Almost Missed the Miracle

Submitted into Contest #191 in response to: Write about a character who is starting to open up to life again.... view prompt

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Fiction Drama

Trigger warning: Content includes alcohol abuse, violence, and suicide attempt.


Almost Missed the Miracle

Marsh Sterling


April

Embarrassed by the tears trailing down my cheeks against my will, I surreptitiously wiped them off on my sleeve. I took a bite of the moist cake that looked like it was decorated by a 4-year-old. Maybe it was? But there was no cake in the world that ever tasted better.

I was surrounded by a motley crew of people. Some appeared to have walked in from an unsheltered persons’ encampment. All were friendly and welcoming. They were grateful to be at the meeting and showed almost overwhelming enthusiasm meeting me, Jordi’s mom. No one was smoking in the room- not allowed. However, the room reeked of cigarette smoke that seeped inside from the smokers that surrounded the entrance. It was unpleasant even as I held my breath to enter, only to find the smell permeating the small, dank room filled with more people than was comfortable. Jordi smiled and waved to me and guided me to the seat she had saved.

16 years ago… April

Sitting in the car awaiting the call time, I was shocked to hear 12-year-old Annie tell her mom on the phone that she “doesn’t want her in her life if she is going to be that way.” Annie excitedly announced to her mom that she had won. She had been judged by the State Music Teachers’ Association. Winning the competition resulted in a substantial college scholarship. The win was a big deal, but the exaltation was dampened when she realized her mother was drunk (again).

Annie completed the call and angrily shared that her mother was drunk at a super bowl party instead of accompanying her and supporting her at the competition. Annie hung up the phone and emphatically stated that she was done with her mom not showing up for her.

Jordi

Celebrating at the Super Bowl party, watching the game on the bar television, Jordi was whooping and hollering. Tall, thin, friendly, and blonde, Jordi need not buy many drinks for herself. Arms in the air, she celebrated her team’s triumphs and defeats on the television football field in unison with the other fans. Every yard won or lost by Jordi’s team was followed by a shot. For the win, glasses clinked in victory. Lost yards were met with audible groans and followed by a shot to quell disappointment.

Jordi’s phone rang and she noted it was her 12-year-old daughter. She answered with “hi, honey.” Annie announced that she won the state Music Teachers Association violin competition. Jordi’s response was not what Annie expected. Jordi slurred, “That’s nice, did you feed the dogs?”

Jordi was still there when the barkeep announced, “last call” and Jordi ordered one more and chugged it. The lights in the bar pierced Jordi’s eyes when they were abruptly turned on to encourage people to vacate. Jordi and the other customers spilled out into the dark parking lot. Jordi was teetering to her car when she was struck from behind on her right shoulder. She turned around to see the source of the blow. The woman pushed her down and began pummeling her face. The woman was screaming epithets at Jordi. Her awareness of what was happening was fuzzy, but she felt the pain. Bruised, bleeding, and scraped from the pavement, Jordi pulled herself up and into her car and she drove out of the parking lot. In her stupor she was not sure which direction would take her home.

Jordi was driving aimlessly, trying to focus and get her bearings. A sudden jolt found the car on the sidewalk curb. She stepped on the accelerator only to hear her tires spinning. She got out of the car with effort to see what happened. Still unable to pull her awareness into a sharper focus, she sat helplessly on the curb.

A passing car stopped and a tall man sporting a long gray/black beard and a hairless skull got out and asked Jordi if she needed help. She recognized him as one of the bar patrons she had been partying with. Now sobbing, she nodded in the affirmative. He helped her into his car and introduced himself as Paul. He offered her a ride home and promised to help her recover her car in the morning.

April

Annie and I returned home in the evening. I tried to celebrate Annie’s win by taking her to a celebratory dinner. However, it was obvious that she was not able to fully engage in celebrating her accomplishment without her mom. Disappointed and sad, she tried to push her disappointment back with anger. Then, she muttered that it did not matter. She had not really expected her mom to show up. Her eyes belied the denial of the letdown.

Noting that Jordi was not home when we got there, I was worried. Knowing she was drinking and probably driving, I was on hyper-watch for her. This would not be the first, or last time, that I feared a disastrous tragedy had befallen Jordi. I was often terrified that I would get the worst possible call informing me that my daughter was dead.

Annie had been asleep for a couple of hours when I heard Jordi at the door. She staggered in looking like she had gone through a car wash without the car. Her face was distorted with the swelling and her arms and legs were covered in road burns.

Jordi had been a dedicated mother during Annie’s first few years of life. She participated in Le Leche and playdates with Annie. She was committed to her baby, and they shared a strong bond. One day Jordi showed up at my house with Annie in tow. Jordi’s face was battered, and she was in tears. Annie’s father had beaten her in a drunken rage. My daughter and only grandchild moved in with me.

All was good at first. Then Jordi started disappearing for 2-3 days. Sometimes she would come home to get clothes and leave again. My heart broke for Annie who followed her mom to the door. Through her tears, she begged her mother to stay. She was confused and sad and felt the agony of toddler/mom bond broken. I became the person that Annie could count on. I took her to school and met her daily needs.

Jordi

As promised the man who rescued Annie the night before, picked her up and took her to retrieve her car early morning. He had pushed it off the sidewalk and into a parking lot. She had just enough time to get ready for work and show up. She wondered how she would survive the day with a classroom of first graders.

