“Read this 5 times a day for 5 days. It will CHANGE your life.” Those words from her lips I can still hear as if it were just a moment ago. It was September, 2006. She was my substitute counselor that day, for just ONE day. Because, as fate would have it, my regular counselor, the one I’d been seeing every day for 3 weeks just “happened” to be gone that day. I was in a volunteer rehabilitation program, my first stint at trying to overcome a “cunning, baffling, and powerful disease.”
Life hasn’t been the same since. After that day, I noticed she was the LIFE of the program, a counselor who zipped from one meeting to another, always full of energy, sometimes running across the courtyard in her bare feet. Everyone looked up to her, including the other counselors, even though she was the youngest and least experienced by far. But the effect, the impact, the everlasting impression she made on me that day, I’ll never forget, nor will I ever be able to repay her kindness. Her name I only knew her by was “Montica.” The vibrant, youthful woman in her mid-30’s or so, who had suffered cardiac arrest and nearly died just a few years earlier after several years of oxycontin and alcohol abuse, was on the rise. And fast.
I remember the day clearly. I walked into the building that housed all the counselor’s offices, to visit Rhonda, who was my regular therapist, and to my surprise they said she was gone that day. So they sent me to Montica. When I walked in, still feeling unsure and uneasy about the whole experience of rehab, I was immediately struck by her presence; youthful, slender, blond, seemingly care-free, but oh so intuitive. Determined too. She had the look of someone who’d seen enough of the bad side of life and wasn’t about to waste one second of the new life she’d been given.
As we talked, I remember asking her this question; “What is it exactly? I don’t “get” this whole one day at a time and living in the moment business.” She looked at me, paused, and said, “Where are you?” “Sitting right here in front of you”, I replied. “Okay, where’s your legs?” she said in return. I thought wow, this chick is WEIRD. Nevertheless, I went along. I looked at her firmly, and said with a stern voice while pointing to my legs, “Here!”
“Where’s your feet?” Now I was getting more than a little exasperated. “What the hell is she talking about?” I wondered aloud to myself. I hadn’t known her more than 5 minutes and yet I was already getting more than a little peeved that Rhonda wasn’t there. Still, I soldiered on with this tete-a-tete, after all, I never did back down from anyone or anything in my life.
Gamely, I replied, “My right foot is on the floor, and my left foot is resting just above my right kneecap.”
My left foot dropped to the floor, barely beating my jaw on the way down. Silence. From there, it was all uphill. Conversation followed, most of it quite animated and emotional from both sides. We laughed. I cried. I always do. Doesn’t take much for a sentimental teddy bear like me to shed a tear, especially when she told me her story. After I shared some of mine, she could tell I had a LOT to learn about patience and acceptance of my fate in what I thought was a facility from hell.
As we wrapped up our ONE and ONLY private meeting, she pulled out a 3×5 pad of paper, wrote those infamous, life-changing words, pulled the sheet off the pad, and handed it to me.
Over 5 years later, a time during which I made yet another stab back at the same facility, fell deeper and deeper into disarray, confusion, chaos, violence, depression, and despair, the loss of my job, a temporary loss of freedom, leaving my home for nearly a year, then moved back to that same home for almost a year more, a new job, recovery, release, only to pack up just the necessities of what was needed to start over, selling everything else, my furniture, a vehicle, moving 1400 miles west to California, graduating from a rigorous accelerated paralegal program, finding solace and comfort with my little sister, and finally starting to get those same two feet firmly planted, establishing roots once more, that tiny slip of paper, somewhat faded now, but intact, is STILL with me.
Why? It’s a gift from above, a message of HOPE that I’ve been divinely led to give back to humanity. I’ve said it so many times to so many people, in so many different situations or forums, both privately and publicly, including THIS one, as well as my facebook page called “Gusto”, those words have meaning, value, and far more reaching impact than just for those who are “in the program.” THESE words apply to a program called LIFE. They apply to every single one of you reading this. I don’t care who you are, whether you’re considered a success or otherwise, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, or social status, these words, these simple words, can and WILL have more of a lasting and positive impact on your life, as well as everyone around you, than you could imagine:
            “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.
            When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place,
            thing, or situation…some fact of my life…unacceptable to me,
            and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place,
            thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to
            be at this MOMENT. Nothing, absolutely nothing, “happens”
            in God’s world by mistake. Unless I accept life completely,
            on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not
            so much as on what needs to be changed in the world as on
            what needs changed in me and in my attitudes.” ~ P. 417
Something to consider and think about, yes? Life is simple. There’s a little bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us. We each have a right to be here, and with this knowledge, it makes it easier to accept others without judgment. It’s wiser instead for each of us to judge ourselves by our actions rather than our intentions. After all, that’s how others will judge us, and in the end, by the One who created us to begin with.
Thank you Montica! 🙂
  1. I knew I was drawn to you for a reasom.. I too am a friend of Bill.w but when I read that the first time it was on page 449 lol
    third addition. I sobered up at 19 God willing Feb 18 2012 I will have 24 years. Best gift that was ever given to me Thnks for shring.
    p.s I get your posts everday

  2. Thank you Shaunna, and thank you for sharing your thoughts on Facebook as well.


  3. This is excellent, Gus! Thank you!!

    • You’re welcome and thank you Cynthia. Montica was something special, a real ball of energy. Hard to believe she nearly died but once she came out the other side, she grabbed hold of life and shook it. I’ll never forget her or that day.

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