I may qualify as the Grampa Unicorn.
Born in Detroit in the early 1950’s, I took my first drink when I was twelve, pills shortly afterward, and by 15 was injecting heroin, methamphetamine, barbiturates and a range of other drugs. I drank, I ate pills, I shot up – and by age 19 had burned my life to the ground. Washed out of college, homeless and hitchhiking around the country, I eventually I got crazy enough to be committed to a mental institution out east. Back in Michigan, I was hospitalized for hepatitis and malnutrition – quite a feat for a kid originally from the suburbs.
A much-older recovering alcoholic approached me in 1971, and offered a solution. He took me to a 12-step meeting, and another, and another. I eventually stopped using – almost 45 years ago. I have spent my entire adult life in recovery.
I went back to school and became a mental health therapist, then an administrator of an addiction treatment center that has grown a great deal over the years. It has been my privilege to play a role in the recovery of many thousands of men and women who raised themselves out of addicted life.
I have also been a faithful husband for more than 35 years, raised four compassionate children and now have 5 grandchildren. If you saw me on the street you’d just think I was an affable guy in his mid-60’s. And of course I am. But nothing is more important in my life than my identity as a recovering person. I am clean and sober today, and that is not a myth. I still actively practice a program that makes my life better – and sustains my abstinent recovery.
I know 100’s – 1,000’s of men and women who used to inject opiates and have now been clean for years, often decades. We are everywhere – we just don’t wear name tags so you can’t always tell. But sometimes you can spot us by our gratitude – and hope.