Because I have 11 years of continuous sobriety, I got to be in the Honor Guard (for 10 years & up). Being in the Honor Guard feels a bit like your birthday. People make a little fuss over you, give you a sash with a numbered badge on it, make you all stand together for a group picture, and then have you lead off the Walk. I'll be honest, it feels pretty awesome.
I volunteered for Pro-Act this year, so I was at the registration table for a three hours before the Walk began. Once it started I joined the Honor Guard at the front and off we went. There were 6 or 7 people carrying the Walk banner right in front of me, and after a minute I realized that the man right in front of me was Ted Williams, also known as The Golden Voice.
If you aren't familiar with him, this video gives a synopsis of his story. It's really incredible.
We walked for several blocks, and then one of the men carrying the banner turned around and said he was going to step back and I should take his place. I was surprised but said ok. I got to chatting with the men on either side of me. The man on my left introduced himself as Dave, and asked where I was involved. I told him where I was from and that I was currently a homemaker but going back to school in the hopes of becoming a substance abuse counselor. He said he thought that was great and that he loved hearing what different people were doing to get involved. I then asked what he did. He told me that he was the Deputy Director of Demand Reduction for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (David Mineta). I'm not often speechless, but this came pretty close. I also chatted with the man to my right, who introduced himself as Gary. It was a delight chatting and walking together. After I got home I discovered that Gary is actually Gary Tennis, Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs. I'm pretty sure by tomorrow I will find out that the other man walking with us was the Pope. It was absolutely humbling, amazing and surreal. (And something else that's amazing; if you watch that video and you see Ted's sober living coach, Eric? He took this picture for me; how cool is that?)
I love this Walk, and everything it represents. And being blessed to walk with people who have the power to truly make a difference in the lives of people seeking treatment was beyond words. And the funny thing was that as I walked with them, I felt like we could be equals. I realized that as I was driving home, and it brought me to tears. For eighteen years I have regretted that I didn't stay in school and get my degree. My disease of alcoholism took that from me. I never really thought about trying to finish because I believed myself unworthy of a college education. I wasted the chance I was given. But now I'm doing it, finally doing it, and I can walk tall on this journey, and know that it's ok to believe in myself, and to imagine that I can help people find long term recovery.
Recovery has given me many gifts, and I love that it continues to surprise me. Plus, I get to wear the super cool sash, which I really think I need to wear on grocery store trips or when I'm picking up the kids from school.