Dear Inner Circle,

A lovely man who has a bit of a gift for finding the hard way to do anything, really owes his life to Alcoholics Anonymous. The man was born into alcoholism, literally, on a park bench because his mum couldn’t get herself to hospital. All his life, the foetal alcohol spectrum disorder made everything hard. Schooling was impossible and so now as an adult any reading and writing is a major obstacle. Thanks to AA, this fellow has been dry for at least 10 years and he’s undertaken a lot of coaching to try and gain some of the opportunities lost to him because of an alcoholic daze that lasted from birth until about 30 years of age. I’m a big fan of AA because I’ve known many people, like this bloke, for whom it was just the right answer. People who are immersed in it tend to develop a language all of their own. Often in a conversation, this beautiful man will launch into “Rule 5” or some other aspect of AA. He’s inclined to quote “the big book” quite often. Yesterday he was talking about a situation that is really testing him. “Like the big book says,” he told me, “Patience is a virtue”. We talked about what he might do to help move his situation forward a bit and at one point he reminded me about, “A stitch in time… like it says in the big book”. We talked about how so many things lately had not worked out as planned and I chipped in, “Well, like it says in the big book, ‘shit happens.’” He looked a bit surprised and asked me where such a thing was said in the big book. Having misquoted the bible a half dozen times now he asks me for references! “Well,” I said, “I think the big book says that ‘shit happens’ from cover to cover.’” There was an embarrassing pause before a joke was detected.

Walking into the building this morning I recognised a vaguely familiar face. We stood face to face before I realised that I knew the man quite well. “My Lord,” I said. “I couldn’t recognise you because you look so healthy”. He told me that he’d been in prison for 12 months. He entered prison weighing 57 kilos and left it weighing 80 kilos. I’d never seen the man with hair before. He was always a kind man and always helpful. I think nothing gave him more pleasure than to be able to do something for someone. He was so unwell when I last saw him that I was more or less prepared to think he’d be the next one we bury here. He was skinny and gaunt, even though he is a relatively young man. “I think prison might have saved your life,” I said this morning. “It did,” he said. Thank God for some wonderful members of this team that we refer to as our Pathways workers, who will get alongside this bloke and challenge him to use this momentum and help him find his destiny. I told him about our workers and reminded him that salvation comes through the feet not the head. “It doesn’t matter what you think,” I said “It matters what you do now”.

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