winner3If you are new to sobriety and in particular the rooms of recovery (Twelve-Step Meetings), you might hear people suggesting that as a newcomer, you should try to ‘stick with the winners’ and watch ‘what winners do.’ When I was in early recovery, I didn’t know what they were talking about, after all I felt like a total loser and I wondered who these ‘winners’ were and if they were so great, why were they in recovery? (I had a lot to learn.)

It wasn’t after too long, that I started to notice people who were always at the AA Club and at certain meetings I went to. I’d see them before the meeting, making coffee or greeting people as they came in the door. I’d see them sitting at a table with the big book open across from another person and reading together. I’d see them after the meeting, going up to people and introducing themselves and handing out their phone number. I’d see them raising their hands when the chairperson asked who was available to sponsor. I’d see them offering rides to people and laughing and chatting away on the porch before and after meetings.

One of these people was a man named Mark. I had 30 days in recovery when I met him and he had 3 years. That night, he gave me my 30 day sobriety chip. I went up to him after the meeting and asked if I could tag along to another meeting I’d heard him talk about. Without hesitation he said yes and we went to the meeting where he introduced me to a lot of people (mostly women). He told me that I should get a sponsor and that he knew a woman who could work with me. He told me to stick with the women and watch out for the men who asked me for my phone number or to meet for coffee as they might want something other than friendship.

Over the next few months Mark gave me a 60 day chip and a 90 day chip and I did all the things he suggested and unfortunately some that he didn’t. When I started dating in early recovery he warned me to be careful and suggested that I wait until I’d at least completed the steps. He told me that he’d been through the steps a few times and if I just did the work, he was certain that I’d experience the miracle too. I halfheartedly worked the steps but wholeheartedly continued my romance as Mark gave me a hug and my one year chip.

Six days after I celebrated that one year sobriety anniversary, the romantic relationship ended and my sobriety ended with it. Mark gave me a hug and a 24 hour chip. He called and sent texts to wish me good morning and asked me how I was. He invited me to cook outs, pot lucks, and dinner with the group after the AA meetings. He took me along to do service work with him. At six months clean and sober, he asked me to chair a meeting. A few months later at Christmas, I took my son to visit Santa (who also happened to be Mark) at our local AA club. Santa waved me over and asked me if I’d tell the kid’s that he had to run outside for a minute to feed the reindeer (while he went to the restroom) after which he resumed his usual spot handing out gifts and being cheery.

He talked about his sponsees and his own sponsor and how much it meant to him to be able to work with other people. After I reached another one year of sobriety, he told me about a woman he knew who needed a sponsor and he thought we’d be a good fit. We started working together and I was lucky enough to give her her 30 day chip. Six months ago Mark presented me with my two year chip and of course, his customary hug. The moment was not lost on me as I remembered ALL the chips he had given me in the past and all he had done for me. I was so grateful to know this person and have him in my life.

Monday, November 17th, 2008 is Mark’s SEVEN year sobriety anniversary and I have had the honor of knowing him for four of those years. To me, Mark epitomizes ‘What Winners Do’. Congratulations dear friend, you are truly an inspiration.

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