May 2, 2012 —
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
These famous words of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr have been around a long time. I have always admired their practicality but now I am aware of their power.
Try to imagine the emotional impact of hearing 80 men of all ages, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a darkened room, reciting these words strongly and clearly as an expression of solidarity and a commitment to each other.
This was not like a fraternity meeting or a pre-game huddle. It was more important.
It was 80 men trying to save themselves and each other at a drug treatment center in the mountains of East Kentucky.
Most were there because family members had exhausted their patience, trust, money, prayers and hope.
They could no longer tolerate the lying, stealing, cheating and disrespect from these “pill heads” whose lifestyle was sleeping by day and drug seeking by night.
Many of the addicts had been abandoned by their families and had no one but the men standing in that room as their personal support system.
It was graduation and four had earned the right after 100 days to “go back to the world” as self-professed recovering addicts and try to reclaim their lives.
“Bob” told a sad tale of how his wife and two daughters had written him off after he had tried and failed six times in rehab.
“Freddie” kept telling his girlfriend that he was worth waiting for and that he would never offend again. He apologized to his parents for their heartaches.
“Tom” promised his young wife and newborn son that he would stay clean and be a good father. He had to recite his speech because, at 45, he had not learned to read.
“Roy” said he didn’t know where to go because the clinic was the only home he had left.
The ceremony ended with tears, hugs and more hugs as these former tough guys held onto each other and tried again to cope with raw emotions they had rediscovered in weeks of painful therapy.
Finally, the remaining men formed a tunnel to the front entrance and sang farewell to each of the departing addicts. Three walked out with those who came to support them.
“Bob” was the last to leave. He stood silently as his classmates rode away. Then he noticed a small car in the shadows. Standing beside it were a woman and two young girls.
Cautiously at first and then without hesitation, they ran toward each other. “Bob” would have a seventh chance.
And 76 of society’s outcasts would have another reason to hope.