Due to anonymity issues, I have to be very careful with this post. For that reason, this will appear a little vague. If you’ve read one post of mine, I like to be descriptive to a fault, because being clear helps newcomers. Sadly, I simply can’t be perfectly clear about the “who and where”. I’ll be all over the “what and why”, though, as is par for the course.
I stumbled into a very special group of old-timers when I moved north of my native Brighton – Howell zip code as a young lad. They were Flint’s “rat pack” in sobriety, the same as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop in Hollywood. My sponsor, for a short but influential time before his death, was “Frank Sinatra”. He was such a good sponsor and man, he’s still talked about fondly and regularly a decade after his death. If you ever talk about a legacy, especially for a person in recovery, that’s as good as it can possibly get for just a normal, everyday person. My sponsor could make anyone feel instantly better about being themselves just by greeting them. It was an amazing talent and use of an enormous heart. He loved every lost soul who ever walked into an AA meeting and he was going to do his level best to make sure they felt welcome and knew that he was there for them if they decided to stick around.
We had “Dean Martin” over to the house, Friday night. I’d say he was Sammy (my favorite), but Peter is unquestionably Sammy. Dean was a close second favorite for me because I drank like him and related to his sense of humor. That quality my sponsor had, rubbed off on Ian. Ian, almost by chance and luck, had a huge influence on my wife and was a big part of her life growing up. My current sponsor, Greg, is “Joey Bishop”. Roger is “Peter Lawford”.
And so here we were, having a small dinner party (very small, so it could be held outdoors, socially distanced, because Ian and his wife are of that age that Covid-19 ravages). Ian’s been sober 44 years. I was five when he put a plug in the jug for good, 17 years before my sobriety date.
And so we group of sober friends and family ate together, vegetarians and balanced eaters alike, and it was wonderful. We all laughed. Ian, my wife and Ian’s wife cried. And in the course, Ian brought up how well he thought we were doing, and how happy we appeared. He related that back to his life and success, and we both related that back to our working a program of recovery.
And that brings us ’round to the main point of this post.
Within recovery, I am a decent example of a good human being. I’m not great, yet, I think I might need that 17 more years to touch that, but I’ll keep trying to get there. I have a chance to get there because I know one very important point down to my baby toes; sobriety and recovery aren’t an on-again, off-again experience. I don’t get to the good benefits by straddling the fence, one foot in recovery, the other in addiction and on a banana peel. And there exists a simple explanation for this truth…
In recovery, there is a progression to health that is very clear and if one hopes for the full benefits afforded by recovery, none of that progression can be skipped. It’s cumulative. First, we work the steps to become free of the grips of addiction. Once free, and with a basic knowledge of “how it works”, we go on to practice those steps and principles in all our affairs. As life continues, we lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows – helping others becomes a part of our life. Helping others naturally helps us grow in the steps and principles and life improves. It doesn’t get easier, of course. There are trials and tribulations, but we handle them better than we ever could, because the steps and principles we’ve been working for years have become second nature. We intuitively handle situations that once left us baffled, cursing the universe for having shit on us one more time. Now we roll over those issues as if they’re minor speed bumps. We have to slow the momentum a minute so we don’t bottom out the car, but we absolutely keep rolling. And life continues to get better.
Before you know it, you don’t need meetings anymore – if you’re so blessed, you keep going simply to see how good life can get and to help others get to the same place you’ve been for years. And this gets to my sponsor’s legacy. This will be Ian’s legacy, and Peter’s… and Greg’s and Roger’s.
And if I keep it up, possibly mine.
With on-again, off-again sobriety I can never fully release myself from the grips of alcoholism and addiction. I can’t recover. If I can’t get out of that fly-paper, I can’t move on to the next part of the progression so I never really get to the sunshine of recovery. I’m held back. Retarded from the growth necessary to help friends and fellows – because you’ve gotta have something to give away to be able to freely give it. If I can’t get there, I’m blocked off from the really good stuff.
I keep coming back because I want to see just how good “good” can get. Without recovery, all I’m capable of is “meh”. That’s just not good enough – it hasn’t been for a long time. Good times and noodle salad isn’t arrived at by chance. We have to work for it.