Sunday in church we were asked what God had delivered us from, and to think about it, and be thankful. We do this a lot, don’t we? Think about it? Quietly, to ourselves?
What would we have done if he said, “now turn to your neighbor and tell them”?
How many of us would do it? How many of us would share what we had just written down PRIOR to knowing we were going to share it with the person sitting next to us at church? The sin that preceded redemption?
What would “they” think?
As I discussed this with my friend who knows my whole life story, she said, “some look at you as a seasoned saint, when you know you are a seasoned sinner.”
Now I don’t know about the first half, or how others view me, but I do know about the second. I am a seasoned sinner, and you bet I need a Savior, because left to myself, I would be dead.
It’s time you knew.
November 22, 2002 I came out of a 3 day blackout to see this same friend sitting next to me on my sofa. Just hours before I was going to take my own life after countless futile attempts to stop drinking. Rather than opening the packed out medicine chest, I went to my computer and sent her an email with three words. “Please help me”.
I don’t remember sending the email, because in reality, I did not have the power to send it. You’ve heard about God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves? There it is. I had avoided this woman at all costs. Not because of who she was… she was pleasant enough… but because she would always tell me the truth about my condition. Because she had it too, and she knew its fatality. She didn’t sugar coat anything. Ever. “If you don’t work the steps you’re going to drink again, and the way you drink, you are going to die”.
Yeh yeh. Get away from me.
Yet there she was, on my couch, at my unconscious request, and she offered hope. “A new way of living which demands rigorous honesty”, and a simple plan of action that, if followed, would clear out the wreckage of my past, and get me to a freedom I had never known. Ever. Not just freedom from alcohol. Alcohol is only a symptom. She offered freedom from myself, and the bondage of resentment, pride, self pity, fear, remorse, and morbid reflection. My own plans and schemes. My best ideas, and worst ones too. I could be free. The only requirement being after doing this, I continue to help others. That’s how I would stay sober, she said.
I took her up on her offer, and stayed two nights in the County Detox in a room with four other homeless women who stole my heart. Over the next 18 months I volunteered there weekly, hoping against hope they would see in me a solution, as I was one of them. I had been in bed 25, and was so bad off with the shakes, THEY were taking care of ME! They had seen me at my worst, and now saw me getting better.
After two months, Joanne (not her real name) came in bleeding from her mouth, and her belly distended. She begged me not to tell because she didn’t want to go to the hospital. I sat on her bed and asked her what I could do for her. She said, “tell me how you did it. How did you stop drinking?”. I had 60 days. I told her what I had done, and the hope I had found. She died that night. She was the oldest of us. She was 44. The next to go was at 6 months, then another at 8. The youngest of our group in 2002 died 18 months later in the same room… my room… in an alcoholic seizure. She was 31. I remember all of their names but more than anything I remember the despair. The hopelessness. The disease. Their exact likeness to me. I remember our bond of doom, and the olive branch of hope. I grabbed it. They didn’t. It’s not their fault. Alcoholism is an illness that tells you you don’t have an illness. It’s insidious. It’s relentless. It’s non-discriminatory. It’s progressive. It‘s fatal. It’s incurable. But it’s treatable; and it’s a miracle. It happens when one alcoholic reaches out to another alcoholic, knowing the other has been where they are, and they have found a way out that works. The journey together begins in that moment.
Saturday I will celebrate 11 years of sobriety. But it’s so much more than just “not drinking”. It’s freedom on every level.
I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I really don’t have many at all. I’m just a girl who got saved by Grace, and a program you’ll find listed in the front of the yellow pages. A girl with boundless love all around her, yet it could not save her life. A girl who couldn’t stop drinking for her kid’s sake. A girl who should be dead, but isn’t. A girl who, today, isn’t passed out underneath a fallen dresser terrorizing her family in her “sleep”. A girl who, try as she might, couldn’t just pray herself well. A girl who needed a list of instructions to clean up the mess she’d made in order to recover. A girl who desperately needed, and still needs the help of other alcoholics to stay sober. A girl who is doing the best she can to live out the plan God had when bringing her out of the mire, and may even help a few people because of it.
A girl who doesn’t have to hide who she was in order to be who she is, and cannot be who she is meant to be without it.
A sinner with a Savior. Sober today. Grateful for it all.