Doris was the first person I met in the community where I’ve lived for almost 18 years. She passed away in May at the age of 92. I chided myself for not visiting more during her last months. Doris suffered from dementia and other ailments, so I’m not sure she completely recognized me when I did come to see her. I could have done more, I thought. I felt better after writing a sympathy note to one of her daughters. Knowing Doris, I was convinced she wouldn’t want me to spend time or energy feeling guilty. Doris wasn’t like that…she lived her life to the fullest and didn’t keep a record of offenses.
I met Doris at the Thursday night Al-Anon meeting at the “The Barn,” the local gathering place in our small town. I was a newcomer when I hesitantly entered the cavernous building and walked to the small back room, “The Hen House,” where weekly meetings were held. I instantly felt like I belonged.
That’s the way it is with Al-Anon. No matter where you go, there’s a sense of connection and support. All those years ago when I was dealing with my husband Randy’s alcoholism, it felt good to find a place where I was accepted and understood. Doris was so good at that. She had a quiet way about her as she shared her own story; her experience and hope. Somehow it was hard to believe that she’d ever felt as stressed or had been an emotional basket case like me. She assured me she had been exactly where I was… and that if I kept coming back, I’d also make my way through to a more positive place.
Every time Randy and I left the city and came over the mountains from Seattle, I made it a point to show up at the Al-Anon meeting. I can’t remember a time when Doris wasn’t there. Her faithful presence gave me courage and helped me decide to move to the Methow Valley with Randy several years later, in spite of his tenuous sobriety. I knew I would never be alone–no matter what happened.
There are people who come into our lives and we are never the same. Doris was one of those special friends who gently and profoundly touched my life simply by living hers. When she became too frail to live on her own, her family moved her into a group home in another town several hours from here. Last fall, they brought her home to the valley she loved to live out her final days. I miss Doris–but I know she completed the work God had given her. The same work I feel privileged to pass on to others who are struggling in much the same way as I did.
If you’re feeling in despair because someone you love has a drinking problem, why not try out an Al-Anon meeting? I can almost guarantee you will find a Doris there who will help change your life.
What I can give is never as much as I get from the giving. ~ Al-Anon Family Group