Although a self admitted alcoholic early on who endured many a punch to the face in his High School drinking days? Dale or (Pup) was what AA was there for. He fit the criteria. Smart, handsome, no self esteem and the usual fragmented code of conduct. I met Dale in Big Book 12 Steps AA. He had already been sober for a time and made a name for himself in regular AA stand up meetings. Known as someone who didn't drink a day at a time, went to meetings and yes, held a job. A responsible job no less. Unlike myself, the uneducated adult childlike scavenger.
So yes, we became friends in AA. Like the farmer and the lawyer or atheist and pentecostal. We had different characters yet shared the common bond. The alcoholism.
Dale has been gone for years. Massive heart attack. Boom..Dead. It was good in a morbid way. Quick. I think of Dale. We were room mates who remained mates. We were both terrible at emotional relationships, intimate relationships. The proof was there for the world to see, for all of AA to hear. We both had been caught many times in our own emotional traps. Yet Dale kept on. Sober, living one day at a time with a willingness to grow spiritually as the Book suggested. I remember he came halfway across the country to hear me speak at some big AA hoedown where I basically knew no one. I remember him sitting there. A stand out in a crowd of thousands. My friend, my supportive friend. I couldn't shake the fear and bombed that night as the bigtime AA 12 Step speaker but he said hey, it was great to hear you. Thanks Dale.
Denis. Liver cancer. A writer, I mean a real writer. Unlike myself, the uneducated hack with a laptop. He and I were early 80's Big Book 12 Steps. Hyannis method. Serious stuff, our decisions to seek God and serve the suffering alcoholic made up our bond. We joined together on the suggested thorough fact finding and fact facing mission laid out in masterly detail in the Big Book 12 Steps.. Years went by, life goes by, I forget to return his call. He said it was important, still.. I was too concerned with myself to connect. Too busy. Denis was gone. Always a power of example. His book Jesus' Son is one of the best self expressions of addiction I've read. The movie? A full plate of honesty in societies belly to be digested forever. I've got a bit of guilt sure. I pray for direction, and I know today I can do better. When I see myself as unable to see a friend in the midst of my selfish life? My self centeredness? I remember my good friend Denis as if the phone is ringing right now. I pick up the call. I return the call, I show up for a friend. I can be a better friend today. Thanks Denis.
My best boy George was a friend, then became an AA friend, then just a real friend. I had never really had a true friend before George. I had never felt such a mutual respect. He died sober in Big Book 12 Steps, yes sober many years. He set the friend standard (if there is such a thing) of trust and sharing whatever was mine or his, was ours. I learned with him that what's good for me is as good for another. If I could offer anything to improve his life it's as if I am improving my own. Being around George made me want to give without expectation. Give without selfishness or fear..
He was a smart guy, driven. He had something to prove and he proved it daily weekly, yearly. Like many of us he kept on the ever evolving Spiritual path suggested in the Big Book 12 Steps. By doing so kept the insanity of alcoholism at bay. One day many years ago I had spent everything I had buying a house and was broke, really broke. Like, no money and no options broke. He dropped off a motorcycle he was selling for a couple of thousand dollars and said just ride it. Don't pay for it just ride it, it's yours. Years later he was helping me put carpet in my livingroom and got a strange head ache. Was this the point where the terminal brain cancer blindsided him? Who could say, who knew? But it was here now. Death was at the door. I committed myself to ride it out with him. It was an honor to give whatever I had right till the end. It was an honor to be his friend until the end. To witness how a real man faces mortality and death. To this day it may be the only thing I ever completed. I was thinking about him this morning. It made me want to try a little harder today. To pray for courage and strength and follow his example.
