Sacred Stories

Our stories are sacred and healing is part of our intro for We Agnostics: Freethinkers in AA meetings in Madison, WI. Six to seven times each week, I sit on a chair in a room with others sitting on mismatched chairs around mismatched tables. For a few minutes each meeting, I tell a story of a moment in my life. The rest of the hour, I listen to the stories of others. I’ve heard too many stories to count. Most include elements of sorrow and joy, despair and hope. 

In Alcoholics Anonymous, I have learned the value and essential nature of our stories. “They [also] connect us to the universal truths about ourselves and our world.” Why Stories Matter “We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. They are the signal within the noise.” The Art of Immersion: Why Do We Tell StoriesRichard Kearney in On Stories suggest that stories  “are the sense of our humanity and give sense to our being human.”

It’s striking to me that the most important stories that I tell about me in AA and Al Anon meetings, are before and after. Before I got sober. After I got sober. The before and after help me make meaning. After sobriety, I began to write poetry that I shared as another way to make meaning of moments, of memories; sometimes too painful to say out loud, sometimes too confusing to speak, sometimes so wonderful that it felt beyond words. With time, this became a daily practice. I used to wonder why. With time, I’ve come to see that it’s in part been a 9th Step Amends to my dead father and to my living and future friends and family. 

For decades, I struggled to forgive my father for harm in our family that went unresolved with him to his grave. Letting go and forgiveness seemed impossible. Beneath all of that resentment was an urgent desire to know why. Why he was the way that he was. An answer that I can guess, but never know. I now realize that these verses I write are my attempt to be ‘known’ to my family and friends. To ease their burden of why. In doing so, I’ve recently begun to get glimpses of my dad in these stories of me. 

These seven poems of seven verses each tell a story that is a little bit me and a little bit him, I think. When I wrote (I) I didn’t know that there would be (II-VII), but they emerged each day and added something to a story that I’ve never told and that I’ve told a thousand times. My dad never recovered and I don’t think that he ever found peace. But I did. And sober, I can imagine a story in which he did. 

I

 There he stood
Upon the precipice
The promontory of doubt
Uncertain the way
Knowing only
That he could not
Could not go back

II

 Ahead lay a vast ocean
Behind him the desert
The desert where he
Had almost died
Wrestling with demons
Seemingly stronger than he
Demons that fed upon his fear

III 

Most of all he remembered
Remembered the dark nights
That never seemed to end
Interminable longing for sleep
Just a moment please he begged
The only sound his breath
And the demons’ persistent cries 

IV 

These were his demons
And he belonged to them
Inseparable they seemed
He created them
And now they owned him
To their shadow of fear
He was forever bound 

V

Freedom he longed for
Yet freedom he feared
To let go was to fall
But to fall was to be free
So fall he did as he must
Falling through the abyss
To the other side

VI

 Standing upon the shore
Waves washing across his feet
He gazed upon an endless sea
At the horizon sky and sea
They become as one
This a moment like none before
As he watched the sun sink low

VII

 As day turned to night
And as night turned to day
He watched each as it came
For this was the place
That he had long since sought
The place of the great unfolding
Where time finally makes its peace


About the Author

Robert B. is a sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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Tel

Great poem. I’m an alcoholic who grew up with an alcoholic father. The poem makes the suffering nobler than I remember and reminds me that the Sacred story is just as often a cover story.