The long road back
February 2022 | Getting Through Tough Times | On the Cover

The long road back

Thanks to prayer, fellowship and a good sponsor, she held onto her sanity through a long, serious work injury

“Once I get sober, life will be great!”

How many times did I tell myself this, hoping beyond hope that it was true? My first year sober was one I pray I never have to repeat. Every day I was afraid I was going to drink again. I knew that AA was my last rodeo, my last chance to save my life. By the grace of God, I didn’t drink. No other reason.

Life got pretty good. I fell in love and got married again, this time to a sober alcoholic, and 27 years later we’re still married. More of that “grace” thing.

But back when I had 11 years sober, I hit a wall—literally. My husband and I were living in North Carolina and both of us were working at a manufacturing plant. It was a good job and we had just returned from a vacation to Key West. We were both tanned and relaxed. Two short weeks later I was at work and was hit and pinned by an 80,000-pound side lift fork truck that moved pallets around the floor. As the driver backed the machine down the lane between workstations, a piece of metal sticking out from the thing caught the tail of my shirt and pulled me into the aisle and crushed me between it and the wall.

The driver was way up high in a cage, and by the time he heard my screams he panicked and threw the truck into reverse to get it away from me. My legs wouldn’t hold me up. As I fell to the ground someone came running and caught me before I hit the floor. I was drifting in and out of consciousness and heard the sirens going off and saw the shocked faces of my coworkers. Someone yelled that they should get my husband, who worked down the hall in a different department. The company paramedics rushed in, put me on a backboard and reassured me that everything was going to be alright. They pulled off my work boot to see if I could move my toes. I told them I couldn’t feel my legs, but didn’t my Key West pedicure look great! By now I was obviously in shock. They got me to the hospital and my blood pressure was low and failing.

At the hospital they ran all kinds of tests. I was bleeding internally. They started giving me transfusions. I was in the trauma unit about 72 hours. My pelvis was crushed, my hip fractured and my legs wouldn’t work. They didn’t know if I would have permanent disability. By some miracle my kidneys were not damaged.

At 11 years sober, I hadn’t had anything stronger than aspirin in my system since I quit drinking. They were pumping me full of morphine and all kinds of stuff to try to ease the pain. I asked my husband to call my sponsor, Maureen. I was freaking out. When she came, she quietly prayed with me. I said, “If I am full of narcotics, am I still sober?” She said, “Yes, of course you are. You take the meds the way they are prescribed.” I cried.

After she left, I lay there feeling sorry for myself. In that morphine haze, I had my own little pity party. I was crying when the nurse came in. She asked what was wrong and I said I needed a paper and pen please. She said, “Oh, honey, you aren’t going to die.” She thought I wanted the paper to write a will. I just needed to write a gratitude list before this fear and self-pity ate me alive. I needed to do every single thing they taught me in AA when I first walked in the door.

For the next five years, I was in physical therapy. It was a long, hard road to recovery. Today I can walk, just not for very long. I was on disability, and I’ve now graduated to Social Security because I did live to be old. Those years of physical recovery were not so different from my recovery from alcoholism. I prayed and trusted my Higher Power. I stayed grateful for every little thing, every little victory. I read my Big Book every day. The phrase “one day at a time” took on a whole new meaning. I had to stay where my feet are and not get caught up thinking, Why me? And all this time I did not drink. No matter what.

The members in my AA groups reached out to help my husband and me with everything from bringing meetings to the house to helping with transportation to doctor appointments. They brought casseroles and cleaned my house. A very dear old friend from when I got sober came and stayed with us for two weeks, flying in from California so my husband could go back to work. Maureen had taught me to be gracious and grateful when someone wanted to help me.

This learning curve was pretty steep. Admitting my limitations, learning to cope with disabilities, and leaning on AA and God, I came through it all. My life would never be the same, but I could learn to live within the new parameters. Happy, joyous and free? You better believe it!


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