My back was to the ocean and my son, Jack, and his girlfriend Sawyer, were sitting side by side in their neon striped beach chairs. Toes in the sand and relaxing in the warmth of the late afternoon sun, we had waited 7 months to be together; we took a collective sigh of relief. Dave, my husband, was sitting a little distance away furtively trying to get better cell service to reach his office. We were minus one, my daughter Sky, who was adhering to the shelter at home order blanketing LA; her absence was palpable.
From my beach bag I pulled a Recovery Wellness Plan worksheet, a planning tool I use when working with coaching clients, and asked Jack to take me through the questions. I thought I could benefit from establishing a few SMART goals to help me plan and break down how I was going to deliver on writing a book. Whoever said “A dream without a plan is just a wish” got that right. We dove into a spirited discussion about how the heck to tackle writing a book buoyed by our laughter and love.
Out of the corner of my right eye, I saw a man get up from his sandy perch and begin to approach us. I immediately thought to myself, shit, he’s going to ask us to either put our masks on or to lower our voices. I knew we were 6 feet apart, but voices carry on the beach, and me and my peeps were loudly hammering out ideas, concepts and themes.
“I don’t mean to interrupt, he said, but I couldn’t help but overhear what you all are talking about. I just want to say that whatever you do, please write your book. My son, Zachary, died of a heroin overdose last year, and maybe if he had had a Recovery Coach... maybe he would have made it."
My eyes welled up as I took in the depth of this man’s sorrow. Jack and Soy both scooched to the edge of their chairs. We all leaned in a little closer to join in a more intimate circle of trust, understanding and compassion. I asked the friendly man to tell us more about his son. Signaling with a little wave, he introduced himself.
“I’m Paul,” and he took a knee and joined our circle. “Well, Zachary was in the Army and they were just great. They could have discharged him, but they helped him instead. He had 100 days clean. He was so happy. He had just met someone and called to tell me ‘I found my T-bone!’ which is my nickname for his Stepmom sitting over there. He went on leave, and then I got the call, ‘He didn’t make it.’” Paul allowed the tears to stream down his ruddy, sunburnt cheeks without wiping them away. “Please, whatever you do, write this book, you could help a lot of people. Here, let me give you my number, you call me any time.”
And in that moment, I knew. I knew that I was destined to write about my sober journey and experience as a Recovery Coach. The message was loud and clear; from a complete stranger I received my marching orders. I promised Paul Morse on that day, August 11, 2020, that I was going to call him when the book was published and send him the first copy.
Now, in all my years of sobriety, I have had some incredible moments and experiences. I have actually come to believe that coincidences are God’s way of winking at us. But this was more than just a coincidence; this moment was like a spiritual 2-by-4. Jack likened it to a geological phenomenon, a Fulgurite, which occurs when lightning strikes the beach. A moment in time crystalized by the forces of nature. We all felt it.
Oddly enough, I had an intuition earlier in the week when Jack and I first started bouncing around book ideas. It came as a flash of a thought when I looked up towards the clouds in the sky followed by a deep, inner knowing that collaborating with my son was somehow part of the plan. It dropped into place and it all came full circle. My sober journey began as a single mom when Jack was just an 8 year old boy. I knew the undertow of this disease was taking me out, and the fear of losing a grip, not being able to function as his mother, was what tugged at my heart the most to get help. Now, here we were together, 21 years later, looking back in retrospect pondering and shaping how my experience might benefit others. Getting sober takes work, but helping others is the unexpected and ultimate gift.
Writing a book has been one of the most challenging undertakings I have embarked upon. It is unbelievably hard to sit with myself and not doubt whether or not the final chapters are going to be good enough. I know that’s old thinking, but it’s so tough to combat sometimes. I’m going at a snail’s pace, but I’m making progress and I guess that’s what matters. Meryl Streep once said, “Put blinders onto those things that conspire to hold you back, especially the ones in your head.” That is my mantra. One day at a time.