Monday, September 5, 2016

Still A Thrill, After All These Years

A couple of evenings ago, I was asked to share my experience, strength, and hope at the local crisis center. I have lost track of how many times I have spoken there over the years, but I would bet it's been at least thirty times (for a period, when my ex-sponsor was working there, I was going in every three weeks). I have seen several of the same people in there years apart; I have seen the average age of those in residence there go steadily downward; I have listened to my own focus and experience change drastically over the years. And yet, I still experience, on some level, the bit of an adrenaline rush I did the very first time I went there. It's the essence of the recovery process; one addict helping another.
And I have never, in all the time I have been there, felt like I did not reach at least a few people in the audience. Saturday was no exception. The number of people in there was smaller than usual, and they were all, in a major change from new-normal, older; I guess all of the younger people that had been in there had been discharged that morning for various rules breaches. In some ways, it made it easier for me, in that I still firmly believe that the desire to recover is fueled mainly by a profound weariness of living the life of an active addict, a weariness that is born of an extensive time spent spinning our wheels and/or descending to the depths of our personal hell.
And it also served as a reality check for myself, too, regarding some of the activism that I have been engaging in outside the recovery community. A detox/crisis center is not always a guarantee that the using is stopping for the addict. The opportunity is there, certainly, and many people that avail themselves of the facility do abide by the rules. But not all of them. The mass exodus on the weekend was proof of that. One of the newer additions to my circle of good friends was in that facility when the woman I was seeing at the time was in there a few months ago, and he told me yesterday that my impression at the time that she had cleaned up for five days was false; she used the entire she was in there, and was getting other people high while she was in there, as well. Another new addition to the circle told me that he learned at parole the other day that Somebody I Used To Know was getting high the entire two weeks she was recently in there.
The efficacy of detoxes and rehabs is a subject for another day's post. The point I am trying to make this morning is that the start of the recovery process is always there for those who want to change. That's why outside speakers, with substantial amounts of clean time, are brought into facilities, to provide confirmation that recovery is possible, and to share (hopefully) some experience as to how the speaker got from a few days to years clean that the listener can identify with. And even nearly eighteen years removed from my own newcomer days, the message I carry about what it took for me to get through early recovery still resonates. The experiences I went through--dealing with Family Services, getting through legal issues, struggling with re-establishing familial relationships, changing people/places/things, confronting the inevitable urges to relapse--are the reality of the newcomer's existence right now, and they are either totally unprepared for them or only have personal histories that did not end well in those areas. I have learned over the years that more people hear what is said than I might think; I can think of at least ten people over the last fifteen years that have said to me, sometimes long after they heard me, that they remembered me speaking and took away something useful that helped them in their journey.
And I am getting a chance to go back there soon. There are two members of our Hospitals and Institutions subcommittee that bring weekly meetings into this place, and the other one has already asked me to go in again in three weeks. Which I will gladly do. It's part of giving away what was so freely given to me, and everyone that does it regularly can attest that what I have just been describing happens regularly. There are several speakers that are part of my own story, too, from when I was in-patient at Tully Hill and from the halfway house I was at, and a few more from events I went to my first years clean, and even local guys at particular meetings that said something that was chiseled into the stone in my brain. I'm working harder on my own step work than I have in some time, and one facet of the process that is being reinforced more than in some time is that God speaks to me through other people--and that means I have to be putting myself in positions where I am hearing other voices on a regular basis. And I believe this happens for pretty much else in recovery, too; it's the foundation, the bedrock, of the entire process, that we learn from and support each other.
My experience has been that I do help others when I share. The catch is, you never know who it's going to be in advance, and that you never how long it is before the message makes a difference. And it's one reason why I, as much as the person who has a few days or weeks clean, need to keep coming back. That's how it works.
Oh, and Preston must go

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