There was a kid in high school everyone used to call Stiffy. He had a monotone voice and was freakishly thin. People were terrible to him. Including me.
For you to understand what I’m about to get into, a review of the 12 Steps of Recovery are in order, with special emphasis on 8 and 9:
1. We admitted we were powerless over [insert addiction. Here’s mine]—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. [Here’s what I’ve come to believe]
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
So I’ve been thinking about Stiffy a lot these days. Actually, let’s scrub that nickname for the rest of this post. The name allegedly comes from him getting an erection in the shower of the boy’s locker room, but I wasn’t there and tend to doubt it.
I haven’t seen or heard from him since the day we graduated 21 years ago. I often wonder where he is, what he’s doing and if he’s ok.
He was the kid everyone made fun of — brutally. And I was probably one of the biggest offenders for the first two and a half years of high school.
On the surface he took our taunts with an expressionless face. How he reacted out of view I can only imagine.
There were a lot of bullies at Northeast Regional Metro Tech (it used to be “Vocational School” and we all called it the Voke) and I was made fun of a lot. I was picked on for being fat, for my lack of skill in sports and other things real or imagined.
So what did I do after being picked on? I turned around, found the kids who were more “pathetic” than me and attacked them verbally and physically. Mostly verbal, but I remember throwing punches at some point. Some of it was the reaction to getting picked on. Most of it was from the growing chip on my shoulder over my brother’s death and other unpleasantness at 22 Lynnway in Revere.
By junior year, I had lost a lot of weight and grown my hair long. I was deeply into metal music by then and I started to make friends among some of the so-called metalheads. He had also latched onto metal as a refuge from his pain (he was also pretty religious), and we started to relate over music.
Junior and senior year I made a big effort to be nicer to him, and in the mornings before classes began I would hang out with him. Or, I should say, I let him follow me around. I was still a jerk but was trying to be nice because I was under the influence of another brother, Sean Marley.
So why have I been thinking about him? Because in working the 12 steps for my program of recovery from addiction, I’m currently fixated with the steps about making a list of people you’ve harmed and making amends.
If anyone out there has seen him, let me know how he’s doing and, if you have it, pass along his contact info. I haven’t seen him on Facebook yet. I’ve removed his real name at the suggestion of someone with more scruples than I have. But some of you are probably familiar with him and the things that happened.
Hopefully he’s still alive. That alone would make me feel better.
At our 20-year high school reunion last year, someone mentioned seeing him at a bus stop going to work.
That’s encouraging news, at least.