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Grapevine : October 2011
Y OU may think you don't believe in a Higher Power, but as for me and Otto---we believe. I know. There aren't really any coincidences in AA, but it seemed accidental---the way we met. Seven years ago, I went to a meeting of a group I don't usu- ally attend. It was supposed to be a speaker meeting, but the speaker didn't show up. The chairman asked me if I'd fill in and tell my story. Give me a podium and I'm ready! So I said, "Sure!" When I finished, a man came up to me and asked me to be his sponsor. I had never seen this guy before, but I said I'd be glad to sponsor him. He told me his name was Otto. He was an M.D. who had lost his license to practice medicine because of his alcoholism. He had also lost his cars and his house, and his wife had divorced him. He was living in a halfway house---perfect material for AA. After a year had passed, I said to Otto, "You've been working the Steps and you've been sober for a year. It's time you started whatev- er you have to do to be restored to your profession." He said he knew. It meant that he would have to appear before the state board of licensing and certification. He'd heard from his doctor buddies that the state board was ruled by a really mean ogre who was not keen about re- covering alcoholics practicing medi- cine in our state. Otto was just plain scared about what would happen when he showed up without even a used stethoscope. I said, "OK, but you can't wait for the guy to die." Months passed. December came, and with it, the ice storm of the ages. There literally had never been an ice storm like it---ever. The city was shut down for a week and a half. The streets, littered with tree branches, were impassable. In the street in front of my house there is an island, on which stood a stately sycamore tree. The storm totally obliterated it---right down to the roots. Not a trace remained after the wreckage was cleared away. The following summer, my wife and I decided to take a week to visit my brother on the West Coast. We had two dogs, so it made sense to hire a house-sitter while we were gone. Otto was the obvious choice. He still lived in the half-way house, and he was broke and needed the money. He was glad to take the job. The first day in California my cell phone rang. It was Otto, stand- ing in my front yard, looking at the island. "There has to be a tree there again," he said. I agreed that the tree needed to be replaced. I would be glad to pay for a tree if Otto would select and plant it. "But first," I said, "I have two neighbors who need to be consulted." The first was the law- 52 October 2011