I guess I was in 4th or 5th Grade. We were having some kind of class election, and it was myself and another boy running for... whatever it was. Class President or Ambassador to the Lunch Ladies or Deputy Chief Adjunct to the Relief Librarian. Whatever "offices" a small elementary school class might have.
I was popular in grade school. (It all went south in Junior High, but gradeschool worked for me. Man, talk about peaking early.) But the other boy was popular too, and it was a tight race. So tight, I lost by one vote.
I remember the teacher, I think her name was Miss Murphy (this was back before you had a Ms. option) doing the math and looking at me puzzled for a moment. Since it was an even number of students in the class how come it was not a completely split decision? (Something like that.)
I didn't vote for myself. I genuinely didn't know you could. Somehow, from life and the world around me, I thought you weren't "allowed" to vote for yourself. That it was somehow wrong to do so. I believe she kind of shook her head, and maybe even had a little look of disgust on her face when I explained this, although that last is probably the memory of my embarrassment coloring my interpretation. When I got home and told my mother what happened, she was less than sympathetic. She was a great mom, but she had her stuff. "What are you, a gonif?" she asked. (Somewhere along the way my irish catholic mother had picked up some stray yiddish terms. "Don't be a gonif" peppered her scoldings on occasion. She was not entirely accurate in how she applied it -- online dictionaries define it as "a thief or a rascal." For her it was more an all purpose synonym for "idiot.")
Somewhere, very early on, I internalized the idea that it was not okay to vote for me. It was wrong to "put myself forward." Now, against the backdrop of an alcoholic ego this can make for some interesting crossed impulses, but the idea is -- or was, let's say -- clearly there, planted early and living deep inside my consciousness.
Through AA I have developed some pretty remarkable self esteem. The trick to that of course is what I heard very early in meetings: "If you do estimable acts you develop self esteem." There are variations on that truism but that's the wording I recall from my early meetings.
So it is an exercise in self esteem, and not entirely a natural impulse based on some old mental wiring, to "put myself forward" in this way:
I wrote a book.
Actually, I've been writing it for the past five years.
"Mr. SponsorPants: Adventures in Sobriety and the Twelve Steps for AA's and Others."
It is available as an e-Book for Kindle through Amazon for $3.99.
It's 150 (or so) essays, culled from the blog, re-written, re-edited, and pieced together in such a way as to be part memoir and part sober narrative. Sort of a "best of" collection with a high degree of polish.
All the same care and disclaimers from my blog writing are in full force. I make it clear in several places in the book that I am not, in any way, a spokesman for AA. (And that in fact, no one is.)
All the "characters" in my stories are based on real people but are far from representations of the people themselves. I've had people in the stories read the stories and they very comfortably do not see themselves in them at all. As I've said here and as I say there, my stories are 100% true, but NOT 100% factual. Much dramatic licence has been taken; but they are the true stories of my sober experience.
I've talked with a lot of my sober posse about moving from blog to book, and my concerns about Traditions and ethics, and to a man (and woman) they detailed that I'm a little over the top in some of my concerns that way, that I've built the anonymity into it all from the beginning, and that there is nothing wrong with me selling my writing in a book form.
And on that point I want to be clear on something. Some of the essays on Mr. SponsorPants, the blog, are about how to work the Steps. That information is free, and always will be. I will always pass that along for free to anyone who asks for it, just as it was so freely given to me. But a lot of my writing here became storytelling, and although yes, they are stories about AA, they are my stories. So I think it's okay for me to sell them.
(Can you hear me starting to twist myself around and work up an apology somehow for "putting myself forward?" Yeah. Me too.)
At the same time, I'm proud of some of what is here, and I am proud to offer it, polished to as high a shine as I can make it, in a book, albeit an eBook offered for Kindle via Amazon. (Apparently the Kindle App is available for free across all devices and platforms, so you don't need to buy a Kindle to download and enjoy eBooks, and yes, I guess that is a plug.)
I'm going to keep writing the blog. Five days a week, barring road trips or technical difficulties, there will be something new here. (I promise if I take some time off I'll let you all know. But I have no immediate plans to do that, other than a quick AA trip in late September.)
There are several things I hope for from this next step in my writing career:
1. It would be nice to have some sales. I think that's fair to put up front. One of the few bible quotes I know is "the laborer is worthy of their hire" and I suppose that applies. Sales means more writing opportunities and that's my dream.
2. Back in the day, when I first got sober, before the insurance companies closed the loop on it, a lot of people from corporate america went to expensive rehabs where they were exposed to AA's 12 Steps. I was laughing this morning with Old Irish on the phone (a key member of the sober posse) about how some of those folks would get up at the meeting, hold up their Big Book and share "This is my $28,000 Big Book." Meaning they (or their insurance company) paid a lot of money for them to find the 12 Steps -- but that if they hadn't paid for it maybe they wouldn't have taken the information seriously. Some people who might benefit from what is discussed in Mr. SponsorPants aren't out there searching for blogs. So maybe a book they buy might reach them where a blog would never pop up on their radar. Mr. SponsorPants has always been, at heart, about getting helpful information to those who may need it. As I have been assured by the posse, #1 listed above does not contradict that wish.
3. Now that I am a published author (ahem!) and the book is out there (e-form not withstanding) I can take the work and make an audio book out of it. Literally me reading the essays I've written and recording them and making that available too. For the car driver and bus rider and whomever to listen to. I'm no "Joe and Charlie" (well, I suppose that would be Joe OR Charlie) and their famous series of tapes which take people through the Big Book, but I think it would be a fun and helpful thing to listen to.
And finally, this is what I feel called to do right now. If it is a somewhat Higher Power inspired calling, well, that will reveal itself as it will. If it's really only my ego working a fantastic new con on me... well then, that will certainly be made clear too, and I think I can attribute my excellent complexion at over fifty years old to all the egg I've had on my face over the years. If this is one more case of "egg facial in the making" so be it. (I sure hope not, though.)
So... "Mr. SponsorPants: Adventures in Sobriety and the 12 Steps for AA's and Others."
I've got a book now. I wrote a book.
I hope it helps people because, even though it's uncomfortable for me to say, I'm really proud to have done it.