Brother’s Keeper

“We asked God to help us show the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend.  When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man/woman.  How can I help him/’her? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”

Page 67- The Big Book of AA

1:48 A.M Friday morning February 7th, 2020. The name on the call log in red because I had missed the call while I was sleeping.

I hate getting those calls. Not because they sometimes disturb my sleep- I rarely sleep through the night anyways. But because they are NEVER good calls. No one has ever called me at that time with good news or to tell me how well they’re doing. I awoke at roughly 6:30 and saw the missed call. Instant concern and worry. I returned the call and heard the voice of an old friend. Someone who I love and respect immensely. Someone who I still as I write this, admire very much. *And this is all still very fresh in my mind and I am still processing, so please bare with me. But I figured this was as good a way as any to flesh this out*

“I need help Herb.”

“Oh, buddy. I know.”

I could hear the grief, the brokenness in his voice. He was lost. He was hurting badly. I could hear the shake. I could feel his tremors. His voice cracking. The utter humiliation. His pity for himself. He proceeded to walk me back through his now 2 years long relapse. we chatted. I asked questions and he answered. He would take breaks to “Take that breath” That- deep, from the soul desperate and ugly breath, and then return to his story. We talked for about 45 minutes and really re kindled our old friendship. He needed help and I wanted to help him. I needed to. We came together with a plan of action, and made all of the necessary arrangements. Work was notified and family/friends made aware. He was in bad shape, but he had a willing heart. He was ready to finally pick up that 1,000 pound phone and ask for help. He was ready to let someone else in. When the pain of change is less than the pain of being the same, we take action. We make adjustments. We ask for help. And we follow through. But he, my friend, is what you would refer to as the “Low Bottom Addict”. Like me. I could tell by the way he sounded, and the things that he told me- like the way he had been using, that he was going to need some assistance getting moving and getting to a hospital for some help. That did not go well. I had sent over and escort to pick him up. A man sober 14 years. A man ready to help him. But my old friend was so fucked up and out of his mind that this was clearly not the time to try and get him to make a move. Eventually, after several hours of hanging out with him and working on him, and his inability to stop using and come down- we had to reconvene- my escort and I, and make a decision to take a step back for a while and allow him to come down a bit. He was not at the time a danger to himself or anyone else. In fact, he had some company there with him, who seemed lucid, rational, and sober. And this person had agreed to keep an eye on him for the next several hours, and to stay in communication with us. So he was safe and would be taken care of. We agreed to let him come down and sleep it off and we would re visit things in the morning. Today. February 8th, 2020.

This morning, 9:18 A.M. I, having had the history with him, we decided that I would take a shot at him. I would go over to his home and see if I could get him moving. After all, were long time friends. So this should be easy enough right? No problems at all…

I knocked on his apartment door. Nothing. Waited. Nothing. Again, and again, and again. I know he’s here, his car is in the parking lot and no foot prints in the snow near the entrance to his place. I call his phone. I can hear it ring on the other side of the door. He is definitely here. Knock harder and harder still. I walk around the the side of his apartment and wrap on his window. Again, and again. Nothing. No motion, no stirring. Now I am consulting with my team on the phone. Roughly twenty minutes of knocking on his door and window, and about 17 calls to his phone. I am now fearing for his life. Had he passed away inside? Was I only a matter of minutes too late? Should I call for help? One more knock on the door, and if I don’t hear anything I will have to call emergency services….

Finally! A noise from inside. Some shuffling of feet. Hands meet door on the other side. The dead bolt disengages. And the door pulls inward toward the guts of the house enough to reveal my friend. And a very large hand gun….

Instantly. And I mean fucking instantly. My blood ran ice cold. And I instinctively showed him my hands. I am not 100% sure how the next moments went, as I was on extreme alert, and fearing for my life. I believe I blacked out from fear and was running on 100% survival here. “Whoa, buddy. It’s me. It’s Herb…” “Herb, you’re not Herb, who are you!?” “Buddy, it’s me. It’s Herb. It is Herb man. Please. I can leave if you need me to, but if you let me in, you gotta put the gun down.” I remember having this ‘Run like hell’ thought. And I could not take my eyes off of the pistol. At first I thought to myself, that maybe it’s a B.B Gun and this is just a scare tactic. But the more I fixed my eyes on the weapon and looked it over. The more and more I feared that I may die right here. I had to get my eyes off of the gun and make eye contact with him- It’s crazy how it takes so long to explain something that happened in a matter of maybe 10 seconds. But it seemed like an hour. I was finally able to peel my eyes away from the pistol, my guess is that it was a 9 or a 45- I don’t know guns, but it was absolutely large enough to bore a massive hole through what ever it was pointed at. And right now it was fixed dead center in my chest. Sternum shot. I’m gone if he pulls that trigger. And I worked my eyes up to his. And the moment we made eye contact I knew that I was safe. “It’s me man, remember____________? (removed to protect his identity.) It’s so funny, strange, interesting to me- maybe I myself am more fucked up than most. Delusional at times. But as he was holding that gun and He identified me in his mind. I could see all of his hurts. I could see his pain. And maybe that’s what he was actually pointing the gun at all along. I just happened to be standing in the bullet’s path. As soon as this little interaction finally caught up in his brain and he processed it he immediately removed the gun lifted it away, pulled the clip out, and took the bullet out of the chamber. He then set all three parts of the weapon on the counter and threw his arms around my neck. And sobbed. I mean, sobbed. That “Gnashing of teeth” from the gut and soul brokenness sob that only the most desperate of men or women can make. The sound of a soul in pain.

