but these guys went above and beyond to make sure I'm here writing this blog tonight. And I want them all to know how much I love them and value what they've given me.

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