He wasn't the only one celebrating clean time. There were a 3 people that were new. So they had chalked up maybe a hour or two of clean time. Others were collecting their 30, 60, or 90 day fobs. Someone was at 180 days. And then there was Max's friend - with his 5 years.
I was amongst a group of happy, positive, grateful, recovering addicts.
The meeting opened with a passionate, emotional, personal share regarding Step 1.
Step 1 saved his life. Step 1 was the beginning of a journey that filled his life with joy and purpose. He looked directly at the new guys and begged them to start with Step 1. And to go to 90 meetings in 90 days. To copy down some of the phone numbers that were passed around. (Everyone at the meeting who has logged in some clean time, and who would be open to getting calls from someone needing help, writes their name and number on the list.) This guy? The one who was talking? Was giving me goosebumps with his earnest message and his professional delivery.
He could be a motivational speaker.
What the heck am I saying? HE IS A MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER.
With no training. And nothing to sell. Except a message of hope that he believes in with his entire being.
Next up was a girl (mid-20's) who was 9 months clean. She shared her story:
"I never make it this far. I only ever make it to 6 months. Because when I get to 6 months? I think I deserve a break. And then I relapse. And don't recover until I hit bottom again. And this time was no different. I bought a ticket for Thailand, planning to be there right after my 6 months milestone. I was planning on partying. Hard.
And then, at the airport? I asked myself, why? Why was I going to blow it? What was I thinking? Did I really want to relapse? I'd worked so hard. And my family would be so disappointed. Again.
So I decided to go. But not use. I was going to stay clean.
I arrived on a Thursday morning and worked out and trained with the rest of the team who had also signed up for (some sort of sport) boot camp. In the evening they all went out to party but I said I had jet lag, so I was going to bed. I wasn't tired, but I didn't know what to say. Or do. So I just sat in my room.
And then I prayed. And asked for help.
I could not do this alone. I needed someone to do this with me.
Someone who was also in recovery.
The next morning, everyone else was hung over, but I wasn't, so I went for a run along the beach. When I got back, there was a new guy. He'd just arrived, so I helped him with his luggage. Know what? He was asking about NA meetings... he's 5 years clean and wanted to get involved in some meetings in Thailand!
On Sunday we went to one together, and I shared. In English. And no one understood me, but I was up there, crying like crazy, because I'd prayed. And He answered. And I wanted to let people know that the Steps work. Surrender your life to your Higher Power and pray for His will to be done in your life.
After the meeting, one of the guys invited me and my friend to join him. He didn't speak English, but we went along. In his truck. And he drove for like 3 hours to his village.
That village? Of maybe a couple hundred people? At least half of them were in recovery. And ALL of them were celebrating our clean time with us. They put on this huge spread of delicious foods and they were so happy that we were there and no one could understand us, but it didn't matter. It was exactly where we were supposed to be.
And that's all I have to say."
Oh my goodness, girl.
You said SO MUCH.
Everyone had a story.
Everyone shared what it felt like to hit bottom. What it looked it. What it meant to their families.
Everyone was acutely aware of the pain it caused to their loved ones.
And everyone's story ended with words of hope and healing. And happiness.
Max's friend, (the one celebrating 5 years clean) was the one who found the body of his murdered co-worker last month. He shared that being clean doesn't mean life is easy. It's still hard. But it's better. Way better. You always have the choice to celebrate or suffer. He is a firm believer in Step 11:
“We seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
His sister tearfully shared what it had been like for her, watching her favorite brother sink deeper and deeper in to addiction. And the peace she now has, knowing he is part of a recovery community.
My favorite part of the evening?
Didn't even take place inside the building.
(When Max was in grade 9, our relationship changed. Prior to that it was pretty easy going and open. But in grade 9, it was different.
It was most noticeable when we were on the school trip together. He completely ignored me. Like totally and utterly. It was like I was invisible. And that lasted for the next 100 years. Seriously. Forever.
It wasn't until he had 90 days clean that he acknowledged me as his mom again. And he did it during a share at the meeting where he got his 90 day fob. I was overwhelmed. Totally came undone. This was the kid I remembered before the drugs and adolescence.
Months later, when he was about 6 months clean, I showed up at The Door with homemade birthday cakes and cupcakes for him to have with the 50 guys he lived with. He had just turned 21. He met me out front with a friend, and I handed all the baking over to him. They were taking all the desserts in, and I got in my truck to leave.
"No mom," he said. "Come in too."
"Nah, it's OK. You can do this with your friends."
"Please? Just come in, OK?"
"Are you sure? It's OK with me if you just want to do this with the guys..."
He put his arm around me and said, "No, I want you there."
So I went in with him, and he stood beside me as together we served all those appreciative young men some cake. He introduced me as his mom, and it was the best feeling in the world. No, really. You have no idea. The guys went on as if it was the best cake ever, which was nice. But the best part was having my kid back. I was with the boy I knew as a young teenager.)
ALL THAT TO SAY, my favorite part of an excellent evening, was just after I'd parked.
Him: Where are you?
Me: Walking up the street.
Him: Can't see you.
Me: Behind a big guy.
Me: I'm here.
And he gave me a hug.
On the street. With all his friends around.
I will never take that for granted. Ever.
And then we walked in together. With his hand on my back.
Seriously. Until you've been an untouchable, you don't know how good it feels to have that hand on your back.
The next morning I woke up with a stiff neck.
