By: John C. I first met Robert M. in the waiting area of the Market Street Ohloff IOP program. He approached me with a huge grin, as if we had known each other for years, and introduced himself. He didn’t exactly need an introduction, as I already knew him by reputation from the chattering of the other patients there (he had graduated the program shortly before I did). His hair was blue, his face was inundated with piercings, and he was more elated about being sober than anyone I had ever met; clearly a leader in the group. I extended my hand, not realizing what an influence this person would come to be in my own recovery.
During the course of time that I knew Robert, his intensity never wavered. When he was able to start sponsoring other alcoholics, he sponsored seven. He always looked for ways to be of service in the program, volunteering at Central Office,
and even becoming a drug and alcohol counselor at the Skip Byron inpatient program, helping those just coming out of the throes of substance dependency. He never missed an opportunity to reach out to somebody who needed to be reached out to, even (especially) if they were isolating, and didn’t want to hear from anybody. His own story matched that intensity. When it came to his addiction, he had been in as deep as the lowest bottom alcoholic, making his own recovery that much more of a miracle. I found his attitude admirable, and inspirational; I thought that if he could come out of such hopeless circumstances, that I might be able to have success in my own growing recovery.
Like anybody in the program, Robert still struggled. I remember him telling me about a very near relapse he had, saved only by a timely call from his sponsor. This caught me by surprise, outwardly he seemed invincible, but of course he was just a human being in AA. He had that vibe about him; seeming like he didn’t need anybody’s help, that he would find his own way. I didn’t hear from him for a while after that. I just assumed that he was back on the wagon, and that we would cross paths again soon. The next time I saw him (at Anything is Possible), he reported a relapse. He proudly raised his hand as a newcomer, it was as if nothing happened. We spoke about it, and I didn’t doubt for a moment that he would be okay.
We lost Robert on Saturday, 3/17/18. We were supposed to meet that day. I didn’t speak to anybody that knew him that wasn’t shocked. I was too, how could this happen to a person as strong as him? The memorial the following Wednesday was an outpouring of love, and support between all those that knew him. His spirit of love and selflessness was in the air as we took turns sharing our memories of him. I hadn’t fully realized how interconnected our lives were, so many people that played important roles in both of our sobrieties were in attendance. Robert’s absence was felt painfully by all. He will be missed, but his spirit will continue to live on, and ripple outward as we employ his attitude of diligent, gentle, caring service in our interactions with the world around us.