I got up this morning without panic and moved around and got ready to leave for Massachusetts. I didn't rush, I didn't freak out, I just found some socks that fit, got dressed, packed everything up, kissed my girlfriend and the puppy and headed on down the road. I topped off the tank, hit a burger joint drive-through and kept moving. Somewhere around Freeport, I called a friend and chatted all the way through the York toll both when the signal went crappy. A little while later I called home to report I was almost to the exit and traveling was fine, only to realize shortly that I was just approaching the big bridge between Maine and New Hampshire and I probably had another half hour left. Oops. Wrong toll booth there. Hampton was ahead, not behind. Shit.
So I got here, unloaded and went to check on the job. It looks like I might have a young helper for part of the thing. Lady's grandson is eight, small for his age, and hot to help break stuff. Cute little guy, very polite, and willing to help, such that a child can offer. Together (?!) we shoveled the path to the back door to allow access to the back stairs, then he helped me bring up some tools. First trip, I handed him three 36-inch crow bars. Their combined weight was probably half what he weighed. Undaunted, he wobbled off into the chill with his clanking load and he returned shortly for more. I offered him my tool bag (which I am sure weighs more than he) but relented and gave him a five-gallon pail with some odd tools and an extension cord in it. He wobbled that up the stairs with me behind him this time. I carried the tool bag, two collapsible saw horses and something else. We agreed that it was enough for one night and stopped there.
I think I'll be picking up a set of children's safety glasses tomorrow and maybe some wee little work gloves as well. He's so damned cute it nearly makes me want one. Nah, maybe not.
So I am in the home of my early sobriety and I went to a meeting tonight. I got there early, because that's what you're supposed to do, I found a meeting list book for the area and figured out where to go and when to be there, and met some neat people. Good recovery in that room. Some of the early and active folks there did all the right things thinking I was either new to the program or maybe new to the town and introduced themselves and welcomed me. Then I explained that this particular Sunday night meeting had been my home group back in 1985. Eyebrows went up all around. Ohhhhhh. OK. So you must know... and indeed, I did know those old-timers.
Only one I knew came tonight, a guy named Fred. Blessed, sweet man. He must have had ten years back when I was first coming around, so he must have something between 30 and 40 years now. Wow. Gave me a big hug and his eyes sparkled when he said hello. There's no reason on God's earth that we would know each other outside of the halls of AA, but he greeted me like I was a long-lost high school chum and it was grand. The only thing I can compare it to is like veterans greeting one another after a long absence. We've all been through hell out there, it's better here, but life can still be tough, and ain't it grand to see you again. I'm smiling now when I remember it.
Later on, at the break, I asked if he might know somebody, a young kid perhaps who would be reliable and would benefit from a couple of hours of under the table, day labor cash money kind of work. He thought not a minute and went to a young guy in the back row, chatting with friends and holding a cup of coffee. Sturdy-looking kid, reddish hair, pale skin, blue eyes and a ready smile, probably of Irish stock. My kind of people. Kid's name is Kevin. I'm batting a thousand. Of course it is. The only other alternative would have been Patrick or Seamus.
Fred introduced us, told the kid to take care of what I needed done (I think he might sponsor him) and then explained to me that Kevin's in a local men's half-way house. Those guys are just one drink away from going back to jail or out onto the streets. They're living good, but very humbly. The cash will be most welcome in his world.
Now normally there is no way I would have been able to find and hire a guy, part-time, for a few hours, with any assurance that he wasn't going to rip me off within four hours of landing in town. Especially a town that is not my own any more. But I was there, and Fred was there. And Fred has never caused me harm before, nor I him. I trust his judgment, and now that I am older and wiser than I was early on, he has no compunction about sending a young man, newly sober, off in my company for a day. In fact, I am confident that he knows that I will talk program and recovery to his young charge while we work. It might benefit the kid. I know it will benefit me to work with him, both in the sense of the job and in the reminder of what alcoholism can do to a person. Nobody gets into that halfway house because they've eaten too much chocolate. They get int there because it's the last stop before jail (or maybe on the way out of jail) and it just might save their lives. And they know it. And I will be grateful for the help and grateful for the company.
And it never would have happened if I had not been at the meeting tonight. Had I planned to ask somebody at a meeting to recommend a guy to hire? Yeah, but having a thought kicking around and having a plan ready to execute are two very different things. In fact, it was only at the break that I remembered that I needed a guy and thought to ask Fred to recommend one. I was not there to hire anybody. I was there for a meeting. And I got one and it was wonderful. And I got a bonus too - help on the job when I'm going to need it.
The speakers tonight came up from someplace that begins with an M. I can't remember. But the old guy who spoke had a lilt of the old country (think green) in his voice and a tweed cap on his head and he spoke of his first meeting in Marblehead, Mass back in 1962. Before I was born. Been sober ever since, bless his heart. I spoke to him at the break and he knows a guy I know from meetings back in Bar Harbor. You send him my love, m'dear, said the old guy. He was beautiful. I will send my friend the old guy's love when next I see him.
Again, I am smiling as I type. I cannot put into words what the fellowship of this recovery thing is like. There is a bond, a connection that goes straight to the soul and the heart and holds fast and hugs when it is there. I cannot put into words the loneliness of an alcoholic still drinking, either. There is a hole that goes straight through the soul and the heart that cannot be understood by anyone who has not felt it. The meetings I go to fill that hole, they don't just dull the ache, they relieve it, make it disappear. Not all at once, maybe, not for everyone anyway, but it does it. It makes no sense from a clinical or medical model, but it works. It is a rare, rare thing when I come away from a meeting feeling worse than when I went in. They fill me up. Like prayer and meditation fill me up. I don't ask why any more. I just say thank you.