Been praying for a person I know who used recently. Makes me wonder: why do some people get this program and some don’t?
Called a friend of mine who I think of as Big Daddy. He got sober in the late 1980s. He’s really tall, like my dad, and was born around the same time as my dad; Big Daddy has seen a lot of people come and go. He passed along some words from the legendary late Sally M., a woman who seemed to me to be totally batshit on the outside (I’d met her several times outside the rooms: globs of black mascara; scarlet blush; a gash of red lipstick that bled onto her teeth; wild hair; incessant, nervous chatter) but who helped a hell of a lot of people in her time. Larger-than-life in the rooms here. “Sally told me,” he said,
If you hang around these rooms long enough, you’ll see a lot of people die.
He talked about a guy who let a sponsee go because the sponsee wasn’t doing what he suggested, and kept on using. “He told his sponsee, ‘Some people just have to die,’” Big Daddy told me. “It sounds cruel, but it’s a reality—this disease kills people, and people have to know that. If you can deliver that line—‘Some people just have to die’—while letting the person know you love them and don’t want to see that happen to them, it can be a very powerful motivator.”
“I guess I just don’t buy that some people DO have to die,” I said.
But isn’t it true about any disease? Some people have to die of hypertension and stroke. Some people have to die of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer. Addiction.
And anyway, how do you “pray” for somebody? What the hell good does it do?—is what I was thinking as I washed the lunch dishes today. (My kid is home until school starts August 29. August is a long, long month, man. Thank god the heat broke.)
I’ve wondered about and worried over this question a lot: how to pray for someone. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1994, I sat down that night in my room and tried to pray for her, but what could I possibly pray?—anything that came to mind seemed petulant and childish: “Please keep Mommy safe. Please don’t let her die.” Well—guess what: my mother had to die from cancer. (Actually, she had to die from her nicotine addiction, which caused her cancer.) No “prayer” or “wish” I sent out into the universe was going to change that.
Today as I prayed for this guy who used, I remembered praying for another person to whom I’d tried to make amends. Back in late 2008, early 2009, I wrote this other person a couple of letters, the first of which really pissed him off; he never responded to the second. (Yes: I fucked up the amends. Or so it seemed.) Sponsors told me to leave him the hell alone, and to Pray For Him. What I prayed was, basically, this: “Please give him all the peace and security and happiness I’d want for myself.” Whenever he came to mind, I’d put kind thoughts into my mind around him, and I’m sure it didn’t do a damned thing for him—what could it possibly have done?—but it did something for me. The next time I saw him, two years after I sent the second letter, things were Fine. I mean—the conflict had gone. We were on good terms. I was no longer afraid of him. I saw this person a couple months ago and things were still great. The change was on the order of a miracle, believe me, because for going on two decades the situation between me and this other person had been intractably bad—but it was simply a result of a changed attitude on my part.
With this guy who used it’s a little different. I already care about this person. What I need to realize is, there is nothing I can do to Make Him Stay Sober. No amount of love or understanding or patience, no amount of cajoling or reminding—none of that will make him sober, because that desire and willingness to do what is necessary needs to come from inside him. You can carry the message but you can’t force anyone to hear it or act on it.
(Program skeptics say, There’s no other disease that requires “willingness” and “desire” in order to get well. To the contrary, however: it takes a great deal of willingness and desire to heal from any of those illnesses mentioned above.)
I can still send out the same intention: “Please give my friend all the peace and security and happiness I’d wish for myself.” At the very least maybe it will give me more clarity about how to respond to him whenever I see him.