TAKE MY HAND and Come Out of the Fog

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When was the last time someone said take my hand and let me help you?.

When was the last time you offered a helping hand to someone?.

Does helping someone mean they have to have some dramatic or life threatening issue going on, maybe they're already on the road to healing and just need an extra hand or guidance.  I remember the first time i was in recovery in San Francisco, I was young and ready to experience a better quality of living but got sidetracked.  My life would change and my family would be told things that they would take as truth, but never once asking me.

This is my story of just a few key times I was offered a helping hand that made the difference.

In 1993 I arrived in San Francisco and stayed with my ex Yvette who for reasons I can't remember decided I no longer wanted to be with.  I was young and stupid but trusted this was my destiny in some way.  I moved in with her in SF for I believe a month until I found my own apartment.

I moved in to the new place and had a job with the competitor of the company I worked for in New York.  I rented this small apartment on Bush Street from this woman who I won't name because we all deserve second chances.

Four days later I remember being in my apartment and hearing the fire alarms going off, people were trapped in the building and I had gone out to the courtyard to find people throwing their pets to us in pillow cases.  We eventually had to move out to the street because this was now being called the largest 4 alarm fire in San Francisco.  This was all happening on the same night as the last episode of Cheers.

I remember sitting on the street, with my hands on my head staring at everything I own potentially going up in flames.  The streets were filled with news stations, fire trucks and everyone finally out of the building safely.  My ex who was still upset with me atleast showed up to bring me a sweater then left.  What was I supposed to do now.

The women who rented me the apartment, the onsite manager would now be by my side telling me things were going to be ok.  Red Cross put us up in a hotel and I of course end up sharing a room with the manager who was maybe 15 yrs older than me, and would later become my girlfriend.  I remember everything up to that moment in the hotel room when she and few of the tenants offer me what I think is a line of coke, I said yes because I was no stranger to and I never developed an addiction to it.  I was still naive to addiction, I thought addiction was for people who used needles and that was never me. They then left me alone while they went out for food, I remember sitting on the chair with my feet up because I was hallucinating.  Down on the ground I saw miniature fire trucks and fireman and they were talking to me, that's when I realized this was not cocaine. 

That moment would be the moment where I felt amazing for the first time, I didn't feel worried or scared.  For the next year I would now abuse this drug that I later found out was crystal meth, probably mixed with some other stuff. I would also learn the tenants were all addicts and the manager was the dealer.  Why did God guide me to this building with these people.  

During the next few months my sister would now be sent for me to care for her,  I was definitely not ready to be a parent but I did the best I could.  I would enroll her in school and looking back now we had some issues.  She soon went back to NY and would later return again with her son.  I would later experience the same responsibilities with my brother.  

I know I became resentful that I was placed in this parent role instead of just being a sibling.  They naturally would resent me for playing that role also.  We were all just screwed up kids in California with no adult guidance.

Over the next year my paranoia would increase and it was becoming harder for me to hide my addiction from my boss at work.  I knew I needed help, so I went to them and told them I needed help and instead of giving it to me they fired me.  Soon after, my mother showed up at my door for an intervention and I would go back to NY leaving my things behind to get an assessment from a drug counselor.

After 3 days in NY I refused to let this addiction ruin what was supposed to be my dream life in California.  So without the support of my family I would now return to SF to find I was locked out of my apartment, my belongings and cat held hostage.  In the eyes of the drug counselors I was not bad enough to be in an inpatient program, so I would now go to outpatient program that was too expensive for me to finish.

I was alone, no job, no money, no belongings but determined to overcome this disease and make it in California.  3 weeks into treatment I could no longer afford the room I was renting, so I shared about this in a meeting. I would now meet the woman who would be my new roommate.  A week or two passed and I remember having this massive headache and pain in my neck and fever, I was at a large sober picnic.  I jumped in a cab to go home and felt I was going to lose consciousness so I called an ambulance and left my door open.  I arrive in the ER and the doctor said I had aseptic meningitis.  My roommate was called and she said I had to have been on drugs to the doctor and my mother, she would now be kicking me out.  My mother then called the doctor and said that I must have been on drugs and to please drug test me.

