Once upon a time, there lived a man who had a drinking problem. Each day he would wake up and say, “Today is the day. Today is the day I will not have a drop to drink. It’s a brand new me. I will exercise and call my friends and do something to make the world a better place.” Yet each night, as the sky began to darken and sorrows to illuminate in the sky, the man could not seem to control his thoughts anymore. I really want a glass of wine, he would think. Just one glass surely won’t hurt.
After finishing one glass of wine, the man felt better. His sorrows seemed to melt away, he felt more love for himself and other people. He felt happy. Just one more, he would think to himself, and then I will surely feel much better. Just one more won’t hurt.
Needless to say, the man did not stop at two or even three glasses of wine. Once he opened the cork on the first bottle, he often could not stop until he drank all the alcohol in the house, or until he fell asleep, whichever came first.
The man had taught himself to play piano at a very young age. When he was young, he would play and play for his family, his friends, and anyone who would listen. His mother would say, “Listen to this boy. He’s going places.” His teachers encouraged him to become a professional musician.
Over time, desires began to overwhelm the man and he turned away from music. He turned instead to drinking to satiate his desires. Soon all the desires all melded into one desire for alcohol. There was never enough wine to drown that out.
In the beginning, the man’s family watched him with curiosity. What was it? they would think, about alcohol, that made the man want to drink so much that he lost his senses? They took care of him. They drove him home when he visited from far away, or they gave him a soft bed to sleep in. They gave him aspirin in the morning when he awoke.
But one day, many years after the man took his first drink, his family decided to say something. “Man,” they said, “You can’t go on like this. This drinking is ruining your life, destroying your relationships, getting in the way of your work, and besides, you look so thin and gray. And whatever happened to your music? Why don’t you stop drinking? We love you.”
The man balked. He spat off a colorful array of expletives and stunned his family with his vehement anger. Where did that come from, they thought. “We were just acting out of love,” they told their friends.
The man kept to himself more and more. The days grew shorter and the nights grew longer. The day was a sort of torture to the man as he waited for the dark to grant him permission to take a sip of his wine and begin to forget the worries of the day.
Years went by. One day, the man got a call from his mother who was very old and in bed and she said, “Son, you must come and see me and say goodbye for I am very old, and surely I will die soon.” The man could not believe that so many years had gone by but sure enough when he visited his mother her hair was white as snow and she was very thin and frail.
“Son,” she said from her bed as he sat down beside her, “There is something I have been wanting to tell you for a very long time. Your family tried to tell you this, but you did not believe them. I love you. Your drinking makes you different, and I am sad that you missed so many years of your life feeding the thing that takes you away from others, but here is what I want to tell you: “It is never too late. It is never too late to say you are sorry. It is never too late to say you love someone. There is something bigger than time to heal wounds and that something is forgiveness.” (and when she said that word several years disappeared from her face) “I hope you will forgive me for all the things I have left undone in my life, and I hope you will use the years you have left to begin living right.’”
“But mother,” said the man, “I am very happy. I don’t have any ties to anyone. I don’t have a job or any responsibilities. My wine keeps me company and makes the world seem less lonely.”
“What if one day there is no more wine?” asked the mother. “What will you do to be happy then?”
“No more wine!” thought the man out loud. “Well, I can’t imagine that day. I guess I would be very sad indeed.”
“So you depend on wine to be happy, well that is not happiness at all. That is cowardice.”
At this the man was silent. He had never thought of it that way. He did not think he lacked courage, but he finally saw that this was perhaps so.
The man went home that night after holding his mother’s hand as she breathed her last breath. He looked at his cabinets which contained only wine, and opened each bottle one by one and poured the contents into the sink.
For several days, the man could not move from the couch. He shivered and shook. He dreamed and woke and did not know which was a dream and which was real. After three days, he woke up to a woman kneeling by his bed, giving him small sips of water from a cup.
“Who are you?” he asked the woman.
“I am here to take care of you. Shhh….” She said gently. “Do not try to talk. You must rest.”
For thirty days the woman did not leave his side. The man gained weight and the color came back into his cheeks. He began making plans for the future, something he had not done since he was a boy. He began craving hugs from his as yet unknown grandchildren and family he had left behind so long ago.
One day the woman said, “You are well enough now for me to leave you. I have stocked your cabinets with good things to eat. You must go and get a job and begin making the most of the days you have left.”
The man got a job playing piano at a department store. He wrote his own songs and seemed to infuse them with the feeling that he used to get when drinking wine. He felt less lonely. He felt love for others. Soon, the man’s music became legendary.
One day, his family went to the mailbox and saw a small box with no return address. Inside was a disc, which they immediately played. From the first note, the family knew that this was music the man had written, and that he no longer needed the wine. They were joyful and danced and sang, and although they never saw the man again, they were happy knowing that he was out there, somewhere, making the world a better place.