An overnight trip to New Orleans ended late at night back at home with a deep breath, a deeper exhale and an exasperated lament over the inboxes of emails and phone calls still waiting for my reply. I don't recall my exact words, but I do remember my nearly 18-year-old daughter's response: "It never stops for you, does it, Dad? I mean, it never ends."
Nancy is sensitive, not callous. But she is no-nonsense, so I took her reply both as her objective observation of the facts and as a tart criticism of the race I am running on the treadmill of life. I've covered many miles at a steady clip for a long, long time now. Too long, because every time I round the next bend on the course, I find yet another corner to turn. And another and another.
Part of what drives me must be genetic. I think I got it from my parents, who have accomplished much yet have never rested on their laurels to this day, and they're entering their 80s. Part of it springs from the hole in my soul that aches with a sense of imperfection salved only by trying to do better, which means doing more. And another part is environmental; today's technology makes it hard to turn off the switch. The world goes with us all no matter where we go or try to hide.
I'll own my piece of all these influences in fueling my engine. There's nothing wrong with being successful, and what better role models than my mother and father? The older I get the more I am aware of my flaws, and know it is OK to be human, even though I don't like my imperfections. I know, too, how to turn off my phone. It's just that at heart, I'm still a news junkie.
But the biggest driver of this "it never ends" sentimentality is the nature of my work in the world of addiction treatment. Right now, there are a lot of people suffering because they cannot stop drinking or drugging or don't know where to turn to get help to stop. I will never martyr myself for them or the mission of the organization I've worked for since 1996. Nor will I ignore or turn away from their help, even as I continue to carry the message of Hazelden Betty Ford's mission. It is the nature of my job to help them. It is the essence of my own experience that motivates me to grab them. It is as vital to my own recovery as it is to what they need and deserve, too: hope, help and healing.
They come to me after reading my books, I give a sermon at their church or I am interviewed by a local radio reporter. After I speak at a county jail or federal prison, women and men locked up for committing crimes under the influence write letters to me pleading for a chance to get treatment before they are released. From homeless shelters to prestigious private high schools to book clubs to Rotary Club gatherings, every time I open up my insides to the outside, thousands of others do the same. Some of the finer details may differ. But we are all the same. Addiction is the great common denominator. My goal is to cancel it out with an equal numerator: recovery.
Week after week, for the past seven years, this column has been a lighthouse guiding readers to help, too, in places such as Kenosha, Wisconsin, Harlem, New York, and Santa Barbara, California. When Rick Newcombe pitched the idea of a weekly column on addiction, treatment and recovery, he convinced me it was a unique opportunity to put into practice the discipline of what I love, the written word, writing about what I live, recovery, to help others. Writing to a weekly deadline and living life on life's terms — neither is easy. But Rick was right. What a potent combo! There's been no greater gift than having this platform to share the expertise of my own journey with my fellow travelers and those who are not yet on the road, because I have reached a deeper understanding of my own recovery by sharing it openly with others right here, right now. Over these years, I'm sure that thousands of people have gleaned a benefit from "Beyond Addiction." I know I have.
But some things do end. "It Never Ends" is my last column for Rick and David Yontz and the rest of the crew at Creators. What a run it's been. What a run will continue, because with the World Wide Web, every column is out there somewhere. Just like the people with the problem I am always ready to help. That will never end.
William Moyers is the vice president of public affairs and community relations for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the author of "Broken," his best-selling memoirs. His book "Now What? An Insider's Guide to Addiction and Recovery" was published last year. Please send your questions to William Moyers at [email protected].org. To find out more about William Moyers and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.