On December 11, 1934, while under treatment at Towns Hospital for alcoholism, Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, experienced a profound and lasting spiritual experience. This intense and life-changing spiritual awakening left Bill with an overwhelming sense of well-being and freed him from his obsession and craving for alcohol. Bill said this about his “hot flash”, “I knew I was a free man”.
A definition of the word sponsor published at a time when the A.A. program was in its infancy states: “Sponsor - One who assumes, or one to whom is delegated, responsibility for some other person.” Webster, circa - 1936
During the past several weeks we all have been thrown into a sea of unknowing, with no knowledge of the shore- where it is, when it will rise in our vision, when we will rest knowing it’s popping up in our horizon.
Just a little backdrop... Recently, I have experienced what some might define as significant losses: My last surviving parent died in October; I ended a long-term primary relationship in November; My darling dog of 10 years was put to sleep in February. I am an empty nester, living in a new home in rural America. Despite these losses, daily life was fulfilling and meaningful. I had a job I adored, good friends, a busy social and volunteer life, and, most importantly, a wonderful AA community that grew and deepened every day!
Johann Hari stated at the end of his viral “TED Talk” that… “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection”. This comment was received as a landmark and almost heretical statement in the field of addiction treatment. It sent shock waves through the recovery community. It was a new and innovative way to view addiction and address recovery.
I’m writing this on a morning in March when the news media is full of coronavirus, or Covid-19 stories. Today’s Star-Tribune newspaper reports that the Costco store near The Retreat is out of toilet paper and won’t have any more for five days. They are also out of hand sanitizer, plastic gloves, and bleach wipes. The food aisles are decimated, as well, with non-perishables in short supply. It isn’t a full and complete panic, but it is certainly a lot of anxiety for a state that has no known cases of the virus.
I was 18 years old and three years sober. Ever since I went through treatment in the summer of 1978, all I wanted to do was to be a counselor. My counselor had saved my life and all I wanted to do was to become a counselor so I could save lives too. I could think of no higher calling or more worthwhile work. So, I applied for a Counselor Training Program.
Step One of Alcoholics Anonymous tells me that I am powerless over alcohol when I drink it. Step One of Al-Anon tells me that I am powerless over alcohol when other people drink it, or when other people want to drink it. Both treatment programs, and The Retreat (which is not a treatment program) are powerless over alcohol and addiction when the people in them want to drink.
It’s Friday, November 1st, and I took the day off. I flew with my wife, Priscilla to Los Angeles. This fall I joined “The Magic Castle” in Hollywood. It is a private club in a castle, located in the Hollywood Hills. I sponsor a 94 year old psychologist who lives in California, and he both introduced me to the Magic Castle, and sponsored me for membership.