Requiem for a Sponsor

Thinking of you today, Charles F. Brennan, III, my friend Charlie (November 2, 1960–April 7, 2014). His funeral mass card carried a quote from Emerson: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

“An Phaidir Suaimhneas”—The Serenity Prayer in Irish
A Dhia,
deonaigh dom an suaimhneas
chun glacadh le rudaí
nach féidir liom a athrú,
misneach chun rudaí a athrú nuair is féidir,
agus gaois
chun an difríocht a aithint.

The Gad About Town

“Alcoholics Anonymous,” the famous “Big Book” of A.A., does not use the word “sponsor” in its 164 pages, but it certainly describes a society in which one member helps another learn … about the fellowship, about life without drinking one day at a time, about life. Period. “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. … Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can,” Bill Wilson writes at the start of Chapter 7, “Working with Others.”

The great insight is that when we help others, we help ourselves; when we see ourselves in others’ plights, we see ourselves and thus our own plights become ever more reasonable to negotiate. For many alcoholics, it is the first practical application of “walking the walk” and not just talking to make noise. I taught college for five…

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