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"Find me. I will wait. Capture my heart. I will capture yours. Take this moment to tell me one secret. Breathe this life into your soul. Angels come when we are ready. Find me."
Repeatedly, throughout this moving and extraordinarily objective memoir, author John Moriarty returns to this simple and beautiful mantra. From a childhood of fear and rejection, Moriarty fled into adulthood fueled by ever-increasing doses of alcohol, cocaine, and prescription drugs. Solace and safety could always be found and reality postponed in another bottle of vodka. Until he died. And awoke. And realized. That somewhere inside him lay a life, wasted but aching to begin.
John Moriarty is a freelance writer living in Kansas City, Missouri.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
For nearly 40 years, the geography of my life is a liquid line that loops from one day to the next week to the following month. Mistakes and misgivings mass in the distance, an army of resentful marauders that wait out of view, reminders that I am weak, insensitive, selfish; that I thirst for escape from anything difficult, taxing, confrontational.
The years pass. High school, college, graduation, employment. I work as a writer in Kansas City and New York, producing corporate public relations materials, feature articles, ad copy. I write about the employees of a media company, artists and interior decorators, boating supplies and lawyers and pet food. I write a serial for a newspaper, another that appears on the Internet. I write letters to friends in distant cities. I write notes to myself and journal entries, paragraphs and sentences and words that capture the casual disintegration of my world.
And the years pass. Boyfriends come and go. Romance, love, disappointment circled by a steady flow of strangers who engage me in vacuous erotic encounters. Life becomes a brittle house of broken cards, erected to conceal an unbalanced and fragile ego. Questions surface. Why do I feel alone in a crowd? How can I tell my close friends about the constant metronome of anxiety that clicks softly behind my sad eyes? What happened to yesterday? To my dreams? To the future?
Years pass. I am alternately alone, elated, pensive, tired, angry. I frequently drink through the night at bars or parties, in the homes of strangers and friends, arriving at work the next morning with a hangover, fractured memories, the dull ache of dread that always accompanies the activity of drinking through the night until the rising sun signals that it is time to shower and dress for work. Always sad, rarely centered, never serene. Mistakes, misgivings, mindless sex. And always, always, always alcohol. My liquid lover, my comrade in harm.
And the years pass. Boyfriends come and go. More strangers, mistakes, failures, fears. The liquid line loops about my throat, threatening to choke the supply of air that keeps the madness beating, threatening to end this wild, weary, lurching life.
I exist in this desert of aimlessness and drought as the years pass, identical periods of pleasure and pain, an unbroken chain of unfulfilled dreams, a massive sprawl of ambition. There is no control, no center, no plan for a productive and fruitful future. I move without meaning, speak without consideration, vault over objections from friends and family that my life is not working and I should consider seeking clarity, honesty, truth. There is no direction, only imperfect intentions without release, life without hope.
And then, it all changes.
It all changes and I am reborn.
It all changes and I create a second life, something that was once a dream and has now become reality.
It all changes on a Tuesday in April. On a Tuesday night during the fourth month of the year, I experience a miracle. It is a simple and small moment in time, the kind of thing that most people dismiss as a common occurrence, the kind of thing that would attract little or no attention. I understand the reaction; some miracles are monumental in size, others are barely detectable. Some break the surface to shatter the silence, others hum quietly just beneath the radar, sending a wave of enlightenment, harmony, and love into the universe.
My miracle happens again and again as each new dawn sketches the sky with pastels of pink, blue, bronze, gold, and white. My miracle happened yesterday. It happened today. And, as long as I honor my new life and the sobriety that guides me, it will happen again tomorrow.
My miracle is not unique. It has happened for thousands of men and women before me, and will fill thousands more with hope, inspiration, and direction in the days ahead. To begin the story of my miracle, I invite you inside one recent day, a Tuesday night in April, a Tuesday when friends celebrated their miracles in separate and distinct ways. From a dinner party in New York, an anxious single mother in Massachusetts, and a couple moving into their first home, to a man who surrenders to his addiction, the events of this Tuesday night are a simple portrait of sobriety's power.
