I managed to get home last night in time to join a bunch of other recovering drunks in giving a big sendoff to one of our prodigies, a young man I'll call "Fred."
Fred arrived to us six years ago, fresh out of college and jail, to begin his post-baccalaureate work at a minor liberal arts college in New Jersey called Princeton. In Chemistry.
He whizzed through his Masters (amidst meetings, 12-Step work, more meetings, service and working with others) and plunged into his doctorate work.
Yesterday he successfully defended his dissertation to the faculty and was awarded his doctorate.
Today he leaves for a Western State to begin working for a privately held company that does super-secret work for the nation. He'll be up to his eyeballs in security clearances by the end of the year. We'll probably never see (or hear from) him again. If we do, even accidentally, he'll probably have to kill us.
So there we were, about 35 of us, jammed into a Thai-fusion restaurant out on Route One, giving "Fred" the Big Goodbye (he has to start work on Monday). There were "joke gifts" and serious gifts and a big poster that all of us signed to remind him of us... and of how far he has come from being a broken-down-wreck of a college student, hung up on alcohol and booze and barely able to remember his own name, to a brilliant Chemist about to embark on important work in the Nation's Interest.
Who would've thought it possible? When we first start getting sober most of us cannot conceive of a world where we are welcome, a world where we have something to contribute, a world in which we have a life that's actually worth living.
"Fred" has that life now. And it's a life any of us can have, if we just put down the booze and become teachable.
"Fred" is a miracle.
And so is every recovering person in the World.