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God Shot

In early recovery I kept hearing the phrase "God Shot". The way it was explained to me was that something happens...and in a split second it's made crystal clear that you are at a turning point. You can pivot toward addiction or toward sobriety.

A God Shot is an unexpected event or a sign. In recovery circles this phrase is used to describe a profound happening that cannot be explained. Not quite as remarkable as a miracle but certainly not just a coincidence. It is something that clearly and stunningly shows us that we are in the care of a higher power. A power greater than ourselves. A sign from the universe that we are on the right path.

I have had several of these. Honestly I've stopped counting but the more open I am to them the more frequently they seem to occur. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous Bill Wilson experiences a God Shot - a fleeting moment of absolute grace - that allows him to turn away from the hotel bar, find a pay phone and make a call for help. A call to save him from himself. That fleeting God Shot experienced by Bill Wilson in a random hotel lobby in Ohio on May 11th, 1935 changed his life, and the lives of millions of others like him, forever.

One of my favorite God Shots was shared by my friend Doug*. Doug was on his way home from his second stint in rehab. This was no 28-day number; Doug did his second in-patient rehab at Hazelden, a rigorous and highly respected facility, for 107 days. Three and a half long months. His flight was at 9 a.m. and he got to the airport a little early. As Doug walked toward his gate he became aware of a warm and magnetic brightly colored light sort of pulling on the edges of his vision like a magnet. The dreaded airport bar. But he had just left rehab. He had a firm resolve not to be seduced by that lovely "you are in an airport so you can drink whatever and whenever you want" neon airport-bar glow. At around 8:30 Doug got up to board his plane, just as an announcement was made that his flight was delayed. Hazelden is about an hour outside of Minneapolis and as he described it to me that morning the entire area was experiencing a “good old-fashioned midwestern blizzard".

Of course Doug was irritated, who wouldn't be? He just wanted to get home, damn it. When he went to sit back down his seat was taken so he moved to another...closer to the bars. As if he had been pulled there against his will. He settled down and waited. And waited. After about an hour, increasingly restless. irritable and discontented by the delay, Doug heard over the loud speaker that his flight home had been delayed again. And that was it. That was his breaking point. Doug got up, grabbed his bag, pulled his baseball hat low and tight over his eyes - as if to hide himself and his shame from the strangers around him - and walked right into the closest bar. Why? Why would anyone do that? After all that time, all that money, all that pain, all that work in rehab over the past 107 days with never a day off? Why? Because Doug, like me, is an alcoholic. And while a civilian would throw up their hands and say WHY??? an addict like Doug...and me...has a voice that will always say..."Well...why not?" "Why not take that drink?" "Your flight is delayed anyway." "The bar is right there and no way in hell am I flying sober through a blizzard" Doug had never flown sober and was not about to start. And of course he also used my own personal favorite excuse to drink, the classic "Eh....fuck it."

So Doug threw himself through the doors and bellied right up to the bar, leaning onto it like it was a life raft while desperately trying to get the bartender’s attention. This was an emergency! The busy bartender saw him and said "I'll be right with you man" as he slid a coaster over to where Doug was sitting, all shifty eyed, his head lowered over the polished bar. Doug looked down at the coaster - irritated that he had to wait for something yet again and that’s when Doug had his God Shot. When he looked down and focused and read what was printed on the coaster Doug saw that he was sitting at the Rock Bottom Cafe.

Yes, unbelievable. Yes, miraculous. But that’s what a God Shot is. A mini-miracle. Now Doug had a choice. He was already sitting at the bar. Why not stay there in that warm cozy cocoon? A winter morning blizzard? Flight delays? An airport bar where the rules about what time is okay to drink don't exist? The warm glow of the soft amber light behind the sexy glittering bottles? I might stay there. Any addict might. Or we might grab our bag and run. Run as fast as we could and as far away from that bar and that neon glow and that bartender as possible. And that’s what Doug did. Why? Why not? He’d had a God Shot. He knew that coaster was a sign from the universe that he was just about as low as he could be - but that he could always go lower. I heard in the rooms that ROCK BOTTOM HAS A BASEMENT. Doug had been to rock bottom and didn't necessarily want to visit the basement so he got the hell out of that bar and ran to his gate where he boarded his plane and enjoyed his first sober flight. Ever.

And months later, safely ensconced in the rooms of A.A. Doug would tell that story in meetings and people would doubt him. It was too crazy, too dramatic, too unbelievable. And then Doug began to doubt himself. Had he dreamt up the whole thing while waiting for his flight home? Was it just a fantasy he had had? He didn't know anymore. So he googled it and found to his joy that he had not imagined it at all. There was, and still is, a Rock Bottom Cafe in the Minneapolis airport - although today (5 years later) they have renamed it the Rock Bottom Brewery. Maybe “cafe” is off brand in the world of rock bottom? Who knows? All I know for sure is that I love these God Shots. I love hearing about them and sharing them. We are in the care of our higher power. When we are open to it we will see that that care is all around us - even in the morning, even when we are alone, even when we are waiting for a drink in an airport bar in Minneapolis called the Rock Bottom Cafe.

*Story recounted is done so with permission.


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