One of my favorite troubled spirits said,
in regards to recovery and sobriety,
(we all are)
a work in progress."
Having known him for many years, I have seen his remarkable transformation
and I smiled in recognition of both his journey
and my own.
Some days I feel the progress and when I do,
it (almost always still)
surprises me a little;
that moment of realization -- the quiet explosion inside -- when I feel
how I have been changed.
(That part is like a Divine Hand reached a gigantic finger
inside of me and did some benign rewiring.)
And how I have changed.
(That part is a testament to my willingness and my work.)
On the days where all I can see is the work,
all I feel is the challenge and the
grind (which is just what routine calls itself when it has a dirty diaper)
I need meetings to remind me
of the progress.
The changes in my perspective,
the comfort of living right-sized in my own skin,
the peace -- not always, but often -- in my mind and in my heart,
and the gratitude for a life transformed.
The gratitude I feel for so much
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.
Lately, when talking to a new sponsee -- not The New Sponsee of previous entries, he is still in the mix, but a different new sponsee -- one who slipped past my defenses (tattered tissue paper things that they are) and added themselves more recently to the sponsee Dance Card (through the usual Backstage Pass of real willingness to do the deal and abject fear of the power of their alcoholism), I am struck by just how low our self esteem can go. Just how much we can loathe ourselves. How deeply we've internalized messages over the years which evolve into an internal chorus which subtly, constantly, undermines our growth.
Here on Mr. SponsorPants -- and of course in my own recovery -- I have reflected on how the real danger of low self esteem for an alcoholic is not the low part, it's the self part. How the nearly obsessive focus on self is a fertile playground for our addiction to keep us walled off from any real recovery.
That doesn't mean, however, that the "low" part of "low self esteem" shouldn't be addressed at all. Lately, in discussions with this most recent sponsee, I've been especially moved to hear them begin working through some of the mental self abuse so common in an alcoholic's thinking.
Needless to say, I identify with the journey.
Not long ago they were at my place for our regular weekly meeting, and we'd had a particularly good conversation about the 12 Steps; especially about the way the lights were "coming on" for them. Willing but fearful (which, I just thought as I typed that, might be an excellent title for my autobiography some day: "Willing But Fearful") they sort of collapsed in on themselves and said something like, "It makes sense when we talk about it, but sometimes, when I'm home, it seems pointless. Like it just doesn't matter if I get sober, after... Like there's no point in trying or getting better or anything because... well... just because I always... just because, I guess."
We talked about that, and got a few things reconsidered and reconfigured (not the least of which was, "For God's sake CALL ME when you feel that way..."), but after they left I stood at the door for a while, unable to stop replaying what they'd said. The expression on their face. How many times had I felt that way over the years, or heard people, either in meetings, or sitting right there on my sofa, express similar fear... doubt... pain? Too many, maybe.
So I sat down and I wrote the following. And now, each week before they come over, I pull it out and read it, and say a little prayer that I can infuse absolutely everything I say to them with this message as we go through the Big Book and the 12 Steps together.
(I think it would be weird to just straight up read this to them. Or give it to them. It would be, probably, "too much" right now.)
When I wrote this I had not intended it for Mr. SponsorPants. It was, like some things I've written over the years, a more personal exercise; one equal parts a request for a Divine Guidance and a desire for personal clarification.
But "exigent circumstances" -- which have nothing whatsoever to do with this particular sponsee -- have prompted me to share it on the blog after all:
You are worth saving.
Set aside for a moment the question of God's Will and paths taken and opportunities squandered and mistakes and choices poorly made and the sometimes terrible unfairness of the Universe. Those questions, while very deserving of consideration at different stages of our spiritual growth, are right now nothing more than giant abstracts and distractions, pulling you into the past or creating a bogeyman of the future.
Regardless of what we did, and what they did, and what we should have done, and what they should have done... the fact is, there is only this one you, this incarnation, with all its dents and scars and experiences. It -- you -- are a thing unique in all Creation, and thus a thing of immeasurable value.
We only have this version of You to treasure.
Right now you are exactly how you are supposed to be. Not one single molecule of wrong.
You are not supposed to be more than or less of anything in this moment.
Because who you are now is the absolutely perfect place from which you can grow: Grow to be the authentic, graceful, healthy, ultimate You that all souls have a pull to reach towards and the potential to achieve.
And where does growth begin? From a seed.
You are a seed.
The seed of tomorrow's healthier, happier you. And a seed, with all it's promise of Becoming, could never be "wrong," right?
A seed is just itself. It's not "less" than what it should be, because it has to be this perfect thing before it can be the next (perfect) thing it can -- and is supposed to -- be.
Today, in this day -- and every day -- we are all seeds. Not Wrong Things, but exactly the kind of seed we need to be to become whatever biggest and best outcome is possible for us.
And regardless of God and paths and then and them, should haves and shouldn'ts, the confounding, mind blowing truth is that today you are yesterday's biggest and best outcome, yet at the very same time you are the seed of tomorrow's same.
So you are not damaged goods, or bad news, or a walking mistake. How could you be, given that!
You are growing exactly how you are supposed to be growing Thus, even the mistakes are not mistakes.
And those dents? Those scars?
Credentials! Proof of character, measure of humanity and badges of honor.
You are worth saving.
When you forget that, or when you don't believe that, remember instead the people who can remind you, and talk to them.
Talking with you helps them remember the same is true for themselves, too.
There are more essays like this 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.