Happy Holidays Dear Readers!
Here is a story out of my archives that I wrote in 2001, my first year of recovery. It still gives me Goose Bumps,…but not quite as often.It’s now Christmas 2018. I’m still clean and sober and almost 70! Take a moment to enjoy this sober adventure from my first year. I hope it brings you some Holiday JOY. Arthur Messenger
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and contentment found by those who are struggling to live a life in recovery. I’m okay, still clean, still sober, and wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday, from under a blanket of mid-day falling snow. Got Hot Chocolate? Into your Chair? Blanketed and warm with a Fireplace if you have and some soft Christmas Music in the background? Read on,……………………….
WHAT IT WAS LIKE
The first Christmas of my sobriety, my spirit felt like a rudderless ship with no port of call. I was meandering aimlessly and much like the ghost of Dickens Jacob Marley, carried a crushing weight of chains formed from my deep, dark, resentments: towards God, at my apparent fate and naturally, the people who had so wrongfully and bitterly disappointed me. Laden with a hold full of cynicism, bitterness, and anger, I lived in a state right out of the book: restless, irritable, discontentment. My body was suffering from uncontrollable weight gain as a result of Type II Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Chronic Insomnia and a myriad of other physical and psychological maladies. Alcohol had made both my physical and spiritual life so unmanageable; I felt as though I’d been given a view into the abyss of Marley’s Ghostly endless walk of death. That Christmas, I had become the very visage of Ebenezer Scrooge. “Bah! Humbug” I say!
But in my own foolhardy account, I had heroically saved my own life by agreeing to in-house 30 day treatment. After release, I had bravely (and heroically, of course) walked alone, peeking through the doors of my first AA meeting. I did their damn 90/90 meeting program. Some days I needed 2 or 3 meetings, just to stay sober,…..and keep my head. Having read the book and done the first five steps in treatment, really didn’t need any condescending, self-deprecating old dry drunk to sponsor me in anything, thank-you very much! I was told that I never had to be alone again, but as I stubbornly reminded myself, I was just fine alone. I was sober, doing their deal, and that was quite enough……………or so I thought.
The first Christmas and New Years I worked in the kitchen of the local Alcathon as much as I could. Though my efforts were acknowledged as service, I was really there because I lived alone, had no place else to go and on those terms, was terrified of the compulsion to drink and the anguish of my own company. I had turned my back on my family and friends you see, for they had staged a nasty intervention, abandoning and betraying me in my hour of need. I was mistakenly convinced my resentments were totally righteous and naturally, deprived them all of the sheer joy of my company. At least I was among the sick, like myself.
Delighted when both Christmas and New Years had passed, I was patronizingly grateful for having somewhere to endure them. “Good Riddance to holiday rubbish” I muddled under my breath!
I despised their silly promises. To me, they were idiotically extravagant. Were they “being fulfilled among us”? Perhaps, but let the weak and naive have their miracles. Quickly or slowly realized, they were the morphine of A.A. as far I was concerned. Bill W. must’ve been thinking he had to create some S&H Green Stamp Program to bolster the fortitude of the inherently unresolved, and to sell his Big Book to this world of stragglers.
I knew better. It was, sadly, just another battle in my endless lifelong struggle. Dignity, Honor, Love and Respect were to be the earned rewards through the endless but righteous suffering my fate left me to endure. I would do it, but there would be only rare pleasure in it. No leisure or rest for this soldier of sobriety. I accepted my lot, most begrudgingly of course.
At each meeting I would here How It Works from Chapter V of The Big Book. A voice would read: “without help it is too much for us, but there is one who has all power, that one is God, may you find him now”. Fat chance of that, I thought to myself. In desperation, I sought to find their God of my understanding. Beginning to pray, I asked only for the removal of the compulsion to drink, and slowly, it was removed. One day, I realized its near daily nagging was gone. It had simply vanished; however by persistence I was convinced. During the few times it had ventured back into my consciousness, it would become more and more easily dismissed. I suddenly realized God was doing for me what I could not do for myself, if by no other result than coincidence.
I embraced the program, opening my heart to the sober community. Soon, I met a woman in the fellowship whom I fell madly in love with. Then an excellent sponsor appeared for me. I got a Big Book, 12X12, other pieces of literature, and devoured them voraciously. Feeling alive, my emotions were responding and my health and well-being were returning. Everything seemed wonderful,…………….. until it all changed unexpectedly.
The love that I thought had come to complete me by God’s hand exposed her hidden side. She’d been prospecting for gold and in an overnight reversal dropped her feigned affections, having found a better vein to mine. I felt I had not only been deceived, but had lost my best friend and lover, though she’d proved to be neither and 1,000 miles away.
