Thursday, May 29, 2008
Annals of Addiction: Richard Lewis
From The Harder They Fall
"It's hard to know exactly when I became an alcoholic. What I do know is that growing up I felt misunderstood, not appreciated, and needing validation. I didn't feel I was getting it from important people in my life. They had their problems, their own concerns. I felt sort of invisible....
"Drinking made me feel not as miserable. It was a great Band-Aid. It progressed, but it didn't stop me in my career. I've done well, and I was an alcoholic at the height of my career, when I really hit. When alcohol really got me by the throat, I quit stand-up comedy. Acting was easier. Easier to stay sober most of the time, do my work, and know I'm off for three days.....
"There were tip-offs, even way early. I remember getting some sort of sexually transmitted disease that was going to last for a week. I had to take certain antibiotics, and I remember the doctor very nonchalantly saying, 'Oh, by the way, you can't drink for five days.' I was going to New York to appear on the Letterman show, and all I thought about was, 'Oh my God, there I am in first class, five-and-a-half hours in an airplane, without booze. There I am in New York with my friends and no booze. I can't even have a couple of glasses of wine in my hotel room to relax before the show.' That's all I thought about. I wasn't thinking of my career. I wasn't thinking about anything but 'I can't believe I can't drink.' It was horrifying. And that was thirteen years before I bottomed.
"I was hallucinating. I was emaciated. Holed up doing coke for six nights.... I was ashamed to waste my life, given all the blessings I had. That I would throw away my life needlessly. To have a disease that I could stop giving myself, if I surrendered, finally.....
"One reason I love being sober is that I thought about this guy I saw who slipped last week, who I spoke to this morning.... I wouldn't have been able to do that if I was drinking. I couldn't have helped this guy.... If I'm going to leave any kind of legacy, making people laugh is fine, but to help somebody get the darkness from out of their eyes and to turn their life around, it's the most important aspect of my life."
The Harder They Fall, by Gary Stromberg and Jane Merrill. Center City, MN: Hazelden.
Photo Credit: Pearlies of Wisdom