A man walks into a bar.
No, wait. That’s the wrong story.A man walks out of a bar. The establishment has been his “safe place” for years. He knows the owners, and they keep a seat waiting for him at the end of the bar where the bartender can lean in to listen when he talks without knocking over the highball glasses. They know his story and keep pouring, and those two things have always made the man feel understood, loved. He went to the bar every day because he wanted to be cared about and just to be left alone. Drinking is a funny thing; it makes both seem possible simultaneously.
He was incredibly brave, he thought, to work so hard and provide for his family, to deal with all the drama and dealings of life. Wasn’t he due this time? Didn’t he deserve it?
He had always planned to keep drinking. Very recently, however, it became obvious that his safe place was a dangerous place. His wife was leaving him for the last time, and he had not been willing to follow her. He had not been willing to ask for help. The path to help was a rocky, treacherous road. The way to the bar was paved with familiarity.
As he slowly became more lost, lost, lost, it became increasingly clear that pouring did not equal understanding; that having someone lean into you and listen did not equal love. Over the years, he had chosen this seat in the bar over relationships, over passions. Everybody knew his name here, but not a single soul knew his heart.
He is sick in mind, body and spirit.
He doesn’t know how to stop. How do you stop? Someone, somewhere has to know how.
There must be a magic pill to stop the drinking, and there was. There were lots of pills, all supposed to make him better; but in time, they only made him worse. Perhaps he needed another diversion? A few days without drinking made possible by strange women and dirty, secret deeds. Then drinking – again. What about sheer willpower? Alone in his room, shaking and sorry, he had no one but himself for company. Nothing is working. He asks God for help, if God is real . . . if He exists at all.
“Love me and leave me alone,” he wanted to tell God. But instead, he searched for a support meeting nearby. Because, at the end of himself, he had no other choice.
Before the first meeting, he sat in his car, debating with himself about going in at all. Because the rooms are full of “those people” and once you walk in, you are one of them . . . no turning back. But he knew he already was.
He thought of the bar, but he made another choice and stepped into a new place.
Worship music filled the space inside the building. He filed past others – men and women of all ages, all races. The stereotype represented was very specific: the Human Race. As he took his seat and the speaker began to share her experience with substance abuse and recovery, he leaned in. “I am lost, lost, lost,” he said in his spirit.
In that most-alone place, God made his presence known.
There were relationships among hurting people in those rooms. There was a passion for living. He took small glances around the room as the meeting wrapped up. Over cups of coffee, there were tears, but laughter, too. There was palpable joy, something he’d forgotten existed.
Nobody knew his name. Nobody knew it until the men gathered alone for small group . . . there, in a small circle of men, he shared his name. When it was his turn, he told a little of his story.
At the end of the meeting, all of the others knew why he was there and why he didn’t want to be at the bar anymore. No one turned away from him. His eyes met with love.
There was a pouring-out of himself and all of his drama and dealings; and he filled up that space with hope for a future, because here, “those people” have one – a future.
The God he had doubted helped him stop drinking when he couldn’t do it himself and gave him people who loved his heart when he was at the end of himself. He had been incredibly brave to walk through the door. He was due this time; he had it coming – this life raft, this safe place.
“Keep coming back,” they said. “Your seat will be waiting for you.”
A man walks out of a bar . . . and into a meeting. He keeps coming to meetings because he feels cared about there, and he knows he cannot be left to his own devices. The road he is on – to recovering his life – is well-worn by others.
It is paved with hope.
Jana Greene is a Jesus freak, wife, mother, recovering alcoholic, author and blogger at The Beggars Bakery. In 2001, she surrendered her will to Jesus, and is still surrendering it on the daily. She writes to let others know where to find the Bread of Life. She lives with her husband, daughters and kitty cats in North Carolina.
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”
“Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” – Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, p. 83-84