I wrote this first part in October of 2015..
So I wanna talk about this guy I know. I met him a few years ago at a meeting. Now I’m not going to say what kind of meeting, but all two of you who follow my blog and/or read my bio, probably can guess what kind of meeting. Anyways….I walk into a meeting and there’s this guy there, I was guessing probably late fifties, glasses, short, skinny, nothing remarkable, really quirky. He looks like he might have something wrong with one of his eyes, maybe a glass eye, not sure. He swears a lot when sharing. It’s funny though and it doesn’t bother me as I like to swear a lot as well. Sometimes when most of one’s vices are taken away, even if for the better, swearing seems to help. It helps him deliver his message, and that is one of incredible inspiration, depth and hope.
This dude comes up to me after the meeting, I was new and he knew it. New people stand out like a sore thumb, even though they don’t think they do. I didn’t sense any “hitting on me” vibes at all. None. Regardless, he told me to “keep coming” and asked me about myself, etc. There was this ease I felt in his presence, as if I could tell him anything about my sordid past and he wouldn’t judge me because ultimately, he’d probably done worse. I kept coming to meetings, like he suggested and I was impressed with how consistently nice this guy was to me and from my observations, to everyone else.
All the newcomers seem to have this sort of energy, steam coming off the fresh roadkill, and that was me. I was reeling, head spinning, trying to figure out how the hell I got to where I was and how in the hell anything was going to get better. I saw Paul’s face at almost every meeting I went to and within time, we were friends. He always came in with this woman and I thought for awhile that was his girlfriend, but it was not. It was another lost soul who had latched on to his positive vibration and was hoping some of it would radiate to her. Unfortunately, in this situation, it did not and she ended up dying young. After her death, in our grief, a bond was formed as we both really could understand this woman and her ways. On some level, we both knew she’d only be with us for awhile we had to accept that is just the way it goes, as loss too is a part of this rough game of life. I learned, as I watched him grieve the loss of his best friend , and come through it in such an honorable, authentic way.
You see, Paul was a heroin addict. His journey back to sobriety was one of gut wrenching proportions where he descended to a black hell at his own hand, as horrific as any of which I’ve ever heard described. His stories from his days of addiction are as unbelievable as they are at times, hilarious. No matter what, Paul brings his past to life to help us all remember that a new way of living is possible. He lost a lot. His physical health took a hit, as did his financial situation, his family, his son and much more. He was often arrested and spent time in jails, detoxes and rehabs. He was a hopeless case. But, as I believe there are no coincidences in life, he got better. Middle age recovery is rough when you’ve lost it all, however, grace is abundant and spiritual abundance was made available to Paul and he took it. He was so broken and cracked that wildflowers grew right up through his soul and made it beautiful.
His purpose to me is clear and illustrates how little financial wealth and success are not necessary to true joy and peace. This man’s path has been so difficult but as he opens to the power of love on a daily basis, this enables him to touch so many lives and has been the touchstone of transformation in my life as well. Now he is leaving us. Soon. Like in a few days… and I am in some sort of denial phase of grief. He’s said for awhile now that he hates winter and is “moving to Florida”. Well, folks, he’s finally doing it. His cats are leaving first and if there’s anything we all know about Paul, it’s that he’d never abandon his cats. I know this has been a tough choice for him to leave behind his community here but it makes sense for many reasons and in some ways, his work here is done. It is now time to carry the message to new faces sitting at the table, much like me, who are ready to groove with “faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is love”. We’ll miss you Paul. Godspeed!!!
Saying goodbye to Paul.
Written April 11, 2021.
I stand here in my office wearing my abundance beads, winter hat on, standing at my desk, poised to let this rip. Last week I got a text from an old friend who I met at a meeting, from whom I’d drifted away. She mentioned there was going to be a gathering locally to spread Paul’s ashes at a local state park….
Since I wrote this blog, back in October of 2015, Paul has passed. On May 19, 2020, he dropped his body and moved on to his next adventure in the ether and oh how deeply he will be missed and how much he was loved. I know he knows this. I have felt his presence many times since his passing, and often wonder if part of his next adventure is as guardian angel or spirit guide to the many many people whose lives he touched over the course of his wild rugged crazy and blessed life. I know I dial him up, upstairs, on a regular basis. We chat on the back roads of Rutland MA, while I’m out running or walking. Something will remind me to say hello…. some old Paul-isim will rattle around, “would you rather be right or happy?,”…or “don’t worry Jill, you’re just another bozo on the bus”. Ideas and concepts we’d hashed over as we drove to meetings or hung out at his place out at Cool Sandy Beach, or occasionally on the phone. We didn’t always see eye to eye but he was willing to hear me, take what I had to say seriously, chew on it and continue the discussion. This was a gift, particularly at this point in my journey.
