Editor’s Note: The following was submitted to The Ada News by a member of the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship, and one of Bill’s sponsees. Following the fellowship’s tradition of referring to its members by their first name and last initial, The Ada News has chosen not to publish Bill’s last name or the name of the individual who submitted this content. It is our belief that the absence of that information does not diminish the impact or relevance of the story.
For some reason, he called it a bench, rather than a footstool, which would be a more accurate description. It’s a sturdy wooden piece approximately one foot wide and six inches high.
Bill B. kept it next to the desk in his office, an office he continued to frequent, even into his 88th year.
Once, maybe even a few times, Bill told me the bench had been given to him as a gift from one of the many “sponsees” he worked with as a sponsor in the Alcoholics Anonymous program. During his 43 years of continuous sobriety, Bill sponsored many men as they worked the 12-step program of recovery.
Whenever an AA sponsee came to visit Bill at his office, he would pull the bench away from his desk and have the man step up and surrender to the hug, which was really the loving embrace of “Mr. Clean.” I’m not sure how Bill came by that P&G product handle, but given his long-term sobriety and bald head, it was a near-perfect fit.
For me, standing on the bench was always a welcomed ritual, part and parcel of a visit with my sponsor and my friend.
After Bill’s death, I began to think about that bench and how it served as a connection between Mr. Clean and all the men who had the good fortune to stand on it while celebrating the life-giving and life-saving gift of sobriety.
Now, it’s clear that the bench was much more than I realized.
How many times did I stand on that bench without realizing it was literally and metaphorically a “step,” a term that describes the 12-part incremental process of recovery in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous?
Each time sponsees like me stood on that bench, it was an invitation to step up and into the bond that connects us in what the program describes as the “Sunlight of the Spirit.”
In raising and embracing us, Bill expressed a sense of humility as one who carries the message of the AA program to another man. For those who have stood on the bench, it was an opportunity to experience gratitude for the man who embraced us and for the program of recovery we shared.
After more than four decades of continuous sobriety and long-term service to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill B. has certainly earned the affection of many men and women and the well-deserved reputation as “Mr. Clean.”
Among the many who honor his memory, there are men like me, who remember standing on Mr. Clean’s bench and being embraced by a man who lovingly carried and gracefully shared the message of unity, service and recovery . . . one day at a time.
Rest in serenity, Mr. Clean.