Saturday, April 06, 2013

Roger E.

With all that is being written in praise of Roger Ebert upon his passing---what a great film critic he was (NOT movie reviewer, a HUGE difference), his vocal support of progressive politics, and so on. For me, he most moved me with this piece from his blog in August of 2009: My Name is Roger and I'm an Alcoholic. It had a huge response (almost 1400 comments and still counting) both positive and negative, and is still to me one of the most honest and courageous writings on the subject of recovery from alcoholism I've ever read.

The first sentences of the post set the tone:
In August 1979, I took my last drink. It was about four o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, the hot sun streaming through the windows of my little carriage house on Dickens. I put a glass of scotch and soda down on the living room table, went to bed, and pulled the blankets over my head. I couldn't take it any more.
If you haven't been there, then this passage probably means little to you. If you have, then you can remember the desperation and terror of not being able to stop drinking, and yet knowing you can't continue. He went on further in the post to preemptively answer the charges of violation of the tradition of anonymity thus:
An A.A. meeting usually begins with a recovering alcoholic telling his "drunkalog," the story of his drinking days and how he eventually hit bottom. This blog entry will not be my drunkalog. What's said in the room, stays in the room. You may be wondering, in fact, why I'm violating the A.A. policy of anonymity and outing myself. A.A. is anonymous not because of shame but because of prudence; people who go public with their newly-found sobriety have an alarming tendency to relapse. Case studies: those pathetic celebrities who check into rehab and hold a press conference.
In my case, I haven't taken a drink for 30 years, and this is God's truth: Since the first A.A. meeting I attended, I have never wanted to. Since surgery in July of 2006 I have literally not been able to drink at all. Unless I go insane and start pouring booze into my g-tube, I believe I'm reasonably safe. So consider this blog entry what A.A. calls a "12th step," which means sharing the program with others. There's a chance somebody will read this and take the steps toward sobriety.
Still, the comments are rife with those who take him to task for outing himself in a public forum, but I believe he knew he was closer to the end of his life than the beginning, and he wanted to offer his experience, strength, and hope to those who might be helped. His chance of relapse was certainly small, and at one point he even commented to a criticism of his public statements "Did you miss the part about how I am now physically unable to drink?"

But all that is really beside the point. This was a vital and beautiful bit of "Twelfth Step" work; reaching out to the still suffering alkies, most of whom he would never meet. What a wonderful man! Thanks again for everything, Roger. You are a true hero.

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