Tuesday, February 03, 2009


I saw the problems long before you did, and
Mentioned, before our parting, that if ever you
Saw them, to give me a call. "I've stayed sober
Half my life; I don't have those problems now, my friend."

Years later, you phoned: "Tim, I'm in trouble. Big
Trouble." My heart, having ached dully for all those
Days as I watched you foundering, broke. “Don’t drink
Anything else," I said. “Go to a meeting now,

And sign yourself in to the rehab program
First thing in the morning. If they force you in, you're
Out; but if self-referred, you've got a chance to
Stay." You listened and went, much to my great relief.

'Ego deflation at depth' is what my friends
Who go to a lot of meetings call it, I think.
Facing truly insurmountable odds, you
Didn't drink, you went to meetings, you lived sober.

And it worked.

You stayed sober through adversity upon
Adversity. And you thrived in your profession,
And you made good friends; you came alive inside.
It was a delight to share, even from across

The continent. Even all those mornings you
Called at 4 a.m. my time! Especially those
Times one of us flew cross-country to be with
The other, to give voice to our experience,

Strength, and hope in the midst of others trying
To do the same: Not only just not to drink, one
Day at a time, but really to live joyous,
Raucous, spirited lives by being of service

To both newcomers and old-timers, like us.
But as the days became months and years, you became
Too busy for meetings and too different
From your good friends. And the ache in my heart returned,

Once again,

Beat by beat intensifying, as I watched
From afar. "Let go and let God" my Al-Anon-
Going friends breathed to me. "'Messiah' is not
Part of *your* job description, Pal," they say gently.

The ache grows as the psychic distance lengthens.
You tell me, finally, "I've been drinking six times
Since you left for Iraq, but I'm still working
Steps." "No," I reply, "you're not. Not if you're drinking

Once a month without going to meetings." (You're
keeping *me* sober, though.) Now you tell me that you've
'Grown up'. That you can 'handle it'. That you're now
'Different'. That you want to be honest with me

About this. I'm grateful for the honesty,
My friend, but I fear you're setting yourself up for
Pain beyond your imagining. And my heart
Shatters into a billion pieces yet again.

It does that.

I held Brian as he breathed his last breath, and
Was blinded by grief for months. And I watched Saffar,
Ever the RANGER, fight valiantly to
The end. My love could not even save TJ, my

Own brother. I hate this thing, powerlessness,
That my friends who go to meetings talk about. I
Just hate it that my love cannot save the ones
I love. I hate that sometimes my love can't even

Help them at all. Once again I see one whom
I love changing in ways that inspire fear in me,
And in our friends. I see you choose freely to
Return to the path that brought you destruction and

Shame and pain. Today, though, I can still love you
As you are, drinking, because I've become empowered,
-- Like so many others -- in the midst of all
My powerlessnesses, by Love and Hope: in short,

By the God

Who’s my Higher Power. So I surrender
Myself -- and you -- into those loving but pierced arms,
And I put on my uniform one more time,
To go about my day trying to serve others.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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