Along the way, I have to admit, I’ve met some interesting people. None of which are who most would expect. None of them walk with signs around their neck that say, “I used to stick needles in my arms,” or, “I used to drink a few pints a day.”
Along the way, I have met people that endured the worst of things. They survived (somehow) the worst that life has to offer. They survived themselves. They survived abuse. They survived rapes and beatings and tragedies and no matter how far down they fell, somehow, they had the ability to overcome and stand back up again.
Somehow, these people found the ability to heal and recover. You would never know it by seeing them but these were the best people I had ever seen before.
I learned from them. I learned what not to do and how not to live. They showed me how to survive through their own road maps that were made from the scars on their bodies. I learned from their tragedies and their pain. They guided me. They cared enough to be honest about themselves, which allowed me to relate to them and feel okay about myself.
At a time when I felt most lost, I was found by my new friends. They were people I would have never know if circumstances had not placed me in their path.
We were all different. We came from different backgrounds and went through different things; however, we all suffered from the same phenomenon. We all knew what it felt like to be on the dangle. We knew about the ever-beautiful nods, the highs, the rush of euphoria, the cocaine bugs and the crazy twitch that comes as a chemical reaction.
We all knew what it felt to segregate ourselves, one batch at a time, or one drink at a time.
Along the way, I met people that came from considerable wealth to no wealth at all. In fact, my first trip into treatment, I was blessed to meet a homeless man who celebrated owning his first new pair of pants.
He never had a new pair of pants before.
Can you believe that? He grew up dirt poor. He drank until his mid to late 50’s until the bottle nearly killed him.
One day, he invited me over to his room because he wanted to give me something. Know what it was?
It was a pair of pants that he just received.
Can you believe that? This man had never received a pair of jeans before in his life. Upon receipt of his new gift, this man showed me his care and offered to give me one of his extra pairs.
It was a gift.
I never received a gift as genuine as this one.
I never saw kindness like this before. Above all, I was never so humbled.
And there is something to the dramatized versions they show on television about us and the life we live in the 12-step world. The meetings they show and the way they depict us, the addicts and alcoholics. I can say without any struggle that I have been attending 12 steps meetings for nearly 30 years and I have never seen us as desperate (like they show on T.V.) or as sad. We are not sad, weak people. We are the most resilient in the world. Trust me on this.
I met Hank after one of the noontime meetings by St. Francis. He was a kind man. Gentle. Hank was as kind as they come. No one would ever know about the life he once lived.
And then there was Mike. We called him Father Mike. Father Mike was a friend to me. At a time when no one would look my way, Father Mike came over to me. He put his hand on my shoulder.
He was kind as ever, blue-eyed, and white haired. He had the voice of holiness and the gentle kindness of the good shepherd. Father Mike spoke to me when no one else would. And if you don’t know what this is like then you can’t know what this is life.
In a time when I was alone and when all the hate I felt inside was burning me alive, Father Mike was there to let me know someone cared. We lost him on September 11, 2001. Father Mike was doing what he does best. He made people feel comfortable in tragedy. We needed Father Mike that day. I miss him though.
I am a firm believer in our ability to overcome. I know we can overcome because I have seen people endure the unendurable.
I remember being that boy in class. I remember that feeling of worthlessness. I remember believing I was stupid. I believed the teachers were right about me. I believed the guidance counselor that told me I’d be lucky if I could hold a job pumping gas.
At best, they told me I’d be lucky if I could dig ditches. And I get it, my work ethic was for shit. I get it, I was Opposition Defiant. I was a behavioral problem. I also had learning disabilities that were never diagnosed.
I read poorly, I could not do math very well. My retention was poor so I failed most of my tests. I needed help but I was too ashamed to ask for it. I was humiliated by other students and humiliated by some of the teachers.
I always wanted to fit in. I always wanted to be cool. But I never knew how. It seemed no matter how I tried, I always missed the mark.
I was bullied I was picked on. I was embarrassed and humiliated. I was uncomfortable. Yes, that says it best. I was uncomfortable all the time (unless I was high.)
More than any of these things; I believed I was alone. I never considered that maybe there were others who thought or felt the same as me. I believed I was painfully alone and that life would always be this way.
When I found myself in a treatment facility and when at last, I finally opened up and honestly discussed my thoughts and feelings, I was surprised to know there were others that thought and felt the same as me.
I met the best people and I met the worst people. To some, the friends I earned were monstrous because of their past. To me, there were lifesavers. To some, they were ex-junkies. To me, they were my mentors and my heroes. I never saw anyone as brilliant.
Along the way, I have met some incredible people.
I just want to be the best at what I do and help others the same way my friends helped me.
Sometimes, you have to give what you have in order to keep it.
Trust me on this