Ninety in ninety. That’s what my friend—I’ll call him Gary—had just accomplished a week earlier. Ninety AA meetings in ninety days. We sat in a coffee shop last night and I heard his story.
There are a thousand ways to be a drunk, but one outcome. You can’t stop drinking even though it’s killing you and ruining everything you love. The worse Gary felt about himself, the more he drank, until one night he went out with clients after work—and ended up lurching through the front door at 6 AM. His wife had run out of patience, out of love. Gary summed it up in the words of Step One of the Twelve Steps: “‘I was powerless over my addiction—my life had become unmanageable’—that was me. I finally saw it.”
He made the bold move of checking himself into a thirty-day treatment program in Arizona. When he came home, thirty days clean and sober, he committed to the standard “90 in 90.” It was day 97 when we met for coffee.
“It’s like night and day,” Gary said. “My whole life is changed. My marriage is coming back from the brink, the tension in the home is gone, the kids aren’t dumb—they know Dad’s changed, something’s different. I’m just present to them in a way I just wasn’t.”
I asked how he was taking care of himself, maintaining his sobriety. “I make time for the meetings—that’s what inspires me every day,” Gary said. “I meditate for fifteen minutes on the train in the morning—crazy! I’d never do that before. But it centers me. When I get to the office, first thing I read a daily inspiration from Hazelton. It just puts me in the right frame of mind for the day.”
“And I pray. Never really did that, but now I pray. I’ve got a lot of resentment—people who’ve hurt me, cut me. So now I pray for the people I’m resentful and angry toward. I pray in the shower, actually. After I’m done showering, I kneel down. I kneel down. Right there in the shower. It changes my prayer, to be on my knees. I feel it.”
Why is it that the people who make my jaw drop in awe and admiration are drunks like Gary? How come the people who have the most incredible spiritual lives are the ones who have descended into hell? I don’t know, but the paradox is so thick you could cut it with a cleaver. Only the people who go down rise up. Only the humbled are exalted. Only the screw-ups reign.
When we left the coffee shop I asked Gary if I could tell a little of his story, and he was pleased that someone might hear it and join him on his knees.