I decided to work from home with a heating bag on my shoulder but it was not helping. Neither were the Advil. (This was about day 12 of having a stiff neck - one that started at my collar bone and extended up to my ear.)
So I stopped in at my neighbourhood spa to see if an RMT could see me on Saturday or Sunday. (I never do this, by the way. Ever. But I have extended benefits. And too many people had told me to go, so I was going to take their advice.)
They had no open appointments except for one exactly right then. Right at that moment.
Me: Um. I'm not sure if I'm mentally prepared for the touching.
Her, with stunned look on her face: Uh, I would advise you take it. It looks like you could use it.
So I did.
I was mostly naked a few minutes later with some stranger touching my collar bone. Counting the knots. And pressing down on them.
Her: Your back is one big knot. And this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this? All all knots along your collar bone. And this and this and this and this and this? Along your shoulder? Are all knots. I'm going to apply pressure. Let me know if it hurts.
Her: Does this hurt?
Her: Should I stop?
I was at work a short time later, in pain.
But more Advil, lots of water and time, healed me up abit, so by 4 pm, I was 50% better.
I sat in my girl cave and planned a trip to Palm Springs while I binge-watched movies on Netflix.
My body needed to heal. So I sat like a lump. It was glorious.
On Saturday, I went to this house:
To take pics of the people who lived inside it.
I won't share them until they've used them in their Christmas letter, but here's a sneak peek at one of my favorites:
It was an emotional shoot for me.
So of course the best thing to do immediately afterwards is see someone about threading my eyebrows.
It hurts more every time I go.
Which, clearly, isn't often enough.
Because she was at it for an awfully long time.
With body and soul tender?
I went to church.
Where it was a celebration.
14 people got baptized.
So many stories. So much cheering. So much celebrating.
(Gotta tell ya, felt an awful lot like the NA meeting I'd been at earlier in the week.)
I didn't fight back the tears here.
I just let them drip right off my face.
I arrived at my friend's house an hour later.
Me: I'm weepy.
Her: Want some supper? I have noodles and chicken.
And then we sat at her kitchen table in relative silence while she knit and I edited the 600 photos I'd taken that afternoon.
Me: Perfect evening, yes?
The temperature was 25 degrees today.
THAT? Is unseasonally warm. Like, beautifully, wonderfully awesomely warm.
I stayed inside and worked.
This is our busy season, and I need to be on top of things.
(Things being 45 projects involving about 890,000 pieces of print that need to be cared for.)
(None of that last statement was an exaggeration, by the way.)
So I sat at my desk, and watched the clouds go by ...
... while I created 78 To Do lists for work.
It's amazing that I get paid to do something that I love.
I had a couple invitations to go out walking, but I couldn't.
I absolutely couldn't.
It pert near killed me to stay inside on such an amazing day, but I needed to work.
And do laundry.
And spend some time by myself.
At least until 6.
Then I went to visit my dad.
Me: Dad? Move over. We're going to take a selfie.
Me: See? That's us in my phone. Smile.
Me: Are you sure you're smiling?
Me: I don't know, dad. I think we need to try that again.
Me: Really smile hard, OK?
Me: OK. That'll do.
And then I got stuck getting out of his tiny bed.
So I pulled on his knee. And he pushed on my backside.
Me: I'm such a cow.
Him: Imagine. Johnny Kuebler used to carry you on his shoulders.
He was so very much at peace this evening.
Which was a lovely way for me to end my week.
All the highs and lows.
For the pain and the healing.
For the sick and the healthy.
For the strong and the weak.
Thank you for caring for them all.
Thank you for loving them all.
God I pray for those struggling with addiction.
Protect them. And guide them to a place where they can get help.
I pray for those in recovery. Please keep answering their prayers and revealing yourself to them.
God I pray for those new guys who showed up at the cake meeting. I pray they had the courage to reach out and ask someone for help. I pray you had someone in place even before they entered that room. I pray your blessing on them. Let them be celebrating one week clean next Thursday.
God, I pray for families who are dealing with illness or separation or dysfunction. Give them hope. Surround them with your angels, so evil can't attack. Provide them with friends to walk alongside and professionals to guide them through the process. Love them extravagantly. Hold them close.
God, I pray for the elderly. Flood them with your peace. Provide them with the gentle care they need. Equip their care-takers with extra measures of patience and understanding. God, I pray they would be comfortable and loved. Stir our hearts to shower love on those who are older and lonely. Help us to not forget.
God, I pray for those who need jobs. Meaningful work. Please swing open doors of opportunity. And give them the courage to walk through.
God, I pray for those who don't know you. Can you change that? Break down those barriers that have prevented them from seeing you. Just go on and smash through. And then love on them. Love on them in a profoundly personal way. Answer their prayers. Overwhelm them. Enable them to respond. And have friends in place who are prepared to come alongside in their faith journey.
And I pray for my work. May it be pleasing to you. And may it be enough. All those upcoming projects? Can you show me what I'm missing and what details still need to be sorted. I pray your blessing on the campaigns planned for the end of the year. And may your will be done.
Thank you for my family. Be with my kids this week. Protect them. Woo them. Lead them. Speak to them. Love them.
Three things I'm thankful for:
1. NA Meetings
2. Church services
3. Friends who provide space for silence.
4. My dad and mom.
5. Windy, warm, fall days.
6. Answered prayer.
8. Movies, books and music.
9. This desk.
10. This view.
11. This life.