4 bullet holes and 12 steps
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
I arrived to “the corner house” in the Monsignor barrio to pick up “John” (his anonymous name) for my weekly meeting with the Our Little Brothers and Sister Orphanage Youth Group. He was scheduled to give his testimony – talk to the group. We are in the midst of a debate about “social drinking” vs. the "evil" of alcohol.
John’s house is located on one of the main “drug corners” of this neighborhood. It is located a block and a half away from where I lived for about two years.
When I got out of my car I was immediately greeted by his wife, who was standing on the side walk in front of the house. I asked if “John was around” and she said, “yes, let me call him”. As she walked towards the door she casually pointed to the front wall of their block house and said, “hey take a look at the 4 bullet holes on the wall from last nights gun shots”. Then she walked in the door and called for John.
During my year and a half, living around the corner, I heard gun fire shots in the night,probably, about a dozen times. For those who live there, it just becomes part of the scene. Like most of the inner cities I have known in
When we arrived to the group, I introduced “John” to the teenagers and he began to share his story, which was one of a very long journey to recovery. As he talked, the group sat there mesmerized with his stories. They listened to him with wide open eyes. A good number of the kids had that “I can identify with that story" expression on their faces. Made me remember some of my own stories too.
At one point, John shared how he was expelled from the Seminary for his “social drinking” when they discovered in an chimney exhaust pipe about a years worth of Rum bottles. He confessed how badly that episode devastated his life and his dream. But that it was not enough to STOP his “social drinking” adventures.
He carried on with his finely knitted narrative of how he lost almost everything that was really worth anything in his life due to his “social drinking”. All of us followed the roller coaster story of his near death and disaster stories with amazement. He left us all impressed at the fact that he was still alive.
I think the story which impressed us the most was the time he was caught drinking with a “great looking young chick in a miniskirt”. This woman’s husband arrived on the scene, saw them together, and sat down a few tables away from them. Then the infuriated and jealous husband called out to them, as they were both hugging each other and the same bottle of booze. He then shouted out to John: “Hey you, son of a …… I have something for you!” At which point the enraged man pulled out a hand gun, pointed right toward his face and fired a shot. John said that “I felt the bullet pass right by past my cheek and hit the wall behind me. It was a miracle that it did not hit me right in the face.”
He then went on to tell us, while incredible as it was, that episode was not enough to STOP his “social drinking”. However, it did make him stop for a few months. With the help of his “best friends” he was able to forgot about the episode, as they convinced him that what he really needed to do was to “celebrate his life" with a few drinks. He said, the argument was so logical that he could not but agree; after all he was still alive! "Let's go party!" Then he carried with a series of other incredible stories.
The biggest laugh he caused, was the time he stopped dead face, and said, “No, it is not all that bad. One of the things I got as a result of my drinking is... then he flashed his glimmering smile…and said: “is my smile!”
He then went on to tell us that because of his drinking he had most of his front teeth knocked out in fist fights, and as a result he got these new fake teeth, which he showed with a smile. They were a gift from his Mom, who bought them for him with her sparse life savings.
We all ended listening to his story laughing, as he had found the way to recovery and sanity. To finish he answered our questions and then thanked us for listening to him. He offered to be available to any one in the group who needed or some one to talk to. All they needed to do was call him, and off he went home to be with his wife and kids, who were the pride and meaning of his new life.
Through his entire testimony, he kept us laughing, thinking, reflecting and questioning our own struggles to live a “clean” life.