A Letter to Peers - by Chris Pridmore
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
I write this letter contemplating so many lessons learned recently. As recovery peers, we are in a unique space of work. We are the hand of hope in darkness. We are not the cure when families and those struggling want a cure. We are the cracked door and the light shining through. We ourselves are tattered combatants from our own stories and yet strong towers to the broken when eye contact is made. We do get tired. Our emotions do creep in. Our history attacks us in our calm moments or as each vivid reality plays out a replication of our own very real (in some cases) not too distant past. I have reached at least one series of conclusions as I exit a particularly intense holiday season of service. I will not go into this future passively. I will face reality and not wish for a different one. I will keep an eye on my history to learn from it and spit in the face of my addiction demon. For me, I have chosen a warrior posture. All that tries to tear me down should not fear me. It should fear its inevitable defeat. It is not because of my greatness or skill. It’s because my sobbing in death and destruction has turned to a battle cry. In weak moments, I move forward. In my happy moments, I move forward. As peers we collectively feel loss, fear, weakness, stigma. Yet, we are beacons of hope. We move forward.
Thousands of us rise. Some of us fall. We hook each others arms and we scurry to our feet and move forward through the mud and we grab others and we move forward. Our prize is stable ground in less turbulent environments. We are disinterested in base camp. We are hungry to advance the line on the enemy and create a new forward operating position.
We will feel loss. We will have losses. We will struggle with our own sobriety and mental health issues. We are sure to not have perfection. Yet, we will operate along the spiritual lines. We are certain that our battles are most often fought against principalities and powers even when our flesh and blood are weak. We still thrive because we have choices and we make them decisively.
We know fear. It is a non-thing. However, it is present in the vapor and it is always lurking. Fear strategically failed itself. It became to present. We are used to it. Fear is like that mouthy kid in the school yard that is constantly going to either beat us up or tell on us. After awhile fear becomes nothing more than Chicken “the bully” Little and it is no super hero and the sky is not falling. Fear has lost its credibility. We see it for what it is. Fear is nothing more than a barometer to tell us that we are in fact moving in uncomfortable locations and possibly causing damage to evil.
We feel weak. There are troubled waters and the emotional and physical elements of our lives take its toll. Our service to others requires us to only share those places to enhance the growth of our fellows. Beyond that, we heal as best we can with the support we have. We bravely face many versions of “us” in our clients. We get angry at some of them and we do our service. We love some of them and we do our service. Our hearts break for most of them and we do our service.
We face stigma. Why? Well for starters. We are “ONLY” peers to the treatment providers. We are “addicts”, “junkies," “criminals” or my favorite “doing great” to the patronizing “normals.” We are rivals in some cases to each other and in many cases still untrusted in our homes. We are “that guy” or “aren’t you that guy” to our face and “wait a second, let me tell you something about him” behind our backs. We are battered stigma bottles. It matters very little. Why? Because we are beacons. As my friend Simone says, “we are heroes of our own stories.”
We are beacons. When others struggle they come to us. When their children, partners, friends or families are dying they come to us. We are sweaty, muddy, battle hardened soldiers that storm the beach every day. We are not understood. Yet we shine in the grind. We rise from the ashes. We are more than a phoenix. We are pathfinders, trail blazers and illumination of ways to better days. We are hope in the darkest depths of the human soul.
I am a peer. My story is one of personal practical tactics and a spiritual rebirth. I am David of the Bible. I am no joke. This is not because of anything due to me. It is because I am a vessel of the way, the light, the hope. As with David, I needed a refuge and strength. David and I found it in a King. That King placed us in a fortress and He calls us to war. I am a warrior for the lost because someone has to storm the beach. I am a hug through the wounds. I am eye contact when nobody else will look at you. I am your friend when my fellow peers need to compare notes, tactics and transplant grit to move forward. I am a recovering alcoholic, a father, a friend, a warrior, hope.
We face loss, fear, weakness, stigma. Yet, we are beacons that move forward. We are soldiers of hope and we run to the fight.