It is a monumental day. The first day that I stand before a group of fellow survivors and speak my truth aloud. The first day I finally establish a link between dreaming a miracle and living one. The first day I am proud to acknowledge the events of my past, as I embrace the pleasure of the present and move forward into the promise of the future.
So welcome to the story of one man's miracle. If you seek a similar experience, I wish you luck and peace. If you seek understanding of another's struggle with addiction, I wish you patience and understanding. When we join our hearts and spirits, we provide a bridge between the chaos of addiction and the serenity of sobriety to every man and woman who desires to make the journey through the darkness and into the light.
Angels arrive when we need them, when we are ready for miracles, when we are ready for dreams to come true. Some angels are messengers, others are guardians and guides. In the first three years of my new life, I meet many angels. They are each a blessing, an aspect of the miracle-a thread in the rope that connects hope to humanity, truth to integrity, wisdom to the heart.
The group gathers in a painter's loft near downtown Kansas City on a Tuesday night in April. It's the same Tuesday night that Riley celebrates his 32nd birthday with a feast at Florent in New York's West Village. The same Tuesday that Anna leaves for a week in San Francisco, that Clark starts a new job in Chicago, that Graham calls to tell me he's checking into a clinic in Minnesota to conquer his cocaine addiction.
It's a Tuesday night in April, the second week of the month, the week that Chad and Eliot are moving into their new house, the week that Sara quits her job in Boston and moves to the Berkshires, the week that I learn to stand in front of my fellow survivors and say the phrase I once muttered in disgust and now say with pride and honor.
"Hello," I say to the group. "My name is John, and I am an alcoholic."
The other occupants of the room, some glancing at their hands, others drawing deep breaths through their burning cigarettes, look up and say, "Hi, John!"
The room is silent, a hushed space sprinkled with anticipation, patience, a warm and embracing love. From Baltimore Street, six blocks down and a world away, I can hear random cars passing in the night, a distant horn. The metallic sound of a train moving toward Union Station floats like tin flakes through the air, clinging to the shadows, climbing on the breeze.
I look around the room and continue. "This is the first anniversary of my sobriety," I say, "and I thank you for letting me share my story with you. It's taken me a very long time to speak about these things. I used to be ashamed of the truth, but I've learned a lot in the past year. I've learned that being honest about my old life is the only way to build a foundation for my new one."
I pause, take a breath, look around the room. My friends' faces tell me they are familiar with the hesitation to talk, the shame about the truth, and the ongoing challenge to be honest about addiction and recovery. Every man in the room remembers the terror of telling the truth. Every man can provide detailed recollections of the brittle balance he maintains with faith, love, support, pride. Every man can describe his newfound confidence, the clarity that comes with time, patience, and the concentrated belief that each one of us deserves a new chance at a new life.
It feels good to speak about the details, to share my story, to listen to the experiences of my fellow travelers on the road to recovery and sobriety. The opportunity to talk honestly about our drinking is also an opportunity for closure and healing and growth. Talking honestly about addiction and recovery feels solid and true, a sturdy platform of unconditional support that I share with my fellow survivors.
Many years before I actually quit drinking-when I started talking about my alcoholism in group meetings held in public spaces or small gatherings in private homes-I excluded one significant detail. In fact, I was speaking about my alcoholism without giving an honest account of my life as an alcoholic and without including the key that linked my addiction and my recovery. During those meetings, I selectively omitted one significant detail: I'm a gay man, a gay alcoholic.
Only in the past three years of being clean and sober have I found the clarity to connect the proverbial dots that link my drinking with my sexuality. Identity is consequential to all that we do in life. It's the core of our personal lives and the collective weight of our professional pursuits. In the life of a recovered addict, identity-especially who we were then and who we are now-is the most significant measure of progress, healing, and the promise that sobriety will survive.
