Today is my 57th birthday. I woke this morning and my first prayer of the day was: “God, thank You for 57 years. It has been an incredible adventure, and I am surprised to make it this far.” Before the day was over, I would learn that a friend from the old days had passed away.
I met Mike on my first day at a new job in the summer of 1987. We had assembled in a cramped little room for new-hire orientation into a corporate machine. We ended up working for the same boss and sharing the same cubicle. We became the best of friends. We worked together, took smoke breaks together, ate lunch together, and laughed together.
Mike was the kind of person that could light up a room with his laugh, always ready with an inappropriate joke to relieve somber situations, and seemed completely comfortable in his own skin. He treated everyone like a friend, even if he just met them.
He and I had each moved from several states away to take on our new jobs. We were young, confident, assured of our place in the world. In other words, foolish. Our kids were the same age so our two young families would get together once or twice a month.
Mike didn’t introduce me to alcohol but he taught me how to drink like a professional and live to tell about it. He was the first person I called when I found out my first marriage was ending. He picked me up from my driveway, drove me to a bar, and told bawdy jokes as we drank gin until closing time. The next morning I woke up on his couch with the mother of all hangovers.
Side by side, we went through divorces, experienced situations and events I can no longer describe in decent company, smoked a truck load of cigarettes, and drank enough booze to fill an Olympic size pool. Twice. Each.
For a long time we were closer than brothers, roommates for a while, drinking buddies for a blurry eternity, and then we took separate paths and became people that used to know each other.
Mike reached out to me a couple of years ago. We talked on the phone about the old times, and the present. We got caught up enough to realize that since we went our separate ways years ago, each of us encountered and endured the kind of consequences that develop from the alcoholic lifestyle. The “good old times” weren’t so good in hindsight, for either of us. The warning signs we shrugged off in our early 30’s became personal hells later. We each paid astronomical prices along the way, as did those who loved us. But we survived.
Turns out that both of us, separately, found sobriety and peace through the 12-step recovery program. That’s also where I found God. I don’t know about Mike; I hope he did too.
I need to acknowledge something: this post could just as easily have been written by Mike instead of me. The odds of dying young were about the same for each of us, back in the day. Even a fool wouldn’t bet those odds. Mike is gone; I am still here. Make of that what you will.
Tonight, when I say my last prayer of the day, I will say: “God, thank You for 57 years, and for today. It has been an incredible adventure, and I am surprised to make it this far.”
We do not know when our time will come but it will – most assuredly – come.
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34
p.s. Mike, thanks for the laughs and the adventures. I am glad we both found the way back to sanity while we could.