by David LeBlanc
Jefferson, Massachusetts, USA
My father was a firefighter. For that, to me and to many others he was a hero. However, at an early age I learned about another aspect of my father’s life. He was an alcoholic.
He took his last drink when I was 5 years old. I was too young to remember his drinking, but I heard him speak of it enough to know it nearly killed him and almost caused him to lose everything he wanted from life. After he found Alcoholics Anonymous, he tried to convince himself he did not need that kind of help. He finally hit bottom, and reached out for the help he knew he could not live without.
AA became my father’s life. I went to the meeting hall with him on several occasions to help set it up for that week’s meeting, and met others who were in the program. My father’s decision to reach out for help changed his relationship to his family and friends, not only for doing the right thing with his life, but because of his commitment to AA and the methods by which it succeeds. Alcoholics Anonymous does not seek you out to save you from demon rum. You have to go to AA and admit that you have a problem. It all starts with the individual, not the group. That is why it works.
Once you seek help from Alcoholics Anonymous, you get a sponsor, a person who’s there to help you when times are rough. Over the years Dad sponsored other people. To them he became a friend, and also a symbol that AA works. His commitment as a sponsor was much more than telling his own story.
His commitment included staying up all night and nursing someone off a drunk, helping them face their demon — a full bottle on the table — and not taking a drink himself. It was interceding with a mate or employer to get the break that person needed to turn the corner. It was NEVER refusing to help. These selfless acts evolved from his commitment to doing the right thing.
In AA, you live your commitment just by being there, listening and talking to people. By convincing them that there is hope for recovery through self-reliance plus the help of others. By doing this, you can do something very important — you can save a life.
I learned from my father’s example that you don’t have to go out and fight fires, or criminals, or foreign enemies to save a life. I now realize that saving lives through Alcoholics Anonymous was the most important part of my father’s example of how to live. It was his way of saying thanks to the world for finding a way to save his life nearly half a century ago.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.