“Success” is asking for help
A while ago, I was checking text messages on my cell phone at the end of the evening and came across one that stuck out. I didn’t immediately recall the sender’s number, then remembered it being from someone I crossed paths with several weeks earlier at an event. The terse text message said, “Remind me why using is no fun, please.” My inclination with texting is typically short and abrupt and straining to be clever, like a two word rejoinder or comedic flip remark. But with this one I thought more intentionally about my response.
What was unique about this text was the sender, a young adult that I met a few years back and had great conversations with when our church team was doing dinners at the indigent recovery program in North Atlanta where they participated. They’d left the area for Florida a couple years back and only returned a couple of months or so ago. I recalled our many discussions about the program, the disease, recovery, spirituality, and all the typical topics. After many conversations – sometimes comedic, sometimes intensely serious – I remembered the time that the topic of supportive networks came up. I was told how difficult it was for somebody new to recovery to “fit in, learn to reach out, to trust, to have a supportive community, and ESPECIALLY to believe that God could really be a part of their sobriety.” I dug a little deeper at those questions and asked if this was their first venture into 12 Step recovery, and they said they’d been mandated by the court a few years earlier. I said that was my experience on the West Coast, years before. After seeing the surprised look, we revealed more. I’d come to discover that the two of us had grown up (at different times, of course) within 2 blocks of each other. And our shared community of origin was a suburb of Los Angeles, nearly 2200 miles from where we currently were residing. With that disclosure, and given their reluctance to appreciate the possibility of divine workings, we formed the beginnings of a bond.
So my response to their text was a bit more direct. It was late but I called nonetheless. It was as though they were waiting because it could not have rung more than twice. In appreciation, I was granted nearly an hour of discussion involving the person’s return to the area, financial setbacks they’d experienced, getting reintegrated into the recovery community, reluctance about reaching out, developing a supportive network, learning how to trust others, what to do with frequent preoccupations with drinking/using, and. of course, the ever present, “where is God in all of this?”
I’m a big believer in the power of listening as people in desperate straights unload. When it was my turn, I gave congratulations, saying “That is a boatload of problems. But I have to give you this. You actually reached out with a text message. That puts you in a distinct minority. In over 30 years of working in the recovery community, I can count but a few who’ve contacted somebody for help BEFORE they relapsed. Its just that way. Shame appears to be a big factor, and that’s what we all seem to be good at. So good for you. You’re more sane than most.”
We talked at length about developing some strategies to tackle some of the most pressing problems. I recommended reconnecting with other close associates to see if more insight. if not solutions, could be derived. I suggested than pursuing answers with the kind of earnestness, candor, honesty, open-mindedness, and determination that was shown in texting somebody out the blue would likely reap surprising results. Lastly, I intimated that seeking answers to the “God question” required nothing less. I suggested that, “Looking for that presence in recovery is often a never ending search. It certainly has been for me. I realize that there are shortcuts that ocassionally work for some people, but others – like me and perhaps you as well – seem to fall into the category of demanding more than easy answers, quick bromides, or simple platitudes. They are forced to draw conclusions about that presence from direct experience…”
“Like finding out that they grew up within two blocks of each other on the other side of the country?”
I chuckled. “Yes, exactly. And you can count that as a successful start.”
Sacred Tapestry UMC