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Oct 24, 2013

My name is Mark and I’m an alcoholic.  My sobriety date is March 17, 2003, my home group is Canton Candlelight, my sponsor’s name is ???, and my wife’s name is ????….but what the hell.  That’s not why I’m here.  I’m here because I heard a long time ago that this group was alive and well, and that there were many young people in recovery at this meeting and that they were excited about recovery.  That’s why I’m here.  I was taken to my first AA meeting by a sixteen year old heroin addict.  He saved my life.  So if you’re new and you don’t think that you know enough about recovery to make a difference in anybody’s life.  I’m here to tell you as living proof, you can make a difference3.  You don’t have to believe this, but you do have to believe that I believe that you can make a difference.  You can save a life, if you try.  You don’t have to do it perfectly, but you do have to try.

Last week I came into this meeting down and depressed.  Kevin came up to me and asked me how I am.  I thought to myself, perfect, I can finally unload on somebody.  I told Kevin that it was a bad day and that I was really down.  He said, huh, I know, why you don’t lead this meeting next week.  Kevin, do you remember what I said?  I said what the fuck.  Don’t you see I’m dying here?  But Kevin was right.  You people are always right.  I sat down and started to think about my recovery and what I wanted to say to you.  You see, I stopped thinking about me and I started to think about you, and I felt better.  So you see, Kevin was right.  He had the solution.  I just didn’t know it at the time.

Like I told you, I have a fondness for the young person in recovery.  That 16 year old heroin addict I told you about, that addict was my son.  He saved my life.  Where there is recovery there is hope.  And so I’m a man of hope.   Even though Andrew struggled in sobriety, we were so alike.  We supported each other in recovery.  His home group and mine were the same and our home group met every night.  The 12 steps guidance group meets every night at 11:30 pm at the Northwest Alano Club in Wayne Michigan.   So for a while there we went to meetings together every night.  I would drive and Andrew would tell jokes or he would tell me hilarious stories about what you young people do in recovery.  Yes, Andrew was a great support in my recovery.   When the PC Alano club opened up in Canton Michigan in the summer of 2008, Andrew supported me in starting my current home group, Canton Candlelight.  Lives are being changed there and lives are being restored.  This all happened because of Andrew and his encouragement of starting this new meeting.

In the fall of 2007, I started a recovery podcast.  I would talk about a recovery topic and record it.  Everybody thought I was crazy.  But not Andrew.  Andrew gave me constructive criticism.  Andrew encouraged me and he assured me that I had something going on here… that people would listen if I would keep it up and get better.  And so I did.  I took his suggestions, made changes but most of all, just kept doing the podcast no matter what.  Because of Andrew, the message of hope goes out every week and we get about 20,000 downloads every month.  Lives are being changed because of Andrew.  I know this because the listeners tell us every week.

Andrew took me to my first meeting and it stuck.  I stayed in the program and things got better.  Andrew, not so much.  When he worked a program, things got better, when he relapsed, things got worse.  But through the fellowship of the program he had much success.  He graduated from high school, this is a miracle.  Andrew graduated from college and earned a degree in business and this is a miracle.  So even though relapse haunted Andrew so did recovery at times which allowed him to achieve things beyond his dreams.   Andrew moved to Florida to start a career.   He got promoted and was working directly for the CFO of a major corporation in Tampa Florida.

I worried about Andrew every day.  I was upstairs at alanon every week learning about detachment about letting go.  I prayed every night that God would protect Andrew that AA would support Andrew.  That Andrew would be surrounded by people who would support and love him.  Like you all did when he was here in Michigan.

I thought Andrew was on his way.  I trusted God and let go.  But our disease is patient, cunning baffling powerful.  In the spring of 2012, Andrew pick up again.  On July 2, 2012 Andrew took his own life.  My life can never be the same.  I was crushed, depressed, and ANGRY.  I was angry at God. I was angry at alanon.  I was angry at AA.   I did everything right.  I did exactly what those people told me to do upstairs, and the result was exactly what I feared.  What about AA in Florida, where were they?  Andrew was dead and there was nothing I could do.  I am haunted by the thought that I could have prevented this terrible disaster.  But I don’t know.  I will never know.

Three weeks after Andrew’s death, we had to go to Florida to gather Andrew’s things.  I was afraid to meet all the people I was so angry with.  But you know what we found out?  Andrew was surrounded by people who loved him and supported him.  Andrew had been surrounded by AA to support him in recovery.  My prayers were answered and God was present in his life.  Andrew chose the tragic path.

This affects every aspect of my life.  I felt just like the new guy.  Sick, confused, hurt, hopeless….so I did what every new comer should do.  I went to a ton of meetings.  I went there and poured out my heart.  And the miracle happened.  You listened.  You didn’t claim to have the answers, you don’t.  You didn’t tell me what to do, you were simply present.  I wasn’t alone, and this was enough.  This was enough to get me through the day.

But you did give suggestions.  You told me I was vulnerable, just as vulnerable as the new guys.  I was told to take care of myself.  Watch what I eat.  Get plenty of sleep.  Exercise and take care of the other suicide survivors in the family.  We are all hurting.  But we are all in recovery.  Where there is recovery, there is hope.

And then there’s the spiritual component of grief in recovery.  So we got a spiritual director to help us navigate this.  I told him about my anger towards God for these events.  Our spiritual director told us that we were right, it’s not fair and this is just awful.  He told us that God’s plan A was to have Andrew live a long and happy life.  But that’s not what happened.  And so there’s plan b and plan that could be even better than plan A if we participated.  We had choices.  We could either sink into depression and despair and the story of Andrew would die too.  Or we could decide to make meaning of the life that was given us.  That we could honor those things that Andrew honored.

So through the podcast we organized a fund raiser for an organization Andrew supported.  Because of Andrew, we raised enough money to make recovery a possibility to about 6 people.  The story of Andrew has not died.  It continues on.

If you’re new and you don’t think recovery will work for you, I’m here to tell you that it can work for you.  This room is full of people who thought exactly that.  They thought they were hopeless.  That they had a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.  But in this room, you can find hope; you can find a fellowship that will help.  You will find a solution that has 12 steps, and this is our great news for you, if you want it.  The choice is yours.

So if you’re new, here are a few suggestions.  Abandon yourself to god and admit your faults.  Clear away the wreckage of the past and give freely.

Thank you.