A Tale of Two Saturdays: Celebration of Recovery and Celebration of Life

Tomorrow, Saturday, September 24, I’ll be yucking it up at the Hope Recovery Festival at Veterans Park. From 11-2, the park will be filled with chuckleheads like me celebrating the hell out of our recovering condition. Some folks will be dancing. Due to an emotional disability that prevents me from experiencing rhythm, I won’t be one of them. It’ll be a blast! Saturday will be a blast, and I hope to see you there.

Last Saturday, September 17, I wept in the Zeal church in a strip mall on Canal Street. From 4-5, I joined a hundred or more others to mourn the death of Peter (Pete) Malcuit, a prince of a man. Despite a few laughs, the atmosphere was heavy with loss and sorrow.  Sorrow at the loss of a smart, funny young man who died way too soon.

Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.—G. B. Shaw

Tomorrow, people in early and long-term recovery may throw pies at my face, play cornhole (aka horseshoes for the incompetent), sing, listen to speeches and generally have a good time. Booths from more than 40 different businesses and organizations will hand out swag of varying quality and usefulness. Friendships will be rechristened and new ones formed.

Last Saturday, Pete’s sister, Shannon, his friends Jenni and Shayne, and I all struggled to express our emptiness. Jenni and Shayne had written and read aloud beautiful eulogies, while Shannon and I spoke without preparation. We tried to fill the void of Peter’s death with our words. Once the service finished, the silence returned. The void remains.

Tomorrow, at Veterans Park, we’ll celebrate our recovery. Hurray. We used to be slaves to substances and today we are free. One of the deepest and darkest secrets of recovery, though, will not likely be discussed. Like carrying some secret button, I will always know how to feel significantly better. No matter how bad or good my emotional state is right now, adding some chemicals, whether through my mouth, nose, arm or, I have heard, buttocks, I can tweak that a bit higher. No matter how I try, I can’t unknow that fact. Apparently, the vast majority of humans doesn’t experience this. Better living through chemicals works for the moment—even though it leads to worse living and potential death. 

I can’t speak French at all. My wife laughs when I try to pronounce any word from that language. Still, I do know some phrases. At Pete’s celebration of life, one of them kept running through my head: nostalgie de la boue. “Nostalgia for the mud,” which, to me, means a desire to return to a previous lower state. Pete found God, found recovery, found a life second to none. Really! Then nostalgie de la boue apparently drove him to his death. I miss him and, even more, miss the man he could have been if he hadn’t headed for the mud.

Tomorrow, from 11-2, Hope Nation will gather at Veterans Park to celebrate the lives made possible by freedom from chemicals. We’ll laugh and hug and listen with attention as our friends talk from the stage about what recovery means to them. I’ll be doing that too, but I’ll also reflect on the stone-cold fact that I, after 15 years in recovery, am only a couple bad breaks and a worse decision from choosing the mud myself. And that mud can lead to an eternal dirt nap.

Join me tomorrow, and please give me a hug to remind me that recovery is better than anything that mud can offer. I’ll hug you right back and, together, we’ll stay on the right side of the grass.

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