This past week I’ve had the pleasure of watching Becca, an alcoholic friend, finally seem to find her bearings in recovery. After a horrific months-long relapse, she recently emerged from treatment with new tools, a fresh perspective, and her sanity restored.
Unable to return home, Becca found a sober house she’d already been kicked out of once that was willing to give her a second chance. She assured me that she was ready to do the hard work it would take to get back her life—and especially her children.
Wednesday night, we invited her over for salmon dinner, along with my son Noah and my mom. Becca clearly enjoyed herself, even stayed for a walk in the neighborhood, followed by pie. After she left, I told Dave, “I have more hope for her now than ever before.”
But an hour later my cell phone rang. It was the sober house manager telling me that Becca had just showed up impaired. She was being kicked out. Right now. She could pick up her stuff tomorrow.
Baffled beyond words, I drove over. Sure enough, Becca wasn’t sober. She got in my car and I gave her a piece of my mind while she wept into her hands. Since it was too late to do anything else, I took her home, explaining that she’d have to leave in the morning. “Then you can go to a motel and keep drinking,” I told her.
I felt stupid for having had hope.
The next morning began with a hard conversation over coffee, Becca still wearing the striped pajamas I’d loaned her. When she said she wanted to start over and could we pray, a part of me balked. Just the day before we’d gotten on our knees in my living room so that she could turn her life over to God. What was the point?
Still, I got on my knees with her in the same stupid spot. And then Becca started praying the same recovery prayer–except it was not. The words were the same, but this time she prayed them like she was drowning and they were air. And she didn’t stop there. Sobbing, she went on and begged to God to save her in a way that came straight from her soul.
Watching my friend wail and keen for the next ten minutes took me back to that morning in March of 2007 when I did much the same. I had no idea then that I was making my surrender, or that my entire recovery would one day rest on what happened there.
In the 1950s, a pioneer in addiction treatment named Dr. Harry Tiebout wanted to understand what separated patients who recovered from those who didn’t. He observed that patients who got well all seemed to share a common spiritual experience, a turning point when, “something happened” that could best be described as surrender.
It’s too soon, and not my place, to say whether Becca has experienced this miracle. But something happened. And last night, for the first time ever, despite her long-time fear of ending up there, she slept in a homeless shelter—versus a motel where she might be tempted to drink.
Before she left my house, she asked me to pray. And as I watched her go, I thought I saw a white flag waving and God rushing out to meet her.
Do you have a story about a time when you desperately wanted to surrender–but couldn’t quite make it happen? How do you explain that?
P.S. “‘Becca” gave me permission to write about her here.