Louis the XIV is a fifty-eight year old overweight skin-head biker with tats from head to toe who favors gold chains. That’s why they call him, Louis the XIV. He’s my sponsor.
I met him at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in 1995, my first day out of rehab.
“What are you lookin at?” was the first thing he said to me.
I was only 16 years old and wearing khakis and a polo shirt. “I’m looking for a sponsor,” I replied in a shaky voice. “They told me I needed to find a sponsor right away.”
When Louis the XIV smiled at my remark his two gold incisors shined like headlights in a rear- view mirror. “You,” he began slowly with a note of scorn in his voice. “Want me” he added as a sort of afterthought. “To be,” he said dragging out the word “be” like “beee”. “Your what?” he concluded, cocking a multi-pierced ear in my direction.
“Sponsor,” was my timid one word answer.
“You,” he began again in an incredulous tone. “Want me?” he asked pointing at his own chest.
“Uuuh, well, I guess I want somebody,” I said, sorry I had even talked to him at this point.
“Who’s ‘they’? he asked twirling his pointer finger in front of his temple. “You know, as in ‘they told me I needed’.”
“At the rehab,” I stuttered, “the techs at the rehab. They said I needed to find a sponsor as soon as I got out.”
“So why are you talking to me?” he asked, again with that same disbelieving tone. “Do I look like a sponsor to you, kid?”
“Well, no disrespect. But, no; you don’t.”
“Then why are you talkin to me?”
“I don’t know,” I stammered. “I guess you looked interesting to me. You know…like in a weird way. No, disrespect,” I added hastily.
“They told you to find a sponsor and you came up with me…in a weird way. You’re not gunna make it. You know that? And you know why, because they told you to find a sponsor. You don’t even know why you need a sponsor. And your mommy told you to go to rehab. And your daddy told you to be a good boy and grow up to be a lawyer. And you haven’t done anything,” he said in a tone of disgust, “except…pick me. That you did do. You have no idea why. But let me tell you something, little guy. Something put me in front of you and something made you talk to me. That something is all you have. And if twenty-five years of sobriety have taught me anything, it’s to grab on to that something and make a start.”
I have been sober with Louis the XIV as my sponsor for twenty-one years. Now that’s something.