Hi, my name is Neil.”
This is how every meeting of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) begins. Neil is a long-time local resident and this is his story. “Every day is a miracle”, as far as he is concerned.
“I’ve gone through two heart attacks and a bypass operation” ... he exclaims with his
trademark broad smile; and with a twinkle in his eye he adds … “I shouldn’t be living!”
Much more than this, his spiritual journey has fashioned a philosophy of life that has been
hard won. As a man who admittedly had taken to the bottle early, at age 15, it’s clear that
those same bight eyes have seen some sad times.
As the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, he came to his habit honestly enough, as nine
of his 10 siblings followed his father’s example of drunken excess (his mother having never
taken a drop). “I regret my father’s dying before his ever finding sobriety.” Neil laments
of his father’s never knowing true serenity or peace.
His own breakthrough came after being on yet another binge one night and looking into a
bathroom mirror, he didn’t know … actually didn’t recognize … his own image.
As the events of his life, with its chronicles of wasted time, paraded through his memory;
he was struck by a sudden realization – that booze was a poor cover up for an
underlying problem which had lain hidden within him for years. As tears filled his eyes in
this moment of despair, a calm and reassuring voice consoled him saying, “Neil, it’s going to
be alright.” Fortunately for him, he believed it. It was the beginning of the end of what his life had been,
up to that point. Not unlike the lyrics to the Michael Jackson hit song
“Man In the Mirror“, it was time for a change.
If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change
Today, he attributes his happy and purposeful life to “Divine intervention” – as a
justification for his being sober these past 26 years. Neil then shared some of the 12
steps of the AA program – that eventually led to his recovery. (www.aa.org)
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We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Quitting always seemed easy to Neil, except …“After being sober for over twelve years, I
picked up a drink one night and never put it down for 3 years.”
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is trying to get a different result by doing
the same thing. It was obvious to Neil that a new approach was needed. “The quitting part
was easy; it was the staying quit that was hard.”
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
In this he found acceptance and the wonderful feeling that he wasn’t alone. “Every time I
tried to take control, I’d screw up.”
Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.
People ask me if it bothers me that others drink in my presence. I tell them it doesn’t.
They don’t know what it’s like waking up in a corn field, not knowing how you got there;
almost getting run over, after passing out in a parking lot; a few nights spent in jail (for his
own safety); or waking up face down in a toilet. No one in their right mind would want to
return to that.”
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
That this interview was done at all, is owed to the courage of a man who is happy to share
his life story, if it can help someone else ... a sort of ‘pay it forward’ … one day at a time.
And the pay off? Now semi-retired, Neil, with that same bright smile, revealed the
reasons for that twinkle in his eyes. “Are you kidding? I now get to spend whole days with
my grand children! Life doesn’t get any better than this!”
As I put down my pen, the words and spirit of a classic Beatles tune comes to mind. I guess
“All you need is Love”, is true after all – here, there and everywhere.