I was looking forward to attending my first Episcopal Recovery Ministries Annual Conference in Williamsburg, VA on November 3-5. The wonderful opportunity to connect with good friend in recovery journey from a previous parish, to hear about the work and resources for supporting recovery and healthy recovery living at my parish, and to meet and make new friends along that “happy road of destiny.” However, the literal “happy road” did not start very well.
Driving along I-64 to Williamsburg, I was about 1 mile from my exit when traffic stopped due to a truck accident ahead. I stopped in the right lane, turned on my emergency flashers, glanced in the rear view mirror to an empty highway behind me, and then started to text my friend to alert her of the delay. Something nudged me to look again in my rear view mirror, now to see a tractor trailer appearing around the bend at a high rate of speed. Sensing he would not be able to stop in time, I pounded on my horn, and then began to move to the right side of the road … just not soon enough. The truck clipped my back driver side, then careened and totaled two more cars in the eastbound lane, rocketing across the median strip to the westbound lane and totaling another two cars before stopping by hitting a tree. I joined with others in reaching one man who took the brunt of the impact, turning off the car engine and providing care until emergency help arrived soon afterward. There was a long waiting process, speaking to state police, completing reports, clearing the road of debris, and replacing my destroyed rear tire with a spare. My insurance carrier directed my to a local tire and car repair facility, who were most understanding and helpful in processing the work to obtain a replacement rim, tire, and damaged sensors so I may return home to attend to the body damage to the car.
Finally arriving at the hotel, most of the first day session completed, I sat in my room looking at the mini-refrigerator. Although and thankfully nothing was stocked inside, my addiction whispered in my soul, “A drink could make this all better, just like old times.” I was firing on all the H.A.L.T. cylinders at this point – exhausted physically and mentally, just settling into the shock that I could have been in the hospital at that point, if not dead. I sat with that thought, the old voice whispering, and then …
I texted my friend to say I had arrived and needed to meet with her and others gathered as soon as possible! We met in the hotel lobby a little while later, driving with other new friends to the evening dinner and program, where I met more new friends in recovery. We shared stories, said prayers for the unknown man badly injured, trusting the Holy One would direct our healing intentions. I got out of my self, got right by using the recovery tools I know well, and the subtle but strong whisper disappeared. Sessions the next day were wonderful, learning more about brain science and spirituality of recovery, sharing resources, and making more new friends for the “happy road” ahead. I was reminded in spirit what my first sponsor would often say, “The grace of recovery is great because we receive God’s grace gratefully.” The car was temporarily repaired to make my way home to family and parish, and my Sunday after All Saints Day sermon was changed to GREAT with GRATEFULNESS!
On Thanksgiving Day, I will begin my ninth and final year of serving at my parish, retiring sometime in 2017. While serving and sharing my recovering life with many during my years in this parish and others I have served, I am looking forward to being able to “spreading the message of recovery” with many, many more in years to come, along the Happy Road!
And for this, I am gratefulPaul G.