Over the course of 20+ years, I have had six sponsors. My first sponsor, who helped me feel safe and welcome, I had for almost two years (he was a big help when I started working in sobriety). Sponsor Number Two was a quickie -- they moved to another state for a job shortly after I started working with them. Sponsor Number Three was the Sarcastic Sponsor (this one) and although he was a tough old bird he was just what I needed at the time. He sponsored me for a few years till it was I moved who moved. Sponsor Number Four was also somewhat brief -- another case of moving for a job shortly after we started working together. So I was maybe five or six years sober when I got Sponsor Number Five, a man named John S. (He's been dead some years now, so I'm putting a name to him.) He sponsored me for probably close to a dozen or so years, and if you dusted me for prints it is his fingers you would find had shaped so much of my sobriety and how I sponsor people.
I'm a twice-lucky man: I had a good Dad, a man who was a solid tent pole in my family -- a guy with a big laugh and a big heart, who, although truly baffled and more than a little frightened by his son's terrible alcoholism and self-destructive bent, never fully gave up on me (though if he had, no one could truly have blamed him). But I also had a powerful spiritual mentor in John S., who in many ways, as much as my own father, helped me become the man I am today.
This is the anniversary of his passing. I do not miss him more today, but only because I miss him every day.
I say it often enough (every time I mention you, in fact): I miss your wise counsel every single day of my life.
I've no doubt that you're enjoying Eternity, in whatever fashion we find it. You always struck me as "in on the joke" -- whatever mad sense of humor seemed to infuse your understanding of God, The Universe and Everything -- you chuckled a lot more than you winced or sighed.
I guess today of all days I needed to invoke you, to sit and conjure you up from the hundreds of memories of the many thousands of hours you spent listening to me, talking with me (never at me) and yet brooking none of my nonsense. (Would it have killed you to brook just a little? No? Okay, okay. I learned very early on that you were right a lot more than I ever was.)
I have been privileged -- a word that gets thrown around a lot, but truly, privileged -- to sponsor a lot of people as I've stayed sober. You always said it was going to be a big part of my path. And it was you who really taught me how to do that, you know; you who gave me the bones upon which I built that part of my sobriety: How to be a sounding board, an ear, a shoulder, a pathfinder, and once in a great while, a coach or even a cop. And by teaching me how to be of service in that most unique way you gave me the chance to feel something Big move through me. (I was going to write "feel the Hand of God on me" but if I did and you were sitting across from me reading this, I know you'd have gotten to that phrase, paused, smoothed your toupee a little bit, taken a hit on your cigarette, raised your eyebrows and given me That Look which said so much; salty and direct but never unkind or judgmental. So okay, it's a bit high flown, to say that -- but although it's the kind of thing crazy people say before they try to make you take their pamphlet or start a war or something, it also has a spooky little bit of truth to it, too.)
So that gift alone, beyond the time you spent with me, helping me, is valuable beyond measure.
But if you're checking in on my deal at all from The Great Wherever (and I don't want to assume or anything... but just, if you are...) then you know I hit a rough patch there for a bit recently.
Because you helped me get through it before, I knew I could get through it again -- what's more I knew what to do, and thanks to the good habits you helped groove pretty deeply I was able to.
You were a funny, irascible, curmudgeon of a fellow, a dreadful alcoholic who gave unstintingly to me, without expectation or reservation (setting the bar for me on that, too).
I honor my debt to you by trying as best I can to pass along to others what you so freely gave to me.
And when I do -- or even just try to -- then deep down I remember that all of the illusory, material things which can sometimes seem so important in life are as nothing next to the privilege (there's that word again) of being able to help someone in that way -- to give a person who can't stop drinking, who's life has been a series of humiliating, self destructive blunders, the road map to recovery. (I imagine it sometimes like a big treasure map, drawn with India ink on rolled parchment, and when someone spreads it out on a table there is, in the bottom most right hand corner, a big dot labelled "Alcoholic Hell" and then an "X" to mark the spot and the words "You Are Here" written in flowing script.)
I miss you because you were funny and kind.
I miss you because you made me laugh -- hard -- when I was sure I didn't have one drop of joy left in me.
I miss you because you always seemed to make time for me.
I miss you because your counsel really was wise.
But mostly I miss you because I wish you could see in person how the seeds you planted have born fruit; and how in my own way I have tried to do the same for others, who I have seen then go on and try to do the same for still others...
I miss you because now I see so clearly how we are just links in a vast network of something Good -- in a world that could really use some good and to people who could really use a hand.
I'm still doing what you taught me to do, John. Thank you so much for helping me.
I hope they have great coffee wherever you are.
No doubt if they don't, you'll let them know.
All my love,