A MONTH AGO, my life got turned upside down. While finishing a hard day’s work outside with my husband, I lost my footing, falling down an incline, badly breaking my ankle, and tearing ligaments in the process.
In an instant, I went from a gal who was on the go eighteen hours a day to one who is at a complete standstill, unable to work for three to four months, and still totally reliant on crutches or a wheelchair. I am not sure when I am going to walk again.
I’ve been sober for many years now in Alcoholics Anonymous. That has given me time to experience not only the ups in life, but a lot of other downs. After I had several years’ sobriety, my parents died within six weeks of each other. At many earlier gatherings, I had been the disgrace of the family, and what a relief it was to be sober at the funerals, thankful that my mother and father had seen me get and stay sober in this wonderful program before they had to leave me.
When our son entered elementary school, we discovered he had dyslexia, a severe learning disability. Now, that one was a real heartbreaker, entailing years of seeking help for him. I said the Serenity Prayer until I was blue in the face. Once, that would have been the perfect excuse to get drunk–a problem that wasn’t going to go away with the whisk of a broom. What an opportunity for that old self-pity to take hold again!
Instead, what a struggle we had to accept his problem, and how boldly we stepped out in courage to make an “impossible” change–to take a little boy who didn’t know how to read and write, didn’t want to know how, and turn him around, just as I had been turned around when I came into Alcoholics Anonymous.
After years of changing schools, counseling, and other approaches, we have quite a fourteen-year-old. Now, we can’t get his head out of a book. He is in his last year at a special school for children with his problem. That was another miracle–how we were enabled to move to another city to provide him with this education. Next year, he goes back into a regular school setting. Where do you think he’d be today if I had picked up the bottle?
And so it goes, including all the other jabs that life hands out–illness, financial problems, and the other unpleasant things that make up a part of living. But how much better it is to face life sober, using that wonderful Serenity Prayer, instead of wallowing in alcoholic self-pity. There was a time when I couldn’t cope with a head cold without getting drunk, let alone the bigger disasters that occurred in my drinking years.
I knew a woman in the program who, when she lost her son in Vietnam, went to an AA meeting every night for one year. I told myself: Remember that if you ever have a major problem. Don’t turn to the bottle. Turn to the program.
I know another woman, a long lime sober, who contracted multiple sclerosis. The pity pot for her? No way. Acceptance and courage, and keeping busy by working with other suffering alcoholics every day. I’ve been in the program long enough now to have watched many friends go courageously to their graves with cancer, heart trouble, and other illnesses.
I think it is important for us to keep in mind that life isn’t a bed of roses. Sobriety doesn’t confer on us some kind of magical life, free from pain and strife. We’ve joined the human race now, and that means facing up to, instead of running away from, our responsibilities. But how lucky we are to have this wonderful AA way of life as our guide. If life deals us a blow, we don’t have to get a case of the “poor me’s.” We needn’t let stinking thinking creep in, for we know that it can get too big to handle. We can use the Third Step, the Serenity Prayer, meetings and more meetings, and dealing with whatever comes our way one day at a time–or one hour or less if we have to.
Out of our sorrows will come moments of great happiness. As the song goes, every cloud has a silver lining. I think we alcoholics can appreciate our flashes of silver with extra gratitude. Writing this article has helped me get through another housebound day. Thank God for AA. It saved my life, and it continues to save my life.