In the midst of a larger discussion about his most recent resentments, and how alcoholic thinking can warp perceptions, the Skateboard Pup became a little wistful and asked me about my AA meeting history.
SKATEBOARD PUP: Have you ever, you know, stopped going to meetings for any real length of time?
He wasn't challenging when he asked. He was genuinely curious. I had to think about it for a minute.
MR. SPONSORPANTS: Well, once, after I had moved from [major city] to [another major city] when I was eleven or twelve years sober... Of course I went to a couple of meetings right away after I hit town, but the move put me so off my routine -- and to be really honest I felt a little giddy and weirdly free from all my 12 Step commitments -- that I drifted pretty quickly. One week led to another, and before I knew it a month had gone by and I hadn't been to a meeting.
First he looked skeptical, then surprised.
SKATEPUP: You? Really?
MR. SP: What do you mean "me, really?" I'm not bulletproof. Commitments and relationships keep me in the middle of the lifeboat as much as anything else. Sure, I almost always feel better after going, but I'm as vulnerable as anyone when it comes to bullshit rationalizations about why I can skip them. Or if my life goes upside down -- like after that big move -- putting it off till suddenly I'm adrift.
SKATEPUP: Huh. I never really thought of you not going to meetings. Or skipping 'em or... whatever. You seem so "in it."
MR. SP: So "in it?" Please God, don't put me on a pedestal or anything.
SKATEPUP: Oh my god, no danger of that. Seriously, absolutely no danger of that. Couldn't possible happen. You've been very free with what a mess you can be, there is absolutely no way...
MR. SP: Okay! Okay! Verrrrrry funny.
SKATEPUP: No I'm serious.
MR. SP: Yes. Great. Got it. Thanks loads. Anyway, in short order I was probably a month without a meeting -- maybe even a little more.
SKATEPUP: How did you feel? I mean, what happened?
MR. SP: How did I feel? Well, if I recall correctly, I felt great! I had a big job that had just moved me to a new city. I had a gigantic, glamorous two bedroom apartment all to myself, for something like two-thirds the rent I had been paying for a studio before. And suddenly it felt like I had all this free time! I didn't have anything extra in my schedule. I didn't have to spend time meeting with anyone or anything like that. My whole life was suddenly all about me, and the only question I asked was what did I feel like doing. I felt like I got my nights and weekends back... and I felt entitled to it. Like I had paid my dues before the move by being "good" and this was my reward. And I was making pretty good money at the time, too -- that sure as hell didn't hurt. Seriously, I felt great. But also -- and I remember this as clearly as the all that other stuff -- a weird thing started to happen. I mean, I was very conscious of it as it happened.
SKATEPUP: What? What was weird?
MR. SPONSORPANTS: Well, suddenly everybody else in the world was an asshole. My boss, my co-workers, my family... they all started acting like total assholes. And all the new people I was meeting were either too far beneath me to be worth making friends with -- so they were like loser-assholes I thought -- or intimidated me too much for me to approach them -- so they were all stuck up-assholes. But mostly I remember thinking that suddenly the whole world was just full of real assholes.
SKATEPUP: So... that got you to go back to meetings?
MR. SP: Well, I had to do something. If they were all assholes I figured the least I could do is go back to meetings just to help 'em all out.
SKATEPUP: That was so, so big of you.
MR. SP: Yes. as I think you know by now, I'm a giver.
SKATEPUP: So then suddenly... the world wasn't so full of assholes?
MR. SP: Practically overnight. Damnedest thing.