On my first day back in the US after my trip to Colombia I wandered around my neighborhood looking for a recipient. I ran into Leonel from Day 56. He was at Books-A-Million. He said he was doing well and we agreed to try to meet up that Saturday to watch Team USA play in the World Cup.
I walked over to the Starbucks at Dupont Circle and found a few people sitting outside enjoying the nice weather. The first man I approached refused to participate and even refused to receive my card. I walked to another man outside and he shook his head and said no. He was from Cuba and spoke to me for a minute or two but said he wasn’t interested in participating. He kept my card.
Feeling a bit rejected, I headed inside to see if my luck would change. It was there that I found Michael sitting on a stool. He seemed interested in what I was doing. After a few minutes, a man came out of the restroom and Michael said, “Hey listen to what this guy is doing.” I explained the Year of Giving again and his friend said that this sounded interesting. They agreed that Michael would receive the $10.
“I have been crying all day today,” Michael shared with me. I imagined the worse and suggested that we not do the interview. “It’s ok, they were tears of joy!” It turns out that Michael was celebrating 80 days of sobriety after a two-year roller coaster addiction to crystal meth. On top of that his friend that was with him was celebrating one year free of the drug.
Michael is in active recovery and attends daily meetings and has a sponsor. “I am in a very good place today,” he says. It’s a day-to-day process though he admits. “I am focusing on how to stay clean.” As we begin to talk, Michael’s friend chooses to go outside as it becomes difficult to hear the painful story.
His addiction started by trying it for the first time with a former lover. “Meth is a huge problem for the gay community,” he tells me. I can’t help but listen to Michael’s story without thinking back to Rob’s story from day 117 . “I lost my job, my partner, my house, my dignity, my self-respect, and my self-esteem.” A former 20 year alcoholic, Michael is familiar with addiction. “Addicts are liars. When I was using my immediate reaction was to lie about everything, even to myself.” The situation got so bad that I decided to kill myself. It took an intervention by an ex-partner and a family member that resulted in him going to a treatment center to save his life.
Given the sensitivity of his story, Michael preferred to stay anonymous and not have his picture taken. He also didn’t want to offer his email address telling me “I will send you an email.” Unfortunately I haven’t heard from him yet.
“I know exactly what I am going to do with this $10,” he says. “I am going to donate it to Crystal Meth Anonymous” According to the website, CMA is a free organization that brings together men and women who share their experience, strength and hope in order to help one another free themselves from their addictions to crystal meth. Michael spoke very highly or the organization.
The support he receives has helped him stay sober. He now has a job and is “starting to live again.” He told me he used to think that he was the only one in his situation. With the support of the group he now knows that his situation is not unique.
His friend came back and they shared a moment just smiling at one another. He turned and looked at me and said, “This is the happiest day of my life and I got to share it with someone I love.”