Going Under


In the summer of 1988, I found myself drowning in the deep waters of life. A chain of events I had no control over, fell on me like dominoes tumbling down and before I knew it, I was under more problems than I could handle. I had an accident which broke my foot in five places and I was ordered off of it. I consequently lost my job. I hadn’t been there long enough to qualify for unemployment. No one was going to hire me and my crutches. I couldn’t even drive my car as it was a standard not automatic transmission and thus required both feet, which I didn’t have. This all became further complicated when my ex-husband got laid off and there wasn’t any child support coming in either. The state would not help me. I had to prove that the child support had stopped. The red tape I needed to go through for that was going to be a long wait; I lived in Florida and he was in Michigan. I did get emergency food but the chits for that were small and barely covered our necessities. As a single parent with two very hungry teenagers, I was grateful but I was going without eating as often as I could so that they would have enough. The bills had to wait. I eventually got the shut off notices and a letter of warning from my landlord. I prayed for the help I needed but the outlook was very bleak. I knew that I was going under.

I felt useless and hopeless, faced with more than I had the ability to cope with. I held it in, put on a mask that all was fine; it wasn’t. I put my chin up and carried on as best that I could but it was growing harder to bear every day. Sure, I prayed about it, but I didn’t talk with others about it. My friends all knew about the accident, the loss of a job, the inability to drive. These were obvious concerns I couldn’t very well hide. Though I welcomed and was grateful for rides to A.A. meetings, church, and to the store with my emergency chits that they never saw, I still had not admitted how dire my circumstances were. I tried everything to fix the problem myself but now I was facing the loss of my home and possibly my children. I finally broke down and told a friend about what I was going through and how helpless I felt.

“You have to reach out and let others know when you are going through things like this,” she said as she held me and let me cry myself out. “We’ll find a way but you have to allow us to be there with you, for you, as you always are for so many of us.”

I shook my head and thanked her for the shoulder but I couldn’t let others feel that they should help me just because I had helped them when their lives were rough.

“It’s not about obligation, it’s about caring, and we care about you! I know how stubborn you are but we will find a way. Remember, the first step is admitting that you have a problem!” she smiled and got up to leave. “Now, you have to let go and let God! Remember, God works through others! I’ll pick you up for the meeting tonight. Things will get better, you’ll see.”

That night at the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, my friend told this story:

One day, there was a man out in his boat and the boat started to leak and fill with water. The man tried bailing it out and row back towards shore but the hole grew bigger and soon the man could not bail the water out fast enough to save himself. The boat sank and he was left treading water. A storm came in and made the waves so big that he had to use all of his strength just to keep from drowning. He was a very good swimmer but even he with his strength and ability, was not up to the task. He kept getting pushed out into deeper and deeper waters. He prayed that he would be saved and he believed that he would be but he was growing ever weaker.

A large boat came up to him and offered to bring him aboard but the man said, “No, God will save me.”

He kept treading water as the storm grew darker and lightening flashed all around him. He prayed and held on to his hope of God rescuing him.

A coast guard patrol spotted him struggling to stay afloat and came over to help him. Again, he refused the help of others and tried to send them away, saying, “No, God will help me!”

They sent men into the water after him but they were too late. The man drowned before they could reach him through the rough water.

When he arrived in Heaven, he questioned God, “Why didn’t You save me?”

“I tried to but you refused the helpers that I sent to you.”

“The point of this story is that God does some of His best work through others. You’ve heard that ‘Blessed are they who give…’ When you let others help you then all are blessed. My question here is – how can we who wish to help another in need, be blessed when the one in need refuses our help, doesn’t even let us know that it’s needed? Come on, the first step here is in admitting that we are powerless when faced with something greater than ourselves! This is a program created not just to stop drinking but to learn how to have a better life!”

I started crying, knowing that she was speaking of me and my needs. I knew then that my stubbornness and false pride in refusing to allow anyone to know that I needed help, was what was taking me under, not the problems themselves. The tears continued to flow freely as I opened up to the group about my circumstances and admitted that I needed help.

The basket was passed and I was given that night’s contributions. * I cried all the harder but this time, there was also a huge sigh of relief.

Many friends came to see me over the next weeks, easing the burden that I had been under. Some brought groceries and others brought money that had been donated at other meetings to help me through this rough time. All came to help encourage me. My name was given at church when requests for prayers were made. Then people in the church pitched in too! I would not lose my children or my home, and I no longer felt that I was drowning. The child support started again with my ex-husband back at work. My foot healed. I found a new job. Life was moving forward again. With the help of God through others, I had made it to the shore.

“In God’s wisdom, He frequently chooses to meet our needs by showing His love toward us through the hands and hearts of others.” ~Jack Hayford, author and minister

I am forever grateful for the help that I received, not just for the gifts from the many, but for the love that He has always shown me that came to me through their open hearts.

“God helps those who help themselves…”

The greatest gift that I received in all of this was the life lesson that I don’t always have to be so strong all by myself, that I too am allowed to cry out for help and be comforted. I learned that sometimes the best help you can give yourself is to give yourself permission to ask for help from others. Love yourself as much as you do them. I learned that I don’t have to be alone in the dark ever again. I need to reach out, not just to help others but to be helped by them as well. Grace is not a one-way experience.

Live a life worth living! Enjoy the Journey!

*There are no dues or fees for those who attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. We are self-supporting through our own contributions. A basket is passed at each meeting to help meet the needs of the group.


About dagonsblood

Virginia Lee enriches her writing with her experiences of the human spirit, sharing the same in her work of helping others. Enjoy the journey!
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1 Response to Going Under

  1. Dannie Hill says:

    What a wonderful post about need and understanding. In my Southern pride I’ve gone hungry when there was no need. Virginia, you have given back much more than you received. That God’s gift to you as well.

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