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A Lesson in Second Chances: In Memory of My Dad on Father’s Day

The hospital room where my father lay deathly ill from emphysema and pneumonia was small and sterile. All of his friends in Alcoholics Anonymous were gathered in the cluttered waiting room, telling stories and recounting fond memories of their time with Dr. John Mooney. This was 1982, and my father had been an upstanding citizen of Statesboro for 23 years. You see, he was a well-known surgeon who plummeted through the gates of hell with a drug addiction, along with my mother, until a series of miracles and loving friends forced him to get help.

The crowd that was gathered at the end of the long corridor at Bulloch Memorial Hospital that day seemed jovial. There was laughter along with the tears. Friends sat with their arms around my mother with loving comfort. Others brought food and iced tea. At times, the nurse had to come and plead for silence, as patients were complaining about the noise. Yes, it was a room filled with love and support. That’s how AA folks are.

I sat in a chair in the corner, facing away from the group. Dressed in dirty blue jeans and an oversized T-shirt, I wanted no part of the camaraderie. At 21 years old, I was strung out on drugs and homeless. When my father became so ill that the doctor said he wouldn’t make it and it was time to call the family, my mother, Dot, debated whether to try to find me. After getting sober themselves in 1959, my parents understood addiction. In fact, they dedicated their lives to helping others. But they had done all within their power to get me sober, to no avail. They were pretty sure their only daughter, born after they found sobriety, would die a horrible, alcoholic death. A letter I received from them in 1980 read:

Dearest Carol Lind,
Your father and I love you very much, but we have accepted the fact that death may be the answer to your alcoholism. Although that would be the worst thing imaginable, we will have to find a way to be OK. You are always in our prayers.
Mama and Daddy

They had turned me over to God and gotten on with their lives. My brothers pleaded with my mom not to make an effort to find me on that cold January day when Daddy was fighting for his life. But she did.

My home was a small, open-air tent by the railroad tracks on the south side of town. In the mornings, I would awaken with leaves in my long, tangled hair. I would walk the tracks to my boyfriend’s parents’ house to find food after they left for work. That’s where my mom found me and asked me to come say goodbye to my dad.

As I sat in my corner of the ICU waiting area, I was alone. My father was the most important person in my life. He was witty, charming and brilliant. But I couldn’t stay sober long enough to have a relationship with him. I wanted nothing more than to walk in his room, hold him, tell him how much I loved him. Instead, I sat in my cold, metal chair, shaking and thinking about getting high. In fact, that was all I could think about. When the doctor finally let me go in to see him, I barely strolled through the doorway before my dad looked at me with disgust and sadness in his eyes and asked me to leave.

Thank God for second chances. Much to the doctor’s surprise, my dad recovered and was released from the hospital. Several months later, I hit my bottom with drugs. I asked for help and began my own journey into recovery. Because my father was losing his battle with emphysema, he was mostly homebound. I was early in sobriety and needed to be helpful to others. I spent the next 17 months getting to know him. In his pajamas and on his Hoveround scooter, he taught me about the intricacies of baseball. He educated me on the many species of birds outside his living room window. He showed me how to forgive others — no matter what they had done. He taught me about being of service to God and my fellows.

I was able to make amends the best I could. I’m not sure we can ever repair the damage completely; an alcoholic or addict causes harm in ways too painful to express. But he forgave me. He did that not only for me, but for him, so he could have peace of mind.

Ours is a story of hope, forgiveness and love. It is not a sad tale. When my father passed away on Nov. 10, 1983, he knew I was safe and happy. That’s all he ever wanted, I suppose. I thought he wanted me to have college degrees, fancy titles and prestige, but what he wanted was to lie down at night and not worry about his daughter. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and a lifetime of memories we made during that year and a half after I got sober. He always put things in simple terms that made so much sense. One of the things he said that I use every day in my work with others struggling from the devastating disease of addiction is, “It don’t matter how the jackass got in the ditch. Just get him out.” I am forever grateful I got out of the ditch in time to have a relationship with the greatest man I ever knew.


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2 comentários

18 de jun. de 2021

I got sober on March 4, 1981 in Albany, GA.

In 1983 I was able to be a transportation person in a hospital in Albany. I transported patients to local AA meetings and was the media guy that showed films like Chalk Talk, with Father and Alcohol,Pills, and Recovery, Dr. Joseph Pursch, we would also do cassette classes with notables. I always made sure every week at least that I heard the story of Dr. John Mooney.

He told the story of checking into Lexington, his famous quote I shall never forget when given a form to check off drugs that he used. He quipped "I use all of these drugs some of the time, and some of these drugs…


18 de jun. de 2021

Beautiful story of second

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