This week, “Here’s To Your Health,” is a continuation of Dennis’ story: My wife was blowing money on Alanon conventions and I resented her for that. I said, “We can’t afford Alanon conventions.” She said, “After living with you, I can’t afford not to go!” She kept leaving me with the kids and I kept hanging around one A.A. meeting a week.
I couldn’t let her get the upper hand on me. I hung out at the back of the meeting hall where the coffee pots were and chain smoked cigarettes. But between the Our Father and Amen at the end of the meeting; I’d disappear out the door. A six foot four black man would vanish from thin air. I didn’t want all those people shaking my hand and telling me to keep coming back because I didn’t want to be there in the first place.
After about two weeks I started feeling sorry for those people because they were alcoholics and their lives were unmanageable. I thought maybe I could help them. After awhile I finally admitted that I was powerless over money, my wife, boss, kids and a God who wouldn’t give me a break. But I wouldn’t take step two because it insinuated that I was insane and I knew better. I couldn’t take step three because I was sure that God was out to get me. He seemed to be taking pretty good care of other people in A.A., but he just wouldn’t cut me a break. The fourth step looked to me like I could do it and so I started doing a little writing. But by this time, people started recognizing me. They said, “Dennis, you’ve been coming around now for a while, do you have a sponsor?” I said, “No. I don’t have a sponsor because I don’t need one.” They said, “You can’t take these steps without a sponsor; get a sponsor.”
The next Monday, I showed up again and they started harassing me about sponsorship and then my wife Libra started nagging, “You’re supposed to have a sponsor!” Libra suggested James, but he’s 6 foot 9, and his afro is taller than mine; I didn’t want him.
I couldn’t find anybody black enough; cool enough, or one that was a Vietnam veteran with O positive blood and two kids. I sponsored myself because I was the only one with the right qualifications. I sponsored myself for 81 days and it was the easiest time I ever had in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Since I was sponsoring myself, I only went to a meeting when I wanted to and I didn’t have to read the Big Book. I read the Esquire Magazine instead; I could roll it up and stick it in my pocket. I was at a meeting one night and the thought occurred to me that I could read some of the other A.A. literature until I got around to reading the Big Book.
On my way home, I thought about asking my sponsor. That’s what’s so handy about sponsoring yourself; you have that direct contact because he’s always there in the mirror. You just look in the mirror, make eye contact and say, “Well, what do you think?” He said, “We could use a drink.” Needless to say, my sponsor and I ended up 240 miles from home in Rutherford County; drunk and naked.
On February 1st I showed up again on the door steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and those same old timer’s were there sitting in their soft seats at the back of the room. They said, “Boy, we’ve been waiting on you.” I would’ve given anything not to hear that ‘Boy’ crap but, they didn’t want to break my anonymity and they seemed happy to see me again. They invited me to stay after the meeting for another meeting. I felt good about that until I found out that I was the reason for the special meeting.
James went first, he said, “Boy, the last time you took a drink did you get down on your knees and ask God to keep you sober?” I said, “No.” It felt good to tell the truth. It doesn’t take many words to tell the truth and I didn’t know why I told James the truth, but I did. To be continued…
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