October 26, 2010

Book of Mine ~ Moments of Clarity

I meet with a warm group of parents once a month who've had a tough education, both formally and informally, in the realm of addiction. Occasionally a speaker comes and soon Christopher Kennedy Lawford will speak at our meeting about his book Moments of Clarity. So I ran out and bought it and the one he wrote before it, Symptoms of Withdrawal. The latter, which I've only just started, is his memoir about growing up in the world of Kennedys and fame and fortune. I was certainly curious about his experience with addiction as well as the Kennedys, plus I remembered back to this summer when I found myself at a wedding with a famous writer and couldn't say a word to her because I'd never read one of her books! Lawford's Moments of Clarity came as a response to his memoirs. Everyone kept asking him how on that certain day of that certain year did everything change for him; how was he able to get sober and into recovery that day? Instead of the hundreds before it. He addresses this question personally and then asks 43 other recoverers - famous actors, artists, athletes and politicians as well as your average joe. What was their moment of clarity, what happened, what changed? How did things turn around? Turns out recovery can turn the average addict's life, even ones on the very brink of destruction, into a life beyond his or her wildest dreams.

Jamie Lee Curtis admits to being so sick that she befriended injured people to get their Vicodin. Her moment of clarity came when she realized that she was going to die and hurt her family, the thing she loved most. She surrendered and made a phone call and now she sees recovery as the most important thing she's done in her life.

Tom Arnold was changed by a tender moment. A drug-induced crazed low point where Roseanne met him with love and understanding rather than the disgust he was expecting and felt he deserved.

Martin Sheen's story is so painfully honest, he hurt his family with his rage. His moment of clarity came after pushing his son Charlie to the ground in a fit. Naked, he chased him outside to plead for his forgiveness in front of his son's friends.

When Richard Lewis finally sobered up he went back to his old haunt and ordered seven or eight Diet Cokes and lined them up on the bar in front of him. He had something to prove and he did it in his own comedic style.

One of my favorite stories in the book was from a friend of Lawford's, the chief operating officer of a certain amazing treatment center, a jewel nestled within white fences overlooking the hills and valleys of Pennsylvania. I heard him tell his amazing story in person once and reading it again brought the same hope, joy and peace. I love his story. It starts out with an eighteen year old Mike buying a brand-new Mustang and totaling it two weeks later driving drunk at 5pm, 115 miles an hour on a 25mph curve. He and his friend ended up in the hospital where a police officer told him that he was pretty sure he'd learned his lesson so he wouldn't be charged with drunk driving, minor in possession, etc. This future chief operating officer of a certain amazing drug and alcohol treatment center told the officer that he'd never do it again. Two weeks later, he says, he woke up drunk in his mother's car, "sliding sideways down the hill on the wrong side of the road." He had a moment of clarity too, eventually.

Alec Baldwin, Kelly McGillis, Richard Dreyfuss, Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, Katey Sagal, Lou Gossett Jr., Senator Max Cleland, Rudy Tomjanovich, She's Just Not That Into You Greg Behrendt, conservative economist Larry Kudlow, news anchor Jim Vance, Judy Collins...every one of their generous accounts taught me something about being a loving, surrendered, honest human being for the benefit of others and my own well-being. And to watch for the moment of clarity that can be the beginning of change in any life.

I'm a quote-girl. I always like including things I underline in my books.

Jim Vance - How do I deal with people in my life who need help? Carefully, quietly, respectfully, and deliberatively. My experience teaches me that you can't gorilla -- that's the word we use in the hood -- you can't gorilla an addict into doing what you think the addict ought to do.

Aimee Liu - There's a phrase that I think is very useful: trying to live inside out instead of outside in. ...pay attention to your own standards, your own needs, not everyone else's...

Max Cleland - [quoting Hemingway, who was quoted by Arthur Schlesinger in A Thousand Days, about Kennedy's presidency] "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good, and the very gentle, and the very brave impartially." Hemingway was right. The world breaks us all. If you haven't been broken by life, just wait a while. All of us get broken one way or another, at some time or another. And many people do grow strong at the broken places, but many do not, and that's the mystery.


Mom said...

Sounds like a useful read. I am putting it my list.
I'm glad you have a warm group of friends who help you along this life's journey.

Paul Nichols said...

What a writer YOU are. Terrific post. Tomorrow is payday. I will buy the book(s).

"My experience teaches me that you can't gorilla -- that's the word we use in the hood -- you can't gorilla an addict into doing what you think the addict ought to do." Isn't that similar to 'Bible Thumping?'

As you keep writing like this you will discover high places for yourself.