Twelfth Stepping

Yesterday I was working on something in the garage and I figured if I got going with my typical errands I could get to Frank H.’s house in Haverhill and take him to the Noon meeting listed for the Congregational Church on Main Street.  It’s really a pretty long ride and I wasn’t highly motivated.  I started calling him, but he didn’t answer.  I assumed he was “sleeping off” the evening before, despite having just returned from the local hospital where he apparently took himself on foot in the middle of the DTs.  It was a beautiful day and the ride south on NH 119 to MA 31 to his house is a very pretty drive.  For some reason I was determined to go to his home and roust him out despite several calls that yielded no response.  I figured I’d go to the meeting anyway.  I had just been talking with Charlie M. about our abortive trip to MA Correctional Institution, Shirley, where we couldn’t even get in because our incarcerated friend, recovering alcoholic and prisoner, had other visitors and we didn’t understand the visiting protocols.  We were standing in the parking lot and Charlie was feeling sheepish and I said it didn’t matter because we mostly tried to visit Bob for ourselves and he had said he didn’t get that, didn’t understand the concept, at the time.  And I knew going to try and help Frank was really for me and about my sobriety and if I could help him that would be terrific.  I finally got Frank on the phone and told him to get his shorts on we were going to a meeting and he mumbled something about a commitment he had, and I said when, and then he said OK he’d get cleaned up.  I arrived shortly thereafter to his mansion on a hill overlooking the depressed city of Haverhill and walked in his front door and he yelled he’d be down in five minutes.  It’s a palatial older home, formerly owned by some mill owner when Haverhill was in its heyday of factory operation in the late nineteenth century.  So I sat in the vestibule which is bigger than most people’s living rooms, with a floor to ceiling mirror, great woodwork and window detail, surrounded by some of the detritus of a contemporary life, some type of exercise machine, several baseball caps, a book here and there and an upright piano w a play by the colors music book on the stand.  It’s a comfortable home.  There’s a big three car detached garage, really a coach house, with an apartment Frank rents, a pool out back and lots of interesting stone work in the landscape.   Frank’s a dentist, owns his office building and is trying to sell his practice.  He has a troubled relationship w Carol.  He drives a Jaguar with an alcohol breath-alyzer interlock from his recent 2nd or 3rd OUI conviction.  He’s had a lot of physical medicine problems in the recent past including a back problem for which he is prescribed Vicodan.  Recently, when he tried to detox himself w Ativan before literally walking to the hospital during the DTs he was doing the Ativan, the Vicodan, and drinking.  He came down the stairs looking very red and somewhat cadaverous, he’s about 6’3,”grabbed a baseball cap and we took off after he grabbed a Gatorade which he drank like the dehydrated alcoholic he is.  As it happens the meetings is about a mile from his house and we could have walked if he was in better shape.  The meeting is every Mon-Fri. and I think Frank knows the meeting is there, but stays away from the help it offers, like a good active alcoholic.  The meeting was particularly good.  The room had high ceilings and was clean and welcoming.  The typical slogans “Don’t drink.” But for the grace of God.” and a good series of pre-speaker readings, the Promises, the acceptance passage from the Big Book, “How it works.” and they passed around Daily Reflections for people to read during the meeting, somewhat novel to me.  When Frank passed it to me without really understanding what to do with it, I read the days meditation and passed it back to him forcing him to get out his glasses and read it.  The speaker was excellent for me.  Nine months sober, about 50, began drinking in the Marines, spent 8 years in Arizona prisons, lots of drinking and drugging losses, struggling in a drunken fog to raise three children in L.A. after his wife left.  Relating that he used w his oldest son who was now sober and clean and had invited him to come to this area.  He was now living in a veteran’s shelter and deeply involved in A.A.  His main challenge at the moment was finding an apartment, but his felony background made that difficult.  He had just left a place where they were going to check his record and he said he had some acceptance of whatever the outcome might be.  He said acceptance and the Promises were what sustained him at the moment, that and daily A.A. and working the steps with his sponsor.  The discussion started out around the barriers that the wreckage of the past creates in our lives and continued in that vein.  I was quite moved by the speaker’s apparent sincerity and the awful circumstances of his life.  He said he loved the Promises so at the end of the meeting I gave him on of my little credit card sized cards with the Promises on it Frank and I walked to my car, he somewhat unsteadily.  He noted that he had some paper work to do and then he hoped to play golf at three p.m.  I asked if he wanted to grab a sandwich, but he said no, he had those things to do before he tried to play golf.  In his condition if he could walk or even ride a couple of holes or swing a club, I’d be surprised.  I don’t really know what was on his mind, but the mind of the active alcoholic is always consumed thinking about drinking and drugging.  He said as we parted that he’d go back to that meeting.  I hoped so.  As I left the confines of gritty Haverhill and drove through rural Amesbury and through the even more rural area north, I felt buoyant and happy.  This is what we do in A.A.  We can’t know the effect, except on ourselves and I was gratefully sober for another day.      
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