The power of The Habit of Getting Back Up was really brought home to me about a year ago when I met Harold.
I was purchasing a couple of shirts in a downtown department store and Harold was assisting me.
Most of us have experienced the frustration of poor customer service and Harold single-handedly wiped most of my memories of those experiences from my mind by the courteous way in which he treated me.
Something about him compelled me to ask him a few questions about himself and his story, which unfolded over several return visits to make additional purchases, is a testament to the indomitability of the human spirit
Harold’s father, along with several of his friends, introduced him to beer when he was nine years old and by the time he was 11 he was drinking two cans each day with his dad.
By age 14 Harold was a full-fledged alcoholic and was expelled from school for constant disruptive behaviour. He remembers his father telling him that night to “have a couple of drinks and you’ll feel better.” By age 16 Harold had already been kicked out of two rehab centres facilities and came to fully believe that he would not see live long enough to celebrate his 20th birthday.
With no education and no marketable job skills his future looked bleak but there was a teeny spark, very deep down within him, urging him to keep trying and so he tried over and over again to quit drinking.
He would be sober for a few days and then succumb to the temptation of “just one drink” and wake up the next morning with a blistering hangover and a sense of being knocked to the ground one more time.
Each time this happened that tiny spark brightened just enough to remind him to keep fighting and he would try again.
He drifted from city to city and job to job trading his meagre skills for a few dollars and then trading those few dollars for as much alcohol as they would buy.
He repeated the cycle of quitting, drinking and vowing to beat this, quitting, drinking and vowing to beat this.
By his own admission alcohol beat him into submission more times than he can remember but to his credit he kept getting back up and trying again.
Finally, after joining his eighteenth AA group, that spark inside him suddenly developed into a full-fledged flame and he experienced his first ever full week of sobriety, and then two weeks, and then a month and, to his absolute delight a year.
He went back to school, completed his GED and started taking courses at local colleges. He constantly tried to upgrade himself by applying for better and better jobs only to deal with an endless stream of rejection.
He finally landed a position with a national chain of department stores where I met him. He has been with that company for 11 years, has achieved several promotions and is presently a department head.
He tells me that this is the first place he has ever worked where he has felt accepted by all and judged by none.
His coworkers and bosses are all aware of his past and from the day he started they provided him with nothing but encouragement.
Today, Harold leads a full life. He has a full-time job which he loves and spends most evenings attending AA meetings as both a member and as a sponsor. He has patiently guided more than a dozen alcoholics down the path to sobriety.
He also volunteers at a local homeless shelter as a counsellor and is a friend for any of the folks there who need one.
He believes The Habit of Getting Back Up – that flame that grew from a spark within him is what kept him trying over and over again he always knew that if he just bounced back one more time than he was knocked down he would eventually stay on his feet long enough to win the battle.
He has been sober now for more than 14 years. He lives in the small condo that he is working diligently to pay off and spends every waking moment, be it in work-life or in his volunteer-life, in service to others
His message to all he helps is a simple one. It doesn’t matter how often you get knocked down. What matters is that you never stay down.
The Habit of Getting Back Up gave Harold a new lease on life as it will for all who choose to adopt it.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.