I clung to the program, grasping for courage and strength by my newfound faith in God. But try as I might and pray as I did, I could not seem to escape the disappointment. Once again i found the ghostly specter of regret, remorse and resentment were finding their way back into my life. I was losing my faith in my God and had stopped praying in the prescribed direction: only “for the knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out”. I was so afraid to put it all on the line, for I had felt abandoned by God once before in my life and it appeared I had fallen for the same “Kool-Aid” again.
Still I believed. I believed that if I asked only for the knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out, I would never be disappointed in the message of the 11th Step. Already, I’d experienced how I could depend on God for his help when the compulsion to drink had been removed. So I prayed, for the serenity to accept, the courage to change, and the wisdom to know. Though struggling, I hung onto my sobriety and my sanity.
The conditions became worse as the next Christmas approached. I became very ill as well as experiencing some financial difficulties. Though I was trying to hang on, I could feel my insane thinking re-emerging. Each morning and night, I prayed for a sign of God’s reassuring love; its strengthening power would surely shore-up my faith.
A month before Thanksgiving, my sponsor left on his fall vacation. Luckily, I met a very kind woman with 23 years in the program who agreed to “temp me”, acting as my sponsor. She taught me how gratitude should be specified in a list, then referred to and added onto when we feel there is little to be grateful for, ( a practice that still works for me today) I was to always keep that list and continue to amend it, making a regular practice of counting my blessings.
Like the year before, I worked at The Alcathon kitchen on Christmas Day. While sitting down for a break, I caught site of a man walking up to the counter whom I had never seen though his face seemed so familiar. He came back into the kitchen and began talking to me, introducing himself only as Martin, (pronounced Marteen). He was a truck driver from Arizona who was just passing through. Having never been to my city before, Martin explained that he was an alcoholic in his ninth year of recovery. He had a soft voice and a gentle smile.
While making a point of trying to help him feel at home, I introduced him to everyone that came into the kitchen. We continued to talk while I was working, covering several subjects pertinent to my life and sobriety. It seemed we had a lot in common. When he spoke, it was calmly, almost reverently to me about spirituality. Using a gesture, he would point his finger up to the sky whenever he would speak of God, never mentioning him by name. In time, we had covered most of the dilemmas that were eroding my faith.
Martin was unusually kind and understanding. All during that time he was smiling, and from time to time impishly looking as if he had known me all along. I remembered a poster I had acquired in college called, “The Laughing Jesus” and it struck me odd how much of a resemblance there was.
When I was done with my shift we sat at a table and talked of my lost love and her disappointing behavior. Martin explained to me that there were some things I would never know or understand and that that was okay. That was what Acceptance was all about. It had only been a small part of my life and not worth obsessing over. He then told me to be strong, and that he had faith in me; that he was sure that I would be all right. Tears welling-up in my eyes, it dawned on me that Martin was the miracle that I had asked God for. I had to leave then. We stood, and he hugged me like a brother. I could feel extraordinarily reassuring and unconditional love enveloping as my spirit was comforted.
We said goodbye. I turned and left. I walked a few feet and turned to waive back at him, but he was gone. It seemed he had just disappeared. I was certain that he was there. Then I wondered, could it have been that he was just there for me? Not very much later, I returned to look for him. He was gone and there was no truck parked outside.
WHAT ITS LIKE NOW
I’ve told only a few people of this story; my sponsor and some others that I am close to. Martin was right. I do not have an explanation for some things, and as I recall him saying, Acceptance means: I don’t need one, for I may never have one. I know that as to myself, I had been told many times at meetings of the fellowship, “Don’t leave until you give the miracle a chance to happen. In that chance meeting with Martin, I feel as though it may have occurred that Christmas Day. It struck me as a little like what had happened for Ebenezer Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Present had come to me as Martin, restoring my faith and giving me a chance to see life anew again.
Right now my faith is strong. When it becomes challenged again, I will think of Martin and how he came to visit me, renewing me with the message in a spiritual awakening. He was doing for God what I could not do for myself, just as I had asked. Given the chance, I will try to do the same thing for others. I write to you in the diminishing twilight of a January night sky, wishing each of you a Happy New Year, and a visit from your own angel, your own miracle. If you hang around long enough, you just might find enough faith through acceptance to receive it.
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Now it’s almost 18 years since I wrote this piece. I am amused, humbled and more than slightly chagrined. You see, “The Pink Cloud” of early recovery has long since sailed. I no longer get the eerie feeling of “warm and fuzzies” and a rarely use the worn out cliches that permeate this old piece. BUT —- I have never forgotten how important it was to me in finding some sense of contentment and belonging, and although I rarely use the term “miracle,” with some timid nostalgia I remember Martin and his visitation as my Ghost of Christmas Present.
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