Quiet Desperation

Day-by-day for 20 years adds up to just one day


Unless they have taken it all down, there are still some reminders at my alma mater that I passed through there 20 years ago. I donated three or four paintings, maybe more. I can’t remember.

I was enrolled on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 1998, and given a number. I was Patient 4050.

Some of my classmates were well educated and well off. Others were down on their luck, in poor health, financially strapped, and facing marital separations. A few of my classmates were returning to school for the third or fourth or fifth time.

A number of my classmates didn’t graduate, and a couple of them have died.

The campus back then was beautiful. I haven’t been out there in a while, but I’m sure it still is.

I had some exceptional teachers. I don’t think you can be a good teacher unless you know firsthand what you are talking about, and mine had been through what I was going through.

I had been hearing it for years: what I should and shouldn’t do, but I wasn’t listening, until my best friend gave me two choices.

He and I were sitting on a bench outside St. Luke’s, where I had detoxed.

He said, “I will take you home or I will take you to Parker Valley Hope. If you want to go home, I am through with you.” Tough love.

My behavior had been a burden to him for years.

We sat there for a couple of minutes, and neither one of us said a word.

Then I said, “Take me to McDonald’s, and then take me to Parker. Please.”

An hour after I was checked in, a man almost my age checked himself in.

His name was “John” and he had a bandage on his head.

He grumbled at me and I grumbled at him.

For the next month, we provoked and badgered and needled each other.

And we became friends like no others I have ever had.

I just read a recent issue of this publication cover to cover, and reminisced.

It’s important to make a distinction. I will never recover from my addiction. I will always be in recovery.

I think I could teach you how to draw, but I can’t teach you how to get sober. Each one of us has to find out what works, and what doesn’t

I attended hundreds of AA meetings (John still does), chaired lots of them, learned from six therapists, became a member of a church when I confused religion with spirituality, and now I am on my own.

An addict will get pulled in a hundred different directions. And I am not about to be 101 for anyone.

Don’t do it my way.

I don’t think I would be here if I had done it my way 20 years ago, if that helps anyone.

If it takes meetings and sponsors, slogans, prayers, meditation, retreats, therapists, new friends, new hobbies, new anything, do it. Nothing — nothing — is better than waking up without a hangover, and nothing is more important to me than my sobriety. Not even Jennifer. If I’m not sober, I don’t have Jennifer.

When I am asked how much time I have, I always say: “One day.”

My recovery is not a miracle. It is hard work, and I am still learning.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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