The road we took to our destination is off the beaten path, so much so that finding it on your own would be nigh shy of a miracle. From the main road, you will twist and turn through a nicer section of town, that quickly becomes something more befitting to a Mark Twain story, before you make your final turn onto a road that is barely more than paved dirt. The two homes that you pass are more ramshackle than run-down, and it was at this point that I looked at my inviter and wondered where exactly he was taking me. That’s when I saw uur destination; Last House. Which is, literally, the last house on the left.
In truth, had it been dark, this would have been the perfect opening scene for a horror movie. Luckily (for me), it was 9:30 on a Sunday morning.
The house sits alone in a yard that is more dirt than grass. We park under a large shade tree that already has several cars parked around it. We get out and walk to the house. It’s the double red doors that stand out to me, as they contrast against the white exterior.
We walk in, and I am introduced to several people. Some become part of the background, a few stand out. I am offered coffee, and being 9:30 and not a morning person, I gladly accept. I notice where my inviter goes to sit and I follow. More introduction are had as people file into the room as the meeting is about to begin. Sitting down (and being incredibly out of my element and uncomfortable) I start to look around the room and take it all in.
The room iteself is quite large and decorated in what I can only imagine would be the latest in 1970’s chic. Several tables are formed around the edge to create a horseshoe and there are chairs lining the wall behind that. At the front is a large official looking wooden table with two long banners hanging behind it. On each banner are listed 12 items. The walls are decorated in a hodgepodge of art that bears slogans or words of encouragement. The drop ceiling is similarly decorated; the tiles have been hand painted with various things. One pays tribute to a young man who is “gone too soon” and as I look at it, I do the math, realizing that he was much younger than me. For some reason, that’s the tile that sticks with me.
The meeting is called to order and, much like the church services I normally attend, there is a formalness to the procession. There is a discussion about upcoming events and meetings, reading of the steps, a moment of silence, and then the main topic is a shared reading. The topic, “Remembering your last drunk.” Each reader introduces themself, followed by the well known afermation, “I’m an alcoholic,” to which everyone says hello in return. When the reading is done, the floor is opened to anyone that would like to share about what they just read.
The older gentleman sitting to my right says, “I don’t remember my last drink, but I remember my last drunk.” He goes on to add that, “I was so drunk I don’t remember the last three days.” He is filled with remorse because he doesn’t know if he did anything wrong, hurt anyone, or what. Just that since that day, he remembers his last drunk because he knows if he ever drinks again, it will be his last.
“I remember all my ‘last drunks,'” says a man across the room and there are nods of understanding from others. Another man, dressed in a suit jacket says, “My uncle offered me White Lighting when I was just a kid. My first drink was so strong it burned my toenails off.” The room laughs. “I remember those whose last drunk was their last day,” adds another, and the room gets quiet.
A woman says, “I couldn’t wait to get home from work because I was shaking from the lack of alcohol.” She said, “I would be fixing a drink before I even had my coat off.” This comment sparks memories of my mom, and in that moment, I am connected to everyone else in this room. She adds, “I called the hotline and the person on the other end of the phone asked me, ‘Can you put the drink down?’ and I said, ‘No.’ It was the first time I ever admitted I couldn’t.”
It is in a moment between stories when I hear it. Off in the distance, a rooster is crowing the dawn of a new day and I laugh a little to myself as I think how apropos.
My inviter speaks up and says, “It took every drink I’ve ever had to get me here today.” His words strke a chord in my because this is something I understand. I may not be an alcoholic, but I understand living a life without regret. To recognize you have a problem. To do something about it. To find help. To confess your sins. To be held accountable. To surround yourself with people who are on the same path. This I understand.
The meeting comes to a close and we gather in a circle, holding hands, and recite the Lord’s Prayer before dismissing. An hour has passed on a Sunday morning, and as they disperse, I am keenly aware that in these few brief moments, this group of men and women have come together to share and to be strengthened by each other. It leaves me a bit of awe.
As we are leaving, I take one last look around and as I recount the stories I just got done listening to, it dawns on me that this is truly the ‘Last House.’ And although each of these men and woman have their own story of the road they took to get here, they found it.
And that is nothing shy of a miracle.