Sunday, 11 April 2010

A Still Life to Save a Life

Those who commented on yesterday’s blog seemed to find the story of Arthur moving, in fact one person; Sherry thought it might have been my best post to date. For that reason I have decided to take that story just a little further along its track.

Arthur came to me one day and asked if we could go and visit a person who had called to ask for help. We had visited this lady once before but what she wanted was us to help her curtail her alcohol consumption and we felt we could not do this. So here she was again seeking our help. This time we decided to use the famous, “not yet technique.”

When we visited I asked he some questions, had alcohol ever affected her work? She gave a hesitant answer so Arthur pipes in, “Not Yet.” Had it affected he marriage, “Not Yet.” had it affected home life, (we new it had) she again said, “No.” Again Arthur quipped, “Not yet.” So the discussion went on. Had she been in trouble with the police? Before she answered I heard the now repetitive, “Not yet.”

“Your life is so full of “not yets” said Arthur. “But all those will day soon become nows because that is the way with those who have no control. Look at what is happening to you.”

By this stage even I was beginning to feel sorry for Mary. I was sure she was wishing she had never invited us in. I noticed an empty vase on the dresser. I told her I was leaving but would be back in five minutes. I nipped down the road to the church. I collected a large bunch of flowers and returned. I took the vase and arranged the flowers in it. They looked beautiful even in the midst of all the disarray. I placed them on one side of the dresser. On the other I arranged the wine bottles, a fair number of them, with the corkscrew. It would have made a fair still life painting.

I said to her, “The flowers are there to remind you that in all of this you are not alone. We care for you and are here for you. The bottles remind you of your first love. When you look over there ask yourself what you would really rather have.” When we left the tears were running down the cheeks of Mary.

It was not the last time she slipped off the wagon but it was the beginning of the way back. A year or so later I heard her retell the story of that day to an assembled audience of over 100 people. She was looking so well and sounding so confident. The tears were running down my cheeks.

A still life had saved the day.

This blog is linked to my other blog where I talk about the artwork used:-The Cornflowers


  1. Good story Ralph. I once belonged to an ALANON group....the group for family members of an alcholic.

    There were many stories told at the meetings; I think the most common was their family member was truly a different person when not governed by alcohol and when sober professed they did not want to be dependant on alcohol.
    Most drank to either forget a howling memory or to alter their personal image.

    There were so many family members at each chapter it was sad; sad to realize what a social disease alcoholism truly is.

    Lifting to know there are people who care, like you and Arthur.

  2. What a touching story Ralph. I love the thought of a still life having so much power and meaning. I look forward to your daily postings to start my day with an inspiring story. Thank you

  3. Would that you and Arthur were here to help more than one of my siblings. In fact, each of them fights alcohol addiction and for some reason, I was blessedly spared that demon. Arthur sounds like such a special man and the two of you in tandem are just powerful, Ralph. Thanks for all you do.

  4. Good morning Ralph, I am alive and it is a great day! Your posts are always interesting and this one seems to "hit home"! I am an alcoholic although I haven't had a drop in over 20 years! It waits for me though! Ruby, I had no "howling memories" nor personality issues and didn't need any excuses to have a drink. I drank because I was happy or sad, because it was raining or to celebrate a beautiful day! Addiction is very difficult to understand for the non-addict. I was addicted and drank because I was an alcoholic. I didn't need a reason or when necessary would just make one up! You would have to go without food for three days to come close to understanding this! It is overpowering and consuming and becomes everything. To quit one must first "reach bottom", get as low as you can get. I was lucky in that my "bottom" was much higher than most, but bottom out I did. It is also a progression to recovery, that takes time too but life becomes a lot easier, lighter, fuller, and as the haze is lifter, a lot clearer!
    In the process of understanding this desease remember it is not a crime and I don't even think it is a moral devaluation of a human being.
    It is a sad way to be and in this "altered state"
    difficult to find a sense of reality. A lot of famous, good and talented people are alcoholics.
    Regretfully there is not a lot we can do to help them until they come to the realization that they need help. That is the 1st step!

  5. Ralph this post was great to read. You are a person I'm glad I've gotten to know. May we all do our best to be a blessing to those around us.

  6. Ralph - seriously beautiful, touching post. I love this blog.

  7. Brilliant! You and Arthur left Mary with a memory prop that spoke to her even after you left. You are so clever! I'm glad to hear that she heard and acted on what she heard. What a great story!!

  8. Stonepost you've set me thinking! My association with alcoholics has been with family members; I have a son who is an alcoholic and I know he drinks to forget a horrid memory and to boost his personal image; and an uncle who after returning to peace from war torn Europe could only shake the pictures in his mind at night by drinking himself into oblivion.
    I have not met any other type and could only speak from these experiences and what I heard at Alanon but I am certain they exist; so perhaps I need to amend my comments. Thanks for pointing me in another direction. Very enlightening comment.

  9. Hello Ralph, I missed your post yesterday and so will have to read to catch up. I do think art has healing powers. And your kindness must have made a great difference to this person. xx

  10. ....."a still life saved the day"

    what a great story!

  11. All I can say is thanks to all of you for such amazing comments. I look at all your blogs and feel honoured that you have taken the time to comment on mine. I will respond in tomorrows blog.

  12. As Stone Post said, we recovering alcoholics would be hard pressed to define the overpowering need of the beast. Some people need a tragedy to stop drinking and seek help, I am glad that Mary needed only to see what her future options were and chose the right path. It is often just kind words and small changes that have the biggest impact. A truely heartwarming entry Ralph, thank you!