Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hope for Charlie Sheen, a Civic Soapbox essay by RB Horsley

I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and seeing Charlie Sheen unravel on television disturbed and fascinated me. Fascinated me because although Sheen states, "You can’t process me with a normal brain," I can process him with my addict’s brain. Disturbed because it reminded me of where I came from and where I could go if I choose to pick up a drink or drug.

I don’t have Charlie Sheen’s talent, money, or Hollywood pedigree. And I have to say I am thankful for that. I’m not sure I’d be alive if I’d had the means to satisfy all my desires. But it wasn’t lack of funds that drove me to stop drinking and using drugs. It was a moment of clarity, a few seconds when I literally paused on the threshold of my home, my back to the August sunshine, my face to the unlit interior of the mud room. While my pupils adjusted to the dimness, I thought I am nothing, nobody. I am a shell of a human being.

I was astonishingly lonely, depressed and suicidal. I passed through the door to the kitchen and I told my husband I thought I was going crazy. I scheduled an appointment with a counselor. Little did I know that a few days later I would experience my last humiliating drunken binge and at the counselor's I was able to connect the dots between my drinking and my suicidal thinking. She introduced me to the Charlottesville recovery community.

That was twenty-two years ago. 

Since then I have learned to live fully without the aid of alcohol or drugs. With my husband, I have raised three children, experienced the death of one from cancer, emotionally supported the other two through their own struggles with substance abuse. I had to accept the fact that my surviving children could die from their disease too, an especially painful acknowledgment. I have answered the phone to hear an emergency room nurse inform me of a drug overdose; a police officer give me directions to the hospital ICU where my severely beaten and intoxicated child was being treated.

Happily, each of my children has chosen, while still in their twenties, to change their lives.

I was thirty-three and didn’t have many expectations when I stopped drinking. Mostly I just wanted to stop hating myself and I didn’t want to lose custody of my kids. My marriage was on the rocks; I didn’t know if I wanted to save it.

This year, my husband and I will celebrate thirty-four years of marriage. I earned a BA in English from UVA at the tender age of forty-five. The same age Charlie Sheen is today. I can’t ridicule the man. I want him to get better. I want to watch his transformation. I’m afraid he may not have a moment of clarity but I pray he does.

I have a good life due to the counselor who opened my eyes, my family who has loved me despite my addictions all these years, and most of all, the people in recovery who were there to teach me, without judgment, how to really live.

When I was ready.
-- RB Horsley lives in North Garden. She is a writer and poet.

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