It’s Time To Talk About Recovery Con’t

There are millions in this country who have found their way in recovery through the 12 steps. Many of them believe they are prevented by the traditions of 12 step groups from speaking publicly about their recovery. Others are afraid of what effect being public will have on their careers or standing in the community and there are those who believe that their anonymity is essential to their spiritual practice of the 12 step program. I held these beliefs for the first 17 years of my recovery. I was asked many times to speak out about my experience in early recovery and I said no.  I was offered a lot of money to do it, and I needed the money, but still said no.  When I wrote my memoir I was terrified of what would happen in the world if I told my story. None of it did. Instead, my eyes were open to the enormity of the problem. I saw for the first time that only 10% of the 24 million people with a drug or alcohol problem get any kind of treatment. I saw the stigma, the apathy and the discrimination of those battling the 800 pound gorilla as well as those in recovery. I saw the hopelessness of the families. This is what  convinced me to do “Moments of Clarity” and there were those that thought what I was doing was against 12 step traditions. It wasn’t and isn’t’.
In the 1950’s, Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, testified in front of a subcommittee that was chaired by the late, great, Harold Hughes. Harold Hughes was a Senator from Iowa who was an alcoholic and who was public about his recovery. He did more for alcoholics in the country, as a legislator than anyone before or since. Anyway, Bill Wilson testified that those in Alcoholic Anonymous should go out and talk about their recovery because they know about recovery but they should not talk about their association with Alcoholics Anonymous because members of AA maintain their anonymity at the levels of press, radio and film. So it is possible to do both,  be an anonymous member of a 12 step organization  and be a part of a bigger movement of recovery, identifying one’s self as a recovered person who cares about the issues that effect those struggling with active addiction as well as those in recovery.
When putting together my book, I asked a very well-known movie director for his Moment of Clarity for his story of transformation.
“You mean, how I got sober?”He asked with a look of horror.
“Yeah,”I said, “Your moment of clarity”
“I can’t do that.” He said ending the conversation.
I had the urge to tell him that in fact he could, but I didn’t have the energy. Today I have the energy. Although, I strongly support and respect anyone’s right to be private about their recovery for any reason. But if a person has an interest in being public, I explain to them that they can be public and maintain the traditions of the 12 steps. About a year and a half after the book was published, the same director came up to me and said, “You know the book you wrote?  A friend of mine who was sober for 6 years had relapsed with the thought that he was going to drink himself to death and then he saw your book in the Denver Airport. He picked it up and began reading it. You know what?  That book brought him back to recovery. I just wanted you to know that your book saved someone’s life.” “It’s not my book, it’s the 44 brave people who are in it, that trusted me to tell their stories, and by the way, I asked you to be one of them.” I said to my friend. “Really?” He said, not remembering.
If I asked that director to be in a book like Moments of Clarity today, I think he would say yes.  This is the change I see happening in the world, the change that needs to happen in the world. We are going to build a public, vibrant, active, worldwide community of recovered people – guaranteed.
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~ by Christopher Kennedy Lawford on June 18, 2010.

3 Responses to “It’s Time To Talk About Recovery Con’t”

  1. I could not agree more. I am a recovering co-dependant and I think we need to be public with our stories. Too many people do not get the help they need because this is not given the same attention and money other chronic illnesses get.

  2. Chris, I agree 100%. If we who are blessed with recovery hide it away then what good has it done for the 90% who continue to suffer in silence. Although a practicing dentist I am public with my recovery. I leave tomorrow for 5 days at the University of Utah’s School on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies so I can learn more about my disease and how I can use that knowledge to help those in need. My section out there is Dental but there are Medical, Pharmacy, Educator, Tx Program, etc sections. All of us there to learn and in the Dental Section all of us very public with our recoveries. Your books as well as William Moyers “Broken” serve as examples of how going public can help. Even Eric Clapton’s Autobiography must have shocked some of his fans since about a third of it was about making public his Recovery. Too many of “us” are dying because of old public perceptions that need to change. If one were to recover from some other deadly disease he would want to “shout it from the mountain tops”…the same should be true for Addiction!

  3. RAH! Preach, brother! I’m fairly well-known in my industry and swore I’d need to do “damage control” and keep my recovery secret lest my image and career suffer. The first person (in my industry) to find out immediately called me confidentially with a request to help his suffering wife. I share with discression but almost every time I do this happens. This is really not MY story as it is GOD’s story of transformation and Hope. When given the chance, you can’t shut me up. I’m supposed to be dead, after all!!! Thanks, Cris for your leadership.

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