A Planted Seed
May 2015

A Planted Seed

Fifty years ago, a member in Kansas delivered a message to a nursing class that later saved a life

I owe a debt of gratitude for an act of kindness some 50 years ago by someone I don’t know and can never repay. That is not unusual in AA, I suppose, but for some reason this one has been on my mind for several weeks now. Perhaps by
telling the story I can, in some small way, repay the debt.

In 1965, I was a senior in college and met this junior in nursing school. We were married in the course of time. Our journey together took us through a tour in the military, graduate school in the Pacific Northwest, back to a faculty position at a midwestern college and a career in business in Oklahoma. We had three beautiful children, and after they were a bit older my wife completed an advanced degree, and her career prospered. We were active in church, PTA and more. You might say we had as nearly a perfect life as one could wish for.

Alcohol? It really wasn’t part of the picture at first. In her family, as in mine—parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousins—there was little drinking and no alcoholism. We always had a few bottles of liquor around and occasionally, when we had guests over, the bottles would come out. Afterward the bottles would go back on the shelf, forgotten until the next occasion. Or there might be a glass of wine with a fancy dinner.

Then in the early 1980s my drinking took on larger proportions. At first it was just a relaxing drink after work each day, but over the next few years, the drinking progressed. It was fun and let me relax and enjoy life. However as time went by, I drank more and more, the fun and relaxation got less and less, the troubles began to mount, and the desperation set in. By the late 1980s it had become a daily grind: I was drunk and passing out in the evening and swearing off forever in the morning. The shame, the remorse, not caring if I lived or died became a way of life.

At some point in that progression, my wife began to question how much I drank. That’s when the smuggling operations began: sneaking the bottles into the house, sneaking the empties back out. And we would have those long talks about what to do about my drinking, generally emerging with a plan and a promise, and one more disappointment followed by deeper remorse and heavier drinking.

Having no experience with alcohol or alcoholism, and with denial being very much in play, we were at a loss, with no idea that it might be alcoholism or what to do about it. But finally, in 1987, she had enough clarity to tell me, “Go to AA or get out.” She even knew enough to tell me to look up the number in the phone book. (Who would have guessed that an “anonymous” organization might be listed in the phone book!)

How did she know where to send me, and how to find AA? Back to that debt I owe. It seems that some 20 years before that—in the mid-1960s—an AA member in Wichita, Kansas, had taken the time to go talk to a class at a local nursing school. He explained to them something about AA, including how to refer someone to it. Among the students was the girl that neither had, nor knew anyone who had, an alcohol problem; the same girl I later met and married. That sharing of simple information saved my life.

Of course, there would be no way to find and thank that messenger of hope now, some 50 years later. And I suspect he would not want that thanks. I get choked up when I think that simple act had an impact more than 20 years later, through the nursing student who would have been least expected to make use of the information.

I hope the telling of the story helps in some small way to pay my debt. I am today passionate about AA’s Cooperation With the Professional Community (CPC), and am active in my local committee. I’m humbled by the knowledge of what use God might make of my CPC work in ways, times and places that I’ll never know.


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