Let me tell you about one. – I met my A.A. sponsor back in 1978. His name was Dal K., and he was 43 years sober; interestingly, he looked amazingly like George Burns, when he was in his 80’s. – I was in my first month of sobriety. I (and others) were SO in awe of Dal that he was considered an “A.A. God”. – EVERYBODY wanted Dal to be their sponsor, including me. When I first approached him to see if he would agree to sponsor me, he turned me down FLAT, “Find somebody else, I already sponsor too many people.” Then, he just turned and walked away.
You have to understand that in A.A., “sponsorship” is the key to successful recovery from active (drinking) alcoholism. And, the ‘better’ sponsor one has; well, the more likely one is to ‘recover’. – Uh… ya see… I had a REALLY BAD ‘alcohol problem’, and I knew I was going to actually die, if I didn’t stop drinking. (And pretty soon, too. Period.) Consequently, I REALLY wanted to/HAD to… recover. So, TO ME… Dal was the key to my success. SOoooo… for the next week or so, I pursued Dal, with repeated requests to sponsor me. “No”, “no”, “no”, he said… and then FINALLY… he angrily agreed. He said, “Okay, I’ll be your blanking sponsor, but ANY push-back on your end, and I’ll walk away; got it??” – “Got it, ‘no problemo’, I said.
The reason Dal was practically an A.A. God was that he, and his fellow alcoholic-buddy, “Frenchy”, started A.A. in California… They were ‘skid-row’ alcoholics, sleeping in some obscure wine-orchard at the time. WHY? – Because they could use the five cents they panhandled the previous day to buy a pint of “dregs” wine from the winery; – which was the way they started each day.
Bill W. one of the co-founders of A.A., originated the program in 1937. Back then, it was brand new. In one of ‘the oddities of life’, Dal had fallen asleep (read ‘passed out’ here) on a magazine article about the founding of A.A. by some dude in Cleveland named Bill W. — As he ‘came to’, his eyes fell onto the “12-Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous. – The program is designed to go progressively from step one, to step 12. Dal immediately glommed onto the 12th step: “…Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics…” “Hmmmm…” he thought, ‘Carry the message to other alcoholics”… – SOOooo… he went to see a Judge-friend of his (who he had been in front of numerous times) and asked him to ‘give’ him another alcoholic to work with. Can you imagine the astonishment of the next guy in line, who was coming before the Judge? – “One year in jail,” says the Judge. “But”, he added… “If you stay sober for the next 30 days, ALONG WITH these other two alkys; “I’ll suspend the sentence.” (“Bang”, gavel down)
The three of them literally watched each other “four hours on / four hours off” for the next 30 days. And guess what, that was the first time they were sober for 30 consecutive days, in their adult life. Then, the ‘holy-three’ started “The California Club” in California. When I met Dal in 1978, he was retired, and living in Atlanta with his daughter. He was 83 years old, and STILL active in A.A.
Now, (as Paul Harvey used to say,) “Here’s the rest of the story.” The California Club grew in membership and effectiveness and it was 41 years later. The ‘Club’ thought it would be a good idea to bring back the ‘founder’ of The California Club, and ask him to be a guest speaker. As a side-note here, ALL alcoholics ‘touch’ about 14 other lives, in the course of their alcoholism. So IMAGINE how many people were ‘touched’ in some way or other over the previous 41 years.
The Club sent out announcements / invites / ‘P-R’… and SO many people responded… that they had to consider a bigger (and bigger) place to hold the event. In the end, they engaged a college stadium; and 50,000 people turned out to hear the founder of ‘The California Club’, Dal K., share his story. Think about that, “FIFTY THOUSAND PEOPLE” were “touched” in some way or other by a little old man who used to beg for pennies; so he could buy five-cent dregs of wine, so he could pass out on a magazine. – While Dal was in The California Club, he not only helped start it; he also started “Al-Anon”, “Al-a-Teen”; PLUS, he led the way to start OTHER A.A. clubs, IN California, and also in other states. These days, membership in A.A. is over two million world-wide. Now, multiply that number by 14… because that’s how many people are affected by A.A. – OR… 24 million people. — A LOT of those members can trace their sobriety back to two grizzled old alcoholics who ‘kept an eye on each other’ for 30 days. It actually gives me “the shivers” to think about
So what’s that got to do with me, right?? — Welp, TODAY… May 15th… is my 42nd year in Alcoholics Anonymous; and I wanted to share it with you. There’s another thing too… If you have an alcoholic in your life, or know the spouse / sibling / children / of even a friend of an active (drinking) alcoholic… Share this story with them. Tell them “There’s hope”… TAKE them to an A.A. meeting, it’s the most wonderful place in the world; and the finest people I’ve ever met are in A.A.
“Happy birthday to me… Happy birthday to me… Happy birthday, happy birthday…. Happy birthday to me.” (I bet you didn’t know I could sing that well.)
May 15th, 2020