Where do I go?
When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help…
Sentinel Chair District One
A man or woman is in front of you. They are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They cannot stop drinking alcohol, using meth, crack, opiates, etc. They are asking you for help. They are not able, nor in a place to go to a meeting. They first need to get off the drink or drug they are on. Our program teaches that our primary purpose is to stay sober and then to be the hand of AA for this person. What would you do?
I asked some of the folks in our district this question. Names, nor judgment are important here, learning solutions available in our community, however, IS.
Here are the responses in the order I asked:
“I don’t know.”
“I’d try to get them into a detox.”
“I just moved here but I would find out because the window of willingness is narrow and if they are ready …well, we must strike while the iron is hot.”
“I’d call Jenn D.”
“I’d say, let me give you Jenn D’s phone number.”
“I would have them call Jenn D. to see if she could help them get into treatment or suggest a scholarship.”
“Alone, I would likely be powerless to help, so I would get them to a meeting soon as I could because if you get enough AA’s together, someone will have an answer.”
“If you decide you want help, I can share my story with you and lead you to the place my solution was found.”
“Talk with them, let them know they are not alone!”
“Come with me to this meeting and I’ll introduce you to the solution and a friend who can get you in a detox free of charge.”
“If you are looking for help I’d be happy to see what I can do for you.”
If we are following the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, we are consistently being put in different situations of helping alcoholics to achieve sobriety. Some of these folks walk into the rooms or are referred to us as they come out of a hospital or Rehab. Or perhaps they are living in a half-way house and they come to meetings looking for a sponsor. Then, we start working with this sober individual and get into the business of “sponsoring.” However, all cases are not as easy as this. I have been faced with this dilemma in my own home. I was in a crisis with my 18-year-old. I called Jenn D. and my child was in a facility within 24 hours of that call.
Who is this Jenn D.?
Jenn D. lives in our district. She is a feisty petite blonde who for years dashed into meetings dressed in farm gear with manure on her boots. She is a class act, strong in sobriety and a beautiful spirit who dances to her own music. But I have heard her story one on one and she will tell you this was not always the case.
Jenn nearly died in the grip of this disease. She struggled for years… DHR took her daughter and ultimately through the horrendous physical abuse she had put her little body through lost her son two weeks before his due date. It has been years since this event, but she still got choked up with the memory of where this disease can take us. I was trying to conduct an interview with her, but man, I got choked up too. Where in the world do you go after something like that? Then, this beautiful, amazing story of Jenn D. and how this program works started to unfold before me…
Jenn had tried to get help when she got pregnant with her son and was even under a doctor’s care. Her doctor was continuing to prescribe her medication. But she felt like there was really nowhere to go. After her son passed, Jenn was arrested. She was indicted and while grieving this unbelievable loss she thought she was going to prison. She was living and working in the sober part of New Beginnings and through a series of events that she had “turned over to her Higher Power” her case was dismissed. She will live with this the rest of her life. We work on such things through the Steps, through therapy. But then… here comes God, “showing out.”
After what happened to Jenn and her baby The Shoals Treatment Facility (also known as The Methadone Clinic) created a special needs program for pregnant women. In addition, Jenn has become a liaison for Colbert, Lauderdale and Franklin Counties as a Peer Support Specialist so she has become that place she felt wasn’t available to her when she was pregnant, lost and afraid.
She was toiling away without a day off on a farm and then through several coincidences, which I believe is God’s way of staying anonymous, this job was presented to her.
When asked about working with the pregnant women she said, “It’s really cool, because back then you didn’t have help. I didn’t feel like anyone was helping me. Now there is so much help…so much. I can give the resources to women who need them. And now I have several pregnant women and they’re terrified, and I can relate to that, you know.” When asked about the most rewarding part of her job, without hesitation, she answered, “Helping the pregnant women who are trying to get sober.”
There it is folks. In my book (the Big Book), that is a perfect definition of living amends and how giving back what was so freely given in the rooms of AA helps us when nothing else can.
Today Jenn works helping addicts and alcoholics who have no insurance, no money, no hope. She helps them get into a facility. She believes there is a “bed” for everyone who wants one, especially in the State of Alabama. She bragged about our area alone having at least seven facilities; Freedom House, Moms, Hope House, Sunrise, New Beginnings, Chrysalis, and Lotus House. I was informed there is a Peer Support Specialist for every county in Alabama.
