We have a house for people coming out of prison with an addiction history. Like its residents, the old structure is broken and in need of repair.
It’s a place where, when you start to work on the floor, the ceiling buckles. The walls undulate, corners are obtuse, and the electrical was done by committee.
I’ve been spending days there with another member of the board, remodeling a bathroom. In our hours together, cutting and recutting, figuring workarounds, we’ve shared our stories.
I cheated, learning so much more from his.
He is biracial and was bullied and beaten in school. Life wasn’t easier at home with a father, a veteran of Korea and Vietnam, erupting with PTSD.
What was missing, he sought in drugs. It gave him an escape from the brutality of the day-to-day, and some semblance of belonging among other users.
He met his wife through drugs, and their early time together is still somewhat a haze. He had week-long binges, but he never lost his job because he was a talented machinist and because management feared what he’d do in a rage if fired.
It took over 20 years, getting thrown out by his recovering wife, nearly killing himself, and finally finding faith in a promise of forgiveness and healing to break the chains.
It took more strength than he had, but he found that in his wife and his God, neither of whom abandoned him in the darkest days.
His current sobriety is a path of submission, service and prayer.
That’s backstory. The amazing thing is what this drug addict is doing for others.
His gift to our ministry is more than maintenance. He leads classes on recovery, Scripture, and dysfunctional families. He counsels and mentors.
His alarm is set for 4:30, but he will be at the house until 10 or 11 at night if a crisis demands it.
Once a week, he meets with men with PTSD. He has no formal training, but comes to it, like everything else, with the Word on his lips and love in his heart.
Whether it is a wall too bowed for sheetrock or a young man too stubborn to surrender to rules, he is gentle, persistent, looking for the best outcome.
He can do tough love, but it is toughest on him.
Abraham Heschel said, “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”
The old rabbi would have loved my friend.