We’re taking a break from politics for a day of reflection.
Everything in my life is traced to July 6, 2006. There was a life prior to that date and the one I’m living now.
That’s the day I stopped drinking and began a journey of sober living one day at a time. Sixteen years ago today and I’m pretty happy about it.
I don’t make a point of talking publicly about this. Most of my friends know I’m sober and we tend to keep the conversation local.
But this particular anniversary holds deep significance. In the past 12 months of sobriety, I’ve recovered from Covid, retired from my career job of 34-plus years, started writing a Facebook blog, turned that into a business where people I respect give me money every month to sponsor a website that provides only my opinions and insight.
Some wonder where my fire for Citrus County originates. Let me tell you.
It was back in 1989 and I fell for this county right away for many reasons, drinking among them. In Florida from Michigan for job interviews, my friend Tom took me to the Cove (the old one, not the fancy one with inside bathrooms) for beer and wings.
Drinking and newspapering worked hand-in-hand back then (I’ve since learned drinking goes with anything), so I spent a lot of time in bars talking with politicians, aides, county staffers and other reporters.
It got worse over the years. Friends shied away. I started finding trouble here and there, nothing major, but the clock was ticking.
I went to work on July 5, 2006 after another grueling three-day Independence weekend binge. In my hangover fog, I told Nancy Kennedy, my friend and religion writer, that I thought God and Satan were battling to the death for my soul. She told me that’s a battle God always wins. I didn’t know that, so I went home, opened the Bible to Luke, and prayed.
Detoxing. Alone. Ugh. If I never have to do that again, this will all be worthwhile. Curled up on the floor of what I now affectionately call the Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson. Begging God to either take me or give me a reason for another day.
He chose the latter. On July 6, 2006, I met some new friends in a 12-step program who showed me a way of life I didn’t know existed. With their suggestions, I’ve been able to survive and thrive without drinking one day at a time. It’s pretty cool.
Why this stumble down memory lane?
Sobriety allowed me to pass 20, and then 30 years at the Chronicle. When my retirement came at 34 years, friends told me to keep writing, that the community would support it. They were right.
The people who encouraged me to start this blog — folks like Josh Wooten, Meredith Linley, Joe Meek, Justin Strickland and so many others — they knew me WHEN. Or they knew of me. It wasn’t pretty and I gave them plenty of reasons to flee. They didn’t. I’m truly humbled by their support and encouragement.
Politicians, same thing. We don’t always agree — we usually don’t — but I have lasting relationships with three county commissioners, and I hope two new ones. That may sound normal to you, but it’s shocking to me knowing where I’ve been.
So what does all this mean, other than don’t count on me to buy the next round?
For one, my fondness for Citrus County and its people is real. These opinions are mine. I represent no one but me. My only interest in writing is the community’s well being. I may tumble here and there, but you don’t need to question my sincerity.
Second, and this is for the Library Guy Gang, I have no fear about shining a light where it’s needed. Threats of exposing the REAL Mike Wright do not faze me. All my bad alcoholic years were in Citrus County. We don’t earn too many merit badges. Whatever you’ve heard, trust me, it’s likely worse.
Third, I’ve learned to forgive. Hanging onto old battles is a waste of time. You’ll notice that’s a common theme at Just Wright Citrus. We forgive the past and work toward solutions today. If someone hasn’t learned his/her lesson, it becomes apparent quickly and can be dealt with.
Sobriety has provided me numerous gifts, but Just Wright Citrus is the one I never saw coming. And now I cherish it.
It’s a beautiful Citrus County day. Enjoy!
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