Alcoholics Anonymous

My husband recently celebrated his 14th year without a drink. He received a coin in the mail from a virtual sponsor, who has sent him such a token every year since he quit.  These coins are badges in the Alcoholics Anonymous program, and they are earned every day, week, month- heck, every hour an alcoholic chooses not to drink.  For 14 years, he has been a better man, father and husband than he believed he could be. He had been a jolly drinker, escaping from his shyness to a gregarious place.  Then he slid into a meaner place, and he didn't even like himself.  One day, he stopped.  Our sons were at the age when they noticed everything he did and said, and Steve determined that he would like to give them a good man to model.  It has made all the difference, as Robert Frost would say.  I doubt if my mad love for him could sustain itself in the darkness that was alcohol saturated.  Once Steve was on the wagon, our sons had the benefit of a clear-eyed Dad, waiting up for them.  I was blessed with the ability to go off duty whenever my head hit the pillow.  What a wonderful gift for a woman who became accustomed to waiting up until all hours for her spouse!  Steve did not work the AA program, and he has been judged harshly by some who flourished as Friends of Bill.  He went to a couple of meetings, but his shyness does not allow him to find comfort there.  He adopted their "one day at a time" motto in all corners of his life, though.  When CBS sent him to the bench in December, I had a pang of fear that he would crave liquid comfort. So I asked him if he felt like drinking.  In the most sane and calm voice he said, "Well, I do not think that drinking would make anything better. I am better without it."  And he certainly is.  When I worry about that which I cannot change, or which looms in the distant future, Steve will admonish me to just chip away at today.  Who knew he was so zen?  

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I zig zagged from my planned Book Club topic to this because I am an avid reader of Roger Ebert's journal entries; today's blog notes the fact that he has 30 years of sobriety.  He has worked the program with zeal, internationally and locally.  I believe that Roger's essential humanity draws him to people in need: AA presents him with an opportunity to encourage  and support others.  For years, he peppered Steve with Pritikin video tapes in an effort to get him on that bandwagon. (to no avail, I might add)  I don't know if he ever tried to get Steve to hit a meeting, but I know his resolve was encouraging and inspiring to Steve.  He wants every human being to be his best self.  He is fascinated by people and their stories, and the stories at AA are ripe and compelling.  They would appeal to the man who loves the sweep of life, and finds something to love in almost everyone he meets.  He is a magical reviewer, because he is fond of and curious about  humanity.  He has suffered profoundly in the last few years, and can no longer eat, drink or speak.  On he goes, with tubes, and an electronic voice, and a face which is damaged by successive cancer surgeries. He does not hide- he is of the world, among us.  The voice in his reviews and blogs is imbued with generosity and strength. He is a brave example of a man seizing every molecule of joy from life.  You should visit them- even the readers' comments are a rare experience, so thoughtful and articulate.  Roger's world is rich, and you will be richer for stopping by.
At any rate, I congratulate him for the decision that undoubtedly helped him to enjoy more nuance, in life and film.  He is an amazing man. I feel blessed to have shared time with him,  and I hope you will visit his journal to enjoy his wisdom. 
CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

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  • Congratulations to you & Steve on 14 yrs. I most tell you that Steve's change to sobriety helped me see that I could life my life sober. I've got 11 years and can honestly say that Steve Dahl showed me the way. Thank you Both

  • I hit 19 years on 8/12... for months after I quit... My Wife kept asking "when are you going to AA?"... and I'd say- "Before I have another Drink". Needless to say- I haven't been to a meeting. But- thank God AA exists... as it HAS helped many, many folks.
    When Steve says ""Well, I do not think that drinking would make anything better. I am better without it." ... He is Right... especially if (like me) he has a thousand horrible flashbacks of the Bad far out-weighing the 'good' of Drinking-Times Past.

    A Fine Tribute to his (and Roger's) accomplishments, Janet!

  • In reply to wallywalt:

    Thank you- I think my flashbacks are technicolor, and his are black and white! And yet- I only witnessed a sliver of the merry-go-round. That is the curse of alcoholism- you start over with a crazy headache, but the details are blurred enough to deter a resolve....until there is that one out of control moment.

    That is why I never trust the memoirs that give " a thousand little pieces, and such" - because it is to hard to drink until saturation, and remember the finer details- like vomiting into heat registers thinking they are paper baskets, and forgetting that you did it. Ah, the romance of a drinking life. Of course if relatives told the tales, they would be too mean. Or honest. But there is no doubt that I am proud of the u-turn that Steve took. I DO think there are many roads to sobriety, and they are all really hard. However you get through a day- it is noble work. Congratulations to you!

  • In reply to wallywalt:

    Janet, I have read your "Janet's Planet" for a long time now and am happy to see you hear as well. You are a wonderful writer and I love getting to read about you and Steve. You really are an inspiration, not sure if you know that or not, but you are.

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