I could not move. I was just standing there. I was frozen. Bob grabbed my hand. He walked with me into the room. He sat with me.
I could not move.
The time I remember my powerlessness being so manifested physically was the first time I went an AA meeting after my last relapse. I was so ashamed and embarrassed. I felt I had let many people down.
I showed up at the meeting, but could not walk through the door into the meeting room. Instead, I went to the kitchen next door. My sponsor, Bob, arrived and saw me there. He asked me what was wrong. I told him.
And then he reached out his hand, grabbed mine, and we walked into the room together.
I honestly do not believe I would have made into that room on my own. I do not think I would have been able to speak up and admit what I had done.
I was powerless. Powerless to move. Powerless to speak. Powerless to confess that I needed help in my life.
And Bob showed up. Bob listened. Bob grabbed me by the hand and walked with me, sat with me. And he continued to show up, listen, talk, and sit with me.
I hate admitting I am powerless. But on that day, my powerlessness led me to rely fully on someone else.
And for that I am eternally grateful.
People often ask me how they can help people in their churches who are in the early stages of recovery. I think Bob provides the greatest example: listen, show compassion, be present.
I remember sideways glances. I remember people shying away from talking to me because they didn’t know what to say. I remember people just flat-out giving up on me. But I want to stress this: there is no magic statement you need to speak to somebody. You are not going to cure them with your words. But your presence might make a difference.
Show up. Sit in silence. Or make small talk. When the person in pain decides to open up, be ready to hear what they have to say. Don’t offer solutions. Don’t feel like it is necessary to make suggestions. Listen. Maybe grab them by the hand and walk with them to a meeting.
As I reflect back on the morning a number of years ago, I only remember one thing Bob said to me. As I opened up about my relapse and what all had occurred, I told him I would understand if he no longer wanted to be my sponsor. Instead, he said, “I want to see you get better. And I want to be a part of that.”
I know Bob told me other things that morning. But that is what I remember. Especially since he showed that to be true by his actions in the following months.
Be present. Listen. Walk alongside.
I may be powerless, but you can give me strength.