Friday, March 10, 2017

AN UNNATURAL ACT


"My name is Jay and today I did the most unnatural thing an addict can do: I didn't use."
The above quotation was obtained first hand by me from Jay the first time back when rocks were still soft—a long time ago. Over the years at various events Jay and I attended, at workshops and meetings where the first-name "Who's here?" goes around, Jay always introduced himself that way.

This is not an obituary, so calm down. Jay only moved away from Maine and went West. I consider Jay a valuable friend both for who he is and for his recovery. He has been through the mill several times and survived without using drugs, but by using the program of Narcotics  Anonymous. So, I miss him.

But then, not long after he moved away, I noticed a strange thing. At NA meetings I attend, several times now I have heard addicts introduce themselves with "My name is (so-and-so) and today I did the most unnatural thing an addict can do: I didn't use."

The first time I heard it, I asked the very young man if he knew Jay. He didn't. Then I asked him why he introduced himself that way. He had only weeks in recovery and was brand new to Maine NA. "That's how my new sponsor introduces himself," explained the newcomer. "It sounds good and it's something important I need to remember." Jay's recovery has effects that reach down to persons he has never met.

It reminded me of the closing ceremony at one of the Miracle conventions I attended years ago. Neil, a very good friend of Jay's and a man who I loved and respected, was at the outside meeting. There were perhaps ninety addicts in the circle either sitting on the grass or in a variety of chairs from those molded plastic things to camp chairs and folding chaise-lounges. It was a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze, and birds singing in the trees. Neil had shared at an earlier meeting that day that he had been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, and I had been thinking about that. Then it was my turn to speak.

On my way to the podium, I noticed Neil was only a few places away to the right of me. There was something I had seen many years earlier at a high school graduation that really impressed me, and it seemed like an ideal time to try it out on an NA meeting.

I asked Neil to stand. His face reddened as he stood and said, "Oh, shit," wondering what kind of gag I was going to pull. I don't know why, but I seem to have a reputation as a prankster.


As I stood there looking out at that large ring of recovering addicts, wondering if what I was about to do would have the effect I wanted, I asked everyone who respected and had learned from Neil's shared recovery in NA to stand. It looked to me that around thirty persons in the circle stood. Then I asked everyone who respected and learned from the shared recovery of any of those who were standing to stand, as well. All of those still seated in the circle got to their feet. Everyone in the circle was standing. "That is how it works," I said and returned to my place.


Denis Hall is where the We Are A Miracle convention
takes place. In front of this building is where I said good-bye to Neil
Neil and his shared recovery had affected everyone at the convention, and right there was the visible proof for all to see, especially including Neil. As the meeting broke up and Neil was about to leave, I hugged him, he got into his vehicle, and drove off on his way to New York. That was the last time I saw him. We learned a few months later that he died. 

We don't often realize the good we do in recovery, the extent of it, the valuable lives we help save. In my own case I find that those who leave the program, relapse, and die tend to occupy my attention while the successes occupy a minor "They're safe" bin in the back of my brain.

It is a good thing to recognize those successes we see around us at every meeting, and when one of those miracles lets us know how much we mean to them because of our words, or our actions, or recovery, don't brush it off with a quick "Great," or :"You too." Do that unnatural thing addicts often fail to do properly. Be aware that you have been instrumental in saving a valuable life, and let the person who shared how much you have meant to them know their message has been taken in by saying, "Thank you."

What the hell. Throw in a hug, too. It is a big deal. After all, that person being in recovery is part of an ongoing miracle that you helped keep working.

1 comment:

lisa alekna said...

Shared.... Thanks...