Her Phone Call Saved Her Brother's Life

She'd given up on her brother, who had battled alcoholism for years, but a voice compelled her to try again.

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- Posted on May 23, 2019

ILLUSTRATION BY SHANE REBENSCHIED

Call Danny. I was cleaning my kitchen one Saturday morning, and the impulse just came over me. It was strange. My younger brother, Danny, and I weren’t close. We didn’t talk much. Plus, it was 11 a.m. He was probably already halfway drunk. Pointless trying to talk to him.

It was hard to remember a time when Danny hadn’t been an alcoholic. He’d tried everything to quit. Gone to countless AA meetings. Tried quitting cold turkey. Even tried “controlled drinking”—only one or two drinks a night. Every attempt failed. Married and with two teenage kids, he was still drinking. I’d pretty much given up hope. After all, most of our family battled alcoholism. Maybe being an alcoholic was a biological destiny that Danny couldn’t escape.

I continued with housework, trying to distract myself, but the feeling only grew stronger. Call Danny. The thought forced its way into my head. I considered inviting him to church but quickly dismissed the idea. I’d invited him many times before. He’d always refused. And yet…

Call Danny. The compulsion to pick up the phone was overwhelming. It hit me with such force that I almost had to sit down. Finally I gave in and dialed. “Hello?” Danny slurred.

“Danny, it’s Dianne.” I took a deep breath. “You’re coming to church with me tomorrow.” He didn’t say much, certainly didn’t fight me. I was nonplussed. “I’ll pick you up at 10.” He simply agreed. Danny was waiting for me the next morning. He had on a clean button-down instead of his usual logo T-shirt. We didn’t talk much. I was almost afraid to say anything, for fear Danny would demand to go home.

During the sermon, he listened intently. At the end of the service, the pastor invited anyone who needed prayer to come meet with him in his office. Danny went.

On the way home, I asked what he’d asked the pastor to pray about. “I just told him to give me a prayer for all of it.”

Weeks passed. Danny and I started talking more. He quit drinking—again—and was attending AA meetings. He told me one day that his marriage was going through a rough patch. I invited him to stay in my extra room, so he could focus on his job and his recovery.

During that time, I got to know the sober Danny—a chance I thought I’d never get. We fell into a comfortable routine. He stuck to his recovery. He went to meetings. I even went to a few with him, the ones open to the public. One morning, a few months into Danny’s stay with me, we were drinking coffee together and talking. Suddenly he grew quiet. “Remember when you called and invited me to church?” he said.

“Sure,” I said.

His face tightened, and he stared into his coffee cup. “I was going to end it all that morning,” he said. He described calculating the perfect combination of alcohol and pills to “do the job.” Then his phone had rung. “That call stopped me,” he said. “It was like you knew exactly when to pick up the phone. I figured I had nothing to lose by going to church with you. I could kill myself later.”

More than 20 years have passed since that call. Danny’s still sober. He’s mended his relationship with his family and has a place of his own. We’re closer now. I still can’t explain why I was overpowered by the urge to call Danny when I’d long given up hope for him. But someone hadn’t.

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