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The Haunted Sofa
The Haunted Sofa
Happily for us, we in AA have found that we need no human authority whatever.
We have two authorities which are far more effective. One is benign, the other malign.
There is God, our Father, who very simply says, “I am waiting for you to do my will.”
The other authority is named John Barleycorn, and he says, “You had better do God’s will or I will kill you.”
(As Bill Sees It, Two Authorities. 319)
The Haunted Couch
Do you have a favorite place, a familiar spot where you and friends gather to talk and joke? It might be a pew, a park bench, or the neighbor's front porch swing, but when you’re there, you belong—it's belongs to you.
People in recovery tend to be just as possessive of their favorite place. It might a plastic lawn chair or beat up sofa, but it's where they want to sit. Take it by mistake and the oldtimers won’t be happy. They’ll shake hands with the unknowing seat thief, and then wave their thumb over their shoulder and grin. “I paid dearly for that chair. You can have any seat you want, except that one.”
The Haunted Couch is about a time and place that no longer exists, an old parsonage called the Youth House, and hundreds of people that met there. But before it was bulldozed, when everything was still flesh and blood and wood—there were ghosts.
The best place to sit through AA Meetings was on a large stuffed sofa, closest to the hallway leading to the back of the Youth House. Paddy and Seamus always sat on the right, and Dale and McHank on the left.
Sadly, lung cancer took Dale and an aneurism got McHank well before they qualified for social security. Superstitious AA’s thought it was jinxed and avoided the sofa. It became one of the last seats to be taken on meeting nights.
Half asleep while “How it Works,” was being read, I saw movement in the hallway. What? It was Dale and McHank. Ghosts … but how? Caitlyn and Molly looked down the hall, but they didn’t see anything. Were they a figment of my imagination? A pool of memories that somehow became real?
My face flushed and goosebumps ran down both arms.
Maybe people have to think of the dead to see them. I remembered a conversation from several months ago, when we debated life after death. “What about time—were there hours and days on the other side? Alcoholism is a spiritual disease—does it follow us into eternity?”
Did those memories connect me to them?
The two ghosts edged into the room and looked around. They waved and winked but nobody responded. I dared a discreet wave and caught their attention. McHank mouthed, “Can you see us?”
Was I losing my mind?
I gave him a thumbs-up.
Dale gestured me to the backroom.
I closed the door to muffle the happy meeting uproar. “How are you? Why did you come back?”
McHank spoke quickly. “We’ve returned to bear witness to those able to see us. Our time is limited, so we must use these moments well.”
I whispered, “I’m listening.”
“Eternity revolves around God. He is the author of all life and death. Seek Him in prayer. Study scripture and read the big book. Be the Good Samaritan, loyal to your sponsor and AA. Give, as it was freely given to you. Do these things and you will please God.”
“Believe us. We’ve been to the other side,” Dale continued. “If you die drunk, you die drunk forever. But if you die sober, you die sober forever. Eternity is very permanent. Change today, while you can. Guard your treasure—your sobriety—because it has an infinite value in eternity.”
“Alkies can’t choose their parents or when and where they’re born,” McHank said. “So they might have a poor start in life’s race. Sweet party days evolve into alcoholism and it grows stronger by the year. Most lose their twenties and thirties while consequences pile up. But with God, everyone can stop in time. He gives us the power of choice, to choose to finish our race well.”
Dale added, “These are good folks. Never doubt their motives.”
They glanced at each other and nodded. “Gotta go.”
“But, but …” Before could I finish saying, “when will you be back,” they faded into eternity. I collected myself and rejoined everyone in time to hear the chairperson state, “Now let’s have a spiritual meeting. Who’s got a topic?”
Some people will enjoy this this ghost story, some won’t. Many won’t have a clue. Regardless, there’s a moral to be learned:
Share your sobriety with others in this life, or others will tell your drunken tale while you’re moldering in the grave—your choice—but your story will be told.
Earth person or alcoholic, drunk, sober, agnostic or believer—death takes us all. But for recovering alcoholic-addicts, we cheated fate and live on borrowed time. We can use this time to be a spirit of recovery, like Dale and McHank, and leave everyone with good memories and wise counsel. Or be the sad lonely drunk. The woeful ghost who cries in the dark, “Don’t do what I did.”
What kind of legacy will you leave for family and friends?
The Youth House is a parking lot today. Nobody ever claimed the haunted sofa. Or should I say, it never claimed another AA. I never tested the hypothesis to see one way or the other. You see, “The Haunted Sofa” carried a double edged sword. The alky who claimed it got its curse. They died—but—they died sober. Is that such a bad thing? Isn’t that what we hope for, a good life while it lasts, to persevere and depart well-loved and sober?
Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.
Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned,
For we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
And our days on Earth are but a shadow.
Bildad the Shuhite, Circa 3,000 BCE (NIV, Book of Job. 8.7)