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Better than that

“We knew you were better than that.”

That was my friend’s answer to the question I asked. She said they knew I was better than that.

In the beginning of getting your life on track, you hear many things. You hear, “It’s ok. I forgive you,” when you apologize. You hear “I love you, and we will figure this out together.” You get to hear, “I’d only had nine beers,” from old men in meetings still puzzled over their DUI in ’97.

Many of the words that changed my life then, I can’t remember today. Still, somewhere in the stream is, “We knew you were better than that.”

Timing of recovery conversations is an interesting thing. The feeling is generally the same for both parties: They want each other back.

Mothers want their sons, and sons in recovery want their mothers. Your friend has hated to see you not be yourself for the past few years, and you have hated not seeing your friend.

Two hurting humans, hungry for healing.

That takes time. Discovering who you are as a whole person takes time. Earning back the remnants of trust you desperately hold onto in times of temptation takes time.

One person whose life I’d made harder had the perfect response to my apology one week in. He said, “We’ll see,” and walked away.

That’s perfect because it was his truth at the time. He didn’t believe me. He didn’t think I was better than what I’d shown him to be.

Because he told me the truth at that moment, I knew he wasn’t lying three months later when he shook my hand and said, “Congratulations on your change.”

Some it took a month, some it took a year, but the tone of the conversation is usually the same. Relief. Review. Release.

There is the feeling of relief if both parties are amicable. “We’re finally talking about this.”  Then curiosity takes over, and the review starts. “Hey – were you high when I saw you at Bojangles in swim trunks and a dress coat?”

Release comes when you move onto the next topic and neither of you feels the weight of the past on the tie that binds you. You can laugh together again. Love each other openly again.

There are rooms in Heaven filled with that feeling.

“We knew you were better than that,” came from my side of review with people who had put up with a lot – people who had made their own attempts to help.

“Why didn’t y’all give up on me?” I’d asked.

I’ve heard a lot said about people down in the dark like I was. Stuff like, “She ain’t never gonna do no better,” and “He’s always been sorry.”

Little phrases like that drown out the part of our conscience telling us to help.

I wonder how much more likely it would be for our lost loved ones to make it out – to not revisit it – if they knew someone believed in them. If they knew they were better than that.

Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville. To get in touch email wcstults@yahoo.com.

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