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  • So, how will I spend this extra day off? Someone at the meeting I went to last night asked if I’ll be going into town today for the inauguration. My immediate response was, “I won’t be going anywhere near that place!” I never do on Inauguration Day. Never have, never will.

    I remember when Lula, who worked for me then, volunteered to work Obama’s first inauguration. She was so excited about it. The first black president, such a historic occasion, and she was going to be working it. When it all was over, and we were all back to work, I asked her, “So, Lula, how was it?”

    “It was HORRIBLE. The worst experience I’ve ever had. The people were…just unbelievable. It was a crush of humanity, people being herded like cattle, and many of the people were simply ridiculous.”

    “Are you glad you did it?”

    “Absolutely! I wanted to be there, to be a part of it, the historic aspect of it. But I would never, ever, do it again.”

    The guy who led last night’s meeting had a fascinating story. The leads usually only take about 10 or 15 minutes around here, but this guy spoke for nearly a half hour. He had a heck of a story to tell. He first got sober in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1980, where the people there had been sponsored by some of the original AA guys who’d been around when AA got its start in that area in the mid-30’s.

    My first real sponsor in the program had gotten sober there around the same time as this guy who led. (The guy who led had a relapse after 25 years sober, due to some medication a doctor put him on. He believed it happened because he’d gotten away from going to meetings. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t go to meetings for 22 years, myself, of my close to 37 years of sobriety).
  • I got that guy to sponsor me after I was sober nearly 4 years, and still going out of my mind. As this guy described the Cleveland group, I heard a lot of familiar things – they were real old-school AA, just like my sponsor had talked about and conveyed to me.

    A sponsor in AA is someone who helps you go through the 12 Steps, someone who has been through them and now is working with others to go through them. I’ve had a number of sponsors through the years. There was the first one, a guy who, I found out, had only been through the first five steps. I found that out after I did my 5th Step with him, and he told me, “That’s it – that’s all I’ve done.” It might have been a good idea to tell me that up front? It took me another three years before I found the guy who’d gotten sober in Cleveland.

    At that group, where I found him, it was customary to get two sponsors – I don’t remember why they did that, but I got a second one, there. Between the two of them, they got me through all 12 steps. What I remember, once I got to the 10th, 11th and 12th steps, was them saying, “now, the group becomes your sponsor.” That worked out, until I fell away from the group a few years later. I didn’t have a sponsor in any program for the next 23 years.

    When I started going to my brother’s group’s retreats up in Connecticut in 2013, I eventually adopted them as my home group, until I found something locally, and asked a guy I got to know up there to sponsor me. In that case, what he really did was sponsor me back into the fellowship. He showed me what being a part of the fellowship looked like. I needed that, because I had never learned that.
  • After that, another guy showed up, who sponsored me back through the 12 Steps. It was good. It had been 30 years since I last went through them, and the refresher put me in a position to be able to help someone else through them. The person I was able to help, as their sponsor, found me as soon as I became a regular at the meetings here, locally. I finally figured out that, if you’re not there, they’re not going to be able to find you. You have to go where they are – you have to show up. So, I go there.

    The guy who sponsored me back through the steps is up in South Jersey. I went to a Sponsorship workshop here in September, and heard a guy talk about how he had a sponsor across the country for 15 years, and finally realized he needed a local sponsor. That made sense, and stayed with me, until I asked a guy who I see regularly at a couple of the meetings I go to here, to sponsor me.

    I’m getting another refresher course on the 12 steps. I think this might be putting me in a position to do a better job sponsoring others. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been an especially strong sponsor, myself, but this seems like it’s helping with that. This guy who’s sponsoring me is dynamite. Definitely an old-school type.

    But, back to the guy who led the meeting last night. He had a very funny story about sponsorship. When he first came to AA, in Cleveland, he heard people saying he needed to get a sponsor. In that area, many people worked for different auto and tire companies, and came to meetings wearing jackets displaying these companies’ logos.

    He misunderstood what they meant by “sponsorship”. He thought it was like the auto racing guys, who have all the sponsors, and wear their logos on their racing outfits and cars. He thought he needed someone to sponsor him into AA, like that.

    So, he went to a local bar, and asked the bartender if he would “sponsor” him for AA. The bartender said sure, and gave him $150. The bartender asked him, “What do I get out of the deal?” The guy told him that he’d send the guys from the meetings who didn’t really want to get sober to his bar, and they shook hands on it. Once he learned what a sponsor really was, he was horrified at what he’d done – but, it sure made for a funny story, 37 years later!
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