Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 19, 1968
NUMBER 20, PAGE 1-3a

"Get Me Home Sober"

Martin M. Broadwell

(Author's Note: The following story sounds more like it belongs in a confession magazine than a religious journal. But it is true, word-for-word, fact-for-fact. except that "Al" isn't the real name. As you read, you can do your own moralizing. There are over 6,000,000 alcoholics in this country, with at least a million "Als- trying to overcome it.

It's can to work with someone who is eager to have you in their home for Bible study, who already is living a good, moral life, who hangs on every word and readily accepts the truth of the Gospel. Members and preachers alike will stand in line to work with people like that. But nobody likes a drunk. Who cares about them? Christ does.)

I'm a drunk! Just a no good bum." Over and over Al said it, as much to convince himself as me. "I'm an alcoholic, but really that's just a fancy name for a drunk!"

I listened - half frightened, half embarrassed — because I didn't know what to do or what to say. Even if this had been a stranger, it would have been awkward, but Al was a friend. A few years ago, before he moved to another town, we saw each other every day on the job, rode together in the car pool and often cooked hamburgers on the grill at night. He lived only a short distance from me and I thought I knew him as well as anyone. How could he have sunk this low in such a short time?

The truth is, I was having my first experience with an alcoholic and had a lot to learn. Al (or so we'll call him) was an alcoholic back then — five years ago; he just had been able to conceal it, as this particular breed can do so well. Looking back I think of clues and signs that should have warned me: his frustrations, messages from his wife that he was ill, his constant drive to make more money, a sometimes unbearable nervousness.

As I looked at Al's rotund figure, I realized his frustrations and lack of self-control had brought him to an extremely over weight condition. When I met him in the Hotel corridor the first time I had seen him in several years — he looked huge with his rumpled overcoat and unkempt, unruly hair. The black, curly locks that had once given him a rather manly look, now gave him the disheveled appearance of one who was just plain sloppy.

I somehow had gotten him checked out of the motel where he had been staying for the meeting. It was 10 o'clock in the morning when he had called me to come pick him up. Now it was 11 o'clock and his plane left at 4:45 this evening. The job: "Get me home sober!" he pleaded, whining like a small child.

Right now the problem was more serious. He still had his bottle and an inconceivable (for those of us who do not drink) desire for "just one more drink." The way I found out he had his bottle, he asked me to stop at a filling station for some cigarettes. While we were there, he bought a soft drink and brought it to the car. In his muddled state, he couldn't figure out how to take a drink from his whiskey bottle and my not see him. In the process, I realized what he was trying to do.

"Al, if you're going to drink that, get out of the car right here. I'm through with you." Fortunately the threat worked, and he put the bottle back in his pocket, refusing to surrender it to me. As long as he had it, I knew it provided a false security that would prevent me from getting him sober.

"Are you still a minister, Martin?" he asked, his words slurring through thick lips.

"I still preach, Al."

"That's why I called you this morning. I wanted you to help me."

"I can't help you when you...uh...well, when you' you are." I still couldn't get over the embarrassment and shock of seeing my friend in this state. I was surprised at his remembering me as a preacher rather than an employee with the same company he is with. Before he transferred, I had worked hard at getting him interested in coming to services or letting me study with him. He had only laughed and passed it off jokingly. "I'm afraid religion isn't for me. he had said.

"Just say drunk! That's what I am." He was aware of my uneasiness.

I began to faintly understand why Al had called me. Part of him was in a tortuous craving for more alcohol, while another part was struggling to become sober. Somehow I had to help him win this battle. We began to drive around and talk. I determined not to let him out of sight, nor to let him have a drink. For the time being I gave up attempting to get the bottle from him.

"How much have you had, Al. -

"This is my third pint since last night." I'm not up on the subject, but this seemed like a lot for someone to still be walking and talking.

"How did you drink that much?" I really wanted to know why, but I couldn't force myself to ask it yet.

"I drank all night in my room. It was no problem after I started."

"How did you get started?" I knew he had been in town three days. I wondered how he had made it to the meetings each day.

"We were supposed to go through lunch today, but we finished yesterday afternoon. They'd been having cocktails at lunch and in the evenings, but I'd managed to refuse anything until last night. They celebrated and insisted I join them. Finally I agreed to take one...but an alcoholic can't ever take just one." His voice trailed off and he reached inside his coat.

"Why is an alcoholic different?" I stayed his hand and he thought about the question.

"You don't drink, do you Martin?"


"Have you ever?"


`Then you can't understand what it's like. Some people can drink and stop, but there are some of us whose body just can't pass off the alcohol. As long as it's in the system, we have a tremendous craving for more. Each drink helps a little but puts that much more alcohol in the system. Right now I want a drink more than anything in the world."

`But you want to be sober, too."

`Sure, but not like I want a drink. Let me have just one more..." he begged like a small child.

"No, not as long as I'm with you. Tell me how to get you sober."

What followed was the longest day of my life. I walked Al. fed him coffee and food. We talked and rode and walked some more. He cried as he saw his former home and wanted to meet the people who had bought his house. They were not at home, so we rode some more. My family was away so we went to my house for more black coffee. Finally I got the bottle away from him. We both were relieved.

Sitting across from me in a small restaurant, still two hours till plane time, he munched on a sandwich, talked about how he had been working with other alcoholics through Alcoholics Anonymous, then looked me straight in the eye and asked me the most startling question I've ever been asked. His voice was filled with more desperation and pleading than I have ever heard from an adult even a dying man.

"How can I find God?" He asked simply.

What would you have said? All of the sermons I have preached, all the lessons I have given, all the studying failed to assure me of what was exactly right for this man on this occasion. Before me was a pitiful human being, too weak to help himself, too drunk to reason coherently, but with a realization that he could not go it alone. A professed atheist, a man with an I. Q. of genius proportions, asking me — begging me — to show him God.

I'm going to stop the story here. It doesn't end because it's still going on. I got Al on the plane sober. Even at the airport he made one attempt to go to the bar. His wife met him at the other end. True to his promise, he called me from home. Before this trip he had gone six months without a drink. Maybe he'll go another six months or a year or forever.

Has he found God? He's still looking and he will need help in looking. Studying will help, but the words, the facts, the identity of God must be real — must come alive to help Al. "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden," must have real meaning. It must exhibit itself in the lives of those who claim to have found God. Al is looking for that ability "to be therein content" regardless of the state of physical condition or comfort. He can read about it in Paul's life; he must see it working our lives.

By the way, Al told me something as he started for the plane that he had never admitted before. Up until now he had always claimed no religion, no "affiliation." There was a pause in the conversation, he started to speak then paused again. Looking back, smiling, he said, "When I was 13, I was baptized into the Church of Christ."

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