by John W
Proud of the fact that I had been born in San Francisco, it cut deep when my soon-to-be ex-wife’s pulmonary problems caused us to move to Marin County. Our growing family now numbered three, all under age eight. The ravages of my problems with alcohol moved with us.
The office where my thriving business continued to grow stayed behind, requiring a daily commute. Two prior premarital DUIs, over ten years apart, had caused me to learn how to better control my drinking so it would no longer obviously affect my driving. Despite my arrests, the concept of not driving when I had been drinking was lost on me. I found a local spot over the bridge where I could drink but avoid contact with the law. I had no concern for innocent bystanders I might hurt. I was sure I would drive well.
My concern was to not get caught
My concern was to not get caught — I was a selfish drunk. My veneer was that of a well-educated, respected, professional, father of three – but on the inside, in the marrow of my bones, I was selfish, plain and simple.
After the successful change of location to Mill Valley, with the perfect watering hole located a short drive up an easy mountain road, life could not have been better. Or so I thought. But the drinking I believed was having an effect only on me, was tearing my family apart. Even though I had finally gotten sober, after months of daily 7:00 a.m. meetings and despite the evening blackouts, the kick-out order was on its way from the Marin Family Law Court. I had no friends. Without the booze to take the edge off I was itchingly restless, irritable, and very discontent. The folks that had what I wanted, beating their disease one day at a time, said “Keep coming back” and “Don’t quit before the miracle.” The timing was what kept me sober through the tsunami that was coming.
I was aware of the history of the west side of Sausalito. Marin Ship [Bechtel’s shipbuilding company] had been hastily built during World War II. Marin City was constructed to provide housing for the needed workers. Over 4.5 million Americans journeyed to the shipyards for the war effort. Many arrived from the Deep South, laborers looking for a chance to work alongside of many a Rosie doing her riveting. When the war ended, a final bullet casualty was Marin Ship, which closed entirely within weeks. Thousands of people were left unemployed overnight in the neighborhood dependent upon the shipyard for wages.
The night in question started like so many before. I had attended my morning meeting, and the 4:30 p.m. at Marina Dock on the way home had helped, but as I crossed the bridge I was getting thirsty. You know what I mean. Desperately I scanned the meeting schedule and found “Marin City 6:30 – 6 Nights a Week.” I drove off the freeway like normal, but turned left to the meeting instead of turning right to the bar.
It took some effort to find the classroom where the meeting was. I knew not a soul, but I felt welcome before I could find a seat. Everyone was laughing and joking with each other and their attitude was contagious. When a single mom told my story, I came to believe. She told us how she had drunk herself out of home and family. How through the program, working the steps, she had repaired those shattered relationships. While her husband was still a work in progress, her children had finally “come home to momma.”
Boy, did I need to hear about hope that night. When we talked after the meeting, she told me something I had heard before, but from her I heard it in a different, special way. She said, “Don’t drink. You go to the meetings. That thing with the kids will work out.” I never saw her again, despite getting to that meeting many times over the years. Yet I still hear her advice in my head and each time I feel the same hope from it. Though these family circumstances of mine are still a work in progress, the hope is not. It lives in the marrow in my bones with a belief that is vital to my successful day: my Higher Power will restore me to sanity. I have but to seek help.
Looking back, I now believe my HP sent that woman on just that day to Marin City so I could hear her advice, which I needed to hear to keep me out of the bar where I had been headed. The power of one drunk talking to another is the miracle of this A.A. program. After my breakthrough that night in Marin City, it became a night I never forgot.