7: “Don’t Drink!” and Staszek’s Story
months had passed since My Great Revolution, when my old friend from Rabka,
Kuba called me and said:
and I would like you to be our son’s godfather.’
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.
I replied, ‘but only under one condition. There won’t be any vodka at the
of silence followed.
Are you ill?’
I’m not ill—but I would rather not explain that over the phone.’
let us think about it and I’ll call you back in half an hour.’
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.
said: no vodka!’, he said to me.
was true. I meant: “no alcohol”, but I said: “no vodka.”
right, I only mentioned vodka’, I admitted.
poured the champagne into the glasses and placed one full of the beautiful
sparkling liquid in front of me, which made my mouth water.
facing a serious dilemma.
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
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.’
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:
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.
you going to have champagne?’, Kuba asked.
I’m not’, I replied.
dinner, we took Wojtek for a little interrogation.
did you tell Dad not to drink?’
didn’t seem to know what we were talking about, as if he couldn’t remember
the incident. We left him alone.
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
a teetotal bone surgeon? That is some paradox! One of my fellow surgeons
in the ward could not understand it. He once asked me:
you do not drink at all?’
right, I don’t.’
must be miserable, then.’
I think you’re much more miserable than me,’ I replied. I’m still not sure
if he got the message.
years later, my boss, the head of the trauma ward asked me,
you heard about 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.
haven’t heard anything,’ I replied.
in Bulowice in the detoxification clinic.’
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.
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.
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.
am I supposed to do ?’, he asked.
of all, turn to God in an honest prayer.’
how do I do that? I don’t remember when the last time I prayed was, or
if I ever had prayed…’
so what do I say to that??.... My mind was blank.
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
I’ll try,’ his reply wasn’t too enthusiastic.
to come back the following week.
my next visit, Staszek was a completely changed person. He was looking
me straight in the eyes and he was smiling brightly.
happened?,’ I asked.
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.’
how did that happen?’
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.’
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.
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.
2011 Andrzej Solecki
on links below to read separate chapters.