Grace, Continued

by Kathleen C

One morning I was lying in bed. I was hungover. Yeah, I’m a morning person: I could wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning and have a joint. My sister and I were talking about this, “How is that possible?” I felt it mellowed me. Hungover I was grumpy. So it’s morning and these two bright-eyed little two-year-olds come bounding into the bedroom. They start jumping on the bed as if it’s a trampoline. One of them landed on my stomach, really hard and she hurt me.

I didn’t think, I acted. This was a visceral reaction to getting my stomach jumped on. I pick her up, I’m lying down so I pick her up, and I threw her on the floor. The floor was carpeted, I hope she wasn’t hurt. Honestly I don’t remember. I don’t remember if she cried. I don’t remember what I did, if I hugged her or comforted her or what. I will remember forever the look on her face when she realized what I was about to do.

It really was something that I was aware of for years afterwards, because I figured she had realized, “Don’t make mommy mad. Whatever you do don’t make mommy mad. If she’s not brushing your hair the way you like it, don’t make her mad, just do it yourself.” My daughters say they don’t remember these things. I remember. I will always remember.

Don’t make mommy mad. Whatever you do, don’t make mommy mad

Funny how mornings are just not that great for us alcoholics. My other daughter wanted to go to the park. I didn’t feel like getting it together to take her there. Her sister was still asleep, she was in her little fuzzy pink pajamas with feet, those kinds of things. I said, “Why don’t we just go out in front of the house?” It was sunny on the sidewalk, there was a little picket fence and I said, “Let’s just go outside.” Maybe that would get it out of her system.

We were standing out there on the sidewalk and the phone rings in the house. The phone’s hanging in the kitchen, it’s right inside the front doorway. I said, “Stay right there, honey.” She’s standing there, she’s holding a cloth diaper that was her security blanket, sucking her thumb. I’m like, “Just stay right there honey, I’ll be right back.” I run up the stairs, I answer the phone. I space out. I forget about her. I don’t know how long I talked, 15 minutes, 20 minutes. I hung up the phone and I realized, “Oh my God, she’s still out there on the sidewalk.” Except she wasn’t.

All that was there was her little cloth diaper hung neatly across the picket fence. I went nuts. I started screaming, assuming she’d been kidnapped. I’m running up and down the street. One of my neighbors came out and she took charge. She said, “Okay, you go down to that end of the block, I’ll go down to this end of the block.” Where we lived then, and I still live now, is Bernal Heights. The park she had been talking about was Rolph Park. We were on the other side of what was then Army Street, now called Cesar Chavez. My neighbor found her standing at the southbound on-ramp for the 101 freeway, looking across four lanes of traffic at the park across the street.

My neighbor found her standing, looking across four lanes of traffic at the park across the street

That didn’t get me sober. That didn’t. We are immune to self-realization. Not good. Sorry, I just gave you horrendous drunkologue and no sobriety. My sister had gotten sober, she started taking me to meetings down in LA where she lives, saying we’d see movie stars. We did. I also saw her life and how it changed. She dragged me to meetings. Forget attraction rather than promotion. She said, “If you don’t stop drinking you’re going to die,” which was true. She said, “If it was the only thing left in the world would you abuse it?” I realized, if there was nothing left but alcohol of course I’d abuse it. I was still abusing it, I just wasn’t acknowledging that fact.

I started going to Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings, which I did for about a year and a half and I worked the steps in that program. Then I decided to check into Alcoholics Anonymous. I started going to the Potrero Hill Big Book meeting. My sobriety date by the way is September 11th, 1986, which is my sister Carolyn’s birthday. I won’t say which one. I started going to the Potrero Hill Big Book meeting, eight o’clock, Monday nights. I got my sponsor, Bonnie, and she worked the steps with me very patiently. I went to that one meeting for five years. I was just going to do the minimum.

Half the time when I’d say I was an alcoholic I had my fingers crossed behind my back. It was really hard for me to do that First Step, say, “Yes, you’re just an alcoholic.” Eventually at five years I went to a conference with Carolyn in Southern California. I shared that the extent of my program was the one meeting a week, sometimes commitments. Yes I had worked the steps, but I wasn’t sponsoring anybody. Nobody wanted what I had.

A woman came up to me afterwards. This is something really important in AA: we reach out to people. She said, “You’re going to drink.” She said, “There’s no standing still in this program. If you’re not moving forward you’re sliding back. You’re going to drink.” That is what made me start going to more meetings. I started going to the Tuesday noon meeting in Civic Center, where I met Patricia. That also got me started going to meetings in West Marin, where I didn’t realize there were alcoholics. Surprise. I met all the wonderful people that I’ve met out in West Marin, which completely changed my relationship to that community, because all of a sudden I knew people in a real way. (To Be Continued)

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