Keep Telling Your Story
(original post February 3, 2014)
As I went outside this afternoon to shovel snow, I noticed someone already shoveling our sidewalk. That was somewhat of a pleasant surprise because I had been outside earlier in the day and did quite a bit of shoveling. I was surprised by who it was and was hesitant to approach him.
This past summer I had learned that one of the boys next door (Tim) had been arrested for possession of a stolen firearm. I knew he had been addicted to heroin for some time and had stolen from friends and family to support his habit. In July, I sent him a letter while he was in prison explaining my addiction of many years and offering to talk with him when he got out of prison.
He has been out of prison now for a couple months and apparently occupies some of his time by shoveling sidewalks and driveways. Someone had shoveled our driveway after one of the last snowstorms before I got outside to do it. I now know who my shoveling benefactor was and is - Tim.
So, this afternoon I cautiously approached Tim. He had always been extremely quiet and timid. We have lived beside each other for 27 years and have never said more than a quick “Hi” to each other. I just figured that being quiet was “the way” of both of us.
Today he was shoveling right there in front of me, and I had sent him the letter offering my support. I was forced to speak.
“Hey, Tim. How you doing?”
“Hey, Don. Good. How are you?” 
We had just quadrupled the total number of words we had spoken to each other in the previous 27 years. I was on a roll.
“Real good. Lots more snow than I thought.” (Yeah, lame, I know.)
Then we launched into a short halting discussion about the weather, heavy snow and other pointless points of small talk (something I’ve never been good at.) We both wanted to dive right into the important stuff but couldn’t quite “get there.”
I walked back up to the top of the driveway and shoveled for 10 more minutes. I just could not let the opportunity go. Even from our relatively few words, I could tell Tim was “different.” He was relaxed. He was not afraid of me. We had made some sort of “connection.” We sensed that we had something in common – something of extreme importance.
Okay. Let’s try it again.
“Tim, thanks for doing this for me. I really appreciate it.” (It didn’t sound quite as moronic as the snow remark. I was clearly getting better at small talk.)    
A little more jabbering and then, ”So, how you doing with….” Bingo. Pay dirt.
That opened up an incredible discussion about many years of hidden mysteries of strange behavior on both of our parts.
I learned some incredible things that I am still trying to process. In eighth grade Tim was put on Zoloft. He said that turned him into a zombie (and that is what I had seen for many years – a young man without emotion who never spoke). He was on it for quite some time. When I spoke of benzos, he knew exactly what I was talking about. He was on Xanax for 4 years. He was on the little white ones first but later “graduated” to bars because of panic attacks (which were being caused by the Xanax). He hurt his back in the past so he became addicted to opiates as well. These were all part of the gateway to heroin. He has lost everything except for most of his family.
Of course, I related some of my story to him. (If we had not condensed our stories, we’d both still be out there in the dark talking.) We were both amazed that we had been going through horrid addictions and suffering at the same time and had no clue that it was so.
We talked about many things that only those who know the language of addiction and its suffering can even begin to understand. Tim is calm, happy, and at peace. He is extremely positive and full of hope. This will sound strange, but it seemed like I was talking to myself (only a younger version). It was very cool. We shook hands (several times). He even beat me to my own line, ”If you ever want to talk, let me know.” It’s the line that those who are truly “happy, joyous and free” from addiction say often and mean with great earnestness. We want others to have what we have been given. It is THAT good.
I told him about the healing house and my hope for some sort of active recovery facility/program. He was very interested. Maybe he will be involved. I now have another “healed one” in my midst. I am still stunned.
He told me that I was the first person to reach out to him in prison (and we hardly knew each other). We have a special bond now because we have battled addiction and withdrawal. We speak a very rare language that few ever become fluent in.
We must all keep telling our stories. Maybe many will ignore us, but you never know when someone who desperately needs to hear it will be within hearing distance. You may save someone’s life.         
Now I know why Tim has been shoveling our sidewalk. That’s what healed ones do.