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“The hardest part of starting over, is admitting to yourself that something has come to an end …”

I don’t know how I stumbled into this job sometimes, but I sure am grateful I did.

I knew what this place can do, but I don’t think I truly understood the magnitude of the work until I became a permanent part of the team. I first started working with Cornerstone of Recovery as a contract employee back in 2004, doing some marketing work on the side and slowly becoming part of the family.

Most of the time, I was the guy they called when they needed some press coverage or some fancy words, and that’s still a part of my job description today. I got to know some of the old timers — the Bob McColls, the Garner Hortons, the Miss Pollys — and some of the long-timers, men and women like Dan Caldwell and Dan Schweickhardt and the recently retired Dennis Collett. I went to the Christmas parties and made the rounds up and down the administrative hallways whenever I stopped by, sticking my head in offices and giving and receiving hugs and enjoying the warmth that comes from being a part of a group of people dedicated to a mission beyond just a paycheck.

But the patients? I never got a chance to interact much with them. I saw them all the time, of course, but my job then, as it does now, involves more of the ancillary duties that bring them to this place more than any work that goes on while they’re here. I’m grateful to Anne Young, however, for giving me an opportunity to get involved in the clinical side of things back in the summer of 2018, not long after I cam on board full time.

Oh, I don’t do much. Like I tell the guys in the Young Adult spiritual group I lead on Thursday mornings, I’m not a counselor or a therapist. I’m not a priest or a guru or a recovery “expert” with a diploma hanging on my wall. I don’t go to treatment team and I don’t enter information into their charts. Hell, I don’t even know how to log into their charts.

I’m just a dude with a few 24 hours who gets to share a little experience, strength and hope once a week, and I’ll tell you this: As much as I love my job over here in Marketing, and as much as my coworkers are closer than my actual sibling, it’s the best part of my week. So when Howard Bowlin asked me to assist with hearing Fifth Steps for the Newcomers Program a month or so ago, I was humbled and honored and immediately said yes.

I can only fit two into my schedule a week (sorry, Regina!), but to be honest, I don’t know if I want to do any more than that. There’s something incredibly spiritual about sitting across from a newly minted sober soul fresh across recovery’s threshold and listening to them talk about the pain they’ve carried with them, often since childhood. There’s something profoundly humbling about being the person to whom they share some of their burdens, sometimes for the first time. It is, and I say this without exaggeration, a duty that strips the ego from the bone, until we’re simply two men sitting in the presence of something that binds us more powerfully than anything most “normal” people ever get to experience.

When we finish, and I leave that little room back in a corner of the bullpen, I like to linger for just a minute. To give Seth a hug or Sara a hard time, to share a joke with Nancy or a hug from Toni. They’re my coworkers, but they’re also my friends … and they’re my heroes. Because I get to go back up to Polly Bales and write blog entries or put things on Facebook. I get to step out of the trenches, so to speak, and let the weight of that experience lift.

They’re in it, all day, every day. Sam and Lindsay, Sabrina and Christian, Jessica and Daniel and Tony D. and Debbie and Patty and Greg and so many others whose names I either forget or don’t know. Every single one of them are heroes who take these beautiful souls in broken pieces and put them back together again into the good and decent human beings we all are at our core.

My admiration for them and their work … for that of everyone here who works in those trenches, from nursing to housekeeping to reception to the Unidine staff … is greater than these pitiful words can express. They are truly in it for the long haul, and the work they do is the stuff of miracles. May we all never forget why we’re here or the greater purpose that we serve.

Here’s your Friday inspiration, friends.