Entering the cavernous rec hall of the suburban church I immediately pivoted to the door and phoned my sponsor. In fall of ’97 I was a fish out of water.

“Preston,” I moaned, “This is ridiculous.”
“Relax,” urged the man sixteen years my junior.
“But I don’t belong here.”
“Sit the f#!* down.”
“But we have nothing in common,” I pointed out earnestly.
“Wrong!” he shot back. “Just the opposite: None of you got there on a winning streak.”

Lord knows why but for the first time in many years, I listened. Trudging back in, taking a seat among men and women, old and young, white collar, blue collar, no collar, clad in mezuzahs, crosses, tattoos and piercings, I not only listened, but heard.

How lucky was I back then? Spiritually (and financially) bankrupt, I’d been granted the gift of desperation, and for reason unbeknownst to me, I began following suggestions from one not yet born the day Kennedy got shot!

(Ed. Note 1: How’d that joke go? A guy says to a date half his age: “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” And her reply: “Ted Kennedy got shot?”).

There’s an old bromide that says “Recovery isn’t for people who need it; it’s for people who want it.”

I wanted it.

Meeting after meeting I was mixing with an amalgam of people from all walks of life — people I’d never have met. Day after day I was finding commonality not in our jobs, or religion, or schools, or whatever — but rather in the pure fact that each of us, taking disparate paths, had found his/her bottom…. that each of us had learned that to really see that the sky’s the limit we had to have our back on the ground — and look up.

Yes, I wanted what those people had. They were calling it “serenity”.

I was reminded of that autumn night just recently. Ron and I, (Ed. Note 2: We’re the same age, give or take. He: a rich kid from Beachwood; me: product of South Euclid’s “mean streets”) .… Anyway, there we were — the two of us — again Wednesday — taking a meeting into a downtown detox center … sharing our “stories”. It’s our commitment, and frankly, as we speak weekly to the always new assembly of four to six barely/clean addicts, it’s always a coin flip if one of our captive audience will snore.

This week, though, was different. Someone — he couldn’t have been twenty-five — actually wanted to share. (Ed. Note 3: “Vent”, if you will).

“I hate lead meetings,” he asserted. “No one tells my story.”
“How many meetings have you been to?” asked my partner.
“Two,” he said, “And then I got pulled over.”

They laughed — all of them. It was funny, except it wasn’t.

“Let me tell you something,” I said, staring directly at the kid, (who may have led his high school class in tats), “I once sat in your seat”.

Standing oh so politely, he interrupted: “You don’t understand,” he told me.
“Really?” I pushed back with vengeance.  “Sit the f#!* down.”

… Silence … Just silence … and I picked up steam.

“I didn’t get here on a winning streak, my friend. Either did Ron here.”

My buddy nodded; the kid hit his chair; the horse had left the barn; we closed the meeting.

Brandon — that was his name — came up to me afterwards and asked for my number. Gladly I gave it.  Gladly.

He’ll be gone by next Wednesday. Four days for detox— that’s all they give them. Odds are he won’t call — but we’ll see. We’ll see.

It all depends, you know…

Not on whether he needs it, but on whether he wants it.

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