I would be hard pressed to guess how many times I have said to folks that Terry and I have “hunkered down” in protective isolation. Given her compromised immune system, Covid-19 is the grin of the Reaper lurking behind even the most innocent of ovations. Of course, now, as the reach of the pandemic has burgeoned, the “Hunker” is pretty much where everyone is dwelling.

The cloud of this pestilence threatens us from without, surely: piercing our immunal armor with frightening dexterity. But even when it has not yet pricked our bodies, it can have already attacked us from within—attacking the very breath of our spirit.

Hunkering has a way of dragging the spirit with it: shrinking and bending the spirit into a state of “bunker mentality” defined by fear, anger, and the corrosion of doubt. I went out to Wegman’s one morning and was struck by the eyes of others wandering among so many empty shelves—annoyed as one man seemed to clean out the cans of tomato sauces which I had selfishly presumed to be mine. Black Friday on a spring Tuesday morning.

Nothing is unscathed. So little of our world seems set back from the teetering brink.

Since late December I have envisioned this newsletter edition to be our wildly upbeat and enthusiastic celebration of all that we have done during our brief time as a really real 501c3! I enthused to the task of tracing my way through all the markers of what we have accomplished in this short time—and the opportunity to take a deep breath and cast our eyes across the faces of those twenty-two souls whose present-day lives are bound so intimately with our efforts.

How, then, to celebrate our day when the winds of our time refuse us the chance to even light our candles?

I am trying this. I am trying to nurture my compassion. It is my mantra against the nausea: compassionate understanding and care. To remain alert to any slot to step through should a possibility for helping open up. To remain vigilant to the recommendations of science-based policy—from wherever these might be issued—recognizing that even our own efforts to self-quarantine advance the cause of “the curve.” Each of us can be a source of the dark—driven by fear and resentment—or a source of the light: loving, giving, gracious, compassion. The vector of our spiritual resolve lies before each of us.

Road2RecoveryCNY is not just an organization. We are a community of care, brought together out of a shared commitment to do what we can to draw persons suffering from opioid addiction back into the light of life’s promise. This milestone that we “celebrate” is not about what we have done. It’s about what we are doing—what we still have to do. And today it is about adjusting—reconceiving—re-imagining. It is about timeliness and adaptability: how to render our compassion nimble.

I, for one, am truly grateful that this “viral winter” has not yet chewed up my own humanity—that from this Hunker I can embrace the myriads upon myriads of others whose lives cry out for support—even if all I can do is to hold them in the light of care. Ironically, I am grateful to R2CNY for giving me the chance to perhaps do more.

The picture that accompanies this little note is from the slopes of Mt. St. Helens taken not long after the eruption. I have long embraced it as a metaphor for rebirth and resolve in the face of the catastrophic. It expresses my faith that we do endure: that, unvanquished by this storm, we continue our work of nurturing green shoots from beneath the ash.

Dear Darlene and Anne,

Hey this is the last letter I’m sending, from now on we can communicate via phone & text like regular people J. I can’t tell you how happy and grateful I am to R2R. This program has saved my life, given me the tools I need to show up the way I’m supposed to. I am a work in progress and will continue to work hard to remain sober and responsible. I hope you understand that I am willing to go to any length for R2R just as staying sober. My life has improved ten fold along with my health. I’m in the best physical shape of my life and my mind is crystal clear. I see nothing but positive horizons ahead. I know I’m gonna have struggles however after struggling through this process, detox, rehab, and my terrible life before that any challenge that I face is a mole hill compared to the mountain climb I faced before and the constant avalanches that kept me buried. R2R was the lifeline that pulled me out of that chaos and the work you perform is amazing. I have a life ahead of me that I know is going to be lived to the fullest. I plan on staying in Austin and making it my permanent home. Thank you for the support of sober living for 90 days. I will be responsible at saving money to get ahead. I’m excited to be with all my brothers in recovery. These are my new true friends. Something I’ve never truly experienced. I will call you Monday the 23rdwhen I get to Udom. Thanks so much Darlene you and Anne are my guardian angels. Continue doing God’s work and I’ll do the same.

Yours truly,

Zack P

P.S. Tell everyone that volunteers that they have saved another life! And I’m so thankful.