It didn't matter what I said.  So after the doctor tested me I now had this major resentment against everyone especially when the doctor confirmed I was clean.  I have a few hundred dollars in my account and the cash I had on me was stolen from the hospital. Before I moved in with the woman I had placed an ad looking for a room, It was now June 1st my birthday and I was still in the hospital and I get this call.

This will be my first major HELPING HAND.  His name is Robert Goins and he was responding to the ad I placed, I told him it was my birthday and I was in the hospital and I would be out in a few days.  I then said I was around 45 days clean and sober and I had very little money, no belongings, no job and that I had nowhere to go after the hospital.  I promised him I would find a job as soon as I got out.

He responded, "Well I have a room and its yours, It has a mattress and sheets, pillows and a towel for you".  "I'm sure you will figure things out but the room is yours".  Then he gave me the address.  

I now lived around the corner from Safeway off Market Street near the Castro. Robert and I got along so well, I loved everything about him. He was so generous and caring, honest and he didn't know anything about me. At least not yet. 

As promised I started looking for work but first I had to find an attorney to take on my wrongful eviction case against the onsite manager, ex girlfriend who kept all my belongings.

This would now be my next major HELPING HAND.

I arrive at the offices of Calloway and Wolf for an appointment I made with attorney Robert DeVries.  He reviewed my claim and said something like he wasn't sure if he could get me anything.  I told him the whole story, I told him I was in recovery and determined to stay clean, I believe I told him about being in the hospital and my new roommate.  I also told him I didn't have a job or any money.

He then left me in the conference room and spoke to the owners Boone Calloway and Carl Wolf about my case.  I'm not sure of the order of this happening but Robert returned and took on my case not only for the wrongful eviction but they would now hire me as the new full-time receptionist.  Shortly after that the other attorney Carrie would win my case for backpay with the company that fired me.

I now had a job and money in savings and for the next year I had time to focus on my recovery.  Later I was fired from the law firm and I don't believe I did anything wrong, I don't even think I called in sick but I know the other attorneys went to bat for me.  I saw it as a blessing, I needed a job that required very little thinking so I could get well.  I then got a job as a part-time delivery person for UPS, after a month or so making $8.50 hour, 3 hours a day I knew I would have to quit and look for something more.

I arrived at work one day and someone left behind a package for 101 California which is not on my route.  This building to me was jinxed ever since the shooting back in July of 1993, but I always wanted to do a good job so I delivered it.  I exited the elevator and took 3 steps towards the receptionist and walked right into a glass wall.  My glasses broke and blood was pouring down my face, I was stunned and speechless.  My supervisors came and walked me to the doctors who then placed me on light duty.

This would now be the third major HELPING HAND.

I would now be working 5 hours instead of 3 in Marina dispatch center of the UPS hub, after a few weeks they loved me and asked if I would like to become a part-time supervisor with a substantial pay increase.  I took a test and passed with flying colors.  I believe within the next 2 years I was asked if I would go after a full-time supervisor position which was harder to get.  I would have to take a long profile test and get through a panel interview.  I again passed with flying colors and would now earn a very good career as a UPS supervisor for the next 13 years.

I believe I've always been the kind of person to help strangers, but I know that these three events that showed me the kindness of people that saw my honesty and commitment instead of my troubles, this is the stuff that shaped me.  This is just who I am now, I've always been the one to extend a hand if I could.  I remember at one point as a new supervisor at UPS I had maybe 4 people living in my studio apartment until they could get on their feet.

Helping people didn't always work out in my favor and I have been screwed more than a few times, thats the chance you take.  Thats the chance that was taken on me.

We can't always help everyone all the time, but when your gut says to do so think about how it may change the whole direction of that persons life.

Over time, with each Helping Hand the fog cleared just a little bit more.  Over the next 20 something years life would happen and that fog would return and it would feel lonely, but again it was the kindness and helping hands of sometimes the people that knew me less.  Maybe because they weren't judging me on my past, but just helping me at the moment. 

Each lending hand played a big part in showing me a way out of the fog slowly, helping me strengthen my faith and guiding me through to clearer path.  Without that help, the 16 years I spent in California would have been completely different.  

Today I learn to accept what I have and slowly heal the past as I'm ready.

Mucho Love and Gratitude to everyone who helped me in Cali and the ones still encouraging me everyday.

Thank you Yvette for making my transition to San Francisco possible and now many years later still have encouraging words and support for me.

Jamie Jones

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