The Newcomer

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story of a newcomer to a narcotics anonymous meeting
The Newcomer

So, I’m standing outside a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting I’ve never been to before, smoking a cigarette and checking the time on my phone. It’s 6:52 pm, and there are only two other people standing with me. I had hoped that by arriving early I might get a chance to meet some new people, and was disappointed at the turnout only minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start.

thenewcomer
thenewcomer

I’m not even sure if both these men are actually here for the meeting, as one of them is a uniformed police officer. I wonder if he’s here hoping to serve a warrant or to pick someone up on a probation violation. I feel irritated at the possibility that he would use someone’s appearance at an NA meeting to arrest them. I ask the other guy, “Are you here for the 7:00 pm meeting?”

“Yup,” he says, “and here comes the lady with the keys to open up,” as another car pulled into the lot.

“Oh, okay. Well, I’m Kyle. I’m new around here.”

“I’m Warren. Good to meet you,” he says.

I’m about to stick out my hand, and then I remewmber the NA tradition of greeting everyone with a hug. I find this practice a tad silly, especially between grown men, but I scold myself internally for resisting a practice meant to make people feel more loved, so I reach my arms out toward this potbellied 50-something-year-old leaning against his pickup truck.

Warren hugs me back; however, based on the look on his face, he appears to have shared my feelings on the practice being a bit much. Now I wish I’d just shaken his hand.

Six or seven more people arrive over the next few minutes; and everyone, including the police officer, goes inside. I see him take out a notepad when he sits down, and I think oohhh, the local police force must ask officers to observe Twelve Step meetings to help them better understand drug offenders. That’s nice, although it does seem like coming in full uniform may discourage people from sharing openly . . .

So, I decide to ask him, “Are you just here to observe?”

He looks slightly offended, and says, “Nope, I’m here for the meeting, just like you.”

Now I feel like a complete jerk. This is just a cop in recovery. What brave humility it takes to come to a meeting directly from his job as a police officer, and how judgmental and nearsighted of me to disqualify him as a fellow addict just because he’s a cop.

I stand up, give him an earnest smile, open up my arms for a hug, and say, “Well, I’m sorry for assuming otherwise. I’m Kyle.”

“I’m Jeremy,” he says, but pauses a beat before standing. He does rise to return my hug, but he pats me on the back as if consoling a child, and I realize that the zeal with which I hugged him to compensate for my indiscretion must have made me seem a little emotionally unstable myself. When I sit down and look around the room, the general discomfort on everyone’s face indicates that this opinion is pretty widely held.

After an awkward silence, the woman to my left says, “Okay, well, let’s get started. Maybe we should all introduce ourselves. I’m Mary Benson.”

When after a beat, she doesn’t qualify herself as an addict, I realize that’s her right. I cheerfully chime back, “Hi, Mary.” But no chorus of echoed greeting is behind me, and my sing-song response sounds odd on its own. She turns to me.

“I’m Kyle, and I’m an addict.” I say.

Instantly, I feel the whole room exhale with sudden understanding.

“Oh, sweetie,” Mary says. “This is a Marlborough Township Committee meeting. Your meeting is downstairs at 7:30.”

The moment was mildly awkward, but mostly I felt a general sense of relief from everyone that I was not just some affection-starved weirdo coming to hug everyone in their meeting. At my actual meeting, I also came off like a weirdo by inappropriately bursting into stifled laughter during a reading when my mind thought back to the ridiculousness of the fact that I had just vigorously hugged a random police officer. At least by then I was with my people, where weirdos are as welcome as everyone else.

In Memoriam

Kyle Fisher-Hertz, a devoted father and loving son, grandson, brother and uncle, had been battling addiction for several years. He helped many fellow addicts achieve sobriety, and had been in recovery for most of 2016 before his final relapse killed him.

In 2011 and 2012, he served as a tutor-instructor for the AmeriCorps City Year program in an inner city elementary school in Seattle and was voted to be their graduation speaker. Kyle was fluent in Spanish and traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2007 to help build a home in a rural village for Habitat for Humanity. From 2005 to 2008, he performed standup comedy at clubs in Las Vegas, New York City, Beacon and Poughkeepsie, New York. He also performed on television shows in Los Angeles. He held numerous jobs, from soda jerk at an ice cream shop, to Hertz car rental sales associate, to ditch digger in the Las Vegas heat.

He left college to address his addiction issues, and for the next four years was enrolled in several drug rehabilitation programs in Massachusetts and California. In 2013, Kyle was accepted at the University of Washington, where he planned to major in biology and neuroscience.

Kyle was an avid skier and loved rock climbing. He also loved ping pong, Texas Hold ‘Em, and weight lifting. He regularly defeated anyone who dared to play him in Scrabble and left multiple online games half-finished when he died. He was an avid reader of modern fiction and nonfiction books on science and psychology. He loved watching Phillies games with his dad.

In 2014, his daughter, Magdalene “Maggie” Jean, was born. He is also survived by his partner, Amber Cockrell; his mother and her wife, Lanette and Renee Sweeney; his father, Lawrence A. Hertz; his sister, Jamie Fisher-Hertz; his sister and her husband, Amy and Brian Gonzalez; his nephews, Julian and Logan Gonzalez; his grandmother, Gail Perry; cousins Joshua and Cathy Hertz and Daniel and Beth Hertz; his uncle and aunt, John and Gevene Hertz; and several second cousins and other loving relatives and friends.

Last year, Kyle moved to California where he became very close with his daughter. He loved wrestling with her, throwing her in the air, giving her under-doggies on the swing, swimming with her, reading to her, drawing funny faces with her and snuggling her to sleep.

A fund was established to provide for Maggie’s future. You may contribute online through a Go Fund Me account at
www.gofundme.com/kylefisherhertz

Help and support is within reach for you or a loved one battling addiction. Explore InRecovery’s national addiction treatment center directory now.
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