Early in the summer, we received an email from a family member of a patient we were able to place in treatment through our services. He said that he was compelled to write this.
It is not a short story, but I got to witness a small miracle in Morgantown, West Virginia, over an extended weekend in July!
I thought I went out there to keep my 94-year-old dad from driving all the way from New Oxford, Pennsylvania, to a step-family reunion, (as he just won’t give up his drivers license, so we are all afraid that will end badly), but the hair on the back of my neck stood up when it became apparent that we were being called on to save my step-nephew's life.
God had an incredible plan to save this young man that only slowly unfolded over four days. I was only there because I had gotten laid off that exact Friday so I could go but received a generous three and a half month severance, so I felt free to take the time to keep my dad from the long drive and stay as long as needed, once we knew how deeply in trouble he was.
I had never heard of the Netflix movie “Recovery Boys," but it “happened” to be showing that night at the main old movie theater in downtown Morgantown. Initially, I did not know why my dad and I were even taking my nephew to a movie theater for the free showing about addiction/recovery here in the Morgantown area by an Academy Award Nominated Director Elaine McMillion Sheldon. I was certainly willing when it apparently had something to do with my nephew, who I had little idea was in such deep trouble. So, of course I said yes, and with all the drug issues in West Virginia, it was a packed audience. That was inspirational just by the number of people that were there.
It was a breakthrough for my 22-year-old nephew, who was inspired enough after seeing their struggles in the movie, that he then shared a number of dark things afterward when my dad and I took him to dinner. Turns out he had been shooting meth and heroin up until 10 days ago. He was saved from committing suicide last year when he was about to jump off a bridge but was told not to by a supernatural voice that he still isn’t sure whether it was God or hallucinations after being high on meth with no sleep for eight days straight, but the point is he didn’t jump.
The stories started pouring out in what we knew was certainly a desperate cry for help.
After I got back to my hotel room that night, how is this for my Higher Power at work? Charli, the caterer/chef from the AA Old Timer's potluck dinner, "happened" to text me that Friday night out of the blue. When I responded to her question, I had the inspiration to ask for her help (which is not my natural urge), as to whether she knew any addiction/recovery resources out in Morgantown and in short order she was then able to give me the name of a Morgantown service called Ascension Recovery Services. They “happened” to be open the next day, Saturday.
I had spotted them on the Internet also, but I then knew, of all the numbers I had found, I would be calling Ascension as soon as they opened in the morning as it felt like I was receiving divine guidance from this otherwise randomly timed text from a friend.
A wonderful woman did respond almost immediately to my voicemail and she ended up being a kind of cheerleader the remainder of the weekend, as I kept her appraised of his progress via text and she stood by, ready to assist further. Ascension then was able to refer me to another local service, WV Peers, that had not come up in my Google search, so I never would have found if I had not been led to them by her. WV Peers provides ex-addicts (Peer Recovery Coaches,PRC, as they call them) to come out and talk to users about options/coming in from the cold.
I set up a noon coffee meeting at the Blue Moose coffee shop in downtown Morgantown on Sunday, when the PRC did not normally work, but was willing to make an exception after I described the circumstances. I was then pondering how I would explain to my nephew who Russell was and why we were going to meet him, but God relieved me of that burden and my fear that he would say no.
I got him to a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting that night, where another “coincidence”, or perhaps just a wonderful plan, unfolded. My nephew even shared where he was at and got the newcomer white key fob that NA meetings there hand out to someone who has less than 30-days, but at least has the desire to get clean. They were very embracing, which is how meetings work, a number of people talking to him afterward, giving him a list of the men’s telephone numbers to call for help if he felt like using or just wanted to talk.
My stepsister, Sharon’s, husband, John, had been kind enough to set him up in a job at his fence factory in Pennsylvania and put a deposit on a room he could rent nearby, which it was planned he would move into that very coming Monday. However, it was out in the middle of nowhere, where he had no friends and no transportation, so he would just be bored and isolated. My nephew shared in the meeting that he knew that he was going to use the minute he got alone in that room, as the obsession to use meth had returned after now 11 days clean at his aunt's house, but he just didn’t have any money or transportation to meet a dealer.
