I was asked to give a lead-in talk at a treatment center in downtown Flint last night. At first, because I really didn’t know what to expect (and because my first stint in treatment was at the toughest/worst place in the State – where they only sent hopeless repeat offenders), I wasn’t nervous about what I’d say. I had an idea, of course, but I vastly underestimated the crowd. There were maybe 40 men, many hardened criminals… and me. And the guy who asked me to give the talk, and two of his friends.
26 years ago, I fit in to that crowd a lot better than I do today.
It wasn’t cause to freak out, though. “Experience, strength and hope”, that’s all I have.
After I was introduced, I got right into it. I gave a brief overview of what it was like when I got sober, and I kept it to the first few steps. There was no pandering to the crowd, so I just said what I had to say and ended when I was done. I didn’t try to stretch it out and I didn’t embellish on anything. I think I spoke for all of fifteen minutes. I was supposed to eat up almost 45 minutes.
I really felt like I’d let the fella who invited me down, that I should have had more. Then he asked if anyone had questions… The first hand went up, and I answered his question. Then another, and another. They were fantastic questions, too. “Do you ever have urges to drink?” “How do you deal with those urges?” “Do you think you could have quit without God’s help?””How do you work the steps in the rest of your life?”
Questions filled up the remaining half-hour. Guys were still asking questions as they were filing out the door.
Folks, I had every chance to completely screw up that lead-in talk. I could have forced it and tried to stretch another fifteen minutes out of it, but instead just went with my gut. I said what I had to say and left it where it was still “real”.
I walked out of that meeting feeling better about sobriety than I have in a long time – and that was pretty hard to do, I’m in a very good place of late. I’m on a 90 day rotation to go back and I can’t wait. We have a little tradition in “the program”. When we are asked to give a talk like that, there is only one answer: “Where’s the meeting and when do you want me there?”
I give every chance I get because I never know when I’ll run into a meeting like I did Monday night. If one person heard something that will get them to come back, I helped change the course of a person’s life. I think it went vastly better than that, though. On my way home I got a text from the guy who invited me; “Tonight’s meeting was a meeting that reminded me why I keep coming back. Thanks.” Funny thing was, I had the same feeling. That’s how it works.
“Giving back” doesn’t have to be a huge philanthropic effort to make a big difference. Usually, all it takes is one’s experience, strength, and a little hope. Oh, and a lot of faith.