The Word and Our Stories: Transports of Grace

That's true even when we simply tell a good story—by which I mean one that's cost us something—instead of writing it down.In fact, I often reflect that I may owe my whole sobriety to one woman. I can't remember her name but she was at the same Minnesota rehab I was back in the late '80s. She was from Iowa and she had freckles, braids, a gingham shirt. To look at her, you'd think she'd never taken a beverage stronger than milk. It turned out she was a housewife and mother who'd taken to walking her two small kids to the bus stop every morning, then going home and drinking herself into oblivion.

The kids would come home; she'd be passed out. The husband would return from work: she'd serve dinner in a blackout. She lived to drink and drank to live. But what really impressed me was that she'd taken to dyeing her vodka blue and hiding it in a Windex bottle. ALL RIGHT, I thought when I heard that, metaphorically raising my fist in the air. I'd never been a wife or a mother, but I was at once flooded with fellow-feeling. She was human, she was desperate, her response to suffering had been creative.

If I could hear more people like that, I thought, maybe there was hope. If there were more stories like that out there, stories that were vivid and honest and true, maybe I could find the strength to move forward. If that woman who had suffered like me, who had known shame, guilt, terror, and anguish like me, could start to lead a different life, maybe I could, too.

At last I had started to experience the story an atheist never gets to experience. I had started to die to myself and come awake in God.

That was almost twenty-four years ago. I can't vouch for tomorrow. But up to now, as of today, since then—I've never had another drink. 

3/16/2011 4:00:00 AM