Last Call

Last Call

Ever woken up in a drunk tank?

Most of us haven’t. Paul Smith, author of Last Call: Grace and Sobriety,” the January cover article in St. Anthony Messenger, has. More than once.

“Now, sitting there in the drunk tank at the county jail, surrounded by a dozen or more men—some of whom were vomiting, others lying in their own urine—I wondered how I could have fallen this low again,” Smith writes. “Yes, I had been here twice before, but this time was different. There could be no more denying that alcohol controlled me.”  

Smith got clean, luckily, but not before committing serious damage to his name and his children. He has spent his sober years repairing both.

Paul M. Smith

Addiction has always fascinated me: drugs, alcohol, food, technology—it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen more episodes of A&E’s Intervention than I care to admit. And it isn’t perverse voyeurism that keeps me watching. It’s the battle over these peoples’ lives; the struggle over their souls.

It has hit close to home, too. A friend of mine (we’ll call him Steven) is currently in recovery, but it’s been anything but an easy road. For several years his breakfast of choice was ground-up Oxycontin through his nose. Steven’s first stab at sobriety didn’t last long. His second try lasted 12 months, but he inexplicably started using again.

But after nearly losing his wife and three children to his disease, Steven reinvested himself in Narcotics Anonymous, found a sponsor and started actively working the 12 Steps. Try as he might, though, he will never be rid of his addiction.

Paul Smith tackles each day as they come. “Life is still life: filled with daily challenges, hardship and pain,” he writes. “Without alcohol and other drugs to numb those feelings, I am acutely sensitive to them. But now, through faith, I have joy, hope and love. Alcoholism can never be cured, but it can be a livable disease with the help of family, friends and God.”

I think about my friend, Steven, and the daily chore of balancing everything. I think about the struggles he faces every day. I think about his drug-battered body and willing spirit that soldiers on, one foot in front of the other, with this simple phrase as his only compass: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Featured Image:
Salvatore Vuono


About the Author

Christopher Heffron is the associate editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine and the editor of its digital edition. He is also the social media editor at Franciscan Media and the editor of,, and this blog site. A seeker at heart, he's a student of pop culture and a lover of good movies, good wine, and good times spent with family and friends.