This morning I listened to Elton John’s interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show. This amazingly brave man spoke candidly about how he “squandered” (his word) many years of his life by giving in to his enormous appetite for alcohol, drugs, and food. He also openly discussed the great shame he carried around for a very long time, after watching many of his friends die all around him—from addiction as well as from AIDS—while he spent his time running away from his feelings by using a variety of addictive behaviors.
Who doesn’t like Elton John? For most of us who came of age in the 60’s, he was a beacon of light in so many ways. His melodic music, his incredibly meaningful lyrics that spoke to his generation, his non-apologetic flamboyancy with which he presented himself to the world, affirming that it was just fine for us to be exactly who we were—all of this summed up the man who was later to become Sir Elton. Even the straight-laced, conservative Queen of England appreciated and endorsed him!
HE’S STILL STANDING (better than he ever did…)
As I write this, I’m aware that it almost sounds like a memorial tribute—and after recently losing many of our most talented celebs to addiction, I’m so grateful that he isn’t one of them…
Thankfully, Elton John is alive and well. In his own words, he feels blessed to have the life he has now—and he acknowledges that he worked hard for it. Not only did he strive in his musical career, but he also chose to recover from the painful throes of addiction by doing the difficult inner work it took for him to understand why he was sabotaging himself with these behaviors in the first place—for that is truly what it takes to be able to successfully recover from any addiction.
AND SO AM I…
This week—July 18, to be exact—was my 25th clean & sober birthday. I fully understand the challenging task Sir Elton has chosen to undertake, and I completely agree with him that this mission is never finished. We are all works-in-progress, and I know well that even though I’m now celebrating 25 years of abstinence, I am still an addict. Although I choose to be in active recovery rather than in active addiction, I am still an addict. And I know that if I don’t take good care of myself holistically—every day—I could relapse as easily as any other addict could. With this knowledge, I make my life choices today.
One choice I make is to share my story of addiction and recovery. I explain to people that we are not responsible for having become addicted, but that we are 100% responsible for what we decide to do about having become addicted. I talk openly now about what my past was like, what happened to me when I reached my ‘bottom’, and the changes I went through to be able to provide myself with the wonderful life I have now. I do this for two reasons: one is that I deeply believe that we can only keep what we have by giving it away, and the other is that I always hope that my story will be inspirational to someone else.
Although I don’t know Elton John personally, I believe that his reasons for talking about his experiences with both addiction and recovery are similar to mine. And I personally know that discussing these issues publically requires courage—there is a better than good chance that those of us who share openly in this way will be harshly judged by some people who are still having a difficult time accepting their own addictive behaviors—and being negatively judged by others is never fun. But there is a higher calling, a greater hope that our own pain and suffering—and our new-found self-respect, discovered only when we take the risk to partake in challenging but courageous acts—will help another in some way.
I know that today was not the first time Sir Elton has spoken in the media about his struggles with addiction. But today I applaud him for the courage he is once again showing by letting people know that if he can recover from addiction, so can they. And if I can recover from addiction, so can you. If anyone had told me that I would one day be celebrating 25 years of sobriety from drugs, alcohol, and several other addictive behaviors I would have thought they were crazy—how could such a thing happen?
AND SO CAN YOU…
But today I know how it can happen—and it can happen for any of us who make that brave choice to remain in active recovery. The way it happens for all of us is one day at a time.
Thank you for your wise words today, Elton. Thank you for being that beacon of light for us, regardless of what you may have done in the past. Although it is imperative for us all to acknowledge and make amends for our past mistakes, how we choose to live our lives today is what truly counts. I appreciate and applaud your courage, and I know that many people will feel less alone today because you’ve had the willingness to share your journey.
I welcome any of you who would like to make the courageous choice to move away from addiction and into recovery—if not today, then maybe tomorrow.
Will you join us?