The Old Umbrella
The Marley Road Bridge was a shaky old one lane wooden bridge over the Rock Island train tracks. Mother avoided that bridge when she could. I do recall the thrill of going over it a few times. If she was afraid of driving on it, there had to be danger involved. The bridge was eventually torn down and a structurally sound two lane paved road was put in its place.
Soon after the new bridge was open, my mother suggested that we ride our bikes over it. It did have a nice incline to the northern side. Mother, Sis and I rode our bikes there. Mother had a 12 speed. Sis had a full size BMX bike. I was riding my first bike. I had recently taken off the training wheels and I was pedaling with confidence. We rode up the south hill and began down the other side. I watched them each pass me by as I gained speed. Those small tires had those pedals going so fast and my feet couldn’t stay on. As I was trying to regulate the pedals, the bike came to a stop at a quicker rate than my body did. I swam through the air over the handlebars, landing on the gravel shoulder, leading with my chin. I slid several more yards on my stomach and came up screaming and bleeding and in what I thought to be the worst pain of my life.
If it wasn’t for my Mother’s stupid idea to go down that hill, none of this would have happened. I vowed never to let anyone else’s dumb ideas put me in a position to get hurt. No, I won’t go off that bike ramp. No, I won’t get on that skateboard. No, I won’t go ice skating. No, I won’t ask that girl to the dance.
Through practice, I became experienced in convincing myself that I was avoiding the things in my life that caused emotional and physical pain. I called those things stress. Father used to joke that you could stay dry in the rain if you learned how to run between the drops. It would take some work, but I vowed to avoid every one of those raindrops of life. So the night that somebody handed me a shot glass of blended whiskey, I felt safe, as if I’d found a tattered old umbrella. I didn’t know what I was holding at the time, but it made me feel like I didn’t have to run.
That old umbrella changed before my eyes into a full-on raincoat, then a storm cellar, until I realized someone had locked the door from the outside as water poured in. In running for so long from the pain that I so feared, I had placed myself into a position of generating pain for myself and those around me. I was trapped. I pushed everything out of my life that I had thought was the problem, including my wife and children.
Sitting in the basement of my empty house April 12th, 2016, there were no feelings of being safe. I did not want to run away anymore. The last of the alcohol in the house had not protected me from the pain. All that was left was the unhappiness and pain that I had spent decades trying to avoid. I have no reprieve until two days later when I walked through the open doors of Alcoholics Anonymous. Hope entered my heart as I signed the home group book that night. Each warm hand, warm smile and warm hug gave me strength. Within 30 days I heard such acronyms as F.E.A.R. (Face Everything And Recover). Within 90 days I was asking a God I wasn’t so sure about to help me be rid of the things within myself that have been blocking me.
Blocking me from what? The sunlight of the Spirit, of course
On this journey, I’m discovering new and interesting ways that I avoid pain. Come to find out it can rain while in the sunlight. A.A. has given me the opportunity to throw away that old umbrella and walk slowly through the drops hand-in-hand with our Fellowship and a God of my understanding.