One of the aspects of being in Iraq that helped immeasurably with just being over there was the fact that I was constantly bumping into Soldiers (and others) who were sober in Alcoholics Anonymous or who went to Al-Anon or other 12-Step meetings. At times in my life I've seemed to be a magnet for such folks.
In fact, at one point, one of the criticisms leveled against me by one of the members of my religious community was that I "attracted stray dogs with torn ears" -- presumably referring to the inevitable circle of friends I'd develop, all of whom were members of some 12-Step recovery program or other.
There's just *something* about those people.
In any event, over the past couple of days I've had three different individuals come to my office to talk about the problems that drinking has caused in their lives, and either what they're already doing about that, or to say that they're looking for suggestions as to what to do about it.
For whatever reason, I come alive in those situations.
Perhaps because of my seasonal affective disorder, or the fact that it was actually getting pretty nice outside and now it's back to being snowy and cold, or perhaps because I've been away from home for nigh onto too long at this point (21 months now) and won't be getting leave before I return in five months' time, I've been grumpy and more curmudgeonly than usual over the past two days.
But talking with those individuals who shared their experience, strength, and hope with me -- and who allowed me to share mine with them -- really brightened my affect and restored a sense of spiritual equilibrium to my worldview.
(I *was* going to use the word Weltanschauung, but decided against it because some people (presumably the ones who get 'confused' that this is not an "official" Army site) have accused me of using a vocabulary that's too erudite and intentionally obfuscatory....)
It's especially heartening to meet young people who have "had it" with the way their life is going, and want something better for themselves. One of my friends who goes to a lot of AA and Al-Anon meetings once said to me, à propos of having gotten sober at a young age, "I hit bottom when I put down the shovel and stopped digging."
He's in his forties now, and has been sober for more than a quarter-century already.
My friend Susan R (a hopeless alcoholic who's been sober for more than 30 years now, because she goes to a lot of AA and Al-Anon meetings) sent me some pocket-sized editions of the AA "Big Book" to give out to Soldiers, should any come looking for such. I gave out two of them this week alone.
And since I figured if I was going to be giving out Bibles to Soldiers, I ought to have read it (I already had, and continue to do so), so also if I'm going to be giving out the "Big Book," I'd better have read it, too. And that's what I've done, as well.
There's some awfully quaint language and rather idiosyncratic idiomatic expressions in that text! But by knowing what's in it, I'm able to point out certain passages that could prove helpful to someone who's not already familiar with the book. (This works with the Bible, too, in my experience!)
One of the guys who recently came to see me is just a bit younger now than I was when I stopped drinking over thirty years ago. His eyes got really big as I shared some of my history with him, and he kept nodding his head. At one point he said, "I've been going to talk with somebody across the street once a week for a while now, but I've never felt like *this* when talking with *him*."
I encouraged him to keep going to talk with that guy, and to take what he needs and leave the rest. I also encouraged him to consider meeting the others here on Post who are starting a small AA meeting, because he might just find that sharing experience, strength, and hope with them will not only enable him to stay sober, but also might just allow him to get what he needs from talking with the guy across the street.
Whatever else may be true, none of us ever has to go back to the way things were, one day at a time.
As my friend Susan R has said to me often over the last twenty years that we've known each other, "God is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves."
Blessings and peace to one and all,
Fr. Tim, SJ