He was on Fairground Road near the dumpsters. His arms were heavily tattooed, and all of his teeth appeared to be missing. He might have weighed 110 pounds—only because he was soaking wet with sweat. It was 95º, and the sun was bearing down. A bicycle grasped in each hand, he clumsily trotted toward U.S. Highway 1. The bent rims and flattened tires on the two bikes did not make it any easier either. He appeared to be quite “an unsavory character.” Bill knew instinctively a great deal about this young man. There are way too many like him in and around Emanuel County.
Most people would have ignored him and sped past. Even others would have called the cops to report him. The police would have most likely found a reason to arrest him. “Just a filthy, good-for-nothing drug addict.”Bill had heard folks whisper such things behind his own back during that dark period in his life. He was sure people were saying the same about this fellow. Bill remembered how difficult it was to finally admit that he had a problem due to the stigma associated with drug addiction, yet if he wasn’t careful, he, too, could forget the depths from which he was delivered and pass judgment on this apparent vagabond. To do that, though, would be especially heinous and detrimental to Bill’s own recovery.
For an addict like Bill to recover, a spiritual awakening was needed. It took the ultimate awareness that his life had become unmanageable, that he had become powerless to quit on his own. He had to have the courage to ask for help and the willingness to accept it. He had to believe God was real and willing to help. In essence, Bill’s triumph over addiction was only possible through spiritual means. That required faith and since Bill had lost confidence in himself after numerous attempts to quit on his own, he had no faith left. Miraculously—and I do not use that term lightly—that is where God needed Bill to be. That was when the prideful, egotistical, and totally self-absorbed Bill G. reached his bottom. Up until that day, he had fooled himself into believing that he was an island, that he didn’t need any help from any source.
Out of desperation, Bill walked into the rooms of an anonymous 12-step program, although he doubted it would help him. Bill stumbled and fell many times, but he kept coming back. He saw people he knew were once as hopelessly addicted as he, yet they were now different. Their sunken eyes and permanently melancholy disposition were absent. They were laughing and joking. They were genuinely happy and carefree. That was how a tiny seed of faith was planted in Bill’s soul—not the misguided faith in self-sufficiency that he once had but the kind of faith that saves men’s souls. From that seed, nurtured with help from Bill’s fellows in recovery, his faith grew strong. Through dedication and hard work, he was granted sobriety, and his only payment due was to share what he had been given.
This is the reason Bill pulled alongside the sweaty, tattooed, and toothless bike handler—to ask him if he needed a ride. Sure, the fellow was a little leery of Bill. Still, he needed help. As the filthy young man sauntered nervously up to his driver’s side door, Bill reached out the window and offered his hand.
“Hello, I am Bill Genson. Can I give you a lift?” Bill followed up before giving the young addict a chance to refuse help (standard operating procedure for an addict). “If those bikes are not stolen, throw them in the bed of the truck, son, and get in.” Thirty seconds later, the two bikes were loaded into the truck, and this fellow was also about to get back there. He asked Bill, “Can you take me to ‘Altitudes’?” Bill knew this place as well as did every law officer in town. The cops were at that apartment complex almost every night for some drug-related incident or another.
“No, don’t get back there. Sit up here with me,” Bill insisted. Reluctantly, the fellow did as Bill had requested and sat up front with him in the F-150’s cab. Again, Bill introduced himself, and this time he got the proper reply.
“I am Roger Mctier. Thank you for the ride.”
“No problem, Roger, you’d have never made it there with both of those bikes on your own.”
Still a little nervous and suspicious, Roger said, “Thanks again. Most people would not have helped.”
Bill replied, “I am a recovering drug addict. It is what I am supposed to do.”
A bond of trust was established by Bill’s admission of being a recovering addict. Without hesitation, Roger began to admit that he was hopelessly addicted to methamphetamine. Then, Roger continued, “I am not in recovery, but I need to be. If I don’t quit, I will die soon. I haven’t slept in four days.”
Bill agreed with Roger unapologetically. “Yes, you will die soon if you keep using, but there is a way out.”
On the short trip to the apartments that are ironically referred to as “Luxury Suites,” Bill shared his own testimony. The two spoke of faith, hope, and living in the moment. The conversation was about redemption and renewal, freedom from self, and reliance on a power greater than yourself, about learning to live on life’s terms without using chemicals to change the way you feel.
Knowing all of this new information may be overwhelming, Bill ended with this one statement. “It’s about progress rather than perfection.”
In return, Bill received a promise from a broken addict. “I will come check out one of those meetings soon.”
(This is an accurate account of an event that occurred in September. Only the names have been changed to protect the anonymity of all involved. People are worth saving. Don’t ever write anyone off. Who knows? They may become a friend of Bill’s and go on the rescue others.)
Michael “Mike” Braswell is a graduate of Swainsboro High School and Swainsboro Technical College. He returned to Swainsboro after many years of living on the coast with his family. He loves fishing and hunting as well as traveling. Braswell is now retired and, when not partaking in one of the three before-mentioned activities, he spends much of his time with his three children and four grandchildren.