Saturday, December 22, 2007

What Kind of Lonely


My son, Keith brought some groceries tonight, and when he left me, I was lonelier than I had been since just after Betts removed to the True World.

A painful, shuddering moment of emptiness---was it mixed with a sort of worthlessness ?---spread through me.

I longed for something, urgently, actually, sorrowfully. In my octogenarian confusion, I could not get a handle on what was displacing the optimism of “Absolute Confidence” that I usually feel, deeply and exhibit without embarrassment.

Ah! That was it! My favorite page in “God Calling”, where the two British ladies, starving in a bombed-out flat announced, amid an air raid: “God values one thing much more than all praise, song and attempts at Piety, and it is Absolute Confidence !”

I first saw those words in a small book in a twelve step meeting room. That ended my confusion and explained the interruption of my self-pitying lurch.

I was not “lonely”. I was sinfully afloat in Grand Envy.

Keith couldn’t stay and joke or chat or gossip. He had to go meet Joe immediately. Joe had a close friend who had a bad liver when he advanced into sober recovery.

Now Joe’s friend was bleeding...hemorrhaging..from his backsides. The man needed Joe. Joe needed Keith. Together, the three of them could conquer...what? Probably not pancreatitis, probably not cancer or permutations of a liver transplant.

But they could battle and subdue fear, despair, self-hatred, needless remorse and shame. They could battle the Devil and his Demons, and win. Yes, actually win.

THAT was what I missed. That was the hateful envy that blacked me out.

For 31 years, day and night any and every hour of every day, that’s what
Betts and I did, and Keith could still do it.

When one survives being addicted to some ingestion that promises “painless” existence or “tranquility”...that one recovers and actually replaces the addiction to mind killers with an addiction to bad smells, screaming fits, crying jags, vomit, diarrhea, convulsions and hallucinations.

Those beautiful things are missing from my life. Other than my dreams of my Betts, they are the only provocateurs of wistful longing.

Two things I remember that characterize my transcendental and redemptive addiction to the chronically “Lost Ones”.

They may seem self laudatory. But God knows, nothing could be farther from the truth.

I was sitting in a shack near the Turtle River in the outskirts of Brunswick, talking to Hal D.’s wife, watching him in his skiff, down at the water’s edge.

“He’s drinking again, Mrs. D”, I murmured. “We call it relapse. I need to get him around the Group. I’ll take him to a meeting...Ride .around before..Maybe eat something. Look! See? He’s hid a vodka bottle in the boat...”

“Them meetins ain’t done him no good,” she stomped her foot, eyeing Hal as he tipped the jug. “He stays okay for a month or so, then its worse...What HE needs is some bitch’s milk !!”

“Whaaaaa???” with wide open mouth.

“Duh Witchwoman uver there”, she pointed her shoulder at a mouldering ruin of a mobile home across the street. “She squeezed some milk from the teat of an ol’ bitch under her floor. I got it right here, see?” And she pushed a medicine bottle at me.

“I’m gone pour this in his vodka bottle. THAT’ll fix his ass. That’ll CURE him. You never mind. Jus’ go on, now an ‘ I’ll tend to it.....”

I mourned to Ruth, my sponsor. She laughed:

“Just go on, SweePea,” she said, “he kept you sober for nine months !”

Next time I saw Hal, two years after I had moved to Florida from Glynn County, he was laughing it up at my old meeting at the small Episcopal church.
on Altama.

“Why, Hal’s sober!” I said to Ruth. “Damn! He was supposed to be MINE!”

“He’s Ours”, she smiled and drilled me with those steely blue eyes.

The other story is about an old fellow named Doc who rode a bicycle all over Baker County, Florida and fell off quite occasionally. The very last time he was dismounted by a huge crape myrtle bush, I took him to Detox in Jacksonville and then to a residential recovery center.

We were waiting outside the admissions office for quite a while. I joked and talked to him, and tried to allay his fears. Finally, we got the paperwork done, and they had someone come up to take him to his room.

Before he went on his way, I removed his baseball cap and smooched him on his fuzzy bald head. It was a green John Deere cap, I remember now.

Doc never drank again, and he did more good with his parading, pioneering bicycle, in the next few years than all the preachers in Baker County. And, Baker County has the highest per-capita ratio-concentration of preachers of any governmental sub-unit in this country.

But the most amazing thing that happened is that the former Vietnam Gunnery sergeant with a Master’s degree who ran the residential center called me and offered me a job as a counselor.

That led me to a Master’s degree of my own and two decades of immersion in the lives of afflicted families. I had the best partner and the best therapist I ever could have dreamed of, too: Betts.

“But, why?!”, I asked the former Gunny as we ate Rocky Road ice cream after work, and after a meeting one night. “Why did you offer me that job ?”

“Well,” Brad said, “I had heard all this stuff about LOVING drunks sober...about loving them and teaching families how to love again.” He paused and looked at me with a firm and faraway look, but looking in my eyes, and said: “When you kissed that smelly old man on the head outside my office, well...I knew I had my hands on at least ONE fellow who loved drunks....”

So, sue me. That’s where my sinful envy lies. I can’t see. I can’t hear. That’s a great boon, most of the time. I miss a lot of evil, rotten, and poorly produced television.

But I will find a way . I am addicted, you see.

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