For the first decade of my life, my dad, Don W., was a drunk without hope. He started drinking in the Navy where his first drinks of whiskey turned into his first drunk. He said he never wanted to forget that first drink and his last drink for they were both pivotal times in his life. One led him down a road of despair, even causing him to attempt to take his own life, because he had no control over alcohol after he took the first drink. The other was a day that started him on a new course and a saving relationship with his God.
I was the second oldest of 13 children. My mother’s and our lives were filled with uncertainty, fear, pain, and resentment. Not all of my siblings remember when my dad drank every day from morning to night, but we older ones were caught in the crosshairs. Dad rented our houses but never paid the rent. As a result, we were constantly on the move; trying to stay ahead of the creditors. God was not an influence in our lives except when we went to church and parochial school. The God we met there was a God of power and judgment; a God to fear.
Don tried not to think about God, though he used His name in every other sentence as a curse. But one day, Don sought God with all of his heart and soul. The day was his birthday, August 13th. That night after drinking with a vengeance, he found himself on the floor of a jail cell with broken ribs. Another inmate told him that he’d crashed into a car and killed a woman inside it. Don said that as he knelt there on that jail floor, God gave him a moment of clarity. He felt he was going to prison if he had killed a woman and going to hell when he died.
Don called out to a God he didn’t know and asked Him for forgiveness. He told God what a mess he had made of his life, and asked Him to take over and help him change. He asked God to come into his life and be in charge of everything; to help him start over and be his Lord. As it turned out Don had not killed a woman, though he had crashed into a parked car. He did not have to go to prison. Instead his lawyer drove him home to his distraught wife who didn’t know if he was dead or alive. And he went to Alcoholics’ Anonymous where he had help from alcoholics like himself to live sober one day at a time.
My dad said that 13 was his lucky number. He was born in August on a Friday the 13th, and he took his last drink on the 13th day of the August. My mother knew him for 13 years before he loved her and his 13 children more than the bottle. When he left this life, he had just earned his 39 year token with AA, and that is 3 times 13.
If you would have asked Don what made the difference in his life, he would have said that God made all the difference. God turned his life around and made it possible for him to help other hurting alcoholics and their families.
Mary T. Wilkinson has written a biography of her parents’ lives called Sober by the Grace of God. You can view this book on Lulu.com