Monday, 28 April 2014

Grapevine -- November 1947 - And A Mother Wins back her Son

It is sometimes said that the age of miracles is past. I'm afraid I can't agree. Why? Because I've been sober for a year. I don't remember what I was doing a year ago, but I am sure of one thing. I was drunk. I detest the word and all that it implies. It isn't ladylike. Neither was I ladylike then.

Twelve months ago I was finishing up a binge that had been going on for years; a binge that grew steadily with the passing days, and months, and years; a binge that was robbing me of my health; a binge that had all but alienated my son and my husband; a binge that had completely divorced me from all friends. I didn't realize it then, but I was at the end of my rope. I was on "skid row" figuratively if not literally.

I had done all the usual things. I had been a social drinker. One drink would give me a lift; two, a bounce. Three brought a delightful fog in which the world was lovely, everyone was so nice, and "weren't we having fun?"

But this didn't last long. All my life I had suffered from an inferiority complex. The drinks-in those days bathtub gin-made me forget myself. They calmed me down, made me seem like other people, in fact made me "superior" to many of them. It wasn't long before the quantity had to be stepped up. And it wasn't long before I had to have a few drinks before dinner.

From then on the pattern is that of thousands of others. More drinks to calm down, frequent oblivion as the result of too many, a hangover in the morning. Then all day drinking, and all night drinking, then just drinking, not knowing or caring whether it was night or day. A compulsion to drink that I couldn't control, and the certain knowledge that my continued drinking would take from me everything that I wanted and held dear.

Then came the inevitable collapse. I was hospitalized. Three days later I realized where I was. Those 12 days of terror, fear, misgivings, recriminations, physical torture, the beginning of D. T.'s, of which the Good Lord permitted me only a glimpse, make up a period in my life which I recall only with horror. But through the maze that my alcoholic mind wandered constantly recurred the only thought that had penetrated from a visit of three A.A.s the night before my illness became acute.

That thought was: "A.A. can save you! A.A. can save you."

I clung to it as a drowning person does to a straw, for I knew that without it I would die from drinking or end in an insane asylum.

To most of us the early days in Alcoholics Anonymous are days of confusion. The transition from a life of alcohol to a life divorced from the bottle is abrupt. Those first few weeks and months are difficult. We are impatient to grasp all at once all that A.A. has to offer, to grab at it like a package we might purchase at the store. We want immediately to become as non-alcoholic in our thinking and actions as we once were alcoholic.

Despite my haste, one thing firmly embedded itself in my reasoning very early in my rehabilitation. To me it is the most important thing in following the 12 Steps. That requisite is honesty, not honesty with others but honesty with one's self. It has been harder for me to be honest with myself than anything I have ever tried to do. I find, though, that if I am honest with myself, I don't have to worry about honesty with others. It comes automatically.

With that as a stepping stone, I am slowly building a structure in which I can live with myself. As the structure rises I find many of the bricks and stones are placed imperfectly and have to come out and be reset. I make mistakes, but I am soon aware of them and make an honest effort to rectify them. Many times I am not honest with myself. But when I am not, that which goes hand in hand with honesty--conscience--asserts itself immediately. And to live with myself I have to do the right thing.

I accepted A.A. on blind faith. I didn't try to reason it out. I couldn't rationalize it. All I knew was that other people who had embraced A.A., people who said they were as bad or worse alcoholics than I, had become sober. It was the last street car as far as I was concerned.

I accepted what I was told to accept. I did what others said they had done, and out of that blind faith has arisen a faith of my own, a faith that has carried me along for a year. I don't know whether it is truth, or honesty, or conscience, or good, or God. I call it God. And I pray for his help each day to enable that faith to carry me through a succession of 24 hours as long as I live.

I think my greatest desire for sobriety was that I might restore myself in the eyes of my son, a 19-year-old Navy photographer. I wrote him some time ago that I had been hospitalized, that I had become an A.A., and I told him what I was trying to do. I'd like to quote a portion of his answer to me:

"It wasn't such a horrible thing to admit you needed care, Mom. You said this fact might startle me. On the contrary, it is the best thing that could happen. I am prouder of you than I have ever been before. Please believe me. This is from the bottom of my heart. I am proud of you for facing the music and your spirit for not quitting. I feel all empty inside when I try to express my gratitude. I thank you, Mom, with all the humbleness in me."

And they say the age of miracles is past!

Chicago, Illinois

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