Several months ago I briefly sponsored a sweet kid in her early 20s. She wanted sobriety badly, but wasn’t quite ready to work the program. She had a lot of issues, as many of us do, and wrestled with problems that included gender identity, and how to fit that into her very real love of God. Yes, she loved God, but never really believed God loved her in return, thinking her sexuality a deal breaker in the eyes of her higher power.
I remember how badly I wanted her to love herself, accept herself, and truly believed if she could learn to live an authentic life, one that was true to the identity that felt most real to her, it would go a long way towards dealing with that some of that which made her drink and use.
I also knew she struggled with depression and bi-polar disorder, and thankfully understood I was out of my wheelhouse when it came to addressing those issues. I would wisely advise her to follow her doctors’ advice.
No matter how hard I pushed (I know better than to push so hard these days), I couldn’t get her past step 2. I offered to take her to LGBTQ meetings, we met in coffee shops to read and discuss the 12 steps together.
I got the distinct impression that like many of us, she simply didn’t feel she deserved sobriety, and the freedom, serenity and the 2nd chance at life that comes with recovery. I couldn’t force her to see her worth, and as a result, I watched her slowly drift away, becoming less and less engaged.
Eventually, the phone calls stopped, and she vanished. Her phone stopped going to voicemail, and I could no longer send her text messages or call her. Her social media pages were deactivated. She stopped coming to meetings, and no one had any idea where she was, or what happened to her.
Given her depression, and history of relapse, I was afraid she was dead. I worried to the point of panic, but there was nothing I could do. I had no one I could call to inquire after her- the nature of our program is that of anonymity, so once she cut ties, all that could be done was say a prayer and hope for the best.
Months passed, and I still thought of her, but life moved on, and the panic slowly subsided. I’d wonder whatever happened to that sweet young girl I’d cared so much about, but over time it became a passing thought, and not much beyond that.
Today, as I was walking across the parking lot towards the building to attend my weekly Saturday meeting, I saw her.
I stopped dead in my tracks, almost afraid to believe my eyes.
Yes, it was definitely her. She’d changed, for sure. Gone was the innocence, the sweet “girly” essence she’d tried so hard to portray to the world, that only a few of us knew was a lie. The pink nail polish and childish stud earrings had been replaced. She now sports short, gender-neutral hair, a tattoo on her wrist, and gender-neutral clothes. She was smoking a cigarette, and her eyes were…
I almost dropped the things I held in my hand, so happy to see her.
I grabbed her and hugged her tightly. “You’re back,” I whispered in her ear, tearfully.
We spoke at length, and I was completely stricken by what she shared.
Her story is heartbreaking. I won’t tell it, because it isn’t mine to tell. Suffice it to say she’s been to hell and back these last months. A few times, really. She’s knocked on death’s door, and more than once, she was pissed it didn’t take her.
She looks so different because she IS different.
I’m glad she looks the way she does. She finally looks real. Authentic. She certainly no longer looks like a kid who’s trying be something she isn’t. She isn’t trying to make anyone else happy by projecting an image that she’s anything other than what she actually is.
That’s my definition of beauty. She’s beautiful.
She made my day, and she reminded me, through her story and perseverance why we dance this dance, each and every day:
For people like us, if we don’t, there are only two possible outcomes- death or jail.
Today, I am so grateful for my friend. I am grateful she found her way back, and I’m grateful I got to witness it. I’m thankful for my program, and I’m thankful that program was here for her, and that it was here for me too, when we both needed it the most.
We all have another relapse in us, but not all of us have another recovery in us. Mostly, I’m thankful she has got another chance.