THIS ( PRIVILEGED) LIFE
SUNDAY morning has become a routine for our family. There is no longer a lazy sleep- in followed by a leisurely breakfast over the Sunday papers. We don’t mind.
After an early rise, we rush through the morning ablutions, followed by a hurried breakfast. Shortly thereafter we head off down the freeway to an extraordinary rendezvous.
Exiting the freeway, we drive to the outskirts of a country town and up a narrow rural lane to
the farm’’ where our son lives, along with more than 100 other men. They are of all ages and from many nationalities and backgrounds but they share one thing in common: at least one form of addiction. Some are recovering alcoholics, some are recovering drug addicts, some are recovering gamblers, and some are all three.
Sunday mornings see their friends and families arriving for a morning church service and a time of sharing their stories before they meet their own families. In some cases this is the first time in many years they have known any quality time with their loved ones. This place is like that. As we mingle before the service, we are struck by the ordinariness of the families gathered. It could be any regular gathering, and there appears nothing remarkable about this group. The very normalcy of it hits home.
There is one thing, however, that is notable about the men at the farm. As they greet their visitors they are all dressed in fresh, tidy, wellpressed attire. They are clean shaven and their neat hair reflects the care they have taken with their appearance.
All are wearing enclosed footwear, having rejected thongs and sandals. These may seem tiny details, but their families know better and shake their heads in wonder. This place!
Many participants escort their families around the farm, exploring the gardens and taking pleasure from the peaceful surroundings. The families are in awe that the participants are responsible for the day- to- day running of the farm and are eager to hear of the role their family member plays.
The Sunday service is a time of celebration. It is a time of mending and a time of renewed respect for all present, for life, for those around us and for ourselves. It just happens that way. We are quickly discovering that it is not unusual to be touched by the participants at the farm.
One day we were very moved. The sharer at the Sunday service was a recovering gambler. His courage in sharing his story of childhood abuse and neglect that eventually led him to a life of gambling was astounding. We felt so touched, and it is amazing that when someone touches you, you feel this strong desire to reach out to them in return.
After the service, many congratulated this young man for his fortitude, with the hope that this strength was the beginning of a new life that would see him deal with his addiction.
We meet the people who run this place and each time marvel at their humility and incredible acceptance and skill in providing a firm yet forgiving environment in which these broken people may or may not heal.
They recognise that small steps here are big steps and give thanks and heartfelt congratulations for any movement towards wellbeing. Sometimes this is the first time for many years that the participants have had any reason for self- congratulation. It is totally unexpected and, after the life journey that brought us here, we feel privileged to be a part of this place.
thislife@ theaustralian. com. au