Though I didn’t believe a word of it at the time, one of the first lessons I learned in AA is that when the Man upstairs closes one door – He will open another. In my case that door opened in 1999, and it took me to Michigan on a Greyhound bus.
Unemployed, pretty much broke and barely into my recovery, I used my last few dollars to leave Texas in search of greener pastures. After mailing out a whole lot of resumes and going to a couple of dead-end interviews, I decided it was time to return to Texas. But that return trip never came to pass.
A woman I had met, who later became my wife, was looking at the want ads when she blurted out, “This job is you. Ya gotta check this one out.” I gathered my bad attitude and self-loathing and off I went. Let me set the scene: I walk into the interview wearing Wrangler jeans, a western shirt, boots and a straw Stetson hat. Not exactly what most people would consider dressed for success.
The office of the woman I interviewed with was located in a dingy smoke-filled place called The SHARE Center. It’s a drop-in center for the homeless and down-and-out people. I figured the pay would be $5 or $6 per hour, but it turned out to be $27,500.00 salary to start – and she wanted the candidate to have a bachelor’s degree. Under- qualified and frustrated, I found myself wondering what the heck I was doing there.
I returned to the car where my wife was waiting for me. As I approached she asked, “How did it go?” I mumbled something about it being a waste of time. Why I stuck around for another week and a half instead of heading back to Texas, I’ll never know. The answer arrived in the mail several days later. With shaky hands I opened the envelope and froze. It was a job offer letter. The only thing I could think was that the hiring manager made a mistake and mailed it to the wrong person.
My wife asked, “You’re gonna take it aren’t you?” At that moment I didn’t have an answer because I was dumbfounded and confused.
For those of you who have been a homeless, knee-knocking, snot-slinging, commode-hugging drunk like me who believed nothing good would ever come to him again, you understand what I mean. The job turned out to be exactly what I had dreamed of back in Texas, an opportunity to help not only the homeless, but also those with mental illness and substance abuse problems.
My wife, Diane Conley and Mrs. Linda Keller, the woman who hired me, played very important roles in my life. I owe them a debt that I can never repay. Both Diane and Linda believed in me when I did not believe in myself. In May of this year I celebrated 15 years of sobriety. I am very proud of these 15 years because I was told by one of the staff members at a treatment center in Texas that it was predicted on the day I was admitted that I wouldn’t make it through my 28 day stay there. Well, thanks to my higher power, who I choose to call God, and AA, here I am – a grateful recovering alcoholic. My friend and employer Linda has since passed away, and on May 31, 2011, the door at The SHARE Center closed. Do I believe He will open another? Yes, absolutely. I just have to be willing to walk through it. Stay tuned. This won’t be the end.