Sketch by Chris Al-Aswad
March 2005 – Normal, IL
"…After the meeting, I went to Chestnut, which is an adolescent facility for addicts and sometimes I go there to help out and be of service. Every time I go there I am reminded of all the institutions I was put in and locked in and remember how horribly I treated the staff members who were trying to help me –who was i back then, something of the devil – my idea of myself outgrew the person and I was acting out a tragic role, a villainous cantankerous youth — who was I, all I can think is that I was lost, lost and the only way to know I was real was to stand out and gather attention, to draw the light on me at all costs…
…As I listened to to the adolescents, there was peace in my heart. I felt a well of silence in me and no strong emotions were pulling me one way or another – I was aware and listening deeply to every adolescent who had something to share. They were confused. How could you forgive someone who is unwilling to forgive you? They struggled with this because although they understood that it was the right thing to do, they explained how hard it was and how they refused to do it. I could see these adolescents were unlike me when I was their age – they wanted to get better. And they understood things that I didn’t understand at their age – they spoke of consequences and the law of cause and effect. They understood that no act goes unpunished. I meditated upon what they had to say and when there was a moment when nobody spoke I offered to say a few words. First I talked about how I had treated the staff members at Northwestern Hospital – how I spit in the faces of people who were trying to help me and my father who was trying to help me the most, I spit in his face too – he was the epitome of evil, the supreme justification of my drug addiction, he was the reason for my failure and I told the adolescents how my life was like a Greek tragedy and I was the ultimate victim at the center of it, the wronged Hamlet — After the meeting one of the adolescents who was sitting next to me said he had a question for me, I could see that he was nervous. This youth had acne all over the sides of his face and you could see a heavy burden of anxiety and confusion mixed with fear on his brow. He said he’s been looking for a sponsor for three months and he hadn’t found one. He was wondering if I would sponsor him – this struck me – that for the first time in my recovery there was actually someone coming for my help, asking for my help – two human beings created with the possibility of helping one another. As if in God’s divine creation I could see the pieces fit, how two humans mutually benefited each other. It amazed me, someone asking for my guidance, a flood of joy was rising in me but I stayed calm and told him of course I would help."