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Bill Cleverley: Recovery Day is a reason for celebration

Sep 28 2012

I remember calling my doctor’s office from the detox in Nanaimo.    I was desperate. I knew my workplace would want a medical certificate before I could return to work and I had to convince my doctor that he shouldn’t be too specific about the cause of my absence.
I wanted him to say I was suffering from stress — and believe me, I was.
The receptionist on the other end of the line would have none of it. “The doctor has to fill out the form accurately,” she patiently explained.
When I later picked the form up, there in black and white was exactly what I knew it would say: chronic alcoholism. Prognosis? Pretty good, if I gave up alcohol.
I was terrified. Nothing frightened me as much as the prospect of quitting drinking.
What would I do? Without the possibility of wine, there would be no point in dinners out. There’d be no more stopping at the bar after work. Hell, there’d be no more of anything because I didn’t do anything — from cutting the lawn to playing guitar with buddies to watching TV — without beer.
Life as I knew it would be over.
There had to be a loophole. The impaired charge had just been bad luck. I wasn’t really an alcoholic, just a heavy drinker. The doctor had to be wrong — after all, I still had my job.
It’s a peculiar aspect of addiction, this thing called denial. I so desperately wanted to be able to keep drinking.
Yet while I thought my life would end without booze, the reality was that my world had been shrinking for a long time. Dinners out were actually few and far between. Parties were a thing of the past (too much trouble staying “sociably” lit). The guitar largely had been gathering dust for a long time.
I made that call from detox 10 years ago and the truth is, although I didn’t know it at the time, my life, far from ending, was just beginning.
With the generous help of others — and there are lots of us out there — I was able to accept my illness and learn that one day at a time, I could live a great life without alcohol or drugs.
Trust me. No one was more surprised by this than I was. I loved to drink. I never would have believed there was a better life waiting in recovery. But there was.
This Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. I will join fellow drunks and drug addicts, and their friends and families, in Centennial Square for Victoria’s first-ever Recovery Day.
The drunks, crackheads and junkies gathering that day won’t look like the ones you think you know from  downtown’s streets.
We won’t be drinking from bottles hidden in brown paper bags or passed out on the square’s benches. You won’t see people furtively looking for a place to smoke crack or shoot up (at least not any more than you might usually see doing that in Centennial Square).
In fact, the people we hope to gather will look an awful lot like you — and that’s because we are you. You see, we’re the drunks, crackheads and junkies who no longer use drugs or alcohol.
We are people who are committed to long-term recovery.
In the United States, events like Recovery Day have been held for more than two decades. A few of us are hoping it will catch on here. Victoria’s Recovery Day on Sunday, along with one being held in Vancouver, mark the first two such events in this country.
The idea is to help spread the message that prevention works, treatment can be effective and people can and do recover.
Please join us.

Bill Cleverley is a Times Colonist reporter and a member of the organizing committee for Victoria’s Recovery Day event Sunday at Centennial Square.