Early in my sobriety, I would go to meetings and hear people say they were grateful that they were alcoholic. I was always stunned to to hear anyone say such a thing. I mean, did they have no friends, no family when they were drinking? Nobody to hurt? The blast crater that resulted from my drinking took people out thousands of miles away. Marriage? Vaporized. Family? Kids? I brought only pain and embarrassment. I've been known to say many things, but I couldn't imagine expressing gratitude for my alcoholism.
Really, I couldn't see how anybody could forgive me, as much as for my constant, profoundly self-centered, short-sighted behavior as the drinking. More than that, my behavior would continue to cause pain for decades. Savings swallowed--literally--by debt, my ex-wife would have limited financial flexibility. She doesn't have the husband she wanted and deserves, and she doesn't have lots of kids who would have had a wonderful mother. My daughter? Well, shouldn't her dad be someone she can rely on at home? I couldn't see why I should expect forgiveness from anybody who was left in the wake of my drinking days. I couldn't begin to forgive myself.
When I was feeling particularly weighed down, struggling with forgiveness, my counselor referred to the wording of the Lord's Prayer in the King James Version of the Bible. Jesus instructs us to ask, "...forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." The implication of asking for the forgiveness of debt is that my debt is something that I cannot repay. I am acknowledging the magnitude of what I owe; nonetheless, I am asking that the slate be wiped clean because I can never make it right. Properly motivated, asking for forgiveness in this sense is an act of humility and surrender; it is an acknowledgment of one's brokenness.
It is in this light that I can begin to see what the mystifyingly grateful ex- drunks were trying to say. They're close, but a fellow ex-barfly gets it precisely right:
More and more, I also see my greatest gift is to have been brought to my knees by alcoholism. Because before you are brought to your knees, you tend to think you are going to be able to manage and control by virtue of intellect backed by will power. You see other people fall and you think, That won't happen to me because I know how to manage and control. But we are not in control.
It's not alcoholism that's the gift; it's the surrender that the alcoholism yielded and God's response to humble surrender.
I may never be able to make amends. I can't forgive the overblown jerk who drank away his savings, his wife's dreams, who thought he could control it all. I can forgive the broken man on his knees.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
... didn't work quite like I had anticipated. So, I'll be writing with a little different emphasis than was originally planned. The down side: you'll be reading about what occurs to me. The up side: you should have more to take issue with! I am expecting you to challenge, amplify, point in different directions.
More to come...
More to come...