Restored - A Short Story
He was alone. Last year, he might have predicted things would work out this way. Someone who had been given such a gift—entrusted with it, really— would never simply continue life as it had been before. He should have known.
And here it was again, this holiday time of year. The calendar told him it was 2012, and his life was different.
The change went much deeper than a season or being a year older. It went under his skin, as deep as his soul—if he permitted himself to believe in such a thing.
Life was like that, he thought. It could strip everything away from you in the blink of an eye. And then it could restore everything you had lost—give you even more, in fact, than you had ever had—with the same lightning speed.
He knew that, now he just had to hold true to the promises he had made and the responsibility the gift required of him. Of course he had made these same promises before and never been able to uphold his part of the deal with the God he envisioned. Only the unwavering benevolence of a mighty creator permitted him this opportunity again after countless failures and he knew for certain there would not be another chance. He must make the necessary changes in his life or forever despair.
Addiction had taken away everything he had ever gained. Chase Carson was a highly intelligent man, most would consider him brilliant, and many men who existed on the same level of discerning as him scoffed at the idea of a God. But Chase saw that things were just a little too perfect and orderly in a world that by all accounts should be rampant in chaos; and a series of coincidences had enlightened him to the point of understanding that there was certainly something greater than himself at work in this world. That’s what the old men said in the smoky backrooms of the AA meetings and he now believed it beyond a doubt. They also said that he must put down the whiskey in order to live a life with any fulfillment. That was the compact that he had just resuscitated with the God of his understanding. His days of drowning out life in a bottle of fermented grain mash would end now.
Memories of past missteps began to radiate through his mind like the flashes of television episodes during a channel scan on one of those old analog idiot tubes. It was a synaptic attunement as neurotransmitters fought to reach their destination receptors in the hippocampus, that seahorse of the inner brain. The involuntary memory of his first true drinking experience presented itself to adumbrate all the pain which had followed that initial swallow. He had always been able to remember those first beers with his high school acquaintances and during his earlier attempts at recovery he had often questioned what might have been if he had decided not to waver to the brew. Now he had come to realize that the addiction which crippled him was also the greatest blessing bestowed upon him. Although it was the most difficult struggle to overcome, success would mean that his sobriety filled him with purpose and that his past gave him the experiences to assist those who also found themselves alone in the darkness.
Then there were the jail cells and the cold lonely nights spent in isolation trying to come to terms with the circumstances that had brought him into custody. Chase had been to jail enough times that he had lost count and alcohol had been the reason behind each one of his stays in lock-up. A couple of times it had been driving under the influence which had led to the incarceration. There had been a time when the officer must have practically saved his life for the only recollection he had before the arrest was of swerving between the lanes on the interstate through the darkness of night and then afterwards waking up on a slab of concrete that was what consisted of a bench in the musky holding cell of that county facility. He had had no intention of stopping that night as he made his way between dive bars and shots of whiskey randomly crossing the country.
Further recollections permeated his consciousness as he saw scenes of his visits to rehab. He had lost count of that number as well. Some were court-ordered and others were ordered by employers but they all had the same lack of effect on his drinking at the time. Sure the moments spent going over the effects of drugs on a person’s body or reading from The Big Book may have got him out of the current legal ordeal or saved him from losing his job temporarily, but nothing seemed to curtail his desire for the warmth of the whiskey. He always eventually found himself back in court or out of a job. As a man of science and academia he found it hard to understand how classes and group meetings could alter a man’s will if he was determined to drink. In fact, he knew that only the individual had the power to overcome his own addiction. Because of that he had not taken any of it seriously and generally returned to drinking within a few months of completion. But, he now saw that important tools were presented to him in these facilities and at least had made him focus on the problem which he so often drank to ignore. It was greater than overcoming his personal faults. It was about helping others and through that remaining sober himself. He was 30 years old and it was time for change.
He had also been homeless for a period of time after leaving one of his jobs during an alcoholic binge and his thoughts returned to the memories of that time. Living on the streets and out of the city’s homeless shelters had probably been one of the lowest points in his life and one would think that most people would be changed from such an experience. He recalled scenes of himself begging for money, standing on the corner waiting for day labor jobs, and taking showers next to some of the dirtiest people he had ever met. Even this did not assuage him from drinking and he frequented the liquor store almost as soon as he was paid from the mindless jobs he was able to obtain while living out of the mission. It had been the holiday season then as well. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners served by volunteers did not do much to improve the spirit of a lost soul. He regretted that he had returned to a life of addiction even after being helped off the streets and he was determined to make the changes this year. The gift of sobriety would return happiness into his life and provide vitality where there once was none.
Suddenly there was a steady beep on the electrocardiogram machine which meant that the doctors had been successful in returning his pulse back to normal. It was a bustle of white coats and scrubs as he awoke and the medical team realized that the defibrillator had done its job in motivating his heart to return to its duty. The last thing he remembered was the headlights of the oncoming vehicle that he had approached head-on after passing out drunk behind the wheel and waking up just moments before the disastrous collision. He had only been unconscious for a few minutes but had been presented with the memories of the most significant moments of his young life while he was dead. The gift he was given was that of life, the gift that we have all been blessed with, and he was determined not to let God down this time.