The hospital room where my father lay deathly ill from emphysema was small and sterile. All of his friends in Alcoholics Anonymous were gathered in the waiting room telling stories and recounting fond memories of their time with Dr. John Mooney. This was 1982 and my father had been an upstanding citizen of our community for 23 years. He was a well-known surgeon who plummeted through the gates of hell with a drug addiction, along with my mother, until a series of miracles and loving friends forced him to get help. In the recently published book, When Two Loves Collide, by William Borchert, the readers can follow the heart-ache, pain, despair, and loneliness, on a spiritual journey with an ending that has touched thousands of lives.
The crowd that was gathered at the hospital that day seemed jovial. There was laughter along with the tears. At times, the nurse had to plead for silence as patients were complaining about the noise. It was a room filled with love and support. That’s how AA folks are.
I sat in a chair in the corner facing away from the group in dirty blue jeans. I wanted no part of the camaraderie. I was 20, strung out on drugs and homeless. Because my parents got sober in 1959, they understood addiction. In fact, they dedicated their lives to helping others. But they had done all within their power to get me sober, to no avail. They were pretty sure their only daughter, would die a horrible alcoholic death. A letter I received from them in 1980 read:
Dearest Carol Lind,
Your father and I love you very much, but we have accepted the fact that death may be the answer to your alcoholism. Although that would be the worst thing imaginable, we will have to find a way to be okay. You are always in our prayers.
Mama and Daddy
They had turned me over to God and gotten on with their lives.
My home was a small tent by the railroad tracks. In the mornings, I would awaken with leaves tangled in my hair. My mom found me there and asked me to come say “good-bye” to my dad.
So, as I sat in my corner of the ICU waiting area, I was alone. My father was the most important person in my life. He was witty, charming, and brilliant. But I couldn’t stay sober long enough to have a relationship with him. I wanted nothing more than to walk in his room, hold him, telling him how much I loved him. Instead, I sat in my cold metal chair, shaking, and thinking about getting high. When the doctor let me go in to see him, my dad looked at me with disgust and sadness in his eyes and asked me to leave.
Thank God for second chances. Much to the doctor’s surprise, my dad recovered and was released from the hospital. Several months later I hit my bottom with drugs. I asked for help and began my own journey into recovery. My dad was mostly home-bound. I learned in early sobriety to be helpful to others, so I spent time getting to know him & helping him. In his pajamas he taught me about the intricacies of baseball. He educated me on the many species of birds outside of his window. He showed me how to forgive others – no matter what they had done. He taught me about being of service to God and my fellows. I was able to make amends the best I could. An alcoholic or addict causes harm in ways too painful to express. But he forgave me. He did that not only for me, but for him. So he could have peace of mind.
Ours is a story of hope, forgiveness, and love. It is not a sad tale. When my father passed away on November 10, 1983, he knew I was safe and happy. That’s all he ever wanted, I suppose. I thought he wanted me to have fancy titles and prestige, but what he wanted was to lie down at night and not worry about his daughter. I am forever grateful I got sober in time to have a relationship with the greatest man I ever knew.
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Carol Lind Mooney is an Attorney and Certified Addiction Counselor with over 30 years of experience helping alcoholics and addicts. She owns three recovery residences in Statesboro, Georgia and is a co-owner of Willingway, a nationally recognized treatment center also in Statesboro. She is the daughter of Dr. John and Dot Mooney, the subjects of “When Two Loves Collide,” the new book by Emmy-nominated writer Bill Borchert. The book is available on Willingway.com, Amazon.com, books.com and in most major book stores.