She didn't know how to help her husband, who struggled with alcohol abuse, until a rainbow showed her the way.
- Posted on Sep 25, 2019
My husband, Henry, walked in and dropped a stack of newspapers on the table. I thought I spotted a beer can hidden behind his back, but he quickly turned to face me, hiding his hand from view. I brushed off the thought as silly. I must have just imagined it.
“Hi, darling,” he said, giving me a kiss before heading to his recliner and flipping on the morning news.
I glanced at the newspapers on the table. Slipped under the bundle’s string was a small envelope. It was payday for Henry’s newspaper route, which supplemented income from the crops we grew on our farm. Inside the envelope, alongside the check, was a pamphlet about four pages long. It was there every week, but I’d never paid it any mind. Until today.
The caption read Finding Love, Joy and Peace. It had a photo of a white, clapboard church with a steeple. Its address was in Waterville, the next town over. I’d always been a person of faith and prayed often, but I hadn’t been to church in years. Yet something about this one was so inviting. Maybe if I could get Henry there, it would somehow help him get on the right track again. Help him quit drinking.
“Henry,” I said, “I think we should go to this church.”
“Nope. No, thanks. Not for me,” he said over the hum of the TV.
My heart sank. I was worried that if something didn’t change, Henry would wind up hurting himself—or someone else. He’d already come close enough. A few weeks before, I’d woken to an empty bed, sun streaming in through the windows. Henry delivered his papers early and was usually back and asleep before sunrise. Not that day. Panicked, I’d hopped in my truck and raced down the country roads, thinking the worst. I’d found his blue Volkswagen in a ditch, with Henry in the driver’s seat, his head thrown back. I’d thought he was dead—until I heard snoring. Empty beer cans littered the car floor around his feet.
That’s when I knew Henry was an alcoholic. Of course, there’d been signs before. Not a night went by without Henry having his whiskey and beer. Sometimes I poured myself a cocktail too. I fooled myself into believing it wasn’t a problem if he was drinking with someone else. Then there were the bottles I’d found hidden in the pigpen. And at the bottom of our garbage bins.
I’d thought all he needed was to get off the farm for a few hours a day—and away from the booze. So when he’d gotten the newspaper job, I was elated. But my hopes were crushed the morning I’d found him unconscious in his car.
Now, as I stared down wistfully at the church pamphlet in my hands, the word Peace stood out to me. How I wished for true peace for myself. For us. And yet what could I really do? I couldn’t force Henry to seek help. He did most of his drinking while I was at work, and he was a good husband. Together we’d built our dream home: a log cabin in the foothills of Vermont. We made it into a modest farm and proudly lived mostly off the land. Henry was a hard worker who toiled for hours in the hot sun, keeping up our crops while I worked as a teacher’s aide. He was a brilliant cook who spoiled me with elaborate meals he’d made from ingredients on the farm. And he was a sweet soul who took in injured animals he found on our property and nursed them back to health. Yes, my husband was a good man. And we were happy—mostly.
Yet beneath it all was Henry’s drinking. As long as that continued, our peace and happiness were threatened. For now, the best I could hope for was to enjoy the good times Henry and I had and to pray that one day he’d find the strength to get sober.
The next afternoon, Saturday, we both had some downtime. On days like this, we’d sometimes explore the countryside. “Want to go for a drive?” I suggested. Henry agreed. A gentle spring rain came down as we ducked into the car. I navigated the dirt roads, turning randomly as the rain became a drizzle, and the drizzle became a sprinkle. Suddenly, as we rounded the next corner, the sun burst out from behind the clouds. Emerald pastures stretched before us, and a bright rainbow arched overhead. We stared in awe.
“Let’s follow the rainbow!” I said.
“Yes, maybe there’s a pot of gold at the end!” Henry said.
Like two kids on a treasure hunt, we drove slowly ahead, our eyes fixed on the brilliant spectrum, curving in a perfect arc. When we reached what seemed like the end of the rainbow, we found ourselves in a parking lot. I looked around and gasped. In front of us was a white clapboard church. The one from the pamphlet. The rainbow had led us to it.
“Well, can we give it a try now?” I said, barely able to contain a smile.
“I can’t argue with that. I’ll go,” Henry said quietly.
We came back the next day for Sunday service. As soon as we walked in, an elderly woman came up to Henry. “Aren’t you our paper boy?” she asked. Henry’s whole demeanor changed. His chest puffed up a little bit, and his face lit up. “Why, yes, I am!” he replied. She grabbed his arm and introduced him to the rest of the small congregation as if he were a local celebrity. By the time we got to our pew, we felt right at home.
Week after week, we kept going back. We were met with such kindness and love there. Everyone welcomed us into their faith community with open arms.
One Sunday after church, I found Henry outside our barn, pruning a scraggly thornbush. He set down his clippers and looked at me. “I’m ready,” he said. As if he’d reached the end of a long battle with himself.
Henry checked into a 30-day inpatient program. He told the doctor he’d been drinking two six-packs and a fifth of whiskey every day. Getting sober was no easy task for him. Watching him go through it was no easy task for me. But we made it, and Henry stayed sober for the rest of his life—the next 10 years. Sometimes the smallest things can transform, even save, a life. Like a simple pamphlet and a guiding rainbow.