Being of service to others inside the program of recovery and out is one of the greatest things we get to experience as sober people. For whatever reason, it seems the more we give of ourselves the more we “get”
on the inside that is. These days I am completely obsessed with the way I feel on the inside, wanting to have that sense of balance and ease that so many of the awesome old timers have. One of the best things about being clean and sober is that I am generally present, a quality that I often missed out on for a number of days, months, and years while actively involved with addiction.
Often, when I see a new guy find a sponsor, and he says, “He has what I want,” it is driven by the outsides, the car, the drop dead gorgeous wife or girlfriend, successful business, etc. All of that is great don’t get me wrong, but I remember when I found the guy I wanted it had nothing to do with Tesla’s or his financial status, it was the peace he had and the lightness of his heart.
I often have these moments of peace during the course of the day, and then they vanish into thin air, I wish I had a magic potion to feel this way all the time, since that’s an impossibility I have to work at this thing called “life” where some days are smoother than others. But it’s the days where I have gotten out of my own head and been there for others that are hands down the best I have ever had.
Case in point: In my book, “Dying for Triplicate” I wrote in the very beginning that I get manicures and pedicures, and for those of you who want to chastise me about it, I don’t give a shit… I dig getting them, and have been for 30 years. It’s key (by the way, get used to seeing the word “key” from me, it means good, and it’s been a staple in my vocabulary since about the 10th grade), okay, so it’s key to get your hands and feet rubbed and sometimes pass out drooling as a result of it. Now stay with me here as I have a point, and I swear it involves being of service and “random situations which are key.”
I think I was 4 or 5 years sober and I was stuck in Tustin (for those who don’t know, Tustin is located in Orange County, Ca about 25 miles inland from the beach). So, there I was, mid-morning, and I had the place all to myself. These Vietnamese ladies were awesome, not only were they really nice, but they served this killer instant Asian coffee (if you’ve never had it before try it, you’ll be hooked), and on top of that they were blaring Frank Sinatra. Now we are getting places! I am a huge Sinatra fan, and have been since I was a kid.
So, I am getting my pedicure on, and manicure simultaneously as this beautiful, tanned elderly lady walks in. She had to be well into her 80’s and had a brilliant smile with perfectly done white hair with a blend of gray. The salon workers had her sit right beside me and they rolled her pant legs up as she got situated and comfortable, and we exchanged “hellos” as Sinatra continued to play in the background.
I don’t ever like to get to talkative at these places as people are there to relax, but every now and again, it just comes as mutually acceptable and very natural. She said her name was Patricia, and I told her mine, and she told me, “Now listen Todd, since we are friends you’d better call me Patty dammit.” I loved her immediately. We shared a few laughs and then got quiet and into our little zone of comfort, and then the song “My Way” written by Paul Anka, but of course sang and delivered best by Sinatra came across the stereo speakers. This is one of my all time favorites, and I know every word, as I do many of Sinatra’s tunes. But what happened next was unexpected and quite special, I looked over at Patty and she had tears streaming down her face, “Patty, are you okay?” I asked. She turned to me, “I lost my husband of 45 years just three days ago, the funeral service is this weekend…and this was our favorite song.”
The intro of the song was still unraveling and as the tears continued to pour I reached my hand out to hold hers, and she grabbed mine tight. Then she asked me, “Will you please sing this with me?” My heart just sank…and I started to cry along with her as we both just sang along to a song that was and is special to both of us. We held each other’s hands until the very last note, and I have to tell you, that woman had a beautiful voice as I was embarrassed about mine as I did my very best lounge imitation of my hero, Frank.
When it was over we smiled at each other, and we didn’t say much after that, as it was one of those moments where not much else really needed to be said.
When I was done with my manicure and pedicure I paid and tipped the ladies, thanking them, I turned to Patty, “It was a pleasure to meet you Patty.” She stood up, with the polish still wet on her toes and gave me a huge embrace and kiss on the cheek that I will never forget, “You made my day dear…you made my day.” I left that place on Cloud 10, forget about Cloud 9 as I was well past it.
I can turn back the clocks and say that there’s a chance that something like this could have happened back in the day when I was using, but would I have really felt the true joy it gave me? Would I have remembered every single detail of the event? Not a chance. Out of nowhere days can change on the dime, I had no clue that such a moment would happen.
You see, this to me was a way to be present for another human being, because when we are clean and sober we have the capacity to be a part of life, to pay attention and not think of ourselves as much. To have such a wonderful experience is something I will hold dear forever.