“This is a roll your own Ggod program.”

In Memorium-Bob Burton


In respect for our friend Bob, we write about our lives as they are today, not some waxed prose to show you how we have it all together. Bob put out his “stuff” and everyone knows it wasnt easy for him the last few years. Out of respect we do the same.


It’s a funny thing. My mind. Some days I feel like I’m on the Titanic and I’m going down heavy and hard no control whatsoever. Other times, I feel this sense of urgency. Bursts of energy fueled by internal chaos take over and I’m flying through my To Do list or running frantically up a hill. Today, I’m somewhere in the middle.  I feel heaviness in my body, even my tears weigh too much. I’m tired.  I’m chasing that high that will get me off the couch.  I have my running shoes on, but I can’t move. Is it okay if I don’t go running today? Can I grant myself permission to just sit in it today? Does that mean the depression wins?

I learned a man in AA passed away last night. I didn’t know him well, but I have come to expect to see him in the rooms. He won’t be sitting in the 2nd chair next to the secretary on Sunday mornings anymore.  I don’t really even know who he is leaving behind. You know what struck me, I barely know this man and I am deeply saddened. I certainly share something in common with him: the desire to not drink today. I’d show up at meetings to fight the good fight right alongside him. If I take a step back for a minute, and think about my reaction to the news and the emotions surrounding it I felt a pang for my husband and a few friends.

I have been as close to suicide as I ever have been these past few months. The pain in my heart, mind and body was just too much.  No amount of tears, connection, or praying would provide the relief I thought death could. And sometimes still do. Those who love us and watch us rise and fall also carry pain.  It’s not easy to watch someone go through crippling bouts of depression.  I know my husband and a few dear friends stood by me and helped me to fight through this shit. They still are. While this man did not take his own life, a life has been taken.  If it makes you take a deeper breath, look at that flower a little longer or squeeze the hand of a loved one just a little harder, take the time. While I am not grateful for this struggle, I am grateful for the tremendous amount of empathy I have towards others.  It takes a strong and brave person to walk through depression each day. It also takes courage and fortitude to hold someone’s hand while they are in it. Today I am thinking of anyone, anywhere who struggles.


photo 1 rhonda

“There is a wrench to fit every nut who walks in the door.” Bob Burton

Our friend, the curmedgony Bob Burton died last night.  He, like me, was one of the few people who announced himself by both his first and last names in the rooms.  You don’t know my name because we have a tradition of remaining anonymous at the level of press, radio and films. But we said it because we believe that in those rooms we do not hide who we are from each other.  I don’t have to worry if Bob is going to get drunk again and do the stuff that drunks do and have it harm AA.

The best gift Bob could have been given, he was given.  He died sober.

The highest compliment we can pay anyone is the rooms is to say that they earnestly put out their hand to the newcomer. Because many times when  a newcomer walks through that door, they are a mess. They are often homeless, stinky, angry, their life  f..king sucks and they are looking to dump it on someone.  Most people turn the other way when they see “these” kind of people on the streets.  Bob reached out to that man.  I saw it.

He walked his talk.

He would wax his snappy, canned almost, bullshit many times, but it said the same thing in the end. Get a sponsor, work the steps, don’t drink in between meetings, and help the newcomer.

And Bob did something that not many did.  He earnestly smiled at you when he looked at you.  He would come up with some snappy tidbit to ease the tension when it was present.  He knew that alcohol was just a symptom of our dis-ease.

Bob had been sober for a long time. 34+years.   A sad thing for me is that there is now one less man for me to look at and say, “If that son-of-a-bitch can get sober, anybody can.”   What it  really means is that there is one less old timer for me to look up to.

I dont want to be the old timer in the room.  Because to get that distinction it means that my friends, like Bob, have died.


photo kim

I received a phone call this morning. The kind that’s never easy to get.  Bob B. died last night. The good news is, he died with almost 35 years of continuous sobriety.  I didn’t know him for very long, just over two years, but he has left a lasting impression on me and I will never forget him.  I’m very sad, not for Bob though.   I’m sad because I’m going to miss him.  It may sound cliche, but Bob is in a better place.  He’d been suffering with health problems for quite some time.  I am crying for him more than I did for my dad who passed away last September.  I attended one of my favorite meetings this morning.  It was Bob’s home group.  We all laughed and cried as we shared memories of this wonderful, loving, contradiction of a man. The meeting went a few minutes long.  As the secretary wrapped up he said, “If Bob was here he’d say- shut the f**k up already, the meeting is over.”
Bob was one of those AA elders that repeated the same stories over and over, but he was such a great story teller, I never got sick of listening to him.  He helped me realize how important that is for the newcomer in the rooms.  He was not repeating the stories for me or to hear himself talk.  It was for the new person.  To this day I have more patience for the old timers I don’t particularly care for.  He had some of the best one liners I’ve heard.
The highest you can get in AA is sober.
AA is a roll your own God program. (Bob called God “He, She, It”)
The same brain that tells you to take a drink says what the f**k did you do that for?
I was at a meeting last Tuesday night. When it ended I went and sat down next to Bob to say hello. We talked for a few minutes and he gave me a big hug.  “I love you Kiddo,” he said.  “I love you too Bob…” And I started to cry.  I left the meeting wondering why I was so emotional.  I didn’t know those were the last words we would say to each other.  This experience has confirmed to my innermost self that we as humans really are connected.  I don’t understand it and that’s ok.  I don’t have to.


The Sunflower pic is by the Fanatic and the Hibiscus pic is by the Nomadlander.

123  We dont need another’s permission, but we  ask Ggod for forgiveness for those who still suffer.  Thank you Ggod that Bob doesnt!



5 thoughts on ““This is a roll your own Ggod program.”

    • An aside. I just got a call from a mutual friend who brought up a point about Bob. Bob didnt give a shit about any of the rhetoric that gets bantered around the rooms of AA. The “if you just worked the program you wouldnt struggle in life,” or the “Just turn that frown upside down,” crap. He knew that life on life’s terms is a challenge.
      He was one of the people who when he asked how you were, HE MEANT IT.
      Bob would not want us to talk about him in the ways we did above. He was a humble man and he really cared about those people who he called friends and wanted to let everyone know who crossed his path that you didnt have to drink ever again.
      He like the rest of us who write here, truly want to know what is going on for you now. Thats why Bob would have wanted to talk to the Fanatic about how she is today and not listened to me and the nomadlander honor him.

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