At the same time, I had a lot of trepidation about turning my will and my life over to the care of a Higher Power as I understood Him/Her/It. Did I really want to be powerless before God? Could I relinquish my will and my life? What if God’s will for me was to be a soft, mushy, chewable assclown? What if God wanted to take away all of my strength and all of my fighter’s spirit?
I felt very protective. I wanted to do something about this freak. I wanted to put him down.
But an older woman named Patricia took my arm and said, “Matt, these women can handle themselves. Go outside and cool down.”
I did as I was told.
This night, it was negative.
This cowboy came staggering up to me, puts his nose up to mine, and said, “Do you have a problem with me, asshole?”
I was a barely three months sober, as I say. The old Matt of a mere four months prior would have turned this jackass into raw hamburger meat. I was taller, stronger, more sober (he could barely stand), and I possess this Shadow Self that is best summed up by the words of Shakespeare: “Yet have I something in me dangerous, which let thy wisdom fear” (Hamlet Act V, Scene I).
My fists clenched. My jaw clenched. I saw red in my eyes.
Then suddenly, I heard a voice in my head, no real words, just a suggestion that I should back down from this fight. That I should let this guy win this confrontation. I didn’t want to back down. I wanted to kill this twit. But there was the voice of my Higher Power in my head, sounding a bit like Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade:
“Indiana, let it go. Just let it go.”
“You better say that, pussy!” the old cowboy barked, and then he stalked off.
For weeks after that, I actually felt like a pussy. I felt like I had lost my edge. I had let that old cowboy talk to me in a way that was highly unacceptable and would have earned him a thrashing had he done so months earlier. I was no longer who I thought I was. I was soft. Soft, mushy, and chewable. I felt like a loser.
Three months later, in late October 1994, the same cowboy came into a meeting just a bit less drunk. He was shaking. He was terrified. He was ready to get sober.
Thankfully, he did not remember our confrontation.
Six months after that, in April 1995, he took his six-month chip in the same meeting where I celebrated a year of sobriety.
He got up to speak. He started crying. He said that when he was drinking, his children stopped talking to him. They wanted nothing to do with him. His own son wouldn’t let him see his only granddaughter.
Then he pointed to a young man in the back of the room and said, “That’s my son there. He came today to watch me get this chip. If it weren’t for you people, I would’ve lost him forever.”
I don’t think any of those things would have happened if I had let the old Matt come out to play.
So you see, I had not lost my strength and my fighter’s spirit. Instead, like Kung Yi-tsu in the story above, I had been shown by my Higher Power how to use my strength.
I used my strength wisely that night in July 1994 by not punishing that cowboy for being a drunk jerk. Not only did his life become better … but I got to bear witness to that life getting better.
So I got a gift out of that.
And I learned about using my strength.