An oldtimer named Bob, with 35 years chaired the meeting we have at my place last night and he reminded me of a pivotal moment in my life/recovery. A decade ago I found myself sitting at lunch with Bob and my sponsor. I was quietly tortured with the loss of a lover and in the midst of wrestling really hard with the idea that I was becoming an oldtimer myself. I didnt want it. I just wanted to be one of the fellas, though I knew that even among the crew I came up with, that I had the most time in the bunch and had somehow managed to stay in the middle more consistently than the rest of us. I had become the Shell Answer Man, the go-to guy. I hated it. I always had this vague sense that people were watching me, half for hope, half looking forward to having a good view when I fell. Ever so slowly (cunning, baffling, powerful even) I began to succumb to my own perceived relevance and laid a trap for myself from which I saw no way out; I couldnt have a bad day.
The gift that Bob gave me that day as he pulled his hair and waved his arms in frustration over his life falling apart in front of us (and more importantly, in front of ME since I didnt know him all too well) was permission to be human. His ass was falling off and he didnt seem to care too much who was there when it was his turn in the barrel or who might be the one to help *him* when he needed it. This was a revelation to me and a major turning point in my life. In the years since I recommitted myself to being in service. Not as a dutiful obligation required of me to keep my seat in AA but as the theme of the 12th step promises; as the Joy of Living. Anyone who’s read my blog knows I pretty much lay it all out there. Sometimes I got it figured out, laying it on the heathens. Sometimes I’m winding my ass and scratching my watch. Hell, I’ve never been 45 years old before. What’s that supposed to look like? But I do it semi-publicly because it frees me from that Tower of Guru, it lets me bleed like everyone else. And because I figure it also does for others what Bob did for me that Saturday afternoon; it gives them permission to be just one more drunk in AA walking through life – together.
Being of service works both ways. I’m pretty damn good at being there for others and taking a certain amount of pride in that. Which ironically, quietly sets me apart from my fellows. But what kind of selfish prick am I when I deny friends, family, and fellow AA’s the very same gift of being able to give back! Bob planted the seed in me the answer to a question that had haunted me since the first time I read a statement in the 4th step in the 12 x 12 much earlier in my sobriety. “The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being.” That seed has grown into my own recreated definition of Humility; Humiliation is you laughing at me – Humility is me laughing right along with you.