An open letter of reflection from Bryan H.
I am overcome with a mixture of emotions whenever I hear the song “Amazing Grace.” I transport into a different mood where I am somber, yet joyful. I am nostalgic and ever-present; I am blessed and grateful. I reflect on how the sweet sound of God’s grace saved me. My eyes well when I hear the line, “I once was lost but now am found / was blind but now I see.” I know too well the dangers of my past life, the toils of changing my life, and the snares that try to bring me back to addiction. I also know too well the miracles of grace, it’s something in my younger years I could deny, back when I was blind, yet after living the better part of 7 years on Enders Island, I know with conviction God’s saving power. I’ve witnessed it within the community that resides here, the community that regularly comes here, and the one-timers who visit us and share a piece of their story.
And so, it was with grace that in May of 2014 the Saint Maximilian Kolbe Sober Living Community opened its doors. In my experience as Resident Director, I have come to learn God’s plan for me. The very phrase “God’s plan” has always seemed ambiguous, exactly what is it, and what does it entail? When I was a child, the thought that ‘one day I am going to become a grateful alcoholic and live on an island’ never crossed my mind. I certainly did not plan to be 29 years-old and working here. Before I dragged my feet here in December of 2008, I thought I was useless and couldn’t help myself, let alone be in charge of 10 men. I know today that God uses our adversities as a grace to lighten the darkness within others. Only if I am willing to be open to turn my will over, can others see in me that change is possible for them.
In the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, it says that to have a spiritual experience one must be open-minded, willing, and honest. We have found these principles to be indispensable when it comes to forming a foundation of sobriety. The young men in our program are brave. They take that journey inward, even though it’s not easy. They are often reluctant for behind the barriers of addiction and pride lies pain and insecurity, fear and mistrust. It’s not to often that people in their 20s get sober. In AA, they say that if you stay long enough, then you’re going to have to step over the bodies. Addiction is real. Addiction affects the addict, and scars the family. Although, in the darkness that addiction is, God’s grace finds light. I’ve come to see in the past year a handful of men surrender their will and not only become sober, but begin to live lives of virtue and grace. They have become better than their old selves, the selves before addiction found its grip. Through their journey, they took the necessary time to let others help them and by doing so, they have begun to help others. We have young men volunteering with kids who disabilities, working at the YMCA, we have guys helping other addicts. We have guys whose roots are beginning to regrow in their family.
I remember my first cold December day on the island. I was surrounded by people who struggled the way I did and yet, they had smiles on their faces and an undeniable happiness within them. I was skeptical. I had walked away from the church. I lost had faith. So, too, do I see the same when someone arrives for their first day. But when people are given a 2nd or 3rd or 4th opportunity, they can start to see God working through others, like I did. They can no longer be blind to the presence of God. A great turning point transforms them and they start to work on themselves, then after awhile, they start to help others. It’s a paradox only God could have thought of: you get sobriety by giving it away. That’s what Fr. Joe did over 40 years ago when he brought AA to the island.
The foundation of the resident program was planted by Fr. Joe and born through the culmination of Fr. Tom’s experience of working with addicts; and through 7 years of specifically working with young adults. We stand by one sole purpose: to help young men build a foundation of sobriety. As a direct result, they can begin to live sober, balanced, and healthy lives. And with an amazing grace they can incorporate recovery, spirituality, and academics into their daily lives.