Here's the scene: I was placed in the intensive-care unit of the psychiatric hospital, put in a room with a bare plastic mattress on a single wooden bed, and the noise outside the room was intense: TV blaring in the group room, playing "Snow White" with the song "Whistle While You Work" resounding through the hallway, deeply disturbed people yelling at each other, an angry woman outside my cell fiercely demanding an ambulance because of her pain.
I climbed into the empty closet, which had no doors and no pole, just a white cubby really, and I cried like a baby. What the hell have I done to myself, to come here? I was depressed at home, but here I was scared. It was a lunatic asylum, and I didn't belong here.
I don't cry, as a rule. But there I crouched, weeping helplessly to the tune of "Whistle While You Work." It felt like a scene out of a Dostoyevsky novel.
Then the idea came into my head like a gentle whisper: Do the Steps. So I wept and repeated out loud the First Step, claimed it for my own: God, I admit I am powerless over this situation and my life is unmanageable (sound of my own sobbing here). Second Step: I believe that a power greater than myself will restore me to sanity! God, I really need your help right now(sound of woman screaming in hallway here)! Third Step: I'm making a decision at this moment to turn my will and my life over to you, God, and I need you to intervene!
At that moment, someone came into my room with sheets and blankets and made my bed. I climbed out of the closet and wiped my face with my hands. I survived the moment. The sense of powerlessness was total, but there was now a grain of peace. I felt like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car, but now I could leap out of the way.
It took a night and another whole day in that crazy environment to get myself transferred out of that unit into a saner one, but I survived the many helpless moments by turning my life and my will over to the care of my God.
It's a lesson I will never forget. The Steps work in all situations. With them, we can survive the traumas life throws at us. And I remembered what my sponsor had said many times: It came to pass, it doesn't come to stay. Funny, the things we have heard in AA that help in times of need.
I got home yesterday to discover that the narcissus are blooming outside my front door. I picked some this morning, and the fragrance wafts across my desk as I write. You all prayed for me and I got better. Prayer makes a difference.
Today's picture is a watercolor by my friend John Barnard, which I bought last month with my winnings from the fair in August. It hangs over my fireplace, reminding me that we are given many gifts, and it's good to freely give away the strength and hope we receive. There were several recovering alcoholics in that psychiatric hospital, many of whom had been driven to drink again in their despair. I was thankful over and over again that I hadn't picked up a drink, that I looked for help first. God gave me people to work with, to share hope with, to encourage, and it sure felt wonderful.
For today's poem, I'm offering the segment by Alexander Pope that contains the line "Hope springs eternal," thanks to the Walking Man, who looked it up for me:
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
rests and expatiates in a life to come.
-Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733