Monday, January 23, 2017
Recently, a read a story about a couple that was having difficulty conceiving a child. For three years Janet and Stephen Bergman went through fertility treatments in their attempt to bring a child into the world and each month they were left depleted and disappointed as their expectations rose, then plummeted to despair. They were emotionally and spiritually spent. The pain of their “failure” led to angry outbursts, prolonged silence and drinking. Finally Janet and Stephen decided to start a project together in an attempt to rekindle their connection. Since Janet was a psychologist and Stephen, a Psychiatrist, their idea was to work in their area of expertise – the psychology of relationships. Thus they set a goal, which included each expertise. They would write a play about a relationship. (Stephen had some experience with writing scripts.) Janet presented the biographies of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. The topic seemed natural since both of them had worked with alcoholics in their practices. They began by studying the story behind AA. Two men were drinking themselves to death, and by finding each other, coming clean and forming an authentic connection, they came back to life and started a remarkable program for healing. Bill W and Dr. Bob’s story became the subject of the Bergman’s play. Nothing went well. Their working styles were different and they were unable to push aside the deep hurt they each felt. Their thought of working together disintegrated into fights and silence. Then one summer night while on a getaway in the wilds of northern Maine, Janet saw a notice in the newspaper. There was to be a meeting nearby for Alcoholics Anonymous. They decided to go. In the deep woods of Maine, they came upon a one-room schoolhouse packed with people who looked like they had done their share of rough living. The topic of the meeting was forgiveness. Janet and Stephen listened as people told their stories of the pain they had created by their alcoholism and how their diseases isolated them and inflamed their character defects. These folks were working the “tenth step” in their program – taking personal inventory and admitting their wrongs. The raw honesty of the proceedings and the profound wisdom that came from it, touched both of them. Janet and Stephen recognized how they blamed each other for their pain and how resentment had eaten away their relationship and they apologized to each other. As they fell silent in the Maine woods, they were able to connect to what Bill W and Dr. Bob must have felt at their meeting half a century earlier. “It’s as if they are here. I mean the power of what they did. Together,” said Stephen. “Yes,” said Janet, “I know, I can almost hear them telling us, ‘You can’t do it alone. Stay in the we. There’s healing in connection. If we can do it, you can do it.” “ Yes, they are with us, calling us to write their story and pass it on.” And that was the beginning. Janet and Stephen found a power greater than themselves, a power that revived their relationship. A year after that meeting in the woods, the Bergman’s went to China and brought home their beautiful four-month old adopted baby girl. Katie, their daughter, became the light of their lives. As Katie started high school, the Bergman’s brought her to the off-Broadway New World Stages theater for opening night of their play named for the men who changed their lives, Bill W and Dr. Bob.