Editor: Thanksgiving 2017 was beautiful. My son, now 44, an addict since age 14, enjoyed a well-deserved peaceful holiday dinner with family celebrating two years of sobriety. He worked hard for it, had a solid job, grounded girlfriend, loving relationships with his two young children, car, and apartment. Life was good for him and our family.
The phone rang early one December morning and I heard my daughter’s words one more time saying, ”Dad, Brandon is drinking again.” With knees crumbling, I listened to the ever-familiar details, ones I heard a hundred times before over 30 years, thinking, “will it ever end?”
Brandon received a promotion and was scheduled to begin training Monday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Chicago. Arriving on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 24, he checked into the hotel, bought a bottle of liquor, and decided to drink all night, showing up at the company meeting Monday morning incoherent and totally blitzed.
Fired on the spot, he continued drinking in his hotel room until the police were called at week’s end who took him to detox at Northwestern Hospital. From his driver’s license, the hospital knew he was from Denver and had no idea why he was in Chicago. He was shown the hospital’s front door and released to the street after blowing “0’”in a breathalyzer. In this case, the street was unfamiliar in the dark hours of a frigid, February, Chicago night.
Having no idea where he was, he wandered. Exactly how long we don’t know. A stranger walking by noticed a small crowd gathered around someone who seemed confused and incoherent. Unsure of the crowd’s intentions, the stranger stepped forward and took Brandon to his home where Brandon finally remembered a phone number.
The stranger called the number, spoke with Brandon’s sister, and together worked out a plan to contact AA in Chicago to help Brandon get home to Denver. While the plan was being worked out, our family was asking, “Who is this stranger called Ben? Why is he doing this? Should we believe him? He must have an ulterior motive. This is America where dollars run everything.” We were victims, left hanging until the next call.
Jumping ahead, Brandon made it make it back to Denver and entered a facility, not a detox center, not a rehab center, but more a support services center. They have no professional addiction psychologists or psychiatrists, accept no government assistance, no government grants, and have a success rate of addiction recovery between 6 and 7 percent, the same as many expensive facilities offering opinions, advice, and pills from “addiction specialists.”
Whatever the accurate number of successes are, Brandon has a chance at one, however; if it weren’t for the “Angel,” coincidentally walking that cold, dark Chicago street that night, and unnamed AA volunteers (angels) giving their time to someone they didn’t know, and probably will never know, the love of a grateful family, stretched from Colorado to Virginia, goes out to them. They helped give a son, brother, father, and friend another chance for life. The next time you go shopping, who are you walking by?
It’s too easy to believe the world is void of goodness, too easy to overlook the many gestures of kindness given by unnamed people without agendas or ulterior motives, following their hearts, unconcerned with opinion or reward, simply doing the right thing for the right reasons.
Brandon is in a facility begun in 1983 called Step 13, recently changed to Denver Step, founded by a recovering addict and Golden Gloves boxing champion named Bob Cote, a legend in Denver’s world of addiction. It continues its tradition of “Tough Love,” teaching willing addicts the meaning of work, responsibility, and sobriety, restoring pride. As part of their program, addicts are shown a movie/video called “Pleasure Unwoven,” by a doctor in recovery, Kevin McCauley.
To be sure, it’s not a cure, but offers an easy to understand perspective of the hard to understand phenomenon called addiction, a movie that changed my attitude toward addiction, but more important, toward addicts like my mother, sister, daughter and son. They’re not insane. It’s a movie every family and addict in America should see, since virtually no one in America is untouched by addiction.
The video is available from Rust Library in Leesburg or Amazon.
Bruce Wiley, Leesburg