One day at a time

If anyone is familiar with alcoholics anonymous, please excuse my made-up version of a meeting, I only have seen it in films .  This was inspired by the great Kris Krisofferson song “Sunday morning coming down” I always find it so sad.  Also, it will come in hady if I have any male characters in the book I intend to write some day soon LOL

One day at a time

The distant throb of drums slowly sank into his drink sodden brain.  “That little brat next door” he thought, “What did I do to deserve this”.  He dragged
his weary body off the bedraggled couch and tottered into the kitchen. Ignoring
the overflowing sink he half filled a grubby milk saucepan with water and set it on the grease encrusted stove.  “Another long day to live through, another day to find excuses for this aimless existence” he thought.  Over a cup of weak black coffee (forgot to shop for groceries again) he considered how to fill his day.  A day at the office was no longer an option; redundancy eight months ago had put a stop to that.  Too old, not able to keep up with the latest technology, too much young blood baying at your heels, what hope has a fifty year old got in this profit ridden Celtic tiger Ireland.

Jim had trouble remembering what day of the week it was most days, but strangely enough
dole day was always remembered straightaway, maybe it was the empty cupboards or more likely if he was perfectly honest, his need to refill his drink rack in the fridge.  The last couple of months had seen very little except beer in that same fridge.  When Madge took herself and his daughter off to start a new life in Manchester he really couldn’t blame her, by then he had found a new love at the bottom of a glass.  Every time he thought of them the pain returned and he reached for a drink.  Pretty soon everything was made
bearable by the use of alcohol; it became his crutch and his only friend.

.  Reaching down to pick his jacket off the hall floor, he found a couple of letters that had been pushed into the corner.  As usual there was a final demand, this time for rent.  The other  One was more interesting, it looked like a card.  Quickly tearing open the envelope he pulled out a birthday card.  A birthday card!! “Who’s birthday is it” he wondered.  “When was his?  Not this week anyway.”  Wracking his brain he remembered his birthday
had been ten days ago.  “Who would send this sad drunk a birthday card, and when did it arrive?”  Staring at the dedication on the inside of the card, he felt his eyes fill up and overflow.  Beth! It was from Beth, happy birthday Daddy, love from Beth.  This was on the hall floor  since—he scanned the postmark, looked like the seventh, what date is this? He eventually decided it had arrived eleven days ago.  What kind of father was he? A drunk, that’s what he was.  A lousy drunk! He cried bitter tears at the thought of his nine year old daughter writing out a birthday wish for the likes of him.  The rest of the day was spent in a drunken stupor in an attempt to dull thepain.

The alcohol did the job very well and after only a few days he was satisfied again with the new love of his life, the bottle. How many times before Madge left had he tried to give it up, he had really wanted to keep his family.  The constant rejection as he searched for work had worn away at his confidence as a man and it was easier to just give up and find solace in the drink.  Madge couldn’t cope with the ups and downs of his moods.  Throughout their married life he had rarely drank any alcohol at all, the occasional drink at weddings or funerals, preferring to spend his leisure at the theatre or cinema.

When Madge was forced to get a job to pay the bills he started on the slippery slope to hell, couldn’t get a job as a dog-catcher with the smell of drink on your breath.  They struggled along for two months trying to save their marriage, well Madge tried; he just hid in the boozy haze that was becoming more attractive to him as the weeks passed.  The final straw had come when Beth had cut herself in the school playground and needed hospital treatment.  He was in a drunken stupor and couldn’t be roused and nobody had a contact number for Madge.  When she came home from work and found Beth missing Madge went berserk.  As soon as the mess was sorted out she packed their bags and left him.

To tell the truth, he hardly missed them, it was so much easier to get drunk without accusing eyes on him.  The incident at the school had become common
knowledge and the neighbours had shunned him ever since, whoever heard of a
father getting drunk while in charge of an eight year old child.  He was a pariah in his street, people crossed roads when they saw him coming.  He came to terms with all this by drinking even earlier in the day; breakfast was now a couple of cans or a whiskey if he could afford it.  Nowadays he was oblivious to the sneering looks and had long since given up worrying about personal hygiene or making any effort to keep the house clean or tidy.

The days drifted by, each one melding in to another seamlessly.  The only change he ever
noticed was a lack of drink in the house.  One day as he made an emergency trip to the off licence, he was a witness to an accident involving a child about the same age as Beth.  As he watched the ambulance crew working to save her life, he felt the first touch of humanity he had felt in a long time.  He realised this could be happening to his own daughter in another country among strangers.  The remorse he felt was not enough to allow
him to forego the drink unfortunately, but it was a constant irritant at the
back of his mind for the rest of the day.

Next morning, as he was drinking his usual breakfast, he heard the rattle of the letter box.
Going into the hall, he saw that he had mail.  “Looks like another card” he thought.  This time the envelope was bright red.  Opening the envelope, he found not one, but two cards.  He sank down heavily on the hall stool when he saw that one of them was from Madge.  A Christmas greeting! He was amazed that she would send a Christmas greeting after everything he had put her through.  Hope you are well! She hopes he is well! She should really be wishing him dead.  The card from Beth was less surprising but just as heart-breaking.

He sat there for ages, thinking back over everything he had lost, wondering if he could ever drag himself back from the abyss of alcoholism.  He knew it would be hard, maybe impossible, he was already longing for the next drink.  Trying to take his mind away from the drink, he decided to take a walk.  He hadn’t gone very far when the bitter cold made him realise he was still wearing the same light jacket he had been wearing through the summer.  Looking around him he spotted the church.  This was the church he had attended with his family. Beth had been baptised and made her first communion there.  He had always imagined that some day he would walk her down the aisle of this very same church.