Warren from Cape Cod my trusted Big Book 12 Step friend is gone but not forgotten. Massive heart attack! Again with the massive heart attack! Damn man...29 years sober and always in the Big Book work. I remember him when he came around like, you know, a clear picture as if you're there. I see him as a new member of the Hyannis Men's Big Book Step meeting selling raffle tickets at the break back when they did that. He was sweating pretty good, nerves on edge and self centered to the extreme as he peeled off the ticket and took my quarter while juggling the basket in his arm. Reddish frizzy hair and face all broken out. He was a sight. I remember asking who he was? Someone said he's new and traveling with the Falmouth guys. I thought yeah, he's going to be a miracle, he's going to help many. Sometimes you can just tell.
He was a part of the late 80's needed reinforcements. Some of us were burnt. We needed a break from the years of non stop 12 Step sponsorship to work on ourselves for a bit. He arrived and took the torch as if it was meant to be. The fresh and on fire Big Book 12 Step guy who put the drink down and got a sponsor, joined the group and jumped onto the spiritual path with a pen in his hand and a willingness to see himself.. He didn't know it but he was being groomed to help others, to walk day by day on the progressive spiritual path with the new man. Each day he stayed sober and took action in the AA Big Book 12 Step program of recovery became one more day of experience on the firing line of life living sober. He understood his primary purpose. If you asked him? It may be witty or clever, it may be in the form of a wise mans story but it was there. His primary purpose was to serve his God and the suffering alcoholic. To give of himself that another may benefit.
And yes many new men did arrive. Warren sponsored many in Big Book 12 Steps. He was there to help with a new mans third Step decision? Hear a 5th and keep that confidence? A power of example to me and many, he was one to practice the Book in all his affairs not just in the meeting.. He began his sober journey sleeping on couches and working landscape labor. Went back to school and became a Doctor.. I mean, who does that!! Warren, Warren did that.
The spiritual program, keeping a confidence, a closed mouth. I needed to have someone witness a written 10th Step not long ago. I needed to be honest with myself and humble before my God and another person. I had some heavy stuff that without my willingness I would probably delay or outright run from. At least blow it off and continue to arrange it to suit myself, avoiding humility and hiding behind blame as long as possible... I went to Warren and he gladly accepted my trust without any detour. And he kept my trust as a spiritual man can. As a Big Book 12 Step spiritual man can. His spiritual foundation intact for 29 years. That's a lot of day's my friend. Thanks Warren..
Vinny or "Vin" from Kingston Friday night Big Book 12 Steps has moved on. 42 years sober. Cancer took him out..Cancer, damn. I watched the weight loss, the depleted energy from chemo basically overcome a loud colorful story telling AA guy. Always grateful for his day sober and willing to share it with others and especially the new man.. Reducing him to frail and sickly, sleeping through most of any meeting he attended. It was at times hard to watch but with the utmost respect I would not make it about me. I would pray for the courage to confront him with a desire to be helpful in any way possible..
Here's the thing about Vinny. He was old school AA. Boston Men's meeting AA. Your problem is only "this big" AA. Don't drink! Don't pick up that freaken drink even if your ass falls off, AA. Well before the Big Book 12 Step meeting craze hit around 1981/82 he was a grateful AA member. Meetings Meetings Meetings, One Day at a Time, Live and Let Live, But for the grace of God go I, Keep It Simple Stupid, Get a Sponsor, join a group, go on commitments, get there early and help set up, stay late and clean up. Pick up the broom, empty ashtray's, wash the coffee pot, give the new guy a ride to and from the meeting.. In short? When you came to an AA meeting you came to see Vinny. Vinny was the power of example, the don't drink for one day and you don't get drunk, go to a meeting, and ask God for help member of Alcoholics Anonymous. This refreshing experience he brought to Big Book 12 Steps. I always felt a kind of security when Vinny was around. Like, if I was willing to be honest with myself and others? Whoever I was or how I measured up didn't matter. I was ok today just as I am. Vinny made AA a safe place for someone like me. I will do my best to pass it on. Thanks Vinny.
I've decided to find new friends today. I will bring my old friends with me. Even those who have passed on. Especially those who have passed on. Who I am is who we are.