In my new book Waves of Life, I share my path toward sobriety, a path that began on September 7, 1984. You can get the specifics of my first steps in the book, but I wanted to share with you an excerpt from the chapter. Before I do, I must once again express my eternal gratitude to Dr. Santigo Estrada, my therapist, my guide and savior. Without him on that day so many years ago, I would not be here.
Some thoughts on the subject from Waves of Life:
"I do not suggest that my path is the “right” one for others, but it worked for me. For those needing support, my suggestion is to find what works for you in addressing your sobriety and the underlying issues associated with your addiction.
"It is also important for those around the alcoholic to learn about the issues surrounding alcoholism and their alcoholic. My advice for you is to reach out to the person or group that is supporting your recovering alcoholic and to reach out to groups such as Al-Anon, which support people concerned with friends or family members with drinking issues.
"Over the years I have spoken to many people dealing with addiction challenges. I am by no means a professional therapist as my only true experience is having been what I call a professional drunk. While the stories vary, two things are always present: 1. There is usually a deep sadness, and 2. They often feel very alone with no one to talk to about their problems. If they are wondering if they have a drinking problem and they don’t recognize that they already do by virtue of their curiosity, I have often asked them to try the following trial: try to stop drinking for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks answer this question: Was it easy? If yes, then maybe you have found a new lifestyle. If it wasn’t, maybe you should find help to establish a new lifestyle.
"The early steps in the recovery process are very challenging. Many aspects of one’s life changes as recovery begins, and that is very scary. Overcoming that fear and facing what life throws at you when you are newly sober is by no means easy or trivial. But there are organizations and therapists available that can provide what a person needs. At the risk of alienating members of those organizations or therapists, in my view there is no single right answer. But the variety of solutions offers options that can be helpful to anyone.
"And get ready. Should you be ready to get sober, you need to be prepared to change your social habits and circles. And you are very likely to meet some very interesting people—including yourself.
"Addiction is serious business for the addict, the friends and families of the addict, and society in general. My comments here are based on my experience and are not intended to be a guide to recovery or a directive for those of you who are suffering. I am someone lucky enough to have made some smart decisions for me and had the necessary support along the way that resulted in my finding a happier, more productive, and fulfilling life.
"For some, the fear of being embarrassed or socially excluded keeps them from taking the first steps of recovery. That is a legitimate concern, but one which those of us who have faced that decision and come through the challenge to live a better life can help them think through. And I would suggest those people ask themselves if a sober life could really be worse than the life they are currently living. The answer is in your heart.
"The waves of your life won’t go away with sobriety, but your ability to ride them will improve tremendously. And know from someone who’s been there, there is no shame or guilt in asking for help...just hope."