He got good advice in the meeting to go with his gut; that it was a bad idea, though he didn’t really have any other choices in front of him at that point, but that was about to change!
After the meeting, we walked from the NA church to a nearby restaurant, which would then play into the story later, but they had “just” closed the kitchen. So then, only because we had just missed eating there, we walked back to the church and an NA old-timer was still there in the parking lot, doing the meeting-after-the-meeting thing, talking to another member.
When we told him we would have to go somewhere else to eat and were sitting in our car looking up what was close by, this old-timer drives up next to us and says if we want to go to Five Guys for a burger, he would go with us. The Five Guys was way on the other side of Morgantown, nowhere near where we were going, but I recognized that the hand of God was reaching out through this man and said yes, of course we would.
While we were eating the burgers, this old-timer shared his experience that made my nephew feel comfortable enough to share more of his dark secrets. I had not yet told him that we were going to meet the PRC yet, but then I had the perfect entrée, by asking the old-timer if he knew the coach.
Well, of course he did! So then I explained that we were going to meet him on Sunday and the old-timer was able to tell him all about the PRC’s strong program, what a good guy he was and really encouraged him to go to that meeting the next day. That resulted in an easy “yes” to my question of whether my nephew would go and take this next step for the rest of his life. Awesome!
This PRC was the perfect person to talk to him with some real talk in the language my nephew understood. He could talk-the-talk on hard drugs that I could not, gave him some tough love, but gently put him to the decision to go into rehab, which he was not buying into when I asked him the day before. Russell even laid out a landing path for his immediate future; that he could come back to Morgantown after the rehab to live in the WV Sober Living House that Russell also runs, IF he would just do the work in rehab.
He didn’t force the decision right then, but asked him to go to another NA meeting that night to demonstrate his willingness.
We did go to that meeting together, enabling him to share again, as well as meeting more of his fellow addicts and talked with the coach further in the parking lot afterward. Again, he didn’t press him but asked my nephew to get back to him on Monday morning with his decision after he thought through whether he was sick/tired enough of being sick/tired to give up the dead-end of addiction that will only lead to jail, institution or death. We told him there are no good endings to a disease that is chronic, progressive and fatal, always, unless a spiritual solution is sought.
My nephew and I then had many more long talks in the car going back and forth to all this meetings/the Blue Moose get-togethers and later that evening he was finally ready, as well as even determined, to change his life in light of the magic, love and assistance of the last couple days. The entire family was all completely over the moon with relief and even tears on the decision he had come around to.
We met with the PRC multiple more times in the now familiar Blue Moose coffee shop and he was able to guide my nephew to get express approval of Medicaid, which then fully pays for not just 28-days, but a full 90-day rehab in one of the best facilities close by! It is Bob Mays Summit Center, which is in nearby Clarksburg, so transport was easy and no additional financial burden was put on the family even though any price would have been paid to try to save his young life.
While we were sitting in the Blue Moose on that Monday, another guy we recognized from the Sunday NA meeting walked in as a friend-of-PRC/fellow Recovery House worker and when we described the events of meeting the old-timer and going to Five Guys, he shared with us that the closed-kitchen restaurant we could not eat at on Saturday had been his. However, it turns out that crack cocaine and cooking did not mix, and he was now 18-months clean. This is another relatable story with a bad ending for my nephew to think about around why it was time to quit. Wow, so it was all somehow connected!
Other really nice revelations occurred. My stepmom was not happy that her daughter (my step-sister) bailed on driving out with us for the reunion once I said I would go too. I felt badly about precluding her mother/daughter time and apologized to her, even though I had no idea my attendance would cause that result. But I was given a gift yesterday when she made the point to tell me that she now sees that God wanted me there to save her grandson's life because she knows her daughter isn’t one of us, so she does not know recovery and could not have helped him. WOW!
On Monday night, we kept up our string of NA meetings and that one was actually bad, as it was a huge celebration meeting for a young woman with 5-years and none of us near the back could hear virtually anything that was said, but he got to see a lot of fellow addicts, reinforcing he was not alone.
