After a much-needed break, I was back on-the-road this week "carrying the message" of hope, help and healing that is the essence of Hazelden Betty Ford's mission.
First stop: Normandale Community College in the Twin Cities for a community forum. I was surprised by the big turnout. But even more impressed with the depth and breadth of questions from the audience, which included college students, parents with children still under the influence, couples in recovery, counselors and other professionals, a clutch of aspiring writers and those always-affirming friends and fellow travelers.
A few of their thought-provoking questions:
Answer: Perhaps a dedicated tax on pain medication sales to fund education for doctors, nurses and pharmacy students.
Answer: Yes, I suppose I could. But the outcome would be messy. So I don't.
Answer: Because they've finally realized that addiction doesn't discriminate.
Answer: End it by embracing the reality that recovery shouldn't discriminate either, and that treatment can work.
Helping people helps me. There’s nothing more important, nothing better.
Answer: Everything. My kids, like all kids, want their parents to be their No. 1 go-to resource for accurate information about these things. Who better than me and their mom to honestly tell them what it was like, what happened and what it is like now as a parent in recovery from addiction?
Answer: Hope. Striving for a better life without substances getting in the way. Progress always, because nobody does it perfectly.
Answer: Yes, that's my plan. Along the theme of "Beyond Broken: The Rest of My Story." Because I've lived the highest of highs and lowest of lows, often of my own making, since I wrote Broken a decade ago. I've hit bottom stone cold sober too, and that's a story many of us have in common further along the journey.
Answer: Being with audiences like this one. Down in the trenches in the community where these issues really matter. Everywhere and every time I speak, people ask for help. And helping people helps me. There's nothing more important, nothing better.
At the end of the evening, my legs and feet hurt. I'd been standing for three hours straight. But home was only 12 miles away. There's nothing finer than being on the road to carry the message and, when it's done, still getting to sleep in my own bed. I've got the best job in the world.