I’m a stickler for program. If someone in an A.A. meeting starts talking some crap that’s not in the book — or worse yet, reading from Hazelden — it really bugs me. I don’t always bust them out on it, but I always want to. My pride causes me to act like an Elder Statesman, even when my mind is a Bleeding Deacon.
One guy who pissed me off at least as much as anyone else was Dave Moore. He was a huge guy; probably 6’4″, about 350 lbs. Probably went 240 solid muscle when he was jumping out of planes in Vietnam with the Army 82nd Airborne. And boy did he like to talk about Vietnam. 20 years sober and he can’t stop talking about shit that happened 40 years ago, half a world away. He also loved to talk about his days hunting and fishing — poaching, really — in Michigan and Alaska. He was a commercial fisherman and jacklighted deer when he could. He claimed to have killed over 200 deer, and only one legally. That was the one he hit with his truck.
But mostly he talked about his daughter. For 2 whole years, every time he shared he talked about how he talked to her — and his grand-daughter — on the phone. Then for a year he talked about how he was going to go see her. He finally left to spend some time with her — and meet his 9-year-old grand-daughter — and I was hoping the worst of it was over. Nope! When he got back he spent an entire year telling us how great it was to spend time with them. Over and over and over…. Then he spent about 8 months telling us how he was going up to see them again. “And my grand-daughter asks me: ‘When are you coming up to see me, Pop-Pop?’ She calls me Pop-Pop!” Close to a year of the same shit, over and over.
He never once talked about the steps, or God, or the Big Book or the Twelve and Twelve… Just fishing, poaching deer, Vietnam and his goddam grand-daughter. How the fuck are people supposed to stay sober — or even want what we have — if we ramble on about the mundane crap in our lives.
One time I’d had enough of it, and I was talking to Tony P. — Puerto Rican Tony — about it. “How the hell can we get him to shut up about things that don’t belong in an A.A. meeting?” I asked him.
“Really? I like it when Dave shares. It’s true that no one can quote the Big Book like you and Roofer Terry and Chinese Mike”, he told me. “Hell, Michael even tells us the page numbers so we can spot-check him. But that’s not what people want in a meeting. By their 3rd meeting everyone knows they should get a sponsor and work the steps. Honestly, if all you’re gonna do is quote the Big Book, we can just read that for ourselves.
“But Dave does it exactly like he’s supposed to. He tells us what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. Sure he talks about going to see his daughter next year. He’s looking forward to the future. That’s a message of hope, and he shares it every single day.“
When I finally got around to actually listening to Dave, I heard what he said with a new set of ears. Sure enough, he talked about Vietnam, commercial fishing in Alaska, poaching deer in Michigan, and how he was going to visit his daughter and grand-daughter soon. When he finished, he did so the same way he had a thousand times before: “… and when my daughter calls me today, she doesn’t say: ‘Hey, you lousy no-good drunk!‘“
As I think about it today, I can’t think of a more touching thing to hear. It brings tears to my eyes. That is the actualization of the promises. That is the most glowing recommendation for membership in A.A. that I’ve ever heard. That is a life fully restored through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Dave died about 6 years ago, on Halloween night. He actually died at Sobrenity. A few of the guys were sitting around playing cards, and he said he didn’t feel well. He said he was having trouble catching his breath. They called an ambulance for him but he collapsed of a heart attack before they got there. He was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.
I miss Dave Moore and his message of hope. God bless you, my friend. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for living the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.