Ronny was a binge alcoholic. He would be clean and sober for months and then, seemingly out-of-the-blue, he would disappear into a daily binge of alcohol for weeks on end. He was a hard worker. He had his own handy-man business and he could fix anything. He was very active in church and regularly attended support groups. Ronny knew what he needed to do and what he needed to avoid. But, as many of us know all too well, simply knowing isn’t always enough.
I can remember several times forcing myself into his house to find him passed out in the living room. I would get rid of all his alcohol, get him cleaned up and check him into the local detox clinic. While he was drying out I would head out to the local pawn shop and buy back all of the stuff that he had pawned, in order to pay for his latest binge.
His wife couldn’t take it, so she left him. She didn’t divorce him for she loved him. Yet, she could no longer stay with him and watch him slowly but surely self-destruct. Ronny was truly all alone in life, besides his work, and his demons.
Not that I blame his wife for leaving or the countless others who cared for him deeply for leaving. They all left him because they loved him, but simply couldn’t help him. They left him to preserve themselves. Nobody, in their right mind, wants to sit alongside the tracks waiting for the inevitable train wreck. Each person must decide for themselves when enough is enough and I will never fault anyone on that journey.
One day I got a call that Ronny was in the hospital. He had been on a binge and got really sick. Luckily a neighbor had found him and called 911. I went to visit him in the hospital and he didn’t look good. As we sat there chewing the fat, you know talking but not really talking about what was really important, the doctor came in. He obviously wanted to talk to Ronny about his condition but he was noticeably uncomfortable with me in the room. Ronny, picking up on the doctor’s discomfort, told him that I was his pastor and that anything he had to say to him he could say in front of me.
With that permission granted the doctor went into a long medical explanation of what had happened to Ronny, something about his liver function. To which Ronny, as only Ronny could, kindly asked the doctor to tell him as if he was in kindergarten. The doctor then simply looked at him and said “Your liver won’t handle another binge. The next time you do it will be your last time ever.” Ronny lowered his head, thanked the doctor, who then looked at me with an uncomfortable “Do you think I can leave now?” look on his face. I simply nodded my head and smiled. To which the doctor exited the room.
Ronny and I sat there in silence. Thoughts about the next steps were running through my mind – Who do I need to call? What arrangements do we need to make? How will we help Ronny pay for all of this? And on and on and on. After what seemed to be a very long time I finally looked at Ronny and said, “Well, at least we now know what we are facing and what we must do.”
I was unaware of exactly what had been going through Ronny’s mind that whole time. Thus, I was unsure as to how he would respond to the words I spoke to break the silence. Ronny lifted his head, looked right into my eyes and said the words that I will never forget. Now remember, the doctor had just left the room after telling Ronny that his next binge would be his last, for his liver was shot. And I am sure that the doctor told Ronny in a sufficiently kindergarten way. So, I knew he understood that reality. Ronny said, “Well David, I just don’t know.”
I will never forget those words, for in that moment I realized that I was truly looking at a dead man walking. For what I considered to definitely be rock bottom – a doctor telling me that my liver is so bad that if I binge one more time I will die – was not Ronny’s rock bottom. For he didn’t believe that he could stop himself from binging one more time. Even with this new information.
Unfortunately, you know the ending to this story. A little over a month after Ronny was discharged from an alcohol rehabilitation center, he was found dead in his home of liver failure. It was the inevitable result of that one last binge. Ronny knew what needed to be done, but he didn’t do it. It breaks my heart every time I think about it.
Is there something in your life that needs to be done, but you aren’t doing it? Have you been given all the information you need to make a right decision, but you aren’t making it? Have you hit “rock bottom”, at least in the minds of all the people in your life, but you just don’t feel like it’s your “rock bottom”? It’s time to get help. Don’t end up like Ronny. Don’t be the subject of somebody’s sad blog in 20 years.