“I never met an alcoholic beverage I didn’t like.”
That’s the way I’ve started this essay a million times. But from there, I’ve never been able to finish it in a way that pleased me. I tried another time for this week’s posting and still didn’t get what I wanted and I really want to get these feelings translated to words because today I celebrate fifteen years of sobriety.
At least, that’s what I think. As you might expect, things around that time are a little fuzzy. My last drink was either champagne or a margarita. I like to think I went out with a bang of champagne, which would have been a wedding reception held on Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend in 1994. Or, more probably, it was Monday when I was at a friend’s house. I just can’t remember if the Monday Margarita was before or after the Saturday Champagne. What I think happened was that I had the champagne then went home to drink everything I had left in the house. Then, after the margarita at the friend’s house, when I got home there was nothing left in the kitchen cabinets and I found myself checking the same empty cabinets over and over on the chance that something magical produced a bottle I somehow missed at the first glance. That’s when I realized I had a tiny little problem and I couldn’t ignore it any longer.
I was already in therapy with a very wise woman who let me take the time to figure it out for myself. So when I finally couldn’t ignore it any longer, on May 28, 1994, I quit drinking. I haven’t had a drop since unless you count Eucharist at a couple of Episcopalian funerals I’ve been to since then.
Technically, today’s not my anniversary but it’s the day I’m celebrating it by going over to the drug and alcohol rehab center and fixing them dinner. I go to a bible study every Monday with the eight ladies who stay there for six months at a time. A lot of them are there for alcoholism but also many have drug problems including crack and meth. Once in a while a lady will miss bible study for a court date. For several of them, the rehab center is their last hope before receiving a prison sentence. More than one has had her children taken away from her. So, we’ve gotten to know each other pretty good and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to cook them the most sumptuous feast I can prepare for them. Three desserts, for sure.
Someday I will get the words to line up and will write more about my lost lover, booze. But I have so many other fun things to write about today that I’ll just put that back on the back burner for now.
What I really wanted to tell you today was what happened in church on Sunday.
We bill our early service as “Alternative.” I’m not sure what that means but it’s more contemporary and imaginative. We are trying just about every new way to worship God that we can think of and having a wonderful time doing it. One of the newest things we’re trying is a service of “healing and wholeness” on the third Sunday of the month. For this, you kneel and the minister anoints your forehead with oil and offers a short prayer for your “healing and wholeness.” And we always have communion at our early service, too. Plus, instead of taking up an offering we just put a basket at the front so you can drop it in when you come for communion. This makes our chancel a little busy on the third Sunday. You have three different things you can do and in no certain order. Offering, Communion, Annointing.
Just as I went up for communion Sunday I saw Heather Williamsen who had been our pastor intern three years ago when she was still in Seminary. She had come back to Texas for the long weekend and brought her new baby to show us. I snatched up the baby immediately. Just to help Heather out, you know, so she and her husband didn’t have to juggle Katelyn and communion.
Every baby is beautiful but I have to say this baby had the most perfect features I’ve ever seen. She took only a few seconds to settle into my arms and let the warmth return to her back before she relaxed there in my arms. She and I just stared at each other until the service was over. She has the tiniest little mouth and tongue. I stuck out my tongue and she imitated me. All the little face games you play with babies came back to me and we played them all.
When worship was over I realized I never made it up to the chancel for the healing and anointing but I knew I didn’t need it; I had a better deal there in the pew. There is nothing in the world more healing than holding a baby.
This weekend my ten-year old granddaughter, Sarah, and I slept outside in the tent together. We laid there and listened to all the different night sounds and I told her about holding Katelyn and when I used to hold her when she was that age.
Whenever I hold a newborn baby I have the strongest urge to ask them about heaven. I figure they have just come from there and might remember what it’s like. If only babies could talk, they could tell us all about heaven and what God is like.
Then Sarah startled me by saying in an off-handed way that she used to be able to hear God talking to her when she was a baby. And when she told me this she had a confidence in her voice that I seldom hear from Sarah. I asked her what God said. She said God told her, “It’s OK. I’m here with you.” She said she doesn’t hear God that way anymore but it helps her when she remembers it.
Give yourself a minute to think about that one. Is it possible that we have all heard this voice but lost it as we got older? Maybe we can never get this ability back but we can try to remember what it was like. I think it’s worth a shot.