The atmosphere was much more peaceful two days later when I attended my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting at Riverview, and first rehabilitation group session since my last Gamblers Recovery program meeting at Oneida on March 10, 2000, before being sent to the box.
With nearly two years of program meetings under my belt, I felt very comfortable with a roomful of strangers, especially considering the way new members are welcomed into the group.
“Are there any newcomers here tonight who would like to introduce themselves?” asked Jose Soto, the evening’s facilitator.
“My name is Gary, and I’m a recovering alcoholic and drug addict,” I admitted, not only not ashamed at my label, but actually proud of the positive strides toward rehabilitation and change that I had made during my first 724 days of incarceration.
“What’s up, Gary?” my new support group announced in unison.
After the usual pre-meeting rules and minutes were read, including the twelve steps, our meeting came to order.
Hearing some new stories, and speaking about myself, which I was very much at ease doing, provided even more of a curative effect and made me that much more sympathetic to those of us in prison as a result of our addictions, in addition to solidifying my personal feelings regarding never wanting to resort back to that negative and abusive lifestyle that landed me behind bars in the first place.
Of the many words of wisdom that Jason Moore, our forty-two-year-old civilian volunteer from nearby Massena, New York, and former crack head and dope fiend from the Bronx, offered at my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting here at Riverview, the one that really made the biggest impression was the line that he said concerning the importance of continuing to attend such groups on the outside.
“Once you’re back home and feel like your addiction is under control, that’s when you really need to focus your attention on attending N.A. meetings,” he revealed. “If your ass falls off, then you better just put it in a bag and carry it to the meeting.”
What Jason was obviously speaking on was the topic of complaining, and how the disease of addiction has a way of lying dormant for a while, only to reappear and show its ugly face at the worst possible moment, which was something that I was planning to prevent by making at least two meetings a week, even though deep down, I was confident that I was one of the few former addicts who could do it on his own.
The fact that out of eighteen inmates, I was the only white guy, besides Peter Baldwin, to be in the program, only added to the comfort that I felt to be a part of the group, as I remembered what Mack, the eighty-something-year-old civilian volunteer from Oneida’s Alcoholics Anonymous program, used to say every week.
“What are the odds that all of us, each from different walks of life and parts of the state of New York, would be put here together in this room?” Mack would ask hypothetically. “It must be more than just a coincidence, and involve divine intervention, so take full advantage of it.”
I, for one, had already become a true believer!
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