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April 1994

In Good Hands

When World War II ended, I got my discharge from the forces in Winnipeg. Raring to get back to civvy street clothes and continue where I had left off in 1939, I soon found out that many things had changed in Canada--including me. I had become an alcoholic.

After my discharge, I married the girl whose letters had maintained my morale overseas. Gerte and I agreed that I should go back to school, taking advantage of programs available to veterans. I signed up for a three-year course in art where most of the students were vets. My drinking was kept rigidly under control except for a few binges with my classmates. Gerte handled the purse strings, thank God.

When the course ended, I went to work for myself. We now had a two-year-old son, so my wife went back to work. By now she knew I had a drinking problem because our family doctor told her I was an alcoholic. I just couldn't drink and be a dependable provider too.

Friends hinted from time to time that AA might be the way for me to go but I wasn't buying that. Ahead of me I had more years of blackouts, hangovers, drunken escapades, and heartaches. Like our first Christmas eve in Toronto, where we had moved in 1953. On December 24, our department threw a party and later that evening Gerte bailed me out of the Court Street lockup. I don't remember getting there. Another time, Gerte and I were to stand up with good friends who were getting wed. I arrived at the church too drunk to get out of the taxi. Coming off that jag two days later, my remorse was so overwhelming that I asked AA for help and I got it.

It wasn't easy. For days, every time I passed taverns I would mumble the Serenity Prayer to myself and think about the advice to "stay away from the first drink." It worked. I had joined a new group on its first meeting night. It had only three members and I found myself doing meeting chores almost from the start. Gerte came to every meeting with me and brought sandwiches. As I absorbed the AA therapy, I'd move on to other areas of activity that left me no time for brooding. I learned to keep things simple and that kept me out of trouble.

Then an AA member who single-handedly looked after a skid-row group downtown persuaded me to come and help him there. My sponsor and his brother joined us too, and the group had a nucleus of willing hands to keep the doors open. Gerte still made the sandwiches, knowing that many came to our meetings because they were hungry. Once in a while someone from the row would join, sober up, and move to a better area, which delighted us all. But time stops for no one and takes its toll. My sponsor died and his brother became my sponsor. I began to wonder who would care for the group when time caught up with all of us.

God works in wonderful ways for alcoholics, and God answered our prayers. We had one alcoholic join the group who admitted first coming to our meetings for the sandwiches. He sobered up, took an active part in group activities, and over time brought others from the area. As his AA growth developed, we decided to ask him if he'd be interested in handling the group. He was interested, and the group has flourished under his firm but loving care.

Gerte and I are nearing eighty now and do not get out as much as we once did, but I manage to see my sponsor quite often and meet with other AA friends across Canada from time to time. Gerte and I live a good, satisfying life in the sunset of our lives, and we owe it all to a Higher Power that led Bill W. and Dr. Bob to set up Alcoholics Anonymous.

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