Thursday, December 27, 2012

Where Your Name Is Not Important

An interesting note today. Sympathy cards not solicited or accepted. Maybe something will catch your eye...

I suppose we have to call people something to get their attention. So we all get some sort of name when we are born. My friend, named Jack, died yesterday. I caught him in the wrinkled, gray stage of his life. I had only known him a little more than three years.

It is a fascinating thing that I could know so much about a man and yet, not even know his last name. Your surname isn't important in alcoholics anonymous.

I hate the term alcoholic. Maybe it has too many negative connotations. Maybe that's why the liberals are forever changing labels and policing speech. I think I understand. I am just getting "old beyond vanity" and I don't really give a shit anymore. So I played nice with the existing terminology rather than try to change the world to suit my views.

I just didn't want to drink any more and I figured those cats knew how to do that. They do. There are some things you learn right away.

Who you think you are doesn't matter so much in AA. You find that out quickly. Who you want to become does matter. So many of us, in various states of exhaustion and disrepair, kind of hobble in and find each other. I like to say that nobody gets to alcoholics anonymous on a winning streak.

I only knew my first sponsor's last name because he was the parish priest. I saw his name every other day near the front entrance to St Francis' church in New Orleans. So when he died or "graduated" as those in AA like to say, finding Des was pretty simple.

Des was not ashamed of AA. In fact, the Catholic Church might have been ashamed that one of their star employees was in AA, but Des wasn't. Des was just as zealous about AA as he was the church. At Des's funeral, attended by a mob of church employees including everyone but the cardinal it seemed, there were only two books on the coffin. The Bible and AA's Big Book.

"You cannot tell a man there is something wrong with him, but you can tell a man there is something wrong with you. Do that and you have a chance." That's why this thing works.

I left New Orleans in the summer of '08. After a year in California, I landed in Boise the following summer. That's when I met Jack.

Jack chaired a lot of meetings. That's how I came to know him. We would go out to eat after meetings usually once or twice a week. We also had service positions within our group and saw each other at business meetings. I loved that Jack told it just like he saw it. No bullshit, no tactful or passive aggressive innuendo for you to unravel. Jack never brought his personal problems to a meeting, either. If he trusted you- he might talk to you privately about his issues. That's how I learned so much about Jack.

Jack's health started to decline in November of last year and he became a little disgruntled about life in general. I began to see less and less of him. His health forced him to change his lifestyle and give up service positions. Pretty soon he was carting around oxygen. About a month ago, I picked Jack up at the hospital in the middle of the night. That was the last time I would see him.

The important things in life like who you are, where you've been, and what you hope to accomplish- those are some of the things that matter. Deciding what kind of a man or role model you are going to be also matters. Jack helped shape me and reminded me about the things that still matter. The truth is- Jack told me his last name long ago. In the big scheme of things it just didn't seem that important to me then. Odd now that his surname would seem a little more important.

I am going to miss Jack but the truth is, I've been missing him for quite some time already.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"You cannot tell a man there is something wrong with him, but you can tell a man there is something wrong with you. Do that and you have a chance."

Sound advice. I'll try to incorporate it into my dealings with others.