Have you ever run into someone that you recognize, but can’t place them? You know you should know them, but you can’t figure out why or how? Yesterday, I ran into someone that knew me. He was thrilled to see me. He gave me a big hug and asked how I was. I did the typical “Fine. Great. It is just so good to see you again!” thing and started going through the mental inventory of people I know and have lost contact with over the years. Oh, how this gnawed at me. I just knew that not only did I know him well, he was important to me.
It drove me crazy. I sat there and thought and thought and thought about it. (Okay, I admit it, I was obsessed with trying to figure it out.) He wasn’t just “that guy that I saw here and there.” Every part of me knew that it was someone who knew me well and that I leaned on once upon a time.
When I was about to leave, he came up to me again. I thought to myself, “I’ll just keep him talking until something clicks.”
Me: “Soooo, how is life treating you?”
Mystery Man (MM): “Great. And you?”
Me: “Great! What have you been up to since I last saw you?”
MM: “Oh, you know. Same old, same old. I cannot believe how much you’ve changed. You look a lot different than the last time I saw you. But, that is understandable, right? It’s good to see you this way, all things considered.”
Me: (thinking…Huh?) “Well, you know how that goes! I was just trying to figure it out a minute ago. How long has it been?”
MM: “You’d know better than I would. How long has it been?”
Me: *laughing that cheesy ‘oh hell now what’ laugh and shrugging* “Too long.”
MM: “So, how’s your marriage? *pause* Did you get divorced? I hope not. I hope you were able to work it all out, but I don’t see your husband with you.”
By now I am totally confused. Of course I am married. I am blissfully happy. What a strange question.
Me: “Still married. 14 years. Three kids, too.”
MM: “Three?? I thought you only had two boys.”
Aha! Someone pre-Little Diva! So, it’s been at least 3-4 years.
Me: “Well, I have a little girl now. She is three.”
MM: “So, are you still clean and sober?”
Ahhhhhhhhhh! Then it hit me. It was an old friend from my old NA/AA group. Talk about a shock. Totally wrong place, wrong time and years later. I hadn’t seen him since fresh out of rehab.
It was a bizarre feeling. Here I am struggling to remember him. I knew that he was someone who was once important to me, yet I had no idea who he was or how to place him. 4 years ago, he saved my life. Literally. I can’t begin to tell you how mentally and physically screwed up I was when I got out of rehab. (One day I will if you want me to, but that’s not the story tonight.) He was someone who saw in me a person who desperately needed help, yet had no clue how to ask for it.
I vividly remember sitting in his truck on the way to dinner one night with the group and telling him how lost I was. Crying because I felt I didn’t fit in anywhere and how I never would. I was pretty damn sure I wouldn’t fit in at the Tennis Club while jonesin’ for a fix and shaking so badly I couldn’t hold a cup of coffee. And I sure as hell had no idea what it was like to be homeless and turning tricks for my next fix. I felt that I was worse than a “stereotypical” druggie. At least they put their habit right out there. Mine was my secret shame that I felt would turn away every “normal” person I knew. I sure as hell wouldn’t fit in with the other Moms at McDonald’s now. Not in this neighborhood.
I remember him looking me in the eyes, taking my hands (probably because they were shaking so badly) and telling me that I had two choices: (a) to look at how I didn’t fit in and go back to hiding my problems or (b) put them right out there with people who understood and let them help me. I really didn’t get it at that moment. After dinner, he knew I wasn’t in any shape to leave, so he took me back to a meeting. That’s where it sunk in for me.
There I sat. (Well, actually I rocked. I couldn’t sit still yet.) My hands were shaking so badly I didn’t know what to do with them and it freaked me out a bit. I was jumpy as hell and still nervous. Then it happened.
One guy came over and sat a chocolate bar in front of me and whispered “It will help you with the cravings.”
A woman who used to scare me simply because she was so different from me (ie: tough and mean looking) handed me a string of wooden beads to roll back in forth in my hands to give them something to do and settle the shaking.
Another guy sat beside me and never said a word. He just rocked with me. It made me no longer the center of attention (not that anyone cared one way or another or was even paying any attention to me anyway) until I laughed at the lunacy of it all.
And there I stood face to face with a man who made me see things in a new light and probably kept me from throwing it all away, and I didn’t remember how I knew him.
I told him that. He laughed. He said he was not surprised to hear it, as messed up as I was then.
I hugged him and thanked him for what he had done for me that night. I thanked him for the gift and told him how much it meant to me.
Then he smiled that smile I remembered so well (now), and I knew what he was coming.
He said the words I have heard hundreds of times before….”Then don’t hold onto it. Pass it on.”