Pedestals

It’s no secret that I’m clean and sober. The day after my next “belly button” birthday (cuz that’s how I do things) I’ll be 18 years drug and alcohol free.
A couple weeks ago, Moose came home and told me a man named K died. He died awhile ago I guess, but Moose just found out.
K was instrumental in a lot of men’s sobriety (including Moose’s), and he frequented a Late Night 11pm meeting I attended my first couple years of sobriety.
He was, in his way a “guru” to the lower bottom drunks.
His typical share included how he was the only white boy in a Mexican neighborhood and he thought “pinche guero” was his name for the first five years of his life, how his wife left him for a woman, how he raised a bunch of kids that weren’t his, and held his tenant in his arms as she died. He was 10 years sober at the time, and that alone impressed me…
When my gay friend J (I say that because it’s suggested in 12 step that in early sobriety men hang with men, women with women…J and I posed no threat to each other) helped me get out of my drinking apartment he didn’t want me going back there with less than a week under my belt, So when K offered to let me sleep on his couch it felt like a godsend. He’d even give me a ride to work in the morning saving me bus fare.
So he drove me to my place so I could pack a bag and I hurried past my roommate, got my stuff and walked out the door.
What followed was one of the creepier nights of my life, but it solidified my desire for sobriety, and put me on the road to being able to trust my instincts.
I’d already been warned by some of the women that there were men who prey on the newcomers. I’d been told “The Men will pat your ass, the Women will save it”, and to avoid all romantic encounters for my first year so that I could focus on the 12 steps and allow them to change my life.
They promised me that after I finished my steps I wouldn’t be the same person I was when I started.
So by the time we got to K’s place it was probably around 1:30 in the morning. He wanted to show me a film on the 12 steps called “Chalk Talk”.
Honestly, I just wanted to go to sleep.
I’d already laid out a bed for myself on the couch and changed into my “old lady flannel” night gown.
He came out of his room wearing a teeny, tiny terry cloth robe…I kept my eyes averted. We watched “Chalk Talk” for a little while, and I finally told him I really needed to go to sleep because I had work the next day. He turned it off and then stopped by me. He said “You can always sleep in the bed, it’s much more comfortable.”
I kinda smiled and said “no thanks, I’m good. I like couches.”
The next day I told him I could save him the trouble and just take the bus, but he assured me it was no trouble and I got in his car feeling sick to my stomach.
We talked the steps for awhile and how I needed to find a sponsor, he even suggested a few women he knew that might make good sponsors.
Then he turned to me and said “You know, you’re very beautiful and I would really like to be your lover someday.”
I briefly considered throwing myself from the car and how bad would it hurt.
I didn’t know how to respond, what I wanted to say was “You’re the same age as my DAD, ewwwwwwwwww!”
But I didn’t.
I got out of the car and went to work, hoping that I’d never have to deal with him again.
(A few things about me that are necessary to know:
I’ve lived with my looks and personality my entire life. There is a severely limited number of people who can tell me I’m beautiful and not cause red flags to go up.
I’ll admit there are moments when I might consider myself cute or agree that I “look good”…but in the scheme of things I just roll my eyes.
I look like a human being.
Want to compliment me? Tell me I’m smart, or funny, or that you like my sarcasm. I’m okay with compliments about my eyes or my smile, individual parts…but the whole package? Hardly.
Want me to see you for the giant crock of BS you’re trying to throw at me? Tell me I’m beautiful.)
I had been so happy about my decision to get sober and change the direction my life was taking…but with just a few words, K had made me feel as empty and worthless as anyone ever had when I was drinking and at my most suicidal. It occurred to me that if that’s what sobriety was like I may as well go back to drinking.
But then I thought about all the other people I’d met, the people who’d been so nice, who’d shared with me what getting sober had done for them.
How they’d gone from living in bushes to having their own apartment. They smiled, they laughed, and they smelled good.
I wanted that. So I decided that I’d just avoid K as much as possible.
So anyway…fast forward a couple weeks, I’m renting J’s spare room, and J doesn’t understand why I want nothing to do with K.
“He knows the steps inside and out and is very respected.”
I didn’t tell him because J was a bipolar mother hen.
He would either go off on K or tell me I must’ve done something to deserve it.
I had finally gotten myself a sponsor, and one night she took me out to dinner before a meeting. We were discussing some of the people I’d already met and what I wanted out of my sobriety. I brought up K, and she talked on and on about how much he knew about the steps and what a great speaker he was.
I started shaking and told her what he’d said to me and how it’d made me feel.
I started to cry.
She took my hand and told me that there was nothing wrong with how I felt. That what he’d said was wrong, and she was sorry I’d had to deal with that so early.
We talked about the men who preyed on newcomer women and the notorious “13th Step” (when someone with time who knows better takes sexual advantage of a newcomer who doesn’t).
She told me that some people are better to listen to than take direction from. Some people do the talk brilliantly, but couldn’t do the walk to save their life.
To beware of putting anyone on a pedestal as they were sure to fall off.
Years later I was secretary of a large meeting where he was going to be speaking.
In the interim, a gal I knew who was a chronic relapser had given birth to a little girl and he was the father.
She’d gotten severely injured in a car accident and needed him to take care of their daughter.
I’d also met the wife who had left him for another woman…while he jumped from woman to woman, she had been with her partner for 15 years at that point. She knew she was always part of his story and handled it with a grace and dignity that blew my mind.
At the time of his speaking at my meeting (not my decision), he had finally gotten married.
The woman who led the meeting had also dealt with unwanted attention from him at the time, so we were both cold sweating and stone faced while he talked.
I tried to listen to him as if I was a newcomer, see why exactly people thought he was so great…at that point to me it sounded like whining.
It was the same stuff I’d heard so long ago at the late night meeting.
He left out that my friend had been injured and said that she’d just dropped the child on his doorstep.
At face value he was a wonderful, bordering on hero, man.
If you didn’t know any better it was easy to put him on a pedestal.
And I’m not gonna lie, he was a big help to Moose when he came back after a relapse.
Moose says 12 step is a lot like a big hospital, and he’s right.
You sober a horse thief you get a sober horse thief…and you’re only gonna get out of the steps what you put into them.
How much change you achieve is directly proportionate to how much you WANT to change.
Maybe he had a mental block about thinking what he was doing was wrong…I dunno.
But to be perfectly honest, when Moose told me he’d died I exhaled a huge sigh of relief.

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