Just to keep him busy without more time up in his head, I then took him to a late movie that he wanted to see and even he agreed it was bad. But there was of course a purpose that we were inspired to take that little road trip, as on the way there it was the opportunity for more talking and he shared a very dark, but very real, hip-hop song, Drug Addiction by Colicchie, that really describes the addict/my nephew’s experience as he was once again sharing what he had been through/what it feels like. Even though he had not been to jail, he had done things that would have gotten him there, so that part was just a “not-yet” for him, but he knew the despair and low places Colicchie describes, all too well.
While the song is crude in language, it also gave me a bridge to say words/thoughts back to my nephew in a format that he would most relate to, via another Colicchie video that I came across when I went back to re-listen to Drug Addiction to fully hear what I had only caught parts of in in the car while driving. Colicchie did get clean and started rapping, so there was actually a really good message under the crudeness.
I only clicked on one more of his videos, but heard him speaking words of hope as he was apparently sending a rap buddy of his off to rehab and he said the positive words to try to lift him up in this video that I wanted to say to my nephew. It is called Coming Home, which is my prayer for his next step after rehab.
He and I talked about how his getting clean would be the best possible gift he could give his half-sister, who had told him his life was over (as hers had been since she first shot up at 14) when he first went to IV use, but that he could prove her wrong and maybe even give her the biggest gift of all, the hope that she could too. Colicchie even has the lyric “you are going to do amazing things and make your sister proud”. It brought tears to my eyes to try to get through to him with the poignant song and these words.
The final hurdle on Tuesday was for him to take a urine test. So we headed back to the now epic Blue Moose one more time to meet the PRC and then we went to the sober house that also had Ascension Recovery Service offices. He passed with flying colors (Yay!) as he had been honest that he was clean for almost two weeks and honesty can be that first step to recovery.
It was there that I got to meet the woman who had first provided hope on the phone that Saturday and been cheering the family/my nephew along via text the remainder of the weekend, as she “happened” to stop by the office the few minutes we were there.
So then the circle for the extended weekend seemed complete and I gave her a hug in the NA way (they do a lot of hugging in NA meetings; AA not so much). In that moment, I felt a wave of fear for this young man life lift from my shoulders, and I knew it was going to be alright, at least just for that day.
I had to drive my dad and stepmom, Margaret, back to Pennsylvania that afternoon, so his aunt, Sharon, was going to take him to the Clarksburg rehab. He had been living with her for the last then 13+ days after his other grandmother had kicked him out for drug use she would not tolerate and he walked five miles to show up on Sharon and John’s door, homeless and with nothing more than clothes on his back and a knapsack. I don’t know that they fully recognize what they did, but they were a critical part of this plan too, as they had kept him alive, gave him a safe place to live and stay clean in until God’s plan could unfold and the cavalry could arrive that fateful Friday.
I was hesitant to leave him without a meeting buddy and before he actually was in the door of the rehab, but we were able to turn that over to God’s hands and perhaps was even better for him to make the decision on his own without us holding his hand, as now he can be proud of the decision he alone made to walk in that rehab door without the implied pressure of grandma, grandpa and I. And it all went as God had planned, with Sharon just texting me earlier in the day that he did make it into Bob Mays first thing that morning!
Praise be to God for the miracle and the amazing plan he designed; to save him from jumping off a bridge six months ago, for a family reunion that just “happened” to be this critical weekend that I could attend, for the movie that just ”happened” to be shown the night we arrived, the “random” timing of the text from Charli that directed me to the perfect resource that could help him, our “coincidental” arrival three days before his next planned using of drugs that Monday as soon as he could isolate in his rented room, all somehow perfectly designed to save my nephew’s life for a greater purpose, even though there is a long and winding road inevitably ahead.
Depending on your belief system, many may believe that this was just a remarkable set of coincidences, but I do not through the faith I have found in the rooms and just marvel at all of the players in this “we” story that were brought together in the perfect sequence to possibly save the life of this very worthwhile young man.
Whew, what an intense four days! I am humbled to have been called on for His work as important as trying to save a life, and am so happy to report that hope is alive in Morgantown!