SKATEBOARD PUP: ...and I can see what I want to do with my life now. I have, like, goals.
The Skateboard Pup had been laying out for me the rather long list of things he was going to accomplish now that he was sober.
MR. SPONSORPANTS: Well that all sounds awesome. Ambitious, but awesome. I believe wholeheartedly that there's not one thing you've told me about that you can't accomplish if you stay sober and do the footwork.
SKATEPUP: Oh, I know. I feel like sobriety has given me... I dunno, I guess the ability to make these goals and move toward them. It's like now I actually want a life.
MR. SP: I completely understand. You can try anything in sobriety.
SKATEPUP: I can be anything in sobriety!
MR. SP: Ok.
I held up my hands in surrender.
MR. SP: Ok. You can be anything in sobriety.
He's young. Maybe he CAN be anything in sobriety. For me, years farther down the road, the idea that I can "try" anything in sobriety feels like a better fit -- I try, but the result, while always a good one, may not exactly be what I was aiming for. But today I don't need to fine tune his passion. Either he's right or life will school him. Gently, I pray. Some of us got our quota of hard knocks fulfilled before we ever walked into an AA Meeting. The Skateboard Pup is one of them.
SKATEPUP: I never really... I want to do stuff I can be proud of. Not just sobriety... I don't mean "just" like it's small, I mean... in addition to. I want to accomplish big goals I can be proud of.
MR. SP: I have a suggestion.
The Skateboard Pup laughs.
SKATEPUP: You always have a suggestion.
MR. SP: It's how you can tell I haven't been replaced by a robot duplicate.
SKATEPUP: No that's cool! An android sponsor! You'd be like Arnold Schwarzenegger in all the "Terminator" movies. You're all "Come vith me if you vant to live!"
MR. SP: I don't remember the Terminator talking like a vampire.
SKATEPUP: Okay, okay, I can't do a good Arnold. But anyway, that's like your message though: Come with me if you want to live!
He has no idea how sweet that sounds or how choked up that makes me for a second. I get it together right away because I don't want to lose what I wanted to say to him about feeling proud of his goals.
MR. SP: Fine. Whether it's me or I'm an android or whatever, I still have suggestion about your goals.
SKATEPUP: Okay shoot.
MR. SP: Instead of feeling proud if you reach your goals -- and if you do you absolutely should, of course -- why don't you consider that you can be proud of each step you take to achieve them?
He looks almost flustered for a second.
SKATEPUP: But I... then I would be proud of myself, like, almost all the time. Is that... can I... can someone...?
I understand his confused reaction. Heartbreakingly, some of us with crippled self esteem and addiction issues almost feel like we need permission to feel good about ourselves. Like somehow we're not "allowed" to.
MR. SP: Yeah. You would. And you can. In fact, go ahead and feel proud of yourself all the time. I am.
SKATEPUP: You're proud of yourself all the time?
MR. SP: No. Well, yes, a lot in some ways, but that's not what I meant.
SKATEPUP: I don't get it.
MR. SP: I meant I was proud of you all the time.
If he was flustered before this caught him completely off guard. I think without meaning to I returned the instant-lump-in-your-throat-for-a-moment favor.
MR. SP: I've been sponsoring you for almost nine months now. You can maybe see one year sober peaking over the horizon. You've been willing -- mostly
MR. SP: and honest and you keep showing up. From personal experience I know just how hard that is some days. Some weeks. So yeah, even though we get sober for ourselves, I'm really grateful I have the opportunity to sponsor you and I'm really proud of you.
He looked at me. Right in the eye. A long time ago we had talked about not deflecting things, about taking them in, about hearing positive things and not dismissing them. I know he was conscious of that conversation when he looked me in the eye and after a solid couple of moment said...
SKATEPUP: Thank you.
MR. SP: You're welcome.
SKATEPUP: This nice side of you is harder to take than the tough side. I like it. I just don't, like, know what to do with it.
MR. SP: I'm not that tough!
SKATEPUP: Wow, when you said alcoholics aren't very good at self assessment you weren't kidding!
I gave him a look.
SKATEPUP: My! Look at the time!
He faked looking at his nonexistent watch and jumped up.
SKATEPUP: Got a bus to catch! Thanks! Bye!
There are more essays like this one in "Mr. SponsorPants: Adventures in Sobriety and The 12 Steps for AA's and Others." Available as an eBook on Kindle via Amazon. Download the Kindle reader app for free on any device or platform, from PC to Smartphone, and enjoy eBooks anywhere you have time to read.