Sunday, August 7, 2005

Voices of the Past - Volume 1


Unfortunately I have been around long enough now to see 5 sponsor die. Great men, all of them, but the whole concept of “don’t drink, don’t die, and you’ll become an old timer” had only worked so long for some of them. I decided, out of laziness, and my in-ability to think up a good subject today, that I would simply recycle some of the great things that I have heard or learned from my deceased sponsors. It’s ok to do this you see, because it falls under the heading of …. Passing it on.

Joe was without a doubt, one of the greatest old-timers of this area, and he often shared this story for anyone who had a hard time dealing with acceptance of a higher power. I sincerely hope that someone gets something out of this, because it has helped many recovering alcoholics over the years. He would often preface the story in the third person, but it was very hard to not acknowledge that he was most likely talking about himself as he told the story, and that also will become clear at the end of this.

The woebegone man who had reached the end of his rope, and could not go on anymore, had decided that the only reasonable way to deal with his alcoholism, was to take his own life. He had given up on God every bit as much as he had felt that God had given up on him. His entire life was a shambles, he had nothing, and anything that he did have left was being carted out of his studio apartment that very same woeful day that he had come to the conclusion that “his’ life was unimportant in the grand scheme of things. The only thing left to do now, was take a revolver to his head, and end it in this pathetically unfurnished apartment.

His hand found the gun, and aimed it to his forehead, the only thing left was to accept that in a few short minutes the pain would finally be over. Nobody was going to miss him anyway, so why not just pull the trigger and be done with it. With a loud “BANG” the bullet had entered his head and he had fallen to the floor, awaiting the misery to end, with his final breath. Unfortunately, as is the case with most of us drunks, he had forgotten something that was rather important to him. Something that he actually did have left, that would change what was left of his life, and it wasn’t very long before it revealed itself.

Out of the tiny bathroom attached to that studio apartment came the mans dog. It was a goofy looking dog, with only one ear, but it had been a loving companion to this poor soul for many years. It had never left him, and was now licking his hand, with a sad look on it’s face. The dog knew that “it’s” only friend was dying, and the man who now lay on the floor with a bullet in his head had an epiphany. The one thing that had been keeping him alive all this time to begin with, was silently begging for him to survive once again. The only thought that went through his mind was “Who’s gonna take care of my dog?”

He struggled for the phone and got an operator (this was well before 911, and the 0 actually worked then), and was met later by a crew of ambulance EMT’s just in the nick of time to save his life. The only concern he had the whole time was that his dog was ok. “My dog …. Don’t let my dog die” was the most important thing he could mutter the whole time.

This mans life was changed when he went back to AA, he spent many years pointing out the obvious. When God wasn’t there for me that Dog was. When he was unable to get it through to people that there were powers greater than any of us, he would slam a book on the table and yell “Today, Today … God DAMNIT! Today!” and tell this story of the man who found Dog, when he didn’t believe in God, but the interesting parts come later in the mans life, when he had yet another epiphany, and realized that God might have just put that dog in his life for a reason.

As for myself and what I learned from all of this, it’s simple. Every time I looked at this beautiful man, with the biggest heart of any of the sponsors I ever knew, it wasn’t hard to see the large scar on his forehead, that very much resembled a bullet hole. His own humility, had taught him that perhaps the story was best left to metaphor, and shared often. It has become a part of the meeting lexicon around here. It was also this beautiful man who once told me the story of the “pickle in the jar”, you know how that one goes. You can take a cucumber and add vinegar and dill, leave it in a jar for a month and you have a pickle. No matter what you do to that pickle, you can never turn it back into a cucumber, but you can always make more pickles, out of the cucumbers you have. I like both cucumbers and pickles today, but I always remember what I need each for, and whether or not I will want a cucumber later, even if I am always going to be a pickle. ;8o)