Throughout my recovery from alcoholism, I have had three distinct “burning bush” experiences. To me the burning bush is a close encounter of the spiritual kind. I have never kept these experiences quiet, for fear that someone would think I’m crazy. They were quite real and for me came at times when I truly needed strong spiritual support.
In my garage is a 2 foot wide by three foot tall poster board. The type of construction paper you would buy for your child’s art projects in school. On top it says, “First Things First.” It was by far my favorite AA saying early in my recovery.
It had to be. If I could First take care of me the rest didn’t matter. Below this saying, are two columns which highlight my first year of sobriety. At the time, I was living on my own and I hung this poster board in my kitchen so I would see many times throughout the day. It started “9/4/94 – 1 Day – 145 pounds.” Yeah, I put my weight down because I knew that would get “healthier.” The next entry said, “9/11/94 – 1 week.” I highlighted every little milestone along the way. One month, two months, then three, then finally 100 days and my weight? 175 pounds. I was starting to look alive again! At 6’4”, a 145 pounds did not look to pretty. I was still underweight, but I was getting there.
In the lower right side of this poster board are some very special dates. Actually two dates. I call these my “burning bush” experiences.
At the time I was a maintenance manager at a large church and school. Besides, myself I had three people who worked for me. My job was mainly doing all the maintenance work and making sure the other three kept the school and church clean. We would alternate on weekends so everyone at least once a month could have their family time as well as church time.
I was really starting to feel good about the direction my life was going and as the Thanksgiving season approached. I thought I’d give my workers the whole week off. School was on break and all that needed attending were church services. Which meant open the building, lock the building and keep the church clean for five services on the weekend and some special services for Thanksgiving. My workers were ecstatic by the idea and kept asking me if I really wanted to do it. I was going to be alone no matter what that Thanksgiving, so I thought I’d stay busy and these people can enjoy their time with their families. As far as I was concerned it was a win-win for everybody.
The week went by pretty uneventfully. Went to work and went to meetings. I was living in a mobile home behind a gas station right smack on Interstate 80. It was about a 15 mile drive from there to my job. The gas station closed every night at 9 PM and except for the traffic on the Interstate it was a really quiet and deserted home.
Thanksgiving Day came and the gas station had a note on its door that they would be closed for the rest of the week so their employees could enjoy time with their families. Now I was getting closer to being totally alone and as I left for work early in the morning I even noticed that there was very little traffic on the Interstate.
I came back home around noon and it was so quiet. My driveway was the gas station's parking lot and I had a good 100 foot walk to my trailer. I couldn't believe how quiet it was. Except for the sounds of the birds chirping and the tall grass blowing in the wind it was quiet. It was a beautiful autumn day.
I walk in my trailer and did some readings on the third step. I knew in my heart for any chance at long term sobriety I needed to know the first three steps like the back of my hand. I read for about a half hour and then figured it was a perfect day to clean up my place and maybe even do some cleaning around the station and my yard.
I washed the dishes, vacuum the carpet, I even got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the kitchen floor. I was really having a great time - all by myself. The last thing I had to do inside was empty my trash. Which meant carrying it from my house and out to the stations dumpster.
As I walked outside, I was ear to ear grin just enjoying the day. I opened the dumpster and as I started to hoist up my trash, I looked in and there sat an unopened case of Busch Light Beer. I starred for quite awhile at it wondering if my eyes were deceiving me.
I held the dumpster's top and looked at the Interstate. No one. I turned around and looked at the station and the road leading into it. Again no one. I had 84 days of sobriety under my belt and my mind began thinking that I could drink that beer and no one, I mean no one would ever know. I looked back inside the dumpster and that beer seemed to be calling my name. But... I stopped. Something inside of me told me to look up again.
And I looked out at an empty lot, which was a couple of acres and all that was on it knee high wild grass. And standing there was a white shadowy figure. A Presence which I knew was a part of me. I couldn't see every featured of this Being, but I could tell that He was crying. The palms of His hands were by His waist but facing me. Though my ears didn't hear a voice, my mind did. And in a weepy voice, all He kept saying was, "Please... please don't... please."
I felt so much love and warmth from this Figure. I broke my stare for a second and again looked at the beer. It was a quick look and then I went back to the Figure... but it was now gone. I closed the dumpster and walked back to my trailer somewhat in a daze. I sat on my couch for five to ten minutes in the total silence and now for the first time in my life, no longer did I believe that I was alone.
Not only did I see that Figure but now I felt Him with every breathe I took. That day I found total tranquility and my desire for a drink of alcohol left. I don't know if anyone came back for the beer, or if anyone took it. I didn't go near the dumpster, in fact, I never really thought about it. I went to work and went to meetings. And that whole Thanksgiving weekend, I knew I was never alone.