When I first came into the Fellowship and finally made the decision to get a sponsor (cuz’ ya’ll kept talking about that ad nasueum…LOL), I asked a man to be my “temporary sponsor” (which I loved because in my addled brain, there was very little commitment there). His name was Benny. I know you don’t know this because we’ve never met, but I am a pretty big boy – 6’5″ and about 275lbs. Benny was 6’8″, weighed 300lbs, was black as the dark of night, and talked like Darth Vader. He scared the crap out of me. But something said, “He’s the guy to ask.” So, I did.
Benny gave me my first Big Book and his first assignment for me was to go home and read, “Bill’s Story.” So I did. Wanting to be a good little A.A.’er and do what I was told, I went home and read Bill’s Story. After I was done a few days later, I went back over to his apartment to talk about it. His first question to me was, “Ok, so what’d ya think?” Because I was kinda scared of him, something inside of me said to tell him the truth, so I did. I said, “Benny – that was the most boring story I’ve ever read!!!! I have nothing in common with that man.” 1935… New York… stock broker… veteran… married…. and the list went on and on about how Bill W. and I were different and how I didn’t relate to his story. I saw ZERO identification.
Because Benny had some time in the Fellowship, he just nodded his head and smiled. Then he said, “Ok, here’s what I want you to do. Go home and read it again…. And THIS time, I want you to look for the similarities instead of just the differences,” to which I responded a little more boldy, “Benny, you’re not listening to me. I have nothing in common with this man!”
Then he said, one of the first of many profound things members of A.A. have said to me along my journey… he said, “Go back and read it again, and THIS time, look for the ways in which you – FELT – the way Bill felt.” I wasn’t all that sure I would find anything different, but I did was I was told to do. And as we hear so often, I was amazed before I was half way through. I was able to begin to see ways in which Bill and I felt the same as I was reading his story this time around….
“I was very lonely and again turned to alcohol.”
“Liquor ceased to be a luxury; it became a necessity.”
“I still thought I could control the situation”
“I began to wonder, for such an appalling lack of perspective seemed near being just that.”
“The remorse, horror and hopelessness of the next morning are unforgettable.”
“My brain raced uncontrollably and there was a terrible sense of impending calamity.”
“The physical and mental torture was so hellish I feared I would burst through my window, sash and all.”
And the last thing I read in Bill’s Story that I could relate to more than anything was, “No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity.” THAT….. that, I could relate to!!!
When I took the time to see how Bill and I felt the same prior to putting down the bottle, I could all of a sudden see that Bill’s story was, in fact, my story. While I didn’t drink the way he did, didn’t drink what he drank, didn’t drink with the kind of people he drank with, didn’t drink as often as he did (and the list goes on ad infinitum), I could identify with the ways Bill felt every time he drank. I knew those feelings and emotions intimately.
I find it interesting that when Bill wrote the outline to our Fourth Step inventory process, he didn’t ask us to list all the booze we drank, what kind, how often and with whom we drank…. he asked us to list out our grosser character handicaps, the causes and conditions of our failure. While it took me years after I took my first Fourth Step to put two and two together, I finally now know that my problem never was, is not now, and never will be alcohol. It’s the noise that lives between my left ear and my right ear that tells me things like, “You can drink like a normal person” or, “This time it will be different.”
I’m grateful to have had a sponsor from the very beginning that helped me to see the truth of my malady, a seemingly hopeless state of mind – and – that the main problem of the alcoholic centers in their mind. I’m grateful people like Benny showed me the way to a new life, a life beyond my wildest dreams through inventory. I will be forever grateful to the men and women of A.A. for helping me to see that the only problem I will ever have (no matter I THINK it MIGHT be) is separation from a Power greater than myself (that I choose to call God).
Thank you Benny, and thank you A.A. for giving me this life that I cherish, as well as the desire to go give away what has been so freely given to me.