Written by Jessica Paschke
Addiction infects many families and becomes the legacy no one asks for but many of us get. Often, without knowing it we become a part of the problem. Sometimes we know and just can’t help ourselves. I’m getting married in the next twelve months so I think a lot about lineage, families, and legacy. I think about how my fiancé and I will create “our” family, what traditions we’ll choose and what we’ll try hard to leave behind.
Today we saw one of our loved ones who’s 58 days into his most recent stint at rehab. He is raw. He is so very tired. And, he’s a pain in the rear-because—hey, aren’t we all?
I greeted him with a big smooch, good natured ribbing (that’s what we call it in Indiana) and as much of a bear hug as my 5’ 2” frame allows. “Man, it feels good to be hugged!” he pretended to joke.
For the next couple of hours we ate eggs and drank our coffee and witnessed another round of confession. He needed to talk about how the last break had happened. He needed to recount the feeling he experienced when he most recently lost control. He needed to tell the story–to tell us (and himself)–how this time will be different. And it might. I actually believe that. That’s the thing about transformation that we know so well at BSM; it can happen to anyone and at any time and sadly sometimes misses us as well. Transformation is never predictable. We work to avoid the temptation of predicting who will “make it” and instead stay poised to respond and embrace.
When he talked through giving up his truck driving job to focus on recovery he called it “being selfish.” “No, generous” we told him. “Generous to myself” he said. “No, generous for us. When you take care of yourself—you give us a gift.” This was new news. “Everything I’ve done for the last 8 years, I’ve done by myself. I haven’t bought anything that wasn’t at a truck stop or a Walmart. My shifts start at 2 am. I don’t know what it’s like to do these ‘little’ things like you normal people—like grocery shopping.”
It dawned on me that what he was really saying was that he has no community. He doesn’t have people he regularly gets to see or be seen by. He doesn’t get a casual hello from the postman or the woman at the lunch truck that knows him well enough to ask after a pet or his son or, even remark about the changes in weather. He has none of the one thing that we at BSM believe is crucial for transformation-community. And that’s why it’s never about “just” a meal or coat or even a worship service. The legacy we’re building here to combat the ailments of addiction, isolation, and decades of pain is community.
In the passing hours, his words keep ringing in my ears. Not the ones about the loss of control or even the ones about how this time is going to be different. “Man, it feels good to be hugged.” It pains me to realize how rarely human touch happens for some of us and it anchors my belief that what’s happening 7 days a week at BSM really, really matters. To know and to be known. To see and to be seen. Building community is expensive, it requires risk, it begs that you rethink what safety means and asks you to invest parts of yourself you didn’t know could be given away. And today, I’m positive that it’s worth it.