We hugged it out for several moments. Then to the double shoulder pat and squeeze as we looked at our old friends. This man was once a mighty mighty man. Very much in shape, a seasoned veteran of life. A hard working father. And a mighty man of God. Today, as I looked him over and evaluated his condition, I would venture to say that he was MAYBE 120 lbs. Soaking wet. Zero muscles in his legs. Little Frail Flamingo legs. Gaunt. Cheek bones blaring through his face. He appeared to be about 85 years old. Frail and decrepit. So sad and so heart breaking to see. I felt as if I could actually hug him, and squeeze him to death. His clothes barely stayed on. I threw his shoulder over mine and walked him to his couch like trainers do an injured football player to the sidelines. He sat back in the reclining portion of his couch, and I one knee kneeled next to him with a hand on his shoulder. He lit a smoke. I took in the scene. Burn marks littered his arm of the couch. “His Spot”, no doubt. Today was one of the most powerful days in recent memories for me. Today was fucking brutal, and personal. And sad. I stood and made my way to the foot of the reclining portion which held his feet up and stared down into the eyes of my friend. He nodded out for just one quick second. He took a drag of his cig. This man was in total spiral. Physical withering, and spiritually dead. A shell of his former self. He was once a life speaker, a service do-er. A leader and a mentor. Today he was at a bottom, from a relapse. A 2 year run. Couch covered in burn marks, house shuttered in. No blinds allowing so much as a thin line of sun shine in. Complete and utter despair. Delusion. Paranoia. All of the tell tale side effects that we drug addicts know all too well. But my friend was not using: Cocaine, Crack, Meth, Heroin, Pills, Powder of any kind. He was not using any of those “Typical Druggie/Junkie Substances”  My friend was using the legal shit. The stuff they tax. The stuff they sell over the counter. They push it down our throats on T.V. They glamorize it with celebrities. My friend was using Alcohol…

“Sorry, buddy. I just woke up. I’m ready to go Herb. I’m beat.”

“I, Know brother. Can I make you a pot of coffee? You gotta a coffee pot?”

“No, but do you mind if I take a shot?”

I could smell the burning Amber liquid as he painfully gulped one down. Then another. And a third. He Grimaced as he choked the last down, and finished his smoke.

We chatted for a while, He mostly listened. But when he did speak, it was “I’m sorry, herb.” “I’m Scared.” and “Fuck”. A lot of “Fuck.” And just that. nothing more. There was nothing more to say.

It took some time, and constant nudging and moving him along. But I was actually able to get him to firmly commit to going. And I gave him a deadline of about an hour- to be dressed and ready to go. During that hour I witnessed someone’s bottom. I had to help him shower, not like that- but I had to get his clothes for him. His towel. I had to turn the water on for him, while the poor, frail, suffering, and naked man stood on the other side of the shower curtain. I packed his clothes. I got his hygiene. I helped him with his socks. I tied his shoes for him. I put his shirts on for him and gathered his pocket stuffs- wallet, phone, smokes, and etcs… Once again I was going to have to basically carry this man. This time to my car. But I promised my friend that I was going to help him, and that I was not going to leave without him. And I meant it. Today was one of the most powerful days in recent memory. Today I saw someone in their most vulnerable and desperate place. Today I saw someone’s secret place. I saw their pain. And I latched my strength to his lack of strength. And I carried my former mentor out of his apartment. And to my awaiting car. I loaded his things, and we pulled away. He silently cried in the back seat while I tried to keep things light and positive. I played music and offered him something to drink. He declined. He cried silently. He grimaced in spiritual pain. But even still, through all of that, I saw something in him. I saw relief. I saw hope. And I saw that He Wanted to do this. I have chills as I write this. God bumps. Today was one of those days where something just comes through, ya know? Today was one of those days where you can just feel something special. Something cosmic. God was with us today. On the door step, in his apartment, and in that car.

Tomorrow, my friend will wake up with one day sober.

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