The Nightmare before Christmas
It was a cold December evening. Jack took a quick look in the mirror before dashing out the door on his way to the Friday meeting. Suddenly the thought crossed his mind “Perhaps my wife is right. I don’t need to go tonight. I feel okay and I don’t want to drink.” He dismissed the idea and continued on his way. Whilst walking, his attention was drawn to a dark figure sat on a bench in the far corner of the park. Getting closer he was overwhelmed with the feeling that some how he knew the man, but just couldn’t seem to remember where from. The man on the bench quietly mumbled the words “Merry Christmas sir” and then took a swig from his bottle of cider. Being late again due to work commitments Jack ignored him and briskly continued walking.
He arrived at the meeting and clumsily grabbed a chair from the pile and placed it at the end of the back row near the door. He sat down and closed his eyes. The meeting began, but Jack couldn’t seem to get the shadowy image of the Man on the Bench out of his mind. Where did he know him from? The speaker that night was a man Jack had heard many times before. A man he once looked up to as an example of what he himself could one day become. The meeting ended and the group went for coffee, but Jack had decided weeks ago that he couldn’t tolerate the smoke and the coffee kept him awake at night. So he quietly slipped off without bothering his sponsor who seemed busy anyway.
Walking back through the park, Jack began to think about how well his life was going. His new career was heading in the right direction and his wife just couldn’t seem to get enough of him. He began to wonder if he wasn’t taking this AA just a little too seriously. For some time now Jack wasn’t getting out of the group what he once did. The demands made on him were starting to interfere with his work and family commitments. Perhaps he could carry the message at one of those less controlling groups and find a sponsor who wouldn’t expect as much of him.
Arriving home he decided to get an early night. Whilst his wife and children slept Jack tossed and turned as he thought about the figure on the bench. Who was that man? He went downstairs to make himself a drink because he just couldn’t sleep. He began to ponder the wasted Sunday mornings doing service and the lost evenings when he could be cuddled up on the sofa with his wife. This got him thinking about the recent unreasonably harsh suggestion given to him by his sponsor. With a cold and heavy heart he decided the best thing for him to do was to leave the group, and find a more understanding sponsor.
A few years later, on a fresh and frosty Christmas Eve, Jack was at home. He was anxiously waiting for his wife to return from a night out. It was getting late and he was getting angry. Where was she, who was she with? “Why is she doing this to me!?” Just before midnight a taxi pulled up and he heard his wife get out and wish the driver “Merry Christmas”. This infuriated Jack so much that when she got in, he grabbed her and threw her across the room, waking the children who stood at the top of the stairs in tears. His terrified wife ran up to comfort them. Jack stood alone amongst the ruin of what was once a happy home. He suddenly noticed a hideous reflection in the shattered mirror. To his horror he saw the empty stare of the Man on the Bench looking back at him.
Running out the door and across the road in tears, he stopped and sat on the bench in the corner of the park. What had gone wrong, why did he want to drink and why was he thinking of suicide? Alone in the still of the night he remembered his friends from the meeting, the ones who spent too much time doing service, the ones who took AA too seriously. Those were the happiest times of his life. His old sponsor’s words began to echo through his mind: “Keep walking the Road, keep AA first and try to be an example to all the others.” These words compelled him to take action – sitting up abruptly he cried out “Yes, the others!” As he did he fell out of bed with a bang, he realised it was all a very bad but very real dream. Jack reached for his Big Book, overjoyed with gratitude. He knew that if he continued to take the actions then he would continue to live sober and enjoy sobriety.
WP Road to Recovery Group (Plymouth)