I will never forget my last night of drinking. It happened on that sailboat, on a gorgeous evening in which we had invited the people on the boat next to ours to join us for dinner. I guess it’s kind of funny for me to say I will never forget that night, because the truth is, I only remember our guests coming aboard and then leaving. I remember absolutely nothing in between. When I awoke the next morning I had to wait for my husband to awaken so that I could try and read his face. Had I embarrassed him? Had I done anything outrageous? Was he mad at me?
When he finally awoke, he appeared fine, his usual, happy-go-lucky self. I was too ashamed to tell him that I couldn’t remember anything. I tried to discreetly ask him about the evening. He said that we all had a good time and that I was funny and engaging. Funny? Engaging? Thank God! And I couldn’t remember a moment of it. I was utterly confused, mainly because I had yet to learn that when an alcoholic has a blackout they can appear to be totally conscious to others. Years ago there were stories of pilots flying planes in a blackout. I had always thought blackout meant the person passed out. I knew then that I was done with drinking, but I could not imagine how I would accomplish quitting.
Oh, the ironies of life. In two weeks, I was to start my internship at a Woman’s Alcohol Recovery Center. Working toward my master’s degree in social work, I had been given the choice between an internship working with battered women or alcoholic women. I had chosen what I thought to be the lesser of two painful situations. Afraid of losing this much sought after internship, I was determined to never reveal my own drinking problem.
I was so moved by the honesty of the women at this agency that I walked into my supervisor’s office the very first afternoon, my chin quivering with fright, a little drool sliding down my chin, and said, “I have a problem with alcohol.” My supervisor, Karen, started laughing. She looked at me with more compassion that I had ever seen in my life and said, “God sure has brought you to the right place; I believe there are no accidents.” Tears streamed down my face as I thanked her. Then she sent me into the group room to lead groups, since I had formal training in group dynamics. I showed movies on alcoholism as a family disease. Trying to hide my tears during these movies was a challenge that I did not always meet. It was quite a humbling experience when my clients suggested that I attend some meetings for myself.
Shortly thereafter, I became a member of a fellowship that helped people with alcohol problems. Mike chose to give up drinking about a week later. In the fellowship of my newfound friends, I found support in putting into action all of the amazing spiritual truths I had been learning over the past seven years. It was here that I learned to extend to others the forgiveness and love I felt from the God I had recently come to understand. After all the years I heard my grandmother recite “Our Father,” I learned what it actually meant to forgive my trespassers and to feel forgiven for my own trespasses. I began to see that all of us, without exception, have both received hurt from and inflicted hurt on another.