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  • We’re hitting the road for Pennsylvania in a couple hours. A trip back up to the ol’ stompin’ grounds, to see some old faces, blasts from the past, some folks who were regular parts of our lives for about a decade or so, up until 16 years ago. It’s Chuck’s 50th birthday party, and Kathy got the eVite. We couldn’t miss it. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with folks who were such a part of our lives for a significant period of time.

    Chuck and I have had a most interesting relationship. I dated his older sister a couple times before I ever met him. We both liked the idea of being with each other, but the chemistry just wasn’t there. Made for some awkward dates. It was par for the course in my life at the time. Most of my relationships had a whole lot more going on in my mind than they actually did in reality.

    By the time I met Chuck, I had found recovery and was just settling down into my own skin. Chuck was where I had been a few years before, checking the program out, drawn to it, but not quite ready to jump in. He tried a taste, asked me to sponser him, then fell off the planet for awhile before finally making his way back to a meeting. That’s kind of how it goes for a lot of us, in our efforts to find recovery and get well. I bounced in and out and all around for 5 or 6 years before recovery finally took hold.

    This time, Chuck showed up just as we were getting ourselves kicked off the N.A. meeting list. We were a renegade group. We still believed in the concept and principle of Group Autonomy, but that principle had been changed in that organization, and our group, in the annals of the ever expanding History movement of that organization, were the first victims of what they now refer to as the “Traditon Wars”. It happened 28 years ago, and they’re still talking about it. I long since moved on.

    But Chuck was ready. Nothing would throw him off, this time. He stuck like glue. He told me a funny story several years later. Shortly after he showed up for good that time, Kathy and I were moving in together in the apartment we’d found in South Philly. That’s where the Home Group was, and that’s where we wanted to be. Chuck had a truck, and was more than willing to help out his new sponser (well, I’d been his sponser for about 8 months at that point, but he’d just made it back). We had to pick up some stuff at Kathy’s old apartment in Northeast Philly. We had to pick up some stuff I had in storage. And we had to pick up some stuff from Mom and Dad’s place in South Jersey, where I’d been living.
  • Entering their place in Cherry Hill, Chuck observed a number of things. He was an observant guy. He saw pictures on the walls. Pictures of Mom, and Dad, and many of my siblings. He didn’t see a picture of me. That struck him as a bit odd. Then, in the kitchen, he saw a Pflag newsletter, and some Pflag pamphlets. (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). In his newcomer mind, which, as mine had been when I first learned my brother was gay, was still somewhat homophobic, he put two and two together and figured – no pictures of me on the wall, PFLag stuff of the table, oh my God, my sponser is gay! Wait a second – what about Kathy? Oh, who knows how it all works. It put him into a panic. All the way from my parents’ place in Cherry Hill to our new apartment in South Philly, he went through a mental turmoil over this shocking new revelation, and it finally culminated in “Ah, fuck it, I don’t care, whatever it is, whatever he is, I’m in – I want to recover. I’m done!” As it turned out, that was a big part of his surrender experience. We all have one of those, those of us who find recovery from addiction. There’s that moment when we throw up our hands, realize that everything we’ve tried has failed, and give up the ghost and let the universe lead us into recovery. This was Chuck’s moment.

    Chuck was very instrumental in helping us to keep our new house in South Jersey, on the lake, which we got a year later, from falling apart or crumbling into the sand. He was a general contractor, and spent many a weekend at our place on the lake, mentoring me in all things construction. I had so much vast experience with home repair stuff, the first time Kathy got me a Router for Christmas, I said “Cool – what’s a Rooter?” Chuck taught me everything. I still wasn’t very good at it, but I learned enough to keep the house standing, for the most part, during the 11 years we lived in it.

    I haven’t seen Chuck in 12 – 13 years, now. The last time I saw him, he was trying to get me to do something with a group in Georgetown. I tried. Kathy and I both tried. But, we had significant differences in how we thought newcomers should be handled, and we quickly realized that we were just confusing the newcomers, so we let the group do its thing and went our ways. At the time, Chuck was really disappointed, and felt that I was just having trouble submitting to the group conscience. He had apparently gotten to be a voice of authority in the group up in Philly, which the group in Georgetown affiliated itself with. It kind of came back to that Group Autonomy thing we’d dealt with in N.A. back in 1984. For these recovery groups to work most effectively, the way the originators designed them to work, a group has to be autonomous. I can’t work any other way in a group.

    But, that’s all group dynamics and politics. We both just kind of went our separate ways after that, and I haven’t seen, nor heard a whole lot about Chuck since then. He was one of my closest friends for a good dozen years. I’m really looking forward to seeing him again after all these years. I hope I can help him to see that there is plenty of life to be lived after 50, as I’ll be there representing life 8 years down the road from that juncture. I’m still seeing a good ‘nother 40 or so years to go from here, before I’m through giving it hell here on earth. I’m kind of hoping we can rekindle a solid friendship we once shared. If not, we’ll just have a good time anyway, helping him to celebrate his milestone day.

    I love road trips like this!
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