She was sitting next to her daughter, across from me and the tears were pouring down her cheeks like sheet rain.
We were celebrating her first full week of sobriety in more years than she could remember.
Her story, like so many others, was one that began decades earlier and had consumed her life, robbed her of everything she held dear, and wrought daily havoc with her soul.
She had taken her first drink at age 12 when she had stolen a couple of cans of beer from the fridge and shared them with a few girlfriends in a nearby park, all the while tittering about how adult they were.
A few days later, she “borrowed” another can and this time consumed its contents all by herself.
As time went on the consumption became more regular and, as is the most often the case, quantity increased. By the time she graduated from high school, drinking was part of her daily regimen, and, as both her parents regularly consumed excessive amounts alcohol, they noticed nothing untoward in her behaviour.
For the next several decades her habit consumed her life. She “went through three husbands and four live-in boyfriends, but in each case it was always much easier to get rid of them rather than considering or even acknowledging that alcohol might be problematic in my life.”
Her first marriage produced two children and on this day her younger daughter, now 36 years old, was nervously fumbling in her purse for a Kleenex while her mother was sharing her life story, and the dramatic events of the previous week with me.
Through all her marriages relationships, job losses, financial hardship and a court ordered removal of her children from her custody, she could never bring herself to acknowledge what everyone else knew to be true.
She was an alcoholic.
Whenever confronted with this truth by the declining number of those who cared about her she always managed to blame her misfortune on people and circumstances beyond her control. She was simply the unwitting victim of disaster, bad luck and an uncaring world.
AA was not for her, nor was rehab for any kind. Only losers went to places like that. And, after all, she was not an alcoholic but merely somebody who enjoyed an occasional drink.
Eight days earlier an event had occurred that caused all that to change.
She experienced an alcoholic seizure, passed out and bounced her head off a countertop on her way to the floor.
Fortunately, her daughter was visiting her, called 911 and an MRI at the hospital confirmed that luck had been on her side and no permanent damage had been sustained.
A kindly doctor, upon hearing her daughter’s version of her history and despite her repeated denials, pointed out to her an old truth that finally caused her to confront her reality.
As her daughter tells her tells it, he gently placed his hand over hers, stared directly into her eyes and said, “you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge and the very moment you are willing to admit you are an alcoholic is the moment when you will be half cured of an awful disease.”
She went on to say her mother looked into his kindly eyes and burst into tears and she heard her mother say the words she had longed to hear for many years. Her mother finally acknowledged that she was an alcoholic and the doctor said he knew just the person she should talk to.
He left her bedside and returned 20 minutes later to tell her that he’d called a friend and, with her permission, that friend, who was by now on her way to the hospital, would come and talk with her.
The “friend” turned out to be a long time patient of this doctor and also a recovering alcoholic, with 27 years of sobriety to her credit.
This lady sat on the bed, held her hand and they spent the next few hours talking and crying, crying and talking.
The very next day she attended her first AA meeting and here we were one week later celebrating 168 hours of sober living.
That took place six months ago and, not without difficulty but with tremendous determination and courage, she has remained sober while at the same time working on some of the major repairs needed in her own life.
She has made The Habit of Acknowledging Your Imperfections a permanent part of her everyday life and tells anyone who cares to listen that the first step to improving any area of life is to acknowledge the cause of your problems and not waste time trying to convince yourself that they do not exist.
The Habit of Acknowledging Your Imperfections is the first necessary step to freedom and peace of mind and no hole in our soul can ever be healed until we own its cause.
This courageous lady will tell you that the last six months have been the best of her life and that her soul has never felt lighter since being unburdened and dragged down by the weight of shame and denial.
I commend her for her courage and feel confident that the last drink she took before the fall that changed her life will prove to be the last drink she ever has as she has now experienced first-hand the remarkable and liberating elation we all feel when we finally face and acknowledge what we have spent years burying.
This lady taught me a valuable lesson and I hope I have passed it on to you.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.