May 22, 2015 6:30am.
If someone drove by my house that gray, May morning, and saw this little group of very different people huddled in a tiny circle, heads bowed, they would probably have thought we were passing a joint. That’s what we would have been doing 15 or 20 years earlier, but not this day. This day we were all sober, we were new friends, and we were praying.
I met Chuck the night before at a hotel in Burbank. My daughter was home, having friends over, smoking weed, eating pizza, unknowingly spending the last night with her friends before being relocated to the Utah desert. I couldn’t save them all as much as I wanted to. Every fucked up teenager was me, 35 years ago, lost, afraid, damaged in ways I would barely begin to scrape the surface of in my recovery program and therapy many years later. I’d had enough Alanon to know that I couldn’t save my daughter, but I could give her a fighting chance. I was nervous as hell. I don’t think about drinking anymore, but that night, in that hotel lobby, sitting across from this complete stranger who I was paying to legally kidnap my 17 year old daughter and deliver her into the hands of therapists and staff people I had spoken with over the phone who I was entrusting to keep her alive and well in the dry, hot expanse of Bryce Canyon, a shot of tequila to take the edge off crossed my mind in a flash. I focused on Chuck, the words coming out of his mouth: 6:30am, Taneesha and Scott will be with me. Scott’s cool, a gentle giant with a Chihuahua therapy dog that the kids bond with, Taneesha, sweet, quiet, don’t worry, done this for 20 years, your daughter is going to be safe, we’ll send you receipts for expenses incurred, if I motion for you to leave the room, do it, everything is going to be ok, you’re saving your daughter’s life.
They showed up, right on time. I was prepared, followed directions, the back pack was ready, Starbucks for everybody, waters, package of muffins and some fruit for the drive out of town. My heart beat in my chest, tears fighting their way to the surface, what the hell was I doing? “Can we pray,” I asked. “Sure. Absolutely,” they said. We do this, those of us in recovery. If you have a sponsor worth their salt, and you come to them with a problem, they won’t hesitate before they say, “Have you prayed about it?” Which is the 12 Step way of saying, take a deep breath, keep your mouth shut, and ask for help. We held hands, and I prayed, “Gracious and loving God. Thank you for sending these angels in disguise to me.” Snot and tears mixed together in a holy mess, ran down my face, past my lips, over my chin, and dribbled to the ground. “God, I’m really scared. Help me. Be with these people as they take my daughter and deliver her into your hands in the desert.” The irony of it all was not lost on me. “And as we all have our own desert journey, may your love, your grace, your mercy, be with my daughter and these people. Guide them, God, and keep them close. We pray this in the name of your son, who showed us how to be in the desert, how to love, how to forgive and how to heal. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.”
I looked at these people, Scott, Taneesha, and Chuck. My new friends, angels, saviors, deliverers, and smiled. Thank you, I said. Quietly, carefully, we walked into the house.