Hosting a pastry chef: a silver lining from my past


There’s the expression, “if life gives you lemons…”  Well, sometimes the decisions I have made in my past while using drugs or trying to save others in early recovery were more akin to inviting lemons into my house to stay for a while.  And to be accurate, I have at times been under the illusion of doing the latter (saving) while  stuck in the trap of the former (using).  Self-deception is the one of the most dangerous places for this (or any) addict to be…

Let’s just say – I’ve learned my lesson and will not be extending an invitation to “friends” to crash here, recover here, or anything remotely similar.  This needs to be my safe haven, and so far, my ability to help others in my home have been disastrous.

Having said that, I’ve often said “If ever I were to write a book…”  Well, why not share some stories here?!  Because after all, these weren’t bad people…just people making bad choices.  They, like any of us, do have gifts to offer the world.  And in many cases, I’ve learned something from them. As an empath, I’m often been able to see something worth saving, even when they can’t see it for themselves. [Likewise, of course, I can’t see it in myself at times…especially during my own using days.] I’ve often thought – if the world could just see and celebrate your “name his gift,” or “name his passion” or “name his talent”  — there might be hope for them to turn around.  [And in my own dark days…if I could see the same in myself, hope for me to stay true to my path.]

So, here is my…
Silver Lining Series – Story #1.  The Pastry Chef.

When I first met C., he struck me as confident, mature and a “winner” as they say in the rooms…someone who would make it. So years later, when he got out of prison and sought my help in finding support, a healthy living environment, and resources to get back on his feet, I shared as much current information from my network as I could. He seemed to take to it, doing the legwork to connect, get into “rehab,” and find work. As I talked with him, I discovered he was an experienced pastry chef…a baker…and that struck a chord with me. I could see his interest in getting back into that work, in perhaps even starting his own business. The future seemed promising…

C. needed some transitional living (days…) to wait out his intake for a local treatment facility and extended halfway house/program. I invited him I to my home. During his brief time, he and I shared time baking…and he taught me things about quick breads, the “chemistry” behind some baking techniques, and the value,of weighing vs measuring (European vs. American style recipes :). We even took one of my moms ‘s “mainstay” recipes – Banana Bread – and experimented with approaches, ingredients, and technique…literally “benchmarking” my normal way of making it with his “training.” And let me tell you…there IS a marked difference. Hands down, his baseline was better tasting and especially better looking. And then he built on that – adjusted some ingredients, like the sugars, and added a touch of spice…and transformed the recipe to yet another level. Amazing. So I now have a new and improved version on mom’s recipe…a gift from his time and his passion.

For that experience and that gift, I’m grateful…

I hope he makes it. I wish I now had more confidence than hope…as my one boss used to say, hope is not a strategy. Setting aside the spiritual gap in that thinking, there are dark clouds on the horizon…the lemonade is at risk of being spoiled…

I also learned that coupled with his outward confidence and “get go” came compulsive lying, manipulation, and a lack of authenticity. Those are challenging bad traits for anyone to have, but for an addict…they can be deadly. He took advantage of me while also sharing his gifts…and in the end, our friendship crumbled. He was recently re-arrested on violation of his parole, and his back in jail/prison.

Still – he’s not a bad person.  He’s not a liar or manipulator…those are labels I try to avoid (just like “good” or “bad.) Again, he’s just a man making bad choices – and I’ve been there, done that.  It doesn’t make us good or bad people.  But, his behaviors weren’t consistent with his words — and I value honesty and truthfulness in my friendships.

Like many home comers, he’s likely influenced by the “system” and the old habits and people he clung to.  Again, I’ve struggled at times with the same battles…  I’m not judging or condemning him.  In contrast, I’m really trying to celebrate and shine a light on his talents, his passions, and the growth and learning I gained from our time together.  But, he was here for a reason or a season…for now, that season is on pause…hopeful and optimistic pause, but pause nonetheless.

I hope he does make it…because he has much to offer the world. Like we each do…no matter how dark the clouds can get, they should never let us be fooled into believing otherwise.

But I am also reminded of the words of my first sponsor. “Most of us won’t make it.” Many of us won’t?! “No, most of us…”

Here’s to you C. May you find yourself before it’s too late…before this ugly disease takes you out. You’re worth it.

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ctfuqua

At 42, my life is in transition. I have always been a “glass half full” sort of guy. Now more than ever I see life as full of possibilities and the world full of beautiful people possessing unique and often untapped talents. I’m a learner and connector, seeking ways to leverage the abundance in this world through strong community.

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