I took a very public direction in my recovery recently, and I gave an interview to a respected (and apparently widely read) columnist at the Denver Post about this blog.
The article choked me up a bit, it is unnerving to see my words and my story outlined so well on page 2 of a major daily newspaper – plus I am a sucker for good writing, and Tina Griego painted a detailed picture in 850 words of a decade of grief.
I wrote a while back about the deceptive curtain that alcoholics hide behind, and that eventually, the greatest fear, and the best blessing is when that curtain is lifted and its discovered that the wizard is just a man. Well, suprise, I am not a wizard.
I was extremely hesitant about using my real name in the story – at first it was because I write about several of the guys on the ranch who are with me and didn’t want to compromise their privacy, and, deep down, it was because I was a little ashamed that the whole city would know what I was doing, why I disappeared, and be public participants in a personal, intimate struggle.
The greatest rewards come when you take the greatest risks, and I permitted my real name and the blog address (which I kept confidential from the ranch guys), and closed my eyes, plugged my nose, and jumped right in.
I suppose I was ashamed because developing an alcohol addiction is so tied up in shame, in failures, it seems like it only happens to ‘those kinds of people,’ and now, here I was, one of ‘those people’ and the whole city knew it. They would laugh at me, or shake their heads and say, “Oh that explains it.”
None of that happened.
I received letters and messages from friends and family, all but one of them positive (the only snide comment came from a fellow alcoholic who’s bitter sentiment was to be expected. As a side note, I find it the highest form of hypocrisy when a seasoned alcoholic tells a recovering alcoholic, “Isn’t part of rehab making amends? Its OK, I forgive you”).
I received notes from former co-workers that wanted to reconnect and keep in touch with me. Strangers offered their stories of how alcohol has affected them, how it has affected people close to them. Families wanted to know how to get the kind of treatment I was getting and where. A dialogue had been opened because an undeserving victim of alcohol decided to tell and even embrace the story of an alcoholic, to get some insight, and to offer hope that not every story has to end the way hers did.
Tina wrote to me after the article had been published and said, “By now, I should no longer be surprised by how many people alcoholism/addiction affects, but I still am.” This comes from a seasoned veteran of daily news, in my estimation she’s seen it all, and yet, this still shocks her.
And the article strengthened my resolve that this is the only solution for the problems I had created for myself, that the absolute end to the part of my life that included alcohol as a companion was the only was I would live. I don’t look at my recovery as a shameful venture, as something that I need to hide or avoid in subject. Alcoholism affects so many people and when people talk about it, there is a relief, a collective exhale. That feeling of, “I am not the only one, my family isn’t the only family,” lifts a great burden.
One person wrote, “Alcohol wants to kill you, but first it wants to get you alone,” this resonated with me. It certainly tried to isolate me. I cried a little when I read this because it was so true, in my case and the case of most of my friends. And perhaps the systematic rehabilitation of entire families lies in the ability to talk openly about it, like people talk about cancer.
I’m thinking too globally at the moment, but when I get out of here, it may be one of my goals, to make something like this happen. To create awareness, to lessen burdens, and to help people get help. It all started with an article superbly written by a journalist who wanted to deliver a message of hope, and she used my story to help her tell it. In the process, I have gained a friend and I hope she gets some insight to her father’s torment when she reads the blog. She told me that she knows that her father knew he hurt people, and this contributed to his depletion of spirit, it certainly contributed to mine. But the cathartic release of this knowledge by acknowledgement in this blog is sucking the grief out of me. To share this with Tina, well, this is the greatest honor.
Life at the ranch has been hectic to say the least. Today is the LAST day I will spend in phase 2 – tomorrow I phase to phase 3 – all my homework is finally finished. I think I have an awesome job lined up. I’ve got to wait (and this time I don’t mind).
When I blog later this week, I will catch you up on the Addictions 2 part of the program, I am knee deep in it – and the transition from the safety of farm life to real life is a precarious one, and a misstep can be catastrophic. I’ll also be catching you up on life here at the Ranch. It’s been more than a little fun. I took the picture at the top of this blog of Lane the other night, we were bored and he dressed up in a goofy outfit. I snapped the photo and told him I would post it because in a year, when the stress of real life is upon him, he can look at it and remember what a blast he had in rehab. If you look closely, there is a banner behid him that says 'Hope' - it wasn't planned but its certainly in the right place.
Then I mentioned, when I look back, I will look at this as a SUPER fun year. I used to think of this as a year away from my real life, but this has been the most productive year in my life – the changes, the friends, my health, my growth, I resurrected a spirit, and that doesn’t happen too often.
The guys on the ranch read the article and my celebrity was a good 13 minutes long (I was promised 15 minutes). It wasn’t long before they began hassling me about how long I take in the bathroom, my cooking, I have too many clothes and I am hogging the closet, even about my weight, my friend Brian said, “Its true, the newspaper DOES add 15 pounds to you,” Nothing like good friends to keep it real, eh?
I will say, I feel none of the usual stress of this time of year, and feel hopeful and confident. The fear of relapse weighed heavily on me, but in my conversation with Tina, she predicted something that has really changed my perspective, she gave me a gift she may not know she even offered.
Tina told me with some degree of certainty that she predicts that by the end of this program, I will no longer fear relapse, or fear anything for that matter. She said that in reading my progress from the first blog to the most recent, she believes that I am heading to a place where the fear of relapse no longer keeps me up at night. This, somehow, comforted me. Finally, the end is in sight, to someone at least.
DAYS SOBER: 211 Days
DAYS SINCE I WATCHED BONNIE HUNT SHOW: 203 Days