In the summer of 2004 I headed off to rehab. Mind blown, not sure what on earth I was doing. If I honestly assess it now I was just really trying another attempt at running away from my problems. Only this time they made me face them right in the eyes!
After a few days in there was a space in the “van” going to the regular AA meeting. One of the counsellors almost picking people at random pointed me out and so there I was sat in the front on the way to my first ever AA meeting. I got off the bus and was set up as the “distraction” by those who’d been resident at the rehab longer than I. They said “They always make a b line for the newcomer. We’ll wait until the bus driver sees that then he’ll go. We’ll then go over the chippy”. Their intention was mostly to buy coke cola, chocolate bars etc. which would be smuggled back in against the strict dietary rules of the house. Seriously we were like a bunch of naughty schoolkids on a day out, not adults trying to deal with their addictions.
I got welcomed by a guy called Richard. He showed me to get a coffee and I grabbed some chocolate biscuits – more contraband! I sat through the first bit of the meeting staring at the floor wondering if I could go get more biscuits. I never listened to a word. Then after the speaker the tone changed with many people sharing. I started to listen. “I’m like that”, “That was just what we were talking about in group”, “How long did he say he was sober – 16 years!”… etc. I remember it all going around my mind. There was a huddle of people who all shared who were clearly all together. A little white haired Irish guy, an Irish lady and another bloke who spoke slowly and clearly and with such earnest passion. He had white hair, a pot belly and a white beard…. he did look like Father Christmas on his summer holiday frankly. His name was Mick.
Roll on some weeks – my last meeting the day before I leave rehab. I thought “I ought to say something if I’m ever going to get this to work once rehab isn’t supporting me.” I blurted out that I was grateful for the welcomes, coffee and biscuits and that I was leaving rehab the next day and was frankly petrified I’d go back drinking.
Mick came up and shook my hand and wished me well – as did the greeter Richard. I left the next day. The day after that I was in trouble, my head going “Go on have a drink. You aren’t like them. You’ll be ok”. I was white knuckling it and climbing the walls. My wife suggested I visit my Mum. I talked to her all afternoon about rehab and this and that. She said “What do you do now?” I said I should go to AA meetings and that actually there was one at the church at the end of her road that evening. “Stay here have tea with me and go to it then”. Seemed a good idea and one that might just stop me going passed the church to the pub.
I arrived there all nervous. Would this be like the other meeting? Would they welcome me or ignore me? I walked in. Stood there, roll up fag hanging from his lips, was Mick. He recognised me said hello, shook my hand offered me a seat and a cup of tea. I gabbled on and he made some wise crack about I should tell God my plans as he liked a laugh. Inwardly at that moment I thought he was a bit of an arsehole. He then talked about other meetings he went to. He went all over – obviously, the rehab was like 30 odd miles away. He suggested one meeting in particular on the following Monday night. He made some joke about the AA mafia – “Once you join us you can never leave”.
Monday night I headed to that meeting and saw him again, Richard and the little Irish guy too. They were so welcoming to me. That meeting has been my home group ever since. I was there this last Monday thanks to a member given me a lift there now I can’t drive. Mick was there as always. He did one of the readings. He shared. He told me he felt good this week and asked how I was – the last two weeks haven’t been great for me which Mick knew as he’d called the other day to see how I was.
Yesterday my phone went – it was another of the Monday regulars I expected he wanted a favour. I said hello. He simply said “It’s bad news mate. Mick was found dead this morning”. I just cried and cried.
I just can’t believe it. He was there in the beginning and has been such a support to me and many many others. He has done service alongside me admirably over the years at intergroup and region. I can’t describe the Mick shaped hole that has appeared in my heart right now.
The good thing was – it was quick and he didn’t suffer by the look of it. Suspicion is a massive heart attack in his sleep. Next Monday will feel just so odd; that meeting without Mick at it’s heart seems just unthinkable right now. But it will continue as it has since the little Irish left and then passed away and Mick’s great friend Dougy passed away too and the lovely French lady we lost so young recently.
Mick – thank you for all the times you shook my hand, asked how I was, answered my phone calls and simply were just an example to me about how to live a life in sobriety. You will be sadly sadly missed.