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By Bill A.


I came to it one Sunday morning twenty-four years ago, just like every other morning: hung-over. Sunlight streamed through the window, nudging me awake. “Ugh,” I grunted. Too sick to move, my head ached like a thumb hit by a hammer. As I tried to piece together the night before, and the day or two before that, the thought haunted me that the blackouts, which for the last few months had progressed from occasional to inevitable, were a symptom of – not alcoholism, no, never that – insanity.  “That’s it,” I said to myself out loud, “I’m nuts.” How else could it be explained? I never considered alcoholism. After all, I wasn’t a skid row bum. The power of that realization — that I was out of control, utterly unable to change my situation — overwhelmed me.


Soaked with sweat, I glanced from my bed through the window at the annoyingly beautiful spring day and mumbled to nothing in particular, “If there is a God, please help me.” I had absolutely no expectation that anything would come of that request. I just didn’t know what else to do. Without exaggeration, less than a minute later there was a loud knock on my door. I did what I usually do when confronted by something unpleasant: I ignored it. Too sick to move, I assumed silence would send whomever it was a message: Bill’s not here. A louder, more insistent knock soon followed. I winced. in my condition I could hear my eyelids move. Moments later another, even louder, knock. A voice said, “I know you’re in there.” Then the voice started pounding on the door. I struggled to my feet and shuffled toward the voice. By the time I reached the door I knew it belonged to my landlady, Norma. As I inched open the door I could see that she was angry. “I been watching you, boy,” Norma said in a thick West Texas drawl. She stepped closer and lightly poked her finger in my chest. “I know what you’re up to, boy. You’re an alky-holic” she said with a deepening frown. “I know, I been watching you.” She narrowed her gaze as if watching a bug crawl across my face. “My son’s an alky-holic; so are you.”


My coming and going, my stumbling and slurred speech, were routine. Once reserved for weekends and after-work carousing, since I’d lost my last job as a till-dipping bartender, my drinking had been constant. “My boy don’t drink no more,” Norma said. “He goes to Alky-holics Anonymous.” I glanced down the hall to see if any neighbors had heard. “He goes to Alky-holics Anonymous, and he don’t drink,” Norma repeated as if I hadn’t heard her. Then she looked at me as if I had told her water was wet and said, “You need to go to Alky-holics Anonymous, boy.” I began to protest with a contrived excuse about family illness. Surely she’s deluded, I thought. No way am I going to some Salvation Army soup kitchen. “You’d better go to one of them meetings, today,“ she said. “Or I’m evicting you first thing come morning.” She paused. “And I want proof you went. Bring me one of them Big Books.” I wondered how big this book might be, and whether I’d need anyone to help me carry it.


After Norma had her say, she focused one of her most piecing, laser-like stares at me turned and walked away. I stood in my doorway relieved she had left, and shuddered. “Yeah, right.” I closed the door as Norma walked down the hall. By this time of day Dallas convenience stores were selling beer and wine — no hard liquor on Sunday. I knew if I had one beer there’d be an eviction for sure, because my next move would be more beer. As usual, I put on my cleanest clothes, checked the phone book for the nearest AA address, and promised myself I’d poke my head in the door so I could tell Norma what I saw and see about one of those Big Books she mentioned. I don’t remember much about my first AA meeting. But I clearly recall being handed a Big Book by a guy named Cecil, someone I couldn’t imagine would have anything in common with me. Me: a slick transplant from New York City; Cecil: a TV repairman from a rural Texas burg. But I couldn’t help staring at him as he spoke. It was as if he’d been reading my mail. He described what happened to him, how he felt, and it was me. Cecil told my story – and except for minor changes of scenery and actors -- his story was mine, and mine was Cecil’s. I’d like to tell you I’ve been sober since my first AA meeting years ago. But the fact is that I wasn’t “ready to be ready.” Yet Cecil made such an impression that I kept coming back until I eventually got it, and began to enjoy the sober life that millions of desperate alcoholics have come to know. I’ve heard it said that God works through people. And that there are no coincidences, only “God-incidences.” I believe that. In fact, I suspect God just might have a bit of a west Texas drawl. ###



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