Recently, I presented a workshop on counselor wellness at a major addictions conference on the East Coast. While the conference was fantastic, the journey from Tucson, Arizona, to the conference site was a trip from hell; and the fact that my laptop died the day before I left didn’t help matters.
The day prior to my presentation, I woke up at 3:30 am to travel 100 miles to Phoenix to catch a very crowded plane. After the six-hour flight, I had to schlep my stuff on a two-hour bus ride to the conference center. That day’s grueling schedule had allowed me no time for exercise – back home I climb the desert hills for close to an hour each morning – so the day of my presentation, I awoke with a serious case of jet lag.
The general session in the morning featured a presentation by a nutritionist who mentioned that many folks nod off around 3:45 pm as their blood sugar drops to the day’s all-time low. Just what I need, I thought, as I remembered that my workshop started at 4:00 pm.
Ironically, the noontime presentation was sponsored by an eating disorders center and featured a lunch consisting of a decent salad, a large slice of cheesecake and a heaping plate of mashed potatoes, overcooked vegetables and two huge hunks of hotel-style turkey. Great, I told myself. With all that tryptophan, I’ll end up falling asleep at my own workshop! I was fortunately able to sneak out, head downstairs to the restaurant and grab a real sandwich.
Despite these hurdles, my presentation went quite well. Afterwards, I dragged myself back to my room to crash before catching an evening workshop. The next morning I was up at 5:30 am. I checked out and visited with fellow attendees in the exhibit area before catching a cab to the airport shuttle at the bus depot.
After taking a morning walk at the depot, I visited a restroom, where a fellow in the adjacent stall was having a rather heavy dialog with himself. I heard him complaining that he needed to go to Boston for detox the next day and bemoaning the $20 bus fare. I called over the top of the stall, “Guess what – it’s now $26!” He then proceeded to pour out his tale of woe.
He had been run over by a motorcycle a few days back and claimed that the meds he was given got him off his program, hence the need to go back to detox. I empathized with him and commended him for taking a very important first step in getting back on track. I asked if he was working a program. He admitted that although he had an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting directory, he had stopped going to meetings. I strongly encouraged him to go to a meeting as soon as he got out of detox and to line up a good sponsor.
When we vacated our stalls I noticed a large recent cut on his forehead and thinking of his recent relapse on pain medications, said, “Man, you must really be in a great deal of pain.” He thanked me for my support and we headed off to catch our respective shuttles. I smiled as he asked me for a dollar to help cover the two-dollar fare for a local trip and politely refused his offer of some of his pocket change in exchange for my dollar. I again commended him on his decision to go to detox, wished him well and knew that I would remember him in my prayers.
During my two-hour trip back to the airport, I contemplated my meeting with this chap. In the course of reflection, the words of the renowned Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh came to mind: “We should not underestimate the effect of our words when we use the right speech. The words we speak can build up understanding and love.”
I believe there is no such thing as coincidence and that every encounter we have with another person is pre-ordained at some level. I thought to myself, Wow – what a great way to end an addictions conference! I felt privileged to have been in a position to offer a new friend some support in his time of need and continue to hold him in my thoughts and prayers.
John Newport lives in Tucson, Arizona, and is author of The Wellness-Recovery Connection: Charting Your Pathway to Optimal Health While Recovering from Alcoholism and Drug Addiction. You may visit his website at wellnessandrecovery.com and reach him by email at email@example.com.