By Dan M.

We’ve all known someone in a meeting who can’t seem to stay sober. Every time the secretary asks if there is anyone in their first thirty days, this person has to raise their hand. Robert was such a man in my home group. (His name has been changed for his privacy.) He would say all the right things about how now he gets it. Then he would disappear for a couple of weeks and return with his arm in a sling. I knew at least two members who had been his sponsor and had let him go after he went out again. They explained that this is how you were available to others. But what about Robert?

My first sponsee got drunk before finishing his fourth step, so I was available. I volunteered to take whoever put their name in our sponsor box, intended for newcomers too shy to ask. The guy who opened the box handed me a slip of paper with only a phone number on it. 

“He was too shy to even write his name,” he said.

I had a hunch who it might be, and when I heard the voice on the other end, I said, “Robert, I was wondering if it might be you.” He said, “Well, God has a sense of humor because I was hoping it would be you who answered it.” I told him the usual things: that I didn’t know any secrets or have great wisdom to impart, that I was another drunk like him trying to live by spiritual principles and keep an honest program.  I also said I would stick with him whatever happened.

Over the next couple of years, we went through the steps and read A.A. literature as he was in and out of sober living environments. He would call me every night until he didn’t. Then I would hear from his wife that he had been found somewhere, or he would call me himself, sick and humiliated. I always said to just keep calling me. I wanted to be the hand of A.A., always extended. I didn’t know what else to do. 

Eventually, the sober time lengthened to several months, but he was still falling down. In his last SLE, he was quite funny, calling to tell me about the young guys and their rap music that surrounded him. He was an old man at fifty-seven among these guys. But something had changed. There was a new urgency to make it stick and return home to his wife and son. 

After he came home, people said to me that it was a new Robert. We all noticed that three months had gone by. Then six. It was happening. The quality of his humility had changed from defeatist to quietly confident. This is someone who had been in and out for several years without staying sober for ninety days. All I had done was waited for the miracle, and having a front row seat for the transformation was the greatest gift I could have been given.

Dan’s home group, Fremont Men’s Stag, meets on Mondays at 7pm.