I admire and celebrate in my heart when an alcoholic lives the twelve steps to sobriety. How beautiful is the transformation that takes place. This change is in harmony with repentance and remission of any erroneous lifestyle.
Wanting to paint a sequence of three studies similar to “Mary Magdalene Meets Christ,” I needed just the right model, preferably a man. Thinking some might be reluctant to model for this work, I considered doing the job myself if a model couldn’t be found. A timer on the camera would suffice. Thankfully, a more effective model appeared at aunt Gussie’s 100th birthday celebration. I hadn’t seen Fred for a very long time. My back was to the door when he walked in with his wife, Carolyn, announcing in that booming voice of his, “I’m an alcoholic and have been sober for twenty-two years!” I turned to see my cousin with his athletic build and close cropped white hair. There’s my model, I thought.
Cousin Jane and husband Bill had brought a photographic print of “Mary Magdalene Meets Christ” to show to us how it looked framed. While Fred was admiring cousin Sandra’s modeling for it, I asked if he would model for “Turning To The Higher Power.” “Will it be done similar to Sandra’s?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, so he agreed and stated simply, “I’m not anonymous anyhow.”
The photographing took place later in my home. Fred and Carolyn were coming up from Tampa where they were professors at the University of South Florida and wanted to attend a seminar here in Orlando. Before they came, I had asked Fred what kind of whiskey bottle I should use. “Any kind will do, Ann.” So, knowing where to look, I went outside and found one in my hedge by the parkway that had been discarded during the night.
I began to direct Fred for the mood I was seeking. “The first study has come to decision time, needing help, knowing he can’t do it alone. I can almost hear his prayer, “God help me!” The second study confesses the reality of truth, “I’m an alcoholic” and taking the positive route by turning to the higher power. All this shows in his expression while giving a knockout blow to old John Barleycorn. The third study is peaceful and happy in recovery with strong hands free to rise up and meet life daily, knowing he can do it with God. After photographing the sequence, Fred turned to Carolyn, smiling, and said, “I feel like I’ve just been to an AA meeting.” To me, an indication of art being on the right track!
In looking at the prints while working in my darkroom, I knew another session would be necessary for the first study so my helpful brother, Harry, drove me to Tampa for another try. We found Fred was suffering from an infected root canal and was on antibiotics. Even though just having played eighteen holes of golf and was tired, he graciously modeled again. His condition added to the mood. We were successful!
Fred turned his troubles into triumphs with God’s Grace. When traveling, he would look up an AA meeting, wherever he stopped, to give his encouraging words for 12 step recovering. Fred was one of the founding professors of the Department of Rehabilitation Mental Health Counseling, University of South Florida. Tennyson J. Wright, Ph.D.,CRC Chair & Associate Professor worked with Fred from 1985 until his retirement. His love of sports showed in being an amateur tennis champ at one time and senior handball champion of Tampa. Golf and baseball added to his activities and gave his talks to professional sports groups a base for understanding, mutual admiration and respect for his mission. Although Fred has departed to God’s Home, his work goes on in all those he has helped to sobriety. This painting has been blessed with requests for reprints and expressions of, “It is very meaningful; it quietly speaks without lecturing.”
My aunt Clara joined Alcoholics Anonymous with a mission. She never quit thanking God for helping her to sobriety and in turn continued to help others, seriously and happily practicing the twelve steps. She told me of a time, when fed up with a situation, she rushed out of her apartment to find a bar, “Then God stopped me. I sat down on the steps and prayed instead. I’ve never turned away from Him again,” she said.
Churches invited her to speak to women’s classes for sharing the newness in her life. Aunt Clara’s company was always desired, the spirit within her sparkling with good humor and cheerfulness. An AA chapter in Tampa is named after my aunt in honor of her helping others. She would go to anyone in any part of town at any hour answering a call.
I went to some AA open meetings with her in Tampa and Orlando to derive more understanding of the addiction tormenting those whom I love.
At one open meeting a minister, who had never tasted whiskey, told of his doctor prescribing a tablespoon of whiskey in a glass of milk to help him sleep. He began to crave more. This was the beginning of his long and enslaved journey, losing his self-respect, family, ministry and even spending time in an insane asylum. It was a miracle to see him standing there, freed, and ministering in such a powerful way with his words truly having a sobering effect on alcoholic and nonalcoholic alike. He also was back in his church as a minister.
Medical researchers claim health benefits come from moderate drinking while not considering the possibility of influencing non-drinkers into a life of alcoholism and all the misery affecting not only the individual but all connected to him or her. Didn’t I read somewhere that medical science has discovered the healthful advantages of prayer and dark-purple grape juice?
Another case I heard of was about a devoted Christian husband and wife in their old age. The husband died suddenly and his grieving wife, a teetotaler, started drinking whiskey, becoming a drunk in her last years, certainly an age so greatly needing to draw on a faith that should have grown stronger through time. Did someone, she trusted, say to her while in great shock steeped in loneliness, “You need a drink; it will help your feelings?” This kind of influence has to be ignorant of the consequences it may stir up. Did she receive loving support care or indifference and ridicule?
I was invited to supper and to play bridge with a threesome one evening. The host tried to push an alcoholic drink on me saying, “Ann, take it or you’ll embarrass me.” I retorted, “If you’re that easily embarrassed then so be it!” Good hosts and hostesses provide non-alcoholic beverages for those with this preference.
Aunt Clara also told me of the “dry drunk” as one who had quit drinking but had not resolved the problems alcohol was consumed to escape from. She would smile and say, “We often speak of alcohol as old John Barleycorn.”
These favorite verses lived in my beloved aunt Clara. “I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13,14.
One gentleman told me that he was feeling very discouraged and down. He looked up at your painting and identified with emotions reflected on the face of the gentleman. He felt a new hope for himself. He felt uplifted and ready to do what he needed to do for himself.
Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center
When a big black man was carrying the large original painting, Turning to The Higher Power, to Marilyn's car he asked me, "Are you the artist that painted this?" I answered, "Yes I am." He replied, "This painting has impact!" How thoughtful of him to share this with me as it means this subject is successful. The kind of reward I love.