A year ago, I knew nothing about recovery. Phrases like “twelve steps” and “Alcoholics Anonymous” may as well have been as foreign to me as “World Champion Chicago Cubs.”
But then I started working with teens in recovery, both in the woods and in a beautiful building, and I’ve learned I’m not that different from them.
“You’re a flawed individual,” an instructor told one of our students this morning. He didn’t mean it in a derogative way. He also called himself flawed, and also Bill Wilson, the founder of AA who didn’t take a drink for 37 years only to belligerently demand whiskey in the final days of his life.
I’m a flawed individual, too. I don’t do the things I ought to do. And I do things I do not want to do.
I look at my students making decisions like picking up cigarette butts off the street or rummaging through public garbage cans, and I can’t help inwardly sneering at them. Really, guys? Why do you do —
And it’s then I remember that I am no different from my students as I am no different from the Apostle Paul.
A student keeps swearing in class when told to stop swearing, and I keep telling people “I’m fine” when I am not.
A student keeps instigating arguments with staff and fellow students alike, and I keep secluding myself.
A student relapses, and I relapse.
I see myself in these kids all the time, and I’m often jealous of them. Of this opportunity to get help at a young age and form a tribe and conquer their demons together.
How I wish I’d confronted my own vices at 15, 16, 17 like they’re getting to do. Together.
There’s something about that word — together. Bill Wilson created something magical when he created AA, flawed individual though he was. He recognized the power of together. Of rallying people who don’t know why they do what they do and putting them in a room to talk about it.
I’ve seen the power of together in the woods and at my current job and at recovery meetings all over Asheville. I used to not get it or comprehend it much like “President Trump,” but now I do.
I feel blessed to have my own tribe, a virtual place for navigating hard journeys of faith and sexuality and masculinity. I don’t know why I choose not to lean on my brothers more than I do (or don’t), but then I suppose that’s par for the course.
I don’t know why I do the things I do. Why I retreat. Why I assume defeat. Why I’m a mess.
And that’s why I need the power of together.
I need it every day.
This is Day 14 of #MakeNovemberTolerable. Keep checking back every day this month for new stories and discoveries of beauty where beauty may be hard to find.