"If you had to remember just one second of your life, which one would it be? By 'remember' I mean the full detail of that one second. Every last little bit of it, in high definition. How would you go about choosing such a moment? . . . Maybe it's one of those instances in your life that you have no choice but to remember."
This is my response.
* * *
It was sometime in June 1988 and I was in the throes of alcohol “treatment.” Throes, because it was painful work, attempting during endless group sessions to look at me through sober eyes. As snippets of the previous twenty-five years constantly popped into my mind, I liked myself less and less. “No wonder the only ‘friends’ I ever had were other drunks like me,” I thought, not in self-pity but stating a truism.
Both staff and group members could tell that I was struggling with me, and to assuage my feelings of guilt and shame they repeatedly told me that I had the “physical disease of alcoholism.” Bullshit. That was The Great Escape clause and I wasn’t having any of it (and I still don’t). It is only right, after a quarter of a century of chaos and mayhem that I caused, that I feel remorse for my behavior.
One bright spot of treatment was the desert. The Mojave, in southern California. At five a.m., when I sat on the patio in just my boxers—smoking, thinking, and watching the sun come up. It was my first-ever time in a desert (I lived in Denver then, not the neighboring Sonoran like now), and I was fascinated by the trees and bushes and flowers and birds—
—and the hummingbird. The "one second in my life."
Time is man-made, so it doesn’t matter whether it was one second or several of them. One of the little birds flew within several inches of my face and hovered there, one eye locking onto mine as we stared curiously at each other.
The hummingbird had a message for me that I will not, cannot ever forget: “Everything will be alright.” No, it wasn’t a basso profundo voice like James Earl Jones's, but a feeling. A feeling I will not, cannot ever forget: a sense of warmth and safety, of acceptance and forgiveness, a feeling of HOPE where hope had never been before. “Everything will be alright” was like a hypodermic shot to my broken heart, and thereafter I never gave up on myself or my recovery. Receiving a message from a bird sounds a bit like crackpottery, but looking back after twenty-two years, everything has been alright.
Like Philip says, it's one of those instances in my life that I have no choice but to remember.
Nor would I if I could.
* * *
It is said that theft is the sincerest form of flattery (or something like that), so I've stolen this from Philip: "So - One Second In Your Life - imprinted on your brain. Now, tell me about yours...."