Walking in the sand
Thinking of things, adventures in my mind
Of tall ships that sail
Across the ocean wide
They won’t wait for me
See how they glide away so gracefully?
And with tomorrow, what will become of me?
They leave me so much to explain
That’s the start of our guessing game….
There are times when I think that I’ve found the truth
There are times when I know that I’m wrong
And the days when I try to hide my fears
Bless the days when I’m feeling strong
Bless the days when I’m feeling strong
Wonder we try so hard
Wonder we try at all
You wonder why the world is turning around
When in the end it won’t matter at all?
Standing in the town
Looking at people counting their frowns
Unhappy faces hurrying around
So blind they cannot see
All of these things the way life ought to be
And with tomorrow what will they make of me?
It leaves me so much to explain
That's the start of our guessing game...
(Song Lyrics by Ray Thomas, Moody Blues, “Our Guessing Game”, from “Every Good Boy Deserves Favor”)
When I finally found a group that was about recovery and nothing else, I was able to get well. I did what they said to do, after a couple of months of checking them out and finally diving in to it. I asked a guy to be my sponsor. He said, “If you’ll let me.” I said that I would, and I did. He suggested a second sponsor, and I asked a second guy to also be my sponsor. I did whatever they told me to do. I was wide open. My way had gotten me to the point that I knew it could no longer work to get me where I knew that I needed to go, and so I was open to their guidance. Life has never been easier, nor simpler, than it was during that period of time when I was just following the guidance of others that I knew just a little, but trusted with my life.
One of them said, many times to me – “Don’t put your faith in me, or in any other human being, for that matter – put your faith in a God you can understand, a Higher Power if you will, or simply the Universe - whatever idea of God that works for you. People will always let you down. I will eventually let you down. Trust God. God will never let you down.” This was Joe, the haberdasher from South Philly, whose words were the best guides I’ve probably ever had, as they were spoken with such assurance and such authority. I believed them then, and I believe them now. Joe eventually ran into problems with his back, and had a terrible struggle with the pain medication he had to take for the back pain. I lost track of him somewhere along the line. Not sure whatever happened with him. He was a good man.
The other sponsor told me something that struck me so clearly that I wrote it down in my spiritual journal (which I still have) right after he told it to me, 29 years ago: “One thing he said which I pray to remember. His sponsor told him, ‘Everything you’ve gone through is an asset. It gives you experience that others may relate to.’ I don’t have to sit around and feel bad about all the mistakes I’ve made; I don’t have to hide anything I’ve done. It’s all there to be used when someone is going through the same thing. I’ll be able to understand where they’re at, and they’ll be able to relate to me. It’s no longer about me.”
That sponsor eventually fell back into some old really obnoxious habits in his dealings with other people – seduced someone I was sponsoring’s wife, would come out to our house on the lake to “hide out”, and just live on our sofa for days at a time, like “the thing that wouldn’t leave”, while our lives swirled all around him. He suffered from a “messiah complex”, consciously stopped listening to his own sponsor from the old school AA group he’d gotten sober at in Cleveland, and eventually I had to make a choice about a way forward that did not include him, or his group, in my life.
It was a little scary at first, being on my own, without sponsors, without a 12 Step Group, given my history. But, I was 11 years clean and sober, 7 years into recovery, not that "time" meant a thing – it really doesn’t to me– but, I was still open to learn, open to the universe, and some amazing things began to happen. A dear friend died, and her memorial service at the Unity congregation inspired us so, that we started checking that place out, and our timing couldn’t have been better. They were having these Abundance workshops that we took, and they changed our lives. We were then led to the Center for Conscious Living, a renegade little start-up congregation of the Church of Religious Science (not Christian Science – whole other end of the spectrum), where we found people so in synch with where we were at, spiritually, it was scary – good scary – and that became our spiritual home. It was so strange, but so right on time, that that also had become Mom and Dad’s “Home Group”, even before we got there. I’ve never felt more like I belonged in a group of people than I felt in that congregation. That was a special time. We all shared Dad’s final days together with those folks– beautifully bittersweet times.
Moving to Northern Virginia for my job in D.C. was like going into the wilderness. We tried a lot of different “groups”, different congregations, for 7 years before we found the Unitarian Universalist congregation that felt like a fit. Like good Unitarians, we have continually questioned whether it’s really where we belong, these 9 years that we’ve been part of that congregation, yet we still find ourselves connected to them. I think I have only very recently finally admitted to myself that I must actually be a Unitarian – like a good Unitarian, I question everything, and yet remain open to everything. Must be why I’m still there 9 years on. And here, I was thinking it was the softball, the chili cook-offs, and the GLBT youth dances I used to chaperone there. Yeah, it’s that, too.
And then, in a strange confluence of events, I found myself back at the Addicts Anonymous group I tried to make work 13 years ago, and find myself right at home there, as well. Despite the fact that they meet in the smoking room of the AA Clubhouse, and I have asthma. Despite the fact that in the 13 years I was away from it, a grand total of 2 guys found sustained recovery there. It’s home, and I know it. In my heart and in my soul and in my connection to the universe, I know it is my home group.
And then, I go to this Retreat in the wilderness, this AA group thing that my brother invited me to, and I find that his descriptions of his group were right on the money. They really are old school AA, most of them, and they did find their recovery the same way the AA old-timers did, the way I did – through the 12 Steps as outlined in the AA Big Book. After all these years, I did feel like I was among many of my own. A whole group of guys who had found recovery the same way I had. It’s really hard to describe how this felt – how this feels. The connection is amazing. The sense of being a part of a larger group of people who share a common rescue from the perilous seas of addiction. Hard to describe.
After all these years, I am thinking about asking one of them to be my sponsor. I mentioned this to my brother, and he related, simply, as he tends to do about things related to his program, this most complex of men, “I once went a long period without a sponsor. I’ve had the one I have now for the past 9 years, and it really has made a difference.” One needs to look no further than at his life these past several years to see that difference. This is a man we all thought we had lost forever to a terribly destructive relationship, that we’ve witnessed come back to life in recent years. If I’d never seen a miracle before – and I have seen a few – his return to life would be all I’d need to believe in them. And, I do believe in them. Miracles happen…every day, they happen.
So, I’m thinking about getting a sponsor. How does one ask that question, after flying solo for 25 some odd years, with no apparent problems, and lots of good living and growing in a sustained recovery?
Not so hard, really. “Hey, Mike – would you be my sponsor?”
I’m thinking about it…