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  • This will be my ninth Tenth Leper men’s retreat. I haven’t missed one since that first one at this time in 2013. Five winter retreats and four fall retreats. During this time, these retreats have been some of the highlights of each year. I discover things when I’m up here, about myself, about my past, about who I am, that I doubt I would have discovered any other way. To say I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to come to these, doesn’t adequately capture how I feel. But, I am.

    First off, what I came up here for in the first place was not to discover a way back into a 12 Step Fellowship, it was to get to know my oldest brother a little better, get to spend time with him in his element. I got that, which was one of those gifts I never expected to receive, and so much more.

    From the time I first walked into that old, mid-19th century house at the top of a hill overlooking Rosewood Lake in Woodstock, Connecticut, I felt like I had come home. I had not been on a retreat since 1973, that one held in a similar old Connecticut home in the woods somewhere, and it immediately connected me with my past in Connecticut. I hadn’t been expecting that. In a very confusing time of my life – “I’m 18, and I get confused very day, 18 – I just don’t know what to say, 18 – I gotta get away, I gotta get outta this place, I’ll go a-runnin’ in outer space, oh yeah” – those retreats gave me faith that there was some higher purpose to it all. I remembered that. A hope immediately sparked somewhere deep inside that this retreat would do what those retreats did, for me.
  • It did. This is where the gateway back into a 12 Step Fellowship opened up for me. Here was a bunch of guys, some my age, some older, some younger, but all a lot like me. They’d all been subject to the miracle of recovery from addiction/alcoholism, many having enjoyed the luxury of having a home group where they found that recovery, and where they’d thrived and had an anchor, some for many years. Me, I’d had something like that, once, but then it got kicked out of one fellowship, and eventually became something I didn’t recognize, and so I’d moved on. Being up there, with those guys, showed me that it was possible that such a thing didn’t have to be a memory of the past – it was possible to be part of a fellowship like that, today. I dove right in, as I’m wont to do when I find something that fits my life (kind of like I did with Cowbird).

    On Saturday night of that first 10th Leper Retreat I attended, they had a two-speaker meeting – they (usually) draw two names out of a hat to be the speakers, and each tell their story – what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like today - the stories usually take about a half hour to 45 minutes apiece. The first speaker told my story. His story was what mine would have been had I gotten that job I applied for at the Aetna Insurance Company back in April of 1973, to work on computers. I was too nervous and bombed my interview, that Dad had set up for me, and joined the Navy instead. But, everything he described, I could see would have been my fate had I gotten that job, and stayed in Connecticut. The second speaker, like me, had gone into the Navy, and though a much younger guy, he, too, told my story. I knew then, I was home.
  • I came back to Virginia after that retreat, and went looking for meetings like what I found at that retreat. It seemed that each meeting I went to, it just wasn’t the same, I didn’t get the same vibe I’d gotten with those guys. I decided they were a special group, and I was lucky to have found them, and looked forward to each retreat to reconnect with that fellowship my spirit thirsted for.

    Then, we ran into Teddy, from our old home group in South Philly, a couple years ago. Teddy had something for me. He walked me back through the 12 Steps, helped me get reconnected to how we work with others in a 12 Step program. That, apparently, was the missing key. After I went through the steps with Teddy, I walked into town here to a meeting, and within 5 minutes, I knew I was home. I’d found my place. After that, everything else just fell into place.

    I’ve been given opportunities to share what I’ve learned with others, and been able to help them find a way out of hell, a step at a time. For me, there’s nothing in the world like it. It’s my calling, something I am uniquely situated to be effective at.
  • Now, when I come up to these retreats, it’s a celebration of finding my home, a way to say thanks for them showing me the way back in. It’s kind of appropriate, as the group’s name, the 10th Lepers, comes from a biblical story. In the story, Jesus came upon ten lepers, and helped them all to heal themselves. Nine of the lepers went on about their lives, freed of the dreaded disease of leprosy, happy, joyous and free. The 10th Leper returned to thank Jesus for healing him, and asked if there was anything he could do to help others.

    That’s why I keep coming back to these retreats.
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