Every Monday night at eight o’clock some of the Rose Hill residents, along with members of the local recovery community meet for the Silver Dollar AA Meeting. Some nights turn out is relatively small, but that is okay because for some of our residents it is their first exposure to that unexplainable occurrence of the effect of one addict helping another. This week the meeting could not be held in the dining area, where it normally is, but instead had to be held in our Recreation Room. A larger crowd was expected, so all the folding chairs were called into service. By five of eight, so were the heavier chairs from the dining room.
Why? Jesse T., who has worked as Rose Hill for over fifteen years, was celebrating. Carrot cake, a banner the residents had made, and the overwhelming crowd were there to recognize an amazing accomplishment. The next day, one of the participating Residents made a phone call home, stating “I want to come back, you know, next year on February 26th.” I smiled, because the 26th isn’t the exact date of Jesse’s anniversary, and next year will not be a Monday. When he was asked why by his mother, the client said, “I want to be here. Jesse will be celebrating thirty-six years sober. Last night was his thirty-fifth.” His Mom said, “Jesse, who?”
Most of us change careers and jobs. Jesse has had some of those changes, but for the last fifteen years, amongst his other activities in the Recovery Community, Jesse has worked at Rose Hill. He conducts afternoon groups. He eats dinner with the residents. He takes them to Twelve Step meetings. He watches the hallway as they go to sleep, and then quietly leaves the building. Those activities are incredibly important in the daily lives of our young people, but they pale in comparison to the fact that he is an open, willing example of the fact that long-term recovery is possible.
Jesse has been in recovery longer than some our residents’ parents have been alive. Remember when you were a teen-ager? Thirty was old, and while we adjust that view upward as we reach those milestones the fact that someone can move forward from drugs and alcohol for such an extended period after being in the throes of addiction…I would call that a miracle, if I didn’t think that it would diminish the hard work and effort that Jesse has put into each of those twenty-four hour days.
Jesse is blunt, honest and direct. He has devoted many years to Rose Hill; and to countless people outside in recovery or trying. When residents first arrive, they are often put off by his lack of BS and unwillingness to sugar-coat things. He’s honest about his past, and realizes that at first most others won’t be. A lot of our residents do not like Jesse’s groups or sometimes, even Jesse, at the beginning. They cannot understand what he is saying. They cannot see there might be another way to live one’s life.
When the phone rings and it’s a previous client, there is a good chance they want to talk to Jesse. Maybe they want to talk about their successes, or sometimes their failures, but it is Jesse they reach out to. Thirty-five years is a long time, and thirty-five years proves that “it works, if you work it.”