Reflections Don't Lie
“Take that woman home, she’s drunk.” Franz Kafka (Diaries January 5,1914)
Who wants to be bothered with a drunk person? They are annoying, pathetic and a nuisance. I do; I have to be bothered with a drunk person if I want to stay sober. I received a call on Friday night from a woman who lives in my neighborhood. I have known her from my recovery meetings over the years and through school and social events. She called me about 8:30 p.m.; I happened to be sitting in my recovery sponsor’s car listening to her talk to a young alcoholic friend who had relapsed the night before. The woman who called was drunk and wanted help. She was a suffering alcoholic who was done. The three of us went to her home. When I walked in I saw myself sitting on her sofa, drinking, crying and feeling alone. Everything around her was scattered and in chaos. I was this woman less than 90 days ago. Drunk, pathetic and lonely. Yes, I had family and friends, but I had pushed those closest to me away because alcohol had become more important to me than my relationships. This wasn’t a moral choice; this is what this disease does. As an alcoholic, I have a physical allergy to alcohol. When I drink that first drink my body processes alcohol differently. It is not a moral issue. The drunk I saw in front of me was not an awful person. The drunk I saw sitting before me was a sick woman with a disease just like any other disease killing her. The woman sitting before me was my reflection. I wanted to run because if I didn’t run, I might have to stay sober. I have never really worked a program of recovery before, because I wanted to keep my ace in the hole. If I didn’t help others and share how bad my disease had become, then maybe I could drink again. Maybe I could stay sober long enough for things to calm down and then there would be a drink in my future. Yes, that’s the mental part of my disease. That I can somehow pick up a drink again. My physical makeup will not allow me to stop at that first drink. I will drink as much as I can find. Once I drink that first drink I will not stop. It is like any food allergy. My body reacts with a phenomenon of craving of which I have no control. “Then, why the hell do you take the first drink?” is the obvious question. Because, I am an alcoholic. That’s what I do. I have a mental obsession with alcohol. Recovery is the only thing that will keep me from taking that first drink. Recovery is more than meetings. It is living sober. Living sober takes work. Helping other alcoholics is living sober. There are specific guidelines set before me in my 12 Step program on how to help another suffering alcoholic. I could not have gone to this woman’s house at my stage of sobriety without my sponsor or another alcoholic who knew how to follow these guidelines. I was not in control and I couldn’t save this woman. In recovery, we have meetings dedicated to “the 12 Step Call.” Recovering alcoholics are told not to avoid these responsibilities, “But be sure you are doing the right thing if you assume them.” Why, because my ego tells me I can be in charge and in control; I could be the savior for this woman! I would attach my happiness and sobriety to the outcome. This ego is what got me drunk. I believe God is in charge of my recovery. This past week I had been feeling melancholy; I could not get out of myself. I stayed in my thoughts. I wanted to change the way I felt. Though, every day I did what was suggested to me in recovery. I prayed, I worked the steps, I read my recovery materials, I went to meetings, I talked to my sponsor, and I didn’t drink, but, I still was hurting and in my thoughts. Something bigger than me gave me the opportunity to get out of myself. Something bigger than me put this woman in my life Friday night. My sponsor and I decided this woman could not be left alone. I brought this suffering alcoholic into my home. My husband and I watched her all night to ensure she was safe. We watched her wake up and begin going into withdrawals. My sponsor, our young fellow alcoholic, and I took this woman to Birmingham yesterday. We took her to the ER so they could begin to detox her. She will go into a 30-day rehab tomorrow. We helped this woman because each of us had been there before. Only a recovering alcoholic could understand this woman, a suffering alcoholic. Yes, it was still frustrating, scary, stressful and exhausting, but if another alcoholic had not helped us we would not be sober today. If another alcoholic had not helped us, we would be dead. This disease kills one way or another if we don’t find recovery. We helped her because that is recovery. Helping another alcoholic is the only way to stay sober. I can go to hour long recovery meetings and learn about what I need to do to stay sober, but if I don’t go out and live it I will get drunk again. “Helping others is the foundation of your recovery. You have to be a Good Samaritan every day if need be. It may mean the loss of many night’s sleep, great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your home, counseling frantic spouses and relatives, innumerable trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails, and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night.”(AA Big Book)
All the things I had been sad about, now seem so distant. My nostalgic feelings from this past week have been replaced. I no longer want parts of my past back. Recovery is retraining my brain. I am changing. I want to go forward. I didn’t help this woman because I am a good friend or a good person. I helped this woman because I am a selfish alcoholic who wants to stay sober and I will go to any lengths to stay sober.