Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Talk or sleep...?

My home group volunteers for Night Watch on Mondays.  Night Watch is when the phones from the local central office are forwarded to your phone from 7 at night until 7 in the morning.  The thought being that it's better for a real drunk to answer the phone than to have callers have to deal with an answering machine or service.

With those of us that rotate this commitment around our group, about every 2-3 months it's my turn to take the phones.  Not to put too fine a point on it, I'm old and I really enjoy my sleep.  A lot.

So, it's with no small reluctance that I accept this shot at martyrdom for the service of AA.  Many weeks, nobody calls.  Last night we had 3.  One was a guy who related the "...I have a friend who I think might have a problem..." saga we often hear, another call was, I think, his friend who was probably really trying to call but seemed to just want to hang up rather than talk, and then there was the guy who called about 11:15 - just as I was thoroughly asleep.

After I finally got myself fully awake (not an easy feat last night), he was asking about: "...but does anyone really find a God in this life?"  The philosopher/reluctant drunk/lonely guy/"I'm gonna die if I don't stop"/"I have all the answers"/"AA doesn't work for me..." - you probably know the guy.

Our Night Watch process suggests the "right" way to handle a 12-step call of this nature is to get the guy's number, find someone else on our list and, pass the call to them - rationale being that we don't want to tie up the Central Office line in case another call comes in.  Sometimes I do that but, more often, I either just work them off the phone with a commitment to show up at a meeting or I indulge them and just "chat" with them wherever their sometimes befogged consciousness takes us.  I figure I have call waiting in the unlikely event someone else would call and I'm already awake so why spread the pain of a midnight call if you don't have to.

Last night, for reasons I never really understand, I decided to indulge him for an hour or so and we had a really amazing conversation.  Turns out, he's really had a pretty good experience in and around AA.  He just can't stop drinking.  I assured him that part really sucks.  We opined about the nature of willingness and what may or may not be working for him.  We discussed what had seemed to work for periods of sobriety for him.  ...about our thoughts and feelings around meetings.  He said he hadn't yet drank last night (my guess he was lying, what's yours?) but we both recognized the familiar thoughts and feelings that were leading him in that direction, one more time.

We talked a lot about the nature of "God as we understood him" and the broad spectrum that folks use as a concept for God in AA.  We also talked about not believing in God and still getting drunk over and over.

After an hour of this conversation, it was time to hang up and I was truly grateful.  He said he was too.  I suggested some things he might "do", rather than "think."  He thought that a novel idea and said he was going to try.

I woke up completely sober.

What could be better?


Garnet said...

I feel so lucky to read your blog. What a special time you had on the phone last night. That guy is very lucky you were so willing to carry the message.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting.

Mary Christine said...

Thank you for your service. It never ceases to amaze me that drunks start to want to talk at around 11 p.m. Glad you were there for him.

Elizabeth Fry said...

I loved this blog entry! I'll be back for more.

Syd said...

You do a lot of good reaching out to others. I hope that he listened and will do something rather than think. My thinking has gotten me to some of the worst places.

Scott W said...

Nothing is quite as satisfactory as a successful twelfth step.