“How many times can a man turn his head
           And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
           The answer, my friend…is blowin’ in the wind.
           The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

                                                     R. Dylan

It was spring, five years ago. Ambling into the recovery meeting, seeing a familiar Jewish face, he sat by me. Michael was disheveled, pushing forty….clearly unhappy. He had a book under his arm and the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“Going to lunch…You’re coming.” And at 1PM, he did.

We went to Moxie—six of us. He was the New Kid On The Block, fresh from rehab, and, What A Shock!—he wouldn’t shut up. “His life sucked…his wife overreacted, (he) missed his daughter…..AND, (he pointed out), it’s not so bad!” To our table it was the same tune, different singer. We’d heard it before. “Yeah, it is,” we told him.

A few days later the man called me. Would I sponsor him? Demurring, I suggested we first sit down. “I don’t think I need you,” he affirmed, pointing out that indeed, he’d “read the book already…”

That night at Starbucks he spoke of his law practice, his clients, his big house and his bad luck. I listened. That night at Starbucks I told my story, (in less words). How I’d bottomed, how I was rebounding, and how he could too.

“What do you want me to do?” he inquired, and I told him: Go to ninety meetings in ninety days, call me every day, and get phone numbers.
“Why?” he asked, and I shared: Because that’s what they told me to do and it worked for me.
“What if I don’t?” he posed, (perhaps wondering if I would “fire” him).
“Well, I’ll be here if and when you make it back.”

Mike called a lot at first. Went to meetings, shared, listened.
Still, when the bleeding slowed, when his life got a little better, our friend evaporated. Six meetings a week became five became three became one….maybe. I guess he thought he was cured.

“Too busy” he’d say. “Things to do.”
We sat him down. “Mike,” we urged, “Anything you put in front of your sobriety will be lost if you pick up again…Keep with the program.”

Months later he called again. “You’re a good guy, Bruce, but…” Then, interrupting his own commentary, reminding me that he was married with a wife and kid—-that I was older, single, living alone…he spit it out: ”I’m getting a new sponsor—one I can relate to.”
“Anything you want say?” he added, (like a guy breaking up with a girlfriend still wanting to hear she’s not mad).
“You’re a good guy too, Michael. See you soon.”
A bunch of guys wound up sponsoring Mike. Good guys, sober guys. A few months here…a half year there. None of us ever quit on him; too bad he quit on himself.

Years passed. Too many. From time to time I’d hear of him. He’d been in and out of treatments…bouncing a bit. Occasionally I’d trip on him in
in the rooms. He’d be sitting in the back, maybe at The Club. Alone.

“Hey, Mike good to see you.”
“You too—still going to a lot of meetings, calling your sponsor?
He’d have that look that said “I don’t know how you do it,” and I’d feel that sense of “I don’t know why he won’t.”

We’d shake hands and part…until the next time.

There won’t be a next time, though. My friend Michael died this week and was buried yesterday. He left behind him a wife, a twelve-year old, and a big house.

Leave a Reply