Jenn is employed as a Peer Support Specialist, a person living in recovery with a substance use disorder and providing support to others seeking recovery from a substance use disorder. Her employer supports any route to recovery.
Jenn brings interesting assets to her resume. She brings an understanding of what these people in need are going through. She said, “If you’ve never lived this life as we have then you just don’t know what it’s like to be spiritually bankrupt. You could study it for ten years and never know.”
Also, for years, she was on the other side with the CROs, DHR, the court system, etc. right here in town so she knows all of them. Her network was already in place before she started. Only now, she is working on the right side, more “living amends.”
Detoxing from alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs to stop due to the withdrawal symptoms. There is perhaps a sense of shame and denial that keeps people from reaching out for help. We need to keep this in mind when working with others. I asked Jenn how she felt about people getting sober at home. She replied, “It’s dangerous, especially opiates, benzos and alcohol.”
Jenn is tough when she speaks of how she makes them do the footwork to get that bed. She will be there to hold their hand and rally the proper support and use her resources to assist, but this can only be given to those who want it.
I must say, I am grateful for the ones who are in the trenches, like Jenn. I had an experience with the type of people she works with daily which is part of the reason for this article.
One of those people came into our meeting at 4D over a year ago and he was completely inebriated. He made several of the ladies, including myself, feel uncomfortable during the meeting. I was chairing and felt some responsibility in keeping things in hand. He was cross-talking during shares and I asked him as kindly but as firmly as possible to please stop speaking while others were sharing. We all sat there in an element of discomfort as we watched this disease…OUR disease… in its purest form. The man obviously wanted help. So where do we draw the line? What do we do in that situation? After the meeting was finally over some of our guys with strong sobriety went over to talk to him. I said my goodbyes and started to exit the meeting. At that point, he decided he wanted to hug me and actually came at me and grabbed me. I told him “No, not today” and hurried to the door. He followed me. He was angry then. He chased me and hit the back of my car with his hand as I rushed to get in and yelled obscenities at me. A man from the meeting that I trust and love had followed us out. He made sure the man left me alone so I could drive away.
I was hysterical as I drove. I have a history of abuse and I was crying out of anger. But I was not only crying because he triggered my abuse experience, I was crying because BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I…. and being exposed to the ugliness of this disease, as I know this man to normally be kind, considerate, even quiet when not drinking. And finally, I cried because I could not help him. My hand could not be the one to reach out to this man.
I called my sponsor when I got to work. She calmed me and told me the guys were taking care of it and he was being helped. I believe he has returned to the same state since and the police had to be called. I want him to get sober and I will continue to pray for him. But what do we do in a situation like that? Call the police, watch them haul him away, and forget about it?
In speaking to Jenn I learned that when someone is in that state of complete and total active alcoholism or drug addiction we should NOT tell them to go to a meeting. They should not be driving for one thing and something like this could happen. They need professionals to detox them. The police may need to get involved. But they need the liaison to get to treatment. It does not matter if it is the 10th time or the 100th time. None of us have done this perfectly and rarely on the first try. The book says in HOW IT WORKS, page 60, “No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not Saints.”
Jenn and one of our favorite fellas have been working with a man who averages ten detoxes a year. Jenn told him “You have exhausted my resources.” But she told me she has not given up. “No, I love him, and I want him to get sober. We can’t give up. I won’t walk away.”
So, we keep trying. I thank God for the ones who did not give up on me. I thank God for all the ones who know I had 16 years and drank again but do not make me feel judged for it. I thank God for intervening in my life, as I know with all my heart that NO HUMAN POWER COULD HAVE RELIEVED MY ALCOHOLISM BUT GOD COULD AND WOULD IF HE WERE SOUGHT.
But, friends, I could not feel God’s truth until the drink was out of my system. And I could not do that part without human aid. It took being detoxed five times before I got it. And each one of those times, I needed someone to find the facility, drive me there and then hopefully go to Al-anon. Lol.
I will say with all my heart and soul that I am eternally grateful that the hand of recovery is stretched out strong and fierce in our community by Jenn D. She is a power of example to me and I am proud to call her my friend and soul sister in sobriety.
Then, and only then, do we become as open-minded to conviction
and as willing to listen as the dying can be.
BB, page 24