Entering .lthe front door, he sank down in a pew and buried his head in his hands.  “Oh! God, please help me get my life back, I can’t do it alone” he prayed.  He lost
track of time as he sat there sobbing out his grief for his lost family.  He felt a touch on his shoulder and looked up to see father Kelly standing by his side. “We are serving soup and sandwiches in the parish hall, you would be very welcome if you joined us Jim”.  He was amazed that the priest recognised him in his bedraggled state; he had taken so little pride in his appearance for so long.  Still cold from the journey here, the sound of soup suddenly sounded very inviting.  Following father Kelly across the small courtyard to the soup kitchen, he suddenly felt ashamed of his condition.  It was so long since he had felt such a human reaction that he was near to tears again.

Even though there were some people he knew slightly helping to serve the food, he didn’t feel as if they were judging him and he was made very welcome.  Sitting down at a table with a mug of soup, he didn’t feel up to the sandwiches, he noticed a young man sitting at the same table.  The youth smiled at him tentatively, “he looks as antisocial as I do” Jim thought.    Wondering what the boys story was, Jim realised this was the first thought outside of himself that had crossed his mind in months.  “What a self pitying
wreck I’ve turned into, how can I ever expect decent people to treat me with respect again” he thought.  Yet it was clear to him that the volunteers here treated everyone with respect.    Was there any chance at all he could make the long and difficult climb out of hell?

As soon as he could he made his escape, already thinking of the drink waiting for him
at home.  As he passed father Kelly the priest pushed a leaflet into his hand as he wished him well.  Stuffing the paper into his pocket, Jim hurried home to satisfy his need for a drink.

As he let himself into the freezing house, he wondered what had happened to the central heating.  Deciding to keep his coat on for a while, he went to the fridge for a drink.  As he bent down to get his can the paper fell out of his pocket.  Smoothing it out on the kitchen table he read the text.  NEED HELP WITH AN ALCOHOL DEPENDANCY PROBLEM?
WE ARE HERE FOR YOU.  The same hall that the soup kitchen occupied was the address for the alcoholics’ anonymous meetings. The desperate longing to be sober again went  through his gut, nearly overcoming his longing for a drink.  He gave in to his thirst, although for the rest of the evening he was troubled by memories of his happier family life and wishing for its return.

Lunch time next day, he made his way to the church hall again, needing the company to
keep his mind off the drink for an hour or so.  He had decided he would ask father Kelly to help him find a way to give up the booze.  He was disappointed to find the priest missing, but was made very welcome by the same volunteers from yesterday.  As he supped the hot soup, he studied his surroundings, noticing several posters advertising the various organisations that helped dead-beats like him.  One of them was a larger poster than the leaflet father Kelly had given him, but basically identical in content.  It announced that there was a meeting scheduled for this evening and all were welcome.

“Could he really give up the drink with their help?” he wondered.  Well he knew he certainly couldn’t without help, he would give it a try.   He spent the afternoon wandering the streets looking for diversions to keep his mind off the drink.  He discovered that the
Christmas shopping season was in full swing.  Everywhere he looked there were families enjoying the usual family things associated with the festive season, visiting Santa’s grotto and shopping for Christmas presents.  People clutched there bags to their chests as he passed, and it dawned on him they were afraid he might rob them.  As he caught sight of
his reflection in a shop window he was shocked to realise they had good reason to think he might, he was a disgrace to himself with his dirty clothes and hair.

He staggered home full of shame for what he had become.  When he reached the house he longed for a drink to dull the effect of his mortification.  His daughters face settled into his mind, and her reaction if she was to see him like this helped him to hold off on the booze.  He searched frantically through his wardrobe for something clean to wear to the meeting, without much success, it must be said, finally settling on the cleanest of his dirty laundry.   In the bathroom he discovered there was no hot water so he had to wash himself in the freezing water of the cold tap.

Arriving at the church hall he was already having doubts, there was no way he could keep
off the drink forever, he knew the minute he got home the longing would overcome him again.  There were about a dozen people present, all coming from roughly a ten mile radius, all needing to attend a meeting at least once a week.  The team leader arrived and greeted everyone there personally, shaking Jim’s hand, he said “I’m Pat I’m an alcoholic, welcome to our meeting”.  Approaching the front of the hall, Pat asked for silence for the alcoholic’s prayer.  Everyone joined in with the words, “Please God, help me abstain from
drinking today”.  As the people there spoke of their experiences of alcohol abuse, some had sunk even lower than him, he felt the first glimmer of hope.  When pat announced to the meeting, “We have a new member here tonight, would you like to say something Jim”  he rose to his feet and said, “I’m Jim, and I’m an alcoholic”  As spoke, he knew in his heart that there was a chance at least, that he would manage the long climb back from Hell.  He would forget about trying to give up the booze forever and concentrate on staying sober today.  With the help of god, and his friends at alcoholics’ anonymous, he would reclaim his life, one day at a time.




About margaretmarymurphy

I'm an elderly woman (1 husband 6 children 15 grandchildren & 1 great grandson ) I love talking, writing, looking at art & I take a porcelein painting class & can't for the day I get my own kiln.
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2 Responses to One day at a time

  1. Didn’t you say you were writing for Ireland’s Own? This would be perfect for their Christmas edition. [My grandaunt Lena was a huge fan; realing the I.O. for her was a guilty pleasure as an angst-ridden teen :-)]

  2. That is a brilliant piece that you wrote Margaret, looking forward to reading the book. I hope you don’t mind me quoting from the song

    I wish i could write poetry the way Kris writes songs:

    “On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
    Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
    ‘Cos there’s something in a Sunday,
    Makes a body feel alone.
    And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’,
    Half as lonesome as the sound,
    On the sleepin’ city sidewalks:
    Sunday mornin’ comin’ down. ” – Kris Kristofferson

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