Artisan by Dan Joyce
Death And 12-Step Spirituality
On the way to the meeting last night, I texted a woman I had been starting to see. After I asked her how she was doing, she responded, “I’ve been doing well. I’m just waiting to get the results from some tests to see if I have cancer.” Being the selfish, self-centered guy I am, I immediately thought, there’s goes that hope for a long-term relationship! I didn’t know and felt selfish not to notice. It’s not something you ask someone on the first coffee date. Then, I did something even worse. I told her I would pray for her and that I’d keep my fingers crossed. “Keeping my fingers crossed,” is considered cute in female lingo and texting. What was wrong with this is that I probably won’t pray for her. In fact, I hardly ever pray for anyone including myself. I find the experience awkward, like rambling in the dark and not getting any answer. Some say they are answered, but atheists consider that borderline psychotic. I was raised Catholic with preset memorized prayers, the Hail Mary, the Our Father and some others if you were really bad and brutally honest during confession. AA’s do have some preset prayers – the Serenity Prayer, the 3rd step prayer, the 7th step prayer, the 13th step prayer “God get this guy away from me!!!” I heard that from a woman running from a meeting once. For men, the 13th step prayer sounds more like, “OOPS!!! What the fuck did I just get myself into???”
When I do to pray, it is somewhat different and maybe just a little more spiritual. I pray by feeling it in my heart. Empathy – the sensitive ability to feel the pain of others. I first noticed this when my sponsor, Carol, got cancer and was dying. Normally, women don’t sponsor men or vice versa, but nobody in the men’s group would put up with me anymore. So, she took me on. Carol had sponsored dozens of people, women and men, for dozens of years and through, trial and error, she seemed to know the answer to everything except how to quit smoking. Which she admitted, she chose not to do. I was in college at the time and surrounded myself with a lot of intelligence, but Carol had wisdom. Admitting to her, I found verbal prayer awkward, I told her I would pray for her in my heart. She understood. When she was dying, the women in the meeting surrounded her to protect her like an old Indian. It was a beautiful death if you can call it that.
I was near the meeting and still worried about my friend’s cancer. I wondered how I could blame this on the world and AA. Then I lit up a cigar with the other members in the smoking section during the coffee break. It dawned on me how much death is prevalent in AA from overdoses to suicides to cancer patients to old-timers being hailed off as they make the grade. There is a saying newcomers have, “I have a sponsor that has a sponsor that has a sponsor…” But did it ever occur to them that if they follow that hierarchy up the ladder of longer periods sober to older age, they are eventually going to find someone who is… DEAD!!! That means his next of kin, who is basically in charge of everyone in the home group, is telling his problems to and taking direction from a block of marble at Forest Lawn! He may tell you what the graveyard is telling him, but I’m willing to bet he’s making some of that shit up himself! If you every meet this old geezer in a meeting and he does just happen to be senile, just give him his cake and coffee and pretend to listen! Look him in the eyes and nod a lot. “Yeah… you were in a meeting today with Eleanor Roosevelt! I didn’t know she was a drinker!”
Thank you for letting me share!