Maybe God does take care of fools and drunks
I always think of the little white house on Yellowknife’s 54th Street as my place of healing. It was my home for the first three years of my sobriety and I was the last person to live there. By the time I left, it had a buckling foundation so it was donated to the fire department and burnt down to serve as training exercise for firefighters. Today it is the site of the Lynn Brooks Transitional Home for women and I like to imagine that the healing energy I found there has made its way to the women who pass through the home.
The house came to me against all odds in the first autumn of my sobriety.
Back in the 1982 when I moved to Yellowknife, the city was growing rapidly and the vacancy rate had been zero for more than a decade. I spent the first month sleeping in somebody’s walk-in closet. Then a single ad for a four-bedroom rental house appeared in the local newspaper the same week I met a miner during a hungover morning-after while drinking the dregs of booze abandoned the night before (don’t ask). After a ridiculous conversation (considering what we were doing) during which we both assured each other that we were practically teetotalers, we decided to share the house and rent out the other two rooms. Bret* also agreed to lend me money for my share of the rent.
We lived there for most of a year during which Bret and I consumed numerous bottles of beer and wine, he reconciled with his estranged wife and daughter and moved them into the house, quit drinking in favour of smoking dope (and left recovery pamphlets around the house which made me cry but not quit) and then started up again, then quit again (both booze and dope this time). I sobered up in August while Bret and his family were on vacation and, in September, we received an eviction notice because the house had been sold.
Bret bought a trailer for his family, leaving me with no place to go. I didn’t know any sober people with a room for rent and renting a room in a drinking house was dangerous for me. The only suitable accommodation I could find were bachelor units rented by the YWCA for $800 a month but, even though I’d gotten a research job at CBC, that was beyond my means. Then, not long before I had to move, the woman who was buying our place called on the off-chance that somebody might want to take over the little house on 54thStreet that she had been renting. The tiny one-bedroom house with a small patio in front was perfect for me and the rent was only $400 which I could afford. Maybe God does take care of fools and drunks.
On moving day my sponsor, Jen, showed up on my doorstep with a crew of inmates from the local jail. (Jen ran a non-profit organization and the guys at the jail were assigned to her for a half-day a week as part of their work program.) Dressed in regulation green work pants and shirts, the guys marched into my house and then marched out carrying all my worldly goods: the components of my bed and a motley collection of boxes. The whole move was done in less than an hour — the easiest move I’ve ever had.
Then Jen got busy helping me furnish the place, schlepping me over to the house of friends who were leaving town and wanted to get rid of their living room furniture. They were going to give it away for free but Jen had a different idea. She thought it was time I started to pay my own way so she made me wash walls in exchange for the chairs. At the time, I was not impressed. Looking back today, I am grateful.
My first night in the house, I went over to a colleague’s place to do my laundry. Everybody there was going to a Hallowe’en party, dressing up, laughing, drinking beer and I overflowed with the longing to be a part of it, to be a normal person, not somebody who had to spend her evenings attending meetings in dusty old church basements. But I knew I couldn’t do it. I packed my clothes into their green garbage bag and set off to walk the six or so blocks to 54th Street. It had been raining all day and I could feel the pinpricks against my cheeks as the rain turned into sleet. After a while I realized that the sleet was mixed with tears.
My tenancy wouldn’t be official until the next day so there was no electricity in the house when I came in. I made my way through the chaos of furniture and boxes by the dim streetlight that shone in the window. I lit a candle that I found in one of the boxes, hung a blanket over the window and wrestled my mattress onto the floor. I made the bed and crawled in and as I looked at the play of shadows on the ceiling, I felt peace settle into my bones. My quiet inner voice told me that this was the place where I would heal and that all would be well.
That night I slept deeply for the first time in sobriety.
*Not the real name
This blog has been inspired by reactions from readers of “Free Love,” my novel about recovery from alcoholism. I have often been asked why I chose to write about that particular subject. While there are several answers to that question, the most honest one is that I’m a recovering person myself. That opened the door to more questions. So I have started this blog to share some of my thoughts about alcoholism and addiction, based on my experience and observation.
If you’d like to read or gift Free Love, check out my SALE PRICES!