There had to be a moment

There had to be a moment

Twenty-five years ago, I left behind lies, deceit, alcohol, and drugs, and I found enough of me left to recover


What a wonder to awaken each morning. Blue or gray, the sky's always around. And the sun. And whoever in whose eyes you're reflected, so you can see for yourself that yes, you're alive. And even better, that you're living.

Today, as habit has it, I enjoyed my morning joe with Morning Joe. For those who aren't early-hour TV buffs, Morning Joe's a cable program that's on every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m.

The hosts introduced Zosia (say “Sasha” with a Z) Mamet of the cast of Girls, a much-lauded half-hour on HBO. Ms. Mamet is also a contributor to Glamour, which has just published a piece she wrote about her recovery from an eating disorder.

After telling her story, of loss of control of a pathological preoccupation with her size, Ms. Mamet was asked how she was able to overcome.

In a few compelling words, she told of her dad - David Mamet, the playwright - coming into the house, walking purposefully to her, grabbing her shoulders, looking into her eyes, and saying, “You can't die.”

You can't die.

The journey from those words to the words “to life” could be, as the old song says, “as far as the journey from here to a star” or as close as the distance between you and your own hand - your own hello to who you really are.

Zosia Mamet's father's words were clearly her turning point. Whether either Mamet knew it or not, she was ready to hear them.

I wish her well with all my heart - her and every young person who finds her - or himself engaged in combat with the demons that work to convince us that we're not enough. That “me being me” isn't as valid as “you being you.”

* * *

For all of us in recovery, there had to be that moment. That moment when we heard. That moment when we listened to a parent, or spouse, or child, or friend, or to the best friend we'll ever have - our own self.

That moment when the force that seemed stronger than you was taken off life support - that point at which you were no longer going to feed it the energy it needed to run the show.

When my own turning point came, I couldn't tell you. I think with me it was a series of memories piling up on one another, memories that I couldn't shake.

Like the Valentine's Day I sat alone in a threadbare red terrycloth robe with two bakery-quality heart-shaped cookies on the coffee table and a never-empty glass of Tanqueray and Coachella Valley grapefruit juice. I was my own date. I was my own companion. I was my own not-funny-at-all Valentine, until I was no longer there.

Like the time I dropped an open vial of white powder on the marble floor of the gentlemen's salle de bain in Le Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, and got down on hands and knees to scoop up what I could. There I was: all decked out in Hickey-Freeman and Turnbull & Asser, yet bare inches from the bowl itself.

Like the so many times I finally saw - on a staircase, on an elevator, in the garbage-can area outside a brownstone - that I had to prep for every occasion by anesthetizing myself with whatever I could consume between my own front door to wherever I was going.

Sweeping entrances. Talking a mile a minute. Saying... saying...?

Those lies, that deceit, that palpable lack of integrity became part of who I was becoming.

* * *

In 1988, I admitted my powerlessness, started attending 12-step programs (Al-Anon first, then Alcoholics Anonymous) and found that there was enough left of me to recover. That I did not want to die.

On March 3, 2014, I forgot to celebrate my 25th year in recovery. When I noticed that some weeks later, it was with more of a “Gee, look at that!” than with a “Wow, how could I have forgotten? Not good to forget.”

Truth be told, I've never been as happy to forget something in my life.

Don't get me wrong. I'm as proud, as thrilled, as awestruck by how I've lived these 25 years as I possibly could be.

The best part is that I don't beat myself up about anything anymore. Do I slip and treat myself unkindly from time to time? Sure. But whatever I've inflicted on myself are surface wounds and nothing more. Easy to heal. Easy to forget.

Within a year of my first AA meeting, I met someone who loved me - I think from the start. And since we're one month apart in sobriety, I have a hunch that my spouse Donald knows it was the same with me.

* * *

So we're both “25” now. The same age as what I've learned National Recovery Month is. How sweet to have found that out in time to think about all this. And to write about it.

As veteran 12-steppers, the idea of anonymity is part of our recovery DNA. Yet in these 25 years, our recovery world has evolved. More and more people have chosen to share their stories “outside the rooms,” as we say.

I respect to the very core of my being those for whom anonymity is sacred. (Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!) But the light shone today on addiction, on mental distress or illness, on disorder, on pathology, on poor choices as human condition rather than human failing is quite brilliant.

The Brattleboro Retreat, with its “Stand Up to Stigma” advertising campaign, gets it. Turning Point Recovery Center gets it. HCRS gets it. How blessed we are in this funny little one and only place to have found a way “to life.”

I didn't drink or use today.

Thank you for listening.

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