While I was attending a construction law seminar last week, I had dinner with my friend, Jim, who’s a very successful contractor. I knew that Jim is involved with the Salvation Army. When he mentioned that he was giving a talk on relapsing, I asked him if I might attend. These meetings are generally closed to the public. But there was something that drew me to this topic and made me want to attend. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I asked if I could be a guest attendee. I just felt that I needed to go. And I’m glad that I did. It was an “Aha” experience for me. I am so fortunate that he was fine with me attending.
We went to the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC). I realized when I got there that these are my people. Outwardly, these men were no different than I am. I knew that I could be in the same place as any of them. I’m no different. And that realization makes me want to look objectively at where I’m at in my life. I know that many, perhaps, the vast majority, of people on this planet are in a far worse place than I am. I was reminded of how hideous so many people have become. The lack of respect and the narcissism we witness is truly overbearing. Having attended that meeting, I feel I do not need to ask the question, “Why me?” anymore when something negative happens. I feel there is no place for self-pity in my life. The answer to the “Why Me?” question may simply be because I was chosen. I don’t know why, but visiting a gathering like this drew me in, gave me a feeling of being closer to them, of realizing what my humanity is.
What I never realized is how much good there is associated with the Salvation Army. I felt the spirituality present in that meeting, the good that was happening. In many ways, one could equate what was going on there with the work associated with Mother Theresa. Before this, I only thought of the Salvation Army as people with the red pails ringing their bells and begging for loose change. All across this country and in other parts of the world, the Salvation Army quietly does God’s work–without much publicity and fanfare. Very little is asked or expected from the government–and perhaps that’s best. The people who work there are dedicated; and miracles happen every day. At the Adult Rehabilitation Center, the major in charge, a modest man, was on a first-name basis with all the men. These come in off the streets, many of them just released from prison. They come. They go. And as long as they are trying and stay sober, they stay. They receive their meals and a bed. The Salvation Army takes care of their needs and helps them find work. They have meetings; professionals come in pro-bono; and truly God’s work is being done. It’s like a well-run and efficient machine. There is nothing complicated, nothing fancy. If you have an ego, you check it at the door. I would dare say that people for whom credentials are important probably have no place here and wouldn’t be helpful. Egos don’t work here, nor are they wanted. If you are at all narcissistic, as so many addicts are, you hit a hard and solid wall.
I listened to many stories, and as I listed they seemed truly sacred to me. These were personal stories, intense stories, stories filled with exquisite pain. But the reality is that it is in the sharing of these stories where freedom lies. It’s by sharing these stories that we find something that others might use. We connect. We see that these stories must be shared. These men share their stories, and, thinking about the others present, allow and enable these connections to occur. In the sharing of their experiences there is a cathartic process that seems almost magical, more powerful than the story itself. The same is drained from them and the healing begins. Over and over, the power of peer-to-peer sharing was apparent.
The Salvation Army, especially in its Adult Rehabilitation Centers, is all about people who have been there, done that, and who feel responsibility for others. There are so many who do not need fancy treatment centers. They have the Salvation Army, which is equally as effective and, perhaps, more. With no advertising, big hearts, and mutual respect, they get it done.