Now she gets it

So here I sit inthe observation car with my daughter.  She is reading a book on her iPhone (awesome).  I believe she is reading Go Ask Alice.  Just like I think I did at her age. 


We are day one into this trip.  The train is cool.  We are both pretty good at chilling, and so that is what we do here.  I can tell I am going to get on her nerves, and I think that is hilarious.  I’m funny like that. 


Last night, while waiting to board, I was talking to her about the timeline of my using history. She was unaware of the length of sobriety that I have.  I was unaware that she was unaware.  So we had an impromptu timeline conversation. 


If my life depended on my being quiet, I would die. Of course, I was trying to keep it down, because we were talking about meth for god’s sake.  But even so, I talk loud, even when I whisper.  

I noticed this young man who kept looking at us. He says he overheard me say “disease” and “timeline.”


I could see that he was jumpy and nervous.  He didn’t LOOK like a drug addict that YOU think you would see.  But I knew right away, what he wanted to talk about.  He asked me if I would tell him what the disease was that I had.  I said, “addiction.’ 


Right after that, the train started boarding.  I thought he was a passenger, with all of his bags.  But I think now, that the young man was homeless.  He quickly stood up as I was trying to get my things together to board. He walked up to me and asked what my drug of choice was, I told him.  He said, “I’m struggling, I can’t quit.  How the hell did you do it?”


A part of me thought he was trying to either start asking for money, or if I knew or had any shit.  But the look in his eyes told me different.    

I think I speak for many people in recovery when I say we LIVE FOR THIS SHIT!  For me it is for two reasons.  The first is I could see that monster staring me in the face.  I saw that man trapped inside that dark drug addiction.  I felt it man.  I saw it.  It scares me to death.  I don’t envy that guy for where he is.  I am however grateful that our paths crossed, so I can be reminded of the desperation.


Second, I also saw some resolve in his face.  I don’t think that after our little chat, he ran to the nearest treatment bed he could find.  But maybe he did. I told him to get into treatment, if he could.  And if he couldn’t do that, find the nearest 12-step group and start going and listening and doing what they tell you to do. Especially when you don't want to do it. That is what worked for me and it is still working today.


I wished him well, and told him that if I can do it, anyone can do it.  He was super thankful. It felt like a moment. 


It was then our turn to get onto the train. The young man started walking the other direction.  I thought he was a passenger.  But he did mention he was doing the “geographical thing” so is that homeless?  I don’t know. 


I didn’t really notice my daughter’s face or pay attention. But I looked at her and her jaw was dropped.  She said, “That was the coolest thing I have ever seen in my life.”  She felt it too.  And he couldn’t come at a better time. 

It is hard to wrap your head around the “disease” part of addiction.  It is hard as a kid, to understand how your mom and dad could do that to the family, and it is hard to not take it personal.  It is personal.  It hurts kids horribly when their parents are addicts.  That isn’t really saying anything profound. 


What was profound of that moment was that my kid saw the desperation in this man’s face, and she saw me have the hope.  As if I could have given him a wrapped gift with a big box of hope in it.  She saw me, do that.  And it was simply by talking honestly and openly about my addiction and how I recover.  And even if the ugly part of the disease that hurts people, there is this part that helps. 


I saw her own shame that comes and goes about her parents go straight to amazement, pride and compassion.  She wanted to take that guy with us (um….no hon) and save him.  That little 5-minute connection changed her view on my addiction.  And let her see what we do on this side.   


Anyway, I wrote this Monday night.  It is Tuesday afternoon and I’m sitting atthe train station in Portland, OR.  We are boarding soon for one more night to Los Angeles.  It is a long trip.  I stink. But seriously, it has been so far, so good.


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Betsey DeGree


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