As I stand in the loft on a Tuesday night in April, I reflect on who I am today and who I was in the years before I quit drinking. While I once spent my evenings slipping gradually into a coma concocted of vodka-a substance I called Vitamin V-and barbiturates, I now spend time with friends and family members, enjoying and remembering dinner parties and special occasions and the mundane activities that define a life lived in pursuit of positive pleasure, instead of a race away from articulate interaction and everyday human contact.
Then and now, unique characteristics, personal elements of identity. As the drinking days fade with each passing year, I'm enjoying a second chance to redefine myself and rededicate my life to sharing the love, compassion, and kindness that made it possible for me to escape the fatality of alcoholism.
Then and now, names and labels, signs of individuality. What else am I besides a gay alcoholic? Each element of our identity is added to the charm bracelet that encircles our hearts, minds, and spirits. So, in addition to being gay and an alcoholic, I'm a writer. I love to laugh. I love to walk, run, swim. And I also love chocolate. I'm a bad bowler, a fan of Joan Didion's novels and nonfiction, a patient listener, and, on occasion, an intolerant talker.
I adore my sanity and the memories that collect in my mind like orderly schoolchildren on the first day of class. I enjoy the occasional cigarette, watch every John Sayles movie with admiration and keen interest, spend hours talking on the telephone, and find great solace in the unconditional love and affection I share with a wide circle of wise friends.
In the days before I quit drinking and rejoined the human race, I invested countless hours in a mad dash away from reality. Today, I limit my rambling to frequent travels along the two-lane black ribbons of asphalt that divide wide open spaces of this country into irregular kingdoms, spaces captured in map books though never tamed by their place on a page.
There are so many differences between my life today and my existence during the drinking days. I used to be very good at employing falsehoods and misstated details to escape detection, to fly beneath the radar, to create a pool of opportunity in which I could wade with my liquid lover. Now the only time I lie is never.
When I was drinking, I would help only myself. I'd help myself to more liquor, I'd help myself to another excuse, I'd help myself to steer clear of real commitment or detectable human emotions. It was a selfish life, a hollow and cold tunnel of tuneless melody, blank canvas, empty promises.
Now I know how to help myself while I help others. I help myself by defining goals and objectives that are within my capabilities, as well as those that challenge me to reach further and rise higher. I help myself by keeping a clear eye on a clean and healthy path. And I help myself by believing that I am forgiven for past mistakes, that I can learn from present opportunities, and that I will enjoy the rewards of my new life in the future.
I help others by listening to their fears, their stories, their hopes, their burdens. I help others by lending a hand, offering support, giving encouragement or sharing a smile when their view is obstructed by clouds and their road is difficult to see. I help others by demonstrating that it is entirely possible to shake off the shackles of addiction-to substances, sexual multiplicity, negative thinking, and the other obstacles that divert our eyes and hearts from the true beauty of a temperate life.
I love life, rather than a lifestyle.
I love myself, rather than my selfishness.
I am honest and faithful, instead of faithlessly dishonest.
In this new world, I believe in miracles. I am surrounded by angels. And I will follow my heart with faith, friendship, compassion, and courage. Sobriety is a miracle. Recovery is a blessing. I am indebted to the men and women who extended their hands and hearts when I fell, when I was in pain, when I needed love and support to extinguish the confusion and agony of alcohol's embrace and influence. It is through their guidance, advice, wisdom, and support that I found the initial strength and courage to regain my place in the world. I thank them with gratitude and honor their strength and courage by passing along the love and support to other spirits who seek redemption and recovery.
If there's one word that describes my experiences in the past three years, it is this: Believe.
And I do.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I thought that the words and content of the book were really outstanding. It really made me rethink what I was doing in my life and how well it was going. That is what many books should do. They leave you with one question and make you think about your life and this book did. I really did enjoy reading it.