Monday, November 21, 2011
The love that went out of fashion
I told him about a conversation I had when I was new in sobriety... maybe 30 or 60 days sober. I was having difficulty at home. I came to the AA club one day crying. I sat down with my friend Max. I started crying and telling him what "he" said, what "he" did. Max shocked me when he said "STOP." "Stop right now. When you come to me crying, my solution is for us to take off our clothes and do whatever comes next." "Go talk to a woman." I was embarrassed. But I learned a lesson. And that lesson was more valuable than his commiseration ever could have been.
I learned not to play games with AA people. My real intent was to get attention, and maybe even attention from Max. I could not have told you that at the time, but Max knew. When he told me to stop, I had to really look at my motivation. I had to take responsibility for myself.
Maybe six months later, I came running to the club crying again. I was upset and wanted a drink. Some man (I really don't remember who this was), asked me what was wrong. I told him, "I want to drink." I was thinking he would take me aside and talk to me for hours, sympathetically listening to all of my woes. Instead he reached into his pocket and handed me a dollar bill. I asked him, "what is this for?" And he shocked me when he said "for your first drink." I was shocked and hurt. But I stood there and really thought about it. I learned something absolutely invaluable for a sober person to know. Did I expect someone else to keep me sober? Or was I committed to being sober? Would I stop indulging in attention seeking behavior and take responsibility for myself? It occurred to me that I better do that if I wanted to stay sober.
This stuff was called "tough love." And it was the real deal. It was tough, but it was also love. I am so appreciative of those lessons, believe me, I have never forgotten them.
There were also people who had the "tough" part down, but skipped the love, and they gave tough love a bad name. I can tell you that I know no one these days who is willing to tell hard truths to people who are struggling and probably need some hard truths rather than soft shoulders to cry on.
I thank God for the people who were willing to care enough to sacrifice their "image" to actually help me. It is not that much fun to be the bad guy, but I think sometimes it is necessary.
I am grateful for those people who helped me to get sober by being tough guys and gals. That is what I needed. I also had the soft friends who I could run and whine to about the "meanie" who said things to me. But I remember the things that those tough guys told me. And I thank God for them.
I think I will stay sober today and I hope you all do too.