My Name Is John

My Name Is John

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

My Name Is John

Shut out all of your past except that which will help you weather your tomorrows.

Sir William Osler

“Hello. My name is John . . . and I’m an alcoholic.” That’s the first thing they taught us in rehab—to admit it. But here I am, after being dry for over a year, in the hospital. My relapse was bad.

I watched a guy in scrubs pass my door. He’d gone down the hallway a couple of times already. He was always smiling and had a certain bounce to his step. Finally, my courage built, I waited for him to pass again.

“Pssst. Pssst,” I tried to get his attention. He peeked his head into my doorway.

“Yes sir?” he offered. “John?”

“Yeah man, it’s me,” I answered hoarsely.

“John?” He quizzed again, as the truth was sinking in.

He stood at the foot of my bed, the reality hitting him in the face.

It hit me too as I looked at this man dressed in scrubs. He was clean, healthy, and a sparkle decorated his eyes. He stood taller and more confidently than when I first met him.

He had been in the rehab group I lead.

Together, we had encouraged the guys in our group—to be strong, to face our problems, with God and not the bottle. We had helped other friends when they were close to relapsing. We talked them through the pain—emotionally and physically. One time, a friend had lost his wife and family and was missing them so terribly he was going to hit the bottle again. We stayed by his side all day and into the evening, playing Frisbee at the park, riding bikes, bowling, drinking coffee. We stayed with him until the sorrow passed.

The two of us had found purpose for our lives again.

There in that hospital bed, with tubes hooked up to me, fighting to breathe through the pain in my body, I realized I had lost my purpose.

And here before me was a man who radiated his.

“John,” he said again. “Man, I’ve been thinking about you. What’s been going on?” He pulled up a chair close to me and unlike most men, this friend took my hand in his.

Tears trickled down my face, wetting the pillow. What did he have that I didn’t? Or did I have it and lose it?

My friend kept talking—about things in our past and things in his life now. He explained that he was in school and striving to become an R.N. He had passion about his life. I wanted what he had but I didn’t know if I would live to ever have it. My liver had shut down. I was in bad shape.

He knew. I knew it. “John, you look awful.”

I had to laugh. He was always a straight shooter. None of us ever wondered where we were with him. If he was mad, he told us, got it over with, and moved on. He was fair.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Live the lessons, John. You had a relapse but that’s not the end, you know. But man, you gotta do it for yourself— not your wife, your kids, your family—but yourself. Let me help you.“

I knew he would, too. He had become a man of his word.

We talked that week I was in the hospital. We talked a lot. He shared how he hadn’t always been true to his word. He told me about those he had hurt in the process— those he had lost. I liked this man—he was vulnerable and shared openly. He wasn’t afraid of what I might think.

During that week I realized so many of my insecurities. I faced my emotional pain and it was hell. But my friend was there for me. He visited during his rounds and he stayed after his shift. We laughed together and cried together.

And one more time, for one more day, because of the man in the scrubs, I am dry.

John
as told to Kelly Martindale

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