From the January 2018 magazine.

Oliver & me

A man in Tennesse shares about a sponsee he once had who struggled with mental illness

I was having coffee after a meeting at our local clubhouse one afternoon when a member walked up and asked if I would sponsor him. We’ll call him Oliver. I had been in a few meetings with Oliver and his eloquence regarding his Higher Power was impressive, often profound. He had a couple of personal hygiene habits that tended to put people off. For instance, he was always picking real or imaginary things off his arms and clothes and throwing them to either side. Pretty harmless stuff, unless you happened to be in the chair beside him.

“Sure, Oliver, I’ll sponsor you,” I said. “Let’s get you a cup of coffee and talk for a bit.” In that first conversation, Oliver told me he lived on the streets, was paranoid schizophrenic, usually ate one meal a day at the Union Mission, but seldom stayed there as he liked to move around quite a bit. When I asked where he was from, he gave me three different answers. He said he used to have some family but didn’t know where they were or what happened to them. Then I asked how long he had been sober.

-- James L.

Pegram, Tennessee

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