When you go to the gym, the playing field is level. Regardless of degree, net worth, or felonies. We are all in our gym shorts, trying to pound out that last rep. Recovery can be the same... in a sense. How so? The disease doesn't care who you are, or what you do. If allowed it will creep in to even the most seemingly secure life. In the years of my own recovery, and working with people in the church and in the cell block, I have come to believe that the more success, the more power and control we have (we assume to have) at managing our "using", it makes it harder for us to surrender to the process of recovery. We think we got this. We reason with ourselves that when it comes the time, we can get a counselor, or self-help book, or friend, or blog post to try and get a grip on this thing, “before it gets out of control, of course”, whatever that means.
Last night the hubs took me to dinner, we Googled Thai and it was too far away. Our only Asian choice that popped up was Vietnamese, although I love a good Pho, it’s not Anthony’s jam, so we decided on our favorite Japanese Hibachi. Hibachi is fun with my husband because he has never met a stranger. The moment the seats begin to fill in around us he gets people laughing. Going to dinner at a community style table is cheaper than rent a friend, he quipped, and everyone laughed. He’s a lot of fun. The couple next to us was really cute, a little stuffy, but cute. My hubs was chatting them up and shared with them about our church, his fishing trip that day, and Jesus. As the teppanyaki chef grill master was flinging rice in our mouths, the mood lightened and they opened up. After finding out she was a therapist and he an attorney, we talked some more. The Meth crisis in America was mentioned and my previous job as the chaplain of Harris County Jail, In Houston. I share my story a lot, but when I’m out to dinner with the hubs, I’m not trying to shine a spotlight on anything. But when the button is pushed the passion seeps out. The subject came up, why I went into chaplaincy. The woman's eyes got big and she asked, "Do you still think your an addict?, Do you actually say that?" After this questioning, I was off to the races with my opinion. I replied with this. "If I choose to use, the moment I use again, I will be an addict. The disease is patient and if I awaken that sleeping giant, who knows what destruction I will bring upon me and those I love. I may not slip into total destruction right away, but that enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking to destroy me. I don't think I want to take that chance today." The lawyer is nodding. He said with a big smile, I'm an ALCOHOLIC too! We literally high fived! Too funny. Who does that? People in recovery!
As the wait staff was cleaning the tables around us on the busy Saturday night, we were oblivious. Prepping for their next round of guests was not working, we were too engaged in our conversation about recovery. I told them I’m ok to say I am an alcoholic because I don't get tripped up on that. I hear stories of people relapsing after 8, 10, or even 15 years of recovery and that scares the hell out of me! The lawyer was fired up now. He said he had 19 years of continuous recovery. 19 years. Apparently, out of nowhere, the disease attacked and it found an opening in his armor. He explained how it happened. After a wonderful week in that infamous nineteenth year and sitting down to dinner, he thought a glass of sparkly red wine would be a good idea. Earlier that day he read a blog post that a daily glass of red wine is good for the heart. Maybe good for the heart, but bad for long-term recovery. He relapsed and in no time the disease of alcoholism stole his marriage of 20 years, his 3 kids and destroyed his life. Again. The disease is patient. Me, the ex-dope dealer and the attorney encouraged each other, while the norm spouses were encouraging themselves. After more chatting, I learned the couple was only in town for the weekend, visiting from Austin and they had come to dinner after attending a Saturday night church service. What a cool connection. Business cards, ministry cards, and Facebook pages were exchanged and we all bundled up for the chilly ride home, going our separate ways.
When I attend meetings, it’s the nuggets that stick with me. One sentence. One question. A few years ago, in an NA meeting inside the jail, asked me, "You've been clean 17 years, do you really think you need to keep doing these weekly meetings?" I looked her square in the eye and said, today, I’m not willing to find out.