After barely surviving the day at work, Jordi could not quell the memory of the phone call with Annie the day before. Guilt dominated her thoughts. “I should have been there.” She was rocked by Annie’s declaration that Annie did not want her mother in her life. “She is my daughter. I must have hurt her deeply.”

Jordi after work:

“How did I not get a DUI last night?” Mandy replied that Jordi should count her lucky stars. Mandy was a friend from Jordi’s first attempts at getting sober. Mandy found AA and had been sober for several years. Jordi called her and asked her to take her to an AA meeting.

When Jordi arrived at the abandoned strip mall in a less than desirable neighborhood, she thought there was no way she belonged in the run-down store front room. The room inside was dingy and full of rough looking people. The meeting started with the reading of AA propaganda. “I heard the word God over and over. God talk was a total turn off. If there is a god, I do not think they would want any part of me.” Every person who spoke identified themselves as an alcoholic. “Is this some kind of cult she wondered?” …so much chanting in unison.

The leader asked if anyone was there for the first time. Jordi wanted to be invisible, so she did not volunteer. Mandy shouted out her name and gave her a push. The crowd began clapping and cheering. What was the celebration about? Jordi assessed the room and judged it to be filled with losers, and she felt she was the biggest loser of all. Why were they clapping and cheering? Mandy gave her another push to the center of the room. “I was not going to say my name and identify as an alcoholic. I might drink too much on weekends, but I can cut back.” The leader shoved a plastic poker-type chip into Jordi’s hand commemorating her first meeting. She returned to her seat. She was embarrassed and angry that Mandy had not prepared her for the humiliation. “I knew I did not belong there and had no intention of going back."

A couple of months later after a weekend binge on pills and alcohol, Jordi was sobbing and feeling hopeless on the bathroom floor with Jack and a bottle of pills. She was now convinced that she had a problem that was out of control, and she was helpless to stop. She did not see a path forward and felt Jack mixed with the pills was her only way out. “I do not deserve to live, and my family would be better off without me. At least I would not continue to hurt them.”

The pills spilled out on the floor. She picked up a handful and started to wash them down with Jack. Something in Jordi broke as she held Jack in one hand and the pills in the other. She had tried to quit so many times. She started drinking when she was twelve, stealing alcohol at a babysitting job. She quit periodically but could not sustain sobriety for no more than a few months. This was the lowest point in her life. “My daughter wanted nothing to do with me. My mother had given up on me. I did not have any sober friends. I did not know where to turn.”

Prone on the floor, “I called out to the god I did not believe in. Please God, if you are there help me, I will try one more time. If it does not work this time, I will kill myself. I need help. I cannot get sober by myself.”

Jordi called Mandy and asked her to for a ride to an AA meeting.

That night was the beginning of Jordi’s journey to sobriety.


Jordi, a few years later…

I held Annie’s hand and coached her through the intense labor pains. I would have gladly exchanged places with her and taken the pain. My first grandson was about to enter the world. I almost missed the miracle.

Jordi’s tells the back story:

Getting sober was no picnic. It took me 7 years to put together one year of continuous sobriety. I had short-lived relapses here and there. I went to meetings and restarted my sobriety date each time. It was not perfect, but relapses became shorter, minor, and few and far between. I made progress even when I failed.

The support I begged for that night with pills in one hand and Jack in the other came in the form of people who were like me and understood. A community of friends evolved. We supported each other. I got a sponsor who led me through the twelve steps. She was, and still is, my rock. Attending meetings reminds me of the miracle I never want to lose.

I sponsor other people and lead them through the twelve steps, and I am honored to do so. It is a pay it forward kind of program.

The biggest miracle is my relationship with my daughter, Annie, and my 2-year-old grandson. By some miracle I lived to experience joy in a way I could never have imagined. I am present and involved with my family. My grandson is the delight of my life. (Pssst…I am about to have double the delight. My second grandson is on the way.) I want to “be there” for my grandsons.

I am sober for the new babies who are my heart and soul. Annie and I are closer than ever. We talk every day, and I am at her house regularly enjoying my adorable grandson. I try to support her in every way. It could have been different, but we reestablished our bond deeper than ever.

I could have missed the miracle.

April

I enjoy the best relationship ever with my daughter. I cannot express how proud I feel. If that awful night on the bathroom floor had resulted in Jordi’s death, many lives would be different. It is obvious that Annie and I would never be the same. But there is so much more that Jordi has quietly contributed to the world.

Jordi is dedicated to her grandson. He adores her and she brings a world full of love every day.

Jordi’s students: Jordi teaches special education and is one of the most caring, creative teachers I have ever seen.

Then there are the people whom she sponsors. She is a major contributor in their journey toward sobriety.

There are so many more lives that Jordi has enhanced.


April and Annie

Annie and I stood next to Jordi. I could not restrain the pesky tears on my face. I kept wiping my face on my sweatshirt sleeve. I am rarely a crier, but that was not the case on this night.

Annie was designated to present the cake to Jordi. Jordi blew out the 7-year sober birthday candle and the room erupted into cheers.

Jordi’s “sponsees” were there to witness Jordi’s achievement. The sponsor who led Jordi through the steps was there. Jordi had shepherded in a new person for her first meeting.

That dank, cigarette smelling room in the storefront of a long-ago abandoned strip mall, was beautiful.

I am grateful! Miracles do happen!

April 01, 2023 03:32

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