It was quite possibly the longest, most awkward car ride either of them had ever endured. Pastor Kent drove him home from the conference and used it as an opportunity to voice, loudly and repeatedly, his overwhelming sense of disappointment, hurt, humiliation, betrayal and just plain mess. Now, his would be the role of fielding nosy calls, inquiring as to the dramatic change in the music minister or “something I just heard.” His would be the task of chairing those ever-so-delightful follow up meetings with the church board at which his plan for healing and reconciliation would be mapped out. His would be the unwelcome experience of eating crow in the face of board members who were among those who voted not to hire him in the first place.
His anger was ripe, raw and very real. But, his victim willingly succumbed to the verbal whipping since he had already experienced life-changing realities too big to ignore; too broad to dampen his spirit. First of all, he still had a job. In spite of everything, he was returning to a place to call his own where he could begin working out the kinks of his new found sobriety. In community. With a paycheque. Secondly, for the first time in decades he had (re)discovered that he was actually gifted in his calling and that emotional resources already placed there by God were available on demand, without the added measure of drowning his desperation in drunkenness.
Like a heavy coagulation of rancid oatmeal, one thought remained in his psyche, however. He already knew to what he was returning. He was much less certain to whom. Would his wife and boys still be there? Had they chosen to jump ship, cut their losses and move back to Canada? Would he ever have opportunity to tell them of his first triumphant, alcohol free weekend? If so, would it make any difference this late in the game?
Though it was true that his situation hosted a complex set of factors that had contributed to his behavior over the years, insofar as the family was concerned, some key choices needed to be made. His lover had been the bottle, not her. His children had pop-tops and came in packs of six. His home was delirium and euphoria, not the cozy Oregon rancher that housed them all.
Her weekend journey had been anything but smooth or simple. There had been some resolution however to the gnawing questions she still harbored about their present situation. Although their lives outwardly were shrapnel, in order to have at least some peace of mind, she took Judy’s advice and drew up a family contract for him to read and sign when he got home. The gist of it was simple. He could stay with the simple proviso that he must sign the contract stating his intention to change lovers. If he decided that alcohol would not be his mistress and willingly pursued every lifeline already tossed to him by family, colleagues and friends, then there was still a place for him. If not, then not. He would lose everything, including custody of their boys.
To the uninitiated it might sound harsh. To the ears of a broken man whose feet still had the smell of prodigal pig shit on them, it was a symphony of grace beyond all reckoning. That day was Sunday, October 20th, 2002. It was the beginning of the end of the beginning. There are no old beginnings. Only new ones.
Today, slightly more than twenty years later, that man sits in sobriety before his laptop sharing a tale that never gets easier with the telling. He has never had a drop of alcohol since that hideous week, the week he almost lost everything. Instead, he gained the whole world.
And the world tastes good…
Hi, I’m Rob and I’m an alcoholic.