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I ended my day by attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. As the evening wore on I was encouraged to see some emerging trends. Like me, you might see some issues with the “Anonymous” dogma. Yea, well. For now, whatever. Let me tell you what I saw.

I saw addicts who knew they were. That’s a damn big beginning. As the night wore on I saw these people there celebrating the birthdays, those monthly celebrations of being clean. There was encouragement, there was evidence of developing friendships, of community. I love watching people grow and change. It was very refreshing, after the morning I had. And this community had a broad age range, but a commonality that brought them together.

I also saw something else that I particularly like, and that’s the interdependence this group of people were developing. When I’m walking down the streets of my little town (yup, there’s the blessing and the curse), I can meet fellow firefighters, writers, musicians, carpenters, and actors. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s no different for these recovering souls, except by many they might have been written off, shunned. We tend to do that in society. We like to pretend we are cleaner than we are. Maybe that’s just me. Here on our island we definitely don’t like to admit we have a problem with homelessness or domestic violence. That doesn’t help solve the problems at all.

As I sat for those two hours, I saw the weakness and the strength of the future. The weakness is people. We cop attitudes. Again, maybe that’s just me. Some will fall into relapse, and need to be picked up AGAIN and brushed off, and offered help to carry on. The strength is also just that. People. Those people that turn 30 days clean into 6 months clean, into 2 years clean, and then they are functioning members of society that walk by us on the street and we’d never know their story. They are the ones offering those repeated second chances to their fellow travelers. If the stuff ever hits the fan emergency wise, they already have skills in place to do what an emergency requires most: a willingness to help people, a developed sense of community, of what it means to need help, and to offer it. Because it might be a while before those of us trained to deal with emergencies show up.

I was honored to witness that community, to be invited in. It isn’t easy to share your foibles with strangers. When you do though, strangers can turn into neighbors and friends. That’s good for all of us.