October 2012 - Vol.  63..

The Bone Surgeon: A personal story of a life-changing revolution
 by Andrzej Solecki

illustration by Grzegorz Grys

Chapter 7: “Don’t Drink!” and Staszek’s Story

A few months had passed since My Great Revolution, when my old friend from Rabka, Kuba called me and said:

‘Ala and I would like you to be our son’s godfather.’

I used to love such events in the past, as they were usually followed by receptions. But this time the perspective of another drinking session and another hangover was surprisingly not so appealing to me anymore. Especially as it was to be combined with the ceremony of baptism.  

‘O.K’, I replied, ‘but only under one condition. There won’t be any vodka at the christening party.’

A moment of silence followed.

‘Why? Are you ill?’

‘No, I’m not ill—but I would rather not explain that over the phone.’

‘Well, let us think about it and I’ll call you back in half an hour.’

Half an hour later, Kuba called to tell me they agreed. They were probably recovering from some recent parties. The ceremony at church was as nice as any other christening, but the party back at Kuba’s place seemed more like a wake. The conversation at the table was strained. I was under the impression that the guests were sending me reproachful looks and thus finding me guilty of killing the joy. Suddenly, Kuba took a bottle of French champagne out of his fridge. 

‘You said: no vodka!’, he said to me. 

That was true. I meant: “no alcohol”, but I said: “no vodka.”

‘You’re right, I only mentioned vodka’, I admitted. 

Kuba poured the champagne into the glasses and placed one full of the beautiful sparkling liquid in front of me, which made my mouth water. 

I was facing a serious dilemma.

 Should I – the ‘wet blanket’ – drink the champagne or not? I really felt like giving in, but a part of me knew that I shouldn’t. The guests stood up to give a toast and my dilemma was still unsolved. I started to pray in my heart, 

‘Lord Jesus, please tell me what to do! And please, be quick! I need a clear answer, so I don’t have any doubts about it.’ 

At this point our little children burst into the room in single file, completely focused on some game they were playing. Then, out of the blue, my son Wojtek stepped out of the line,  pointed his finger at me and said loudly: 

‘Don’t drink!’

Then he ran quickly to join the children who had already disappeared in another room. A thrill went down my spine. Everybody was waiting for me with their glasses raised to the toast. I reached out my hand towards the table and grabbed a cup of coffee, which was standing next to my glass.

‘Aren’t you going to have champagne?’, Kuba asked.

‘No, I’m not’, I replied.

After dinner, we took Wojtek for a little interrogation. 

‘Why did you tell Dad not to drink?’

He didn’t seem to know what we were talking about, as if he couldn’t remember the incident. We left him alone. 

That is when I made the decision about the abstinence from alcohol. I realized that it was the only way to go for a man with my personality. I had no sense of moderation or self-restraint in basically anything. Besides, it became clear to me that it was not ‘just that one glass’ of French champagne that God wanted me to sacrifice. In 1985, at a retreat in Kamesznica, I signed a declaration of total abstinence for the rest of my life. I offered it as a fast for all those who were still at “the heart and soul of the party” stage, and already on the skids. I have never regretted this decision. God has given me many other ways of experiencing joy that is out of this world. 

So… a teetotal bone surgeon? That is some paradox! One of my fellow surgeons in the ward could not understand it. He once asked me:

‘So, you do not drink at all?’

‘That’s right, I don’t.’

‘You must be miserable, then.’

‘Well, I think you’re much more miserable than me,’ I replied. I’m still not sure if he got the message.

A few years later, my boss, the head of the trauma ward asked me,

‘Have you heard about Staszek?’

Staszek was a physiotherapist in our ward. There was nothing unusual about him, except that he had been absent from work for about a week. 

‘I haven’t heard anything,’ I replied.

‘He’s in Bulowice in the detoxification clinic.’

‘That’s weird,’ I thought. He was a good employee, he had never looked as if he was “under the influence” and I had never smelled alcohol from him. There were a few workers of our hospital that I would have singled out as possible candidates for ‘rehab’, but Staszek was not one of them. 

I can’t remember why, but I decided to visit him in the clinic. The detoxification ward in Bulowice, a village near Bielsko-Bia?a, is located in the old, quite neglected palace of the Larisch barons, which is surrounded by an enormous, equally neglected park. The weather was beautiful on the day of my visit there, so we sat on a bench in the park.  Besides the fact, that I believed that God could help him, I had no plan for the meeting. We quickly moved onto  first name terms.

‘Stasiu, I know that there is a God and that He cares about you. I have met Him. I used to drink like hell, but He dragged me out of it,’ I began. 

‘What am I supposed to do ?’, he asked.

‘First of all, turn to God in an honest prayer.’

‘But how do I do that? I don’t remember when the last time I prayed was, or if I ever had prayed…’

Ok, so what do I say to that??....  My mind was blank. 

‘Do the following, tonight. Kneel down next to your bed, cover your face with your hands, then say: God, please help me pray, for I can’t do it on my own.’ 

‘Maybe I’ll try,’ his reply wasn’t too enthusiastic. 

I promised to come back the following week. 

During my next visit, Staszek was a completely changed person. He was looking me straight in the eyes and he was smiling brightly.

‘What happened?,’ I asked.

‘I went to confession and received Holy Communion…I pray everyday… It’s such a joy to know God! I feel I won’t ever drink again.’ 

‘But how did that happen?’

‘That night, after you left, I knelt next to my bed and I prayed just the way you told me to: “God, I don’t know how to pray, please help me!” Then something happened, my eyes filled up with tears, I felt great joy somewhere in here,’ he said pointing to his chest. ‘I don’t know for how long I stayed like that. The next day I went to confession. And that’s it. I want to follow that path, I want to stop drinking and try to get my family back.’ 

Great joy is the best description of what I felt after talking to Staszek. I was happy to witness a grown man being born again. His life got a little twisted after leaving the clinic, but, as far as I know, he pulled himself together, came back to his wife and  hasn’t been drinking since.  

One week later, thanks to Staszek’s recommendation, me and a couple of my friends from the community were invited to the clinic to share our experience of faith with other patients. This is how our ministry to people addicted to alcohol began. Today a large group of brothers from the community, whom I occasionally join, serve the people deceived by alcohol and by the world.

(c) 2011 Andrzej Solecki

Click on links below to read separate chapters.
Introduction Personal Story of a Life-changing Situation
Chapter 1 The Tools
Chapter 2 Communism and the Trouble with Grazyna
Chapter 3 Intuition and Resuscitation
Chapter 4 Post-Wedding Bash
Chapter 5 My Great Revolution
Chapter 6 Bonfire, Bicycle and Freaks
Chapter 7 “Don’t Drink!” and Staszek’s Story
Chapter 8 Adventures With the Light of the Word

copyright © 2012  Living Bulwark
publishing address: Park Royal Business Centre, 9-17 Park Royal Road, Suite 108, London NW10 7LQ, United Kingdom
email: living.bulwark@yahoo.com