I grew up in Mtn. View, California and at the age of 17, I found myself at a crossroads. Once my addiction had reached the point of requiring professional help, my Mom and I went to see a doctor that specialized in chemical dependency. When the doctor came to greet us, he was not what I expected. He was an older gentleman that appeared as if he only knew medicine rather than being able to possibly comprehend what I was going through. He sat us down and said to my Mom…”You are basically putting Band-Aids on the problem…if your son does not stop what he’s doing…he’s going to die.” I could tell my Mom was fighting back the tears and doing her best to remain strong. The doctor went on to tell us about a treatment center in Minnesota that could help.
There is a Woody Allen saying that is often misquoted as “90 percent of life is just showing up.” What he actually said was "Showing up is 80 percent of life. Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both.” (New York Times, August 21, 1977). I find that showing up is terribly important, because for me it has been difficult.
Currently there is a situation in my life that doesn’t have any direct impact on me, and yet it’s been on my mind and on my heart. Someone I love is struggling. It’s deep and painful, and it’s difficult to watch. I’ve often thought that if I had to choose between my own heartbreak, and the heartbreak of someone I love, I would choose my own time and time again.
This weekend, I will be an A.A. Speaker at the “Rogue Roundup” in Grant’s Pass, Oregon. Although I have spoken at a number of A.A. roundups, this will be the first one on the west coast. I’m the last of nine speakers, most from California, and I follow the famous Clancy I. One difference between the Los Angeles speakers and myself is that I don’t have a dramatic drinking story. I drank quietly, and I never got arrested. Because I don’t have a “war story” to present, I’m going with four important things I’ve learned in A.A. so far.
Most people ask this at some point in their lives. I started out confused. I came from a crazy, violent alcoholic family in the 1950’s that also had upper middle class Republican Party professional values. I was expected to do well in school, go to college and graduate school, have a profession and be a success. I was also torn to shreds, physically and emotionally for any real or imaginary flaw. I drank and drugged every hour of every day from age 10 to age 40. Thirty years of struggle to be somebody. I collected an education and a profession, one confused academic credit at a time. Then I got sober and suddenly, I was fully conscious. Now, what?
I’m a big fan of the word grace. Not just because it’s a pretty and hopeful word, but because of the significance it holds in recovery and in life in general.
So there I was, preparing to present to my home group, praying that I might learn something new, at least for me, in the very preparation. You would think I would have learned by now to be careful what I pray for – how often have I gotten it! Yes, the Divine struck yet again and here is what I learned:
For the American public, addiction is a taboo but extremely common topic. Children take drug education classes beginning in middle school, learning that drugs will 'fry their brain' and cause them to become a ‘burnout’ or a failure. People frequently joke that something is ‘like crack’ or that they are ‘shopaholics.’ Some of the most heated political debates center on issues like drug testing for welfare recipients or the legalization of marijuana.
Even though over 23 million Americans are in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, it seems that many who aren’t still do not know how to address addiction when they encounter it in their everyday lives.