Midweek Musings: The Brotherhood
: addiction, alliance, and a collared shirt :
I’ve mentioned a few times that my son is currently in rehab.1 Jonah is four months shy of 21—quite young, but he was using for over four years. For the last year and a half, he used drugs that could have easily ended his life.
I won’t go into all the details of how much I knew or why I couldn’t intervene until this year, but I refer to that period as his being in the belly of a big fish2 because…well, that’s all I can think of when I consider that he is alive and not dead. I won’t claim to know why God allows some people to die while others live, but I believe God has plans for my youngest, a purpose to fulfill before he is done here.
Anyway, he’s approaching 90 days sober and will soon enter the phase of the program where he can get a job or go to school. Jonah possesses an artistic ability that will blow your mind, and he loves cars. He dreams of designing wraps for high-end import vehicles, and last year he spent some time working at a paint and body shop. He loved the work and was good at it, but it’s kind of hard to keep a job when all you can think about is your next fix. Also, “Works well with others” is not a box easily checked on an addict’s performance review.3
Jonah recently met a guy at an AA meeting who knows the owner of a local paint and body shop. Networking happened, Jonah created and emailed a resume, and he scored an interview.
Let me interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a word about my son’s style. He’s artistic, so he’s into thrifting and further distressing those clothes. His hair is shoulder length and goes from black to red to purple (natural color is light brown); he has earrings and wears a thick silver chain that reminds me of something you’d use as a collar for a pit bull. He sometimes paints his nails black. His pants are either baggy or ripped up or both. His appearance screams: I’m the boy your mother warned you about.
Before rehab, his clothes spent a good deal of time on the floor. I won’t even speculate how often they were washed. All I know is that on the night when the excrement hit the air-conditioning4 and I was on the phone with the intake counselor who was rattling off all the things I needed to throw in a bag for Jonah STAT, I stopped dead in my tracks when he said collared shirt.
“I don’t think he owns one of those…and does it matter if all of this is dirty?”
So in terms of proper dress for a job interview, about all he had covered was underwear and clean teeth.5
The brotherhood steps in.
I arrived to transport Jonah to his interview, and he emerged from the house dressed for the occasion.
“Everybody helped make sure I had clothes. Lucas6 gave me this collared shirt and belt to wear. Oh, and Dave gave me some shaving cream and a razor since he is leaving next week and won’t be able to bring everything on the plane. So I shaved.”
“Whose shoes are you wearing?”
“Oh! These are Jonathan’s. He let me borrow them.”
“Where did you get those pants?” (He was wearing black jeans with zero rips, so I knew they weren’t his.)
“One of the staff–you’ve met Nick–gave me a whole bunch of pants that don’t fit him anymore.”
“You cut your nails! And no nail polish!”
He grinned sheepishly.
Lately, connection has been a big thread in the world around me—I’ll be writing more on that soon, but I recently read a post that talked about addiction being a problem with connection rather than being a disease. I don’t want to get into my thoughts on that theory here, but I don’t disagree that people struggling with addiction have a more difficult time in the absence of social connection.
In Jonah’s treatment program, this brotherhood is a major component of recovery.7 He didn’t have many friends in high school, and those he had were…well, let’s just say they weren’t looking out for his best interests. Making friends, forming bonds with others who are walking the same path has been a game changer for him.
He’s learning how to work well with others, have difficult conversations, and resolve conflict in healthy ways. He’s also looking beyond himself, helping others, offering a listening ear, cooking for his housemates. In turn, his brothers have his back. They want to see one another succeed.
How did the job interview go? Well, I’ll let this photo I snapped when he returned to the vehicle tell that story.
I share this with his permission. He understands that it’s only by sharing our struggles that we can help others.
True story: my mom was vehemently opposed to my naming him Jonah because “Jonah didn’t do what the Lord asked him to.”←Read in your best Southern Baptist mother drawl. See Jonah 2 for reference.
To be fair, though, I have trouble working well with others because people are so…peoply.
Kurt Vonnegut in Hocus Pocus
While he abused the rest of his body, that kid religiously brushes his teeth after every meal.
All names, except Jonah’s, have been changed.
I’ve been reading The Big Book to better understand AA and have just landed on page 17, which talks about the alcoholic joining “in brotherly and harmonious action” with others battling addiction. I suspect that Bill W. found brotherhood to be a major component of recovery, too, but I’ll have to read more to find out.