Around the middle of November, I recognized that I needed help to deal with my father and his drinking problem. It was more than I felt I could handle alone.
I had heard about Al-Anon, the 12-Step Program for families of alcoholics, but I wasn’t sure it was right for me, and the shame surrounding this problem kept me from seeking help earlier. One day, in desperation, I decided to go to a meeting. When I reached the meeting location address, I nervously looked down the sidewalk from side to side, lest anyone see me, before I quickly opened the door and went inside.
After the first meeting, I realized I had found a safe place to be, a place where everyone knew and understood what I was going through with my father. These strangers identified with my struggles because their struggles were similar.
The day before Thanksgiving arrived, I felt very anxious about how I would get through the next day with a large meal to make, a toddler to watch, and a father who was getting drunk in our spare bedroom.
I needed help, but where could I get help? What kind of help could I get? I knew I did not want to be alone with my sick father and baby on Thanksgiving.
I picked up the phone and called the local number for Alcoholics Anonymous. A woman answered, and I told her I needed some help to get through the Thanksgiving meal the next day. I explained that my husband was overseas, that my father was staying with my young daughter and me, and that he drank every day. I asked the woman on the phone if someone could come and eat with us because I didn’t know how else I would get through the dinner. Without hesitation, she asked, “What time is dinner?” I told her the time, and she said, “We’ll be there.” And I gave her my address.
The next day I awoke early, prepared the turkey, put it in the oven, dressed my daughter and myself, and finished making the side dishes and dessert. I set the table with our best dishes and silverware, and at the right time, someone knocked at the door.
Strangers Who Cared
I opened the door to a man and a woman I didn’t know and invited them in. The woman with auburn hair introduced herself as Flora. The man introduced himself as Dan. I was so happy to have these two recovering alcoholics in my house.
Dinner was ready. I brought everything to the table and seated my daughter, and invited our guests to be seated. I knocked on the spare bedroom door several times to get my father to come out. It was apparent my father was not sober. He could not walk straight, his face was somewhat bloated, and his eyes were glazed. Once everyone was seated, I said a short blessing over the food.
Flora and Dan ate dinner with us, and at one point, my father went to pick up a bowl of peas and spilled them on the nice tablecloth because his hand was shaking. Flora, seeing me upset, said in a calm voice, “It happens.” I calmed down and cleaned up the mess, and we finished the meal.
We engaged in conversation with our guests. At the end of the meal, I thanked them for coming. I was so grateful to have Flora and Dan come for Thanksgiving dinner. Knowing they were coming gave me a reason to prepare the big holiday meal. My mind focused on preparing the house and meals rather than thinking about my father’s drinking and my husband’s absence. What could have been a difficult day turned into a relatively peaceful holiday thanks to two people who heard my call for help and answered. I am forever grateful.
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Maddy Thompson writes from Northern California.
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