After writing this book of memoirs, I noticed many patterns and coincidences that I linked together and came back into believing what I had learned in the last Rehab I’d gone to up in Washington. I learned a lot about chakras, energies, and how the world really works until I fell into relationships and material distractions, which caused me to forget everything. But now it’s back in full-throttle. A few weeks ago, I was struggling to figure out who my guardian angel is, and to me it’s funny because it was sitting right in front of me…
(This next part takes place in August of 2006, when I’d just graduated from my first rehab and moved into a halfway house in Kerrville, TX.)
Now that I had been in Kerrville, staying at The Red Rooster house, I had a schedule and a set routine for every day. The house had a policy you must find a job within two weeks of your first day. I had been talking to this restaurant Chili’s on the River for a couple days. They had me come in for three different interviews. The two weeks had already passed but my house manager and I both knew I already had the job.
What chain restaurant would ask for a third interview if they didn’t plan on hiring you?
It was the third week when I finally got the call telling me to come in and bus tables. So I was the new busser/host at Chili’s on the River, a chain that was one of Kerrville’s biggest hits. If you were new to town, and you wanted something familiar, you came to us. We always had a steady rate of customers, or guests, as we were to call them.
During this time waiting on a job, I attended meeting after meeting hoping to abide by another house rule. Along with everyone in the house having to have a job, we also must have a sponsor to lead us through the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Many people fresh out from rehab put it upon themselves to do the “90 in 90”—attending ninety meetings in ninety days; a meeting every day for the first three months, or, you guessed it… ninety days. I was not one of these people. But since there was nothing to do in this town, besides loitering around in a Hastings or Walmart and spending fifty-dollars for a footprint tattoo that’s no bigger than a quarter, I sat in many meetings. I would wind up doing the “90 in 90” before the first ninety days had gone by. There was a meeting at nearly every hour of the day. If your sponsor made you attend ninety meetings in ninety days, you truly had no excuse for missing one.
The first few weeks while I waited for Randy to graduate, I was on a mission. During every one I sat through, whether it was for alcoholics, cocaine addicts, or narcotics, I listened to what each person said and tried to figure out what sort of person they were and what type of sponsor they’d be—a strict, military-type; if they were reliable; the type that preached the Bible along with the Big Book; or the laid back type who didn’t take things all that seriously.
If I had the choice, I would probably have gone with the lazy one, but I knew if I would stay clean and sober, I needed someone more strict than that. But not the kind who would drill the book into my head making me memorize every page he thought was important—which is every page, of course.
There was one guy I continued to see at every meeting. He was all over the place: Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, you name it. And at every meeting, he had something different to say, each pertaining to another topic. He looked a few years older but spoke as if he was thirty or forty years older. Everything that poured out of his mouth during a meeting was like butter—smooth, on-point, profound, and had me look at the program in a whole new light. A better light. When he spoke, the room died; everyone listened. Even the crack-born babies would shut up. Fire blazed in his eyes as he preached, delivering a sermon.
Taz was a passionate and extroverted African-American with everything one could want in a sponsor. After meetings, the many people wanting to talk to him, particularly the women, would surround him and his entourage of other recovering addicts. I decided after a day of three back-to-back meetings, in which he also attended, he would be my sponsor.
The next day, in a Cocaine Anonymous meeting at the Outpost Recovery Club, I spotted him. I spent the entire meeting yanking on my hair, trying to decide when and how I would ask him if he’d sponsor me. It was the first time since being in rehab, I’d thought about my long-forgotten best friend: alcohol. My lips longed for anything to take the strangling nerves away. I hadn’t yet had to deal with any fears or triggers while sober, until now. I left the meeting early to smoke a cigarette, hoping it would calm me down. It was to no avail, thus I lit another.
I sat on top of a picnic bench outside and went over the game plan in my head. The plan was to wait outside until his crowd of followers left and then I could find my window to walk up to him. I’d introduce myself first, then we would shake hands. After that I’d tell him how much I liked what he’d said in the meeting—even though I didn’t pay any attention to what he’d said, or if he’d even spoke at all. Then, I’d—
“Hey,” said a voice, interrupting my concentration.
I turned around to see a young kid with metal all over his face. His ears had huge gauges with two more pierced loops going though them, had multiple loops around each eyebrow, his nose and three piercings on each top and bottom lip. He looked like an Airport security’s nightmare. I gave him a nod and said something then looked back to make sure Taz hadn’t left yet. Luckily, he was still there, talking to—
“I saw you raised your hand, needing a sponsor,” he interrupted again.
This was true. Towards the end of every meeting, they will ask for people in need of a sponsor to raise their hand, which I had before I got up and left for a cigarette. I figured I could talk with this kid and keep an eye on Taz at the same time.
“Yeah…?” I said, in a way that also asked, What’s your point, little boy?
In the corner of my eye, I saw him move, making me turn towards him to see him reaching out his pale, skinny hand. “I’m Raphael.”
My mind instantly forgot about what I was there waiting for, and became filled with a feeling of pure, uncut nostalgia. I had grown up loving the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I loved them so much, Michelangelo, the pizza-loving, orange-wearing turtle, had come to my birthday party in Kindergarten. I remember he was huge and had made me so thrilled, until some little brat had wailed because the guy in a giant, lifelike turtle suit had scared her. That’s when he had to leave. This was also when I was young, before I’d grownup to like the rude attitude of the rebellious turtle, Raphael.
It was this, and a weird feeling in my gut, that told me to give this kid all of my attention. I introduced myself and prepped up a way to talk about the Ninja Turtles with him.
“So… Raphael, is it?”
“Yeah, but everyone calls me Raphy (pronounced Raw-fee).”
“Ok. Can I call you Raph? Like from—”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?”
He’d beaten me to it, showing me he must get that all the time. I had a nickname in high school I wasn’t too fond of, so I told myself to try to not bring it up again.
“Yeah, if you want,” he replied. “So, you need a sponsor?”
As he asked this, I had already turned around to look for Taz but didn’t see him. Well, maybe this was a sign, I thought, and turned back to answer him.
“Yes, I do.”
My gut feeling had been right about sticking with Raphy. The next day, Taz was nowhere to be found. It turned out, his sponsor had relapsed, so he joined up with him to go on a cocaine-fueled bender in Las Vegas. I never saw or heard the name Taz again after that.