Back to the story. Yikes! I’d have to walk back into the life from which I’d walked away. However, my higher self was yanking my ego’s chain. I knew I had to go. Meeting up ahead of time with my good friend and fellow past program buddy eased the awkwardness of walking back into a group of people who’s dictates and doctrines I’d all but abandoned. I was ok with me and my pot smokin’ aka medical cannabis ways, but still, anticipated some awkward moments. So thanks Carol for having my back.
Before Paul left for Florida, I was pulling away from the program. It was a bit rough because I knew this program was life or death for him, the very breath he breathed and that had graced him with an intense connection to God, source, one that he was never going to fuck with. AA worked for him, and he worked it more than any person I’ve met to date. I still had to pull away. I was dredging up years of trauma and after trying to do this within the systems in place for recovery and not feeling as if I could really get to the heart of the matter, I just let go. I’d started using sacred cannabis around this time, and it was a godsend but didn’t jibe with the program paradigm and crowd. I was honest with Paul about this, and he gave me his full support. He was open minded enough to know and understand that medical cannabis helped many people and as I explained why I decided to use it and what it was doing for me, he actually became more curious about it as a potential option for his own massive and complicated health issues.
Looking back at Paul’s well-being when I knew him, while ragingly sober, he was overmedicated, with pharmaceuticals, as is the system’s way, and fell prey to mainstream medicine’s disconnected and very clinical way of treating someone who was an alcoholic with chronic health problems. He was somewhat of a slave to the system, at the mercy of MassHealth, and trying to independently manage some serious health conditions. Between the past alcohol and drug abuse and the toll that took on his body, as well as the pharma dump once in recovery that he had to accept, the lack of holistic intervention regarding diet and exercise and the disconnected treatments he received, it’s a wonder he lasted as long as he did. I think cannabis could have helped him, but I also think it was beyond his ability to find the resources and support to integrate that and it all played as it was supposed to.
So that’s all water under the bridge but giving some context here. Anyway, Paul left for FLA soon after I “picked up” cannabis and after he left, I pulled away from the program even more. I know I had some hard feelings about it for a while, I missed people, but not much of the dogma and doctrine which rattled around in my head like a loaded gun. For many it is not such a roadblock and I do get that. For me it was. Many triggers. I am grateful it was there, and multitudes of respect to all the souls whose path I crossed while walking together in that paradigm on our way closer to home, to unity, to love. It’s what we’re here to do and most in AA come to believe this.
After Paul moved, I lost touch with him almost completely. It occasionally guilted the eff out of me, but I was buried and just truthfully started focusing on other things. It all played as it was supposed to play because I know we all planned this, written in our Akash. We planned to drop in and all cross paths with Paul in profound ways that changed all of our lives for having known him. It was no accident. Nothing is.
The gathering was lovely. Planned by a few of Paul’s closest friends, they’d been able to get some of his ashes from his sister in Florida and had brought coffee and munchkins from Dunks for us to have after the ceremony. Dunks was a huge part of Paul’s persona. He charmed entire franchises with his laid-back hippie-found-Jesus vibe, humility, and humanity. We hit dunks before every meeting. And I am dead serious. Every meeting. Dunks and AA are like cheese and crackers.
We all stood around in a circle, one of the planners of this event talked a bit about Paul and AA, read some passages and then led us in the serenity prayer. I was glad to remember this beautiful poetry. Finally, we each went up, shared a Paul laced memory and spooned up some of his ashes to cast into the wind. Love flowed through as it really does so much in this sacred program that certainly leads many out of the darkness. We love you Paul, our teacher, our friend, you got our soul’s winking and our hearts open, thanks for dropping in.
Wrapping this up, I want to make it clear that I am not trying to bash AA or the 12 step program. It’s fantastic, it’s just that my path needed to expand a bit, and that required risking leaving the safety net of repetition, kind caring people and multitudes of truth to go it “alone”. I had to find my own God spark and learn how to connect after unconscious, chaotic years where my soul was floating somewhere outside of my body and I’d lost all sense of connection to something higher. AA was the first safety net in which I landed, there have been several since but I can say with much confidence that I am now firmly grounded on mother earth despite many branches still subject to weather patterns and the ravages of time.