Good morning and happy Monday.
It’s happy for most of us. We might not like starting the work week and we’re a little off balance adjusting to Daylight Savings Time but, overall, it’s another day.
Not for everyone.
Not for our brothers and sisters in active alcoholism or drug addiction. Not for our neighbors with mental illness and nowhere to turn. Not for our children who in their tender years carry an inexplicable rage that will only grow if left untreated.
Certainly not for their loved ones who wonder when and how it’s going to end.
It is simply overwhelming.
Fortunately, we’re seeing tiny glimmers of hope in Citrus County. A conversation is taking place, a serious one, beyond politics, drilling down to the details and trying to do something about it.
Thursday night I attended a rehearsal for “Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” a play about the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not usually a community theater guy, but this play hits close to home.
Bill Wilson was a New York City stockbroker. Dr. Bob Smith, an Akron, Ohio, physician. Both alcoholics, unable to stop drinking. Through happenstance, these two men who had never met ended up talking one night and learned an extraordinary detail:
One alcoholic talking to another alcoholic is the start of recovery. Only a fellow alcoholic understands my thoughts, behaviors, drinking patterns and all the damage it causes. And, yeah, only a fellow alcoholic can laugh at some of the stupid things I’ve done while drunk.
My closest friends, siblings, and my wife — unless they drink like me (and thankfully, they don’t), they can’t understand the torture this life brings us.
Let me tell you something straight from the heart: Active alcoholism and addiction suck. I knew I was in big trouble months before I stopped drinking. A person doesn’t drink like I drank and do the things I did without realizing there’s something just not right about that behavior. That is a lonely, dark place.
But here we go. Brass tacks time. All the emotional appeal of my loved ones to get help didn’t faze me a bit. Of course I wanted them happy, but I really wanted them off my back.
It wasn’t until I was on the floor, wrapped in a tight ball, crying to a God I wasn’t sure was even there — only then did I reach out for help. It was almost too late. I pray I never go through that again.
I attended my first 12-step meeting on July 6, 2006. Haven’t had a drink since and most days I’m visiting with friends with similar experiences.
We have Bill W. and Dr. Bob to thank for that. One alcoholic talking to another, working through the 12 steps of recovery — that’s not a one-and-done thing. That’s why 12-step meetings occur daily in this county and all over the world. I start each morning on my knees thanking God for another day and asking that he keep me sober. Gotta keep it in the day.
During play rehearsal the other night, something happened I hadn’t expected: I teared up. Getting caught in the moment, I could imagine Bill W. and Dr. Bob in the pre-days of AA, seeing what works but wondering how in the world they’re going to spread the message.
That is exactly what’s happening in our community at the moment. We’re slowly, almost shyly, having a conversation about addiction and mental illness. Not barking at one another; what I sense are people who truly seek solutions.
Sober alcoholics will no doubt identify with much of “Bill W. and Dr. Bob.” I encourage anyone who wants a glimpse into the alcoholic’s world to see this incredible true story play out on the Valerie Theater stage.
We’re going to talk a little this week about addiction and mental illness. It’s not an easy topic, but we’re all grownups and can handle it. The only path to solution is through community chat.
"Bill W. and Dr. Bob" runs at the Valerie Theater in downtown Inverness at 7:30 p.m. March 24, 25, 31 and April 1; plus 3:30 p.m. matinee Sunday, March 26 and April 2. Click here for ticket information.
Remember, it’s through conversation that we uncover solutions. It worked well for Bill W. and Dr. Bob who, through one drunk talking to another, discovered a key that would unlock the internal prison doors for millions of alcoholics like me.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.