I got to thinking this morning about the people along my journey who have been there for me. The ones who freely gave of themselves, and freely gave to me, expecting nothing in return. There have been many. NeighborDeb reminded me of one in a recent story– a guy I will always consider a brother, and for whom I would do anything – anything in the world. I know that he would do the same for me.
I’ve told the story of how I found this strange 12 Step group that was in N.A. at the time, but they weren’t like any N.A. group that I had come across up to that point. I had already made my decision to leave N.A. and stick to A.A. meetings, where I could be more anonymous and just continue my sobriety, free of drama and over-commitment. I was absolutely burnt-out on N.A. Service Work. I had poured my entire being into it for nearly 4 years, to the point of being overly obsessive and compulsive about it, and still unable to live any kind of a life with balance or substance. The thing was, I really wasn’t living from my core. I was just doing a lot of activity, because I thought it would protect me from addiction if I did, and I was scared to death to go back to active addiction. I guess it worked, to a degree. I did stay clean and sober, but I was crazy as bat-shit. My efforts seemed to help others out – I have heard from many people who found words that I said or wrote during that time to be very helpful to them. I’m glad of that. But, for me, those words were not helping me to get well. I couldn’t live them – I could only talk about them.
Funny thing is, some of the people who helped me, somewhere along the line, fell on hard times themselves, and were somehow beyond my reach to be able to help them. I sure would if I could. I will forever be grateful for what they did for me. Since I can’t help them, I follow what they said to do, when I would want to give them something in return for all the help they gave me – “Be there for the next person who needs a helping hand – pay it forward (they didn’t use that term, but that was the idea)”
Billy and I had bonded over “Jef-caps”, the type of hat I’m wearing in the drawing my friend Gina from Nashville did of me at a Literature Conference during that time period. We’d first met the time that I was walking across Broad Street by City Hall in Philadelphia, getting ready to meet an exotic dancer to do whatever I thought we were going to do, and had shot up a 3 word prayer as I did, “God help me”, then immediately was spotted by a guy who knew me, and Billy was one of the other guys with him. I took their sudden presence to be God’s immediate response to my cry for help, but I was not amused. I hadn’t really meant it. I really had wanted to hook up with that dancer, and my prayer, and God’s response, were an inconvenient mistake. God’s way of really annoying the crap out of me.
Billy always just seemed to show up like that, when I least expected it, when the subject of God was in mind, and he just had a knowing look about him – I felt like he knew me, from the very first time I met him. It was uncanny. We had this connection. Later, as I started showing up at that group’s meetings on Friday and Sunday nights, during the months that I was doing my best to blend in with the chairs in the back of that church basement, as close to the coffee pots as I could be, Billy’s gaze, like a beacon of a lighthouse would always seek me out and land on me, his laughing eyes saying all of the things that I couldn’t hear the others saying through my own mental fog and confusion. They said, “Hey, man – I see you. You’re a lot like me. I used to be like you. Mental. Stuck in my head. FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition). I understand. I am you. It’s o.k. You’re in the right place. Stick around – it’ll get better.” They conveyed a profound joy, a deep, scarring pain overcome. They kept me going back there for weeks. He never approached me with any of the “God”-talk, or tried to get me to do anything I didn’t want to do. He was just there, and I always felt like he was there for me. It turns out, he truly was. I was a new guy in need of help, and that’s what he was there for.
When I finally did make a decision and decide that whatever it was they were dishing out, I was going to give a try, he was there. He happened to be a good friend of one of my sponsors, and several times when I went to meet with my sponsor at his place, Billy would be there. I never knew if they had planned it that way, or if it was just how it worked out, all I know is, his presence made it all feel a little more legitimate to me. I was still slightly wary that I was getting involved with some kind of a cult, and I didn’t want to do that.
Looking back, I see him as what I consider to be a living angel. He saw me through a difficult time, a period of time when I knew not who to trust, not what to trust, burnt out from the years of struggle, tired and bedraggled of spirit, wary of one more betrayal, and here was this shining beacon of truth and light that just beamed a light out onto my rough seas, a light that helped me to see my way into a safe harbour.
Billy was just one of many “angels”, some in flesh and some unseen, who have looked out for me, and helped me to find a reason to live, and a purpose to life. I hope that I am able to do the same for others, on occasion. I hope that he finds his way in whatever rough seas he might be encountering along his own journey. I wish that I could do for him, what he did for me. Short of that, I try to do it for others.
I don’t do it for anything I might receive in return. I do it because it was done for me, and it is what we do. We help out our brothers and sisters along the way. If I’m too busy to do that, I’m too busy to live. I just need to stop and think about how I got to where I am.
A lot of angels were involved.