"A power greater than ourselves"
by Ned Wicker
This blog is about Arnie. I met him recently while doing my rounds at the hospital where I work, and the story coming out of that meeting is significant because it illustrates the profound truth underlying the second of the 12 Steps:
“We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
The relationship with your higher power is interesting because over the years I have learned that it can take on so many different forms, all of which are strong in their own right and valid as it relates to helping a person through recovery.
Arnie was a biker, one of the rare breed of the “One Percent” who are the motorcycle gang members associated with violence, drug trafficking and all kinds of anti-social behavior. Even now, long after his biker days, he is still an intimidating figure, with a long ponytail down his back and a thick, full beard, with beads braided into a fu-man-chu mustache.
You can't pass out, that's a rule!
“One of the rules of the club was you can take all the drugs and drink all the liquor you bring for yourself, but don’t pass out,” he recalled. “If you pass out, they might do anything to you. One guy had his head and beard shaved clean, they took off all his clothes and hand-cuffed him to a light post.”
Fueled by an excess of testosterone and an over-inflated ego, bikers took pride in “handling” their drugs and alcohol. Part of being a man, according to Arnie, was being able to avoid passing out while partying. “Of course you built up a tolerance for things over the years, but sooner or later it’s going to catch up to you and it caught up to me.”
Falling in love
Around the age of 30, Arnie met a woman, or she might have met him. He had a chain around the ankle of his boot, indicated he was available. She made the first move and as strange as it seems, according to his story, the first encounter was “surreal.”
“She said if I’m going to be with you, you have to do six things for me,” Arnie explained. “First she says ‘no booze,’ then she says ‘no drugs.’ She said ‘don’t ever lie to me,’ and she said ‘get rid of the guns.’ (He had a large gun collection) She told me that I have to work and provide for us and then she told me ‘don’t you ever leave me.’”
Right then and there he knew she was the love of his life. He agreed to her terms and she said, “Now get down on your knee and ask me to marry you.” He did. He kept his promises for 30 years. Now, three years after her death, he only has the memories. But there was a seventh promise that she demanded. Shortly before she died she told him, “Don’t put a bullet in your head,” knowing that he would be so deeply saddened by her passing. “I want to go to be with her,” he said, “but I am going to keep my promise.”
“She meant everything to me, and believe me I got the better end of the bargain,” he said. “She changed my life, got me away from the culture I was in, away from the drugs and alcohol, and away from the violent lifestyle. My job was to love her and that saved my life. She was my higher power because I wanted to be with her and I knew that she meant what she told me. I never challenged that because I knew what she would do. I didn’t know it then, but I know now that she was a gift from God. I look at where I was when we met and the life we had together. It couldn’t be anything else. Why she was there with the bikers, why me, I don’t know. I just think God put her there.”
By the time he was 30, Arnie had a long history of alcohol and drug abuse. It started with marijuana in his teenage years, but later his appetite for cocaine took over. There was always alcohol. “I was addicted to coke and alcohol,” he said. “It was just a normal thing, you know, just something we all did every day. I can’t believe I lived through it.” Like many teens, Arnie was looking for acceptance, and the drugs provided an escape from a dismal home life.
A hard childhood
“My father hated me and told me so, because he hated my mother. He hated her and so he hated me and my brother,” he explained. “He beat me up and my brother would always ask me why I let him do it. I don’t know. It was just what my life was. My brother is dead now. He died from heroin addiction a few years ago. He never had anything to do with me. My father is dead too. I tried to forgive him, you know, tried to at least talk to him. To his dying day he told me he hated me.
“But she saved me. She was everything even though her own family treated her so bad too. Maybe we were meant to be together because we understood each other. Her mother called her a whore, but she was a lady, my lady. How can somebody that beautiful and wonderful come out of a family that hates her? But she loved me and treated me well.”
A power greater than himself!
Arnie considers himself lucky. “God put her in my life and I know that. I wasn’t looking to change anything, but it’s like I had something bigger and stronger guiding me. If I wanted to be her husband, I had to do things right. Ya, that’s a power greater than myself.”